It is important in these difficult, frustratingly regressive times to have something recreational to fall back on and lift us back into the brighter side of our spirits. And for us fans of pro wrestling, we thankfully have such a thing to fall back on this month. Of the WWE’s Big Four PPV’s, the Royal Rumble is probably the most exciting of them all outside of WrestleMania. What’s SummerSlam’s gimmick? We’re taking place in the summertime. What’s Survivor Series’ gimmick? A 10-Man Elimination Tag Team Match that Vince hasn’t fully been committed too in years. The Royal Rumble’s hook? An exciting 30-man game of “The Floor is Made of Lava” where the men who get scorched have to find another way onto the actual biggest show of the year while the last man standing gets to headline the whole she-bang. It’s a thrilling, one-hour showcase of headliners, underutilized players, and surprise cameos that never fails to leave the WWE Universe with a strong emotional reaction. For better or worse. Most of us don’t want to remember the past week (except for last Saturday, which was all kinds of awesome), but we’ll have no problem remembering the Rumble, especially if it manages to be a huge improvement over the last three. Here’s my Forecast for the 2017 show!
RAW Tag Team Championship
Since coming to WWE, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson’s win/loss record in championship matches feel like George from Arthur in talent shows, but in reverse. Where George’s strategy of pogo like Serj Tankian never changes and he always seems to win, Gallows and Anderson’s never compromise their game plan of kick ass, take names, and dominate, yet they more often than not come out on the losing end. After so many shenanigan-riddled losses to (and cringe-worthy segments with) The New Day in 2016, it’s a surprise that anyone still takes the former Bullet Club standouts seriously in WWE anymore. Guess their reputations from Japan do come in handy sometimes, but they haven’t netted them the tag team gold yet, and this Sunday, during the pre-show wasteland, they hope to finally gain that tag team gold (or silver, really) that has thus far eluded them.
Who I Want to Win: The Club, mainly out of pity.
Who Will Win: Gallows & Anderson, because I imagine Vince is having too much fun making them look like total losers.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Nothing says “Women’s Revolution” like booking three women’s matches and putting two of them on the pre-show. The first of these two matches is like a female version of David vs. Goliath, sorta. Sasha Banks loves to make history. I think this might be another fascinating tidbit to add to her resume of notables: biggest and swiftest drop-off on the PPV ladder. Last month, she was a co-headliner on Roadblock, ending a brutal series of title-swapping matches against Charlotte with one final 30-Minute Iron Man match where she spilled blood to extend her third reign and came up short. Since then, her confidence has been completely shot and she finds herself being pushed around by not-so-monster heel Nia Jax. Squashing girls like Scarlett Bordeaux and Ray Lyn in the role of enhancement talent on RAW hasn’t does not a threatening challenge make to me, but if she can ragdoll an unconfident Sasha Banks like she did to them, she could be on her way there.
Who I Want to Win: Nia Jax, because I do want her to end up in that role that Kharma was unfortunately never given the chane to in the ‘E.
Who Will Win: Nia Jax; not only to extend the feud, but also to continue Sasha Banks’ downward spiral to complete rock bottom for an eventual redemption arc.
Six-Woman Tag Team Match
What a way to reward Smackdown’s highly-praised women’s division: give them ONE match on the Royal Rumble and bump it to the pre-show while the less competently-booked RAW women’s division gets two matches and one of them is on the main show. Hell, that kind of screws the women in general over, actually. “Sure, y’all get three matches on the card, but only ONE of them is going on the portion of the show that matters.” I understand time constraints, but even in WWE’s least-sexist time in recent history, the women manage to get screwed over in some fashion. But how about the bright sides? Because there are plenty: 1) Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss’s feud has been STRAIGHT-FIRE, 2) Naomi’s back in action, 3) Mickie James has returned, and 4) Natalya and Nikki Bella have an increasingly-decent feud on their hands. Put these numerous feuds together and you have a match that could very well be the best women’s match of the night unless Charlotte and Bayley decide to go all-out.
Who I Want to Win: Kind of hard to choose, because both teams have members I really love. But as of right now, it’s hard for me to go against a team consisting of Naomi & Becky (throw Nikki in by association).
Who Will Win: Whereas I was a bit biased in the “Who I Want to Win” section, a victory for Alexa, Mickie, and Nattie just makes the most sense here. It’s best to put you’re money on them if you’re a betting person.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
The tale of the Cruiserweight Revival is so dull and tragic that it could have been nominated Best Picture at the Oscars if it was aired theatrically. They have the talent, but the lack of momentum, watering down of movesets, and the fact that only a handful of them actually have characters that have garnered fan interest presented an unfortunate struggle. Jack Gallagher is obviously a huge exception to the “not-having-character” flaw, but of course, we can’t clone him and make him fight himself with an umbrella every night. Thankfully, Neville‘s return as a fed-up heel seemed to be the shot in the arm that would help the division out. Immediately following a Triple Threat that also included TJ Perkins and Brian Kendrick, Neville laid into champion Rich Swann and the animosity has only increased from there. Rich Swann has been able to become something that even The New Day haven’t been able to grow into: a fun character with a mean streak, and he’ll have to let the side out if he wants to defeat the newly vicious Neville.
Who I Want to Win: Neville. Sorry, Swann; you’re a nice guy, but I will NOT stand for Neville’s momentum being halted so soon for a ‘happy ending’.
Who Will Win: Neville; the Cruiserweight Title has switched a number of times since it’s rebirth as soon as someone new starts to catch on; I feel like this will be one of those times.
WWE RAW Women’s Championship
Bayley is 27 years old, but her persona sometimes makes her seem about 14 years younger than that. She’s done more to put Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men over than even Seth McFarlane and Justin Timberlake. She once wore a backpack on-screen like Dora the Explorer. Even during her interviews, she sounds like a nervous second-grader delivering a book report. But that’s kind of what makes her connect with people; her innocence and how relatable she is. She’s like a sweet cinnamon roll in a bakery full of nail-filled donuts. She’s like Riley from Girl Meets World, though I’d argue that Riley could cut a better promo than Bayley (both on TV and in real life). Charlotte is the opposite; she’s a spoiled, entitled brat who has admittedly worked for what she has, yet didn’t necessarily have to, and loves bragging about that fact. Her sense of genetic superiority causes her to think Bayley is the equivalent of Jonah Hill at the beginning of 21 Jump Street. But while young Bayley got her passion out through poetry, adult Bayley gets her passion out in the ring, and with The Boss out of commission, Bayley is next in line to try and snag the Women’s Championship.
Who I Want to Win: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Charlotte. I’d most want to see Charlotte’s PPV winning streak end at WrestleMania, and I don’t any more hot potato switches between now and then.
Who Will Win: Charlotte. I have no doubt about this. I have all reason to believe they’re gonna save a Bayley title win for a later date.
WWE World Championship
Naming the “Match of the Year” is always a subjective argument; not everyone is going to agree on it. However, even the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated Magazine (yes, it still exists despite decreasing availability in retail stores) seemed to agree that AJ Styles vs. John Cena from SummerSlam was the best that pro wrestling, or WWE at the very least, had to offer in 2016. A great story, a well-paced series of moves, clear motivations for both guys, and a crowd who was absolutely hyped for it made the match an instant classic. Another great one to add to the catalogues of one of the best in the world in Styles and someone many still want to believe is the worst in the world (for some reason) in Cena. But there was no way that this rivalry would be over there; while Cena was away doing extracurricular activities, Styles has built up his clout as champion (while also fending off the Chinless Wonder) and now finds himself going into battle with the man he has yet to actually lose to. Cena wants to let the new generation know that his time is not up; will he instead show that time is up for the Phenomenal One as champion?
Who I Want to Win: AJ Styles; I know I’m not the only one who wants to see him enter WrestleMania as champion.
Who Will Win: Bold prediction here, but I’m gonna predict John Cena, only because I highly doubt that Vince will allow Cena to lose to the same person one-on-one three times in a row. Again, VERY bold prediction here.
WWE Universal Championship
I know, folks; I’m tired of seeing this stuff too. The RAW main event scene since Finn Balor’s relinquishing of the Universal Championship post-SummerSlam has been nothing but wrestling’s male equivalent to Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez in a BFF context vs. Team Part-Of-The-Shield. Kevin Owens, who hasn’t really been allowed to look like much of a dominant champion for reasons unknown, has defended his title against Reigns and Rollins time and time again. Dean Ambrose’s former brothers have been handed title opportunities like they’re free samples at Sam’s Club, and Roman Reigns’ latest chance comes this Sunday. After failing to capture the title at Roadblock, he gets another chance with a stipulation attached. This time, Chris Jericho will be suspended in a shark cage over the ring, because Mick Foley must have suffered so much brain damage in his career that he’s somehow convinced that it’ll prevent interference. Prevent interference in a No DQ match, by the way. So much clustermuckery in this match, but then again, that’s a good way to describe RAW since the brand split.
Who I Want to Win: Kevin Owens. Yes, his reign has sucked, and no, I don’t hate Roman Reigns. But I don’t really have a desire to see Roman Reigns walking around as a dual champion.
Who Will Win: Kevin Owens. You just know Chris Jericho is gonna interfere somehow, dropping a screwdriver or something into the ring. Hey, Ellering did it in Toronto.
2017 Royal Rumble Match
The single most anticipated match on the WWE calendar. At least that’s how it used to be. In recent years, the Royal Rumble has come under fire due to stubbornness on WWE’s part. Not to say that the matches themselves have been complete catastrophes, but the parts that people actually remember have not the positive bits. 2012 through 2016 has seen unpopular winners, popular wrestlers being left out or eliminated early in a huge “F-U” fashion, and even convoluted add-ons that distract from the match. Some of the fun of the match is still there, from surprise entrants to entertaining eliminations/saves to the fact that it’s still exciting no matter what. And that last fact is especially the case since unlike the last three years, there’s no telling who’s actually going to win this year. It’s the most unpredictable Rumble in a while. Sure, part timers like Undertaker or Brock Lesnar or Goldberg seem like sure bets, but even some current roster members seem like they might have a legitimate shot at victory, including people rumored (RUMORED, so don’t get your hopes up) to return or debut.
Who I Want to Win: Either Kofi Kingston or The Miz. Neither one is gonna happen, I realize that. But with The Miz being on fire since THAT promo and Kingston LONG overdue for a World Title program, I’d just love to see either happen.
Who Will Win: Probably Undertaker. I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be Brock or Goldberg since they’re surely facing one another at ‘Mania, so if Undertaker ends up with the title show, it wouldn’t be too unexpected.
(And no, I don’t have many predictions for surprise entrants. Maybe Rikishi and Christian for veteran cameos and Samoa Joe as an NXT call-up. I’d also love to see Veda Scott, an expert at intergender wrestling, but that’s less an actual prediction and more just personal fanboy fantasy booking, not dissimilar to people’s hopes for a Kenny Omega sighting.)