Wrestlemania Predictions: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we? Specifically, let’s look at the headline matches for the last three Wrestlemania cards…

Wrestlemania 31: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship. While they actually wind up having a damn good match, the crowd isn’t buying Roman as the lead babyface. So they get out of it by having Seth Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

Wrestlemania 32: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship. Not helped by the fact that the show had gone way too long, this match made me contemplate giving up wrestling. Despite going against Triple H and the McMahon family, Roman still isn’t accepted as the conquering hero. The crowd is both tired and apathetic.

Wrestlemania 33: The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns. Going a different route, WWE puts Roman in and old guard/new guard match against the Dean Man. Roman wins, but the highlight of the night is Undertaker’s apparent retirement when the match is over. The next night, Reigns announces “This is my yard now,” to massive boos.

And here we are at Wrestlemania 34. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. Anybody want to take a swing at who’s going over?

After all this time, I think a good portion of online smarks have gained a certain respect for Roman. It’s not like he’s out there stinking up the joint. He puts on good matches. I’m sure we’ll get a good match here. But it’s pretty remarkable when you look at all those Wrestlemania headliners back to back, and all the different ways Vince McMahon has tried to make Roman “the guy.”

Ironically, it might have worked if he hadn’t pushed so hard…

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

(For more predictions, check out our look at the Kick-Off Show matches, some of the title matches, the matches involving the women, and the WWE Championship Match.)

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

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Wrestlemania Predictions: Daniel Bryan’s Return, Styles and Nakamura

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You talk about gettin’ a shot in the arm. Daniel Bryan, arguably the most popular star to grace a WWE ring since John Cena, is cleared to return. There was a time we thought we’d never see him wrestle again. And now, here he is.

I’m expecting genuine euphoria in New Orleans when he comes out. Mind you, this is the same arena he won the title in a few years ago. They couldn’t write a better story.

You’ve also got AJ Styles against Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship. If you’re a die-hard wrestling fan, that’s a dream match. WWE is even promoting it as a dream match. But have they maximized the storytelling potential between these two? For my money, the answer is no.

(For more predictions, check out our look at the Kick-Off Show matches, some of the title matches, and the matches involving the women.)

Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

And to think there were rumors of Owens and Zayn winding up in the battle royal.

This one started as get-them-on-the-card filler for Owens, Zayn, and Shane McMahon. But Bryan’s return has made it a tentpole attraction worthy of Wrestlemania. He’s obviously overshadowed everyone else in the match. But let’s not downplay the fact that Owens and Zayn deserve this spot. I shudder to think what Smackdown would have become without them these past several months.

Without Bryan in the ring, I’d have given this match to Owens and Zayn. But now he and Shane have to win. We’ve got to have the Yes Kicks, and the Yes Lock, and the Yes chants. All that stuff. It’s going to be a hell of a moment.

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

The history between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura is present in what they’ve given us. But you have to squint to see it. It’s in the subtext. Little allusions to Japan, the Tokyo Dome, “storied history,” etc. But they never gave us anything with any kind of depth. That’s what this has been missing. They didn’t have to talk about New Japan Pro Wrestling, or the Bullet Club, or any of that stuff. But it would have been nice to hear something like, “AJ beat Nakamura in Japan. Now Nakamura wants his win back, and the WWE Title along with it.” They haven’t even said that much about Nakamura coming to America, and how that journey has led him to a WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania.

I’m still on the fence about whether Nakamura is ready to hold the WWE Championship. Some of it is his fault, some of it has to do with his English, and some of it is WWE’s fault. It’s been a year, and they still don’t have a firm grip on how to present this guy. That being said, I think that’s where they’re going. They’re giving him the Wrestlemania journey storyline. He won the Rumble, and now he’s going to win the title. My only hope is that this match can live up to some of the hype surrounding it. Nakamura has given us some damn good matches. But he’s also turned in some duds. If there was ever a time for him to come through, it’s now.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

More predictions to come!!!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Wrestlemania Predictions: Women’s Evolution

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I can never keep it straight. Apparently it’s the “Women’s Evolution” and not the “Women’s Revolution.” Either way, the women of WWE are as prominent a part of this year’s Wrestlemania as they’ve ever been. In addition to the battle royal on the pre-show, we’ve got both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Titles on the line, and a major attraction involving Stephanie McMahon and Ronda Rousey.

(For more predictions, check out our look at the Kick-Off Show matches, and some of the title matches.)

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax

Alexa Bliss really should have dropped an F-bomb. She should have called Nia Jax fat. She’s not, of course. But you talk about a way to get heat in this ultra-PC age…

I’ve gradually become a Nia Jax fan over the last several months. I dig what she does for body positivity. I don’t know if you’d call her an unlikely babyface. But from a character standpoint, I’ve enjoyed her progression.

Obviously Nia is going to get the win and the title eventually. I’d actually like to see Alexa cheat to win here, and give Nia yet another humiliation to overcome. But given this story, I don’t know that they’re brave enough to have the hero not prevail at their big show. So congratulations will be in order for Nia Jax on this one.

PREDICTION: Nia Jax

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka

This match has the misfortune of being on the same card as AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan’s big return, and most likely John Cena and the Undertaker. Thus, it’s not necessarily getting all the attention it deserves. But make no mistake about it: This is a big one. Most likely red letter day in the careers of both women. Though in all honesty, I’m not sure what kind of match we’re going to get here.

Charlotte would be a fine choice as the one to break Asuka’s streak. But it’s not going to happen here. Asuka has only been on the main roster for about six months. Her shtick is just starting to catch on with mainstream audiences. Making such a big change would be a terrible mistake. Unfortunately for Charlotte, the streak must go on.

PREDICTION: Asuka

Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H

Do I even need to predict this one? It’s been pretty obvious from the get-go. Ronda makes Steph tap out, probably with an arm bar. The only potential variation on that is Hunter tapping to the arm bar.

I wouldn’t expect us to see a lot of Ronda in the ring. Not just because she’s so new to wrestling, but because Ronda’s fights were famously quick. Women’s revolution notwithstanding, I expect Kurt and Triple H do most of the actual wrestling, with Ronda getting the finish.

You know what I hope we see here? A taste of who Ronda was in the UFC. Bad ass Ronda Rousey. Death stare Ronda Rousey. Gladiator Ronda Rousey. It won’t be exactly the same, of course. But that’s what I want to see. That’s what everybody wants to see.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

More predictions to come!!!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Wrestlemania Predictions: IC, US, and Tag Titles

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’re back, this time with some title matches. Before you dive in here, I invite you to check out the Kick-Off Show predictions. You’ll notice WWE’s love affair with muti-man matches is still very much a thing. Though that’s been the case at Wrestlemania for almost two decades now. Multiple teams competing for a set of tag belts, multi-man matches for the Intercontinental Title, and that’s not even getting into all the Money in the Bank Ladder Matches.

Though oddly enough, they may buck that tradition this year by having one man compete for the Raw Tag Team Titles by himself…

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers

Much is made about what match opens Wrestlemania. You can make a strong case for this one being the opener this year. That New Day entrance alone would be a great way to start the show. But then you take into account how the Usos and the New Day have consistently torn the house down in the last several months. I don’t see how you can lose with this one.

Despite having been in WWE for about a decade now, this will be Jimmy and Jey Uso’s first match on the main Wrestlemania card. So what the hell, give ’em a win. They deserve it after the year they’ve had. So let one of the Usos pin one of the New Day guys, and give the Bludgeon Brothers a gripe about never being beaten.

PREDICTION: The Usos

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev

Rusev reportedly asked for his release not long ago, and WWE placated him by adding him to this match. I’ve got mixed feelings on that. If they’re not treating him properly, or not trying to maximize the potential of this “Rusev Day” stuff, then they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. On the other hand, Rusev has hit on something great here. It might be foolish for him to step away. In any event, they obviously want to keep him around. As they clearly should.

I’m thinking this is Jinder’s match to win. Randy Orton only has the title because they need something for him to do on this show, and Bobby Roode desperately needs a heel turn. In theory, they could give it to Rusev. But I see them finding a screwy way to put it on Jinder (Maybe the other Singh Brother comes back?), leading to a program with Rusev.

Incidentally, can we give him his wife back, already? Lana isn’t doing much on her own, and everybody knows they’re married anyway…

PREDICTION: Jinder Mahal

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

Given the skills these three guys have, this match has high expectations from a quality standpoint. That’s fair, assuming they have enough time to really deliver. I don’t think it needs to be reiterated just how big this card is.

You really can’t go wrong in this one. Miz has obviously been an amazing IC Champ, and both Rollins and Balor would be worthy titleholders.

But in the end, Miz should take this one home. Emphasis on should. The guy is on the roll of his career. If they needed him to, he could be a Heavyweight Champion right now. I’m very much in favor of keeping that momentum going. After all, we’re probably going to need heel challengers for the Universal Title in the near future. Just saying…

PREDICTION: The Miz

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman and ?

This isn’t the spot on the card that a lot of us wanted for Braun. He could easily have been the one facing Brock for the title. But this is still pretty good. And to their credit, they’ve managed to get some decent television out of it. The “Brains” Strowman bit on Monday was hokey, but it got a chuckle out of me.

They can get away with having Strowman win the belts by himself. It doesn’t do much for Sheamus and Cesaro. But Braun has the whole superhuman monster thing going for him. It makes sense.

But let’s say you have to put somebody with him? Who do you go with? Elias would work. There’s been some buzz about the Big Show, now that he’s signed a new contract. Rey Mysterio’s name has been mentioned. Oddly enough, it would also be a good spot for the recently released James Ellsworth.

Regardless, after Wrestlemania we’ll either have some sort of oddball tag team, or Braun defending the tag titles on his own. Both ways work.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

More predictions to come!!!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Wrestlemania Predictions: Kick-Off Show Matches

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’re going to try something a little different this year. Instead of cramming all my Wrestlemania predictions into one big post, I’m going to break them up over the next few days. If there was ever a show to do that with, it’s this one. As I type this, 13 matches have been announced. That’s not counting whatever is happening with Cena and Undertaker, and the segment that Elias is reportedly doing.

Up first is the Kick-Off Show, which was the subject of controversy last year when the matches weren’t included on the Wrestlemania 33 DVD. Thus, the talents didn’t see any royalties. Plus, there’s always been that pre-show stigma. You don’t break into the business hoping to get on the Wrestlemania Kick-Off Show.

Still, you’ve got a good amount of star power here. And a championship will be decided. So let’s take a look…

2018 ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL:

Bray Wyatt probably needs to be in this match. We haven’t seen him since the Ultimate Deletion, when he was thrown into the “Lake of Reincarnation.” Wrestlemania is about as fitting a place as any for a reincarnated Bray to emerge. Even if it’s in a battle royal. On the pre-show…

Bray isn’t even officially announced for this match. But the more I look at the guys who are (Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Mojo Rawley, Tye Dillinger…), the more it seems like a win for Bray makes the most sense. If anyone has ever needed a repackaging and a big win, it’s him. It’s really hard to believe that he walked into last year’s Wrestlemania as the WWE Champion. Plus, Matt Hardy is in this match. So it can come down to those two.

But of course, this match is notoriously hard to predict. Last year I thought it would be Braun Strowman, and it wound up being Mojo Rawley. So as always, this one’s a toss-up.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

WRESTLEMANIA WOMEN’S BATTLE ROYAL:

Obviously it sucks that Sasha Banks and Bayley don’t have a match on the main show. But they’ve got the big story coming into this battle royal. That’s hardly ideal, of course. But it’s something.

According to WWE.com, we’ll be seeing some NXT names in this match as well. I expect Kairi Sane to be in there. Depending on what happens in the NXT Women’s Title Match at Takeover, we might see Shayna Baszler and/or Ember Moon. I’d throw Bille Kay and Peyton Royce in there too.

I’d love for it to be Becky Lynch. It won’t be, of course. She’s the personification of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” And that’s such a damn shame, because she’s so damn great.

That being said, you know who I’d like to see win this one? Mandy Rose. Absolution’s shelf life has been up for quite awhile now. Particularly since Paige got injured. And as a heel, Rose has a lot of potential for single’s stardom. She’s obviously not as polished as she could be. But that’s a matter of experience. While this one is every bit the toss-up the men’s battle royal is, I don’t see Mandy as a bad choice at all.

WWE likes to talk about how the Andre Battle Royal has meant so much to the various winners over the years. But has it? Not really. Mojo Rawley is in more or less the same spot he was last year at this time. But that doesn’t mean it can‘t be that launching pad for a newer name. The men’s match has essentially been established as filler. But this is a valuable opportunity for WWE to  start this tradition for the women on a different note.

Just be careful who you name the match after…

MATCH FOR VACANT WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali

Yeah…we knew this would end up on the pre-show, didn’t we? It’s a crappy thing to do, given how well the 205 Live revamp has gone. But I get it. There’s only so much you can fit on that main show. Look at it this way: At least they have a featured match. That’s more than you can say for the likes of Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Sasha Banks, or Bayley…

If I’ve got the book, I put the title on Mustafa Ali. They’ve been trying to push Cedric as a babyface for several months now. And as amazing and talented as Cedric is, it’s not working. He’s missing something in the charisma department. So how do you fix that? you have him come up short in his big quest for the championship. He can go heel in response, and win the title from Ali down the line.

All that being said, I think they’re going with Cedric. They clearly see him as a star, and they’re not wrong in that assessment. I just think there’s a different path for him.

PREDICTION: Cedric Alexander

More predictions to come!!!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

The Elias/John Cena Connection, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I found myself on a podcast binge this past Sunday. Among my backlogged shows were two respective episodes of The Steve Austin Show and E and C’s Pod of Awesomeness. As if by fate, the both happened to feature the same guest: Elias.

I hadn’t realized just how into this guy I was. But I found myself listening pretty intently to what he had to say, and it occurred to me: If portrayed the right way, Elias could be huge. To an extent, he actually reminds me of John Cena. Not necessarily in terms of his personality or the way he works, but in the uniqueness of his persona.

When John Cena started using his hip hop inspired persona in 2003, it had a flair of originality to it. We’d seen wrestlers incorporate certain rap elements into their characters, but never seen anything quite like this. Once that character became more fully developed, Cena’s battle was half won. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t as polished a wrestler as most of his peers. People bought into him because was unique, and even real to an extent.

We’ve seen our share of guitar-playing wrestlers. The Honky Tonk Man comes to mind immediately, as does Jeff Jarrett. Outside the WWE umbrella you had names like Van Hammer and Maxx Payne. But Elias has an entirely different flavor. He’s got a more grounded, modern feel to him, sprinkled with a little Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, etc. It didn’t click with the more hardcore fans in NXT. But on the mainstream level shows like Raw and Smackdown, it works.

Elias has something that’s been missing in wrestling for a long time, but seems to slowly be creeping back in. The “cool factor.” That swagger,  that demeanor, that aura that makes the male audience in particular look at you and think, “I wish I could be like him.” Names like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting, and Goldberg had it. Groups like DX and the nWo had it. John Cena had it at one point. Nowadays you can see it in guys who’ve been associated with the Bullet Club. Braun Strowman has it to a degree.

We’re now starting to see traces of it in Elias. He’s hearing more boos than cheers. But give it time. Once Wrestlemania comes and goes, it wouldn’t surprise me if fans around the world are ready to walk with Elias. And when that time comes, WWE needs to be ready to pounce.

Ponderings From Raw:

John Cena opens the show, and is interrupted by the Miz. Cena challenges Miz to a match with the stipulation that the loser enters the Elimination Chamber Match first. Cena wins with the Super AA. The best line of Cena’s promo? Wrestlemania can bring a legend back from the dead.” Foreshadowing, anyone?

To anyone who’s been a fan for more than a few years, the notion of Cena not having a match at Wrestlemania is downright laughable. But that’s obviously the story they want to tell with he and Undertaker. Cena has to get a match at Wrestlemania by goading the Dead Man out of retirement.

Incidentally, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard an “And the loser of this match is…” announcement.

The Revival def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Anybody else see Dash Wilder trip after he got tagged in to feed for Anderson? Whoops. Still, at least they won. A hell of an improvement over their loss to Anderson and Finn Balor last week.

Kurt Angle stands up for Jason Jordan, who will miss Wrestlemania with a neck injury. Seth Rollins emerges and asks to be inserted into the Second Chance Fatal Four-Way later that night. Angle grants his wish, making it a Fatal Five-Way. Oh good. Another Fatal Five-Way. Isn’t that just so…asymmetrical.

Rollins was presumably going to work with Jason Jordan at Wrestlemania. Obviously that’s not happening anymore, which leaves Rollins without a dance partner. So who do you put him with? Angle? I doesn’t seem like the highly speculated Triple H/Kurt Angle match is on the books anymore, and Rollins would likely give Angle a better match anyway. Finn Balor might work, as they obviously have some history. There’s also the Miz, though he’s rumored to be working with Strowman.

Bayley def. Sasha Banks. Nia Jax ambushes both women after the match. Hardly their best match, but still damn good.

While the turn isn’t official, Sasha was working heel here. It’s about damn time. I’ve been ready to boo the hell out of this woman for months. What’s more, working with a heel Sasha could do wonders for Bayley. The audience needs to be reminded why they liked her in the first place. Casting Sasha as a vicious, bratty heel could garner her some valuable sympathy.

Mandy Rose and Goldust were a team on WWE Mixed Match Challenge last week. While they lost, if you watch some of the online content WWE has put out with them, they make a hell of a duo. How about we drop the Absolution stuff and make them a next-gen Goldust and Marlena?

Braun Strowman gives his own take on one of Elias’ performances, smashes the Drifter with a cello. These WWE comedy segments crash and burn so much that you wonder if they’re even worth the effort. Then something like this comes along and it almost makes the bad ones all worthwhile. Even after accidentally breaking the strings, Strowman sold the bit and made it work. And seeing him smash Elias with the cello? Priceless.

How is this man not headlining Wrestlemania? Apparently Brock doesn’t want to work with him anymore after what happened at the Rumble. So what? Brock makes a hell of a lot of money working fewer dates than almost anyone. Suck it up, buttercup.

Roman Reigns def. Sheamus. This match brings back bad memories from late 2015. But then they wind up going at each other so hard that you wind up forgiving them.

The announcers actually brought up a valid point early on in this match. A pretty damn sad point, at that. Cole noted that Sheamus may be one of the most underrated stars in WWE history. They listed of all his singles accomplishments, and then added that they’re often forgotten because he’s now in a tag team with Cesaro. Think about that. On paper this guy has a Hall of Fame resume. WWE Champion, World Heavyweight Champion, King of the Ring winner, Royal Rumble Match winner, Money in the Bank winner, US Champion. And yet all that gets glossed over.

I don’t doubt the history books will be kind to Sheamus. But I can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever get the respect he truly deserves. 

Ivory announced for WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Ivory was always a favorite of mine. Ahead of her time, in that she could always do the sports entertainment stuff, but she was a wrestler’s wrestler. And a good chunk of her WWE career was spent with ladies who, with due respect, really had no business being in a wrestling ring. Thus, she had to stoop to performing in various slop matches, Evening Gown Matches, Bra and Panties Matches, and a various other things that really don’t age well. She a lot was classier than the material she was given. The real-life Lisa Moretti has earned her spot in the Hall of Fame as much as just about all of her peers. 

The “Second Chance” Fatal Five-Way Match ends in a tie between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Both earn a spot on the Elimination Chamber Match. We’ve never had seven guys in a Chamber Match before. I assume it’ll be three guys in the ring at the start, with the remaining four entering as usual. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Roman Reigns is winning.

It’s curious that they’d put Apollo Crews in this match. In terms of his spot on the card, he was clearly below everyone else in that match. The good news, however, is that he definitely held his own out there. I feel like I talk about how athletic this guy is every single week. This was a hell of a chance to show off, and I think he took full advantage of it. Also, Apollo has some personality buried in there somewhere. We just need to dig…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Predictions. Plus: This is the XFL…again.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

He’s really going to try this, isn’t he? I can’t believe it…

As most of you reading this already know, Vince McMahon announced this week that the XFL will be revived in 2020.

This revamped version of the league, which hosted one season in 2001, will attempt to come at the game from a different perspective. McMahon noted the league will emphasize safety, be non-political, and exclude players with criminal records.

Professional football has never been my thing. But even I can see that Vince is once again aiming for disenfranchised NFL fans. He still doesn’t wish to compete directly, as the XFL season will kick-off after the NFL season has wrapped up. The league will supposedly not effect McMahon’s role as chairman and CEO of WWE.

As facepalm worthy as this is, I do give Vince credit. The guy wants a football league, and he’s going to try again regardless of the inevitable criticism and ridicule. There’s a lot to be said for that. He’s also not using WWE money this time. He’s started a new company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, specifically to pursue outside entertainment endeavors. Did we mention he’s 72 years old. That old catchphrase rings true: Vince really does have balls the size of grapefruits.

That said I have virtually no interest. I’m a pro wrestling guy. Vince McMahon is also a pro wrestling guy. WWE has always been his bread and butter, and almost every time he’s tried something else it’s ended badly. The original XFL obviously comes to mind. But he also tried the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early ’90s. In 1998 he bought the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $10 million, which nothing came of. WWE Studios hasn’t exactly set the movie industry on fire, though at least it’s still alive after more than 15 years. You might even lump Linda McMahon’s senate campaign in there. So despite what WWE would have you believe, Vince McMahon is not a genius.

But let’s not miscast him as a fool, either. At his core, Vince McMahon is a gutsy and stubborn entrepreneur who takes calculated risks and is willing to endure failure. Most of his greatest successes are things he’s willed into existence. The global expansion of WWE. The creation of Wrestlemania. His ratings war with Turner Broadcasting. Now he’s trying to will the XFL into existence once again.

Part of what makes Vince so successful is his penchant for both spectacular success and spectacular failure. So in the end, win or lose, this XFL resurrection will be a sight to behold. It’s hard not to root for the guy sometimes. Even when it seems like he’s stubbornly beating a dead horse.

With that, let’s take a look at the Royal Rumble. I’m skipping the kick-off show matches this year, as we’ve already got a lot to cover on the main show…

2/3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

I’m going with Benjamin and Gable on this one. The Usos have had the belts for awhile now. As babyfaces, it might do them good to chase a heel team. Benjamin and Gable have also been growing on me as complaining heels. Gable in particular has done some really nice mic work, which is a good sign as far as a potential singles run is concerned. So let’s give ’em the belts and see what happens.

By the way, do Benjamin and Gable have a team name? I was never a fan of the “World’s Greatest Tag Team” name. Nothing like that, please.

PREDICTION: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar

A win for Sheamus and Cesaro might help everybody here. I’d wager the Bar are on their way to a babyface turn. The respect factor is getting tougher to ignore as the weeks go by. On the flip side, Jason Jordan is starting to come into his own as an annoying heel. A loss to the Bar can easily transition into a feud with Rollins, who could sorely use a program with some heat to it. An audience clamoring for Rollins to curb stomp Jordan doesn’t sound so bad.

I can’t say I’m any less tired of seeing Rollins wrestle Sheamus and Cesaro. But even so, this one could be the dark horse to steal the show.

PREDICTION: The Bar

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

If the Raw Tag Title Match doesn’t still the show, this one probably will. These three have all proven they can turn in epic pay per view matches. The 2-on-1 format also lends itself to good storytelling. So I’ve got high expectations.

I don’t see why Styles wouldn’t retain here. Though it doubt it’ll be without controversy. Expect to see Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan during this one, leading to a confrontation or a dispute that allows Styles to pick up a win. Something is obviously going to happen with Bryan and Shane at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of what, and whether it involves Bryan lacing up his boots again…

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

In terms of match quality, these three are fighting an uphill battle. Brock’s matches are hit or miss depending on who he’s in there with. His match with Strowman at No Mercy was a groaner. And despite his status as a WWE icon, Kane’s matches tend to be slow. It might be better if they got this one over with quickly.

On the other hand, Brock’s multi-man matches have historically been pretty great. The fatal four-way match at Summerslam, the triple-threat with John Cena and Seth Rollins a few years back. If Brock, Strowman, and Kane can pique the audience’s interest early, they could overachieve

Either way Brock wins, hopefully pinning Kane. He’d better pin Kane. So help me God, if he pins Strowman again…

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2018 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

I was pretty excited for this until I read that Stephanie McMahon will be on commentary for it. From a publicity standpoint, I get it. They want her to be heavily associated with the “women’s revolution.” But I have no desire to hear that woman talk for an hour. Especially when there are multiple women they could plug in who’d be a better fit. Lita comes to mind, as she did commentary for the Mae Young Classic. But there’s also Renee Young. What about Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss? They’re the two champions and they’re not wrestling that night. So have them lend some insight to the match. Yes, a five person announce desk is overkill. But it beats having Stephanie out there.

You know who really deserves to win this match? Becky Lynch. Crowds love her, and she deserves a big match at a Wrestlemania. They’ve also played up her friendship with Charlotte for awhile now. That could set up a great reluctant opponents storyline. But I have very little faith they’ll do the right thing with her.

Nia Jax is a possibility. Notwithstanding the beatdown Asuka put on her, they’ve established her as a dominant force from the start. She and Alexa Bliss have been connected as far back to their NXT days. A match between them could be intriguing, but I don’t see it for Wrestlemania. More likely she gets ganged up on and eliminated, or someone surprises her.

The big favorite is Asuka. She’s finally starting to pick up speed on the main roster as an undefeated, unstoppable force. In that respect, winning the first Women’s Royal Rumble Match could be like tossing gasoline on a fire. But it seems so obvious. It feels like they want us to think it’s her just so they can swerve us.

There are 30 women in this match. As of this writing, only 18 have been announced. So I’m making this prediction with more than a third of the participants unknown. As I’ve said, I’m inclined to think some of the women we saw at Raw 25 will be here. Trish Stratus, Jacqueline, Nikki Bella. Maybe Torrie Wilson and/or Kelly Kelly. They need bodies in this thing. We almost have to see some NXT names. Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Nikki Cross, etc. Maybe Shayna Baszler.

It should be noted that Ronda Rousey has denied she’s in this match. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It just means she’s denying it.

In the end, I’ve got to go with Asuka. Yes, it’s obvious. But they’ve gone the obvious route with Rumble Matches before. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss is one of the more intriguing matches they can do on the main roster right now. For that matter, so is Asuka vs. Charlotte. They really can’t lose with her.

PREDICTION: Asuka

2018 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

Oddly enough, there are only 17 names announced for the Men’s Royal Rumble compared to 18 for the women. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case, as they’ve obviously got so many more male wrestlers.

Like the John Cenas and Randy Ortons of the world, Roman Reigns is always a top contender for the Rumble Match. The buzz since Wrestlemania 33 has been about him headlining this year’s show with Brock Lesnar. So in theory, he could take this one home….*shudders*

I doubt it, though. I can’t see them wanting the Rumble Match drowned out by boos again. So we’ve got to look elsewhere. So with Lesnar occupied on the Raw side, we’re looking for a challenger for the WWE Championship on Smackdown. Going into Wrestlemania, your champion is probably going to be AJ Styles. Who do you put with AJ?

Finn Balor’s name jumps out immediately. Yes, he’s on Raw. But we’ve seen guys win the Rumble and jump ship before. Balor is with Gallows and Anderson now, and we’ve established that they have a history with AJ in Japan. And of course, AJ was with Gallows and Anderson in WWE for awhile. I’m not sure how much they’d want to go into all the New Japan/Bullet Club stuff. But they can always touch on it and then branch off into their own story. Remember, Finn pinned AJ in that throw-together match at TLC. Balor can be a marquee player for WWE. He just needs the right story. This could be it.

They could do AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton. But the match Orton had with Bray Wyatt left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, Orton just won it last year. So I’d steer clear of him.

The only other name that makes sense is Shinsuke Nakamura. That’s a bigger risk than some would admit. Nakamura is clearly special and obviously a star. I can’t complain about most of his matches. (The Jinder Mahal stuff notwithstanding.) But I don’t know that he’s connecting with the audience at a level that justifies a Rumble win. The language barrier is part of it. But I still don’t feel like I know anything about this guy. Yes, he’s a legend in Japan. But why? What makes him such a “Rock Star” or an “Artist” or whatever they want to call him?  I’d like to see Nakamura win the title. I’d like to see him work with AJ. But if they still don’t have a solid grasp on how to portray him, maybe now isn’t the time.

Then again, they put the title on Jinder Mahal. If they can take a risk with Jinder, they can take a risk with Nakamura. A win for him win would get a big reaction. It could also make for a feel-good story about the Japanese legend who comes to America and wins the title. I’m not overly confident with this pick. But Nakamura has a shot this weekend.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

MISCELLANEOUS RUMBLE MATCH PREDICTIONS: 

I expect Elias to eliminate Cena, and going on to face him at Elimination Chamber. He’s essentially getting the role Samoa Joe was supposed to have.

There’ve been rumors about EC3 making his debut in the Rumble Match, now that he’s left Impact Wrestling. More power to him. It did wonders for AJ a few years ago.  He went somewhere else and made a name for himself. He deserves another shot.

As they’re in Philadelphia again, a surprise ECW entrant seems likely. Tommy Dreamer, maybe? They could always throw Rhyno in there. But as an ECW fan, I’m still not over Rhyno dressing up like Mrs. Clause.

So does Tye Dillinger have to come in at number 10 every year now?

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