It’s Royal Rumble weekend, and that means 2 nights in a row of exciting WWE action! Today all be breaking down my thoughts on both Takeover and the Rumble.
NXT Takeover Phoenix
NXT has set up their usual 5 match format with all 4 titles on the line and the continuation of a current feud to round things out.
NXT Title: Tommaso Ciampa© vs Aleister Black
Having finished taking his revenge on Johnny Gargano, Black finally gets his long awaited rematch for the title he lost to Ciampa last year. I expect a hard fought match with intensity from both men. However, I think Black is just finishing up his NXT story so that he can move up to the main roster in the coming months. Prediction: Ciampa retains
NXT Womens Title: Shayna Baszler© vs Bianca Belair
Baszler is the 1st 2-time Women’s Champ on the NXT brand, and she’s been so dominant that, like Asuka before, new challengers need to be built up before anyone will seem worthy of ending her reign. Belair isn’t quite there, but she shows limitless potential. Now is as good a time as any to she if she can hang with the top stars. I don’t think she’s ready to take the title off of Baszler yet, but I see this as an important stepping stone in her continued growth towards an eventual title reign. Prediction: Baszler retains but Belair holds her own in a way that still provides a solid boost to her career.
NXT Tag Titles: Undisputed Era© vs War Raiders
War Raiders have been hunting these titles since the day the arrived in NXT. If they don’t capture them soon it may kill their momentum and diminish their potential. That said, UE have been at the top of the tag division so long that it’s difficult to ever bet against them. Prediction: War Raiders finally get their title reign but it may not be a long one (see Mustache Mountain’s brief run with the belts)
NXT North American Title: Ricochet© vs Johnny Gargano
Regardless of the outcome, we the audience win any time these men step in a ring together. That said, it seems early to take the belt off of Ricochet. There are already challengers lining up to face him next, and he’ll put on great matches with all of them. For Gargano, this feels more like a detour on the road of a different story. He’ll make it an entertaining detour, because he’s Johnny freakin Wrestling, but it’s not integral in his overall character arc. Prediction: Ricochet retains
Matt Riddle vs Kassius Ohno
I must admit that I myself am not yet sold on the “king of bros.” That said, the powers that be clearly see big things for him, and Ohno has been well established as nothing more than a gate keeper for the NXT. Prediction: Riddle
There’s a stacked group of new talents set to report to the Performance Center in February. The latest PC class includes former Impact X-Division champion Trevor Lee, two-time Mae Young Classic competitor Rachael Ellering (aka Rachael Evers), MYC2 competitor Karen Q, ROH and NJPW stand out ACH, Sam Shaw, Scott Parker, Shane Matthews, Jonah Rock, Elliot Sexton, and Nick Comoroto. The 1st four newbies will likely make their way to NXT pretty quickly, especially Ellering who has already made quite a few appearances as an enhancement talent for the black and yellow brand.
Starting this week and continuing at through Wrestlemania season, 205 Live will have a new voice in the booth. Aiden English has been tapped to join Nigel McGuiness and Vic Joseph at the announce desk for a trial period to see how he does in such a role.
There are a lot of conflicting reports this week regarding Rousey’s future with WWE. First it was reported that she was wrapping up her WWE commitments and would be leaving after Wrestlemania. Then came word that this was untrue and that she would be around for a couple more years. I assume the truth is somewhere in between. Perhaps there was an escape clause written in to her deal initially just in case things didn’t work out. Clearly things did work out well both for Ronda and the WWE and all indications from the woman herself is that she’s genuinely enjoying every moment. I feel like, if they always knew she was leaving in a year, they would have used her differently during that year. As it is, there’s a lot of mileage left in the Rousey tank. That said, her desire to start a family is also quite understandable. My prediction, she will eventually take time off to have a child, but it won’t be quite so soon as these rumors suggest and she will be back regularly after. Keep in mind, this is pure speculation on my part.
John Cena’s status for the Rumble is now in jeopardy due to an apparent ankle injury. According to WWE he first injured it during last week’s fatal 4 way match to determine the #1 contender to the Universal title. He then tweaked the injury further while training this week. Or at least that’s the official story from WWE. The real story is that Cena has movie commitments that will keep him off tv for a few weeks. The original plan was for him to be injured during an attack by the debuting Lars Sullivan, however all plans pertaining to Sullivan are currently in limbo and they needed a new story to remove Cena from television.
Cruiserweight Title 4 Way: Buddy Murphy© vs Kalisto vs Akira Tozawa vs Hideo Itami
Murphy has been a great champion since picking up the title in his home country of Australia last Fall. Kalisto and Tozawa are both former champions who should never be counted out fully. Itami has yet to taste gold in NXT or WWE. If they’re looking to give Itami a shot without doing a heel vs heel program, the fatal 4 way format allows him to pin one of the faces and keep Murphy strong. Prediction: Hideo Itami wins the title
United States Title: Rusev© vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Sadly for fans, Nakamura has been misused and poorly booked since arriving on the main roster. His heel turn was good, but then he never got the big win during his feud against Styles. It seemed maybe the US title could be a turning point for him, but they just haven’t done anything with him during his reign. Though they were a little bit late in pulling the trigger on Rusev’s face push, he still has tons of momentum on his side. Prediction: Rusev retains
Universal Title: Brock Lesnar© vs Finn Balor
Balor FINALLY gets his shot at the title he never truly lost. He’s been pushed hard and built up well the last few months, but has he been built up enough to topple the Beast? It’s really hard to predict given the potential within the Rumble. Lesnar could retain and be challenged by a Rumble winning Rollins, or Balor could win and go on to face a Rumble winning McIntyre. The fan in me wants to see the Irish underdog prevail, but the cynic who has seen too much McMahon booking over the years has to lean on the side of Lesnar. Prediction: I can’t
WWE Title: Daniel Bryan© vs AJ Styles
I will never ever complain about having to watch Bryan vs Styles. That said, this match feels a little overshadowed by everything else at the moment. Given the way that they’ve been fighting out near the concessions and merchandise areas lately, you would think they were building towards a falls count anywhere match stipulation. That hasn’t happened though. Prediction: Bryan retains
Raw Women’s Title: Ronda Rousey© vs Sasha Banks
It’s pretty clear that Banks is a place holder opponent on the way to the money feud Rousey has coming with the top ladies of Smackdown. That said, Banks is a quality place holder who offers up a slightly different type of opponent than Ronda has worked with thus far. It should be a fun match, but I have no doubt about the outcome. Prediction: Rousey retains
Smackdown Women’s Title: Asuka© vs Becky Lynch
While this too is something of a place holder, the outcome is far less clear. Lynch is without a doubt the top star in the company right now (male or female), and by all rights should be a champion. That said, plans for her inevitable Wrestlemania showdown with Rousey may not require her to have the belt. Prediction: though it’s tough to bet against “The Man,” Asuka retains
Smackdown Tag Titles: The Bar© vs Miz & Shane McMahon
I have no idea what the endgame is for this pairing of Miz and McMahon, but they probably need to win here to get there (wherever there is). Prediction: Miz and McMahon win the tag titles
Men’s Rumble: Drew McIntyre, Big E, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, Seth Rollins, Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Samoa Joe, Dean Ambrose, John Cena(?), Elias, Baron Corbin, Jinder Mahal, Apollo Crews, Andrade, Mustapha Ali, Rey Mysterio, Titus O’Neil, Randy Orton, R-Truth (#30)
There are only 20 participants officially announced at this point and one of them (Cena) may not show up. That leaves us 10 or 11 spots for surprises. We can probably pencil Braun Strowman in for one of those spots now that he’s no longer facing Lesnar. It would be nice to see Bray Wyatt finally return here. We can usually expect one or two NXT faces to get in on the action, and my picks this year would probably be Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream. It would be nice to see UK champion Pete Dunne get a spot as well.
Prediction: Either Seth Rollins or Drew McIntyre wins the rumble (see Universal title implications)
Women’s Rumble(23): Natalya, Bayley, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Alicia Fox, Zelina Vega, Mickie James, Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax, Naomi, Tamina, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Dana Brooke, Lana, Nikki Cross, Alexa Bliss, Lacey Evans, Carmella (#30)
There are currently 23 names official for the women’s rumble and that covers the majority of the main roster. One potential twist that many people are actually expecting is for Becky Lynch to pull double duty wrestling in the title match earlier in the night AND earning a shot at Ronda Rousey via the Rumble. We should also see some NXT women in the mix such as Shayna Baszler and Bianca Belair. Once again, it would also be great to see the UK represented with NXT UK Women’s Champ Toni Storm.
Prediction: Charlotte wins unless Becky enters
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