NZPWI Roundtable: Royal Rumble

The Road to WrestleMania begins today at the 30th annual Royal Rumble. More than 50,000 fans will pack the San Antonio Alamodome as 30 WWE Superstars compete for a chance to headline the biggest event of the year.

Both the WWE Universal and WWE World Championships will be on the line in high-profile matches for the Raw and SmackDown brands. Kevin Owens defends his title against Roman Reigns with the added pressure of having his best friend, Chris Jericho, locked in a shark cage. John Cena attempts to capture his 16th world title when he challenges AJ Styles.

In addition to the regular NZPWI panel, we’re joined by a new contributor. Pro Wrestling Illustrated cartoonist Mister J offers up his predictions for the first WWE pay-per-view of 2017.

Who’ll be going to WrestleMania? Join us as we break down the card for WWE Royal Rumble!

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30-Man Royal Rumble Match:
Baron Corbin vs. Big Cass vs. Big E vs. Big Show vs. Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Cesaro vs. Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Goldberg vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Luke Harper vs. The Miz vs. Mojo Rawley vs. Randy Orton vs. Rusev vs. Sami Zayn vs. Sheamus vs. The Undertaker vs. Xavier Woods

Blake:
For this one, I’m going entirely against sense. My hopes, my dreams, are that this becomes the Rumble… of Jericho; drink it in, maaaaan!
Winner: Chris Jericho

David:
The Royal Rumble is so hard to predict—and this year’s seems even more so—so I tend to look at former winners. And there is a surprising number of former winners involved in the 2017 Royal Rumble. However, there’s one that stands out after the closing moments of Raw.
Winner: The Undertaker

Grady:
The best match of the year. So many potential feuds to set-up, so many back-stories colliding and so many surprises. There are also so many contenders this year as opposed to usual. Corbin, Strowman, Wyatt, Lesnar, Jericho, Ambrose, Goldberg, Orton, Zayn and The Undertaker, to name a few, are all great possibilities. I’m going to take Braun Strowman. If he doesn’t win then he will make it far and have a huge impact with some big eliminations.
Winner: Braun Strowman

Mister J:
Some time in the 90s, I remember Vince McMahon shouting, “Virgil could win the Royal Rumble!” Even then, it seemed… unlikely. Now though, anything is possible. And this time there are just so many variables. Not only Brock, Goldberg, and Undertaker – there’s also Big Show and Braun Strowman. Maybe even Kane? Let alone the possibilities. Tye Dillinger at number 10? Samoa Joe and Angle to rekindle their TNA feud? The Wrestling Superstar himself, Virgil? Maybe Randy Orton will make use of The Wyatt Family to sneak a win? Certainly TAB betting in Australia backs this possibility. Or maybe Vince McMahon will return to relive his 1999 Royal Rumble glory. If pressed though, and I had to pick a winner, it would be whoever is getting to play a Royal Rumble drinking game on a public holiday. You are the real winners. Though it’s quite likely some of you will be losers too.
Winner: The Undertaker

Steve:
Possibly the hardest Rumble match to call from the last 10 years. Could go in so many different ways. While I have a feeling that Undertaker might take it, I’m picking Randy Orton. With the Wyatts on his side, anything is possible for The Viper.
Winner: Randy Orton

 

WWE Universal Championship, No Disqualification Match:
[Chris Jericho will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage]
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns

Blake:
Fight, Owens, Fight.
Winner: Kevin Owens

David:
Chris Jericho’s locked in a shark cage! That’s going to be a big distraction for Kevin Owens, and remove a big distraction for Roman Reigns.
Winner: Roman Reigns

Grady:
That shark cage sucks at stopping interference, as we saw at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, so I can’t rule out Jericho having an influence here. But I think even with the Jericho factor we can rely on the Big Dog to overcome Kevin Owens and win the title.
Winner: Roman Reigns

Mister J:
Roman Reigns was voted the most hated man in wrestling for 2016 according to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Kevin Owens has surprised everyone since his arrival in WWE. And there is no way Roman wants to be on Jericho’s list, shark cage or not. KO for the win.
Winner: Kevin Owens

Steve:
Ugh, I’m quite tired of seeing this match. Expect Roman to finally get the victory he thinks he’s owed, after so many failures.
Winner: Roman Reigns

 

WWE World Championship:
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena

Blake:
Styles has had Cena’s number for months, nothing’s going to change.
Winner: AJ Styles

David:
John Cena’s gone back to his roots, adopting more of attitude that allowed him to rise to prominence in 2005. He looked unstoppable back then, and even though we’re 12 years removed from those days, 2017 is going to be Cena’s year.
Winner: John Cena

Grady:
As much as it pains me to say it, I think John Cena is going to reach the big number 16 at Royal Rumble. AJ Styles has done well fending off his challenger and has wins over Cena locked in, but this new-attitude Cena has is going to be different from their previous bouts.
Winner: John Cena

Mister J:
Another tough one to call. The returning Cena has set WWE on fire and delivered a hell of a promo belittling AJ and the scene from whence he sprung, but AJ has never been one to shy away from anything. Cena will certainly win his 16th world championship at some point soon, but I don’t think it will be today.
Winner: AJ Styles

Steve:
This should be a classic, like their other contests. John Cena’s coming in strong, which means he’s brimming with overconfidence. His disparaging words towards the champion have exposed his ego can’t handle not being the top guy. With so much time away from the ring over the last year, Cena’s about to find out he no longer runs the camp.
Winner: AJ Styles

 

Raw Women’s Championship:
Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley

Blake:
It’s kind of impossible to vote against Bayley, she’s just too darn adorable.
Winner: Bayley

David:
I doubted Charlotte plenty throughout 2016, and she proved me wrong time and time again. How can you not trust that pay-per-view record?
Winner: Charlotte

Grady:
I’ll take Bayley because that is what I want to happen, but Charlotte is still undefeated at pay-per-views. This isn’t going to be an easy task for Bayley if she is to take the belt off her.
Winner: Bayley

Mister J:
Bayley’s optimism is hard to ignore, as is her ability to shine even under the worst circumstances. But the daughter of the dirtiest player in the game has been bred from birth to sneak a win in whichever way possible. Although it may be close, I’m giving Charlotte the edge.
Winner: Charlotte

Steve:
I believe in Bayley, but I believe more in how Charlotte has truly become the dirtiest player in the game. Being nice isn’t going to get you anywhere here, Bayley.
Winner: Charlotte

 

Cruiserweight Championship:
Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville

Blake:
It is time to crown the rightful King of the Cruiserweights.
Winner: Neville

David:
Neville’s been overlooked for a while now. With one of the biggest crowds of the year watching in The Alamodome, he’s going to make everyone take notice.
Winner: Neville

Grady:
The King of the Cruiserweights will take his crown at Royal Rumble.
Winner: Neville

Mister J:
Rich Swann is a talented wrestler, and champion, but Neville is a man on a mission (no, not Sir Mo and King Mabel – stop taking things so literally) and he will not be stopped.
Winner: Neville

Steve:
Neville will rightfully take his place as King as he defeats Swann, making up for how he was unjustly kept from the Cruiserweight Classic. Swann is good, don’t get me wrong, but he can’t handle Neville at his best.
Winner: Neville

 

Raw Tag Team Championship:
[Two referees will be assigned to the match]
Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows [Royal Rumble Kickoff]

Blake:
Shouldn’t there just always be two referees in all matches?
Winners: Cesaro & Sheamus

David:
I don’t know how much influence these two referees will have, but I believe in Cesaro and Sheamus.
Winners: Cesaro & Sheamus

Grady:
The only thing certain about this match is that fact the second referee will be important. I don’t know whether I can trust the ticking time bomb that is Cesaro and Sheamus to not explode in a mess of egos either in this match or the Royal Rumble that they are both participating in. I’m going to take Gallows and Anderson because I know they will work together and take advantage of any hole in the team of Cesaro and Sheamus.
Winners: Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

Mister J:
I’ve seen Luke Gallows confuse punters by bodyslamming a man in a Gumby costume, and dropping lawn bowls into the crotch of Slade Mercer in the middle of a bowling green. He’s going to confuse the two referees exactly the same way. The “Machine Gun”, and the “Sun Tan Biker Man” for the win.
Winners: Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

Steve:
Cesaro and Sheamus have steamrolled the division since they got on the same(ish) page. Unless The Club dig deep, expect that to continue here.
Winners: Cesaro & Sheamus

 

Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks [Royal Rumble Kickoff]

Blake:
Sasha should not be in my coin flip match of the night…
Winner: Sasha Banks

David:
Sasha’s still recovering from being attacked by Nia Jax the first time. The odds are not in her favour.
Winner: Nia Jax

Grady:
Nia Jax has been impressive and slowly improving on the main roster, but I don’t think she is at The Boss’ level just yet.
Winners: Sasha Banks

Mister J:
Nia Jax will snap Sasha Banks as easily as Sasha Banks snaps off chunks of her dry, dead hair in the mirror every morning. The PWI rookie of the year will the win, and move straight into title contention.
Winner: Nia Jax

Steve:
Poor Sasha, she’s about to find out that she’s no boss and Nia isn’t her employee – she’s not even like most girls.
Winner: Nia Jax

 

Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya vs. Becky Lynch, Naomi & Nikki Bella [Royal Rumble Kickoff]

Blake:
I’m not sure I’m the target audience, but I can (hashtag) feel the glow.
Winners: Becky Lynch, Naomi, & Nikki Bella

David:
Becky Lynch is very emotional going into this match, and I don’t know if that’s an advantage.
Winners: Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya

Grady:
Alexa Bliss has been on a roll since she picked up the championship and Mickie James is returning from a great one-off at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, so I have to give the edge to the bad girls.
Winners: Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya

Mister J:
Nikki Bella is going to be frustrated at Mickie James confirming her past relationship with John Cena during the week. She will find it hard to focus, and contain her already short attention span, causing her team to lose.
Winners: Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya

Steve:
With so many combustible elements in the ring, the odds could go in any direction. My money’s on Team Alexa picking up the W, partially thanks to the veteran Mickie James. Mickie’s back with a vengeance and ready to show the world she’s still as tough as they come.
Winners: Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya

 

Staff Picks Summary:

30-Man Royal Rumble Match:
Braun Strowman: 1
Chris Jericho: 1
Randy Orton: 1
The Undertaker: 2

WWE Universal Championship, No Disqualification Match:
Kevin Owens: 2
Roman Reigns: 3

WWE World Championship:
AJ Styles: 2
John Cena: 3

Raw Women’s Championship:
Bayley: 2
Charlotte: 3

Cruiserweight Championship:
Neville: 5
Rich Swann: 0

Raw Tag Team Championship:
Cesaro & Sheamus: 3
Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows: 2

Nia Jax: 3
Sasha Banks: 2

Alexa Bliss, Mickie James & Natalya: 4
Becky Lynch, Naomi & Nikki Bella: 1

 

WWE Royal Rumble
Monday, January 30
1pm (Royal Rumble Kickoff from 11am)
Sky Arena & WWE Network