This weekend is a big one. Not only do we have the Royal Rumble, we also have NXT TakeOver: San Antonio and two EVOLVE shows. We asked our staff this past week what match, event, or moment they are looking forward to the most. Not surprisingly -- the Royal Rumble match dominated most of their thoughts.
Here’s what they had to say --
Bryan Rose: I think that I am looking forward to the Royal Rumble match itself the most. Unlike other WWE stipulation matches, this match only happens once a year, and it's on this show. It’s one of the few stipulations that haven’t been done to death, so there’s still a mystique to it.
Plus, with big names like The Undertaker and Goldberg, there could be some interesting developments and interactions. It’s the match where we get our first glimpse at what will go down at WrestleMania, so how can it not be one of the more interesting matches of the weekend?
James Cox: I’m absolutely looking forward to a Royal Rumble match where there is no clear winner going in. As long as whoever wins immediately strikes us as being logical with a coherent path through the next few months and into WrestleMania, we’ll all be happy.
Paul Fontaine: The Royal Rumble match is always one of my favorite times of the year, dating back to when I was a kid. The anticipation of who will be next. Speculation of who will win, who will eliminate the most guys, what surprises will there be?
WrestleMania may be “bigger” but personally the Rumble -- and specifically the match itself -- will always hold a special place for me.
Ryan Frederick: I’m most looking forward to the Royal Rumble match because for the first time in a long time, it's really hard to figure out who is going to win.
While it's always a fun match, as someone who has recently gone back and watched every Rumble match, the vast majority of them were predictable. The sheer unpredictability of who is going to win this year makes this one perhaps the most interesting Rumble match ever.
I also think both main title matches on Sunday will be good, and if they let Neville and Rich Swann have time to do something, that could end up being great.
Jeremy Peeples: This is the most interesting Rumble weekend in quite some time. The NXT card’s finish could show us a major NXT call-up the next night. The actual Rumble match has been built up with many dream match-style scenarios that have either historical significance now, or possibly later.
We’ve got a match where we could have Goldberg face The Undertaker briefly, and that alone conjures up thoughts of a decade ago where Taker and HBK went at it and made everyone want a one-on-one match -- which delivered a classic two years later.
It’s doubtful that we’ll see a match of that quality with Goldberg against either Braun, Brock, or Taker -- but the mind does race when you start thinking of the possibilities.
Joseph Currier: This year's Royal Rumble match should be one of the most exciting in recent memory, but there will be very few things in the industry this year that excite me more than Chris Hero's final independent wrestling match at EVOLVE 77.
Hero is arguably the most prolific indie wrestler of this era. That can sometimes be a backhanded compliment with it meaning that someone didn't spend much time in bigger companies, but Hero has defined indie wrestling for a large part of the last two decades. He returned to the indies three years ago after a stint in WWE developmental to become perhaps the best wrestler in the world and has put on so many incredible matches since.
Now he's heading back to NXT as Kassius Ohno, but Chris Hero will have one final match on Saturday as he takes on Zack Sabre Jr. The two always have excellent chemistry together. Their match in EVOLVE during WrestleMania weekend last year was a borderline contender for my Match of the Year in the Observer Awards. This should be extra special with Sabre looking to take over as the top unsigned star in the world.
It's a match that everyone should check out just for the significance of the moment, but I fully expect it to deliver in the ring as well.
Who ends up winning the Royal Rumble?
Bryan Rose: Even though I voted for him as Most Overrated in the Observer Awards, I think Baron Corbin is going to take this. They’re very high on him, and with other people in key spots I think he could be someone who could get a title match at WrestleMania, especially if John Cena wins the title on Sunday.
James Cox: I expect Lesnar and Goldberg will eliminate each other with no regard for winning the thing because they want a piece of each other. I don’t like Undertaker winning, because he then has to win the title at WrestleMania (and presumably drop it the next night) otherwise he loses twice at Mania.
Undertaker doesn’t need to win the Rumble to book himself in a big match. I think the winner should create a new storyline thread altogether, so I would say it's more likely to be Corbin, Rollins, Orton, Balor, or Samoa Joe -- someone who can take it in a fresh direction. I pick Randy Orton.
Paul Fontaine: I like Goldberg to win the Rumble and then go on to challenge Brock for the title at Mania after he beats Kevin Owens at Fastlane.
Ryan Frederick: The Undertaker. When they brought him back to announce he was going to be in the match, I was against announcing it early. I thought if you had a situation where it was down to Goldberg, Lesnar, Strowman, and about six other guys in the ring with #30 still to come, and when that clock hit zero and out came Undertaker at 30, the building would have exploded.
However, him being announced has added more interest to the match, and the scene at the end of Raw was one of the best recent memories of the show.
Jeremy Peeples: The Undertaker would be my pick to win the Rumble. He probably shouldn’t be taking an over the top bump now anyway, and him winning the match opens the door to facing any champion he wants -- which gives Vince plenty of time to waffle back and forth between now and Mania.
Taker going for one last shot at his holy grail would certainly help sell tickets, and if he faces AJ Styles, it should at least be a very good match.
Joseph Currier: I've fully expected The Undertaker to challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania for months now. It's a match that feels like it has to happen on WWE's biggest stage at some point and time is always running out to make it happen.
Dave Meltzer has reported that Undertaker is more likely to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania as of now. I'm all for that match happening, especially if it's for the Universal Championship.
Undertaker winning is the most intriguing scenario and leaves the door open for the most possibilities. I'll guess that wins out in the end and he walks out of the Alamodome as the Royal Rumble winner.