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WWE Royal Rumble 2016: Staff preview, predictions, and main card

Roman Reigns vs. HHH

Things didn’t turn out well for Roman Reigns at TLC as due to constant interference, Sheamus was able to grab the title and remain WWE champion. What happened next, however, is the real crux of WWE’s current storylines, and will probably play a part at the Royal Rumble. Reigns beat Triple H batty, giving him a beating that Triple H rarely ever takes, and aside from the NXT Takeover show in London, he hasn’t been seen since.

The one person, aside from Stephanie, that didn’t like this was Vince McMahon. He returned to television the next night on Raw, more irate and manipulative than ever. Reigns talked him into giving him one last title match in a situation where Reigns would be fired if he lost. He didn’t, of course, and won the title one day removed from TLC. McMahon has, like he always has, become incensed with finding ways to take the title off Roman. His biggest one yet? Not only putting him in the Royal Rumble at number one, but making him defend his championship against the other twenty nine participants.

One of the most interesting things about the Royal Rumble is the intrigue of the match itself, in terms of who will be involved. Names like Jericho, Big Show, Dolph Ziggler and others have confirmed their involvement. AJ Styles, who seems to be coming this way, may be in the Rumble as a surprise, or maybe not. And what about Triple H? It’s been too quiet since the beatdown, and as we’ve seen time and time again, he always looks for just the right moment to make the biggest impact.

WO contributors to this month’s preview:

WWE Royal Rumble: New Day vs. Usos

WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day (c) vs. The Usos

Bryan Rose: I’m not feeling this at all. New Day is starting to get kinda ridiculous as an act and have mostly been feuding with Jericho, with the Usos as background characters. It doesn’t help that Big E pinned one of the Usos on Raw. They have no momentum to speak of, and unless they want to get the titles off of New Day just because, there really is no reason to do a title switch here. Winner: The New Day

Steve Khan: If Sin Cara never injured his shoulder, it would be the Lucha Dragons in this spot instead of The Usos, and we’d probably be getting a title change. They could still change the titles since The New Day are getting stale, and The Usos could use a win. Big E’s win over Jey Uso on Raw was rendered meaningless on Smackdown after The Usos and Ziggler beat New Day. I keep betting against New Day and I’m always wrong, so I’m picking them here. (Which means I’ll be wrong again probably.) Winner: The New Day

Kyle S. Johnson: The crux of this feud has now shifted to a heel team avenging the loss of its beloved trombone. Prior to that, we had The New Day getting jumped by The Usos and the Lucha Dragons for celebrating a hard-fought victory at TLC, and then The New Day feeling jilted about losing a fan-voted award to a team that has was active for maybe a third of 2015. What a feud, indeed. I would not be the least bit surprised to see Franchesca rise from the dead to aid The New Day in victory somehow. I’m sure the 10-minute promo centered entirely around making zombie trombone jokes the next night on Raw would be hilarious. Winner: The New Day

Alan O’Brien: Given The New Day’s current preoccupation with Chris Jericho’s trombone-icide, this “feud” has felt like something of an afterthought to say the least. The booking therefore gives little indication as to which team will emerge victorious on Sunday night; Monday’s surprising singles victory for Big E was balanced out by a win for The Usos on the go-home Smackdown. However, given that The New Day’s five-month reign feels about as fresh as their woefully over-exposed act right now, I’m erring on the side of a third spell with the straps for Jimmy and Jey. Winner: The Usos

Paul Fontaine: When they ran the angle on Monday which led to one of the Usos against one of the New Day in a singles match, I told myself that 50/50 booking of WWE dictated that the winner of this match would be losing at the PPV. Well, New Day won that one so I’m thinking we get new tag champion on Sunday. Winner: The Usos

Royal Rumble: ADR vs. Kalisto

WWE United States Championship: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Kalisto

Bryan Rose: Ugh, this booking. Not only did Kalisto lose the title the day after he won it, but he lost clean on Raw. How am I supposed to care if he wins or loses? He’s already lost. Twice. del Rio will probably win here and we can move on. There was a great chance to really do something with Kalisto when he won the title in a surprise, but that’s gone now and whatever chances they had with Kalisto being someone flew out the window with the title loss. It’ll probably be a fine match, but the intrigue is gone. Winner: Alberto del Rio

Steve Khan: The follow-up to Kalisto’s big win on Raw two weeks ago makes it seem fairly obvious that Del Rio will retain here. The match itself should be great if given enough time, although it might not considering the rest of the card. Del Rio doesn’t really need the title (because it’s worthless) and might be better off without it, as he could slid into the World Title mix. But it’s WrestleMania season so that’s not happening. Winner: Alberto del Rio

Kyle S. Johnson: Since it lost Rey Mysterio, WWE has been hard up for a bilingual luchador to market toward kids. Kalisto, riding a wave of buzz from his insane Salida Del Sol spot at TLC, seemed primed to finally take that role when he scored an upset win over Del Rio to win the U.S. Championship. Then, just like that, he lost the belt right back on the following episode of Smackdown and ate the pin in a tag match during the go-home Raw. It’s hard to picture a scenario where the belt gets hot-potatoed back onto Kalisto, especially if Del Rio needs to be put in a more prominent position heading into Wrestlemania, and that begs the question of why it was put on Kalisto in the first place. Winner: Alberto del Rio

Alan O’Brien: Vince McMahon’s longstanding reluctance to give small, supposedly fragile performers extended title runs reached its zenith this month with Kalisto’s one-day US Championship reign. The negative portrayal of the Lucha Dragon on the go-home RAW, paired with the presumed temptation to 50/50 this feud at two matches apiece, suggests that this title is going nowhere. Winner: Alberto del Rio

Paul Fontaine: Classic example of a WWE failed start push here as Kalisto got a cup of coffee with the IC belt and now will lose his 2nd straight match to ADR, sending him straight back to the lower card until his partner comes back from injury. It’s too bad because I think he could’ve caught on, especially if he was protected until Mania. Winner: Alberto Del Rio

Royal Rumble: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch

WWE Divas Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch

Bryan Rose: I’ve liked what they have done here in this feud, at least in the last couple of weeks. Charlotte’s heel turn did no favors for Lynch as a character because you could have seen the turn a mile away, but she’s done great promos in the last couple of weeks and genuinely comes across as likeable, something the Divas division on the main roster rarely has these days. It seems ripe for a title win here given the story, so I’ll go with Lynch. If given time, this should be good. Winner: Becky Lynch

Steve Khan: This is the only storyline in WWE that has had any semblance of natural progression. If that progression continues, then Becky Lynch should win the title at the Rumble. Too often, the babyfaces come up short one too many times, the story passes its peak, and that wrestler loses their momentum. Some wrestlers (Daniel Bryan) overcome that, but most don’t. There’s no reason to risk it here with Becky Lynch. Charlotte can get the title back later if the long-term goal is to have her as champion, but Lynch needs to win here to keep the momentum she has. The company may not see it that way, and I kind of feel like Charlotte will win because WWE fans aren’t allowed to be happy, but the angle on Raw set this up perfectly. Winner: Becky Lynch

Kyle S. Johnson: This feud has been the highlight of the show for the past several weeks, delivering a very basic and very effective story that is easy to get invested in. It’s really quite refreshing to see how things work when a story plays to the strengths of its performers. Becky has won a bunch of matches since Charlotte solidified her heel turn, which is exactly what a number one contender should do, and she’s been quite impressive on the microphone. Since turning heel, Charlotte has done a lot to flesh out her character, and she’s doing a pretty convincing job of embracing the “Dirtiest Player in the Game” mantle. I could see this feud paying off with Becky getting her big win at Wrestlemania, so I would expect Charlotte to win with some kind of underhandedness. Winner: Charlotte

Alan O’Brien: Becky Lynch’s ability to deliver the WWE’s scripted verbiage with intensity and believability has enlivened several nothing shows that the company have offered us up in recent weeks. Since dropping the goofy, wacky character she adopted upon arriving on the main roster, my fellow countrywoman has got herself over in a big way - and deservedly so. However, Charlotte has also found her feet as a performer since her heel turn and the act with her father is only just beginning to bear fruit - witness their contributions on commentary on Smackdown. As such, I believe that the powers that be will conclude that it’s too soon to take the belt off her. This feud, which is a far cry from its poorly-written beginnings, must continue. Winner: Charlotte

Paul Fontaine: The build to this match has been some of the best stuff on RAW in recent weeks. Becky has been given her most prominent role in WWE thus far and she’s responded with good promos and in-ring work. She should be rewarded with a Divas title reign coming out of this. Sadly I think we’re nearing the end of Ric Flair as a regular RAW character for the time being as well. Winner: Becky Lynch

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens: Royal Rumble

WWE Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens: Last Man Standing

Bryan Rose: Brawl brawl brawl. Brawl brawl brawl. Weapons. Chairs. Tables. This is all what this feud has been about, and they’ve so much of this in the last few weeks I’m kind of desensitized. I think Ambrose’s real gimmick has to be he’s a real like Looney Tunes character because some of the stuff he’s taken in the past week should of kept him out of action for weeks, but here we are and he’s perfectly healthy. This could go either way, but if I had to chose, I say Ambrose retains. Should be a pretty good match if given time. Winner: Dean Ambrose

Steve Khan: This should be a great match but it’s tough to predict. Last Man Standing should be the end of a feud, and these guys have fought a lot already, but somehow I could see this continue. Sami Zayn tossing Owens out of the Rumble would be a great return for Zayn, but that doesn’t necessarily impact the finish of this match. A couple weeks ago, Smackdown ended with Ambrose and Owens both laid out through a table, and I could see something like that happening here. Winner: None - Double knockout/countout

Kyle S. Johnson: This should be a hell of a match. The story here is pretty straightforward: Ambrose and Owens have beaten the hell out of one another for weeks, and so they’re going to beat the hell out of one another again until one guy can’t stand up. Simple and effective. Both guys really need to be positioned well heading into Wrestlemania, and the stipulation here does a lot to cover that base while (hopefully) promising a decisive finish for a change. I would expect Ambrose to just barely make it back to his feet before Owens, and I could see this feud going on a while longer while potentially adding a couple of additional names. Winner: Dean Ambrose

Alan O’Brien: This potentially show-stealing bout matches only the Divas feud in terms of build quality. Although Owens and Ambrose’s beef was backburnered on the go-home RAW (and marred slightly with that idiotic amusement park metaphor on Smackdown), the wild brawls between the two have been a consistent highlight in recent weeks. As for the result? It’s a Last Man Standing match and Ambrose has only held the title for a month. Babyface victory. Winner: Dean Ambrose

Paul Fontaine: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that AJ Styles makes his WWE debut during this match. During the much anticipated brawl, Owens will be getting ready to do something dastardly to Ambrose and AJ will come out of the crowd to confront Owens, leading to a brawl. He’ll end up laying out Owens with a Styles Clash. When Ambrose comes to and sees what happened, he’ll get laid out with a Styles Clash as well, leading to a 3 way program that takes us into Mania. Winner: None

Roman Reigns Royal Rumble

Royal Rumble: Roman Reigns defends WWE title

Bryan Rose: I’ve assumed Triple H vs. Reigns was the title match at WrestleMania ever since Survivor Series ended, and looks to be the case after this match was set up. WWE’s main event booking usually requires a swerve and interference, so I expect both during this match by the McMahons. Triple H is more than likely going to be number thirty, or will be a surprise entrant after everyone’s over. Maybe they’ll do a spot where someone doesn’t come to the ring when their number is called, Reigns throws the last guy over the top rope, then they announce Hunter as the last entrant and he finds a way to eliminate Reigns. It seems like the most heelish thing to do and sets up the Mania match pretty well. They could also just have Reigns win and Hunter does a blindside beatdown after the match or on Raw, but the first thero sounds a bit more interesting. I’ll go with Hunter winning, with Reigns getting most eliminations and longest time in the ring.

- Winner: Triple H

- Most eliminations: Roman Reigns

- Longest time in the ring: Roman Reigns

Steve Khan: Alright, so everyone has cleverly figured out that Triple H will enter at number 30 or 31 to screw Roman Reigns and win. And if he does enter at 31, that is pretty clever… if by “clever” you mean another way screw with the fans. That fact that fans have figured this out makes me think they’ll do something else. I really have no idea what, and I’ve lost interest because I’m tired of this story. Triple H as champion in 2016 is weird as hell, so I’ll pick…

- Winner: Roman Reigns

- Most eliminations: Roman Reigns

- Longest time in the ring: Roman Reigns

Kyle S. Johnson: It’s really quite indicative of both how badly injuries have impacted the roster and how ineffectual WWE is at building new stars that Triple H, Brock Lesnar, and The Undertaker are the three names most likely to take the belt from Roman Reigns in the Rumble. The obvious story here would be for Roman Reigns to go wire-to-wire (probably breaking Rey Mysterio’s Rumble record in the process) and overcome every hurdle, only for Triple H to return and extract a measure of revenge at the end of the match. Vince promised us a few weeks ago that when Triple H eventually got back at Roman, he would never see it coming. He may not, but with the odds placing Triple H as the favorite to win the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, he might be the only one.

- Winner: Triple H

- Most eliminations: Roman Reigns

- Longest time in the ring: Roman Reigns

Alan O’Brien: The Wyatt dominance on both the go-home RAW and Smackdown is a red herring and presumably designed to build Bray for what sounds like an underwhelming Wrestlemania program with Brock Lesnar. Expect that to be solidified in the Rumble match. One should also expect your current champ, Roman Reigns, to go the distance, almost match his eliminations record, before being felled at the final hurdle by the returning Triple H.

- Winner: Triple H

- Most eliminations: Roman Reigns

- Longest time in the ring: Roman Reigns

Paul Fontaine: The only questions in this Rumble match are : Will Reigns win or won’t he and who will the surprise entrants be? As for whether he’ll win, I don’t think so. That’s not the story they’re telling. Brock Lesnar is certainly a possibility but I see it as more  likely that the Wyatt Family will conspire to eliminate him from the match, leading to a Mania match no one wants to see. Other than that, I can really only see one possible winner, which is my pick. Reigns has a chance of  having not only the record for most eliminations but for longest time in the ring, which would be quite the feat.

- Winner: Triple H

- Most eliminations : Brock Lesnar

- Longest time in the ring: Roman Reigns

Join us for Rumble coverage all weekend long!