The Road To WrestleMania is well underway, and with the Royal Rumble only a matter of days away, what better time to have a look at the potential winners, losers and surprise moments from my favourite PPV of the year. This year will mark the first time ever that we see the women of WWE compete in their very own historic Royal Rumble, something they have been super keen to remind us of every 4 seconds, so I’ll be giving my thoughts on that too. LETS GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!
Mens Royal Rumble Predictions!
Would Like to Win : Rusev or Big E
Who I Think Will Win : Shinsuke Nakamura
Entrant 1 : Elias
Entrant 30 : Jason Jordan (Just to screw with us)
Most Eliminations : Baron Corbin or Samoa Joe
Longest Time In Match : Finn Balor
Shortest Time In Match : Curtis Axel or Bo Dallas
3 Most Likely Surprises/Debuts : Velveteen Dream, Aleister Black, Batista
3 Dream Surprises/Debuts : Ricochet, Daniel Bryan, Neville
So from the strong rumours circling the internet, it seems we are set for a Smackdown Live Rumble winner again. Why have I gone for Nakamura? Because it’s the easiest and laziest way for WWE to set up the ‘dream match’ against AJ Styles. I may be in the minority here, but I don’t overly want to see this match. WWE have ruined Nakamura since he stepped up to SDLive by limiting his move set, not developing his mic work and killing his momentum by having him lose multiple times to Jinder Mahal. The entire build up in the program would have to be carried solely by Styles which is a lot to ask considering Mania is nearly 3 months away.
Why would I want Big E to win? The guy has all of the tools required to be a successful singles competitor – deceptively fast and agile, stronger than an ox, fantastic on the mic and it could all be done while still being a part of The New Day with Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston potentially challenging for other belts too. Velveteen Dream and Aleister Black had one of the best rivalries and matches of 2017 so I’d be shocked if they didn’t enter at some point and have a chance to shine for 10 minutes or so. Batista has been rumoured for some time now but I don’t see him returning properly due to his Hollywood commitments, so a Rumble cameo makes sense and would be received well by fans. Baron Corbin eliminating a bunch of guys would help to build him back up after a rather forgettable US Championship reign and WWE once again seemingly losing faith in him.
To see Neville would be a huge surprise and a very welcome one at that, WWE really dropped the ball by letting him walk away after he had such a phenomenal 2017 and he should’ve been pushed to bigger things. My Daniel Bryan shout is one I want to happen but also don’t want in equal measures. The reason I don’t want it is because you can bet your house on it that Shane McMahon will get involved if Bryan does, leading to the inevitable and unnecessary feud between the two that we keep being teased with. Nobody wants it… NOBODY. Please I’m begging you WWE… stop before it’s too late. A Bryan return should be the highlight of the year, there is absolutely no need for Shane to be a part of that when it could be against someone like The Miz, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn or AJ Styles.
The most interesting thing for me this time around is what WWE will do with Roman Reigns. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that the going plan is for Reigns to topple The Beast Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34, so to have him win the Rumble makes sense as it’s the perfect set up fpr him to challenge. Though at the same time, I think WWE are so determined for this match to take place that Roman doesn’t necessarily need to emerge victorious from the Rumble. This is a guy who was entered straight into the Universal Championship scene without earning it, literally right after dropping the United States Championship. Expect Roman to make the final 4 at least just to rile the fans up and tease the possibility of him being booed out of the building. I can’t wait for the pop when he gets eliminated!
Women’s Royal Rumble Predictions!
Would Like to Win: Becky Lynch
Who I Think Will Win: Asuka
Entrant 1: Natalya or Becky Lynch
Entrant 30: Sasha Banks or Ronda Rousey
Most Eliminations: Nia Jax or Tamina
Longest Time in Match: Becky Lynch
Shortest Time in Match: Lana
3 Most Likely Surprises/Debuts: Lita, Nikki Cross, Trish Stratus
3 Dream Surprises/Debuts: Kharma, Candice LeRae, Peyton Royce
Isn’t it painfully obvious that Asuka will win? Even before Paige’s unfortunate career ending injury, it was pretty much nailed on that she would be coming out of this one victorious as it backs up her claim to be invincible. It almost makes me not want to watch at all, Asuka for me has been every bit as unimpressive as Nakamura since stepping up from NXT. Becky Lynch would hands down be my personal pick to win, we all know how good she is in the ring, the fans still love her and WWE need to do something to make up for her abysmal treatment over the last year. It wasn’t that long ago she was putting on a fantastic match with Charlotte and Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 32, so for her to be so far down the pecking order now just makes no sense to me.
This match worries me to be honest, 9 times out of 10 when we get multiple women involved in the same match on RAW or SDLive it ends up being an absolute mess (no disrespect intended). I think its safe to say that we can expect this first ever Women’s Royal Rumble to be plagued by botches and confusion. The only saving grace will be the inevitable returns of Lita and Trish Stratus, plus the main roster debuts of some fantastic NXT talent like Nikki Cross and Peyton Royce. I would also expect to see Stephanie McMahon and Ronda Rousey enter at some point, which would be an embarrassment really as it would take away from the importance and historical significance of the match. There’s also the possibility we will see some sort of degrading piss take moment, something like Santino Marella or James Ellsworth competing in drag simply because Vince McMahon is so out of touch with what we, the paying fans, want to see. God help us.
But wait, there’s more! More to this Royal Rumble pay-per-view than the two main event matches, that is!
Braun Strowman v Kane v Brock Lesnar (c) – Universal Championship Triple Threat
This should be a decent enough match, it’s just such a shame we all know how it’s going to end and what it leads to. The only outcome here is Kane taking the pin, with Lesnar coming out on top. The inclusion of Kane was an intriguing one at first, but it quickly became quite clear why he was there in the first place… Kane taking the pin keeps Strowman looking strong and helps Lesnar keep the belt without Strowman having to lose. You can probably expect Strowman to dominate for a while, a few teases of him facing Lesnar, Strowman makes a mistake outside the ring so Lesnar can capitalise and sneak the win.
BUT WAIT! Let’s throw a curveball in there… imagine if Lesnar was to lose the belt, and then later in the night he enters and wins the Royal Rumble. Reigns takes the title from Strowman… boom. Lesnar v Reigns still happens at Mania, Strowman gets to hold the belt for a bit. Book it WWE. Strowman deserves it and we all want to see it.
Result : Lesnar retains, pinning Kane.
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin v The Uso’s (c) – SDLive Tag Team Championships 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match
The Uso’s were far and beyond the team of 2017, but I’ve quickly lost all interest in this feud. WWE can’t decide if Benjable (you heard it here first) are face or heel at the moment, and with The Uso’s suddenly rose in popularity it makes it hard to know who to side with. Benjamin for me has been largely underwhelming since returning to WWE, and the only good thing to come from this pairing is more TV time for Gable who is an absolute star in the making.
I’m sure this will be a decent enough match, but nowhere near the caliber of what we’ve seen in recent months where Rusev Day and The New Day were both also involved. Hopefully The Uso’s keep the belts here and go on to face Rusev Day or The Bludgeon Brothers.
Result : The Uso’s retain, winning 2-1
The Bar v Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (c) – RAW Tag Team Championships
Honestly? I just don’t care at all, i might not even watch this match. You’re probably thinking it’s because I’m part of the We Hate Jason Jordan bandwagon, right? Nope. I actually quite enjoy him in his new delusional, super optimistic and goofy role. I’m just sick of seeing this match, with these same guys over and over again. How can WWE get the SDLive tag division SO good, but forget all about RAWs? The most frustrating thing here is that we have The Revival facing Gallows & Anderson on the damn pre-show!
This is another one which feels pretty straightforward and obvious. The Bar may very well up taking the belts back, likely from Jordan being over zealous and costing him and Seth to lose. Seth turns on him. They feud until Mania. The only reason this is happening is because Dean Ambrose was legitimately put on the shelf, if he hadn’t have suffered the injury it would be him in place of Jordan but with the same outcome.
Result: The Bar are your new champions.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn v AJ Styles (c) – WWE Championship Handicap Match
Very, very intriguing. This strangely thought out encounter has two mouth watering outcomes and I’m not sure which I want more:
1. KO & Zayn win and become co-champions. The cracks begin to form and one betrays the other, leading to a showdown for the title at Mania, and yet another fantastic rivalry between the two best friends. This frees up AJ to be pissed at management and lead to him taking on a returning Daniel Bryan at Mania. Boom. Money.
2. AJ retains because KO & Zayn were too busy fighting over who would pick up the pinfall and be the rightful winner of the match. They split and feud until Mania still, just not for the title. AJ goes on to face Nakamaura to appease the Indy darlings who somehow think the dream match will be any good inside a WWE ring.
My gut says AJ retains the title and we see KO & Zayn split up, but I’d rather see them stay together and go after the tag titles. Either way this should be a great match. Expect Shane McMahon to interject and shove his ego down our throats at some point too.
Result: AJ retains
NXT Minus 6: A Tale of Two Champions
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Our two new champions could not be more different…
6. Doomsday Saito comes to the ring and gives a painful, cliched promo. Any wrestler in the back could have said those exact words. Train harder and beat people up. He’s angry. We get it. The only thing Saito could do that would interest me is move to RawDown. On the other hand…
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Not gonna lie, that promo was wasn’t even hot garbage. It was cold garbage.]
5. Raquel Gonzalez delivers a genuine, heartfelt promo that only she could give. Tears of joy. It told her story, and it’s exactly why she got the pop and the chant she deserved. The addition of Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, complete with throwback pic, was icing on the cake. I’m excited for whatever Gonzalez does next. Speaking of…
4. Fantasy booking alert!!! Two weeks ago, Raquel Gonzelez told the world I was the one who believed in her. I was the one who made her a champion. Then Rhea Ripley shows up, and Bianca Belair shows up, and I’m the one sent to the back. How quickly you forget who your real friends are. I was the one who took you to the top, and chicka, I am the one who is going to drag you to the bottom. I used you to get to the top and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I am Dakota Kai.
3. No more Santa Claus Ice Cream Bar. Santos Escobar has earned his name back. His match with KUSHIDA is everything great about NXT. Say it with me. Good things happen when you let wrestlers wrestle! Fast paced. Great action. Surprise ending. I’m going 4.5 stars. Give me a match that good every Tuesday and I’m a happy camper.
2. Right now, I don’t know if any two wrestlers have better chemistry than Swerve Scott and Leon Ruff. Every time they get together, it’s electric, and this week was no different. This is quickly climbing into Rivalry of the Year territory. I thought I was happy to see Swerve pick up the victory and move on. Then Ruff goes insane in the membrane and now I’m excited to watch them fight forever.
1. This week’s That’s Why I Love Wrestling goes to…Roderick Strong. Kayfabe. Work. Shoot. I don’t care. Strong deserved a better goodbye than what he got. He is the Perfection of Performance (shout out to the Hitman). He and Kyle O’Reilly were the best version of the Undisputed Era tag team champions. I always got excited for a Strong match because I knew he’d deliver. Roderick Strong is exactly the kind of wrestler that makes me love wrestling. Until he returns, he will be sorely missed.
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.
It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!
5. Samoa Joe
A gentle reminder that Samoa Joe is one of the greatest talkers in the game pic.twitter.com/p4TZeZIAV7
— Kenny Majid – A Kenny For Your Thoughts Podcast (@akfytwrestling) April 15, 2021
I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.
In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!
4. Kris Statlander
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) April 15, 2021
AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.
Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.
Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.
Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.
3. Tay Conti
Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.
Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.
This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.
2. Bianca Belair
We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.
You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.
Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.
Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.
1. Darby Allin
Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.
The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.
What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.
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