Although the Royal Rumble is always one of the year's best WWE events, the return of The Rock has given the marquee show a major boost. His feud with CM Punk over the WWE title will be tough to top on the road to WrestleMania.
Then there's the Royal Rumble match, which will feature plenty of big names, including John Cena, Randy Orton, Ryback and Sheamus, who won it last year. There are always a couple surprise entrants that add to the spectacle, as well.
Also, Alberto Del Rio will defend his World Heavyweight Championship in a last man standing rematch against Big Show. Team Hell No looks to continue its reign as tag team champs against Team Rhodes Scholars. And United States champion Antonio Cesaro puts his belt on the line against The Miz on the pre-show.
It should be a terrific show that sets the stage for an intriguing build toward WrestleMania. Here's a look at all the important information for the PPV along with a preview and predictions for the year's first can't-miss show.
Where: US Airways Center in Phoenix, Ariz.
When: Sunday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: Pay-per-view (local cable providers)
Live Stream: WWE.com has PPV for $44.99
CM Punk (c) vs. The Rock – WWE Championship match
30-Man Battle Royal – Royal Rumble match
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Big Show – World Heavyweight Championship last man standing match
Team Hell No (c) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars – Tag Team Championship match
Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz – United States Championship match (Pre-show)
Main Event Preview and Prediction
The WWE Championship match is genuinely tough to predict. Normally, fans can get a pretty good idea of what direction the PPV match is going simply by the build, but that hasn't been the case. Both The Rock and CM Punk have done a terrific job.
Vince McMahon added a stipulation on Raw, which adds another angle to the match. Punk will be stripped of the title if The Shield interfere, as the rogue group of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins did so often during did his feud with Ryback.
That opens up the possibility that The Shield has been working with The Rock the entire time. First to ensure Punk remained champion until the Royal Rumble and now to help him become champion, with the attack on Raw serving as a red herring.
The Shield could interfere during the main event, causing Punk to get stripped of his title, only to find out later the trio did it so Rock could take the belt. It would allow Punk's reign to end without a clean loss and stays in line with his constant denials about any connection.
The other option is having Punk win with help from a different outside force. Whether it be Brad Maddox, a returning Brock Lesnar or a different "Paul Heyman guy." It would be a surprise if Punk picks up a clean victory, though.
Ultimately, of all the different potential scenarios, more of them involve The Rock walking out of the US Airways Center as champion. It should be a memorable match regardless of the outcome.
Prediction: The Rock
What They're Saying
Alberto Del Rio is predicting another victory over Big Show at Royal Rumble. It will be interesting to see if they can stand out on a jam-packed card.
A Giant will fall at the Royal Rumble ADR the real deal.— Alberto Del Rio (@VivaDelRio) January 22, 2013
Antonio Cesaro, who's done an awesome job as United States champion, believes he's going to have a night for the ages on Sunday.
Undercard Match to Watch: Royal Rumble match
Even though John Cena's promo on Monday night was one of the most mind-boggling things seen on Raw in a long time, it's hard to consider anybody else the favorite. He's coming off a down year and it's tough to imagine him having two in a row.
A victory could set up a rematch with The Rock at WrestleMania, which could potentially become a triple-threat match involving Punk, if he can stake a legitimate claim to deserving another shot. That's another reason The Shield working with The Rock would help bring storylines together.
Sheamus is the other top contender. Giving him a second straight Rumble victory would be huge, and likely sets up a World Heavyweight Championship feud with Dolph Ziggler heading into WrestleMania. Ziggler will enter the Rumble first or second, and likely last a very long time before getting eliminated.
Prediction: John Cena
Which Star Will the WWE Bury? Big Show
Big Show is a reliable veteran that's done a good job holding down the fort on SmackDown during a slow period in the WWE schedule. But with things starting to heat up again, he's likely to lose his main-event status for a couple months.
The crowd reaction to Alberto Del Rio since his face turn and subsequent championship win has been astonishing. Up until about a month ago, the WWE Universe was silent when he would speak. Now the fans are heavily involved in all of his promos.
Del Rio should retain the title in a long, grueling match, which could allow Ziggler to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. If it doesn't happen at Royal Rumble, it should definitely occur before WrestleMania. Either way, Big Show is out of the picture.
Star Unaccounted For: Christian
Since most of the main superstars who have been appearing on a weekly basis are already scheduled somewhere on the card, fans should expect at least one key return during the Rumble match. Somebody like Christian would make sense.
The fan-favorite has been off television since early in the fall as he recovered from various injuries. But he should be nearing full strength and an unannounced return on Sunday night would be a perfect way to get him back involved.
Other possibilities include Mark Henry and Jack Swagger. The WWE is going to need all hands on deck during the WrestleMania build. Getting back at least one of those veterans would add some depth to the roster, and the Royal Rumble is an ideal place to do it.
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