The great thing about the Royal Rumble, like a New Year's Resolution, is it provides the opportunity to set a new direction for WWE over the next 12 months. This year's show, while it is still about the Rumble match, is also stacked with three championship matches.
Unlike previous years, where every championship has felt like an afterthought, the belts actually feel like they are important right now. A lot of that has to do with CM Punk, who has been made to look like a great WWE champion holding the belt for more than a year and defending it against The Rock.
As WWE puts the final touches on its biggest storylines to come on the Road to WrestleMania, here are our predictions for the four championship matches that will take place at the Royal Rumble.
(Note: Since Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro for the United States championship isn't taking place on the pay-per-view, will not be discussed in detail. However, the prediction would be Miz.)
Last-Man Standing Match for World Heavyweight Championship
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Big Show
This is the one championship match on the card that really does feel like a crap shoot. WWE just put the belt on Del Rio two weeks ago, so another title change would be overkill.
That said, Del Rio is in an interesting spot. He is being packaged as a babyface, but the audience doesn't seem to react to him in a positive way. Usually that can be a bad sign for someone, though I do think the WWE is invested in him as a top star.
Big Show is very good at playing his role. Making this a Last-Man Standing match does put some doubt about who might come out on top. That said, having Show as champion again would do severe damage to Del Rio's character.
Prediction: Del Rio retains
WWE Tag Team Championship
Team Hell No (c) vs. Rhodes Scholars
It is good to see WWE give the tag titles some spotlight on one of the biggest shows of the year, even if it probably will be just a short filler match, because Daniel Bryan and Kane have done a great job of making the division feel like it is relevant again.
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow have actually turned into a solid tag team that would do well with the championships if they were to win this match.
However, given where Bryan and Kane are at right now, it doesn't feel like the right time to have them lose. WWE should create some internal strife between the duo before having them lose the titles.
Prediction: Team Hell No retains
CM Punk (c) vs. The Rock
Even though the name of the pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble, it has become clear watching the build for the show that the main event is between CM Punk and The Rock.
What makes this match so compelling, even if the outcome seems to be a foregone conclusion, is the idea that something could change. Because WWE has kept the title on Punk for so long, you wonder if the creative team will have second thoughts just to keep the streak going.
Ultimately, though, the only outcome that makes sense is Rock winning. He came back last year to headline WrestleMania with John Cena. He did that and vowed the next night on Raw to return once again and become WWE champion.
It has taken almost 10 months since that first promo, as well a memorable appearance on the 1,000th episode of Raw, to get us to this point with Rock ready to win the championship. The angle is peaking at the right time and it can set up his eventual rematch with Cena at WrestleMania.
Prediction: Rock wins the WWE championship