Expect compelling chaos and the crowning of a returning star at WWE Royal Rumble 2014.
The match card for the upcoming pay-per-view features a pair of powerhouses ready to wreck each other, two championship bouts and the 30-man match from which the event gets its name. Foreshadowing, hints and backstage reports give fans a peek behind the curtain before the drama begins.
Who will show up unannounced? Who will outlast their foes and rise out of the pack with a spot at WrestleMania XXX assured?
The following is a preview of the Royal Rumble with a list of the clashes on the docket and what fans can expect to see happen in each of them.
News, Potential Spoilers
There are still 10 spots available in the Royal Rumble match, and one of the biggest question marks surrounding the event is just who will fill those spots.
Jimmy Wang Yang (James Yun) seemed to imply via Twitter that he'll be among the surprise entrants. Is the former WWE Superstar joking around or will we see the Asian American cowboy in action again?
There's a far better chance we see Christian and/or Evan Bourne make their returns at the Rumble. Unlike Yang, they are both still under contract, even if they have been out of the ring for a long stretch. Both are apparently healthy enough to wrestle again.
The Wrestling Observer, via WrestleZone.com, reported that both Superstars are just waiting for WWE creative to find a spot for them, writing, "There was talk last week of bringing both Bourne and Christian back, but it's still uncertain exactly when that might be."
There's no easier way to throw someone back into the mix then to have them be a surprise part of the Rumble.
In the "unannounced, but not exactly a surprise" category, Chris Jericho and Sheamus are likely to be in the 30-man match as well. Both men will be at the World of Wheels Auto Show this weekend. The show is in Pittsburgh, Pa., as is the pay-per-view event.
"The Celtic Warrior" is scheduled to appear at the car show two days before the Royal Rumble; Chris Jericho will be there on Jan. 25.
Is it coincidence or convenience that two former WWE champs will be in the same city as the pay-per-view? For Sheamus, the timing to return is perfect. He underwent surgery for a torn labrum in August and was expected to be out for four to six months.
The Rumble will arrive right in the middle of that time frame.
There's also a chance that Dolph Ziggler joins him. "The Show Off" spoke about his injury and recovery with Chris Van Vliet.
Ziggler explained that he will be in the arena on Sunday to undergo tests. He didn't rule out joining the Rumble if he is cleared.
As for the men already officially in the event, Roman Reigns and Batista appear ready to make a major impact.
Back in December, Wrestling Observer, via WrestlingInc.com, wrote that WWE had "big plans" for Reigns. The report says that "those plans right now are even bigger than anyone would have thought."
Does that mean he becomes the match's "Iron Man," breaks Kane's single-Rumble elimination record or that he wins the match itself? The last scenario is the least likely as it seems rather early to have Reigns headline WrestleMania. In addition, there is word that another powerhouse is already penciled in as the winner.
PWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com, reported the following:
With Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar out of the Rumble match, Batista is one of the only favorites left. Having "The Animal" win is a predictable rout, but that didn't stop WWE from having Cena win last year's Rumble.
- The New Age Outlaws vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust (Tag Team Championship)
- Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan
- Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show
- Randy Orton vs. John Cena (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
- 30-Man Royal Rumble Match
The Champs Retain
Don't count on Rhodes and Goldust losing the tag titles until after the Rumble. WWE announcers have mentioned that the Rumble match pits brother against brother, which is likely a case of foreshadowing.
Tension in the match will splinter the brothers' bond. That leaves them open to be dethroned and sends them on a path to match up against each other at WrestleMania.
For now, they will fend off The New Age Outlaws. It's hard to imagine a team that has defeated The Wyatt Family and The Shield losing to a team with a combined age of 94.
Bryan Downs Wyatt
In his psychological and physical battle with Bray Wyatt, Bryan gets a major victory on Jan. 26. The last time Bryan put Wyatt on his back, the result was one of the best crowd reactions in recent memory.
WWE will want to produce something similar before both men go their separate ways on the road to WrestleMania.
The amount of tension the company has built between these two, the contrasting styles and the talent of both men will have this bout be the best of the night. Bryan is no stranger to earning that honor.
The Beast's First Triumph of the Year
Lesnar will fell a giant in his first match since SummerSlam 2013.
The story so far has been about how strong and massive Big Show has been. He's tossed Lesnar around like only someone his size can.
That's all likely a way to make Lesnar's win seem more significant. Lesnar is expected to be in a marquee match at WrestleMania, perhaps with Undertaker. He needs wins and a trail of victims to hype him going forward, not to lose to Big Show.
A Reign Persists
Bet on Orton's reign continuing past the Royal Rumble. As fans saw on the Jan. 20 edition of Raw, WWE hinted strongly at a future Orton vs. Batista title match.
Orton has continually found a way to win in the last few months, whether it be by way of a distraction from The Authority or with the help of handcuffs. His cunning keeps him champion again on Sunday.
The longer that Orton holds onto the title the bigger his showdown with the Rumble winner will feel. Expect him to remain the face of the WWE until his former stablemate replaces him.
Surprises Before The Expected
As much attention as WWE paid Jake Roberts' return on Old School Raw, a one-time appearance doesn't seem sufficient. He has been pushing for a spot in the Rumble and the potential emotional power of seeing him back in action, even just for a few moments, is too great to pass up.
The match will also be where Alexander Rusev debuts.
The NXT star has been working WWE live events lately, getting wins over Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel. The company clearly thinks highly of him and the Rumble is an easy way to introduce him to a new audience.
WWE clearly wants to keep providing him momentum and the Rumble is a stage where a powerhouse can force his way into the history books. The Shield member will eliminate more Rumble opponents than anyone else that night.
Also look for the Rhodes brothers to begin their split. The oft-proposed Goldust vs. Rhodes WrestleMania match is much more tempting now that Goldust is on such a roll. The Rumble is an excellent place to start that feud with the pressure of winning tearing these two apart.
As for who wins the whole thing, Batista has the inside track.
WWE continues to point at him as the winner from the WWE 2K14 simulation it posted on YouTube to Triple H telling Renee Young that "it's not hard to imagine" Batista as the face of the company.
The field doesn't offer many strong alternatives either. Punk is headed for a WrestleMania showdown with Triple H as The Authority continues to make him suffer. Would anyone bet on Alberto Del Rio headlining WrestleMania?
Reigns and Big E Langston are good candidates to win the 2015 Rumble, but this year is too early to shoot them that far up the ladder.
That leaves the winner many will see coming: "The Animal." He's set to join Cena, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin as the only wrestlers to win more than one Rumble.
Fans hoping for shockers during the event will have to settle for the ones that come before the victor emerges. It will not be the night of the dark horse; it will be Batista's coronation.