With WWE's annual Royal Rumble around the corner, and the Road to WrestleMania on the horizon also, it's about time I make my predictions for the match card at the 26th instalment of the "Grandaddy of them all". Since the Rumble winner is not confirmed yet, and a total of fifteen title changes between the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2009 alone have occurred leaving the idea of the current champions making it to WreestleMania a near impossibility, this prediction could easily become obsolete before No Way Out. Nevertheless, I have faith in my predictions and I hope you do too. Lets get this slide show started!
First up it's the dark match, you know the one that is just to warm up the attending crowd. Last year there was the controversial decision to put a heavily built-up match for the Unified Tag Team Championship in this spot, causing WWE to come under criticism for a lack of respect for it's tag team division. Perhaps this is what has lead to big name superstars holding the titles throughout the majority of 2009. Since D-Generation X are likely to remain champions throughout the road to WrestleMania, it's highly unlikely that tag team gold will be defended in the dark match, or perhaps even defended at all. Instead, a tri-branded battle royal between those superstars who did not make it onto the card is likely to take place, much like previous WrestleMania's.
Tri-branded battle royal.
Once again expect Money In The Bank to be an early match on the WrestleMania card. It gets the crowd pumped up early and allows the competitors to rest up before the night's main events should they decide to cash in on it later that night (one year it could happen). With CM Punk having won the last two Money In The Bank matches, it is unlikely for him to be a part of this one. Expect farmiliar faces in the shape of Shelton Benjamin and MVP, while Matt Hardy might show too.
Money In The Bank Ladder Match - Shelton Benjamin vs. MVP vs. Mark Henry vs. Matt Hardy vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz.
With 2009 providing so well in the new rising superstars, expect a few WrestleMania debuts from the likes of Drew McIntyre and Sheamus at the very least. Since Sheamus seems to have lifted himself atop the WWE mountain faster than Brock Lesnar did upon his debut, expect him to have a more high profile match somewhere later in the card. Drew McIntyre is more likely to be in one of the earlier matches in a title defence against at least two superstars. I'm expecting John Morrison to make an appearance in the Intercontinental Championship picture from now up to 'Mania so expect this feud to heat up a little, as well as a new contender looking to secure the gold.
Intercontinental Championship - Drew McIntyre (c) vs. John Morrison vs. Evan Bourne.
It seems Chris Jericho's arrogant nature has caused him to make more enemies than friends in recent years, but seems to have found a true ally in the Big Show. While Show has stood idly by and watched Jericho take almost all the credit for their Unified Tag Team Championship reign, it seems as if Show is merely waiting for his chance to strike and shut Jericho's mouth once and for all. This could route from a Royal Rumble elimination from one to the other, and escalate from there into a steel cage (a match which is long overdue another 'Mania appearance).
Steel Cage Match - Chris Jericho vs. Big Show.
The team of Jeri-Show is not likely to be the only team which splits on the road to WrestleMania. In a year where tag team supremacy has become a major staple in WWE for the first time since the Attitude Era, it is inevitable for friction to come out at the biggest stage of them all. Eighteen months under Randy Orton's tutelage has left Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase as arrogant as the Randy Orton which was nurtured under Triple H's Evolution. It is a mere matter of time before The Legacy breaks away from it's mentor and once again the Royal Rumble seems the opportune time to show their intent. Also, with Randy Orton having made nothing but enemies over the last twelve months, expect the odds to be stacked against the former Legend Killer in a handicap match, although a returning Edge could be the difference maker if Rated-RKO is to reform.
Handicap Match - Randy Orton vs. The Legacy.
With D-Generation X being back and earning tag team gold for the first time at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs, it is likely that for the first time in years neither Triple H or Shawn Michaels will be in main event contention unless one of them earns a shot at a World Championship. With so many superstars climbing the WWE ladder recently, it's time DX took a a back seat on the main event for once, and the potential of the Hart Dynasty to challenge for the Unified Tag Team Championship after a year on the rise could make for an interesting and highly anticipated feud between two teams in opposite stages in their careers. It might not seem a reality right now but with three months to go until WrestleMania expect D-Generation X to face some new competition.
Unified Tag Team Championship - D-Generation X (c) vs. The Hart Dynasty.
Sheamus versus John Cena. By the time WrestleMania rolls around this is going to be a familiar and well storied feud. With Sheamus very quickly rising above what would have been expected of him when he first started in WWE, who's to say he can't main event WrestleMania within a year of his debut? To defeat John Cena, a superstar who rose to the WWE Championship one year after his 'Mania debut and went on to win three main events in a row at the event, would truly cement Sheamus' place in the highest rung of WWE. This match could truly steal the show if it is done right.
WWE Championship: Sheamus (c) vs. John Cena.
The Montreal Screwjob. The event which propelled Vince McMahon into the evil boss character and changed the course of Bret "Hitman" Hart's wrestling career forever. While it was Shawn Michaels who 'won' Hart's WWE Championship, it was McMahon who took it from him out of fear that it would be taken to WCW when Hart left at the height of the Monday Night Wars. Unlike all feuds in WWE, this was never settled and instead was referred to on occasion. With Bret Hart guest hosting Monday Night Raw it is inevitable that a confrontation will occur and the WWE Universe will see Hart vs. McMahon at WrestleMania. All it takes is one remark from McMahon and this feud is to be reignited with more heat than ever before.
Street Fight - Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Vince McMahon.
Seventeen years of WrestleMania dominance is enough to make any competitor dread the idea of facing the Undertaker on the biggest stage of them all, but Shawn Michaels seems adamant that he can win against the current World Heavyweight Champion despite the Deadman having more of a dominant streak on SmackDown than in recent years. While the idea of Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker: The Rematch is being hinted at right now, it seems unlikely to think that the same match would take place for two straight years at WrestleMania. This is where the winner of the 2010 Royal Rumble Match comes into effect. While 2009 saw a rise in new superstars, someone with experience and a score to settle with the Deadman could win the Rumble and challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship and end the streak in the process. Whether it's a rising star or an experienced veteran, the streak looks like it is going to be more difficult than ever to break whilst being seemingly more possible than ever.
World Heavyweight Championship - Undertaker (the streak) vs. ???
So there you have it. An admittedly early but potentially accurate prediction of some, if not all, of WrestleMania XXVI's matches. Some parts are unclear because we are still in 2009, and DX being low down on the card could be seen as unrealistic since they are two of the most loved superstars in WWE. However, 2009 has been a year of change in WWE and WrestleMania XXVI could be the dawn of a new generation of superstars.
Feel free to comment and suggest anything I may have left out. Any feedback is very much appreciated.