This Sunday night live in Boston, WWE produces its first PPV of 2011. It is one of the so-called 'big four' PPV's of the year, the Royal Rumble.
It has been six weeks since we were treated to a fabulous TLC PPV event which I labeled as the best PPV of 2010. Can 2011's PPV season kick off as strongly (or perhaps more so) than 2010's ended?
To be honest, I severely doubt that.
So far just four matches have been announced for the card, and of those four matches three of the them are rather easy to predict. In fact, it could be argued that the Royal Rumble itself has a very strong favourite this year as well.
If I do not get three out of the four predictions in this article right, then WWE have provided us with at least one surprise at this PPV.
WWE could have built this PPV up far better in the six weeks they have had to prepare it.
But you never know, maybe I'm talking rubbish and it'll turn out fine. I certainly hope so.
Anyway, onto the predictions...
They are back! LayCool are back in the title picture! It has been a good couple of months since LayCool last had an actual title match, and six weeks since their last encounter with the bearded one (Natalya) at TLC.
Quite frankly, the divas division has been lost without them as champions.
They are the only two heels in the entire divas roster worthy to compete for the title after Natalya thrashed Melina on Raw this week.
I am getting rather annoyed at the criticism this duo gets. LayCool do their job as well as anyone in the division, their goal is to make you hate them. If you hate them, then they have succeeded. If you like them, they have succeeded as well. That's all that matters in wrestling: a reaction.
Do I think they will get back what's rightfully theirs this Sunday? Quite simply, no.
However, there is potential for a surprise here perhaps more so than any other match Sunday night. That is, of course, the potential debut of Awesome Kong.
This is a long shot certainly, but if it happens it might make this PPV a little more special. I see three scenarios:
The first is that Natalya beats LayCool clean (with possible help from Beth Phoenix) and then Kong makes her way to the ring and destroys any/all divas in the ring.
Secondly, there is the possibility that Kong will align with LayCool to cost Natalya the title.
Thirdly, there is just a normal match with no Kong involved.
Personally, I hope its the second option. Anyway, I'll go with the safe bet.
Winner: Natalya (Still Champion)
I don't really 'get' this match if I'm being honest. I mean, if you are going to make a rematch from TLC, then surely to make it potentially as good or better than that match, you have to make it another gimmick match?
Going from a tables match to a regular match just seems like a downgrade in the feud.
What on earth has happened to Randy Orton? He really does not work as a face anywhere near as well as he does a heel.
He has totally lost his edge and in doing so has become in some ways just as boring and stale as John Cena. Not his fault of course, just like its not Cena's fault the WWE is PG, it is of course the fault of WWE itself.
Anyway, enough ranting, lets get on with the prediction:
I think it is fairly clear that Miz is going to retain here again, undoubtedly using some under-handed tactics to do so involving Riley and his mysterious briefcase. Anything else will be a surprise.
I expect a decent match, I also expect Randy Orton to appear in the Royal Rumble later on in the evening.
Winner: The Miz (Still Champion)
I am delighted to see Dolph Ziggler receive this title match after months of superb performances week in and week out on Smackdown!
There are more reasons to be excited by this match as well, because it is been built up really well over the last four weeks.
Ziggler has been booked strongly by WWE and now looks like a legitimate threat to Edge's world title. He would have been more of a threat had he not been beaten by Randy Orton on Raw a couple of weeks back, but alas I digress.
The tandem of Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler really does work very well, as both are very gifted when it comes to getting heat. Vickie is a heat magnet, just goes to show that a Guerrero doesn't even need to wrestle to be a success in professional wrestling.
However, the match again does seem a little predictable to me. The problem is that the balance of face and heel wins on the card need to be fairly even, if not slightly tainted toward the face side of things.
With The Miz retaining his title, it therefore makes sense for Edge to do likewise. Otherwise we would have to see both titles change hands to maintain the balance, and I cannot see that happening.
What I am looking forward to though is the match itself. Ziggler is as good a ring worker as anyone right now; he has put on clinics throughout 2010 and has continued at an even higher level in 2011. Edge is of course the veteran, and is himself one of the best showmen in the business.
This match should tear the house down in Boston, and it is my pick to be match of the night.
Winner: Edge (Still Champion)
It is quite the coincidence that my 40th Bleacher Report article should culminate with the first-ever 40-man Royal Rumble match in WWE history.
This is typically the hardest match of the year to call, and really there is only one way to tackle it as usual: Process of elimination.
Currently, the WWE have only confirmed the following names for the match:
Alberto Del Rio
David Hart Smith
The following wrestlers have now also been added to the match: Big Show, Chris Masters, JTG, Kane, Kofi Kingston, Santino Marella, Vladimir Kozlov
However six names are missing from that list, so for arguments sake the only names I am going to even consider that are not already listed are HHH, Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler. Other entrances will either be current superstars, legends or perhaps returning superstars who I very much doubt will win.
The way I will tackle this is in stages of elimination. Consider the stages to represent the chances of each wrestler winning the Royal Rumble match i.e. if you are in stage one, it might not be worth turning up:
Stage One eliminations:
Darren Young, David Hart Smith, Mark Henry, Primo, R-Truth, Ted DiBiase, Tyson Kidd, William Regal, Yoshi Tatsu, Zack Ryder, Santino Marella, Vladimir Kozlov, JTG, Chris Masters
Stage Two eliminations:
Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater, Husky Harris, Justin Gabriel, Mason Ryan, Michael McGillicutty, Jack Swagger, Big Show, Kane, Kofi Kingston
So after two stages of elimination, we are left with just nine possible winners:
Alberto Del Rio, CM Punk, John Cena, John Morrison, Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, Triple H, Wade Barrett, Randy Orton
All of these guys have a shot at winning the Royal Rumble, however there can be only one winner. We proceed to Stage three of eliminations, with a little more detail:
Stage Three eliminations:
Alberto Del Rio, Rey Mysterio: Will probably be involved with each other somewhere in the match, one will eliminate the other.
Sheamus: If HHH does indeed return, then expect HHH to eliminate Sheamus.
John Morrison: Will probably be eliminated by one of the big names in the match
Wade Barrett: I predict that CM Punk will get the better of Barrett here.
Randy Orton: Expect him to be a victim of The New Nexus
So, our final three are John Cena, CM Punk and Triple H (Given he returns)
Now, obviously the favourite here is John Cena, as has been rumoured on pretty much every wrestling related site on the Internet.
However, picking John Cena would be boring and predictable, and quite frankly I would rather be wrong and go with the more exciting option.
It would be far better to have CM Punk win the Royal Rumble because it would finally cement his place at the top of the WWE after weeks of teasing that eventuality.
So, I'll say that HHH and Cena will be fighting to throw the other over the top rope, CM Punk will come in Randy Orton style from 2009 and eliminate them both, kicking 2011 off with a huge bang.
Let me now quote what I believe the probabilities will be for this match in regards to who will win:
P(Cena) = 1/3 P(Punk) = 1/4 P(Triple H) = 1/6 P(Other) = 1/4
Rumoured surprises for the match are Booker T (who coincidentally cancelled an appearance this weekend), Chris Jericho, HHH (of course), Christian, Evan Bourne and two possible legends.
Cena is the more likely winner, but for the sake of the WWE product I hope he doesn't win again.
Winner: CM Punk