At WWE Royal Rumble 2015, warriors and villains take their first steps on the road to WrestleMania.
Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center hosts the first pay-per-view of the year, one where WWE will announce whose name will first go up on the WrestleMania marquee, decide its world champion and try to convince fans from the United Kingdom to keep paying for the WWE Network.
It all begins on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. ET.
The Royal Rumble is one of the most anticipated shows of the year. The fun format of the 30-man headlining match is a huge part of that. Surprise entrants show up, feuds catch fire and one wrestler gets a guaranteed crack at gold.
Last year, WWE hit a lot of the right buttons, except for the last one. Batista won, not the red-hot Daniel Bryan, a choice that inspired a chorus of boos. Aaron Oster of The Baltimore Sun wrote of the situation, "The boos were stronger than any Rumble winner I can remember, including when Vince McMahon won 1999."
This time around, Bryan is certain to play a central role in things again. He and Roman Reigns are the two clear favorites to win.
WWE has a hard choice ahead: It can restart Bryan's rise to the top, which was interrupted by neck surgery last year, or fully bank on Reigns' being ready for the heat of the WrestleMania spotlight.
Live Stream, PPV Info
Whatever happens in that chaotic battle, the U.K. will be watching. After several delays, "WWE Network is now available in the United Kingdom and Ireland," as WWE announced on its website.
This marks the first pay-per-view aired since fans in that region have had access to the streaming service. The event celebrates another first as well: The Royal Rumble has never aired on the WWE Network until now.
Fans in the United States can stream the show on the network via Xbox and Playstation consoles, Amazon Fire TV, WWE.com, Apple TV and other devices.
As with all other pay-per-views, it is included in the monthly $9.99 subscription fee. That also allows fans access to the company's pay-per-view archive, a wealth of original specials and a weekly dose of NXT.
While a long list of countries can now get the WWE Network, it is not yet available in Germany, India or Japan. To check availability in your country, head to the help section on WWE.com.
For those without access to high-speed Internet or who wish to view the Rumble on traditional pay-per-view, several cable companies will be carrying it. Xfinity and Cox Communications are among those on that list.
Outside of the WWE Network, the Royal Rumble will only be available on Sky Box Office in the United Kingdom. Maxdome has German fans covered. In Japan, services like DMM.com will air the Royal Rumble, but not until Feb. 4.
To check viewing options in other countries, visit WWE.com's How to Watch section.
Renee Young, Corey Graves, Booker T and Byron Saxton will serve on a panel discussing all of the night's biggest matches. It'll be a slightly different crew from past events, with Graves moving up from NXT and Saxton continuing to get more on-air opportunities.
Fans are assured of Booker T's saying, "Shucky ducky quack quack" and a number of promo videos filling up much of the show. This is WWE's last chance to sell folks on ordering the network before the Rumble begins.
The hour-long pre-show will stream for free live on WWE.com, the WWE App, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Pheed. It begins at 7 p.m. ET.
A six-man Elimination match provides the in-ring portion of the program.
The New Day will take on Adam Rose, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. With a lack of opposing trios for Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods, WWE has had to pair Rose with Cesaro and Kidd. The three heels have joined forces, although it's not clear why.
Their feud began when Cesaro and Kidd dressed up as Rosebuds to attack Big E:
This bout looks to be a showcase for Kingston and Company, but Cesaro and Kidd will be looking to steal the show. They have shown excellent chemistry together and have been highly innovative in terms of coming up with double-team moves.
- The New Age Outlaws vs. The Ascension
- The Usos vs. Damien Mizdow and The Miz (Tag Team Championship)
- Paige and Natalya vs. The Bella Twins
- Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
- 30-Man Royal Rumble Match
The Ascension's PPV Debut
Fresh off a successful run at NXT, Viktor and Konnor have found that the main roster is a harsher world to navigate.
The Ascension have trashed teams of the past, including The Road Warriors and Powers of Pain. That eventually led to NWO, the Acolyte Protection Agency and The New Age Outlaws ganging up on the newcomers on Raw.
This is WWE's chance to make the "dumping on legends" angle mean something. Should The Ascension destroy Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, they will get a major boost. Should they fall to a pair of semiretired guys, it will be a signal that the company has no interest in doing anything with them.
Tag Titles on the Line
A feud that has dragged could wrap up here. There was briefly a subplot where The Miz had a too-close-for-comfort relationship with Jimmy Uso's wife, Naomi. That element has since faded, with nothing replacing it.
All eyes will be on Mizdow.
For one, he remains one of the most entertaining things WWE has going right now thanks to his mirroring shtick. Secondly, slight cracks have begun to form between him and The Miz. WWE could have them split here or at least further damage their bond.
The action could be high-flying fun if the bout doesn't depend too much on comedy.
The Divas Team Up
Paige and Natalya have begun to team up, playing off their relationship on Total Divas. It's not clear where WWE is heading with this story, though.
Paige's temper leads one to believe that this alliance won't last long. There's also a chance Brie Bella could turn on her sister Nikki.
WWE hasn't planted many seeds to suggest that will happen, but the company hasn't done much at all with this feud or this match. It feels thrown together.
Going with a Bella split would help cover up the lack of storytelling thus far. It would also set up a potential sister-against-sister WrestleMania match.
The Beast Looks to Keep the WWE Title
Lesnar has to fend off both the man who nearly beat him at Night of Champions and the man who has now twice curb-stomped him into the mat.
Rollins' addition makes this feel a lot different from Lesnar vs. Cena I and II. His speed and high-flying skills will add variety to the action. It also opens up some options for WWE.
Rollins can lose but still cash in. Randy Orton could re-emerge and cost Rollins a chance at victory.
The winner will most likely take on whoever takes the Rumble. There is just one pay-per-view squeezed between this one and WrestleMania, leaving little room for another title change. So whether WWE keeps Lesnar the champ, leans on Cena once more or goes with a shock Rollins win, the WrestleMania main event will be all set up by the end of the night.
Bryan can get the win fans wanted him to get last year. Reigns could outdo his runner-up performance from 2014. A dark horse could gallop right past them and score an upset win.
The directions this bout could take make it well worth tuning in to.
The confirmed entrants thus far, per WWE.com, are Reigns, Bryan, Bad News Barrett, Rusev, R-Truth, Bray Wyatt, The Miz, Damien Mizdow, Kane, Big Show, Stardust, Goldust and Dean Ambrose. Ambrose and Wyatt are two men WWE would most likely turn to if it goes with someone not named Reigns or Bryan.
Even after adding names like Ryback, Dolph Ziggler and Erick Rowan, that list still leaves a lot of room for surprise entrants. WWE has Randy Orton waiting to come back. Bo Dallas, Mark Henry and Sheamus have all been sitting on the injured list but could return. Sting stands in the shadows.
Fans will also be hoping for names from the past, from Tommy Dreamer to Shelton Benjamin.
Regardless of who shows up, it's a guaranteed good time. The Rumble is one of WWE's most dependable events.
This time around, WWE has a major choice ahead of it. Who it crowns in Philly will shape the future, as it either pins its hopes on a work in progress like Reigns or relies on Bryan, whose neck may not hold up.
The company has to hope that its choice goes over better than the one it made last year.