WWE Royal Rumble 2016 Matches: Full Card and Bold Predictions for PPV Showcase
Sunday's WWE Royal Rumble is shaping up to be one of the most important pay-per-views of the entire year, featuring matches that will set the pace for what's to come not only for WrestleMania but throughout 2016.
For the first time, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be actively defended in the Royal Rumble match as Roman Reigns is presented with a "one-versus-all" scenario. He'll be entering the match from the beginning and must outlast 29 other Superstars to keep his title.
All hands are on deck, with Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, The League of Nations, The Wyatt Family and more gunning to toss Reigns over the top rope to ensure there will be a new champion by the end of the night, but Reigns isn't the only person with a belt on the line.
Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose will be facing off in a Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Championship in a bout that could end up being a Match of the Year contender. Those two are going to put each other through torture to walk away with title. Who will have the strength to take their beating and keep getting up?
The New Day will defend the WWE Tag Team Championships against the team with the most amount of momentum behind them coming off December's Slammy Awards, The Usos. Will the so-called Best Tag Team of 2015 dethrone the champs, or will the power of positivity prevail?
Since embracing her familial roots, Charlotte has taken a turn to the dark side and become more and more like daddy dearest, Ric Flair, cheating to retain her Divas Championship time and again. Her former best friend, Becky Lynch, had enough of the deception and is seeking to prove a point by taking her title away from her. Is it time for Charlotte to learn her lesson, or will The Nature Boy interfere yet again?
After a surprise victory over Alberto Del Rio in a United States Championship match on Raw on Jan. 11, Kalisto was able to taste singles gold for the first time in his WWE career. As short of a reign as he had, he proved there was more fight to him than many would have previously given him credit for. Del Rio is looking to denounce his loss as a fluke and demonstrate he's in a class all on his own. Kalisto hopes to regain the title he lost so quickly.
This is an event at which crazy things have happened, and nothing is outside the realms of possibility. Everything from surprise returns to debuts and more could take place, changing the landscape of WWE in dramatic fashion.
With all that being said, what actually is going to happen? Who are the most likely candidates to win their respective matches? What is in store that fans can bank on? What should the audience keep its eyes peeled for?
Let's take a look at the matches set for this year's Royal Rumble event and give our predictions of what's about to go down.
Pre-Show Kickoff Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match
On Wednesday afternoon, WWE sprung this random match on the fans by announcing it on its website.
In this Fatal 4-Way tag team match, the winning duo will be entered into the Royal Rumble.
This sparks so many questions it's hard to decide where to begin breaking this down.
First off, with so many people injured, can WWE really afford to have six of these men not compete in the Royal Rumble? Does that mean there are a good number of surprise entrants who will show up in their stead?
Second, why are these the eight men who need to win another match just to qualify while some other people will no doubt be involved in the match despite having less accolades? Surely there's a spot saved for Adam Rose, who definitely had a worse track record than The Dudley Boyz in 2015.
Of course, the answer to that question is simply WWE must not care about these people sitting the match out while The Social Outcasts are receiving more attention. The WWE Universe should just go with the kayfabe and not ask questions.
The third question, however, has to do with The Prime Time Players. Titus O'Neil likely has a spot in the Royal Rumble. Damien Sandow is teaming up with Darren Young in this match, so does that mean O'Neil and Young aren't partners anymore?
That makeshift tag team would seem to have the worst odds at winning if The Ascension hadn't been used as jobbers since coming to the main roster in December 2014, even stepping down to NXT from time to time to lose to the teams there.
Still, the favorites to win this are probably Mark Henry and Jack Swagger. Those two are a newly formed team, both of them are more legitimate in the Royal Rumble itself than D-Von and Bubba Ray, they are the only people in this match to have won world titles in WWE and one of them is The World's Strongest Man.
This should be a fun match with a lot of potential to have an interesting outcome if something odd were to happen such as Young and Sandow winning.
Prediction: Mark Henry and Jack Swagger are victorious.
WWE Divas Championship Match
The one match on the card that has the most obvious outcome is the Divas Championship bout between Charlotte and Becky Lynch.
Unfortunately for Becky, there just doesn't seem to be much of a chance she will be walking out of the event with the title around her waist, even though she's the babyface heading into it. One would think Charlotte is due to get her comeuppance, but it's not time for that quite yet.
Since coming to the main roster in July, Charlotte has been treated as the golden child of the so-called Divas Revolution that has fizzled out over the past few months.
After winning the Divas Championship from Nikki Bella at Night of Champions in September, WWE attempted to have Charlotte stick with the heroics and stand by her fellow Team PCB member, but this was rather quickly turned on its head.
Now more than ever, WWE is seemingly booking Charlotte as the offspring of Ric Flair and not much more, which many could argue hurts her character in the long run as she will need to go back to the drawing board if she wants to distance herself from her father's shadow.
In the meantime, she's going to need a babyface to defeat to show why she's still the champion, and that's where Becky Lynch comes into play.
Despite teasing some tension between Charlotte and Ric, don't be surprised if The Nature Boy comes to his daughter's aid in a fashion that allows her to capitalize and get the win.
The time will come when Charlotte is up against a babyface who can overcome her family's cheating ways, but it's not going to be Becky Lynch at the Royal Rumble.
Prediction: Charlotte retains the title.
WWE United States Championship Match
In just a few short weeks, poor Kalisto has already cemented himself as a contender for having the worst title reign of 2016, with his one-day United States Championship run—three days if you go by the date SmackDown aired as opposed to when it was taped.
For what reason WWE decided to give the Lucha Dragon the title only to immediately put it back on the former champion is something none of us are privy to yet, but it screams "got you!"
There's a chance this was booked as an attempt to wake the audience up in a period when most of the press going on with the company revolved around how more and more stars were getting injured. If you distract the viewers from the problems with something glitzy, maybe they won't notice the flaws, right?
On the more optimistic side of things, perhaps WWE did this as a test to see what reaction Kalisto would get as a singles star. The short title reign doesn't mean all that much in the record books, and if fans were to heavily get behind him, WWE could create a bigger star out of him with minimal effort.
One way or another, the situation these two are in is that Alberto Del Rio still clearly looks as though he's above and beyond Kalisto's pay grade. This should be no surprise to people who have followed Del Rio's WWE career, as he's always been protected and given championships.
This is a match that will either do wonders for Kalisto, who could prove his title victory was not a fluke, or it could be disastrous if WWE chooses to book this merely as a means to cement the fact Del Rio is on a level Kalisto can't reach.
Look for Kalisto to put up a fight, but don't be too surprised if this ends with The League of Nations celebrating a submission victory for Del Rio.
Prediction: Alberto Del Rio retains the title.
Intercontinental Championship Last Man Standing Match
More than any other match that will take place at this event—save for the Royal Rumble match itself—the Intercontinental Championship bout will be the biggest determining factor as to what will happen come WrestleMania in April.
Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens both have the potential to win this match as they're roughly on the same level of the WWE hierarchy, valued as upper-midcard, semi-main event talents. Neither one is the underdog here.
Because of that, both of them are going to have some sort of decent match at WrestleMania, and where the Intercontinental Championship ends up relies solely on which Superstar WWE plans on having their opponents be in April.
The smart bet is one of these two men will face off against Brock Lesnar at the Showcase of the Immortals, and that person is definitely not going to be holding the title when he challenges The Beast Incarnate.
The case for Ambrose to retain the title is that Owens would be the top heel for someone such as Lesnar to go up against if WWE wants to book him as the babyface of the match. Lesnar will always get a portion of the cheers as he's so well-liked by the audience, and Owens could be trusted to drive that point home and get fans to hate him. Also, just imagine the promos between Owens and Paul Heyman, which would be a delight.
On the other hand, Ambrose could lose this match. There's nothing stating that being cheered by the audience means Lesnar will go into WrestleMania as the babyface. He didn't last year despite having more of the crowd's support, and he doesn't present himself as the good guy all that much.
If WWE wants someone to get cheered against Lesnar, there aren't many better options than Ambrose. With Lesnar having beef with Ambrose's best friend, Roman Reigns, there's a built-in reason for them to cross paths at some point. The Lunatic Fringe would also be crazy enough to challenge Lesnar to a match, wouldn't he?
While Lesnar is the outside factor that could dictate the winner of this match, there's actually another person who could play a big part in it as well: Sami Zayn. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better concept for what to do with the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania than to have Owens defend it against Zayn, who could be brought in to help bolster a card that has been affected by injuries.
Both Ambrose and Owens are on equal footing with this match, so the outcome could go either way, which makes it infinitely more exciting to watch.
Prediction: Kevin Owens wins the championship.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match
The New Day have held the WWE Tag Team Championship since SummerSlam, and that reign could very well be coming to an end at the Royal Rumble.
WWE typically doesn't keep those titles on the same team for anywhere near as long as that and may have an itchy trigger finger.
To put how long their reign has been into perspective, they've been champs for over 150 days while the average length of the six reigns before them—one of which was The New Day themselves—was 56 days.
In fact, the last time a team broke the 70-day reign length was The Usos in 2014, winning the belts in March and dropping them 202 days later in September.
Coupling that with the fact The Usos were named Best Tag Team at the Slammy Awards, and it seems like it's time for The New Day to drop the straps.
However, despite the evidence pointing to a change in champions, that might not necessarily be the case.
Plans are assuredly in motion for WrestleMania, and multiple matches could be far from finalized, but right now is the time WWE needs to have at least a basic template of what the card will look like come April.
If The New Day did anything in 2015, it's that they've carved out a niche as the top team that steals the spotlight more than any other. Without a doubt, they won't be forgotten and left to just be three random names in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
A big indicator of whether the title will change hands here is the outcome of the Intercontinental Championship match. WWE typically does not like to book too many new champions on the same card as opposed to spreading out those changes here and there.
If Kevin Owens defeats Dean Ambrose or any other title changes hands before this match happens, The New Day will likely retain. If this is the first match on the card, it ups the chances The Usos will win considerably.
Prediction: The New Day retains.
2016 Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Obviously, the biggest amount of attention for this pay-per-view is going to be dedicated to the Royal Rumble match itself, with all eyes focusing primarily on Roman Reigns.
This year, the match has been upgraded in importance. Instead of winning a title shot at WrestleMania, the winner will actually be walking away with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Likely, whoever wins will defend the championship at WrestleMania instead of being the challenger.
While it seems as though anything can happen in WWE—and we could be in store for a huge surprise with 29 potential new champions—this stipulation actually narrows down the field even more. There are more options for challengers than champions, as those men are entrusted with the pressure of being the foundation of the company.
Before getting into discussing who will take home the title, though, there are other aspects of this match worth giving predictions for.
Reigns will be starting off the match as the first entrant, and it's pretty easy to see why he's the safest bet to be this year's Iron Man.
It's unlikely he won't go the distance and last until the end of the match, whether it be in the final four, the final two or the actual winner of the whole thing. After all, the story for this match revolves around Reigns defending his championship.
If Reigns were to be eliminated early on, it would put a fun twist on things since we would be guaranteed a new champion, but that isn't going to happen. Reigns will need to tough it out from bell to bell, and statistically speaking, nobody other than the second entrant has a shot at lasting as long as he does.
While Reigns is surely going to be the person with the longest time in the Royal Rumble match, the opposite distinction must go to someone else. Every year, one individual is given the dishonorable award of being the person to have lasted the shortest amount of time.
Santino Marella sets the record for the fastest elimination in Royal Rumble history—his 1.9-second stint a record that is probably going to stand for quite some time. Even though it will be unlikely to see someone get eliminated in under one second, that doesn't mean it's not still a possibility.
No matter how fast it is, someone is going to be the unlucky recipient of this responsibility. Because of his positioning with the Axelmania gimmick, Curtis Axel stands out as a candidate to be tossed away fairly quickly. His Social Outcasts brethren are all at risk for this as well.
Titus O'Neil was last year's dud, clocking in at only four seconds for his entire stay in the match. This year, he should fair much better, but if the other Prime Time Player, Darren Young, is an entrant, he may not be as fortunate.
Of course, there's always a chance WWE throws the audience a curveball by having a noteworthy name get eliminated quickly just to keep everyone on their toes. If that happens, all eyes should be kept on Big Show.
Braun Strowman is the first name that comes to mind when you think of a big guy WWE will be kind to with the booking of this match.
He's the stereotypical huge and insurmountable object who has yet to lose a match of his own accord, making him prime to fill the role of the man who cleans house and stands tall.
In the past, people in his position have done extremely well, usually eliminating the most amount of men that night. However, there's also a chance WWE doesn't put him in the match at all for fear he can't leave with the title, and if he needs to be eliminated, that might hurt his mystique.
Someone guaranteed to be in the match, though, and who has even more credentials is Brock Lesnar.
Among all the Superstars scheduled to be in this match, Lesnar seems poised to be the most dominant.
The Beast Incarnate will undoubtedly have a great showing as he's been consistently booked as an unstoppable monster capable of making anybody on the roster his puppet to play with.
However, while Lesnar may make a big splash, it might not measure up in the long run to some other people. WWE could book him toward the later numbers and have him score four or five big eliminations before being eliminated in the final four.
The League of Nations will do well, but even their big gun, Sheamus, has taken a backseat over the past few weeks. Someone such as Chris Jericho could be a sleeper choice for this role—or he could just as easily be a sacrificial lamb to put someone else over.
Nevertheless, Reigns has the best shot at getting the most amount of eliminations. He's only taken part in two Royal Rumble events, and both times he eliminated more people than anybody else. In his first appearance, his 12 eliminations even broke the previous all-time record.
With Reigns coming in at the start of the match and being expected to last until the end, he'll have more time than anybody else to add numbers to his name. The average per year of most eliminations is seven, so if the champ were to toss out only one out of every four people, he'd reach that mark and make it hard for any other star to match or surpass him.
The Wyatt Family and The League of Nations may collectively beat this number or someone like Lesnar could go on a streak of eliminations, but Reigns is being set up with the highest probability for success.
As stated above, there aren't many people who have a real shot at winning the Royal Rumble and leaving with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship despite the variety of the people who will be booked strongly in other ways.
In the end, all signs seem to point to this being down to three possible choices: Reigns, Triple H and Lesnar.
The least likely of those three would probably be Lesnar since he went into WrestleMania as the champion last year. Reigns will find his way into the title hunt, either as champion or challenger, and in either scenario, this is just retreading what happened in 2015. That's hardly exciting enough for April's spectacular in Dallas.
The idea of Reigns retaining the title is something that has been built as an impossible feat, which translates to either WWE wanting to make him look incredibly strong by having him pull it off or a means of making him lose without looking too weak.
When you're up against 29 other men and you can put up a great fight, being the runner-up before being screwed over, you certainly don't seem like a failure. With Fastlane coming up in February, it seems like a guarantee that Reigns will win a match at that event to become the rightful No. 1 contender to the new champion who wins the Royal Rumble, Triple H.
The King of Kings is being kept off television for a surprise return, probably at No. 30. He'll have enlisted the help of The League of Nations or possibly others to help secure a victory.
Don't be too shocked if The Game is wearing gold come Monday Night Raw.
Prediction: Triple H wins the Royal Rumble and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
What are your thoughts on the Royal Rumble? Do you have any favorites heading into the Royal Rumble match or any other predictions you want to put out there before the pay-per-view starts? If so, tell us what's on your mind in the comments section below!
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.