For many wrestling fans, the WWE Royal Rumble is the highlight of the professional wrestling calendar. Not even Wrestlemania can compare to the excitement that surrounds Royal Rumble weekend. Why? Because of the utter insanity guaranteed by the 30 man Royal Rumble match. Den of Geek’s five resident wrestling experts sound off on their thoughts about the potential winners and losers of the 2014 Royal Rumble!
Kickoff Show Match:The Brotherhood (c) vs. The New Age Outlaws
David Burszan: The dream of the 90s is alive in… Pittsburgh? Cody and Goldust will beat the New Age Outlaws because, c’mon, it’s the New Age Outlaws. Goldust has been at the height of his career these past few months and Cody continues to impress. This is a filler match for viewers with nostalgia for a time when there were tag team competitors other than the Real Americans.
Marc Buxton: How is it possible that the WWE has a viable, intriguing, major PPV tag team title bout involving Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, and Goldust in the first PPV of 2014? Somehow, they pulled this one off to create a tag match that ties into the Authority storyline and serves as a fascinating match between one of WWE’s greatest tag teams off all time, and the team that revitalized tag wrestling in the past few months. Seriously, how freakin’ awesome has Goldust been? This one could go one of two ways, with the Brothers losing and sparking a break-up that could lad to an emotionally fraught ‘Mania match or with Cody and Dustin winning in order to move on to more viable, and younger, contenders like Erick Rowan and Luke Harper or Shield. I’m going to predict a win for Goldust and Cody just to keep their momentum as the most exciting tag team in years alive.
Gavin Jasper: The New Age Outlaws are like milk in the fridge. It’s great when you bring them out every once and a while, but when you leave them out for too long, it starts to smell bad and makes you sick. Especially since their act has long expired. At the same time, this is exactly what the Rhodes brothers need. They’re a great tag team, but they’ve fallen to the wayside in the past few months due to a lack of any real storyline flavor. They were incredibly easy to get behind when they were feuding with the Shield, so it makes sense to have them feud with pawns of the Authority once again. This could lead to some good things, but there are far more deserving tag teams out there to win those titles off Cody and Dustin. I’m giving this one to the Brotherhood.
Jesse Mateja: If they are going to keep the NAO around for a little while as lackeys for The Authority, I could see them beating the Rhodes here only to have something for both teams to do for the next few weeks. But then again, the Rhodes are on a roll right now. A loss for them wouldn’t hurt, especially since this isn’t for the Tag Team Championship.
Vinny Murphy: I think this might be the surprise of the night. I’m going to go with The New Age Outlaws. I’m sure they’ll cheat, but this could also be the set up for something big in the Tag Division for Wrestlemania. With The Wyatts, The Shield, The Usos and The Real Americans all hot enough to give title shots to, it might be fun to start messing around with the status quo in the Tag Team Division. Under normal circumstances, The Brotherhood would have had it locked. However, with this awesome roster, never expect normal circumstances.
Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt
Vinny Murphy: I see Bryan winning this after a long, grueling bout. In fact, I don’t see Bryan losing much at all until we hit Wrestlemania, but we’ll see soon how that actually sizes up.
Jesse Mateja: Bryan is so over with the crowd. As much as Wyatt could use the win to help him look like a real threat, especially going into Wrestlemania season, after what the Wyatt Family did to Bryan, the fans want him to get retribution. I could see a DQ win for Bryan due to interference from Rowan and Harper (even though they are in the Rumble), and this being furthered at Elimination Chamber.
David Burzan: Wyatt needs to get some strong offense in; while his promos have been amazing, his matches on Raw and PPVs have not been as strong as his NXT appearances. Hopefully wrestling with the most successful NXT contestant will give him a chance to bridge the two worlds. He doesn’t need to win this; he just needs to look terrifying and show that he can hold his own with main eventers. Expect plenty of Duck Dynasty and ZZ Top references from commentary and a hard-earned win from Daniel Bryan.
Marc Buxton: Clearly Bryan needs to be main eventing, and clearly, the WWE doesn’t want him to at this juncture for whatever reason as he is not in the Rumble match, but those quibbles shouldn’t take away from what should be an awesome, old school grudge match between two feuding parties that hate each other. This has everything a classic feud should, with two diametrically opposed wrestlers going at it. Look for Bryan to play the hard luck face and take Sister Abigail for a Wyatt victory. Hopefully, that will get the fans even further behind Bryan as he heads into whatever Vince has planned for his most popular wrestler at ‘Mania.
Gavin Jasper: Hm. Bryan is super hot right now, especially due to his “YES!” chant getting a taste of mainstream appeal. Meanwhile, Bray Wyatt is in desperate need of getting some kind of major win to solidify himself as a major threat. I think it’s been proven that Daniel Bryan is like Chris Jericho, able to put people over and still thrive on the card. I expect some major stuff from both in the near future, but Wyatt’s legend needs more time to grow. He needs this one more than anything. I’m going with Bray Wyatt.
Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar
Vinny Murphy: Normally I would be torn on this one. Both superstars have been portrayed as monsters and either could win. Its a pretty solid match in that respect and even with Show slowing down, Lesnar has been great since his return. But going with that theory I have to give this one to Lesnar, if only due to his limited schedule. You wouldn’t want him to look weak before Wrestlemania.
David Burszan: For the first time since his return, Lesnar is being portrayed as the underdog. He made Cena bleed, caused HHH to involuntarily wet himself, dislocated Henry’s shoulder, and smashed puny Punk. But when it comes to Big Show, he can’t get a break. On multiple Raws Big Show has manhandled Lesnar, including throwing him over the top rope. Because Lesnar’s playing the underdog, he’s my pick. It’s partially because it seems like a trade-off with creative (he’ll play submissive for a few weeks in exchange for beating someone up), but the main reason is because if this is Lesnar in Bruce Banner mode, I want to see him Hulk out.
Gavin Jasper: Despite a card that’s so up in the air, at least you can count on this one. Paul Heyman’s client, BRRRROCK LESSSSSSNARRRRR, has this one in the bag. Big Show’s latest main event run failed so hard that it gave Survivor Series its lowest buyrate in years and he was literally wearing diapers a mere few weeks later. Meanwhile, Lesnar is the Akuma of WWE, a secret final boss character that only the most worthy of wrestlers have a shot at standing up against. Big Show’s a respected veteran, but that man isn’t worthy. He’s just a 500 pound hacky sack for Lesnar to mess around with for a few minutes. Lesnar is my easy pick.
Jesse Mateja: They’re doing a decent job of making Show look like a threat for Lesnar, but Lesnar needs the win to keep his push for a title shot. Show can lose and not lose all that much credibility (not that he has much since he flip-flops between face and heel so often). But Show can win, then Lesnar can destroy him at Elimination Chamber. Tough call. Gonna go with Lesnar on this to keep his momentum.
Marc Buxton: With Lesnar going on to probably face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, the whole purpose of this match is to make “The Beast” look as strong as possible before he tries to end The Streak. Of course, WWE wouldn’t have to spoon feed Show to Lesnar if they didn’t make him job meaninglessly to Triple H throughout 2013, but hey, live and learn. Lesnar is always good for a nice, stiff contest, and an F5 on Big Show will be good for a “holy shit” moment, as Lesnar will pick up the win.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match:Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena
Gavin Jasper: The only reason I care at all about Cena vs. Orton #28,139 is that I really can’t tell who’s going to win. Congrats to WWE for the first time in years making their top-card stuff virtually unpredictable during Wrestlemania season. On one hand, Cena is Cena and it makes a ton of sense that they’d have him as champ when facing Brock Lesnar at some point prior to Wrestlemania. On the other hand, they’ve put too much into building up Orton that they really need someone else to dethrone him. Besides, Orton seems just a little too attached to the title in terms of his storyline that I can’t imagine him without it. This is a total coin flip, but I’m going to have to say Orton.
Vinny Murphy: This is a difficult one to call. With the Elimination Chamber still looming before Wrestlemania, the championship could very well change hands after the Rumble. If not for this, I would give it to Cena. He will be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion who gets to carry 2 belts before they do away with one, its just too good of a merchandise opportunity. That said, based on how the belt has been booked in recent months, I think Orton will get one more month with the title before Elimination Chamber. I expect The Authority to interfere in someway and assist Orton.
Jesse Mateja: I know that Cena is allowed a rematch, but it looks like they booked this because they didn’t know what to do with the two of them for the show. Orton needs the push to remain on top and try to get over as a heel. Cena vs. Brock or Batista with the title on the line is money, but with Brock as a heel, Orton vs. Lesnar would be pointless right now if Brock is supposedly next in line for a title shot, despite the winner of the Rumble getting one. I’m gonna have to go with Orton to pull this off somehow.
Marc Buxton: Ah, fresh main events. Y’know what wouldn’t have been awesome? Hogan and Andre headlining Wrestlemania XII. About nine years after their first feud, Orton and Cena are at it again. Fans will shit all over this as they will still be pissed at the Bryanless Rumble, but don’t expect these two professionals to slack. Both participants will give a grade A performance that fans have seen countless times before. Look for Randy to go over to set up his ‘Mania title loss to Batista. Orton and Cena will leave it all in the ring as they bust their asses for restless fans who will be busy chanting “We Want Bryan,” to deaf ears.
David Burszan: Conventional wisdom says the championship match at Wrestlemania XXX is going to be between Orton and Batista. I don’t think Batista will win the Rumble, but I think Orton will be in the title picture at Wrestlemania. When he eventually loses the title he’s going to go after HHH. There are cracks all over their relationship right now and it’s going to break wide open when someone else gets the belt. If Punk is facing HHH at Wrestlemania, the WWE will save Orton’s loss, and the Orton-HHH feud, for after Elimination Chamber. Also, if Cena does face Wyatt, the belt would be put to better use elevating the importance of Orton’s match. This is similar to Punk/Jericho at WM28; Cena is a big enough name that he’ll make a match with Wyatt important, but Orton-Anyone would benefit from making it a title match.
30-Superstar WWE Royal Rumble Match
Vinny Murphy: Ahhhhh, the greatest match in all of professional wrestling. Expect to see big things from Batista, CM Punk, Roman Reigns, and Kane. They are all positioned to use this Rumble as the launching point for their Wrestlemania storylines. With Punk at #1, I’m tempted to give it to him. Even with his show stealing performance last year, he’s never truly had a Wrestlemania main event and is already a sure future Hall of Famer. That said, I don’t think it will happen. I think it finally happens here, and the events of the summer come to fruition. I expect a battle damaged Daniel Bryan to come in at #27 or so, and win the Royal Rumble. YES! YES! YES!
Jesse Mateja: This is anybody’s guess. So many factors to consider here. Batista’s return, someone who already has a match that night could enter (like Brock), and then there are returns we don’t know of yet. But I would go with Batista. They brought him back right before the Rumble, so that’s a hint. You keep the belt on Orton tonight, give Batista a later number, Batista wins, then you have Batista vs. Orton for the title at Wrestlemania.
Marc Buxton: I want to pick CM Punk. I really want to pick CM Punk, but I have to go with Batista. Vince loves himself some mainstream stars, and with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy starring Batista coming very soon, Vince will love to have his WWE champion on the red carpet at film premieres across the world post Wrestlemania. Batista will get the win, with Triple H somehow screwing Punk sparking that feud to get even hotter. Look for a returning Sheamus to get a major pop and Roman Reigns to eliminate tons of people as he gets the Diesel push this year. Watch the crowd turn on the match when Daniel Bryan isn’t #30.
David Burszan: Out of everyone listed and predicted, I see six serious contenders: Langston, Reigns, Punk, Sheamus, Batista, and Bryan. Although Big E or Roman Reigns are great dark horses, I don’t see them headlining Wrestlemania just yet; I see the Rumble leading to a great Intercontinental match between the two at Wrestlemania,though. The only two contestants to win the Rumble that entered first were in 1995 and 2004; it’s been a decade and Punk is tough. I can see him lasting to the 30th entrant, but I don’t see him winning the whole thing. Unless the Undertaker rumors are true, I see Bryan taking the Rumble and getting his Wrestlemania moment by winning back the title from Orton. But, if Bryan does face Undertaker, Sheamus or Batista are the two returning superstars that could have an amazing match with Orton (with less than amazing promos). Other than that, I predict Jericho will show up, The Rhodes will start to fracture, The Shield will fall apart even more, Kofi Kingston will do a stunt to avoid his feet touching the ground, Jake “The Snake” Roberts will have one of the Legend spots, and at the very end, someone will victoriously point at the Wrestlemania sign.
Gavin Jasper: The WWE’s been at a point in the last few months where I felt that with Cena and Orton fighting over the title, I was excited by any viable contender to win the Royal Rumble match. Then Batista came back and they’ve been making it seem so likely that he’s got this in the bag. There have been rumors that he’ll be facing Orton for the belt at Wrestlemania. I really hope not. Besides, even if Batista were to win, I have a bad feeling his body would tear on him at some point prior to the event, making him have to bow out. I’m seeing Batista as a red herring like Goldberg in 2004, meant to catch our attention so that the real winner can sit on the throne. It isn’t going to be CM Punk. That guy’s #1 and I’m not sure if he’s currently physically able to handle an hour in the ring. Daniel Bryan is probably not in the match, which is the only reason I wouldn’t bet on him. No, I think this is Roman Reigns’ time to shine. They’ve been slowly setting up the Shield’s breakup while keeping them fairly strong. We’ve been waiting for Reigns to become a breakout name and winning the Royal Rumble could be an opportune time to move both of those things forward. I believe in that particular member of the Shield.