This week Eric Stein takes a look at the Royal Rumble and makes his predictions…
Women’s Championship: Beth Phoenix vs. Melina
Normally this is just your basic set ’em up and knock ’em down scenario. Melina is just the next in a long line of contenders who are built up to contest the champ. This has felt a little different though, in that this actually has had a bit of an actual feud feel to it. Puts a little more substance than usual behind these standard women’s match-ups. Clearly, Rosa is going to play the pivotal role here. Does she help Beth, turn on Beth, or try to help and accidentally harm? Either way, I see this storyline continuing forward, so whatever happens here should just serve to further the angle. I’ll go with Melina via botched interference from Rosa. WWE loves to promote whichever diva is going to be in Playboy this time of year. They will find a way to incorporate whoever it is into the WM plans. However, since we don’t know who that will be yet, one would have to assume that this leads to a Mania match between Beth and Rosa (if they feel she’s up to carrying it). If there’s a title change here, Melina won’t hold it for long.
ECW Championship: Jack Swagger vs. Matt Hardy
JR even said it himself in his blog…Swagger is far from ready to carry a show by himself. I don’t even think he should be near the top of the card. I feel he is lacking charisma, doesn’t have much of a gimmick, and he has a ridiculous lisp. He’s adequate, but he has a long way to go. Still, I am all for keeping the product fresh and his surprise title win was a good step in the right direction. However, Hardy’s popularity is needed on ECW. They can’t build the show around Swagger vs. Dreamer for the next 5 months. They could put the strap on Boogeyman, but he’s a rare commodity in that he can be over without ever coming within sniffing distance of a title. Problem is, we’ve done Henry to death, so Hardy doesn’t have many other contenders to be booked against. I’m going to predict Hardy wins the titles back and this becomes a series in which they trade the belt back and forth a few times.
World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena vs. JBL
Although, we all know quite well that WWE can weasel their way out of what happens here in February, but you still need to look at the title matches as the lead-in to Wrestlemania. So…is there any chance that JBL main events WM? Hell no! I would sure hope not! JBL is clearly going to be booked against HBK for the big show. So if by some fluke he wins the belt here, it’s only going to be a stepping stone to further that agenda. Vince is a major, major Cena mark. He will be in the main event of Wrestlemania. So is there anything to gain here by taking the belt away from him? I say no. Cena retains due to some sort of hiccup with HBK and JBL.
WWE Championship: Jeff Hardy vs. Edge
This one is a tad trickier. What is the Smackdown main event going to be for Mania? Anything involving these two and Triple H has been done to death. Unless it’s a triple threat, I think we can rule out Hardy headlining WM. But I think they make like to tease it. Ultimately, Jeff will be paired up with his "attacker" (presumably Christian) for WM. And outside interference from said attacker is certainly an easy way to go here. Ultimately though, I think they will draw this one out a little longer, with Vicky scamming Edge another chance at the title before the big show and winning it then. So I’m calling Hardy.
The Royal Rumble Match
By having the winner fight for the title at Wrestlemania, the WWE gave a purpose to this event. Unfortunately, they also spoiled it to a certain extent, because there are only roughly 5-10 people who are remotely possible as winners. Sure, they can finagle the title shot off of the winner somehow, but they still wouldn’t let say R Truth win the rumble. There are currently 21 announced participants. Of them, we can count only Jericho, Orton, Undertaker, Triple H, and maaaaaaybe Big Show (highly doubtful as possible winners. Eh, scratch Big Show off the maybe list even…I don’t like his chances. Undertaker has previously won the event, however he offers the best and freshest main event for WM25, if he went to challenge Cena, streak vs. title. That would be my preferred direction. Triple H is a previous winner, shockingly only once, but every main event scenario involving him and the potential champs has been done to death (naturally, that won’t stop them at all). Jericho would be new and a little different. But could they have him fight Hardy or Triple H to headline the biggest event in years? Doesn’t seem likely. And they can’t put him back in there with Cena again. So that leaves Orton, who would be the logical choice to push through the roof. BUT…Orton vs Cena or Hardy or Triple H are all terrible old matches as well. I suppose they could do Orton vs. Edge, but I can’t see them taking him off of RAW and that matchup would turn him face which they wouldn’t want either. They are in a very tough place here. If Taker doesn’t win, he likely ends up against someone like Umaga for a total squash at WM. If Orton isn’t in a title shot at Mania, who is he gonna fight Punk or Kofi or Rey Rey? I don’t think so. Jericho would fight one of them…so I rule him out as a potential winner. We all know Triple H will somehow be in one of the two main events regardless of the rumble. So where does this leave us? Sheesh…I don’t know. I figure that Vicky can arrange to screw HHH out of the win somehow, so I will axe him. I think The Undertaker would offer the best main event potential, but the probably figure that they can get another top fo the card match out of him versus Kozlov or Umaga. So…the winner of the 2009 Royal Rumble will be RANDY ORTON! They will worry about making the WM25 main event new and exciting later (or never). Randy will be a first time winner.