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Welcome wrestling fans to the first ever Royal Round Table, exclusively on Wrestlezone.com! Within the next couple of pages you will hear from just about every Wrestlezone writer and contributor we have, including our very special guest: former WWE and TNA Superstar, Billy Gunn! Let's kick off this road to the "Road to WrestleMania," with Mike Killam and our boys from "across the pond", Bob Bamber and Martyn "BeansOnToast" Nolan!
Bobby Bamber: There seems to be a misconception that the Royal Rumble has turned into the Money in the Bank contract when it comes to the calibre of Superstar who could win it. I've heard Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler and other names banded around, despite the fact that none of them have ever been World Champion before (Ziggler's five minutes of fame notwithstanding). Alberto Del Rio wont it last year sure, but he was the exception, not the rule. The previous four winners were Edge, Randy Orton, John Cena and the Undertaker - all bona fide main event talent.
The best way to look at things is to try and work out what the Wrestlemania matches will be. Punk vs. Jericho seems a nailed-on certainty, but a Jericho win here is too obvious for me (not that Orton isn't obvious either). The Smackdown main event picture is much more muddled. Daniel Bryan is the current champion, but I can't see him making it through Sunday and Elimination Chamber as champion. Wade Barrett is rolling nicely, and Mark Henry has a gripe of his own. Heck, throw Sheamus and Big Show in there and there might be a six pack challenge at Wrestlemania.
Orton just fits the bill. It's hard to see him not being in a title match at Mania two years in a row, and in his home town it should get a good reaction from the live crowd. Where the Smackdown title match goes at Mania I'm really not sure. If I had to guess, Mark Henry wins the title Sunday and he faces Orton and Wade Barrett in a Triple Threat in Miami; Vince does love his triple threat matches at Mania.
Martyn Nolan: The Royal Rumble had this sequence of winners from 2007: The Undertaker, John Cena, Randy Orton, and Edge. When Edge won the 2010 Rumble I said straight afterwards that I thought that Chris Jericho was the only main event level man left on the roster who had not won the Royal Rumble yet, hence I picked him for the 2011 Rumble. That honor as we all know, went to Alberto del Rio who won when Jericho was no longer involved in the company. Now Jericho is back and he's also the main focus of this year's event.
For the past few weeks we have watched him play the crowd like a musical instrument and he delivered one simple line that most probably sold more PPV buys this month than TNA got in total out of their last 2 PPVs put together! Jericho and Punk seems to be the obvious Championship main event going in to this year's show and we are all now expecting some shocking events with Jericho after his RAW claim: "This Sunday is the end of the world as we know it!" Jericho will likely spin this feud on the fact that Punk says he's the "Best in the World" while Jericho is "the best in the world at what he does..." Either way, this match seems to be happening at WrestleMania 28. The Rumble could go with another upset but at the end of the day I still see this being the major focal point of the show. In the words of Chris Jercho: "COMMON' BABY!"
Mike Killam: Every year I make my pick for the Rumble, and I'm never right. Never. It's because while everyone else places their bets on the safe odds, ei. Jericho, Orton, Barrett, etc., I go with the dark horse. This year is no different, and I've cooked up a wild scenario that has a snowball's chance in hell of playing out!
The WWE has made it a point of letting us know that "ANYBODY" can enter into the Rumble this year - which is a bit odd because this isn't exactly the first time. I think it's a swerve to make people assume the WWE Champion will walk in and shock the world (we ever have "reports" that say as much!). Wouldn't be the first time the WWE fed false information to the internet, just to throw people off... (remember the Justin Bieber hype!?)
My prediction is that CM Punk somehow defeats Dolph Ziggler. I'm not sure how they're going to get around Laurinaitis as the ref, but I'm sure Punk will threaten him into making the 3-count. But following the victory, Laurinaitis will announce that Punk isn't done for the night, and that the next WWE Championship match starts immediately. Enter Chris Jericho. Y2J gets Punk down, locks in the Walls of Jericho, and Laurinaitis has the bell rung, ushering in another "screwjob" incident, giving Jericho the title. It makes perfect sense: Johnny Ace wants his revenge on Punk, and Jericho wants to "end the world as we know it". If Laurinaitis and Jericho leave together, it builds immediate heat for Jericho as the champion, and in my opinion sets up WrestleMania better than anything else could. Taking it further, this could be the start to a new Corporation, making this whole angle all the more like Austin/McMahon. BUT WAIT...we're not done. The clock starts ticking down in the Rumble match, and the fans get to their feet to see the big #30 entrant: former WWE Champion CM Punk. Punk picks up the win, and will now go onto WrestleMania to face Chris Jericho for the title.
I know folks, it's crazy. But I dream big, and if by fate's chance I am right, and called the biggest angle of the year on a hunch...you all owe me $5.