Mt. Killamanjaro: 2012 WWE Royal Rumble Preview

Mike Killam

I haven't been this excited about a Royal Rumble since I was a little kid. Some of that has to do with my fairly creepy man-crush on Chris Jericho, my budding bro-mance with Dolph Ziggler, and my Chicago pride for CM Punk. But a lot of it actually has to do with how pleased I am with the current WWE product. All these returns and the looming anticipation of WrestleMania around the corner are exciting, but there's always going to be returns. There's always going to be the Road to WrestleMania. This year is different because FINALLY… they have built up enough of their mid-card talent that over a dozen guys could walk away with a Royal Rumble victory and go into WrestleMania as a buyable title contender. Now I realize Mark Henry winning it all might not seem like the most thrilling conclusion, but it could happen, and it wouldn't be terrible! 

Last year Alberto del Rio won – nobody was surprised. With the kind of push that he was getting, the planned set-up for WrestleMania, and of course all the dirt sheet rumors floating around, it was commonly assumed that ADR was Mania-bound following a big rookie Rumble win. The previous year we saw Edge win the match, with Orton before him. Neither were inerently bad decisions, nor did either shock me in any way… Cena's return was kept quiet and well executed, but how many times can one guy main event WrestleMania before you stop making a big deal about it? It's kind of like being surprised that Honkey Tonk Man retained the Intercontinental title at any event in 1987… 

The last two guys to win the Rumble and truly shock me were Rey Mysterio, whose title reign was less appealing than another Michael Cole match, and Chris Benoit, who we're not allowed to remember… This year's Royal Rumble PPV is going to be awesome, because from beginning to end I'm going to be on the edge of my seat wondering who will pull it out in the end. Every big elimination will feel like a shot to the stomach, because it's one less potential Mania candidate! Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett, Sheamus, Christian, Kane, Chris Jericho? Even the more "dark horse" players (Miz, R-Truth, Cody Rhodes, Alberto del Rio, or maybe WWE Champion CM Punk) aren't off the table! I wouldn't even count out the injured Rey Mysterio… I raise my glass to WWE for building a solid main event scene, two championship pictures WITHOUT Randy Orton and/or John Cena, and a whole list of potential contenders. It's crazy what a year of good decisions will do for a company… 

John CenaJohn Cena vs. Kane
Well, we're finally going to see what happens when John Cena and Kane collide. For over a month the WWE have used Kane to bring out a darker side of Cena that they've purposefully kept hidden for all this time. Some believe it will be the catalyst for the impending "heel turn", while most think this just builds up the sympathy vote moving into his big match with the Rock at WrestleMania. Either way they've told a great story, evolved the Kane and Cena characters in subtle ways, and done it all without giving away the big fight on free TV. Seriously, it's rare that two challengers barely touch each other before their PPV match. Kane has definitely gotten his licks in, but we haven't seen a legitimate match, a back-and-forth brawl, or anything to give away what the WWE would like us to pay for tonight. That is intelligent booking, and you rarely see that sort of intrigue when dealing with a Cena feud…

Prediction: John Cena wins via pinfall. I know it sounds bland, and it likely will be disappointing, but they won't have Kane lose by submission, and they're not going to let Kane go over clean. I would call a DQ finish, but that just seems TOO obvious. So Cena gets the big win and can start working towards his match with the Rock. 

World Heavyweight Championship — Steel Cage Match
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Big Show vs. Mark Henry

How these guys have managed to pull in the average Smackdown ratings without Randy Orton, and with Sheamus subject to the lower mid-card is almost a miracle in itself. That may sound harsh, but can you really say that a year ago you would have watched a match with Daniel Bryan as the World champ, with Big Show and Mark Henry as challengers? I'm still not totally sold on Bryan as a main event guy, but he's slowly winning me over with this subtle heel change, getting meaner every single week. Big Show has brought some serious emotion into his promo work, and an intensity into his ring work that was missing before. He's transcended the giant gimmick, the comedy gimmick, and risen out of being a tag team buffer to become a credibly threat in the World title picture. And Mark Henry…the guy has been on fire since getting the championship last year! It's good to see his intensity hasn't died down after losing the belt, and I think it's only a matter of time before he gets it back. Seriously… I'm more impressed than anything that this match doesn't include Orton, Sheamus, or Barrett and still has entertained me to the degree it has thus far. 

Prediction: Daniel Bryan wins by escaping the cage. I wouldn't be surprised if AJ is used as a distraction at some point, or if Bryan sneaks out the door while Henry and Show are brawling. Any way he goes about it, Bryan will likely slip out of the Rumble with his title and play up the cowardly champion in the process. 

CM PunkWWE Championship — Special Guest Referee: John Laurinaitis
CM Punk (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

The two best guys in pro wrestling, going at it one more time with the WWE Championship on the line. I almost wish we hadn't seen this match multiple times on free television, but with how good these two are together I don't think it's going to matter a whole lot. It's funny how this works, but with John Laurinaitis as the Guest Ref, it actually lessens the idea of Ziggler leaving with the belt. I'd say about 90% of the time when a heel is the Guest Ref, something happens and the decision ends up in the favor of the face… Honestly, it's too early for Ziggler, who has been nothing short of spectacular in the past few months. Nobody wants to see him drop the belt at Elimination Chamber, suffering yet another too-short title reign (yes, that World title reign is in the books!). 

Prediction: CM Punk wins via pinfall. I'm not sure how it will go down, but somehow Punk will get the pin on Ziggler and force the ref to count to three. Notice I said "the ref" and not necessarily Laurinaitis. You never know what happens in situations like this, and it would certainly not be the first time a Guest Ref was bumped, only to be replaced by somebody else! (cough, Mic Foley, cough) 

30-Man Royal Rumble Match
As I already gushed about, there is a lot of potential going into this match. Jericho and Orton are the clear favorites, but you just can't count out about a dozen other guys! There's really no absolutely "safe" money this year. Many feel it's too obvious for Jericho, and that his "end of the world" thing is much bigger than just a Rumble win. Many also feel like if Orton was going to win, he would have made a surprise entrance rather than waste his return at Smackdown. Like I said, there's no safe prediction… That being said, I'm not sticking with "safe" and am instead going WAY out of left field with my pick. 

Prediction: CM Punk wins the Royal Rumble. And as my not-so-subtle way of plugging another column, I'm going to withhold the "how" of this going down in order to make you read Wrestlezone's Royal Round Table. If you haven't already checked it out, it has the Rumble picks of near every Wrestlezone writer and contributer, including a special visit from former WWE and TNA Superstar Billy Gunn. 

So there you have it, my official Preview for this year's Royal Rumble PPV! As always you can follow along with me on Twtter @MikeKillam, and follow along with Wrestlezone as we bring you full coverage of tonight's events. Our own Chris Cash will be live in St. Louis, bringing us exclusive updates before heading off to the after-party hosted by Billy Gunn and Sean "X-Pac" Waltman (18+ only). Tickets are still avaliable for that as well, at MyWrestlingParty.com

Enjoy it, and get set for the start of The Road to WrestleMania!

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