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 Cena vs. Kane
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
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.
WWE Championship — Special Guest Referee: John Laurinaitis
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
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!