By John Napolitano
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the prediction department! This writing will be my fourth official venture into the mysterious chasm of the unknown, and this time around I will concentrate my most educated speculation and attempt to use all of my wrestling knowhow, in order to predict the results of this year’s installment of the Royal Rumble.
It need not be mentioned how dismally disappointing the last two Royal Rumble events have been, specifically the Royal Rumble matches themselves. The preposterous predictability paired with misuse, or lack thereof, of fan favorite, Daniel Bryan, spoiled the perception of the biggest match of the year two years in a row.
The anticipation going into Orlando, Florida, on January 24, has been more boisterous than ever before. The undercard is solid, the main event is unprecedented, and the rumors surrounding potential surprise Royal Rumble match entrants have enchanted hardcore and casual wrestling fans alike.
World Wrestling Entertainment can ill afford to start the Road to WrestleMania with a flat tire yet again, and my first prediction featured in this article is that the 2016 Royal Rumble will be the best edition since its inception in 1988.
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose in a Last Man Standing Match for the Intercontinental Championship
Match of the night alert! In my humble opinion, Kevin Owens and the “Lunatic Fringe,” Dean Ambrose will have the most competent, dramatic, and story-driven bout of the night. The narrative between Owens and Ambrose has been one of the most heated feuds in recent memory, and the stakes could not be higher.
These two gladiators will be competing in one of the most grueling matches in WWE history, a Last Man Standing Match and for the Intercontinental Championship, no less. This match will join Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, Umaga vs. John Cena, and Big Show vs. Alberto Del Rio, as just the fourth Last Man Standing Match in Royal Rumble history, and it has the potential to eclipse them all. Few and far between are Intercontinental Championship programs with as much piss and vinegar as this one.
It’s safe to say that this matchup will be violent in nature, but the hardcore elements of the bout will not overshadow the fact that this will be a phenomenal wrestling match. I would not be surprised to see Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose battle all throughout the Amway Center, in order to electrify the WWE Universe. Also, keep your eye out for Kevin Owens or Dean Ambrose going through the announce table at some point during their clash. I predict that Dean Ambrose will limp away with the Intercontinental Championship in tow.
Predicted Winner: Dean Ambrose
The Usos vs. The New Day for the WWE Tag-Team Championships
What better way to start off 2016 than with the two most elite, evocative, and entertaining tag-teams in the WWE vying for tandem gold? The Usos are undoubtedly the standard-bearers of the tag-team division. They have never looked back, since winning the WWE Tag-Team Championships in March of 2014. They’ve had countless five-star matches and have entertained the masses every step of the way. The New Day, consisting of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E, are the most popular team of the decade, bar none. They radiate a sense of humor, passion for this business, and awe-inspiring work ethic that is reminiscent of a young tag-team, known as Edge & Christian. The Usos’ tenure on top and the New Day’s meteoric rise to stardom missed each other like two trains in the night, due to Jey Uso’s injury in early 2015.
We have seen these two teams do battle on Monday Night Raw, and they crossed paths at Survivor Series and TLC last year, but this will be the first chapter in their first official rivalry. A best of five series between these tandems could revolutionize tag-team wrestling, but for now, let’s focus on their clash scheduled for January 24th in Orlando, Florida.
It is certainly safe to expect the controlled chaos that tag-team wrestling in WWE so epically delivers. Expect a frenzy of aerial action and the usual New Day shenanigans, in order to heighten the drama. The New Day is, and will be for the foreseeable future, the hottest act in WWE. When the final bell tolls I predict that the New Day will still be your WWE Tag-Team Champions.
Predicted Winner: The New Day
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship
This matchup between Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio for the U.S. Title will be especially interesting. It seems as though WWE is attempting to position Kalisto as the next big Latino superstar and for good reason. Although he leaves much to be desired on the microphone, he is simply amazing in that 20-foot by 20-foot squared circle. His affection for acrobatics combined with his lightning-fast footwork makes each of his performances spectacles.
Alberto Del Rio first captured the United States Championship when he knocked off John Cena at the Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View in October of 2015. His reign as the U.S. Champ has been from groundbreaking. He is an amazing hand in the ring, and it’s great to see him back in WWE, but it’s obvious that his stock became too damaged during his last run with the company for him to ever get past the upper mid-card again.
On the January 11th edition of Monday Night Raw, Kalisto pulled off an amazing upset when he defeated Del Rio for the strap; however, just three days later on Smackdown, Alberto Del Rio reclaimed the gold from Kalisto in a very good matchup.
Here we are, primed for what could be a sound rubber match. I don’t believe that this bout will steal the show by any means, but if done correctly, it can catapult Kalisto into legitimacy. The WWE has nothing to gain by keeping the United States Championship around the waist of Alberto Del Rio. I predict that Kalisto will hit the “Salida del Sol” and pick up his second U.S. Championship.
Predicted Winner: Kalisto
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte for the Divas Championship
I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a Divas Championship match. This bout for is the first payoff of the Divas Revolution that ignited in July of 2015. We have been waiting months to see our female NXT alumni legitimately lock up on the main roster. Of course, we’ve seen Becky Lynch and Charlotte tag and even go one-on-one on Monday Night Raw throughout the latter half of 2015, but their rivalry has reached its zenith in recent weeks.
With Charlotte cementing herself as a top heel in the female ranks and Becky Lynch really progressing her character in order to become a beloved babyface, the stage is set for a true classic. Lynch’s recent backstage interviews have been stellar, as she’s finally being perceived as the badass “lass kicker” she’s always been. I would love nothing more than to see this angle culminate with a triple threat matchup between Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte at WrestleMania, but that’s a fantasy angle for another article.
If these amazing athletes are given the proper amount of time, this match for the Divas Championship could really be a five-star affair. I can almost guarantee that Charlotte’s father, the “Nature Boy,” Ric Flair, will get involved in some capacity, but when the dust settles, I predict that Becky Lynch will be your new WWE Divas Champion.
Predicted Winner: Becky Lynch
The “One vs. All” Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Not since 1992, when the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair got his first taste of WWE gold, has the WWE Championship been up for grabs in the Royal Rumble match. Unlike the January classic from 24 years ago, the reigning WWE Champion will be defending his title in the 30-man battle royal. Yes, Roman Reigns, the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, will enter from the number one spot in the match and have to go through 29 other WWE Superstars, in order to walk out of Orlando still champion. The odds are certainly stacked against Reigns, as there is a 96.67% chance that a new champion will be crowned on January 24, 2016, hence the tagline “One vs. All.”
The success of this year’s Royal Rumble event is entirely dependent on the Royal Rumble match going off without a hitch. World Wrestling Entertainment cannot afford to have the Royal Rumble hijacked by the WWE Universe for the third year in a row; albeit, Orlando is not nearly as smarky as Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, but do not expect them to lie down for anything less than phenomenal.
Speaking of phenomenal, it’s time to address the rumors surrounding the potential debut of the “Phenomenal One,” AJ Styles. There have been reports for weeks that the WWE has been negotiating a contract with Styles, as his tenure with New Japan Pro Wrestling has come to an end. AJ Styles is the greatest professional wrestler to never have been prominently featured on WWE Television. Many members of the WWE Universe believe that we may witness the debut of the “Phenomenal One,” as a surprise entrant in this year’s Royal Rumble match. Although it seems highly probable that AJ Styles could debut in Orlando this Sunday, it’s important that we do not let our imaginations taint the narrative that is taking place in the ring.
Now, let’s get back to the prediction department. It goes without saying that Roman Reigns will have a good showing on Sunday. I predict that, regardless of who wins, Reigns will be one of the final two combatants. As for the winner, my gut feeling is that we will see Dean Ambrose win the 2016 Royal Rumble and the WWE Championship. I even considered Kevin Owens coming out on top. Unfortunately, they have not been confirmed to be participants in the matchup. Throw in the fact that they will have just competed in a grueling Last Man Standing Match, and it’s possible that Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose will never even have their names called for the Royal Rumble match.
If Dean Ambrose does not compete in the 30-man variation of a battle royal, then I predict the “Beast Incarnate,” the “Conqueror,” and the “Sultan of Suplex City” Brock Lesnar will sit atop the mountain, as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Many skeptical WWE fanatics fear that Roman Reigns will clear 29 other superstars and retain his championship gold, winning his second Royal Rumble match in a row. I can guarantee, without a shadow of a doubt, that Roman Reigns will not win, but rather be the last man eliminated. The genius behind having Reigns being one of the final two competitors in the Royal Rumble match is that fans will believe that WWE is sticking it to them again. They’ll believe that WWE is going to continue force-feeding them Roman Reigns; however, if WWE swerves us and has someone eliminate Reigns, then it accomplishes two things: The unpredictability of the Royal Rumble is reestablished, and the fan perception of Roman Reigns will improve, as he was not booked as Superman or John Cena Jr.
Predicted Winner: Dean Ambrose/Brock Lesnar
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