It’s that time again, wrasslin’ fans. Reinforce the ring, get some extra slobber for your knocker, stock up on steel chairs and for the love of Titus O’Neil, put the paramedics on speed-dial. It’s Royal Rumble time!
Double the Rumble
We live in exciting times, my friends. Just two years ago, we would have just one Royal Rumble match to watch, and we would have been grateful for that. Now though, our cups runneth all over the place because we have a men’s and women’s event. Two wrestlers start off in the ring and then over the course of the next hour, a further 28 wrestlers enter the ring at two-minute intervals until just one wrestler remains. To eliminate the opposition, you need to throw your opponent over the top rope, and as soon as their feet touch the floor, they’re out.
As usual, there are likely to be a ton of surprises. Veteran wrestlers that you haven’t heard from in years are usually inserted somewhere into the line-up. Someone will cheat, someone will be robbed, and in a relatively new development in Royal Rumble lore, New Day team member Kofi Kingston will pull some miraculous feat of dexterity out of the bag when all hope seems lost. As usual, rumours of some big names are circulating, and this year, they’re bigger than ever.
New Talent/Old Faces
This PPV could see a promotion for in-house talent such as NXT’s UK Champ, Pete Dunne. NXT is another of WWE’s shows, where young or recently signed talent learn how to be in the bigger shows and many of the WWE’s current stars, such as Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe have come through NXT’s ranks. The Undertaker may make a return from retirement to step over the top rope. Dave Bautista may be seeing a great deal of post-WWE success with his movie career, and recently made a short appearance on the 1000th episode of Smackdown. A recent tweet suggests that there may be more to come. Could Bautista be in the Rumble? We shall have to see, but even Drax the Destroyer (which, surprisingly enough, is his Marvel name, not his wrestling name) isn’t the biggest surprise that the WWE could spring. That honour belongs to Kenny Omega.
Long considered the best pro-wrestler in the world, Kenny Omega has come a long way since his early years fighting 9-year-old girls for Japanese promotions. His recent bout against Kazuchika Okada was given a six-star rating by wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, who stated that New Japan Pro Wrestling “may have put on the greatest match in pro wrestling history”. Certainly, the highlights of this 45-minute singles match are extraordinary, each man setting up and pulling off increasingly acrobatic moves. He has always shied away from working for the WWE, despite the fact that they have been chasing him for years, instead preferring to build his legend in Japan. He has fought a number of current WWE favourites who have also been tempted away from Japan, including AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and Chris Jericho.
Is now the time for Omega to take over the WWE? Legally, it might be, as his contract with NJPW expires at the end of this month and he will be a free agent. Some of his other friends and colleagues have also left Japan to form their own promotion, known as All Elite Wrestling. Whether Omega turns down the big money offered by WWE (as he has done several times before) to stick with acts like the Young Bucks and Chris Jericho in their fledgling promotion, or finally makes his debut on the biggest wrestling stage of all remains to be seen. Certainly, the pop that would occur if he debuted in the Rumble would be one for the ages. I guess we’ll have to tune in on Sunday to find out.
In other news, it should be noted that the Rumbles aren’t the only events happening this weekend. There are some big title matches that fans will not want to miss either. Fan-favourite/freshly turned heel Daniel Bryan will take on AJ Styles for the WWE Championship, while Ireland’s own Becky Lynch will fight Japanese enigma Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Representing the WWE’s other show, Raw, will be former UFC champ Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks, while Shinsuke Nakamura takes on Rusev for the United States title.
Perhaps one of the most interesting matches will be between Brock Lesnar (also a former UFC star) and Finn Balor, a man literally half his size. What Balor lacks in mass, he makes up for in utter fearlessness, so it should be an amazing main event for the Universal Championship.