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Just like the idea that the Christmas season is better than Christmas itself, sometimes the Wrestlemania build up is actually better than Wrestlemania itself. That is why I think you can make the argument that the Royal Rumble is actually more exciting than Wrestlemania. The Royal Rumble is undisputedly the second biggest event of the year, and most importantly, fans will find out who will be in the title picture at Wrestlemania, more than two months in advance.
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be defended, and once again it will be Randy Orton vs John Cena. The match is being advertised as being a "basic one-on-one" match, which makes it maybe the first wrestling storyline to ever go backwards as far as match stipulations go. Typically, a feud will start with a standard match and then accelerate into No Disqualification matches, cage matches or whatnot. Going from a TLC into a normal match is a little bit different, and I'm not really sure if it is a good or a bad thing. It's nice to see something out of the ordinary, but how can fans be excited about a standard match after they just saw the same two guys go at it in a TLC match?
The thing to watch in this match is that the winner will face Brock Lesnar with the title on the line. Brock Lesnar is apparently locked into the number one contenders spot, but as to when he is going to receive his title shot, that much is still a mystery. Lesnar is coming in as a heel, so it would make sense that he would face the good guy, in this case John Cena. Lesnar, though, is not an ordinary heel, and he is so popular that he could easily wrestle another heel, like Randy Orton, and there would not really be a drop in interest.
Unlike in past years, it will be hard to determine who will win the Royal Rumble by who is the world champion, and vice-versa. Last year, once John Cena won the Rumble, it was pretty obvious that The Rock was going to be the WWE Champion going into Wrestlemania. This year, with Lesnar already guaranteed a title shot for some time after the Rumble, we really have no idea who the Rumble winner is going to face at Wrestlemania, which leaves this match really up in the air.
I have to think that Randy Orton is going to come out on top. The only reason I feel that way is because I think Daniel Bryan is going to win the Royal Rumble, and the person that makes the most sense for him to face at Wrestlemania is Randy Orton. I think Orton gets by Cena, and then somehow ends up holding onto the title against Lesnar, and enters Wrestlemania as the champion. It is not unrealistic to have Cena win, then have him face Lesnar, but having Bryan win the Rumble and face Orton just seems like the most logical thing WWE can do right now.
Brock Lesnar will wrestle in his first match since Summerslam, taking on The Big Show. This match is clearly only happening to make Brock look strong heading into his title opportunity against either Cena or Orton. Nobody expects Big Show to actually win this match, and it is pretty predictable that it will be a 10-15 minute match, ending with a Lesnar F-5 while Cole says "I don't think we have ever seen Big Show be man-handled quite like this."
Daniel Bryan will be facing Bray Wyatt, one-on-one, hopefully to settle their feud once and for all. I like the Wyatt family, but I think Daniel Bryan was the wrong person for them to work with. Bryan was so over and is destined to be the WWE WHC, it was impossible for him to be stuck in a long-term feud where he was not going to be himself for a large part of the time. Hopefully Bryan will defeat Wyatt, and the Wyatt family will be able to land on their feet and move into another high-profile feud, because they definitely got the short end of the stick on this.
The kick-off match on the pre-show will have The New Age Outlaws taking on the Rhodes Brothers for the tag team titles. A popular idea is that the Cody and Goldust will lose the titles, launching into a feud that will end up with a match at Wrestlemania. Right now though, I don't really feel like that is such a great idea to do that. I think WWE has gotten a lot more than they expected out of pairing up Goldust and Cody Rhodes, and right now, they are both still very over and they are having really good matches. The time to split them up will come eventually, but right now I think WWE can get more out of them as the tag champions. I think they hold on to the titles Sunday.
I already wrote extensively last week about the Royal Rumble match, but just for a brief recap, I think that Daniel Bryan is the favorite to win it. Many fans are upset that Daniel Bryan has not been announced to be in the Royal Rumble, and that that somehow means that Bryan will not be in the match at all. I found this to be a typical bait by WWE to make it more surprising when Bryan comes out for the match. WWE is getting smarter when it comes to working the hardcore fans, so I wouldn't rule it out that they planned to make it look like Bryan isn't going to be in the Rumble, and to leak the story that Batista is planned to win the Rumble.
I see the Royal Rumble having a few stories develop. I think that Roman Reigns ends up eliminating both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, which will further accelerate the end of the Shield. I think the final four will be Reigns, Bryan, Batista and CM Punk. I think Reigns eliminates Punk, Batista eliminates Reigns, and Bryan eliminates Batista to win the Rumble.
The Royal Rumble is really the only event that guarantees fans that someone will be contending for the world title in two months. Letting someone win the Royal Rumble is the ultimate show of faith for WWE. It shows the talent that WWE believes in them, not just to be a main eventer, but to be a major part at their biggest event of the year.