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    Tuesday, January 24, 2017

    Ruthless Roundtable: WWE Royal Rumble 2017

    The clock is winding down for one of WWE's most exciting, unpredictable events of the year: the 30-man over-the-top-rope Royal Rumble Match!

    Rumors are swirling nonstop as to who would outlast 29 other Superstars for the opportunity to face any World Champion and main-event WrestleMania 33.

    Plus, Kevin Owens defends his Universal Title against Roman Reigns, while John Cena guns for World Title #16 in his match against the WWE Champion, AJ Styles!

    Who's gonna win 'em all? Smark Henry writers and editors make their picks in the return of the Ruthless Roundtable.

    Ready to remember the Rumble? Altogether now: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... *buzzer*

    We begin with 5 questions on this year's Royal Rumble Match in San Antonio, TX.

    1. Who's winning the Rumble?

    Stan Sy: Sticking to my guns here and calling a Finn Balor win because this fits right around the timeline for his return from injury. He’s still the champion who’s owed a rematch after having relinquished it last August, and it’s the perfect redemption storyline for his own WrestleMania arc!

    But I’m just as willing to bet on AJ Styles to win the Rumble as the surprise 30th entrant after he loses the WWE Championship to John Cena earlier in the night. It’ll be the perfect way to give what’s already been a hot feud even more fire heading to Orlando!

    Mark De Joya: I'm putting on my #BestForBusiness hat here: The WWE won't admit this, but subscriber growth for the WWE Network has been awfully deflating—it's even dipped below the 1.5 million mark as of last report. They need a blow-away match to headline WrestleMania, and if John Cena is walking in as champ, then there's just one name big enough to co-lead ‘Mania with him in a way even casuals will dig: The Undertaker.

    Ricky Jay Publico: This has got to be the most unpredictable Royal Rumble match in recent memory. They clearly made the right move to remove both Cena and Reigns, so yeah, it’s everybody’s ball game. So who do I got? To be honest, no one. I’m watching the match blind. But if I’m really going to pick a winner, I’d go with Chris Jericho. It’s logical, it makes sense in a storyline standpoint, and he totally deserves it. Remember when he almost won in 2013? Damn you, Sheamus.

    No wait, I changed my mind. Samoa Joe. Yeah, Samoa Joe’s good.

    Anthony Cuello: I’m going with Finn Balor here as well. In addition to the timeline fitting, there’s been something special with the way they’ve handled the Demon King as he recovers from injury. He’s managed to stay relevant with all the indie appearances and promotional tours. Whereas other guys would just sit at home and recover, Finn has been left, right, and center carrying the WWE brand. There’s a reason he’s been very visible lately, and I think we’ll see that play out, starting with the Royal Rumble Match.

    Enzo Amore Tanos: Last year’s Royal Rumble match was won by a part-timer in Triple H. This year? Among all the part-timers and surprise entrants from yesteryear, I think there’s one man with a realistic chance of winning it, and that man is the Deadman. Undertaker vs. Reigns for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 33—book it, and give Roman the heel turn he so desperately needs because there’s no way ‘Taker’s gonna be treated as the heel if such a feud pushes forward.

    2. Surprise returns/entrants?

    Stan: I’d be lying if I didn’t include Kurt Angle in this list. But assuming that’s really not in the cards, give me an appearance from anyone in this list: Samoa Joe (definitely happening), Shinsuke Nakamura (could actually happen), Kenny Omega (asa ka that’s happening).

    MDJ: Kurt Angle is the one name that I think would blow the roof off of the Alamodome, even if we're not quite sure whether the fans will be chanting “You suck!” or “Ang-gull!” as Tito Kurt walks out.

    Nakamura and Joe are smart NXT call-up choices, but as many fans have pointed out, WWE is missing out big time if Tye Dillinger doesn't come out at #10.

    Ricky: Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe. When they stare at each other for the first time in a WWE ring, my soul will leave my body. Nakamura? Not yet, I think. Tye Dillinger? Meh. Kenny Omega? Why? Shaquille O’Neal? Just for the hell of it.

    Will Angle emerge from the Kurt-ain?

    Anthony: A certain Hunter Hearst Helmsley will come out late and eliminate Seth Rollins, leading to Rollins eliminating him later on and further igniting their feud.

    Tito Enzo: Tye Dillinger at #10, Samoa Joe early on, Triple H between #25 and #30, and Santino Marella somewhere in there.

    George Carlos Pastor: You all know what name I’m going to say. Kuya Kurt. I hope it sets up a match for WrestleMania. Maybe Brock or a tag team featuring Angle and American Alpha going against whoever’s the reigning tag champs.

    3. Temporary alliances?

    MDJ: While being a “Paul Heyman Guy” may not have as cache in 2017 as it once did, I think it would be neat to see all past and present Heyman Guys gang up, even just for 5 minutes. Tell me a human wall consisting of Brock Lesnar, the Big Show, Cesaro, The Miz, and a returning Kurt Angle wouldn't make your tighty-whities go brown with delight.

    Stan: Why can’t Miz and Dolph work together now that they’re both baddies? It is very wrestling logic, after all. Forget the fact that they both supposedly hate each other and have all this enmity between them. They’re both heels at this point, and I’d want to see them finally work together.

    Ricky: Rusev and Sheamus having a mini-reunion against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. That’s something, I guess. I believe they’ll also have a spot where Lesnar and Goldberg will help each other out, probably to eliminate the Undertaker. Oh, and if they really want Styles to lose the championship and enter the Rumble as a surprise entrant, let’s have a temporary Samoa Joe and AJ Styles alliance. I’d still be pissed about Styles losing the title, but at least I’ll have this.

    Anthony: Undertaker teaming up with one of the biggest names—say, Goldberg—to take out a big group like the Wyatts should be fun. It’d be a cool moment before Brock comes rushing down the ring for his inevitable fight with Goldberg. That, or just give me Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle and AJ Styles working together to make an, uh, impact.

    Tito Enzo: Agree with Stan—it’s time for the two Cleveland boys and real-life friends to work together months after their bitter feud. Aside from Miz and Ziggler working together as heels, I’m expecting WWE’s 3 most senior citizens linked to a brand—Kane, Big Show, and Mark Henry—teaming up to eliminate some lower-card guys before they turn on each other. (Cue “You still got it!” chants.)

    4. Most out-of-left-field moment you're balls-out willing to call

    Ricky: Xavier Woods eliminates BOTH Big E and Kofi Kingston. Again, for the hell of it. If Triple H wastes a spot on the Rumble, I’d be so pissed.

    Stan: Dammit, Ricky. You totally beat me to it. Granted, Woods taking both E and Kofi out isn’t exactly “out of left field,” but I can’t think of anything better right now that I’d actually buy into. 

    Wait, here’s one none of you motherfuckers thought of: entrant #30’s music plays and it’s…


    MDJ: BRRRRRAAAAUUUUUN!!! Strowman shatters Roman Reigns’ record for most eliminations in a single Rumble and makes it all the way to the Final Four. 

    Anthony: Triple H wins lol. Sami Zayn goes on an absolute tear, eliminating behemoths like Braun Strowman and Big Show before being the last guy eliminated by the eventual winner.

    Tito Enzo: Keeping mine simple. Samoa Joe doesn’t just last until the Final Four, but is the last man eliminated

    5. How will Kofi Kingston save himself this time?

    Anthony: I had a premonition that Kofi will hang from a flock of drones called Vanguard-100 before getting dropped down into the ring. It is what the Seven Deities will.

    MDJ: Seeing as Neville has dropped the whole “Man That Gravity Forgot” shtick, I predict Kofi grabs the mantle and literally hovers 6 inches above the floor each time he gets tossed out of the ring. The boy is a mad Nike sneakerhead after all.

    Ricky: He’s gonna go up the shark tank (after the Owens-Reigns match) and stay there, assuming it would still be there. Try to beat that next year.

    Stan: He won’t get to. This’ll be the year this streak ends. He’ll just be eliminated by a force of nature, whether that’s Strowman, Goldberg, Lesnar, Taker… or Xavier Woods.

    Tito Enzo: He won’t. He’ll probably be expecting Big E or Xavier Woods to save his ass, but one of them will accidentally-on-purpose move out of the way, and that’s going to plant the seeds for a New Day breakup and Big E or Xavier turning heel. They were among my favorites of 2015 and 2016 but it’s about time the sun sets on The New Day.

    GCP: Big E catches him but drops him just before he can get back in the ring. Oops.

    And Smark Henry's quick takes on the rest of the card, with four titles on the line:

    WWE Championship: John Cena vs. AJ Styles (c)

    Anthony: John Cena wins #16. Recognize.

    Stan: As much as I hate to say this, Anthony called it. Cena’s winning #16 in San Antonio. I’ll let him keep the title until ‘Mania because if my Rumble pick wins, then it’ll all be worth it.

    MDJ: John Cena has been ridiculously vital over the past couple of years as he's transitioned nicely into the role as salty elder statesman of WWE. Part-timer or not, give him his Sweet 16.

    Ricky: Of course it will be John freakin’ Cena. It’s WrestleMania season, after all. I just think his 16th win should be at WrestleMania, no? Makes it a little bit more special.

    Tito Enzo: Gonna have to go against the trend on this one, and pick AJ Styles to retain. Would want a 16th title win for Cena as well, but the time’s not now. Best to save it for WrestleMania.

    Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens (c)

    (with Chris Jericho suspended above the ring inside a shark cage)

    Stan: As much as I hate Roman Reigns, I do think that him winning the Universal Championship is a matter of when, and not if. However, I don’t think this is happening at the Rumble. Owens has to retain this to show that he is still the ruthless heel with teeth, who can retain his own title by himself when he has to.

    MDJ: I truly, madly, deeply want Kevin Owens to retain, just to trigger a slow-burn implosion for this generation's version of the Two-Man Power Trip at ‘Mania. Who wouldn't buy KO vs. Y2J for all the marbles then? 

    Anthony: As much as a Roman Reigns win is inevitable, I hope Stan is right. We need the vicious prizefighter Owens back, and a win here (sans Jericho’s help) could give us that. Unfortunately, I have a feeling WWE is going to put the strap back on the Big Dog (Reigns), so that the Owens/Jericho implosion kicks us off on the Road to WrestleMania.

    Tito Enzo: Ugh. At the rate things are going, WWE will never give up on pushing Roman Reigns down our throats. So even if I really want Kevin Owens to win and regain his badass status, most signs are pointing to Reigns becoming “The Guy” for Monday Night RAW.

    RAW Women's Championship: Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair (c)

    Stan: It’s too soon for a Bayley win. Charlotte’s going to retain and use this to put Bayley down even more, which could add the layers needed to make this feud meaningful by the time we march on towards ‘Mania

    MDJ: Easy title retention for Lot-Lot. Bayley may be ultra-beloved, but she still needs to get her reps in on the main roster before she's ready to slay the queen. 

    Anthony: I really hope Charlotte wins, not only because it’s too early for Bayley but also because this title has moved way too many times. Let’s not turn Charlotte/Bayley into the new Charlotte/Sasha.

    Tito Enzo: Too early for Bayley to win the title from Charlotte. Bayley needs to carry herself more confidently, or maybe have more angst on the mic, to be taken more seriously as a title contender.

    Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Rich Swann (c)

    MDJ: It's not Rich Swann’s fault he isn't exactly setting the world on fire as Cruiserweight Champion, but let's face facts: The division is gonna die without a legit star to drive it. It's Neville’s time to showcase himself as the real King of the Cruiserweights, and prove what he can do when he's unforgotten by Creative once and for all. 

    Stan: Y’all know this is just ceremonial at this point, right? MDJ’s right; this is Neville’s match to take as he puts Rich Swann down and crowns himself as the King… of the Cruiserweights. I can’t wait for him to carry the division and be the star it’s needed. Long live King Neville! *pinky raise*

    Anthony: I don’t think Neville wins it just yet. He’s been utterly dominant the past few weeks, so I’m placing my bets on Swann finding a way to escape with the win so we get the big Neville win at WrestleMania. Also, Neville can’t handle this.

    Tito Enzo: The Cruiserweight Division needs a long-term champion and “franchise player” sooner rather than later. I say Neville beats Swann at Royal Rumble, and successfully defends the belt against all comers for the next few months or so.

    WWE Royal Rumble 2017 is happening live on Monday, January 30, at 7 AM, Manila time

    If you'd like to experience what it's like to watch one of the WWE’s Big Four shows with hundreds of other screaming Filipino fans, join us at Skinny Mike's Sports Bar at 32nd Street cor. Justice Drive, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig for a special Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR) fundraiser

    Entrance costs P300, and can be paid for at the gate. One free drink will be given. Official event details can be found here

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    Item Reviewed: Ruthless Roundtable: WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michael Bueza
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