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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
TEAM COVERAGE:
WWE Royal Rumble PPV Preview
January 28, 2005

Compiled by Rick Scaia
Featuring All Your Favorite OnlineOnslaught.com Semi-Stars

 

Screw Super Bowl Weekend.... I mean, honestly: Pittsburgh and Seattle? That has about as much Big Event Sizzle to it as when the World Cup inevitably comes down to a pair of fourth-rate global powers like Portugal and Venezuela playing footsie for some perceived worldwide dominance while Americans collectively go "Who gives a shit? Until you get good at something important like Post-Industrialism or Basketball, you're a joke to us." Well, I guess Pittsburgh's alright, if you're old enough to actually have been alive back when they were good (which I think I partially was, but I sure as hell don't remember it). 

But how is Seattle a menacing football town which I am to respect or be a-feared-of? Bunch of whiny, coffee-chain-supporting, hippie arteets they are. Football's highest honor should be limited to manly cities. Big cities. Dirty cities. Cities with a bit of grit to them. In fact, the only city west of the Mississippi who should be allowed to host a Super Bowl Contending Franchise should be Oakland. And possibly Dallas.
 

But I digress... my main point was that, at least for southwest Ohioans with discriminating tastes, THIS weekend should easily be more exciting than the fricking Super Bowl.

I mean, look at this:

The Toughman Contest rolls into Dayton tonight. That's always good for a solid night's worth of watching

fights (and not just the ones in the ring that you paid for) and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, should those things hold any appeal for you.

Then Saturday marks the first of two Dayton/Xavier basketball showdowns this year. The game is in Cincinnati, and the Flyers are over-matched, but since UD has already played its way out of ANY post-season play (not even the NIT will touch us), you have to get excited about moral victories. And getting a Season Sweep over the Hated Musketeers would be count. Which means you gotta get Flyered Up, no matter if our record is under .500 or not!

And then Sunday? Hey, we all know what Sunday is: the Royal Rumble. Only the second-biggest PPV -- and usually the #1 most exciting continuous hour of action -- of the year in the wrestling world. The first two elements of my Holy Trinity of Crapulance might be geography-specific... but the Rumble is one thing that anybody reading this is gonna feel a little tingly about.

Does the undercard for Sunday's show seem a little weak? Nope, not at all; it seems CRIMINALLY weak. But guess what? Doesn't matter so much, because we know we'll be in for an hour long roller coaster ride at the end of the show, when 30 men go into the ring, and at the end of the night, one stands tall. Not just as the winner of the match, but as a guaranteed main eventer at WrestleMania 22.

That aspect, moreso than in years past, might even hold greater significance, just because of how cloudy the Road to WM appears to be at this juncture. In other words: WWE's chaotic situation (some of it their fault, much of it the result of unfortunate circumstances) means WAY more drama and uncertainty for fans heading into this Rumbler versus any Rumble in recent memory.

It oughta be a good time on Sunday night, and if you're wrestling fan enough to read this website, my guess is you're wrestling fan enough to checking out WWE's single most exciting hour of the year.

And then the other 2 hours of crap that'll go along with it. Here's how the staff of Online Onslaught are thinking about Sunday night's announced 5-match Royal Rumble PPV Card...  
 

THIRTY MAN OVER THE TOP ROPE
ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH

For a WM22 Main Event WWE/World Title Shot

The premise is simple: 30 of WWE's biggest stars enter the ring at 2 minute intervals. OK: so about a dozen genuine stars enter, and are joined by about 18 b-show guys. But nonetheless, the match ends with 29 of those 30 men being eliminated from the match by being thrown out over the top rope. And the One Man Who Remains is guaranteed to be in the main event at WrestleMania 22, contending for either the WWE or the World Title.

For the record, WWE has only announced 27 of the entrants so far, and will likely hold all three slots back until the Rumble itself. RAW's 13 confirmed entries are: Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Kane, Carlito, Ric Flair, Shelton Benjamin, Rob Van Dam, Chavo Guerrero, Trevor Murdoch, Viscera, Chris F. Masters, and Coach. SD!'s 14 entries are: Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Booker T, MNM, Matt Hardy, Orlando Jordan, Bobby Lashley, Simon Dean, the Mexicools, Road Warrior Animal, and Sylvan Grenier.

The three open slots? Well, let's just say I'd be stunned if Undertaker didn't flesh out the SD! half. But the RAW guys are a total crapshoot, depending on what storyline purpose those two slots serve. They could be anybody from genuinely surprising major stars down to Gregory Helms and Lance Cade. Or anything in between. Hell: in my Fantasy Universe (now suspended), Goldust was going to be one of my two "surprise" entries, and as long as his dad's a top writer for WWE, that's always as decent a bet as any. 

Basically: yes, there are three slots open. But here in the straight-preview section, I always warn against getting wild expectations, because that invariably only leads to disappointment. Think small, and then be happily surprised! Or at most, think medium and then be essentially satisfied.

Among the 27 announced men, are there any real pressing storylines one must be aware of heading into the Rumble? Well, since the Rumble's prize officially became the WM Title Shot, the custom has been to have one guy the fans are really rallying around to have to survive the other 29 men to earn his precious title shot. And since the Brand Split, it's basically turned into there being two men (one on each brand) who are kind of vying for titles, and who need to win the Rumble to get that guaranteed spot.

This year: there's none of that. NONE. The current champions on both brands have held their titles for less than 3 weeks, and so it's impossible to have any of that same sort of "slow-building/long-spanning title push" for any challenger. Both champs are less than 3 weeks old; by definition, any challengers' storylines are even younger than that. So for the first time in a long time, there's no clear cut choice(s) in terms of guys who are OBVIOUSLY in the hunt for WM Title Matches. I mean: there's definitely a few worthy contenders, it's just that from a storyline perspective, there is absolutely no reason to rank-order any one of them ahead of another. 

One of maybe 4-5 guys could certainly win and make for a compelling WM headliner... but the point is, the story will then be told entirely AFTER the contender is determined, instead of having any seeds sown before the Rumble.

There is, however, one HUGE story that sort of replaces the lack of compelling title contenders.... that story is that Shawn Michaels is in the Rumble, and would normally be on that short-list of very plausible winners. Except that in the last month or so, Michaels has offended Vince McMahon (suggesting that Vince "move on" past Montreal)... and though indications are that the original plan was to have the vague discussion lead up to Bret Hart showing up on WWE TV, that's apparently out the window (as Bret, unlike Vince, actually IS past Montreal).

So instead, the storyline took a twist and Vince McMahon has decided to go psycho on Michaels, latching on to that one moment as justification for trying to run Michaels out of WWE. Or at least put him in his place, if Michaels is determined to stay. So far, Shawn has leapt every hurdle and survived every scheme... but Vince McMahon promised on Monday that Shawn's luck would run out at the Royal Rumble. In fact, he guaran-damn-teed it.

So far: we know for sure that this will probably entail Michaels entering the Rumble in the #1 position. That's because Vince has given himself the power to personally conduct the drawing for Order of Entry. Since Vince already tried to screw HBK by making him enter the Elimination Chamber first three weeks ago, it stands to reason that history will repeat itself here. [It would also be interesting to see what, if any, significance can be gleaned from who Vince favors and selects to enter later in the match.]

And then there's also the matter of RAW's two open slots. Could those be used or abused by Vince as part of his vendetta against Shawn Michaels? It's at least a possibility.

I think that's just about everything you need to know about the Rumble match this year... so I'll just close out the section by quickly re-hashing the rules for the OOfficial Royal Rumble Game, as played at The Rick's Rumble Parties for at least 7-8 years, now. The rules may seem almost retardedly-simple, but trust me: history has shown this to be the perfect way to have a game that forces you to latch on to and cheer for a wrestler you would normally hate, all while having a scoring system simple enough that you can easily keep track of things no matter how many beers you've had.

What you do is you assign everybody in your group a number, 1 through however-many-people-in-your-group. The game works best with either 5 or 6 players, and is also fair and even with either 3 or 10 players. But 4, 7, 8, or 9 can work, too. You either pull your number out of a hat, or just agree upon the order, or whatever you want to do. And then: once the Rumble begins, you will be assigned wrestlers according to the number that you drew.

For instance, if you have a five-person game, and you draw #2, you will be assigned Rumble Entries #2, 7, 12, 17, 22, and 27. If you're #4 in a 6-person game, you'd get Rumble Entries #4, 10, 16, 22, and 28. And so on and so forth. It's not rocket science.

Important Note: it has been determined that if you play an "uneven" game (where not all players will receive the same number of wrestlers), you immediately give the players who are short one wrestler a 2-point head start. So: say you have a four-person game (which is likely what we'll be stuck with in my neck of the woods, since that's about how popular wrestling is anymore), #1 and #2 would each end up with 8 wrestlers, while #3 and #4 would get 7. So both #3 and #4 get the two-point head-start.

Then the way you accrue points is easy: one point for every single elimination performed by one of your wrestlers. You get one-half-point for any elimination where your wrestler was part of a team or group elimination (so when 8 guys team up to eliminate Viscera, yes, that's a 4-point elimination, and you just need to spread the half-points out accurately). CHANGE FOR 2006: you get 2 points for every wrestler you have in the Final Four (this replaces an old Final Five rule that increasingly made less and less sense). Then the runner-up gets 5 points. And the winner of the Rumble scores you 10 points.

No need to keep track of time/duration; just keep an eye on your wrestlers (even if they are Trevor Murdoch) and cheer for him to help you out with eliminations early. And then, since half the points are still up in the air when you get to the final four, almost everybody in the game should still have a mathematical chance to win until their final assigned wrestler is eliminated. It's really a fun (and easy) way to spice up the Rumble. You are encouraged to play along at home.

A final note: last year, the Rules Committee officially determined that even if one of your wrestlers has been eliminated, he can STILL get points if he illegally enters the ring and contributes (either singly or in a group) to an elimination, and that elimination is upheld by the officials. Fair? Maybe not. But it adds in the element of Potential Referee Screwjobbing, which DEFINITELY adds to the fun and the angry smack-talking. Especially if you mix your screwjobbing with a crew of drunkards!

Winning the OOfficial Royal Rumble Game may not result in you going to WrestleMania's main event.... but it could, at the very least, result in you being excused from paying a your share of the PPV/snacks/bill-at-Hooters costs. Which is nothing to sneeze at!
  

The OOutlOOk
Triple H wins: 4 votes  -|-  Randy Orton wins: 2 votes
Rey Mysterio  wins: 2 votes
(No Other Superstars Received Winning Votes)

Erin Anderson Says... Triple H wins.
Looking at the list of entrants here, I only see a few people who could realistically win this thing: Trips, Michaels, Taker, and Benoit. I think we can cross Michaels off that list; he's evaded Vince's attempts to screw with him so far, and that's not going to last much longer. And as much as I love Benoit and adore the idea of him facing Angle at Wrestlemania, isn't the current plan for Angle v. Taker? So Benoit's out.

That leaves Taker and Trips. I'm tempted to go with Taker, seeing as he's never won the Rumble match before, but when Triple H guarantees a Rumble win, I'm gonna listen. I didn't expect him to stay out of the main event this long, to be honest with you. I'm expecting strong showings from RVD, Lashley, and Rey Mysterio in this match, but Trips wins.

Come on, you knew it was gonna happen.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Randy Orton wins.
So I've started a little tradition this year that will (hopefully) help me pick the correct winners of each PPV main event: I simply simulate the match using "SmackDown vs. Raw 2006", with me playing the character that I think is most likely to win. If my character loses, then perhaps it wasn't meant to be. Last month, for example, I correctly picked Cena to win the Elimination Chamber, although Edge didn't run out at the end and demand an immediate title shot in the videogame. Also, Carlito wasn't cheered in my simulation.

For the Royal Rumble, this was a little more complicated because roughly half of the entrants aren't actually in the videogame. I gave some thought to using certain wrestlers as proxies for others, but then I decided wasn't going to half-ass it, and created virtually everyone in the Rumble, with some of them looking NOTHING like their originals (M&M, Kid Kash) and others looking pretty decent (Matt Hardy, Simon Dean). There were still three spots left over, which I gave to the three most likely surprise entrants: Scott Steiner, Ken Shamrock and Sycho Sid. Okay, maybe they won't actually show up this year, but it was fun designing them.

So who won at the end of the match? Well, I'm happy to say that it was none other than... ROAD WARRIOR ANIMAL, who last eliminated Sylvan to win the title shot at WrestleMania 22.

So, uh, fuck it, I'm just going to go with Randy Orton.

Why? Well, if I could choose anyone, it would be either Rey Mysterio or Triple H, but I'm just not feeling it. I've got another scenario in which HHH can find his way into the main event slot (see Edge-Cena predix). On a brand-by-brand basis, I just figure SmackDown needs the Rumble winner more than Raw right now, though if the last two years have shown us anything, it's that the winner may end up switching brands anyways.

As for Mysterio, he's really backed himself into a corner dedicating this match to Eddie Guerrero, which gives me hope that he could win. But Mysterio at Angle at Mania - while a potentially fantastic match - doesn't scream "money" to me, especially if both are still faces. While I don't like Orton, I have to think WWE could come up with a decent program for he and Angle. So perhaps Orton makes himself look like a (bigger) prick by eliminating Rey Rey last en route to fighting Angle at WM22.  

I'll let you know how the video game simulation of THAT match pans out.

The Cubs Fan Says... Triple H wins.
When in doubt, just pick chalk and be done with it. I don't really have an idea here - not because there are some people who could win, but because there's no one screaming out for a win - and after about a year of keeping himself out of World Title feuds, I suspect it's time for Triple H to start wearing the belt around his waist again. I have a feeling Cena might turn up here, but manage not to win here either.
Matt Hocking Says... Randy Orton wins.
Here's what I'm thinking.  Rey, Hunter and Randy are the only ones with a halfway decent shot of winning.  Maybe Shawn could if this was some other year, but I think his story with Vince will override any thoughts about him main eventing Wrestlemania.  Still, three good options are better than the last few years, where you were absolutely certain of at the winners.  Hell, if you didn't have Cena/Batista as your final two last year, you weren't paying close enough attention.

So on the basis that one of those three guys will be main eventing Mania (because, sadly they're not going to do the Simon Dean push I've been hoping for), Rey Misterio isn't likely to be in there against a newly face-turned Angle, and Hunter doesn't need to win the Rumble to get a title match at Mania (he is, after all, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords).

Angle/Orton isn't the most compelling Mania main event ever, but the fact of the matter is that Orton is as believable as anybody else from Smackdown in winning it and in main eventing a major PPV.  And Smackdown desperately needs a good Mania main event.  I think it'll be a fun match this year.  It always is.  The jobberiest jobbers are still in there, but they've got some fun spot workers too.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Triple H wins.
For the first time in God knows how long, I am really clueless as to who's winning this thing and I'm not alone.  On one hand, it's gonna be great to watch it and be surprised.  However it makes for a hell of a time trying to pick a winner.  I'll try to go over some of the likely candidates and explain why I did or didn't choose them.
 
Rey Mysterio: Rey's got the whole "doing this for Eddie" thing going on and they've been teasing lately that he could be considered a legitimate contended for the title.  However, we're talking about Wrestlemania here and I just don't know if they have that much confidence in Rey being a main event draw.  Perhaps the biggest setback to Rey winning is who he would be facing, Kurt Angle.  If they kept Kurt a heel, I would be more prone to picking Rey.  However, I just don't see a face vs. face matchup, nor do I see them turning Kurt heel again so soon as it would be illogical.  Rey will get his title shot at some point, it just won't come from winning the Rumble.
 
Randy Orton: Randy's name has been talked about a lot as far as winning the Rumble, if only in that he's probably the biggest heel name currently on Smackdown.  While that may be true, a win for Orton just seems so anti-climatic.  Of the likely candidates to win this, he's got the least star power.  Plus, he hasn't been given any noticeable push on TV as a likely candidate to win.  In fact, he's been stuck in this whole U.S. title scene and I'm not sure if I see them being able to wrap up his storyline with Booker in enough time to then move on to title match at WM.  In fact, I think it would be more likely for Booker to somehow win the Rumble and then Randy calls in his favor and takes Booker's title shot.
 
Shawn Michaels: Poor Shawn, it's looking like he'll be #1 again this year.  With the announcement that Vince will be "drawing" everyone's number during the PPV, HBK seems doomed to get a low number.  Although, I would like to see them spice it up and have Vince give him #2 since Shawn made Vince #2 back in '99.  The odds are the same, but it's a little less predictable.  Despite Shawn's lower number, I'll predict that he'll make it to the Final Four and then he'll somehow get screwed.  Whether that's by Vince himself or by some lackey. 
 
HHH: Things have been surprisingly quiet from HHH lately, which makes me all that more worried that we're about to see a whole lot more from him in the near future.  While HHH hasn't had much screen time, he's made it quite clear on a couple of shows that he intends on winning the Rumble and going on to WM.  About the only reason I can think of why he wouldn't win the Rumble is because they could find a legitimate way of having him fight for the title at WM without him winning the Rumble.  Despite that, he seems like the choice to go with.  If they put the title back on Cena (god forbid) HHH can probably do his best to remain heel in the feud.  However, if they stick with Edge, I think a case could be made for HHH to somehow turn face and have it work.
 
Aside from the winner, I'm not quite sure what else to expect.  RVD returns but I will be very surprised if he does more than make an impact upon entry only to be eliminated 2 guys later.  Kane and Show will both have moments of domination, but I either see them eliminating each other or somehow be eliminated by Carlito and Masters to further a feud between the four of them.  Lashley will likely get a Diesel push, but with so many other big guys in this year's Rumble, I don't see his performance being memorable.  Finally, with a few spots open, we could see some surprise entrants, but I don't think it will be anybody great. 
PyroFalkon Says...  Triple H wins.
You know, when I was trying to figure out who's going to win this, I had this horrible vision of Chris Masters getting the nod. He's already overpushed, he already was in one title match, why the hell not win Rumble, right? But no, not even WWE could be that stupid... could they?

I just had another horrible vision. Edge wins the WWE title match, but John Cena wins the Royal Rumble and faces him again anyway. I'm dead serious... I had put that Triple H was going to win, but it almost makes too much sense that WWE, in an attempt to make Super-Cena-man look more super, would give him his shot this way. It would suck, but I just have this feeling... It's illogical, stupid, and improbable, but that hasn't stopped WWE before. Plus, there are two RAW spots unaccounted for, and with both rosters a little slim, this would not entirely surprise me.

...And now that I think about it, Cena would have to go through Triple H to win the Royal Rumble if this was booked this way. You know what, I'm switching my pick back to Triple H. Man, I'm confusing myself.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Rey Mysterio wins.
This is, of course, the hardest match to pick. We can easily rule out about 80% of the lineup, and it really comes down to just a few real possibilities.

On Raw's side, you have Big Show and Kane, who have both main evented before but probably aren't going to win this. Shawn Michaels seems to have his hands full with Vince, so he probably won't be thrust into the main event picture right now. RVD won't make that jump right away, and I don't think it is Flair's time (especially if he is having a legend match at Mania). Masters and Viscera will last a while, but they both have no chance of winning (knock on wood). Carlito could be eliminated first or last, but he WILL be eliminated. Chavo, Coach, and Trevor Murdoch are all silly diversions here. That leaves us only HHH and Shelton as possibilities from Raw, and I don't know if the title is where they are headed with Shelton and his Mama.

Onm Smackdown, there are a few more realistic possibilities, but not many. Benoit is always ready for the main event. ReyRey got that big pep-talk from Batista the other week, and we can only hope and pray that it wasn't something WWE did one day and forgot about the next. Orton and Booker are both realistic title contenders, although Booker has both an injury and another title. And that's it. Bobby Lashley will probably win the big belt some day, but that day will not be in 2006, and certainly not in April 2006. Mercury and Nitro, Matt Hardy, Orlando Jordan, Sylvan, Animal, Simon Dean, and the Mexicools are all diversions.

So we are down to Triple H, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, and Booker T. I don't see Benjamin flowing nicely into a feud with Cena or Edge, so I am ruling him out. So if a Raw guy is going to win, it will be HHH. Everyone would love to see Angle face Benoit or Mysterio, but it seems like either of those matches would be face/face types, given the direction they are going with Angle. Of course, a face/face match requires some sort of outside influence -- such as winning the Royal Rumble -- to set up the feud while maintaining mutual respect. Booker is tied up with his U.S. Title, and Orton (seemingly) is still involved there, since Booker "owes him one." So I am down to Triple H, Rey, or Benoit. And the winner is...

Triple H seems too obvious. Benoit seems too out-of-left-field. Rey seems too improbable. So I go with my heart and say that Rey Mysterio wins.

Also, it looks like at least some of the three remaining spots in the Rumble match will go to Vince's hired goons, to make Shawn Michaels' life miserable. I know it is cross-brand, but I wouldn't mind seeing Gymini get a couple of those spots. And Vader. Definitely Vader. (If we are assuming Taker takes one of those spots, then I guess Vader is out.)
Rick Scaia Says... Rey Mysterio wins.
Am I picking Rey because he was going to win in my Fantasy Universe, and I just would be really excited to see WWE move forward with something that *I* thought sounded like a neat idea? Maybe in part.

But I also have good reasons.

Namely: process of elimination really gets us down from a half-dozen possible winners to just two. And then, you have to make a pick. I pick Rey.

On RAW: just look at the listed entrants and ask yourself, "How many of these men would WWE really entrust with a WM Main Event"? Although RAW's roster in the Rumble is a bit stronger than SD!'s as you get to the 7th and 8th guys are are still dealing with upper-mid-carders, the answer is pretty obviously just two. Triple H and Shawn Michaels. And folks: the storyline with Vince means that Shawn will not be winning. That leaves HHH and only HHH.

[Note: there is a far-flung fantasy world where you could put the returning Rob Van Dam on the short-list. And then you'd take note of what Edge did in a Ladder Match against a 60 year old man. And then you'd wet yourself in glee at the prospects of what Edge could do in the WM22 spotlight in a TLC match against an RVD who is healthy and 100% for the first time since the early 90s... and then you'd wake up, because no matter how cool that might sound, it's something that I bet hasn't even been brought up at WWE HQ, because it's that far off their radar as a possibility. And you may now all curse me to hell for planting the notion of Edge/RVD TLC in your minds.]

On SmackDown!: you basically have three guys who could conceivably win, and then 12 other guys who don't stand a chance. Rey is in the mix, even if only because he's "dedicating this performance to Eddie Guerrero." Chris Benoit is in the mix because he's done it before, and he's turned a Rumble win into a World Title Win before, and simply put, there's no scientifically plausible way Benoit and Angle could have a bad match at WM22. And Randy Orton is probably in the mix just because he's fricking Randy Orton and WWE has a hard-on for him that is as-yet unexplained. Especially now that Royal Rumble Creator Pat Patterson's been dismissed from his job. 

But then, I think you can pretty safely eliminate Orton and Benoit from the equation. Benoit just because no matter how much it might feel like WWE's turning a corner, I can't believe that they'd just lay down and give the fans what they want: a Killer Benoit/Angle main event at WM22. They'll want something with a little more sizzle and storyline behind it other than "These two have had a lot of matches and they've all been awesome." And Orton's gotta be out because there has been absolutely ZERO tangible improvement over the past year in either his abilities as an on-screen performer or in his ability to connect with an audience at a meaningful level (other than at the level where he went three weeks in a row getting "Boring" chanted at him for putting interminable headlocks on Benoit). And a year ago, WWE finally took note of Orton's shortcomings at the last second and changed up WM plans to give Batista the spotlight instead of Orton. What the hell logic is there in thinking that the same Orton, one year later, would suddenly be deemed worthy of the push that he had taken away from him last year? So we're down to Rey on SD!.

And then, a word about the Mystery Men. As far as RAW goes, I honestly think that you'll either get two wildcards designed to eliminate Shawn Michaels and NOT do anything else, like try to win the match. So even if its a hired goon(s) of pretty major stature (a lot of people think there's reason to believe the Rock could be in the mix, but I'd warn against Lofty Expectations, even if the PPV is taking place in his hometown), said goons would take care of HBK, and likely just disappear. In fact, that'd be just about the only solid way to guarantee that a returning superstar of any significant stature could get booed and be a heel in the Michaels/Vince feud. Imagine somebody like the Rock or Hogan coming out, eliminating Michaels, but then, just when the fans might want to start cheering and welcoming them back, the Hired Goon eliminates himself in a giant "Fuck You, I'm just here to get paid." 

The other alternative for RAW's two slots is that they could go to returning mid-carders like Tatanka and Charlie Haas, as little mini-suprises. Which would be OK-but-underwhelming, and it's not like you have to consider either of them as a potential winner.

SD!'s one mystery man? Well, the speculation begins and ends with the Undertaker. And he'd certainly make for a compelling possible winner. Problem is: WWE is already advertising that Taker is getting the February PPV title shot at Angle. And why the hell would Taker get a title shot in February, if he was winning the Rumble and going on to WM22's main event? The answer: he wouldn't. 

So: like I said, it comes down to two men, in my estimation. Triple H or Rey Mysterio. Not surprisingly, they are the two men who have most directly addressed the issue of winning the Rumble. HHH in his "King of Kings" promos, promising to regain his lost stature. And Rey in a promo dedicating his performance in the Rumble to Eddie Guerrero and promising to do Eddie proud by winning. One of these men is dropping an anvil. And the other is in here as WWE's red herring to distract us from the anvil. But which is which?

Simple logic: to get a WrestleMania Main Event, an undersized underdog like Rey NEEDS the gimmick of winning the Rumble to elevate himself into a spot that most fans wouldn't have thought possible just one year ago. But HHH? He has all the credibility -- the GRAVITAS, if you will -- to just spend the next 9 weeks until WrestleMania forcibly inserting himself into RAW's title picture, and fans would accept it. To get a title match at WM, Rey simply needs this win to make it work; HHH does not. Thus: my pick.

Also, with the picture so cloudy as to what's gonna happen with Angle's face/heel role as he locks up with Taker, there are a lot of interesting things you could do to start introducing or contributing to his tweener- or heelish-ness if Rey wins. You could do a story between now and No Way Out where Rey's not sure which title he wants to fight for at WM, and Angle could try to steer him towards RAW. Not exactly re-inventing the wheel after last year's storylines, but it's something that SD! could run with for a few weeks.... whereas if HHH wins, there is no storyline, since he's already said he's gunning for Edge or Cena, and that's that. Again, another little reason why I think -- once you isolate Rey as the best option on the SD! side -- you also give Rey the nod over HHH (who is the only convincing option on the RAW side).

 

EDGE vs. JOHN CENA
WWE Title Match

Edge wasn't even in the title picture 3 weeks ago. Now, he's the champ.

After Cena survived a 30 minute Elimination Chamber match against 4 Worthy Adversaries and one Chris F. Masters, he was beaten and bloodied... and under the misapprehension that his night was over. It wasn't.

Edge, holder of the Money In The Bank Title Shot for almost 9 months, made a withdrawal, and wanted his title shot right then and there. On the orders of Vince McMahon, this is exactly what happened. It took Edge less than two minutes to polish off Cena and win the title.

In the ensuing three weeks, the "feud" has essentially consisted of Cena demanding his rematch, getting it locked in for the Rumble PPV, and then calling Lita a "ho" a whole bunch of time.

Edge, at least, has made slightly better use of his time, putting an exclamation point at the end of the sentence that was his feud against Ric Flair. The two had an amazing TLC Match 2 weeks ago. Edge has also had strong promo showings in the last two weeks, openly addressing the issue of fans perceiving him as a "transitionary champion," and promising that that won't be the case.

The fact that Edge is still carrying around Cena's gay-ass Bling Belt might suggest otherwise, but Edge telling the fans "I know what you're thinking, and I'm gonna prove you all wrong" has been a perfect way for his character to generate a ton of heat. And to generate a ton of ratings. 

Edge's 3 weeks as champ have resulted in ratings of 4.3, 4.3, and then this week, a 4.5. That, my friends, is RAW's strongest 3-week ratings average since April 2002. I'm a loser, and I have all this stuff in a spreadsheet, and I guarantee you this is true: the last 3-week stretch where RAW averaged a 4.3 or better was almost four full years ago. I know WWE is trying to act like this is attributable not to Edge, but rather to fans like me who DVR RAW and watch it on a time-shift instead of in real time (Tivo/DVR households only got added into Nielsen ratings starting on January 9)... but by saying that, WWE is also admitting that at least a half-ratings point worth of fans (about 12% of their audience) are so bored with RAW that we just record it and watch it later when we can fast-forward all the crap. That's not necessarily anything to be proud of, dum dums. At the very least, it'll be interesting to see if this has any effect on WWE's thinking, which (given that they didn't allow Edge to wear a Real Title Belt right out of the chute) I'm guessing was to just use Edge as a 3-week transitionary champ. But I think all signs point to Edge having earned the right to at least be CONSIDERED as the champ moving forward after the Rumble.

To me, that's where the intrigue lies. Like I said, the feud is pretty "meh." Edge uses his brains to get a fortuitous title shot and cashes in, Cena demands rematch and cuts promos mostly at his usual 7th grade level of tauntery, and that's that. But I also like the chances of this being a strong match. One way or the other, fans will respond strongly to both characters, and that's at least half-the-battle.
  

The OOutlOOk
Edge wins: 7 votes   --|--  No Contest: 1 vote

Erin Anderson Says... Edge d. John Cena.
After that ridiculous Live "Sex" Celebration the night after Edge's title win, I figured he'd be dropping the strap like a bad habit. Not so much anymore after that TLC match and WWE's continued bungling of Cena's character. I have absolutely no idea how WWE would make Triple H v. Edge work at Wrestlemania, but since when has logic stopped them before? Edge retains, probably with some help from Lita.
Canadian Bulldog Says... NO CONTEST.
See, I just KNOW I'm going to get this pick wrong, but it still seems like the most logical step here. If they somehow vacate the title at this PPV, Triple H can win a number one contenders match some time in February, setting up for an Edge-Cena-HHH Triple Threat at WrestleMania. If Edge wins here, Cena doesn't look like a threat anymore, and vice versa. Thus, some sort of screwjob finish -- a la the Shawn Michaels-Triple H Rumble match in 2004 -- could draw the issue out a bit longer.

Having said that, I could still see Edge winning. I could also see Cena winning. It's definitely a tough one to call either way, thus I'm waffling and calling for some sort of inconclusive ending.

The Cubs Fan Says... Edge d. Cena (via DQ).
I think we're getting some sort of rematch (probably with Triple H) for WrestleMania here, so no clean finish on this show. Edge said he wasn't going to be a flash in a pan champion, and I guess I'm choosing to believe him. They won't kill off Cena; he'll get screwed in some fashion, I'm sure. One of the focuses of the build here is Cena having
one and only one chance to get the belt back, so I think the outcome is Edge stealing the chance from him. They're counting on this match to be good, and it'd be a career performance for one or both men to be as good as it needs to be.
Matt Hocking Says... Edge d. John Cena.
Spinnin' titles or no spinnin' titles, it seemed like it was going to be a lock that Edge dropped the belt back to Cena sooner rather than later, so Johnny boy could go to Mania and defend the belt against Triple H or some such riffraff.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.  You see, Edge actually worked out as a champion.  Ratings have been consistantly high, and not just during live nipple slips, and Edge has been able to get good heat, do decent promos, and he's already had one Match of the Year candidate with a man almost twice his senior.

So I think Edge hangs on to it here.  One PPV win at least, as a thanks from the Fed for doing better than expected with his reign.  I don't know that he'll be champion come Wrestlemania, but a nice little extension never hurt anybody, not even Cena, who will probably come out of this match either closer to a heel turn or more over as a sympathetic face chasing the cocky heel.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Edge d. Cena.
I may be making this decision from my heart instead of my brain, but I just don't care.  I am hoping that WWE realizes that the rating for RAW have been up for the past 3 weeks since Edge won and believe that keeping the title on him is the right move.  Personally, having Cena win doesn't make sense as the problems with fan support for Cena will still exist and you discredit Edge as a worthy champion.  Given that Cena got the "win" on Monday, I'm also hoping that that is an indicator of Edge getting the win here.  It's unlikely that we'll see a clean finish if Edge wins, but that's ok because all that can do is help Edge's heel heat.  I don't like to beg WWE, but if that's what it will take to have Edge keep the title, I'm not above doing it. 
PyroFalkon Says...  Edge d. Cena.
For the above to work, Cena will have to lose this match. Even if Cena doesn't reappear in the Rumble for some reason, this is hopefully the outcome.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Edge d. Cena.
Rick is right: when Edge won the title, it had "short reign" written all over it. But Edge has taken the ball and run with it, giving us great promos and a sweet match with Flair. And WWE has played it up too; I think we all expect Triple H to end up in the main event at Wrestlemania one way or another, but they have given us enough doubt about face/heel alliances that we don't know who he will be facing. Will Cena still be a face? Will HHH still be a heel? Those two questions alone mean that if HHH is in the title match at Mania, it could be against Cena OR Edge. And it's always possible that HHH won't be in that title match, so we could have something completely different. I like the idea of Edge carrying the title into Wrestlemania, even though I don't really know who he would go up against. I think he has earned the chance to carry things for a while, so I pick him.
Rick Scaia Says... Edge d. Cena.
I'm picking with Rick Think on this one.... I would bet a body part (ummm, this month, let's make it my tonsils) that three weeks ago, Edge was a last-second decision pulled out of somebody's ass to try to grab the attention of wrestling fans.... and then the plan was to have him drop the title back to Cena at the Rumble. If nothing else, the continued existence of the Bling Belt speaks volumes for what Edge's original prospects were.

But then ratings and fan reactions have proven Edge a more-than-capable champion. The uncertainty of how any random set of fans would react to Cena and his massively fluctuating ratings almost make Cena a risk as champ, whereas things have been fairly stable so far with Edge. I'm not saying that WWE will have the balls to totally renege on their original plans, but I am saying that Edge has at least earned a bit of consideration...

And in Rick Think, after that consideration, I say you give the guy more time to prove himself. There's still over 2 months before WM22, and you can always pull a trigger and change directions if Edge's momentum peters out. Plus, and this is something I consider to be VERY important: given the style of promos that Edge has done the past two weeks, if he does drop the title and if he IS a transitional champion, you are basically setting back his main event prospects 2 years, back to when he made his return from injury. That would be a long hard slog to get back to where he is now. And to protect Edge and capitalize on the work he's done and is doing, all you need to do is let him get past the Rumble, to get that one win in that mainstream fans don't think he's got in him. And then once he's shoved it in their stupid faces and they grow to hate him even more for being right about the whole transitional champion thing, you can go ahead and build up to him dropping the title, without doing NEARLY as much damage to his character.

I say you tell these guys to go out there, cut loose, no handcuffs, and have the best possible match they can. On an undercard this awful, there is a HUGE opportunity here for them to shine... but in the end, you do a finish where maybe it looks like Cena out-fought Edge. But Edge out-thinks Cena. That's been another of his promo elements lately: that you don't have to be the biggest or the strongest, so long as you are the smartest.

That could take a lot of forms, but something I'm kinda liking is if Edge just does everything in his power (and everything in Lita's power) to frustrate Cena and make him flip out and do something blatant in front of the ref to get disqualified. It's something the petulant Cena character has done before (in a match against Angle), but it made no sense then and served no storyline purpose: but here, it plays into the storyline of Edge out-smarting Homey the Clown. Doubly so if Edge tricks Cena into pissing away his only title shot. Remember: the talking point a week ago is that Cena gets one shot, and then it's to the Back Of The Line, and fans have to pick some other over-rated jerkface to latch onto.

So let's have that prophecy come true, and then Edge gets a REAL title belt Monday on RAW, and the jerkfaces start lining up. Triple H has been sneaking in the babyface-ish-ness a bit lately. Is it by accident? And if Triple H and Ric Flair could somehow become re-united in their hatred of Edge, might that be all it takes for RAW's half of the WM22 main event to take shape?

 

KURT ANGLE vs. MARK HENRY
World Heavyweight Title Match

So basically: this match is happening because Batista banged the holy living hell out of Melina. Hand to god, that's essentially the truth.

But then, as soon as Melina brought Mark Henry in as her own personal walking, talking restraining order, Batista got injured, and had to forfeit the World Heavyweight Title. WWE's Hollywood Writer Monkeys, being the crafty and clever sumbitches they are, were told "OK, we're gonna give you Kurt Angle from the RAW Roster to work with," and instead of crafting anything new or interesting for the guy, they pretty much just decided to cram the square peg that is Angle into the round hole that is Melina. Oh, and her storyline and Mark Henry, too.

Angle won Batista's Title in a Battle Royale, and was then immediately handed Batista's hellish job of trying to make Mark Henry watchable. Without the sexual harassment storyline, the transition wasn't exactly smooth, but they did at least make a token effort to remove Melina from the equation and replace him with Angle's disgraced former manager, Daivari, who is now in control of Henry's reins. 

And yet, that didn't stop Kurt Angle from being put into a handicap match against Melina's MNM tonight on SD!... probably just because the Writer Monkey had already written it up on their flow-chart for Batista, and lacked the effort or intelligence to shake things up to make more sense. Oy.

Anyway, I figure this is basically Angle-as-Batista's-proxy wrestling against Mark Henry. And it's only after Sunday night when this title reign will truly become Kurt's and things can get interesting.

The best we can hope for at the Rumble, though, is that WWE knows enough to keep this short and sweet. And that Angle doesn't injure himself trying to make Henry look like a credible threat, and have the same fate befall him that befell the man he's replacing here. It won't be pretty, but if they let Angle show-off as just a total bad-ass (instead of actually doing an extended mid-match babyface in peril bit), it could still be a very effective little 5-6 minute special.  No actually asking the fans to feel sorry for Kurt or to believe in Henry: just a painless orthoscopic procedure in which Kurt takes care of business quickly and removes some fatty tissue, placing it off to one side, where it can try not to bother anybody else again until its unfathomable 10-year contract from right after the '96 Olympics finally runs out. Tick tock, Mark Henry, tick tock.
  

The OOutlOOk
Angle wins: 8 votes   --|--  Henry wins: 0 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
And I thought Bob Holly, #1 Contender was bad. Give me a fucking break.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
I don't necessarily dislike Mark Henry. He's one of those rare guys who just has to look impressive to be taken seriously. He definitely isn't the worst wrestler on the roster and he does have some charisma going for him. But to make him a title threat, you have to build him up a little. Sexual Chocolate has been off the roster for such a long time that having him sneak-attack a handful of top guys over a period of two months does NOT cement his status a main eventer.

But as fodder to get Kurt Angle over, Henry is perfectly fine. I expect this to be a brief-ish squash, hopefully moving Angle onto some better programs between now and 'Mania.

The Cubs Fan Says... Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
I can't even imagine the other outcome. This is the only sane result. If Angle's hurt, this match will be AWFUL.
Matt Hocking Says... Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
I love WWE, stupid decisions and all, but there's no chance in hell they're going to waste the World Title on Henry.  I mean, really.  I have no idea what a good storyline for Angle coming out at Wrestlemania would be (except, apparently Orton), but there's no friggin' way Mark Henry will get the win.

I suspect that this match will be everything you'd think it'd be.  Slow, plodding, with Angle working his ass off and bumping like a crazy man to try to put Henry over before Mizzark taps out.  Daivari will be an interesting little prop for some fun spots, but I don't think he'll be of any ulitimate
consiquence.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
You know, back in the year 1996 when Vince gave Mark Henry that 10 year contract, I'm sure there was a clause in the contract which said that Mark would be guaranteed at least one title match.  At the time, Vince probably thought it wasn't a big deal.  I mean, look at the guy, he's huge.  He'll surely get over and easily accepted as a main eventer.  Now, 10 years later, Vince has had to scramble to somehow get that fat piece of crap healthy enough so that he can have his one title shot.  At this point, it doesn't matter how NOT over Henry is or how he's nowhere near main event caliber, as long as that clause is fulfilled Vince is safe.  It sucks for the fans, because we actually have to sit through this match.  But rest assured, come 6 months from now, all this will be over and Vince can finally release the guy who's lone accomplishment has been fathering a hand with an 80 year old woman.
PyroFalkon Says...  Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
Please. The only way I could see this not happening is if Daivari causes a DQ in favor of Mark Henry. Angle needs to just do the impressive-looking Angle Slam to Mark Henry, pin him, and be done with career midcarders like this.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
If you have been reading my Smackdown recaps, it is no secret how I feel about Mark Henry. Mark Henry does not have what it takes to be a champion. Not a transitional champion, not a "just until Angle wins the title back on Friday" champion, nothing. There is absolutely no justifiable reason that Mark Henry could possibly win this match. A cynic might say that is support for the idea that he WILL win, but I am not a cynic. Kurt Angle wins, hopefully in sufficiently convincing fashion that he moves on to a more worthy opponent. (Unfortunately, when it comes to main-event heels on Smackdown, that pretty much means JBL, Booker, or Orton, and none of those ideas have me wetting my pants in anticipation. I repeat what I said in last week's recap: there is not a wrestling fan alive who wouldn't like to see Angle vs. Mysterio on a big ol' stage like Wrestlemania. But I have digressed plenty from the point of this paragraph: Angle wins.)
Rick Scaia Says... Kurt Angle d. Mark Henry.
I could probably do 500 words on how foregone a conclusion this match is. But why bother, when Chris Jericho out-clevered me in his WWE.com Predictions:
 
"I pick Angle. Mark Henry is about as serious a threat to win the World Title as Funaki."

Also in his predictions, you can so totally tell that he still has a thing for Trish. The Love Rhombus, unlike Matt Hardy, REALLY Will Not Die!

 

DIVA SEARCH ASHLEY vs. MICKIE JAMES
Trish Stratus is the Special Referee

Oddly enough, this match is easily the one on the card with the most and best back-story. Which is not to say there weren't a few rough moments back about a month ago, but WWE (reportedly with a bit of input from the participants themselves) has done a nice job re-un-fucking things and making this twisted little Friendship Triangle one of the more compelling issues on RAW.

You have to go back almost 6 months to get to the start of this, when Ashley found herself in over her head as the new chick on the block, and was losing matches and getting her narrow ass beat with regularity. Until she finally called for back-up: Trish Stratus, who returned from injury to lend a hand to the new girl.

Trishley made for an effective duo, but on the depleted-roster-hellscape that is the women's division these days (oh to still have Molly, and Gail, and even Spaz!), there wasn't a whole lot to do until ANOTHER new chick showed up: Mickie James, who came out of nowhere to attack, Berzerker-style, anytime Trish appeared to be in peril.

Turns out Mickie is Trish's #1 Fan, and totally idolizes her (and has even impersonated her on one occasion, and stolen moves from Trish's argot on many others). And Mickie is also prone to violent mood swings and may be downright psycho. I'm still saying that for this to really pay off, you just have the Monkeys read "Misery" (or see the movie, it's just as good), and this thing could be a red-hot feud heading into WM...

But anyway, there was a little bump in the road when Mickie earned a title shot at Trish, and turned into a pretend-lesbian for a bit as part of an ill-conceived "mind game." But then Trish won that match, and somebody flipped a switch and untarded the feud. They remembered, "Hey, Trish is friends with Ashley!" (Ashley had gotten lost in the shuffle, and for reasons unexplained had briefly taken to palling around with Maria)... and then they realized that they could use it.

Trish, understandably so, just sort of wants to distance herself from the nutjob, and started hanging out with Ashley again. Mickie had no choice but to get increasingly jealous of Ashley. This manifested itself in Mickie attacking Ashley in the middle of a six-woman tag match when Trish decided to tag in Ashley instead of tag in Mickie. And then attacking Ashley again when Ashley was wrestling a singles match. At which point, Trish tried to confront Mickie about this, and Mickie broke down and cried because Mickie's really only doing these things because she's trying to impress Trish. Trish, being a far more decent and caring person that I, actually half-heartedly consoled Mickie.

So what happens next? Trish decides to be partners with Ashley for a tag match, and after they are victorious, Mickie sprints out and brutalizes Ashley for stealing what Mickie thought should have been HER spot as Trish's tag partner. And her best friend. Cuckoo, Cuckoo.

Which brings us to where we'll be on Sunday: Ashley's finally had enough of Mickie, and Mickie's insanely jealous of Ashley, and poor Trish is caught in the middle. There's no doubt that Mickie is the smoother and more seasoned wrestler, but this past Monday, Ashley showed a new ability: the ability to cloud minds with sweet little Highspots, so that we don't care as much that her more basic moves like headlocks and armbars look clunky. So Mickie's good, Ashley's looking willing to do some higher risk stuff, and you've got Trish and the Storyline... I think prospects are good for an entertaining palate cleanser. I don't think you ask them to stretch it more than 8 minutes or so, but that's still two minutes longer than I think you give to Mark Henry.
  

The OOutlOOk
Ashley wins: 4 votes   --|--  Mickie wins: 4 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Ashley d. Mickie.
Probably the most interesting match on the card, storyline-wise. The way I'd handle it: Ashley is overmatched but ends up winning with Trish's help, and Mickie finally snaps and goes apeshit on Trish. Also, Mickie's entrance music will be changed to Eminem's "Stan."
Canadian Bulldog Says... Ashley d. Mickie.
As I've said previously, the Trish Stratus-Mickie James storyline is one of the most well-planned angles in WWE these days. Not sure if that says more about the current writing team or a genuine interest in getting the storyline over, but at least it's happening.

They've done the slow burn behind the Mickey (or possibly even Trish) heel turn for some time now, and it's probably just about time to execute it. It's not rocket science, either: you have Trish count Mickie down, she flips out and attacks her mentor. Of course, they've been hinting at Lita getting the big match with Trish, but I certainly think they can wait on that for a little while longer to finish off Trish and Mickie by, say, WrestleMania.

The Cubs Fan Says... Mickie d. Ashley.
The only reason I can figure they're pounding the Mickie James/Trish stuff so hard each and every week is they're planning Trish vs Mickie in some sort of stip match at WrestleMania, and it's the only match they've got planned for WrestleMania so they've got to make it big. If that's
where we're going, Mickie ought to be winning here, rather than going into WM with two straight PPV loses. This match will be AWFUL.
Matt Hocking Says... Mickie d. Ashley.
Kind of an interesting match because they could go so many different ways with this and most of them wouldn't suck at all!  Trish as a guest ref adds a little dimension of interest as she'll have to side with either Ashley or Mickey eventually (and clearly, at least for now, it seems as though she'll side with Ashley).  I think Mickey needs to win to keep herself strong heading into Mania.  So here's two possible senarios I see shaking out:

1)  Mickey wins by some kind of weapon shot, Trish doesn't see it.  With Ashley out of the picture, Mickey's stalking of Trish intensifies building up to Mania.

2)  Trish sides with Mickey, and they do some kind of funky Triple turn with Candice and Torrie, putting them with Ashley (to better promote Playboy?) while Mickie and Trish side with Victoria.  Of course That would make all your actual wrestling women heels, but...whatever.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Mickie James d. Ashley.
There are all sorts of ways that this one can go.  Especially since Trish is the referee.  However, I'm really not sure which way they will decide on.  Given that Mickie has a whole lot more talent than Ashley does, I think it would be really stupid for Ashley to win here.  That's not to say that this will be a squash by any means.  The relationship between these three is in this great grey area where any of them can switch from face to heel within the course of this match and it wouldn't seem odd.  I think Trish reluctantly gives Mickie the win here, but afterwards Mickie will continue to attack Ashley which finally puts Trish over the edge and she attacks Mickie in order to stop her.
PyroFalkon Says...  Ashley d. Mickie.
Whether Ashley wins by DQ or something, I couldn't know. But if Trish calls the match against Mickie, it will give Mickie a good reason to finally turn full-on heel. Of course, if they want to slow-burn this storyline a little longer before making the turn, that would be fine by me.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Mickie d. Ashley.
Every time a women's match comes on on Raw, I am glad I recap Smackdown. I have nothing but respect for Trish and her abilities, but in general (and maybe this is more because of the quality of her competition than because of her), the best I can hope for is "good for a girls' match." Even back when WWE had several women who were capable of wrestling on the roster, it was a rare thing for me to actually enjoy a women's match. So that attitude certainly taints my excitement about this match. Ashley is improving incrementally, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she is, within a year or two, able to regularly pull off "good for a girls' match" matches on a regular basis. Mickie is closer to that level, but still not comparable to Trish or Molly or some of the others. So if I were ordering this PPV, instead of checking OO Sunday night for the results, I would probably be glad that there's not much chance WWE is going to give this match more than six or eight minutes. Obviously, Trish will get involved. Will she help Ashley win? Will she accidentally cause Ashley to lose? Will she turn heel and deliberately cause Ashley to lose, then have a Live Sex Celebration in the ring with Mickie? I don't have any idea how it will go down, but I am guessing that Mickie wins this one.
Rick Scaia Says... Ashley d. Mickie.
If I were an Internet Jack-off, I'd be all "Mickkie has to win since she's more talented and more experienced, and if WWE gives a win to Ashley, it's a travesty of justice." But I'm not. Because for this story to work, what I'm envisioning is Ashley getting the win.

That's the best way to knock a few more legs out from under Mickie's already-precariously-balanced mental state. If Mickie wins, there are absolutely zero compelling developments possible. She wins, she gets what she wants, and any additional outbursts she has are just sort of random. But if Mickie, the more experienced wrestler, can't beat a greenhorn like Ashley, and it's in ANY WAY due to Referee Trish? Oh, honey pie, you KNOW that's when the crazy-ass psycho Annie Wilkes shit is gonna be ON.

So I predict that Mickie -- in deference to Trish -- starts out trying to out-wrestle Ashley cleanly. And mostly does. But she just can't get the pinfall. So Mickie's frustration ramps up, and it's to-hell-with-feelings, and she just starts brawling with Ashley. But STILL can't get the pinfall. Frustration mounts and mounts along with all the 2-counts. And finally, the frustration boils over onto Trish. Are those slow counts? Is Trish's 5 count in the ropes too fast? Is, Mickie begins to wonder in the deep dark recesses of her broken mind, Trish fucking with her on purpose?

At this juncture of the match, you could do a DQ finish where Mickie either just won't stop pounding on Ashley or where she actually lays a hand on the ref... but I'd REALLY vote against that (there are, afterall, two other matches on this underwhelming undercard that are candidates for screwy finishes). Instead, I'd have Mickie's bickering with Trish result in Ashley having just enough time to recover and hit one of her fancy new highspots on Mickie... and if a frustrated and annoyed Trish wanted to count just a TAD fast? Well, no right-thinking person could possibly blame her.

But "right-thinking" doesn't apply to the trainwreck that is Mickie James. After losing the match, you just know things would get ugly. It could either happen right there at the Rumble, or possibly one of the next few weeks on RAW, but I'm talking (and yes, this is ripped straight out of my Fantasy Universe, but it turns out WWE has gotten to essentially the same place in the story as I had, and it fits nicely) about something pretty severe. Pillmanize an ankle (or a neck), something that results in Trish doing a stretcher job. And yes, that'd mean she'd be off TV for a few weeks, but I think what you could do in pre-taped Trish Vignettes as she convalesces and also by focusing on Mickie's increasing psychoticness would result in a WM22 showdown that -- especially if you add a stipulation, like a Last Woman Standing Match -- could be Trish's finest hour.

Let's make it so.

 

THE BOOGEYMAN vs. JOHN BRADSHAW LAYFIELD

The Random Booking Generator spat this one out three weeks ago.

JBL was in the middle of making sure that Matt Hardy stayed firmly on the undercard by beating him to hell and back again in a mini-series of matches.  But then, for no good reason, after boasting that he's a wrestling god and nobody on SD! could beat him, JBL's match with Matt Hardy was interrupted by the Boogeyman. The distraction caused JBL to get counted out in that match, and JBL no likey losing matches.

JBL tried again against Matt Hardy the following week, and won. But his celebration was cut short when the Boogeyman came out of JBL's limo after the match. JBL demanded justice from Teddy Long, but all Teddy gave him was a PPV match against the Boogeyman.

Both guys were on Piper's Pit a week or so ago, and in that exchange JBL used what has become his only ploy to evade the Boogeyman: he sacrificed his image consultant Jillian Hall. Boogeyman wound up eating that thing off the side of her face. Thank christ! At least one good thing has come out of this feud: the end of Jillian's retarded little gimmick.

Of course, Jillian and JBL didn't see Boogey's gratis plastic surgery as a good thing, and it only made them angrier. And blah blah blah, I'm sure there were worms or something involved, but I think I FF'ed any JBL/Boogey stuff from last week (and will again on tomorrow night's episode). 

I get that this will probably be a crowd-pleaser because Boogeyman is throwing himself into the role, and JBL makes a great patsy for stuff like this...  but anybody out there who -- like me -- has a notion of what Marty Wright is capable of if you tell him to stop eating worms and wrestle, well... you know this is gonna be ugly.  If it's short and sports-entertainment-y, it might be tolerable fluff... if it's anything else? Well, let's just say that history proves retardedly one-dimension shit like the Boogeyman can get popular, but it also has a shelf-life before it goes totally rank. Boogey's shelf life? 10 more months, tops; after that, it's Doink-the-Clownsville for him, and everybody will wonder why the hell he ever got over to start with. A really bad showing here (one where even the markiest of marks who ever marked realizes "Hey, this is 6 minutes of shite wrapped up in a 15 minute package") might accelerate that process.
  

The OOutlOOk
JBL wins: 5 votes   --|--  Boogeyman wins: 3 votes

Erin Anderson Says... JBL d. the Boogeyman.
Look, I don't give a shit, and neither should you.
Canadian Bulldog Says... JBL d. Boogeyman.
Boogeymania is running wild, brother! I have to admit that his shtick has been working well, and JBL has been helping to elevate the guy rather than burying him. Thank goodness they never went with the rumored Undertaker-Boogeyman feud, because Taker would have NEVER acted the way JBL has.

But the thing with Boogeyman's gimmick is -- he loses the match and it won't make a lick of difference. He can continue creeping people out from now until the end of time. JBL, on the other hand, needs to re-establish himself (I also see a face turn for him sometime in '06, by the way), and while it's fine to be scared of the freakshow, he shouldn't have to job to him.

The Cubs Fan Says... Boogeyman d. JBL.
I don't know if it matters if Boogeyman loses or wins; he's a goofy guy, not a threatening one. Still, I think they'll keep him strong this month, because they'll have to come back with a rematch at No Way Out. This match will be AWFUL.
Matt Hocking Says... Boogeyman d. JBL.
Uh...I'm gonna take a pass on even trying to guess what will happen with this one.  Maybe something to conveniently "write" Jillian out?  Some kind of crazy DQ/Count Out/No Contest ending?  Something like that probably.  I don't think they'll have an actual match, and if they do, it won't be pretty.  Boogey wins by countout after he does something disgusting?
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Boogeyman d. JBL.
I really don't want to give the Boogeyman the win here.  It just seems that since they are set on having this guy stick around, it would do no good to have him lose here.  Let's face it, if JBL pins this guy, what good is he to have around.  Everyone will just think, "hey great, the guy eats worms, but he can't wrestle one bit".  I doubt if the Boogeyman pins JBL.  More than likely, JBL will either run and take a count out loss or he'll do something to get himself disqualified.  It's a shame that someone who could still be a strong heel for Smackdown has to lower himself for this joke of a feud.
PyroFalkon Says...  JBL d. Boogeyman.
Whatever.
Jeff J. Snider Says... JBL d. Boogeyman.
I can't take this feud seriously. Why? Because JBL looks scared every time Boogeyman shows up, even though the worst thing Boogey has done to him is put worms down his publicist's skirt and bite off his publicist's fake mole. The fact that they want me to believe that Big Tough JBL is scared of this character who is so utterly laughable makes me not care at all about this feud. For that reason, I am choosing JBL in this match, because if he wins, the feud can be over. If Boogeyman wins, then either this feud continues, or Boogey moves on to bigger and better things. Both of those moves would be mistakes, so JBL has to win. Or I will cry.
Rick Scaia Says... JBL d. Boogeyman.
I dunno. I also duncare. I recognize that Boogey gets some cheap heat when he comes out and eats worms and acts weird, but it just doesn't work on me. I still just see him as a niche-character with a short shelf life who is gonna have a real hard time being taken seriously once fans see him "wrestle." What can I say: some people are impressed by cheesy mediocrity. I am not, really. If you're not playing Boogey for out-right laughs, I have no interest.

To that end, the only thing I'm coming up with for a finish that makes sense is JBL somehow winning the match (just so he can claim the victory), but then being horribly humiliated afterwards. Because at least that might be a kind of funny tag on what is sure to be an atrocious match.

 

EXTRAS/CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

There's only five matches. Only 2 of them have any business lasting more than 10 minutes. And one of those 2 still has three open slots in it.

I'd say that amounts to a blank canvas upon which the trOOps can apply some (Broad) strokes of Extra-y Goodness...
  

The OOutlOOk

Erin Anderson Says... Beware the Hepatitis!
Vince will do something dastardly to eliminate Michaels from the Rumble match. Maybe he'll get Cowboy Bob Orton to bleed on him? I dunno. As for the three remaining Rumble spots, one of them definitely goes to Taker. On the RAW side, I really have no idea. Is Jericho ever coming back? Please God, make it so. And, of course, one of the spots will end up going to some forgotten star of yesteryear like the Gobbledygooker or Doink the Clown. Whee?
Canadian Bulldog Says... Finally, the Rock has Come Back to the Town Where He Went to College and Where He Still Lives?
First the Rumble match itself: Shawn Michaels is number one and makes a decent showing for himself until someone appears on the Titantron. Nope, not Mr. McMahon, but perhaps his newest ally -- The Rock! Okay, maybe that doesn't happen, but its not like I'm getting points for these "bonus" predictions anyways. If that happens, though, you could have McMahon run in from behind (provided he doesn't fall flat on his ass like he did last year) and push Michaels out, setting up some sort of Michaels-Rock program at WrestleMania 22.

I'd like to see Benoit last the longest here, as it would be three years in a row he's had that honor (it was either him or Rey Mysterio last year, I can't quite recall). On a sidenote, picture his match on the Road to WrestleMania: Angle and Benoit reuniting their legendary tag team to battle Randy Orton and Booker T. THAT would be a cool match. Other possible endurance records this year could be made by Michaels himself, RVD, Chris Masters (insert boos here) or Shelton Benjamin.

The person who will eliminate the most people? Either Kane (whom I believe holds the company record) or Triple H, because if he's not winning, they have to throw him a bone.

The three 'surprise' entrants? How about Charlie Haas, Eugene and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (because Fly hasn't been carted out since way back at Taboo Tuesday and he's probably overdue for a quick nostalgia pop.)? Also, I wouldn't be shocked to see some sort of Three Minute Warning w/ Eric Bischoff return. And will Coach be accompanied by his new Spirit Squad? BANK ON IT!!!

Last year, there was tons of (often hilarious) interaction between Raw and SmackDown guys. I could definitely see that happening again this year. Would love to see JBL bump into Chris Masters, or something between The Hearthrobs and The Dicks.

There will still be no Raw General Manager chosen.

I'm looking forward to this. The Rumble has always been one of my favorite events (and I've been re-watching almost of the RR matches this month on WWE 24/7). So long as they keep the McMahons mostly away from this, it should be a good one.

The Cubs Fan Says... Badness Abounds.
This is an extraordinarily weak undercard. They really should've taken out JBL and Boogeyman, turned into to an event during the Rumble (which they don't really seem to have this year outside of Masters vs Carlito, and who can't wait for that!) and either moved the Benoit/Orton street
fight to PPV or pulled MNM and the Mexicools out of the Rumble to do a good tag match; they need one conventional good match on the show and I don't know if they have it.

The Ashley/Mickie match will be bad, the JBL/Boogeyman match will be bad, the two title matches have the potential to be bad and any fun in the Rumble will be severely mitigated if the last shot on the PPV is Triple H celebrating a win. I hope this is a fun show worth what you're paying for it, but it has the potential to end up very bad.
Matt Hocking Says... I love this match more than any man should be allowed to love an inanimate object.
I love the Rumble Match.  Loooooove it.  Sure WrestleMania is my favorite Pay Per View every year, but I'd be a filthy dirty whore if I didn't admit that the Rumble is my favorite *match*.  I think that I'm not the only one either.  But, like every other year, this PPV pretty much comes down to how
you feel about the rumble itself.  The undercard is rarely compelling enough to get excited about in and of itself (Holly/Lesnar!  Angle/Henry!) it's just pleasant filler until you hit the main course.  So if you order your PPVs based on my advice?  Only order it if you like the Rumble.  Duh.

On Heat:  Shane Helms d. Val Venis

Mystery Stars:

My Guesses?

Smackdown:  The Undertaker, who, while not announced, would have no reason
not to be in it
RAW1:  The Rock
RAW2:  Vince McMahon
Diesel Push:  Bobby Lashley
Longest In: Booker T

Story:

-Vince mandates Shawn Michaels to be the first entrant and then picks...Suprise...himself as the number two.  Arguing and VERY mild brawling (Vince's knees, remember?) ensue until the clock runs out and The Rock comes in as the man Vince spent so much money to bring back.  Shawn eliminates
Vince, but Rock gets a quick upper hand and knocks him out, then eliminates himself to chase after Michaels with McMahon.

-Booker T. comes in somewhere in the middle, and as per his injury, sits the majority of the match out on Commentary with Tazz and Joey.  Eventually, he sees an opportunity to eliminate somebody and he rolls into the ring, and he's immediately eliminated.

-Bobby Lashley is this year's designated "Guy who eliminates all the built up riffraff."

-Undertaker will be eliminated by Randy Orton in a situation embarassing on many levels for both men.

-At some point Chavo and Rey will team up for the love of Eddie, but Rey will double cross Chavo in order to CHEAT TO WIN~!

-Your Final Four are Orton, Triple H, Lashley and Rey.  Order of Elimination from there on is Lashley, Rey, Hunter.

How the WWE will Actually Probably Do It:

Mystery Wrestlers:

Smackdown:  The Undertaker
RAW1:  JBL (Ignoring the 15 from each side stip)
RAW 2:  Boogeyman (Ignoring the 15 from each side stip)

JBL and Boogeyman will eliminate each other as Boogey continues to chase JBL throught the arena.

Diesel Push:  Lashley
Longest In:  Coach

Unless RAW's Mystery stars are Mae and Moolah.

Enjoy the PPV!
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Hey, I just realized that if Coach is wrestling, he WON'T be announcing!
These would be a whole lot easier if we knew ANY of the WWE's plans were for heading into Wrestlemania.  If we knew that, I could then begin to predict who will bump into who as they get their numbers or tell you which guys will likely screw someone from winning the Rumble.  Without that, my guess is as good as yours.
 
No doubt, there should be some interesting, if not entertaining, segments with Vince dishing out everyone's number.  I wonder if he'll even recognize any of the Smackdown guys since he hasn't been on that show in 3 years.  However, other than his interaction with Shawn, I wonder how much of a role Vince's drawing will have on the other wrestlers.
 
Finally, I'll just add that I sure hope they go with Styles and Tazz as the announce team for the Rumble.  With Coach in the match, we'll be thankful that he won't be in the running.  The only other option would be Cole and Lawler, and to that, I say no thank you.  Actually they could try a four man booth, but when they tried that at Survivor Series it didn't turn out so well.
PyroFalkon Says...  I'm surprisingly unexcited.
Am I done yet? Man, this PPV looks like crap. I'm 99% sure I won't be getting it. Of course, I said that last year and ended up buying it... the truth is that while I love the Rumble itself, I'm excited about exactly zero (0) of the other matches. That's saying something, considering Mickie James is in one of them. Luckily, I'm not Rick, and I don't have to pretend like I care.

Three slots are unaccounted for the Rumble, two from RAW, one from SmackDown!, although any "legend" who may pop wouldn't exactly count for either roster. I've already posited that it wouldn't surprise me if John Cena fills one of the RAW spots just because it would annoy me.

Another one I'd bet on is Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. If he's done some house show matches, he's probably at least in ring shape, and with the chaos that is the Royal Rumble, anyone can be in and his deficiencies as a wrestler would be hidden by all the other insanity. I'm not saying the Dragon is crap, just that he won't be in his prime at this point. However, it probably won't matter anyway, and this would be a good testing ground for his abilities to see if he's ready for a weekly role on WWE TV.

Going with that same thread, it wouldn't surprise me to see Tatanka filling up the last spot. He can be there, do some basics, get a feel for the ring again, and be promptly eliminated. That will tell the guys on the headsets in the back whether he's got any shot at all of being a player on RAW or SmackDown!, or if he'll get relegated to the minor leagues of Velocity and Heat.

It will be neat to read the recap of this one... but not to watch it.
Jeff J. Snider Says... Operation Save SmackDown! is Underway.
If WWE wants us to not think of Smackdown as the minor leagues, they shouldn't have 75% of their scheduled SD matches be made up of Mark F. Henry, Boogeyman, and JBL. I almost thing a Smackdown guy HAS to win the Rumble, just to help Angle out in Operation Save Smackdown. Sure, Raw is only giving us a women's match (without their strongest woman as a competitor) and a title match, but at least their title match could really go either way and should be a decent match.

Would WWE have Taker not only enter the match unannounced, but also win it? I don't see how he works into a feud with Angle seamlessly, especially since he would then have to win the title at Wrestlemania (it being Wrestlemania and him being Taker and all). But it's worth thinking about.
Rick Scaia Says... Six Mostly-Pointless Things.
I actually kinda shot my wad a bit in terms of "extras" by doing a lot of my discussion on Mystery Entrants in my Predictions Box for the Rumble Match itself.

I'll say a few other things, though:

First, I'm actually glad to be able to sit down and watch this show with a few friends, instead of doing Hooters, because I suspect the commentary will be a lot of fun. There were tons of comments that the Survivor Series announcing was filled with Prickly Heat, especially the Joey/Tazz dynamic. I'll actually be able to hear it this time! YAY!

Second, they had by christ better find something for Ken Kennedy to do. And less of his annoying Palmer Cannon Jr. "Network Guy" act, and more of him finding a niche that he can fill every single week on SD!.

Third, I'd say they'd plant the seeds for RAW vs. SD! hostilities heading into WM, but RAW still doesn't have a GM, so who's Teddy Long gonna bicker with? Maybe they both announce the new RAW GM at the Rumble AND have him cross paths with Teddy? Or more likely: RAW's just gonna skate by for a few more months of Vince-as-tacit-boss, since that's the only way that he can really do his Power Trip character and have it make sense. If he's reporting to a GM, said GM would reign him in, don't you think?

Fourth, that doesn't mean that a couple of wrestlers themselves won't cross paths and plant the seeds for cross-brand match(es) at WM22. I'm looking at both the RAW and SD! rosters and not really finding anything jumping out at me in terms of cross-brand possibilities, but you know they'll do SOMEthing along those lines at Mania. Watch: it'll be Chris F. Masters vs. Bobby Lashley, just to spite me.

Fifth: SHAQ WILL NOT SHOW UP. I know that WWE did a little publicity stunt with Shag (who plays for the Miami Heat) and Carlito, but the Heat have a game in Houston on Sunday evening, so Shaq will not be at the arena. In fact, an early WM22 prediction: Shaq won't be on that show either. So many people moistened their man-panties when they heard Shaq did this little skit with Carlito, and thought it clearly meant Shaq would be at WM... he won't be: he has a game that day, too.

Sixth: I will probably be deeply annoyed and underwhelmed by the undercard, but will end up having a great time watching this show, because the Rumble match so rarely fails to deliver gOOdness.

 

That's about all we got, and that's about all you need. If you can find a better Royal Rumble preview, anywhere, it only means you have horrible judgment!

I keed, I keed. But nowhere else has the OOfficial Royal Rumble Game, now do they? At least, not unless they stole it.

Anyway, we're done here for the preview. On Sunday night, I'm back with the recap. Should be at some point in the midnight (eastern) hour, but it might be a tad later depending on the caliber of drunkening I exercise, since that'll severely reduce my motivation to sit in front of a computer. But I promise that at some point before I got to bed on Sunday, a Rumble PPV Recap will be yours to keep. So come on back for that, and then more involved analysis and fall-out in my Monday column, too.

Happy Weekend, everybody!


  
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E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

 

 

 


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