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Who will win the Royal Rumble?
The most exciting event in wrestling will take place Saturday as WWE holds the Royal Rumble at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The Rumble contains all the necessary ingredients: a rich history, the potential for surprises and the unknown of who is going to win. It also helps structure WrestleMania, no small feat considering that is the event that sets up the next six months of programming for WWE.
The women’s match appears to be very straightforward. It is Rhea Ripley’s time to shine, and she should win in dominant fashion. The Rumble is a perfect opportunity to highlight her rare blend of athleticism and power. A victory by Ripley can build to a WrestleMania match against Bianca Belair.
Belair defeated Becky Lynch to win the Raw women’s title last year at WrestleMania 38. She has overcome every challenge since, but the timing couldn’t be better to roll the dice with Ripley as champion. These gambles don’t always work; WWE fell short of the mark with Liv Morgan as champ over the summer, though it was fresh content to see someone new get a well-deserved shot at the belt. But it feels different with Ripley. She is one of the most intriguing personalities in all of WWE, and her work and presence has made Judgment Day incredibly compelling.
As for the men’s Rumble, my prediction for Seth Rollins to win hasn’t changed. I do not see a bigger main event for the WWE title than Roman Reigns defending against Rollins. With that said, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other fascinating choices to win the Rumble … beginning with Cody Rhodes.
It still feels like WWE is doing the bait-and-switch with Rhodes. To me, it is more likely he will be the final one eliminated. But Rhodes winning could be an all-time great moment, and there are few stars in all of wrestling who you could say that about.
There are legends rumored to win, too. Those include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Rock has been rumored to be part of WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles for the past year, and the reports of Austin in proposed matches against either Reigns or Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania have heated up over the last week. If either of them wins the Rumble, then it is a strong indication Reigns is going to extend his reign as champion well beyond WrestleMania 39. But if Rock and Austin both return, it would be pretty special if they share a moment in the ring together.
There will also be surprise entries. Logan Paul and Pat McAfee are the most likely on that list, and the anticipation is all part of the fun. Edge should come back to eliminate Finn Bálor, building their program to WrestleMania. And it would be great to see a legend or two. There is even a petition to get Bushwhacker Luke back in the Rumble. If we see Shane McMahon this year, hopefully it is a quick elimination.
WWE just did a favor for New Japan Pro-Wrestling by sending Karl Anderson to Wrestle Kingdom 17 to drop the NEVER openweight title to Tama Tonga. So it would make a lot of sense for NJPW to return the favor and send someone to the Rumble.
Last year wasn’t the best version of the event, but this year—with this collection of talent for the men and women—offers a chance to have one of the most memorable Rumbles in years.
The (online) week in wrestling
- The Trial of Sami Zayn was absolutely brilliant. Jey Uso finally had his moment to shine (and Solo Sikoa did, too), all set up by Paul Heyman’s outstanding opening act. Everyone in The Bloodline plays their role so perfectly, Zayn has added such a shot of adrenaline to the group—and it all added up to an all-time great Raw moment.
- The Undertaker’s return to Raw highlighted his run as the “American Badass,” and he shared a brief private moment in the ring with Bray Wyatt.
- Despite a successful show, there were problems with Raw. Primarily, the female stars were not appropriately highlighted. Perhaps there are some big stars lined up for the Rumble, but that still doesn’t change the fact that it was a miss on Monday night.
- Another issue with Raw was the absence of Bret Hart—who was also missing at Raw 25. Hart was the face of Monday Night Raw for a long time, especially in its infancy, and more of his contributions should have been recognized.
- Sting and Darby Allin teamed with The Great Muta in Japan over the weekend, and they were victorious at NOAH’s “Great Muta Final Bye-Bye” in Yokohama.
- That was Keiji Muto’s final match as Muta. Next is his last match ever, which will be against Tetsuya Naito at the Tokyo Dome on Feb. 21.
- That same joint New Japan–NOAH card will also feature a rare, must-see bout: IWGP world heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada against GHC heavyweight champion Kaito Kiyomiya.
Mark Briscoe wrestles in honor of his late brother, Jay
As the wrestling world grieves the loss of Jay Briscoe, there will be a memorable chance to celebrate his life Wednesday night on Dynamite.
Mark Briscoe will wrestle Jay Lethal, and this is an opportunity to highlight the life and career of Jay Briscoe. It is also a match with a perfect opponent, as Jay Lethal—along with Matt Taven—was one of Jay Briscoe’s closest friends on the Ring of Honor roster.
As I’ve been working on a feature story on Jay Briscoe, it is absolutely heartbreaking when reminded that he is no longer with us. Despite all his success, he had yet to reach his absolute peak. That was coming, no doubt, as evidenced by the trilogy of matches against FTR last year—but that will never occur. Even sadder, a family has lost a husband, father, brother and son.
I had the chance to cover the Briscoes on numerous occasions over the past seven years, primarily backstage at Ring of Honor shows. One constant was that Jay Briscoe would always look out for his brother Mark. Despite the similar age, Jay was the veteran of the two, and he always had his brother’s best interests in mind. Now Mark is shouldered with the task of wrestling a match in his brother’s honor. The whole process has been a nightmare, especially as Mark’s nieces were also injured in the car crash that killed his brother. Hopefully he can find solace as he grieves while he shares the ring with Lethal.
There will be no time for tears during the match—the Briscoes simply work too steady and violent a pace for that to occur. But the aftermath is going to be emotional, especially considering the match is taking place on what would have been Jay Briscoe’s 39th birthday.
This match, under these circumstances, is one that nobody ever wanted to see. But grieving together can be cathartic, and suddenly this is a match that wrestling needs in order to mourn. This is a night Mark Briscoe will always remember, and my sincerest wishes go to him as he steps into the ring for the most unforgettable match of his career.
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.