If I Were In Charge – Episode 10 (10 Royal Rumble Predictions/Surprises)

It’s only a few days away from my favorite match of the year. There’s always been something special about the Royal Rumble to me – the star power, the countdown, the surprises. As a kid, all I saw was the bright lights and showmanship. As I grew a little older, it was a match where exciting returns and surprises would happen and take the top spot of importance for me. Those were the days! Then there was quite a lull with the Royal Rumble match itself, where we’d know the winner months ahead of time due to very lazy, obvious booking and leaks. I mentioned in another column that the Royal Rumble match itself didn’t get back to being more exciting and less predictable until they gave the women their own 30-women Royal Rumble match in 2018. That year we had ourselves some unexpected winners – Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka! Before that it was already made men who didn’t need the Royal Rumble win to elevate their stock. That can still be said about the men’s Royal Rumble the last 4 years. Brock Lesnar, Edge and Seth Rollins could have easily made it to WrestleMania without a Royal Rumble win. Drew McIntyre’s win was pretty damn epic, though. He earned that and the crowd was pretty damn hot for that match. As for the women, it really helped propel Bianca Belair to main event status when she won in 2021. She’s been on top, or close to, ever since.

A few things have happened in WWE this year that shook the hell out of its foundation. I’m still holding on to a little bit of hope that Triple H is truly head of creative, but I do know that Vince likes to book his way from WrestleMania and work his way backwards. I’m sure Triple H is just champing at the bit to get this years WrestleMania out of the way and start fresh. That’s why I’m cutting Triple H some extra slack when it comes to the returns of his released talent that Vince threw in the garbage the second Triple H had to take off on medical leave. Basically the rehired talent are being squeezed into booking plans that have already been there since last years WrestleMania. Give it time, people!

Surprises, predictions and other fun stuff –

1) Prediction – Obviously Cody Rhodes isn’t a surprise entrant anymore, the fantastic video packages that were produced for his comeback journey told us he’d be making his return at Royal Rumble. When Cody jumped ship and surprisingly left AEW, I’d bet big money he has some guaranteed title wins worked in his contract. I, like many folks, have picked Cody Rhodes to win the men’s Royal Rumble match. His road to WrestleMania would be some fantastic TV and storytelling. The Rhodes dynasty vs. the Anoa’i dynasty – it writes itself.

2) Surprise – As of right now, the women’s Royal Rumble match only has less than 10 names announced so far. Yikes! I’m sure there’ll be many more to come this Friday on SmackDown, but come on, writers! A surprise I’m hoping to see in the Rumble match is Madusa…sorry, Alundra Blayze. After seeing her on RAW is XXX, she looked really good and ready to go. At 58, she’s still as active as ever and has mentioned she’s not against throwing on the boots here and there if the timing is right. As a trailblazer, she deserves it!

3) Prediction – Bianca Belair will retain the RAW Women’s Title against Alexa Bliss, but this match will be full of shenanigans. I fully expect Bianca to go into WrestleMania as the face RAW Women’s Champion. They need a face champ due to who I think is going to get the big win in this years women’s Royal Rumble. Bianca has been a great champ, don’t get me wrong, but her shtick is getting bland. Her mic work isn’t horrible, it just comes across as “fake trying to be real” if that makes sense. In other words, she seems like she’s trying too hard to be playing her authentic self. Alexa Bliss has been a lot better in the ring lately, especially when she’s playing more of a heel. The Uncle Howdy/Bray Wyatt connection has been back to haunt Alexa, but it’s made her a little more interesting and dangerous. I expect there to be many paranormal activities during this match, but ultimately it’ll be Bianca who squeaks by with the victory.

4) Surprise – The Bella Twins. I didn’t say it would be a good surprise, did I? After being bumped from RAW is XXX, and Brie posting a little video complaining about it, it feels extremely fabricated, “Total Divas” style. More than likely they were asked to stay away from RAW is XXX so it would be more of a “surprise” if they show up for the Women’s Royal Rumble to fill some spots. Yipee! Maybe this means I’ll get to hear that fantastic Brie Mode theme?

5) Prediction – While many sit there and negatively judge the rehired talent Triple H brought back, I’m on the positive side of the fence. One who I’m particularly excited about for the Royal Rumble is Bronson Reed. If he gets a spot, I’m hoping he’s given some time to really show off. He was fantastic in NJPW, and from the little amount of time he’s been on RAW, he’s been smooth, crisp, hard hitting and most importantly, safe. Especially while he does his high impact moves. I’ve enjoyed his work since NXT, and he gained major points with me when he paid homage to Bam Bam Bigelow with some killer ring gear at NXT TakeOver XXX.

6) Surprise – Triple H hasn’t quite opened the Forbidden Door wide open when it comes to WWE and other companies, but he did put in a decent sized doggy door this year. Last year, Mickie James was allowed to sneak through the mail slot while employed by Anthem Entertainment, and was even allowed to wear the Impact Women’s Championship Title to the ring for the Women’s Royal Rumble match. This year, Karl Anderson returned to WWE while he was the reigning NJPW NEVER Openweight Champion. Instead of relinquishing the title or rushing overseas to drop it, Anderson was allowed to go defend the title multiple times, and even show up to NJPW’s biggest event of the year, Wrestle Kingdom. After finally dropping the title to Tama Tonga at WK17 Day 1, it might have seemed the Forbidden Door was locked tight right after the 3 count. As some others have speculated, I personally think there was a trade made with NJPW for Karl’s work, as well as Pro Wrestling NOAH, due to Shinsuke Nakamura being allowed to wrestle Great Muta at a Pro Wrestling NOAH show. The WWE-Japan relationship hasn’t been this great in a long, long time. Progress, people! As a huge surprise, I expect to see someone from NJPW show up as an entrant as payback for how professional Triple H handled Karl Anderson – which could be in the men’s OR women’s Royal Rumble match. Let’s not forget, KAIRI is the IWGP Women’s Champion and has a great relationship with Triple H and WWE. On the Pro Wrestling NOAH side, perhaps Great Muta will be allowed to make his WWE debut and could have his first ever Royal Rumble experience as friendly payback, and throw Shinsuke over the top rope!

7) Prediction – The Lights Out match between LA Knight and Bray Wyatt will be a huge success. This strange combination of talent started off really odd to see at first, but has turned into something that’s really been captivating to me. My attention was and is fully on the screen the second these two men are building this feud. LA Knight has come a long way from the Maximum Male Models gimmick, and has thankfully thrown that in the past fairly easily. The stink of that mess didn’t last long due to his mic skills and ability to grab the audiences’ attention. As for Bray, I’m still team Wyatt. So many people want the payoff to happen right away, but I’m from a different generation. The slow build of his character has been better than seeing him randomly wrestle. Uncle Howdy, who’s rumored to be Bray’s brother, Bo Dallas, has added such a neat layer to the storyline. Between LA Knight’s mic skills and Bray Wyatt’s mind games, this has turned into a match I consider “must see”. I know LA Knight has the ability to turn chicken shit into chicken salad, and I know Bray Wyatt is very detail oriented. With the right producer backstage, this could elevate both men and really give us something special. The interaction between LA Knight and Biker Taker this past RAW is XXX was fantastic TV, and when Wyatt joined them in the ring, you could feel it was a special moment. Perhaps whatever Undertaker whispered in Bray Wyatt’s ear will be part of the story down the road, or at the Lights Out match. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Bray, continuation is very important to him.

8) Surprise – Austin Theory will get his dream match with John Cena, with Cena being a surprise entrant in the men’s Royal Rumble match. And just how will Austin Theory get his dream match against John Cena? Easy. Pissing off the Ruthless Aggressor by cheaply eliminating him. John likes to hold a grudge! We’ve seen the side of Cena that comes out when he feels he’s been treated unfairly. We know Cena loves the US Title, that is currently being held up by the deep cheeks of Austin Theory. The feud writes itself, especially since Theory has said he idolized John Cena growing up. What better way to make yourself an even bigger star than to beat your former idol. I’m just hoping if this match does happen, that Austin is able to keep up with Cena on the mic. John is able to really dial it in when things have an element of truth. What a rub this will be for Theory if he does get his wish!

9) Prediction – Rhea Ripley finally gets what she deserves – a Royal Rumble win. Rhea has been such a huge part of not just The Judgement Day, but every single episode of RAW her face has been on. She’s elevated Damian Priest, Finn Balor and especially Dominik Mysterio, as well as any female she’s been in the ring with. She’s been ever so close to winning in past Royal Rumble matches, but I believe this is her year to take the win. Nothing would make me smile more than to see Rhea Ripley destroy Bianca Belair at WrestleMania and walk away with the RAW Women’s Championship.

10) Surprise – Ohhh, this is a big one. I think it’s time, don’t you? We’ve had the trial of Sami Zayn. We’ve seen Sami step in for an injured Jimmy Uso on RAW to make sure The Usos didn’t have to relinquish the RAW Tag Team Titles. Not just that, he’s the reason himself and former enemy turned best buddy, Jey Uso, got the win. At Royal Rumble, Sami Zayn’s “former” best friend, Kevin Owens, is in an Undisputed World Title match with Roman Reigns. I think it’s time Sami Zayn gives Roman Reigns a little surprise of his own, don’t you? It’s time for Sami Zayn to show his cards and reveal what his master plan has been all along – destroy The Bloodline from the inside. Although I don’t think Kevin Owens will walk away with the gold, I do think it’ll be the closest we’ve seen yet. This will piss off The Bloodline to the highest level possible. Just take a look at the Elimination Chamber 2023 commemorative chairs that were leaked! Sami Zayn is locked in the Elimination Chamber with fear in his eyes looking like he’s trying to scratch his way out like a rat in a cage. It seems The Bloodline will attempt to get their revenge on Sami in the Chamber, where there’s no escape. Let’s hope Kevin Owens is in one of the pods so he can help Sami out, which will help cement their relationship rebound. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn would be great contenders to win a set of tag team titles at WrestleMania – why not!? As my last surprise of Episode 10, it’s also the most questionable. Every time I think The Bloodline is swerving one way, it swerves the other way. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Have yourselves a good weekend and enjoy the show! I’d love to hear some of your predictions or surprises you think will happen on the show. Until next time!

James Bones