John: Welcome to the Royal Rumble Preview. There are five announced matches on this show including one match that is for the pre-show. It doesn't shock me that only four matches are announced for the actual pay-per-view portion of the show when you consider the amount of time given to the matches.

The Rumble match itself usually goes about 60 minutes (give or take), I expect CM Punk vs. The Rock to get over 30 minutes counting the video package, intros and the match. Then when you think about the tag title match and the World Title match both of them could be 20 minute matches as well. That's over two hours of action right there. Throw in all the promos that are likely and it's a full show. I would expect one or two matches added very late, but I have no idea what they will be other than perhaps some kind of random divas battle royal to determine a future number one contender. I really don't know, though. That's why we're here to predict only the matches we know about.

Joining me for this preview is TJRWrestling's Christian Michael and Andrew Johnson. Christian covers Main Event for the site and Andrew writes his Smacking of Smackdown column every weekend. Let's get to it.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up above is courtesy of our friend Steve Melo.)

 

Pre-show: United States Championship: Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz

Christian: This is not the match I was expecting to be on the pre-show. I thought they would stick two jobbers on there and say the winner gets the last spot in the Royal Rumble Match. Antonio Cesaro is awesome. If you read my Main Event reviews then you know I’m a huge fan of his. He needs a feud though. He’s been just going from random match to random match. They’ve been building an issue with The Miz for a few weeks now and it sucks that it is just being shoved to the pre-show where the match won’t even last seven minutes.

They’ll probably need Cesaro and Miz’s star power in the Elimination Chamber Matches at the next PPV, so this will most likely be their first and only PPV match and since Cesaro is doing such a great job as champ there is no reason to take the title off of him.

Prediction - Antonio Cesaro retains the United States Championship

Andrew: First off, how awesome is Cesaro right now? Not just in wrestling quality, but overall presentation. The dude has officially carried and worn more American flags than Hulk Hogan, who was called Mr. America for a while. He's miraculously rubbing his anti-Americanism by embracing our symbols as his ring attire, and it's glorious. I love Cesaro, but I can't wait to see someone trounce him. That's what a great heel does; he makes you want to see him get his ass kicked.

But, it won't be Miz doing the kicking. I think it's a pretty foregone conclusion that Cesaro isn't going to chump-out the US title on a pre-show. He's one of the best talents going; it's not like he's Santino for Christ's sake.

Winner: Antonio Cesaro

John: I think it's going to be a big year for Cesaro. It might be a WWE or World Title type of year for him. That's how high WWE is on him. He's wrestling on all the shows and he's getting a good reaction from the fans as the stereotypical "I'm better than you Americans" type of heel. Miz has had his ups and downs as a babyface. I like some things about him in that role. Other things make me cringe especially with some of his promos. It takes time, though.

It doesn't make sense to do a title change here on a pre-show and in their first big matchup. I think at some point in the near future Cesaro will drop the US Title to somebody because he's going to move up to that next level, but I don't think Miz is the guy he'll drop it to. Not yet anyway. I think we'll get either a cheap win by Cesaro or Miz via DQ. It's not the end of the feud. It's still early.

Winner: Antonio Cesaro

 

WWE Tag Team Championships: Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow)

Christian: The shine has really worn off Team Hell No for me. I wanted them to start teaming, they did and now I’m bored of it. It is mainly because Daniel Bryan isn’t being as awesome as he was in the first six months of 2012. Why should Team Rhodes Scholars even have another title match? They’ve lost every time that the titles were on the line. Winning a random non-title match shouldn’t be enough to get a title match when you have already lost two title matches but that is how WWE does things. The time is now for a title change so Daniel Bryan can get himself ready for his first real singles match at WrestleMania, which is something he really deserves.

Prediction- Team Rhodes Scholars win the Tag Team Championships

Andrew: It needs to be Rhodes Scholars here if they want to continue this feud, or (more interestingly) move on to a Kane/D-Bry blow up that the Internet is clamoring for. I don't know what WWE has in store for the tag team titles, but I'd like to see the division's focus move beyond two teams of singles stars who are chilling with each other because they have nothing better to do. I love true* tag teams, and would love to see the Usos or the Players get a shot at the penny belt buckles, but at the same time WWE doesn't really focus on the division when true tag teams have the belts. See 2010 when The Hart Dynasty were champions and they feuded with the Usos and pretty much no one else for like four months. 

I dunno. I'm going with Cody's mustache pinning Kane after 6 minutes.

Winners: Team Rhodes Scholars

John: It feels like it's time to get the tag titles off Bryan & Kane doesn't it? They've had a good run as champions since the fall and I think it's gone on longer than most people thought. Aside from wrestling Team Rhodes Scholars many times they haven't wrestled that many different teams. I guess there were a few Primetime Players matches in there too. It just feels like Rhodes & Sandow need to win this match because otherwise all the time they've spent together would feel like a waste if they fell short again.

The other point I need to make is I hope Daniel Bryan is booked as a singles performer in the near future because he's too good to be in a comedy tag team. Bryan's the guy that makes everybody around him better and can captivate an audience like few people in the company. That skit on Raw with the Anger Management graduation was pretty bad and I liked all of the performers involved with it. It's just that it was the kind of campy comedy that didn't work. Bryan's a funny guy, so I don't mind him in comedy roles. It's just that he can be doing so much more and I hope that in the near future he can go back to being the ass kicking submission expert that he was when he really earned the respect of the audience. I'm not saying he should turn heel. I just think he would be great as a singles act again. How good would a Cesaro vs. Bryan feud be? Give it a shot.

As I bring the focus back to this match, I'm predicting a title change. They've had a number of matches together both on television as well as on house shows, so the chemistry between all four guys has been great. I think we'll get a 15 minute tag match with the challengers working over Bryan for an extended period of time and then Kane will come in for the hot tag. The finish will likely see Bryan and Kane mess up somehow. Since their relationship appears to be strong as allies right now it would make sense to have them make a mistake to cost them the titles. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Winners: Team Rhodes Scholars

 

World Heavyweight Championship (Last Man Standing Match): Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show

Christian: I really enjoyed Alberto Del Rio’s title win on SmackDown a few weeks ago. It really could have meant more if they took more time to build it up. With Rock/Punk and the Rumble Match this Match is going to get lost in the shuffle so it wasn’t a bad idea to change the title on TV. You do have to question why they are going with the same exact stipulation for the rematch.

Del Rio needed to get creative to win the title and keep The Big Show down for a ten count. What will he do for an encore? Or does it even matter? Will someone not named Del Rio or Big Show walk out of the PPV as World Heavyweight Champion? Hmm… It’s a question worth asking since Ziggler has got to cash in that damn briefcase at some point. Both men are down for a ten count and here comes Mr. Ziggler? It’s a possibility but I doubt they give Ziggler the belt here for the same reasons they gave Del Rio the title on SmackDown. If Ziggler isn’t cashing in then there is no point in changing the title and another underdog, overcoming the odds wins for Del Rio would be great for him.

Prediction- Alberto Del Rio retains the World Heavyweight Championship

Andrew: There's absolutely zero chance of them topping their match on Smackdown, which you can read about here. But I'd really like to see them try.

Also I don't think Ziggler is going to cash-in here, because if he does than he has no reason to be in the Rumble, and then who will get thrown out by John Cena in a comically over-sold fashion? I bet Cena AA's him so hard Ziggler bounces off the Titantron.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

John: I wrote about how much I'm enjoying Alberto Del Rio as a babyface on Thursday, so that should tell you I'm looking forward to this matchup. Basically the gist of the column is that while I think he was very good as a heel, I think he has potential to be great in the babyface role. I've enjoyed the feud with Big Show more than I expected to. That's because they're both doing an excellent job in playing their roles. Show is the awesome heel bully that is never happy unless he's holding the World Title and Del Rio has become that fighting babyface who doesn't give up. They have a good dynamic. This feud works. That's the best way I can say it.

I fully expect Del Rio to retain the World Title. They'll probably book it in a way where they tease a lot of the same spots they did during their Smackdown match like when Del Rio tipped over the table, but I'd expect some creative counters to give this match a different feel to it too. These are savvy veterans that know how to build up to an exciting finish. I think it may top the Smackdown match although that was excellent, so that could be difficult too.

I don't expect Ziggler to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase. Of course when you consider that I predicted him to cash in on nearly every PPV to end last year I fully admit to being bad at predicting when he will cash in! I just think they're going to save Ziggler cashing in until WrestleMania night because that would be unique and different from what we've seen in the past.

This should be a fun 20 minute brawl with Del Rio retaining. Show isn't a guy that needs a title. He's going to retain his heat without it. I'd be very surprised if they took the title off Del Rio here. They need to establish him as a babyface. Keep the title on him.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

 

(Don't blame us for the lack of a graphic. The WWE.com people didn't even make a graphic for the Rumble match. They just used a pic from last year. Blame them!)

30-Man Royal Rumble Match

Christian: This is the big one. The match the WWE fans look forward to more than any other match all year long as it sets the tone for WrestleMania. It is a shame that the importance of it has been lost in the past few years with the previous two title winners getting their title matches in the opening bouts of WrestleMania as opposed to the Main Event.

I think the obvious pick to win the match is John Cena but WWE doesn’t always do the obvious. Sheamus could be a back to back winner. It would make sense as I don’t know what he’d do if he wasn’t in a title match at WrestleMania. Then there is Randy Orton who has been on a real slide (for his standards) lately and could really use the boost the Rumble win would provide. Ryback is another favorite. Does WWE give him the rub of being in a WrestleMania main event? He did well in his main events and big matches in the last three months. The last guy that I think has a shot to win is Dolph Ziggler. Him being number one or two isn’t a detriment. It’s a showcase. He is going to be the star of the Royal Rumble Match and he could very well go the distance and hold the Money in the Bank Briefcase and a WrestleMania main event.

In the end, I really do think that WWE goes the obvious route because that route leads to a whole pile of money.

Person that lasts the longest: Dolph Ziggler

Person that eliminates the most people: Ryback

Winner: John Cena

Andrew: I don't like doing big write-up's about my thoughts on the Rumble because a) They're never right and b) fantasy booking is weird. However, John did ask us to provide some smaller predictions to go in with the big one, and here they are:

Person that lasts the longest: Dolph Ziggler

Person who eliminates the most people: Ryback (because Ryback's gonna Ryback)

Since choosing a winner is a near impossibility (because anything can happen in the WWE!) I've created a program that took the WWE roster, and all possible surprise entrants (minus Carlito because seriously I hate Carlito) and named the most likely winner. And now, without further adieu...

Winner: David Otunga

What the fu--

Winner: John Cena 

John: I wish WWE did a better job of announcing a list of talents that are in the Royal Rumble match. As of Friday morning, WWE.com lists only 11 people in the match. Can't you give us more than that? I realize that just like every year there are only a handful of guys that are true favorites to win. That list this year would be: John Cena, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler and Ryback. Guys like Antonio Cesaro, Wade Barrett and The Miz are also listed, but I don't think they're on the same level as the first five names.

As far as the match goes, I think Ziggler and Cena will carry the match. We know Ziggler is going in as #1 or #2 (doesn't matter) and I think Cena will be in the ring for the majority of the match as well. Let's just say he comes in at #8 or so. I think the story will be about them trying to get rid of eachother throughout the match, but neither one can do it. Then it comes down to them as the final two participants.

When it comes to surprise entrants, John Morrison is very likely apparently. It will be cool to see him again. I don't think we'll see Shelton Benjamin or MVP because both were adamant they weren't going to be there, but you never know. I also think we may see guys like Christian and Mark Henry, both of whom have been out for a long time dealing with shoulder injuries. I don't know who is more likely, but I'm pretty sure both are close to coming back. I doubt Henry wrestles for much longer, so it would be nice to see him as THREAT TO WIN~! in one more Royal Rumble match.

I have a few predictions for the match as well.

- I think Randy Orton will be eliminated by Sheamus to set up Orton's heel turn and lead to a possible match at WrestleMania between the two.

- The Shield will likely do a run-in to eliminate Ryback from the match. They'll show up at some point. It makes sense to me.

- I don't think Undertaker, Brock Lesnar or Triple H will be there. All of them will likely be back after the Elimination Chamber PPV, though.

Person that lasts the longest: Dolph Ziggler

Person that eliminates the most people: Sheamus

I know that Ziggler is the obvious pick for person that lasts the longest, but he's one of the three biggest stars in the match. It makes sense. I think Ryback is an obvious choice for most eliminations. However, I'm going with Sheamus. Both guys are among the most heavily pushed performers in the company, so it's likely that one of them will eliminate the most people. It could be a guy like Cena too.

As for the winner, I've been writing it since my "Twenty WWE Ideas" column in August. It's John Cena. The last time he won it was 2008. Five years later he'll win it for the second time. He'll earn the WWE Title match at WrestleMania and it will set up a rematch from last year's WrestleMania. Is it easy to predict? Sure. It doesn't mean it's bad. It's a great business move for WWE even though I'm sure the Cena haters will not like it. I'm not a Cena hater. I don't mind it one bit.

Winner: John Cena

 

WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. The Rock

Christian: It takes a special match to upend the Rumble Match from the main event spot on this PPV. This is that special match. The last three weeks haven’t featured the epic build that I expected from two of the best talkers in WWE history but they did an effective job in making this title tilt personal.

I think a lot of people think it is a foregone conclusion that The Rock is winning the WWE Championship. I was in that thinking but then we saw The Shield attack The Rock on RAW. I know Vince McMahon said that if The Shield interfered in the match that CM Punk would be stripped of the title but Brad Maddox isn’t a part of The Shield, yet. There’s still something there and a bigger reason as to why he helped Punk win at Hell in a Cell. Plus, it seemed that Maddox and Paul Heyman came to some sort of understanding on RAW. Punk is going to somehow steal another title victory in my opinion.

Unlike the obvious winner in the Royal Rumble, WWE has room for a swerve here and I think they’ll go with it since they can still get the title off of Punk in the Elimination Chamber when he’ll have five opponents and no way out.

Prediction- CM Punk retains the WWE Championship

Andrew: If I were being realistic I'd say there's no way in hell that CM Punk is leaving Royal Rumble with the WWE title, and that makes me sad.

If I were being hopeful I'd say this would be a great opportunity for Brock Lesnar to re-emerge from the pit he slumbers in between feedings (I assume Brock Lesnar is just the form IT has chosen for WWE audiences) and murder/death/kill The Rock with F5's until there's nothing left except a crooked eyebrow floating in a pool of what used to be the Tooth Fairy.

If I were being almost psychotic I'd say this is the day CM Punk finally learns the Anti-Life equation and uses it to command the audience to destroy The Rock as Paul Heyman cheers on from the sidelines like Glorious Godfrey.

But, I'm a realist.

Winner: The Rock

John: This feels big. It has that special feel to it that we want all major title matches to have, but in reality we know only a few matches in the year have this kind of vibe. For those that have asked me if I thought this match should go on last, I think the answer is absolutely a yes.

The story for this match is easy to write. CM Punk's 400+ day WWE Title reign is on the line against one of the biggest WWE Superstars of all time and the guy that is the biggest draw in the company as well. They're two of my favorite performers in wrestling history too. I love the style clash between them. I'm a fan of what both of them bring to the table as larger than life performers with the personalities that make them stand out from the pack. Punk has beaten everybody thrown in his way for over a year. Let's see if he can beat one of the best ever. The angle works.

I think when you look at it from a financial perspective this could be the most watched Royal Rumble match since the height of the company in the Attitude Era. That's what Rock means for business. That's why it was a good idea to put him in a WWE Title match at the second biggest pay-per-view event of the year. It's a great business move.

As for the actual match, I think Rock will remember how he got tired during some parts of the WrestleMania match and will be better prepared for this one. It's one thing to be in shape. It's another thing to be in shape to wrestle a 20 minute match against a guy that never tires like CM Punk. They'll probably carve out a match with a slow pace early on, but then the last five minutes will be fast paced as both guys hit signature spots and countering moves for some great nearfalls. In the end, I think each man will kick out of finishers. But I think Rock will win the match after a second Rock Bottom. It might take three. Punk's not going to lose to just one finishing move. It should be two or three. That makes the most sense to me.

If I have to give odds for this prediction I would say I'm 75% sure that there will be a WWE Title change in this match and 25% of me thinks CM Punk keeps the title. A month ago I may have said 90/10, but the more I think about it the scenario where Rock wins the title at Elimination Chamber (which he's booked for) makes sense too. It's not like The Rock is going to work house shows or work television matches that often, so waiting another month to put the WWE Title on Rock still sets up the likely WrestleMania 29 match where Rock defends against Cena.

I'll pick The Rock to win the WWE Title officially. I'm looking forward to the match so much. I think they may have some moments in the match where the chemistry might be off a bit because they haven't wrestled in front of a crowd before, but I think both guys will raise their game to deliver a performance for the ages. That's why they are who are they. It's why they are two of the best performers in wrestling history. Both guys will be winners for having this match and the fans will win by the end of the night because of how awesome the moment will be.

Winner and New WWE Champion: The Rock

I think the pay-per-view will end with The Rock doing his posing in the ring with the WWE Title. Then we'll see Royal Rumble match winner John Cena standing at the top of the ramp applauding the new champion. It's foreshadowing of what will happen at WrestleMania 29. It would be an incredible ending to what should be an awesome night.

 

Final Thoughts

Christian: This is a night that I always look forward to and I love that WWE puts it on the first Sunday in five months with no football. I’ll be on Twitter all night Sunday so be sure to follow me and discuss the event with me. With the Rumble match and the two World Title Matches it should be a really good event.

John: I'll be perfectly honest with you when I say that the Royal Rumble has been a disappointment the last couple of years. I think this year it will go back to being a special event because of the lineup they have put together for us. All three regular matches on the main card have a chance to be excellent and the Rumble match itself can be thrilling if it's booked in an intelligent manner, which I expect. I've already ordered it. I'm watching it live and writing about it live. I don't remember the last time I was this excited about a pay-per-view. It was probably Extreme Rules when Lesnar came back. This is going to be fun.

As mentioned I'll be writing about the Royal Rumble live this Sunday on TJRWrestling.com, so join me there if you want to read along with me. You can always check it out after the event if you're watching it with friends. I'll post it at other sites after the show too, but it will only be live at TJR.  

On behalf of Andrew and Christian, thanks for reading. Enjoy the 2013 Royal Rumble!

Follow all of us on Twitter at the following places. 

Christian - @Christian_973

Andrew - @TheAEJohnson

John - @johnreport 

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com and I'll make sure the other guys see it too.