The Royal Rumble is one of my favorite wrestling shows of the year. Undoubtedly, the 30-man battle royal has proven to be the most successful gimmick match in all of wrestling. Despite the fact that, each year, there are only between 3 and 5 legitimate candidates to win the match, WWE still manages each year to create tremendous suspense and drama in the match. It’s one of the most intricately booked and masterfully executed matches of the year.

This year’s show also features an above average undercard, highlighted by two unlikely world title matches.

Here’s a look at the card and my picks:

Christian vs. Ezekiel for the ECW Championship: I think’s it’s obvious that Christian is due for a promotion to one of WWE’s two major brands, but there is nobody even near ready to take his place as ECW’s top star. That certainly goes for Ezekiel, who has a great look and an intimidating presence, but is about as green as can be in the ring.  With a little bit of work. And so I predict Christian will hold on to his belt in the night’s opening match, and stick with it in WWE’s C-brand for a bit longer.

Mickie James vs. Michelle McCool for the Women’s Championship: You’d think that the storyline involving Mickie and Michelle would be a parable about image issues, and how woman should be proud of their bodies, no matter how they look. But this is WWE, after all. And if Vince McMahon is trying to send out a lesson, I’d suspect that it’d be along the lines of, “Put down the cheesecake, ladies.” And so Michelle McCool will come out victorious, and Mickie will be given the ultimatum to lose 15 pounds, or be wished well on her future endeavors.

Sheamus vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship: It’s not often you get a heel vs. heel world title match on pay per view, so this one has a lot of intrigue. It seems to be a testing of the waters of sorts for an eventual babyface run for Orton. As such, I’d expect him to subtly play the sympathetic underdog in this match, and be screwed out of a win at end. By out-sinistering the sinister Orton, Sheamus will take another step toward becoming WWE’s top heel.

The Undertaker vs. Rey Mysterio for the World Heavyweight Championship: Considering how much both WWE writers and the Undertaker have seemed to look past this match while building intrigue in a Michaels-Taker rematch, it would be easy to predict that the Undertaker will go over easy in this match, clearing the way toward a world title match against Michaels. But there are many other ways this could go – and the outcome of this match may depend on its placement on the card. If it comes before the Rumble match, than it’s a sure bet that the Taker will somehow retain (perhaps in a DQ finish with Michaels interfering.)  Taker having the title is essential toward building drama in Michaels’ pursuit of victory in the battle royal. But if the world title match goes on after the Rumble match, then another very interesting scenario is at play: Michaels wins the Rumble, only to have Undertaker somehow lose the title to Mysterio later in the night. Then Michaels has quite the decision to make – Do you take a world title match at WrestleMania, or give it up in order to challenge the Undertaker?

 

I’ll bet Taker loses the match by DQ thanks to interference by Michaels – leading to a Michaels-Mysterio match at the Elimination Chamber PPV next month.

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30-man Royal Rumble Match for a guaranteed world title match at WrestleMania 26:

The only legitimate candidates to win this match are Michaels, Triple-H, John Cena and Batista. A few others have an outside chance, such as Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase (setting up a possible world title match against Orton at ‘Mania. But each year’s Royal Rumble is all about telling the best story possible with the contestants in the match. To that end, I think, 15 years after winning his first Royal Rumble match, Michaels will do it again. And he’ll toss out Triple-H last to win the match, and further plant the seeds for an eventual DX showdown in the future. 

Here’s the official list of participants in this year’s Rumble, with some possible last-minute entrants added at the bottom. Print them up and add the number they drew next to them to keep track during the match:

ROYAL RUMBLE 2010 PARTICIPANTS

@NewsdaySports

Batista________

Chris Jericho________

C.M. Punk________

Kane________

Great Khali________

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Matt Hardy________

R-Truth________

William Regal________

Shelton Benjamin________

Yoshi Tatsu________

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Zack Ryder________

John Cena________

Triple H________

Shawn Michaels________

Ted DiBiase________

Cody Rhodes________

MVP________

The Miz________

Kofi Kingston________

Mark Henry________

Jack Swagger________

Big Show________

Evan Bourne________

Carlito________

Chris Masters________


POSSIBLE:

John Morrison

Dolph Ziggler

Santino Marella

Mike Knox

Booker T