Tomorrow night is the WWE's second most famous PPV behind Wrestlemania. The Royal Rumble has been a staple of the company for years with it's 30 man, over the top rope battle royale style match. As the guy who knows how Vince McMahon thinks almost as well as he does, I give you my predictions on the PPV match outcomes. Be warned, if you plan on ordering the PPV and want to be surprised, stop reading now. My predictions will spoil your fun.
JBL v. Y2J
With only 5 matches on the card, this is the only one with nothing at stake: no titles, no Wrestlemania opportunities, no careers. I expect this match to go on first, unless Vince throws a curve ball and begins with the Smackdown championship match. I don't think this is a hard match to predict an outcome. Jericho has been beaten up by JBL in recent weeks on tv and has not won a big match since his return. He needs this win to justify his character as legitimate, while JBL can simply whine and complain and not lose stride if he loses.
WINNER: Chris Jericho
Career Threatening Match
Ric Flair v. MVP
I have to admit, MVP is really selling himself on tv as an up and comer. If the powers that be want Flair's last match to be a springboard to a young superstar's success, MVP is a good candidate. He really exudes confidence on camera. I think MVP has a very promising future and will likely be a world champion some day. But come on. This Ric Flair storyline is not going to end tomorrow. At the very least the WWE wants him on the Wrestlemania card to build the buyrate. He can go over just about anybody at this point and it wouldn't seem out of place.
WINNER: Ric Flair
World Heavyweight Championship
Edge v. Rey Mysterio
The reason that Mysterio is challenging for the title is so the WWE can showcase his skills without tossing him into the huge pool of superstars who won't win the royal rumble match. I think Mysterio is a great draw for a specific target market who will pay to see him perform no matter what the outcome. But if he were to win the world title, he'd have to lose it in a matter of weeks because he's not going to be in the main event at Wrestlemania AGAIN. Edge just works better as a champion.
Randy Orton v. Jeff Hardy
This is the match everyone is talking about. The WWE has pushed Jeff Hardy so hard in the last few months, making him appear unstoppable. That's the kiss of death for a #1 contender. Like Mysterio, Hardy was given a 1 on 1 match at the PPV so he could be showcased instead of being just another guy eliminated from the rumble match. I have no doubt he and Orton will put on a great performance, and maybe be the best match of the night. But again, Jeff Hardy is just not marketable enough to draw a huge buyrate as a main eventer at Wrestlemania. He might win on a DQ or something, but Orton is the guy who will keep the belt. Randy just has a more larger than life persona, which is necessary for the marquee stars at Wrestlemania.
WINNER: Randy Orton (might lose by DQ, but will leave with the title)
Royal Rumble Match
This is the big one. 30 superstars, only one winner. Whoever survives has a guaranteed title shot at Wrestlemania. The WWE bills the match with a tagline of "anyone can win." If you know about the wrestling business, you know that's hogwash. Jobbers cannot possibly win the match because they wouldn't bring in a large audience in the Wrestlemania main event. So the guy who wins has to be someone who is a legitimate main eventer, or someone on the cusp of the main event who is about to break through. I'd say that narrows it down to only 5 feasible winners: Undertaker, Batista, Kennedy, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H. The thing to keep in mind is that whoever wins has 9 weeks to just chill, knowing he has a guaranteed title shot. So ask yourself: who can WWE write the best creative for with such a guarantee? There's only one guy on that list who fits the bill. And to top it off, a superstar who has been involved in a storyline where Vince wants to keep him out of the royal rumble match is usually the heavy favorite. With John Cena injurred, WWE needs its top face in the Wrestlemania main event. He'll win the royal rumble and almost certainly be the next WWE champion.
WINNER: Triple H