Royal Rumble, NXT Takeover Philadelphia predictions
Kassius Ohno vs. Velveteen Dream
Chris Novak: Kassius’ role as a proverbial gatekeeper in NXT suits the man pretty well, to be honest. At this point in his career, that’s all he needs to be. So this one should have a pretty obvious result. Velveteen Dream’s progressions through 2017 have me thinking he’s going to be an absolute STAR in 2018. I think he gets 2018 started off with a victory. This one should be a damn good one.
Robert O'Neill: It’s pretty wild that this show is so stacked that this was a late addition, considering it’s going to be an absolute banger. Ohno became a huge deal after he left WWE and crushed it on the indies as Chris Hero (which he also did before he came to WWE, to be fair) and I was absolutely thrilled when they re-signed him. Velveteen Dream, meanwhile, is so good despite being just 22. He lost to Johnny Gargano for the #1 contender spot, which shows how highly regarded he already is. Dream wins with a Purple Rainmaker (elite move name) and continues his streak of momentum
Lincoln Ricketts: Kassius Ohno’s role in NXT is to put great wrestlers over, don’t expect that to change at this Takeover. Velveteen Dream needs a win with back-to-back losses to Aleister Black & Johnny Gargano. Dream is over, one of the most exciting performers in the company and needs a strong win to ensure his place in NXT.
Pierce Roberson: Velveteen Dream has star potential. Kassius Ohno enhances talent in the best way possible. He will do that here for Dream.
Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole - Extreme Rules Match
Chris: Having Black and Cole face off in an Extreme Rules Match in Philadelphia is pretty fitting, obviously. These two have had a pretty solid feud heading into Takeover, with Black being a thorn in Undisputed Era's side for a few months now. I figure Cole probably needs this victory more than Black does right now, simply because he hasn’t picked up a signature singles victory since arriving to NXT back in August. Black won’t be hurt by the loss at all here.
Robert: An extreme rules match in Philadelphia just feels kind of fitting. Black was one of NXT’s breakout stars of 2017, but Adam Cole is Adam Cole. He’s yet to have a big moment in NXT, and it feels like this match is going to provide it.
Lincoln: Two of my favorite wrestlers in the company go at it in a brutal ECW type of match. It’s time for Aleister Black’s undefeated streak to end though. Adam Cole will win this potential match of the night in the best way he can, through heelish tactics that can’t be matched by Black.
Pierce: I think Aleister Black's character is teflon in NXT. He can lose through heelish antics to Adam Cole and not truly lose anything. Plus it's only a matter of time before Undisputed Era is holding all the belts Evolution style.
Predictions: ADAM COLE BAY BAY
NXT Tag Team Championship - Undisputed Era(c) vs. The Authors of Pain
Chris: Fish and O’Reilly won the Tag Titles over Sanity a few weeks ago on NXT, so I don’t think their reign as champions will be ending any time soon. AOP have had an absolutely dominant run in NXT over the last year and a half, after being criminally underappreciated for months by the NXT crowds. They’re so young and so good, but bigger things are probably on the horizon for them. I don’t know if this will be their farewell, but I don’t see them getting the dub.
Robert: A staple of Takeovers as far back as I can remember is an absolutely incredible tag team match. This probably won’t be any different, as these teams are both awesome. While it’s not another War Games match, it’ll still be a banger. Undisputed Era retains the tag titles, AOP gets called up to Smackdown.
Pierce: See last match. Undisputed Era needs that run with all the men's NXT titles. It's about time AOP goes to the main roster anyway.
Lincoln: It’s about that time that AOP gets called up; the best way of doing this is for them to lose clean to the Undisputed ERA. Kyle & Bobby will need to look strong if they are going to take over 2018 with Adam Cole, so expect them to win decisively.
NXT Women’s Championship - Ember Moon(c) vs. Shayna Baszler
Chris: I continue to wonder what to think about Ember Moon. On one hand, she’s pretty talented and has produced some pretty good matches. On the other hand… her character is… I don’t even know. She’s not great at her role, and I don’t know if that’s a hot take or anything, but she hasn’t quite embraced it. She just feels like she’s kind of there. Shayna has been dominant since making her debut in NXT, but hotshotting her the championship is probably the wrong move. Give me Ember here to win, but it won’t be decisive.
Robert: Ember has been a great champion. I feel like she got lost in the shuffle a bit while Asuka was around, but since Asuka’s title abdication and main roster promotion, Ember has really stood out. There also wasn’t a suitable challenger in the division, as Nikki Cross isn’t quite ready yet and the Iconic Duo (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) can’t get out of each other’s way. Enter Shayna Baszler.
The former UFC star and close friend of Ronda Rousey has only technically been with WWE for a few weeks, making her NXT debut earlier this month. She’s also a complete badass.
While it seems too hasty, Shayna is clearly qualified for this. Plus, if they’re going to eventually add Rousey to the WWE fold, it’ll make more sense for Baszler to be booked strong.
Lincoln: Shayna is scary; she scares me as I watch her destroy her opponents with every chokehold. Even if she terrifies me, I am choosing Ember Moon to win but it will not be a clean win. I believe that this will end in a DQ with Shayna Baszler attempting to injure Ember towards the end off the match. If this happens, Shayna can show her dominance without taking a clean loss and this will not hurt Ember’s momentum as champion.
Pierce: Personally I'm not a big fan of Shayna Baszler. She's booked as this era's badass, and that's fine, but to give her a title match when she's done nothing of worth in NXT makes no sense and is a direct reaction to Ronda Rousey possibly debuting in the Rumble. I think Baszler is getting handed too much too soon, while Ember Moon battled her ass off to win the belt, coming back from injury and enduring Asuka loss after loss to get it. She deserves to go into Wrestlemania weekend with the strap. Putting the belt on Baszler is a sheer lack of care for what WWE has in Ember Moon.
NXT Championship Match - Andrade “Cien” Almas(c) vs. Johnny Gargano
Chris: This feels like it’s going to be the frontrunner for Match of the Year. They had an AWESOME opener at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, and they’ll probably outdo that effort in Philly on Saturday. I’m so split on what’s going to happen here, but I think that Gargano is going to pull out the win. I can see Zelina Vega throwing the DIY t-shirt at Gargano, I can see her revealing a t-shirt of her own, but I can also see Johnny overcoming it all instead of being distracted by it like he was the last two times. I think Johnny Wrestling goes on top… but afterwards, the Psycho Killer, Tommaso Ciampa, comes back and murderkills him to set up the main event of TakeOver: NOLA.
Robert: This is going to kick ass. Gargano is the best babyface in professional wrestling right now. Almas is finally getting his due after a couple years (also Zelina Vega is great). The crowd is going to be electric and likely pulling for Gargano. Win or lose, it’s likely that Gargano is going to have to deal with an old friend before the night is over. El Idolo retains, due to Tomasso Ciampa screwing Gargano out of the title after a ref bump.
Lincoln: This is difficult for me because multiple situations can come up. Will Tommaso Ciampa interfere during the match to make Johnny lose, or will Johnny win with an attack from Ciampa after the match to set up Takeover: New Orleans. I’m going to go with the latter with Johnny Gargano winning, as this is the best babyface we have seen since Sami Zayn/Daniel Bryan and the pop would be immense.
Pierce: I love Johnny. He's a babyface in every sense of the word. The obvious build here is towards an angle involving Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, leading towards a DIY grudge match Wrestlemania. And that's what it should be. It doesn't need the belt. Who does need the belt is Andrade, who has seen a career resurgence with the belt and Zelina Vega in tow. The Los Ingobernables original should retain.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- The Usos (c) vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin (2-of-3 Falls Match)
Robert: The Usos could get an excellent match out of pretty much any tag team on the planet at this point, but when you take into consideration that the opposing team has two excellent wrestlers in Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, it’s evident that this match is gonna be great. It will likely be on the pre-show or lead off the night, as tag matches generally tend to do, and that’s been a perfect spot for the Usos the past few PPVs. Usos retain, but Gable & Benjamin get the titles eventually. Maybe at Wrestlemania.
Lincoln: The SD Tag Team division was on fire all year in 2017, with the Usos at the top giving us high quality matches. That being said, I am going to go with Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable. The switch seems inevitable, as Chad & Shelton would be the perfect team for Rusev Day to defeat.
Chris: SDL’s tag division, meanwhile, has been the best thing about the brand since the calendar turned to 2017. That’s continued in 2018, and I think it will again on Sunday. These two teams should tear the house down, and I’m not sure what route they’re going to take in this one, either. On one hand, The Usos are obviously great. On the other hand, you kind of have to put the titles on Benjamin and Gable, no? You’ve invested in them a lot over the past few months that not giving them the belts would seem a bit foolish.
Pierce: I can't say I care either way who wins here. Chad Gable will be a top guy in WWE eventually, but the Usos are the most entertaining tag team in WWE. Keep the belts on them.
Raw Tag Team Championship -- Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar
Robert: This won’t be as good as previous Bar/Shield clashes, because Jason Jordan is a bit of a drop from Dean Ambrose. Nonetheless, this has been an intriguing enough story that likely ends sooner rather than later with Jordan and Rollins turning on each other, leading to a feud between them own the line. The Bar get the titles back thanks to miscommunication between Rollins and Jordan, furthering their rift.
Lincoln: I’m conflicted with this match; I have no idea what the Wrestlemania plans are for Seth Rollins and if it includes Jason Jordan. The back & forth with the Bar has to stop so I say that Seth & Jason Jordan retains the championship belts.
Chris: Lots of people don’t care for Jason Jordan. I’m not one of them. I, frankly, have liked what they’ve done with him, as he’s such an egotistical prick that you absolutely HAVE to hate him. He’s so deluded, thinking he’s part of The Shield (or the “Champions Club” as it was, before Roman lost the IC Title to Miz). I’m not sure what route they’re going to take here, because RAW’s tag division is in the gutter right now. But I get the sense that Jordan’s going to incidentally cost them the tag titles here.
Pierce: Jason Jordan is a cornball, but he's one of the best heels on Raw for that reason. Everyone hates him, and he plays his role of the dork well. This match has the chance to be hella entertaining, and I hope it opens the show so it gives Rollins, Sheamus and Cesaro time to get ready for the Rumble. The Bar should win this one.
WWE Universal Championship: Braun Strowman vs. Kane vs. Brock Lesnar (c)
Robert: Braun probably isn’t going to win, which is going to make a lot of people mad. There’s a way to do it that doesn’t totally suck. Have him look good and have Brock pin Kane for the win. In the course of the match, have Braun continue to get his stuff in on Lesnar and look like a strong threat for his eventual ascent to the title (probably at Summerslam).
Chris: I don’t have much to say about this one. Kane being in a main event in 2018 is incredibly hard to sell me on. Brock’s been good in multi-man matches, and Braun is Braun. Brock retains here, and we get one part of the RAW WM34 match set. The other half? Well, let’s wait for Elimination Chamber for that.
Lincoln: Brock Lesnar coming out as champion on this one, there’s not much to say because Kane is here to take the pin. The only question is will this be better than Brock/Braun’s lackluster match at No Mercy?
Pierce: Isn't it obvious they're building towards Brock and Roman, again?
WWE Championship: AJ Styles(c) vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
Robert: I really have enjoyed the Owens/Shane McMahon story, and I’ll continue to enjoy it. But, for whatever reason, Owens and Styles just don’t click well. Their matches are really not that good, and aside from the obvious hurdles for Styles, I don’t think adding Zayn will fix the issues. Styles retains, likely with help from Shane McMahon.
Lincoln: While this WWE championship bout features 3 of the top workhorses of the WWE, the main players in this match are Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon. I expect AJ Styles to retain but there will be complications between both authority figures stemming from this match.
Chris: I’m not sure what to think about this one, either, because most of the storyline has been abou Daniel Bryan vs. Shane McMahon. I feel that Styles is going to retain here, because having co-champions would be… well, it wouldn’t be the CRAZIEST thing. But something has to go awry for Owens and Zayn at some point, right? They’ve been able to skirt by over the past few months. I think their good fortune comes to an end at the hands of “The Phenomenal One.”
Pierce: Do I think AJ Styles retains? Yes. Would I be mad if Sami and KO run with the belt together until the next PPV just to make the road to Mania interesting? YEP!
Women’s Royal Rumble
Robert: It has to be Asuka, right? They’ve teased Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss for weeks. I guess someone like Becky Lynch could win and provide a fun storyline against her friend Charlotte, but my pick is Asuka.
Lincoln: I believe the final four will be Sasha, Asuka, Ronda Rousey & Becky Lynch, as much as I want Becky to win, this is slated for Asuka to win. I believe they can create an angle of the 4 Horsewomen of MMA vs. Horsewomen of WWE within the match itself, so expect Asuka to take advantage of that and look to take the belt from Alexa Bliss at WM34.
Chris: Lord knows we’ve needed this for a while. But Lord knows they could’ve done a better job building up this Rumble. Never mind the fact that we don’t know 1/3rd of the field (although I suspect that it will be filled with NXT wrestlers, Mae Young Classic participants and a few legends), but there’s just so much left to be desired going into this. With that said, there are a finite amount of routes that they can take here. And honestly? I see there being only one. People think Ronda Rousey’s going to win… but she’s not even going to be in the match. She’s in Colombia, filming a movie. People think Becky Lynch is going to win… but they’ve spent zero time in building her up as a credible, legitimate challenger. There’s only one option, and it’s Asuka. Asuka’s going to win the Women’s Royal Rumble, as she probably should. I’m looking forward to next year’s Rumble, because so help me God, they won’t be “making history” again, and that won’t be the main storyline going into this.
Pierce: Everyone is going Asuka. That means Ronda Rousey will win and challenge Charlotte at Mania. Asuka will be eliminated in some backhanded way though.
Men’s Royal Rumble
Robert: I don’t see Roman Reigns winning in Philly again, even though he’ll likely be facing Lesnar for the title at Wrestlemania. It’s probably going to be someone from Smackdown, like Shinsuke Nakamura. Nak is my pick, but if they really want to throw everyone for a loop it could be Daniel Bryan. I don’t see that, though.
Lincoln: I was going to pick Nakamura but after RAW25, I am going to have to switch my pick to Finn Balor. 2018 seems like the year of the demon, as Finn got the nod of approval from the Kliq. WWE knows that we want AJ Styles vs. Nakamura and I’m pretty sure that Smackdown can build to that a different way other than the Rumble.
Chris: This might be one of the more open Rumble matches that we’ve seen in some time. There’s speculation about Daniel Bryan because of betting odds but… uh, yeah, I’m not falling for the okey doke. To me, there are a few candidates possible here: Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton. I don’t think Orton’s going to win two years in a row. I don’t think Roman’s going to win, because I think they’re going to set up Brock’s challenger at Elimination Chamber. So that takes out Finn too. Thus… I think Shinsuke Nakamura finally gets his big moment in the sun, and we go on to set up Nakamura-Styles at WM34 in NOLA.
Pierce: Everyone seems to be riding Nak to win and set up Styles-Nakamura as the modern day Savage-Steamboat. It makes sense, but too much sense for WWE. They're in Philly, and last time they ran the Rumble in Philly, Roman Reigns' hands were held up victorious while a crowd showered him in boos. Let it rain again, Philly. Let it rain.
(All photos courtesy of WWE)