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Predictions for WWE's Royal Rumble 2016

WWE personalities Triple H (L) and Shawn Michaels throw glow sticks into the crowd at a news conference announcing the WWE Network at the 2014 International CES at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on Jan. 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nev.

The Royal Rumble is here, which always brings excitement to the wrestling world. It's the start of a new year in the sport's calendar, and is the official start to the "Road to WrestleMania."

But the past two years also have brought disappointment. Nobody will forget the reactions at the end of the past two Rumbles, when Batista and Roman Reigns were left standing. As low as the bar is, the goal this year is to avoid that. And the change to the Rumble helps. For the first time since 1992, the winner of the Rumble will become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Any title change should make the crowd pop, even if it's someone whom the crowd doesn't particularly care for. Even Roman Reigns defending could — and I stress could — get a decent reaction.

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The rest of the card isn't too shabby, either. A Last Man Standing match, a Divas title match with a hot feud, and Kalisto doing his thing could lead to a very entertaining Royal Rumble pay-per-view. So after you get done shoveling, sit back, relax and get ready for a fun show.

Here are my thoughts on and predictions for the Royal Rumble:

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Preshow: The Ascension vs. The Dudleys vs. Damien Sandow and Darren Young vs. Mark Henry and Jack Swagger

The winner of this match will gain entry into the Royal Rumble. While I'm really intrigued by the Sandow-Young pairing, they're not leaving the Dudleys out of the Rumble match. What's surprising is that they'd say that six people would be out of the Rumble when the roster is already so thin. It's probably an indication that there might be more surprise entrants than usual.

Winners: The Dudleys

Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto for the U.S. title

This feud has the potential to continue after this fight, and to be very good for both wrestlers. Del Rio always has been at his best when he has a size advantage. He's also great when he face someone who wrestles in a lucha libre style. Kalisto fills both of these roles. WWE has seemed to catch lightning in a bottle with Kalisto. People always thought he'd have a bright future, but it was unsure exactly when that would come. Between his role in the TLC match last month and Sin Cara's injury, WWE took a chance and ran with it. This one is tricky to predict, especially if we're assuming the feud continues. My guess is that Del Rio retains, but there's a lot of nonsense in this one, especially from the other League of Nations members.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

The New Day vs. The Usos for the Tag Team title

This match might be the toughest to predict. The New Day is still, of course, the best thing in WWE today. But it almost feels as if they've been spinning their wheels somewhat in the tag-team division, and they could do so much more. If the team lost the titles to go after a bigger title, or to simply move up the card, I could see it. But it also seems like WWE is happy with them in this position, to make the tag division feel like it matters more. And even if WWE wanted to push them up the card, it could do that with the tag titles. So it could go either way. My guess is that WWE doesn't try to shake things up quite yet. But it could come soon.

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Winner: The New Day

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch for the Divas title

This has been the best storyline coming into the Royal Rumble. This is what the Divas Revolution should be about: a coherent story, with sensible motivations on both sides, and good wrestling. And WWE has done that perfectly here. Becky Lynch, who at one point seemed to be the odd woman out in the "Four Horsewomen," now looks like an absolute star, and I don't think it would shock anyone if she won Sunday night. But the storyline would work a little better if Charlotte retains the title. I could see a disqualification in which Becky wins and Charlotte retains, or I could see Charlotte cheating to win. This storyline won't end Sunday night, though. I'll go with the DQ finish. Ric Flair tries to get involved and gets caught by the ref. The storyline continues, and maybe adds in Sasha Banks in the near future.

Winner: Becky Lynch (but Charlotte retains)

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental title

Without a title match on the card, WWE had to do something to fill the show and make it more than a one-match card. This certainly does it. This should be a phenomenal match, no doubt about it. The only confusing thing is that Owens and Ambrose were two guys who could have had a big impact in the Rumble. Kevin Owens was probably even considered to be a dark-horse candidate before this match. Now it's hard to see them even being in the Rumble, let alone being a candidate to win — unless they just shake it off and enter with no ill effects, which would be an awful piece of storytelling. Besides that, though, this could be a match-of-the-year contender. The creativity these two could show in keeping their opponent down should be on full display Sunday night. I think it makes more sense for Ambrose to win here, just because you could do much bigger things with Owens going forward. If done properly, this match could really serve to elevate the IC title. They just have to build on it.

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Winner: Dean Ambrose

Royal Rumble

There are three favorites for this, but let's look at a few dark horses first:

Bray Wyatt: Wyatt clearly staked his case for this at the end of RAW. While most people took the segment as simply setting up a feud with Brock Lesnar, why couldn't the feud also involve the belt? If they're looking for a surprise, this would be just that, without unsettling any of the storylines too much.

Daniel Bryan: We're talking about long shots here, right? If — and it's a titanic if — WWE felt desperate enough to clear Daniel Bryan, then he has to be considered a favorite. If he's in the Rumble, he almost has to win after the past two years. For that reason, it's really hard to see him entering. But if he randomly shows up at No. 20 ... he's instantly the favorite in the match.

AJ Styles: Yes, AJ Styles. They've been making a big deal about him coming. What better way to make a statement that AJ Styles is here, and that they aren't going to screw up this moment, than by having him win the title in his first go-round?

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But all three are long shots, so why not look at the favorites?

Roman Reigns: They've made the entire match revolve around him. They've made the entire show revolve around him. So why wouldn't they keep the title with him? There are certainly compelling reasons to do so. He's had the title for only a month. They want him to "look strong." The big problem, to me, is having him win from the No. 1 position. I feel like fans would have been OK with just about any finish. Reigns winning from the No. 1 position is a rough one to accept, though, especially if he breaks Rey Mysterio's record in the process. But would you really bet against Roman Reigns? That's tough to do.

Brock Lesnar: I mean, he's Brock Lesnar. Before they announced that the Rumble match was for the title, not only was he the favorite to win, he was also basically the only person in consideration. Sportsbooks were putting down bets as Lesnar versus the field. Lesnar-Reigns is certainly a high-profile match, and it seemed like they were going that route. But the addition of the title changed everything. That doesn't mean Lesnar couldn't win. If they still wanted to go Lesnar-Reigns, there's no reason Lesnar couldn't win the title here.

Triple H: He went from extreme underdog to favorite once the title stipulation was added to the mix. It just makes so much sense here. People thought the Triple H-Reigns match at WrestleMania made sense, but it would be hard to get there with Reigns as champion. Triple H winning a title just feels wrong from a wrestling perspective. What doesn't feel wrong, though, is him coming in at No. 30 and sneaking his way to a victory. It adds so much to the feud between him and Reigns. It sets up the marquee WrestleMania main event that WWE would want. It just fits too well, and that's why he's the favorite, and the likely winner.

Winner: Triple H

Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comment section, email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also find my podcast, Jobbing Out, here.


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