Social media is a double edged sword.  In fact, it’s more like a multi-sided sword, if that’s even possible. . . Can you have a sword that’s also an octagonal prism?

. . .

I shouldn’t write these columns on only 4 hours of sleep.

Last month I realized that I was spending so much time Tweeting, I wasn’t actually watching the wrestling on my WWE Network, and thus was born #SummerSlamTaughtMe, a series of handwritten notes that became a couple of columns and part of a podcast.

This month for Night of Champions, I decided to avoid social media during most of the matches, and once again took up my pen and yellow legal pad.  However, as I watched WWENOC, I found myself discovering broader themes rather than just bad jokes and minor observations.

So, for #NOCTaughtMe, let’s do single lessons from each match, shall we?

The Pre-show match taught me that Cosmic Wasteland can be a force.

Doc Manson and I discussed their future and potential briefly on the NAIborhood podcast yesterday morning, but seeing them in action last night really made me a believer.  Stardust is a natural leader, this was common knowledge, but what impressed me even more was how different The Ascension looked.  No longer bogged down by the pressure of doing everything on their own (especially with that terrible “we’re better than you” gimmick), Konnor and Viktor positively shined just being able to be wrestlers.

I’m excited to see where this goes from here.

The IC title match taught me that Kevin Owens is a trend-setter.

One of the most common things I saw online near the end or just following Night of Champions was that the ‘event’ (can’t call it a PPV, can we?) had an “old school” feel to it, and I think we can thank our new Intercontinental champion for that.  Mr. Owens had a match that Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and our own MagnumNAI would be proud of, spending the majority of it isolating a body part and working it over with some of the most innovative offense I’ve seen in quite some time.

Hammerlock Russian leg sweeps, sentons directly to the arm, it was a treat to watch, and for what it’s worth, Ryback did a fine job of selling that injury.  He really didn’t have to do much else.

Maybe Kevin Owens didn’t inspire the rest of the roster to break out their 80’s wrestling psychology, but it was notable that many other performances that followed (including, most surprisingly, Nikki Bella’s) involved similar styles of wrestling.

The prestige and honor of many fans (this one included) favorite title is in your hands, Mr. Owens.  Make us proud.

The #LoveRhombus match taught me that #StoryMatters.

They probably didn’t have the best match on the card, but Dolph Ziggler and Rusev definitely had themselves a pretty good match, yet nobody seemed to care.  Why?  Obviously because we all have gotten so tired of this angle that nothing can save us.

You know who else was obviously tired of that story?  The wrestlers themselves.  It’s Rusev and Ziggler, so you’re going to get a good match regardless, but couldn’t you tell that there was just a little less than full effort coming from them?  They weren’t really giving it their all, which would explain why, on a couple of occasions, we saw phantom bumps.  Rusev runs the ropes to hit Ziggler on the apron, and Dolph takes off before Rusev gets there.  Rusev sells a DDT without his head actually hitting the canvas.  Those kinds of things.

Truthfully, we can’t blame the talents - This has been dumb for a long time and I’m sure both talents would like to move on.  Whether or not they can do so is a different story.

One thing I will say, though.  I love me some #SadRusev.

The Tag Team Title match taught me that New Day is the total package.

No offense, Mr. Luger, but Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods are everything that is nice and good in professional wrestling.  We saw it with their ‘Table for 3’ episode, we see it each night on RAW, and we absolutely saw it at Night of Champions.

What do we want from a “perfect” wrestler?  An impressive look, excellent wrestling skills (which hopefully include power, aerial ability and some technical know-how), and charisma, particularly if it can translate onto the microphone.  While it could be argued that no member of New Day has all of those features (though I could make a case for Big E), with their powers combined, they are something to behold.

I know this because, for that entire match, I couldn’t have cared less about the Dudleys.  They were just in the way of the Day, if you will.  I enjoy Bubba and Devon, but they were easily and completely overshadowed by Rufio and his Lost Boys.

New Day could be, historically, something very special.

The Divas title match taught me that Nikki Bella is, after all this time, a talented wrestler.

I stayed on social media for this match, figuring it would play in the background and I’d glance at it from time to time, but I actually spent a good portion of the match paying attention, and that was all thanks to Nikki.  When did she become Dean Malenko?  Why wasn’t I given a memo?  If Nikki has really been that skilled all this time, why on Earth did they not let her defend her title?

A lot of people were confused by the nature of that match, but it made sense to me,  One of the biggest criticisms of Charlotte’s game has been her ability to sell, and that gave us all a chance to see if she’s improved in that area.  It was a bit over-the-top, in my opinion, but she’s a Flair after all, so I guess that comes with the territory.

I almost felt a little bad for Nikki, to dominate the match the way she did and then lose so quickly.

Am I starting a #GiveNikkiAChance movement?  No, but I have far more respect for her than I did before.  That’s something.

The AmbReigns / Wyatts match taught me to give WWE the benefit of the doubt.

As I said on the podcast, one of the matches I was most looking forward to was this six man tag, solely because I love a good mystery partner.  When I saw the countdown and heard the music. . . I was less than thrilled.

In fact, I was borderline devastated.  There were about 7-8 other guys that would have been more preferable to me, and those were just the likely names.  Heck, I would have probably been more excited to see Big Show waddle his way down to the ring.

Jericho didn’t make any sense other than he fought with Bray Wyatt a long time ago.  He didn’t have the size, the strength or the relevance to make a lot of sense there.

Then he made the blind tag on Roman, and it all started to make sense.

Chris Jericho wasn’t going to work as an opponent of the Wyatt Family. . . But he does make some sense as an opponent for Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. . .

NAI Honorary Team Member Adam hit the nail right on the head with his prediction, so props to him.  I went from disappointment to intrigued with that tag, and I’m excited to see where this goes from here.

Well done, WWE, you do know what you’re doing.

The last two matches went back to back, so I’m going to group them together for a couple of final points.

The US and WHC title matches taught me that Seth Rollins is my favorite current WWE wrestler.

Throughout the night, I found myself criticizing the logic of some of these matches.  Why would Nikki Bella even participate in this match?  Why not take a countout or blatant DQ?  (I forgot about the no DQ rule, and thanks to the 457 people who reminded me)  I was told to stop being rational, to suspend disbelief and to just enjoy the show, but I found it hard to do that with all these questions.  I’m all for surrendering to the rationale of pro wrestling, but there needs to be SOME adherence to common sense.

Seth Rollins seems to incorporate that, and I really appreciate it.

I first noticed it when Cena was doing his “Cena thing” hitting the shoulderblocks.  What happens next is textbook - The wrestler takes a giant swing, Cena ducks, hits the side slam or Blue Thunder Bomb (whatever it is) and goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle.

Except Rollins didn’t swing.  He feinted, then hit a neckbreaker, and if memory serves, he gave the crowd a little “no way” look as he did it.

I loved that.  Rollins is already a super talented wrestler, perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in a very long time.  Adding some actual logic and intelligence just sealed the deal.  I also appreciated the number of times he tried to crawl or walk away with his title during the WHC match.  That’s what a heel champion should do - anything to save the belt.

He might not be the next Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, but Seth Rollins is a special talent, and you saw the way he randomly decided to control the crowd in a wave - He’s going to be the biggest babyface in the world REALLY soon.

The WHC match taught me that Sting is one tough 56 year old.

We’re not sure what the nature or severity of Sting’s injury is, but obviously something was wrong during that title match, and that’s not even counting the huge bruise on his arm from smashing into the monitor on the Spanish Announce Table.

That was a scary moment, though, seeing him collapse in the middle of the ring.  For just a second, I thought he was going to need to be carted out, and it was terrifying.

I give Steve Borden all the credit in the world for fighting through whatever the injury was and continuing the match, no matter how short it may have been.  We’ve all spent a lot of time discussing Sting’s legacy, or the manner in which it has been portrayed by WWE.  That moment there, staggering to his feet and continuing the match, might be the best thing Sting has ever done in a McMahon-controlled ring.

The WHC match taught me that absence (and a mask) makes the heart grow fonder.

We all knew that Sheamus was going to try to cash in last night, but I didn’t see anyone on Twitter predicting that Kane would make his presence known during the main event.  I figured he was there solely to give some slight air of mystery to who would be teaming with AmbReigns.

I have never been as big of a Kane fan as Jason Moltov or Liam Stryker.  He’s been a fine and loyal WWE worker and I’ve enjoyed some of his matches, but I’ve always been ‘meh’ when it comes to the Big Red Machine, even more so when he went Corporate.

Yet there was a moment. . . After chokeslamming Rollins AND Sheamus. . . Where I was sitting upright in bed, quietly (since Mrs. Matthews was sleeping) begging Kane to grab the MITB briefcase, cash it in, and become World Heavyweight Champion.

Maybe it was because the “Demon” was back. . . Maybe it was because we hadn’t seen him in a while. . . Or maybe it was just #AnyoneButSheamus. . . but. . .

For just those few seconds, I became the kind of fan WWE has always wanted us to be - Lost in the moment, all reasonable thought out the window, pleading for a 20 year veteran I’ve never really been in love with to beat, as I just described, my favorite wrestler.

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Goofy gimmicked stables. . . Working over a single body part . . . Solid storytelling. . . Totally bought in.

Now that’s Old School.

In 10 days, WWE will bring us Night of Champions, the annual PPV where every title belt is on the line.  As many of you know (I shan’t assume you’re all well versed in current-day storylines), that puts Seth Rollins in an interesting spot, being the current World Heavyweight AND United States champion.  Mr. Rollins will be defending the US belt against John Cena and the World title against Sting.

Everybody with me?  Good.

There are four possible outcomes stemming out of Night of Champions, assuming, of course, that all of the matches wind up in clean, straightforward decisions.

Stop laughing.

Based off of a question by @Cody_Burris, let’s chat about each outcome one at a time, discussing why it might happen, what it could mean, and how likely it might be.

Rollins loses both matches, and therefore, both titles.

This might happen if WWE wants to take the Seth Rollins character in a new direction.  So far, we’ve rarely, if ever, seen Seth struggle.  He was highly successful with The Shield and then transitioned directly to The Authority’s Golden Boy.  Up until now (if memory serves), we’ve never seen Rollins on the ropes.

To put it another way, playing off of a character from a few months ago, we’ve never seen “Sad Rollins”.

By having Rollins lose both titles in a single night, Sad Seth comes to the forefront.  For the first time, there’s doubt, both in his mind and in the minds of The Authority.  What if Rollins ISN’T all that and a bag of organic, vegan vegetable crisps?  What if Triple H and Stephanie picked the wrong horse?  This would make for some compelling television.

How likely is it? Honestly, not very.  Doing this sends a very clear signal that WWE has lost some semblance of faith in their champion, so much so that he’s not even worthy of a mid-card title.  I don’t think this is the world we wake up to on the first day of autumn.

Rollins wins both matches and keeps both titles.

This might happen if, compared to the first scenario, WWE wants to send a message that Seth Rollins IS the superstar of the next 10 years, and that’s the end of the discussion.  In the 90’s, Shawn Michaels held the World and European titles for reasoning that escape me right now, but it was around that time that he was THE guy.  As much as people might balk at the comparison, Rollins CAN BE the next Shawn Michaels if WWE wants it - uncanny ring work, charisma galore and even the potential for backstage drama.

Seth Rollins is the NoseBreak Kid.  Copyright DC Matthews, 2015.

How likely is it?  Only slightly more likely than him losing both titles, really.  As Liam Stryker says each and every week on NAIpod, the biggest problem WWE has right now is with commitment.  They don’t seem able to fully put their weight behind a single star, so they’re just dancing around with a group of them.

I have a hard time seeing WWE allowing Rollins to beat two all-time legends, even if one is “merely” a WCW icon in Sting.  Just don’t think they want to put all their eggs in that basket.

Seth Rollins loses the US title but retains his World title.

This might happen if WWE wants to hit the reset button on the last 6-8 weeks.  Just like you, I can’t possibly explain the whole Jon Stewart debacle from Summer Slam.  Maybe Stewart insisted on having some ring action, maybe it was just to get the publicity - who knows?

What I do know is that the vast majority of the WWE universe (and NAIborhood, a very exclusive part of the Universe) thought Cena dropping the US title to Rollins made no sense, and perhaps WWE has been swayed.  Putting the title back on Cena allows them to “do it right”, even if Owens is the IC champion by then.

How likely is it?  Far likelier than the other two so far, solely because it requires very little effort on WWE’s part.  They love their lazy booking, and by going back to the US Open Challenge and Seth Rollins World title promos, they’ve written almost a third of RAW already.

This entire column stemmed from the notion that WWE had a bunch of John Cena US title t-shirts ready to be shipped, which led people to believe that a Cena victory was imminent.

My thoughts on that?  Please, people.  There are ALWAYS Cena shirts ready.  I’m sure they have designs prepped for a John Cena Diva’s title, if ever there’s a need.

Seth Rollins retains the US title but loses the World Title

This might happen if WWE recognizes the golden opportunity they have right now, one that they’ve been squandering since Survivor Series of last year.

As much as Vince McMahon and friends might hate to admit it, Sting IS A LEGEND.  They might not have educated new fans on Sting’s role in wrestling history, but his place can not be questioned.

Giving Sting a run with the World Heavyweight Championship, as ludicrous as it might seem, will draw older fans back and potentially create a new flock of fans.  Sadly, Raven won’t be involved.

They don’t need him to hold the title for very long.  Survivor Series at the shorter end, the Rumble at the longer.  A couple of title defenses and a hotly contested loss to John Cena (that’s who he’d lose it to, there’s no question) is all WWE needs to honor an icon and make wrestling fun again for anyone who was a fan of the surfer / Crow / Joker these last few decades.

Plus, Rollins retains a title and can be a contender for the top strap again anytime WWE needs. (remember, HHH held the IC title after winning his first World title.)

How likely is it? This is, in my mind, the likeliest scenario for Night of Champions.  It keeps Rollins relevant, it makes Sting relevant and it puts Cena in prime position for his 16th world title.  Hate it if you must, but that’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle.

WWE will likely feel it is best for Seth Rollins to retain his US title and for Sting to win the World Heavyweight Championship.  As the hip hashtaggers would say, #BookIt.

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What do YOU think?  What is, in your mind, the most likely scenario?  Be Heard.

We are less than 36 hours from the 2015 Hall of Fame ceremonies, which means it is the PERFECT time to start gazing into our orbs of crystal and making predictions for the 2016 Hall of Fame class.  Who will make the cut next year?  Will it shape up better than this class has seemed to?  Sure, so long as I have something to say about it. . .

(I don’t have anything to say about it.)

Still, I’ll give you the talents I’d put in next year’s group.  Here’s what I’ll include

A major headlining talent
A “minor” headlining talent
 (the Kevin Nash to Randy Savage, for example)
A tag team
A female talent
An “older” talent
 (think Larry Zbyszko)
A celebrity
A foreign talent and/or a “minority” talent
 (sad, but true - This is why Rikishi is getting in, after all)

I will not be including the “Warrior” Hall of Famer, since I’m not sure if this will be an annual thing or only when it is warranted.  Hoping for the latter, honestly.

On we go!

Sting

Some might believe this is a year or two too early, but it comes down to the fact that WWE is quickly running out of these “top” names.  The only other name I could see getting inducted in 2016 is The Rock, and if he’s supposedly wrestling Lesnar at 32, then I doubt he’s getting inducted.

Of course, if Sting wrestles Taker, then who the heck knows?

Still, I’ll say it’s Sting’s year.

”Ravishing” Rick Rude

I was honestly stunned to learn that Rude wasn’t already a member of the Hall of Fame - He was just one of those guys I assumed had been in for ages.

Rick Rude was a one-of-a-kind talent, in my mind.  It’s rare to find someone who has such a perfect match with his gimmick - nobody played the “I’m sexy and I know it” card quite like Rick Rude did.  If you like Shawn Michaels (especially when he was full on HBK), if you like Tyler Breeze, than you would love the “Ravishing One”.

The New Age Outlaws

This is a rare case where the tag team can also close out the show, usually a spot reserved for one of the two “headliners”.   You’re damn right that the D-O-Double-G and Mr. A-Double Crooked Letter are going to end things in 2016.

Arguably the best tag team during my really big childhood watching years, Brian James and Kip Sopp prove that sometimes a tandem of convenience can work - both The Roadie and Rockabilly were going nowhere with bad gimmicks until this team happened.

Are you listening, WWE?  Adam Rose and Fandango - Make them a team!  Now!

Miss Elizabeth


Truth be told, this should be happening this year - inducting Savage and Liz in the same year puts as much of a happy ending on this doubly tragic story as you can.

Sunny may claim to be the original Diva, but Miss Elizabeth is the true innovator, in my eyes.  She was THE valet of the 1980’s and the first one to take a major role in main event storylines.  She needs to be in the Hall.

Teddy Long


People might see this and immediately think “Oh, well yeah, you need an African American”, but to be honest, Long is deserving regardless of race.  He’s been a referee, a manager and a General Manager, and has had a wrestling career that has spanned multiple decades.

Plus, without Teddy Long, we’d have no “Hate-O-Rade”, and we can’t have that.

Ray Stevens


The only reason I’m listing “The Crippler” is because he’s been rumored for so long.  I don’t know anything about him, so if you’re curious, ask Magnum or somebody.

Seth Green


He’s guest hosted RAW a couple times and, if memory serves, even had a match.  Put Seth Green in the Hall!

The Aguayo family


This might not happen since the tragic events of Perro Jr’s death will have taken place over a year away by the 2016 ceremony, but it would be a kind gesture to induct the Aguayo clan into the Hall.

Perro Sr. had a handful of WWE appearances back in the 90’s and is a legend in Mexico, and we now know the story of his son.  This is the classy act we now expect from WWE.

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What do YOU think?  Who makes the cut for the 2016 Hall of Fame?  Be Heard.

 

On today's installment of NAIpod, Jason and Liam discuss the unique situation regarding John Cena, and how he's NEVER GOING TO EVER GO AWAY!

Excuse me. . . Got a bit emotional. . .

In doing so, they discussed Hulk Hogan's departure from the company in mid-1993, and wondered what may have happened if the Real American never left WWF?

Sounds like the perfect "What If Wednesday" to me. . .

What if Hulk Hogan never left WWF?

To set the scene for those too young to remember, Hulk had spent most of the early 90's answering the siren call of Hollywood, and Vince McMahon had used this opportunity to get a little younger, wrestling wise.  Bret Hart became the flagbearer of WWF, winning the World Title from Ric Flair in 1992 and carrying it into Wrestlemania IX against Yokozuna.

Perhaps because Vince didn't have faith in Bret as company lead or perhaps just to mollify Hogan and get him out, the booking wound up with Hogan beating Yokozuna for the title at 'Mania, carrying it until King of the Ring.  After losing (thanks to the mystery bearded flash-bomb photographer) to Yoko, Hogan disappeared.

So, let's start our hypothetical in the beginning of that decade.  Let's presume that Hogan and Vince sign a long-term extension somewhere around Wrestlemania VII, right after Hogan beats Sgt. Slaughter.  Let's see what could have happened. . .

Hulk Hogan doesn't make so many bad movies

We'll let him keep Suburban Commando, but Mr. Nanny is right out.

Bret Hart grows frustrated with the glass ceiling in WWF.

With Hogan staying at the top, which is frankly the only way he remains in WWE, Bret Hart has no chance of main event success.  He becomes a multi-time IC title winner, but most likely just becomes Hulk Hogan's lackey.  Like Randy Savage of the Mega-Powers.

Now, he could turn heel and challenge Hogan that way, but we've all seen Bret Hart as a heel, and it doesn't really work.

More than likely. . .

Bret Hart leaves WWF and goes to WCW.

Without the possibility of signing the Hulkster, Bischoff and WCW wind up picking up Bret Hart, who likely wins the World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair (possibly even around the same time of late 1992, but likely not is Saskatoon, Canada.)

Bret Hart going to WCW and finding success likely sets a light bulb off in Bischoff's head, so. . .

WCW embraces a youth movement, trying to sign as many young stars from WWF as possible.

Curt Hennig is likely a top target, as could be re-signing former WCW talent Mark Callaway (aka, The Undertaker.)  Vince would of course hold on to some of these talents (for some reason, I don't see Shawn Michaels in WCW), but a lot of these guys head South with the promise of being given opportunities for career growth in WCW.

Embracing a youth movement means holding onto some of their young studs. . .

Steve Austin remains a WCW employee.

With guys like Bret and Mr. Perfect around, you need "Stunning" Steve to have good matches with them, so he stays.  In fact, after Ric Flair "passes the torch", you might not even need him anymore.

WWF signs Ric Flair back to have someone to compete with Hogan.

If WCW is going young, WWF might try to capitalize on the nostalgia market, plus be able to book Hogan vs Flair, the feud between the 2 top wrestlers of their generation.   Adding in Savage, Piper, Bossman and the like, WWF has a top card in the mid 90's that looks remarkably like WCW's did.

As you can see, Hulk Hogan staying in WWF likely turns the entire wrestling world upside down, with WCW and WWF essentially switching places, roster wise.

A couple other things that could happen.

Owen Hart doesn't die in the ring.

Assuming little brother follows big brother to Atlanta, there's no need for Owen to become the Blue Blazer, which means he's not up in the rafters on that fateful day in 1999.

Is there a Monday Night War?

While Ted Turner would undoubtedly want to compete head-to-head with Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff might have other ideas.  A younger, "trendier" roster might mean he wants to have a 'trendier' time slot, so he might go for a "Must See TV" spot.   Thursday Night Nitro, perhaps?

The Free Agents

Not quite free agents, but guys like Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Mick Foley and, a few years down the road, Triple H and The Rock have quite the conundrum.   WWF is still the biggest name in wrestling (or is it?) and has the star power of Hogan, Flair and the like. . .  But WCW is where the young talents are making a name for themselves.

I imagine Hall, Foley and Triple H stay / go to WCW, where they become part of an incredibly deep roster.  Kevin Nash goes to WWF to be a Hogan-battling heel, and The Rock eventually becomes Hogan's successor in WWF, as by the late 90's, even Vince sees that its time for Hogan to ride off into the sunset.

Heyman

While he would still be the lovable irritant that he is today, Paul Heyman would likely have found a role in WCW.  While he and Bischoff may never have been able to work together particularly well, they both would do well with the young evolution of the roster.

If Heyman stays in WCW, then there is no ECW.   The "Extreme" mindset remains in WCW, who continues to innovate and elevate the sport of wrestling.

With the aged roster in WWF, they can't keep up.

You see where I'm going with this. . .

End Result:  If Hogan stays in WWF, WCW wins.

A roster of young. hungry, talented guys with opportunities for career growth and the ability to get "extreme" trumps a group of older wrestlers still clinging to PG conventions and battling under a single top guy who doesn't know when to get out of the way.

Sound familiar, ROH and NXT fans?

The Undertaker is a major feature of the WWE's Wrestlemania 31 advertisements that currently adorn their production trucks, and with rumors beginning to fly about whether or not Mark Calloway makes his return to WWE in the next few months, I thought we should take a look at what his role could be for the "Grand-Daddy of them all!"

Sting

This is the most obvious choice, as people have been debating the merits of a Phenom vs. Icon match for years.  While the build-up and drama would be epic, there is no guarantee about match quality, so I'm less enthused about this potential option than some of the others I'll mention.   Plus, after Survivor Series, Sting has to wrestle Triple H, right?

Bray Wyatt

If you made most WWE fans pick a current superstar to face the Deadman (not counting our current WHC, who isn't exactly "current", is he?), I'm venturing that almost all of them would say Bray Wyatt.  While he doesn't have the physical presence of The Undertaker, his gimmick is certainly the closest, and as with Sting, the lead-in to Mania would be pretty amazing.

The biggest problem with this idea is in terms of who wins.  Nobody wants to see Undertaker lose 2 matches in a row, and at this point Bray needs as many wins as he can get.  Unlikely, but a decent idea.

Kane

No, I don't mean Corporate Kane. . . Or Concessions Kane for that matter.  This match would require Hell's Favorite Demon to make a return, mask optional, in one final battle between the Brothers of Destruction.

In a perfect world, this winds up being a double retirement match.  While Undertaker is far and away the superior 'legend', these two talents have been linked for so many years that it would be poetic justice for them to end their careers facing each other.

Or, at least, in the same ring. . .

The Ascension

Up until they started getting their asses kicked by Itami and Balor, Konnor and Viktor were poised to be the next dominant talents in WWE.   If you believe the rumors, this might still be the case, as these two will likely be making their main roster debuts soon after Takeover, and in Road Warrior-esque style to boot.

These two need a high profile feud to establish themselves, and if they are truly going to be the next monsters (despite their lack of size), fighting a  Brothers of Destruction would be one way to do it.   In my WAYYY too early predictions for Wrestlemania (also located here at NAI), I hypothesized that Kane and Big Show could be a team to take on The Ascension at Mania -  Taker and Kane would make it ten times better.

Luke Harper

This is my reach pick - Though Harper is immensely talented and poised to be a giant threat in WWE for the next few years, I'm not sure anyone in the company sees him as anywhere near Taker.  However, there's potential here.  This would be a fun mini-feud; Harper gets elevated just by being acknowledged by the Deadman and Undertaker leaves the WWE on a winning note.

Brock Lesnar

This idea has been bandied about social media for months now, practically ever since Lesnar won the WHC.  After a stretch of dominant performances (or, in this case, a couple dominant performances followed by 2-3 months off), the Undertaker returns to avenge his Wrestlemania defeat.  The two go head to head for the title at Wrestlemania, Undertaker is victorious and retires as champion the next night on RAW, setting up a tournament to crown a new champion (which, if booked right, could easily be Roman Reigns).

Again, I'm dubious about the possibilities, but a lot of fans would probably sleep better at night if this happened, erasing the memories of Wrestlemania 30.

John Cena

I seem to be the only one riding this train, but so be it, I'll ride it alone.

For those who've missed my earlier thoughts on this, there was promo Cena did leading up to Night of Champions.   In this promo, Cena makes a somewhat offhanded comment about how he had made his return from a Brock Lesnar beatdown after only a few weeks, whereas 'Taker had suffered his loss way back at 'Mania and had not been seen since.  This, to me, was more than just a throwaway bit of braggadocio.  This was a slap in the face of Undertaker, one that should not and likely would not go unnoticed.

Even months later, I still think this would be an excellent feud.  Taker comes out and attacks Cena at the Rumble, costing him his chance at victory.   When he comes out to explain himself the next night, Undertaker shows this comment and, in the tradition of the once-American Bad Ass, says that while Cena might be the Big Dog of the WWE, this is still HIS yard.

Once more, we come down to who wins.  I liked to think that Cena would be happy to help Taker end his career in the right way, but that was before I heard John personally asked to be the one to end the Streak, an act of such utter horse manure that it makes me sick just thinking about it.   So perhaps this wouldn't be such a good idea after all.

Nobody

Just because Undertaker is featured on the trucks doesn't mean he wrestles at 'Mania.  Would anyone question Calloway's Hall of Fame credentials?  Would anyone scoff at the idea of him being inducted so soon after, potentially, wrestling his last match?   We might be in store for just an appearance from The Phenom, and frankly, that would be enough for me.

What do YOU think?  How should The Undertaker be used at Wrestlemania, if he is used at all?

For my money, there is no better single PPV concept than the Royal Rumble.  It’s the perfect event for a culture with short attention spans.  Every 60-120 seconds (depending on the year) another superstar enters the mix, leaving a seemingly endless number of possibilities.  There’s always some surprise returns (at least there have been these last few years), some feuds continue while others begin and inevitably Kofi Kingston does something ridiculous, thereby leaving him free to languish in glorified jobber squalor for the next 364 days. . .

Sorry, was I really bitter just then?

Recently it was “officially” announced that this year’s Rumble would feature 40 participants, which I believe is only the second time in history that has happened.  This has only added to the Twit-splosion of predictions, conjectures and fantasy booking as to what’s going to happen, even though we have 3 more PPV’s to go before we get to the ‘start of Wrestlemania season’.

This decision, along with some other nuggets of info I’ve gleaned in the past 24 hours or so, has set my own creative juices flowing.  Therefore, let’s take a look into our collective Crystal Ballz Mahoney and see what the future may hold for our Rumble experience.

By my calculations and creations, there are about 75 possible wrestlers who could be a part of the Royal Rumble.  Let’s break them into groups for easier viewing.

Current WWE Superstars

For this section I am not counting anyone who is currently on the shelf - that will be a separate category altogether.

Now, in past Rumbles, a lot of talents have “doubled up”, wrestling in an early singles or tag match and then coming back for the Rumble.  The only exception we can safely make here is the main event, since I doubt either the champ or his opponent will take part in the battle royal.

Provided Brock Lesnar’s heart conditions aren’t more serious than we are being led to believe, we’ll assume he’s going to be defending his title.  Honestly, I think we’re going to see Lesnar vs. John Cena, part III (or IV, depending on how you look at it).  Barring a certain Galactic Destroyer’s return (more on Blue-tista later) or a random Triple H match, there just doesn’t seem to be any other viable opponents.

Honestly, that’s probably the best scenario. Cena in the main event means Cena isn’t in the Rumble, and as we all know, half the Twitter-verse would up and quit watching WWE if that happens.

So if Cena is out, we can pretty safely fill just about 75% of the rest of the participants. I don’t want this to turn into a laundry list, so let’s just focus on the ones who have at least a puncher’s chance of winning the darn thing.

Obviously we’ll see both healthy ex-Shield brothers.  (Shh, stop saying all 3, I’m getting to that!)  We’ll see everyone currently involved in the mid-card title picture, including the newly renamed Damien Mizdow.  I expect we’ll see the recently dismantled Wyatt Family, and possibly Bray Wyatt’s new charges, provided everyone is right in assuming The Ascension is heading Bray’s way.

We usually see the members of the tag title picture in, especially since “anything can happen” and “it’s every man for himself”.  Fans will be clamoring to see Goldust and Stardust at odds in the annual “Hope for a Rhodes Brothers match” telethon.  We’ll also likely see The Usos. Thus ends the “top tier” tag title picture. . . How sad is that?

Rusev, Big Show, Mark Henry. . .  Actually, lets save me the trouble of typing.  Go to WWE.com, click on the roster and scroll through.  Pretty much everybody is fair game, though if we see a Bull, a Bunny or a “Mini-Gator” in this Rumble, something bad has happened.

Ok, that brings us to the. . .

Injury Returns

Forty participants increases the odds of seeing a larger number of these folks back, which is lucky for us, since most of them are the favorites to win the entire event.

Let me state that again.  The likeliest winners of the Royal Rumble are those who are currently on the disabled list.  Ladies and gentlemen, the 2014 WWE!

Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns top the list of guys whose names you can probably write down in pen for the Rumble, as well as those most likely to be in the final four, though also don’t count out Bad News Barrett, who might be ready for a main event boost when he returns.

Christian, Ryback and Darren Young are the other injured members of the roster, though depending on what article you read on any given day, their return dates are much more tentative.

That takes us through the injuries, so now let’s move to the . . .

“One Night Only” / Expected Returns

This category is two-fold and frankly, doesn’t need any more explanation.

With 40 men participating, we could definitely see Booker T, Jerry Lawler, JBL, Billy Gunn or Road Dogg making a cameo.  Also don’t count out either Alex Riley or Lord Prince J-Train Albert, though they are far less likely.  Depending on how The Authority storyline plays out a Jamie Noble or Joey Mercury appearance isn’t completely out of the question.  And finally, it’s the Rumble, so that means Kevin Nash is never far away, even if he tore his quad. . . Again. . . filming the sequel to the stripper movie.

Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam are the final names in this category as we could see them make a return for the ‘Mania season.  They also fit into our next category, as we enter the realm of…

ECW Alumni

As soon as I heard that the Rumble was in Philly this year, I knew there would have to be some ‘Extreme’ representation at the Rumble, and even Tommy Dreamer’s somewhat desperate tweet didn’t dissuade me.  It’s a foregone conclusion in my mind that RVD takes part next year, and if TNA folds like many people expect it to, then the floodgates are opened.

Bubba / Brother / Bully Ray has long said he wants one more WWE run before he’s through, so he and his brothers (Just D-Von and Spike, sorry Sign Guy) could make an appearance.  Dreamer is the likeliest other candidate, though I’m sure Vince and Triple H still have Raven, Stevie Richards and The Sandman’s number somewhere in their Rolodex.

What’s that?  Oh. . .Yes. . .Of course. . .  See kids, back before we had these cellular telephones, you actually had to write down a telephone number if you wanted to remember it.  One way of keeping track of them all was to use a. . . . Forget it.

Speaking of ECW, let’s head even further South and talk about the diamond in the rough of 2014…

NXT

I have to believe that there will be an NXT presence at the Royal Rumble.  In fact, I imagine we’re going to see a mini-Rumble of sorts at the December PPV (Takeover 3:  INNNN SPACCCEEEEE!!!) in order to determine which developmental stars make it to Philadelphia.

The usual cast of characters are obviously highly likely (Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, etc.).   However, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the new “Big 3” might sneak their way in as a “let’s test the water and see how over they are” move.  Of the three (KenTami, Prince Balor and as the New Age Insiders have dubbed him, Brawny Beluga), I think Finn Devitt is the likeliest choice.

This takes us to our last category, and next to a face-painted Balor stealing the show at the Rumble, obviously the most exciting one.

The Big Returns

Rumors abound that Sting is starting with WWE in January. . . The Rumble is in January.  Can we slot “The Icon” into the number 40 slot?  Perhaps.

Everyone’s favorite giant Smurf is also supposed to be coming back to WWE, so let’s give a spot to Batista as well.

Could we see a Hardy Boyz return?  Doubtful, but worth mentioning.

I am also legally required to include The Undertaker in this section, though I think we can all agree that’s, thank you Gorilla, “Highly Unlikely”.

That brings us to our last two names.  One of them is someone that we just saw a few days ago, setting off wildfire speculation that he was setting up some sort of Wrestlemania moment.  I’m not buying it, though.  I don’t think we see The Rock at The Rumble.  As much as Vince fantasizes about a Rock vs. Lesnar main event, he has a number of more viable options that he can more easily control.

Which brings us to my guy.  The man whom I believe is going to win the Royal Rumble and go on to face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania.  Sing it with me, folks.

Baaaa BaBaBa BaBaBa Ba Ba Ba Buh Baaa BaBaBa BaBaBa Ba Ba Ba Buh!

What?  You don’t recognize the Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle’s music when its typed out like that?

Now that you know who it is, go back and read it. . . It TOTALLY works, doesn’t it?  Gonna be stuck in your head all day now. . .

Why do I think Angle is the guy to come back and challenge Lesnar?  Couple reasons.

First, he and Lesnar have history. There’s lots to build off of in a feud, and as long as Brock doesn’t climb to the top turnbuckle, we can safely be assured of a quality title match.

Second, despite what you’ve read about Vince or Triple H’s feelings toward Kurt, both know when they have good opportunities in front of them, so that won’t be a factor.

Third, and don’t count this factor out, Kurt Angle is desperate.  He wants to come back to WWE and have another main event run and he knows he doesn’t have a whole lot of bargaining chips in his corner.  I imagine he’d be willing to sign a very WWE friendly deal in order to get a chance to end his career in the way he wants to.

So there you have it, friends.  We’re 3 months and likely 25,000 variables away, but that’s my thinking for the Royal Rumble.  I’ll even go ahead and make my official 40 man prediction at the end here.  Agree?  Disagree?  Hate me for getting the Angle theme in your head?  You know where to reach me.

2015 Royal Rumble Entrants, in no particular order, as of 10/8/14

  1. Dean Ambrose
  2. Seth Rollins
  3. Roman Reigns
  4. Daniel Bryan
  5. Batista
  6. Big Show
  7. Mark Henry
  8. Rusev
  9. Dolph Ziggler
  10. Sheamus
  11. Miz
  12. Damien Mizdow
  13. Cesaro
  14. Finn Balor
  15. Sami Zayn
  16. Kurt Angle
  17. Bubba Ray Dudley
  18. Bray Wyatt
  19. Luke Harper
  20. Erick Rowan
  21. Goldust
  22. Stardust
  23. Jimmy Uso
  24. Jey Uso
  25. Bo Dallas
  26. Jack Swagger
  27. Randy Orton
  28. Kane
  29. Bad News Barrett
  30. Booker T
  31. Rob Van Dam
  32. Tommy Dreamer
  33. Chris Jericho
  34. Titus O’Neill
  35. Heath Slater
  36. Kofi Kingston
  37. Big E
  38. Great Khali
  39. Sin Cara
  40. Adam Rose
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