January is well and truly here. Which only means one thing for us wrestling fans: the Road to WrestleMania is upon us! And that first stop to this destination is the 32nd annual Royal Rumble. Since WWE purchased its competition, World Championship Wrestling, back in March 2001, they have been the kings of wrestling and haven’t had a real threat to deal with. But heavy is the head that wears the crown, and the reign that once seemed unstoppable is starting to show some cracks. In the 25 years of Monday Night Raw, the show has had some historic lows in ratings this year. With the lowest rating ever happening in December.
This year is already off to a hot start in the business. On January 4th, New Japan Pro Wrestling held their event Wrestle Kingdom 13. And even though some matches may have had a predictable outcome due to The Elite members forming the newly established All Elite Wrestling promotion, it did not disappoint. Two days later, the improving Impact Wrestling held their event Homecoming on January 6th. While maybe not as impressive as Wrestling Kingdom 13. It was still entertaining.
Next up: WWE. Brace yourself. Not only will the wrestling juggernaut this month be presenting the Royal Rumble, they’ll be showcasing NXT TakeOver: Phoenix on January 26th and also NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool on January 12th. NXT UK is a fairly new brand from WWE and will be delivering their very first special event on the WWE Network. And the card consist of:
- Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Toni Storm for the NXT UK Women’s Championship
- Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake) to decide the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Championship
- Pete Dunne (c) vs. Joe Coffey for the NXT UK Championship
- Dave Mastiff vs. Eddie Dennis in a No Disqualification match
- Travis Banks vs. Jordan Devlin
With the brand just getting started and about half the group still trying to make a name for themselves, we will have to wait and see how all this plays out. But if they perform anything like their NXT counterpart, we’re in for a treat.
Two weeks later, we get NXT TakeOver: Phoenix. I’m always blown away by the TakeOver shows. Even though NXT is considered the ‘developmental’ league for WWE, their TakeOvers always outperform the ‘main roster’ pay per views.
The card at the moment consists of:
- Tomasso Ciampa (c) vs. Aleister Black for the NXT Championship
- Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Bianca Belair for the NXT Women’s Championship
- Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong) (c) vs. War Raiders (Hanson and Rowe) for the NXT Tag Team Championship
There are only those three matches at the moment, but it’s looking like Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet (c) for the NXT North American Championship will be made official before the event. And no word on the Velveteen Dream at the moment. We’re hoping this means he makes a surprise appearance at the Royal Rumble.
Last, and hopefully not least, the Royal Rumble closes this jam-packed month on January 27th. With the rise of competition and this ‘new era’ of WWE upon us. They are in desperate need of a home run here. But why not go for a grand slam? As of this moment, the card consists of:
- 30-Man Royal Rumble for a World Championship match at WrestleMania 35
- 30-Woman Royal Rumble for a Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 35
- Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship
- Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship
- Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship
- Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
- The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) (c) vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon for the WWE SmackDown Championships
- Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
R-Truth and Carmella have secured the number 30 spot in the Royal Rumble for the men and women’s Royal Rumble, respectively. Which makes me wonder what tricks WWE has up their sleeve to surprise us with since we know those entrants. It is heavily rumoured that KUSHIDA is headed to WWE but nothing is official yet. The way they have been hyping the arrival of Lars Sullivan I can only assume he will make his presence made in some fashion. There is still plenty of time for storylines to unravel before we arrive at the Rumble. Let us know in the comment section below what you think/want to happen. It’s a beautiful time to be a wrestling fan!
Are you excited for the Road to WrestleMania? Which shows are the highlights for you? Let us know in the comments, or body slam us over on Twitter and Facebook @twobeardgaming #TBGWWE