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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

For pro wrestling fans, that is.

The Road to Wrestlemania starts Saturday night with the 2023 edition of the Royal Rumble and WWE has a great opportunity to keep fans on the edge of their seat and excited for the next couple of months heading into their biggest event of the year.

WWE has done an exceptional job when it comes to long-term storytelling, especially the story of Sami Zayn and The Bloodline.  The Bloodline has been the best faction WWE has produced in awhile and the addition of Sami Zayn has made it must watch TV every time they’re on the screen.  Saturday should be no exception as The Bloodline look to play a prominent role throughout the night.  We’ll take a look at the match card as well as some predictions for what I think will happen as we begin this road to Wrestlemania.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match 

I feel like this year’s edition of the women’s Royal Rumble match could be filled with more surprises than usual.  Only 7 women have officially been announced among the 30 participants.  I expect a good portion of mystery participants to come from NXT, perhaps a Gigi Dolin or Nikkita Lyons, plus some veterans like Trish Stratus or Michelle McCool and a returning Asuka.  Becky Lynch is always a solid option to win but I’m going to go with someone who has paid her dues and deserves a shot at a title at Wrestlemania: Rhea Ripley.  Rhea Ripley is one of the most intimidating women on the roster and her association with The Judgement Day, especially Dominik Mysterio, has been great.  I’d love to see “Mami” to be the last one standing and challenge for one of the women’s titles at Wrestlemania.

Final Four Prediction: Becky Lynch, Liv Morgan, Rhea Ripley, Asuka

Prediction: Rhea Ripley

Pitch Black Match: Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight

I have no idea what a Pitch Black Match is, what the rules are or what to expect on Saturday night but I expect it to be weird and something like we’ve never seen before.  Bray Wyatt’s return to the company has been a fun one and LA Knight has been fantastic since coming up from NXT.  I don’t know if we’ll see Uncle Howdy during this match or in the Alexa Bliss/Bianca Belair match but I’d be shocked if he didn’t appear at some point during the show.  Give me Bray Wyatt to win this first of it’s kind match stipulation.

Prediction: Bray Wyatt

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss. vs. Bianca Belair (c)

This one seems like the easiest to predict of the night but anything can happen.  Belair has been a great champion to this point while Bliss seems to be battling some eerily similar demons she was the last time Bray Wyatt was around.  The random sightings of “Uncle Howdy” are starting to show Bliss drifting more and more to the dark side once again.  We’ll see if she finally embraces that dark side or if it sidelines her quest for gold.  I’ll take the latter option for the time being and it sets up with Belair beating Bliss and possibly a showdown between Beliar and Ripley at Wrestlemania, if my predictions become reality.

Prediction: Bianca Belair retains the Raw Women’s Championship

Undisputed WWE Universal Championship Match: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns (c)

Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns have great chemistry in the ring and have put on some classics already.  I expect this latest chapter to be no different.  Owens has been a pain in Reigns’ side ever since his real life best friend Sami Zayn joined The Bloodline and he’s been needling the group for months when it comes to Zayn’s longevity in the group.  Reigns has been on the best run of his career since aligning with Paul Heyman and has held the title for almost 900 days.  I expect Owens to give it his all and for Zayn to possibly get involved himself.  Reigns isn’t losing the title, at least not yet.  But it’ll be a hell of a fight.

Prediction: Roman Reigns retains the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

15 of the 30 participants have been announced so far, including the returning and heavy favorite to win, Cody Rhodes.  Rhodes has been sidelined since he tore his pectoral muscle completely off the bone back in June.  Rhodes will no doubt be one of the final four standing in the marathon match when it all come down to it and while I’m tempted to pick him the fact that his return to the match has been so hyped up makes me think there could be a swerve coming.  That swerve comes in the form of Sami Zayn, who has not been announced yet but I’m guessing will enter hesitantly.  He’ll be on edge with Bloodline leader Roman Reigns already on the fence of him staying in the group and almost having him removed on the last episode of Raw.  Some surprise entrants I could see coming are a returning Edge, NXT‘s Bron Breakker and some Attitude Era veterans.  I think at the end of the night though, Sami Zayn, possibly with the help of Kevin Owens, will be the last man standing, setting up a potential Tribal Chief vs. Honorary Uce showdown at Wrestlemania.  I could also see Zayn winning and trying to show his group it was an accident, relinquishing the title opportunity only to get turned on and have his heart broken.

Final Four Prediction: Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Edge, Sami Zayn

Prediction: Sami Zayn

Whatever happens at the 2023 edition of the Royal Rumble, it’s sure to have fans talking but WWE has the chance to do something truly special Saturday night and keep wrestling fans both hardcore and casual, fully interested in the lead up to Wrestlemania.

-Marc Dykton

93.5 / 107.5 The Fan

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