Tune in Monday:
The countdown to the 2013 Royal Rumble is just about up, with WWE Champion CM Punk making final preparations for his title bout against The Rock and legions of Superstars lining up for an opportunity at a World Title at WrestleMania. But while the Rumble lineup slowly gestates, the rivalry between Rock and Punk threatens to runneth over at any moment. Following their brawl last week, the Royal Rumble is looking to be one of the most personal pay-per-views in a long time, and here are five ideas we have for the final Raw until the powder keg blows.
1. A lesson in teamwork
Down but not out, Team Rhodes Scholars remain firmly in the hunt for Kane and Daniel Bryan’s WWE Tag Team Championships, officially being named the No. 1 contenders last week shortly after derailing Team Hell No’s latest therapy session with Dr. Shelby. And while the Scholars fell short in their singles efforts against the mismatched anger buddies last week, our money’s on Rhodes and Sandow closing ranks and making one final attempt at Team Hell No’s delicate psyches to unman them before the two tandems meet next Sunday.
2. WOO! He’s awesome
Well that was one torch-passing we didn’t see coming, with Ric Flair having apparently bequeathed his wheelin’-dealin’ bona fides to none other than The Miz on last week’s Raw. In the ultimate sign of respect, Flair sealed his cosign of The Awesome One with permission to adopt the Figure-Four Leglock as his signature maneuver, and Miz has taken the ball and ran with it. The former Intercontinental Champion has already taken down Primo with his new hold on SmackDown, and with the apparent endgame being a showdown with U.S. Champion Antonio Cesaro, who will The Awesome One look to make an example of as he battles his way toward The Swiss Superman?
3. Big mistake?
New World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio hasn’t exactly taken the high road since defeating Big Show for the prestigious title two weeks ago on SmackDown. In fact, The Essence of Excellence has kind of been rubbing it in the giant’s face, dousing the big man with confetti and water in equal measure and generally seizing every opportunity to celebrate his triumph. All this isn’t to say we blame him — quite the contrary. But Big Show tends to come up biggest when his back’s against the wall, and particularly when his skills are being called into question (see: Cody Rhodes, WrestleMania XXVIII and the Intercontinental Championship). Del Rio won his title fair and square in what was, frankly, a classic match, but if he wants to keep it past the three-week mark, he might be wise to stop baiting the giant.
4. Tick, tock, time’s up
If The Rock is to be believed, the clock is about to strike midnight for WWE Champion CM Punk and his nearly 430-day stint atop the WWE mountain. The People’s Champion has vowed to take The Straight Edge Superstar’s prized possession — the WWE Championship— at the Rumble, while Punk has promised to fend off The Great One in the process of keeping his historic reign running. Minus their pull-apart brawl last week, the two have largely — and shockingly — refrained from putting hands on each other, but we’ve got the feeling the time for civility is just about over. In the past six months, Punk has retained his championship on the strength of his wiles; our money’s on him taking a cheap shot or two at The People’s Champion when Rock least expects it, weakening him for the final battle.
5. Last chance
The Miz and United States Champion Antonio Cesaro added their names to the Royal Rumble Match last week, and with six days to go until the iconic over-the-top-rope fracas, time is running out for the Superstars of Raw to declare their intent to enter. The playing field is already becoming more and more stacked, with current and former champions having already staked out a spot in the melee, but the opportunity — and potential glory — remains the same. A World Title Match at WrestleMania is on the line. Who wants it the most? Only six days left to find out.