January classic should provide some answers
Will C.M. Punk's longest reign in the modern era as WWE heavyweight champion come to an end tonight at the hands of the incredibly popular Dwayne the Rock Johnson?
Could the incomparable Undertaker return to set the table for a new WrestleMania challenge to his unprecedented winning streak? Will John Cena be the Rumble winner and get the shot at the WWE championship at Mania? Is Brock Lesnar returning to rekindle his feud with Triple H or might he be paired with somebody else?
The answers to all or at least some of these questions should come tonight as WWE presents its annual January classic - the Royal Rumble-live on pay per view. It is one of the biggest events of the year for the company because it traditionally does so much to put us on the road to WrestleMania where they remind us that history and careers are made each spring.
Alberto Del Rio is also scheduled to defend the world heavyweight championship against former champ Big Show in a Last Man Standing bout at the America West Arena in Phoenix. Kane and Daniel Bryan put the tag team titles on the line when they meet Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. The Miz challenges Antonio Cesaro for the United States belt. There may also be a Diva match added to the card.
This past Monday on Raw saw Rock and Punk do very good promos, while Cena's promo had more than a few people shaking their heads. It was lame even by John Cena standards and he has had more than his share of those over the years. Bryan and Kane graduated from Anger Management School. Bob Backlund was announced as another inductee for this year's Hall of Fame class. Like him or not, he held the title for six long years and is deserving on that basis alone regardless of being labeled Howdy Doody by opponents and critics.
Vince McMahon warned Punk after the Shield attacked the Rock that if the crew interferes at the Rumble, the chairman would strip Punk of the title. Consequently, Punk told the Shield on Smackdown that he never asked for their help and didn't want it at the ppv. Could that portend a Shield double-cross on Punk tonight?
Also at Smackdown, Sheamus defeated Wade Barrett in a non-title match for the intercontinental championship. Alberto Del Rio captured a six-man elimination match that included Kane, Bryan, Rhodes, Sandow and Big Show. Rock did an excellent, serious promo for the main event this evening and he and Punk brawled a bit again.
Ric Flair was scheduled to return to the ring last night for All Japan Wrestling in a tag team match for a sold-out event in Tokyo. He was set to team with the Great Muta against Tatsumi Fujinami and Seiya Samada. WWE apparently does not want to use him in an actual match so as to stick to the retirement stipulation upon which they promoted his final match with Shawn Michaels at WM a couple of years back.
Superstar Billy Graham was recently hospitalized with double pneumonia and congestive heart failure according to various Internet sources. He was said to be improved enough to be released after treatment with IV antibiotics and diuretics. Graham has endured numerous health problems since retiring from wrestling and has gone back and forth on his opinions of WWE depending upon factors perhaps understood only by the flamboyant and controversial Superstar.
Thursday's Impact on TNA featured a pretty good title match between the sometimes underrated and often overlooked Christopher Daniels and champ Jeff Hardy. Hardy, who often looks too weak to carry the two belts he walks around with to the ring, somehow manages to find the wherewithal to put on a solid and sometimes spectacular performance. He retained the title by defeating Daniels and was immediately threatened with extinction by Taz on behalf of Aces and Eights. They 8s were warned of payback by Bully Ray for the hurt they put on Brooke, Hulk and the Stinger at last week's wedding. So, there you have it. Everybody's been warned.
(Shamokin's Bill Gilger "arranges" the interview each week with The Insider)