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Let’s start with Smackdown, since the Rumble isn’t until tomorrow and there are only, what, five matches on the card.

So I guess WWE Creative realized what a steaming load last week’s episode of Smackdown was, because they put on a much better show this week.  Sure, we only had four matches (same as the week before), but each match was of a much higher quality than any of the matches the week prior were.  We first got HHH vs. CM Punk instead of the Unified Tag Team Title match.  I was disappointed that we didn’t get the tag match, since it felt like DX was going to lose the tag straps, especially with Punk’s new disciple, Serena (whom I wasn’t expecting to return, but found out later that she is, in fact, Serena Deeb, who’s apparently worked for TNA and Shimmer, so she’ll hopefully be a good in-ring competitor when the time comes) at his side.  Though their “relationship” is a little creepy, it’ll work, what with Punk being the leader of a cult and all.  Anyway, Punk and HHH has a good opener of a match.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that every IWC smark can say what they will about HHH, but the guy can put on good matches.  It helps when he’s got a good worker alongside him, like Punk.  Again, a good opener that was cut off by outside interference.  Too bad.  I kind of wanted to see a clear-cut winner.  But maybe, just maybe, this will lead to DX showing up on Smackdown more often (a guy can dream, can’t he?).

Let’s see…we then got Chris Jericho taking on Ron “Don’t call me R-Truth” Killings.  These two had a very strong performance overall, with Jericho being Jericho and Killings being Killings.  It was enjoyable, and it’s helping build a feud between the two that no doubt will be prevalent at the Rumble as well.  Two consummate professionals working their craft.  It doesn’t really matter who wins out in the end, because they’ll both benefit from the feud.  I hope this continues for a while.

Next, we got the No DQ Intercontinental Title match between John Morrison and Drew McIntyre.  Morrison posted probably his best promo in months before the match.  He was intense, yet charismatic.  This is the John Morrison we’ve been wanting since he and Miz split up last year.  The match itself was decent, with Morrison again carrying McIntyre throughout.  There weren’t many weapons used, which was unfortunate, but they used the kendo stick well enough.  It was enjoyable right up until the end, when the match just kind of stopped.  McIntyre countered Morrison’s finisher, stood up, walked around for a few seconds, then hit his finisher.  End of match.  No build, no nothing.  Just an abrupt end.  McIntyre has seemingly no knowledge of psychology, and until he does, I can’t take him seriously as a competitor or a champion.  I just hope this loss enables Morrison to finally move up to the main event.

Now, this will be the last time I mention anything in regards to Michelle McCool until this embarassment of an angle ends, because from now on, I’m fast-forwarding through any and all segments involving her.  It’s amazing how you can tarnish a good show with such a stupid segment.  When McCool was daring someone to walk out and challenge her, I was praying that Nattie Neidhart would walk down, break Michelle’s jaw, and take the Women’s Title away.  Oh, how I wished that would have happened.  But we got more idiocy, and that’s the last I’m speaking of it.

Lastly, we got a great match between Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels.  I’ll admit right now that I’m not a big HBK fan.  I feel like, more times than not, he phones in his matches.  And yes, I can understand why he would do that, being in his forties now.  But still, it would be nice if he had great matches more often than not.  This match with Rey was a pretty good match.  Very entertaining overall, with a lot of counters and almost no rest holds (which was a nice relief).  The last couple of minutes, with great counters to finishers, was probably the best few minutes of Smackdown so far this year.  Then Batista waltzed down to the ring and ruined yet another match.  So we got two no contests in one night.  That normally wouldn’t be awful, but when that number equals half of the matches you have at all, it’s not so good.  Anyway, we got the parade of run-ins, with Batista, followed by HHH, then the lights went out, the gong hits, and suddenly Taker’s standing in the ring with Rey and HBK and the others nowhere to be seen.  Taker does his double chokeslam (after a very lengthy double staredown whilst choking both HBK and Rey), and that’s it.  Not an entirely original way to end the show, but it’s okay.  Most of the rest of the show was good enough to counteract the formulaic ending.

Now, with that in the books, let’s get some picks going for the Royal Rumble, or as I’d like to call it, the Royal Clusterfuck 2010.  Let’s look at the card, shall we?

WWE Women’s Championship – Michelle McCool (c) vs. Mickie James

Oh, how I wish I could go with my heart here.  It would be so wonderful to see Mickie triumph after all the abuse she’s taken over the last few months.  But somehow, I just don’t think that’s going to happen.  She’s going off recording her country album, and McCool is dating the Undertaker.  I would bet that it’s essentially a lock for Michelle McCool to retain the title and move on to getting crushed by Nattie Neidhart (in my dreams, I know).

ECW Championship – Christian (c) vs. Ezekiel Jackson

There is ONE scenario that I would accept where Ahmed Johnson, Jr. wins the belt.  It goes thusly: Zeke wins the title off Christian, then immediately gives it to Regal, finally bringing Regal to the top of ECW after so many months of trying and failing.  That’s the hope, anyway, if Jackson wins.  In reality, I doubt that would happen if he won.  And I’m starting to have doubts about Christian keeping the title.  He’s held the ECW Title longer than anyone else since it was recreated in 2006, and he’s the longest-reigning male champion in the company.  I really just hope it isn’t tomorrow.  If he does, and Jackson doesn’t immediately give the title to Regal, I may have to boycott ECW for making such a stupid decision.  I’m going with my heart here and I’ll say Christian retains, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it goes the other way.  Maybe some Kozlov interference will sway things Captain Charisma’s way.  We’ll have to find out tomorrow.

WWE Championship – Sheamus (c) vs. Randy Orton

This is truly a no-win situation.  Sheamus’ title reign has been nothing short of a complete joke and waste of our time, and Orton’s outside indiscretions make him an unworthy candidate for any championships right now.  There are reports that the match was initiall supposed to be Sheamus vs. John Cena, but iwth Cena’s back and neck problems, they decided to go with Orton.  I have a question for you, WWE Creative: why in the blue hell didn’t you put Kofi Kingston in this match?  You put him in the #1 Contender’s Match with Cena and Orton, and you’ve been speaking so much about promoting younger, newer talents, so why not put Kofi in the title match?  He’s been primed to take that step, but you keep putting Orton over him every time it counts.  What the hell?  With Kofi, you don’t get a spoiled rich kid who doesn’t realize that his actions have consequences, and you don’t get a heel vs. heel match as one of your world title matches.  You get a guy who’s so over with the crowd that he could very well become the next Jeff Hardy, but you’re squandering his talent so you can put over the boy who’s so far up Vince McMahon’s ass that he can see what Vince had for breakfast this morning.

Phew.  Okay, now that that rant is over, let’s look at the match.  You know what?  Let’s not.  This match is going to be bowling-shoe ugly.  And not the good kind.  The bad kind.  I can’t imagine this match being even decent, so let’s just get it out of the way and say Randy Orton wins.  Ugh.  This whole scenario is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

World Heavyweight Championship – The Undertaker (c) vs. Rey Mysterio

This is a similar situation to the Randy Orton problem.  Vince is showing how some people are held to a different standard than everyone else.  Orton trashes a hotel room in Europe, is repeatedly caught smoking weed backstage, and now is involved in this whole debacle with a woman who claims he spat on her son and then told her to sue him, and what happens?  He gets a new contract and stays in the main event.  Mysterio is caught with some banned substances and gets suspended for a month.  What happens?  He gets put in the main event for the next three months, and gets a world title shot at the Royal Rumble.  It’s as though Vince is telling the fans and the rest of the guys in back that, unless you’re gonna stroke my ego harder, faster, and longer than anyone else, or earn me the most money through merch sales, I don’t give a shit about you.  If Vince didn’t practice this, I bet that WWE television would be a hell of a lot more entertaining to watch.

Right, tangents.  Back to the match.  What we’ve got here are two guys who are probably nearing the end of their respective careers, and are both battling numerous injuries that need time to heal.  Neither of these two should be a champion right now, since they need time to heal up and finish their careers in the ring, not at home.  I can’t imagine Rey ever winning another World Championship, as we all know that his only reign was to capitalize on Eddie Guerrero’s death.  So, it’s probably just going to mean that The Undertaker retains and hobbles to Wrestlemania, where who knows who his opponent will be.  That is, unless he loses the title at the Elimination Chamber show next month.

Royal Rumble Match

At least as recent as yesterday, there are apparently only 25 confirmed names for the match, even though Michael Cole stated on Thursday that the match between Chris Masters, Chavo Guerrero, and Primo Colon was for one of TWO remaining spots in the match.  Whatever.  Let’s toss out the names whom we know won’t be receiving a title shot at Wrestlemania.  So that means that Carlito, Evan Bourne, Zack Ryder, Jack Swagger, R-Truth, Kane, The Miz, Chris Masters, MVP, Yoshi Tatsu, The Great Khali, Shelton Benjamin, and Matt Hardy are out automatically, for one reason or another.  That drops the list down to 14 (or 18 if you consider the four unnamed entrants).  Now, let’s look at the rest of the list.

Big Show – He’s never won a Rumble match before, and since he’s nearing the end of his career, he might get a shot at someone’s title.  But he’s apparently formed a new tag team with The Miz, and he’s usually eliminated by about a dozen other guys simultaneously, so I don’t give him much of a chance to win.

Mark Henry – Same situation as Show.  Henry’s probably nearing the end of his career, and though he’s gotten over surprisingly well as a face, Creative squandered his push, which leaves any future he has as a world champion in serious jeopardy.  I think they missed their chance with Henry, and he’ll probably get tossed out by a half dozen guys.

Kofi Kingston – I think Kofi’s got a great chance to win this event.  If Orton wins (which I predicted he would), then Kofi can win the Rumble and get his shot against Orton, and finally get over after so many lost opportunities in the past few months.  It would be a great story, and I’d definitely push for Kofi as one of the front runners to win this match.

William Regal – Honestly, I’m not quite sure why I put Regal here.  Probably because, if Christian retains the ECW Title, then Regal has a small chance to win the Rumble and go on to main event Wrestlemania for the first time ever.  Lord knows he deserves it.  But it’s a very slim chance of that happening.

Cody Rhodes/Ted Dibiase – The Internet is scrambling to hope that one of these two guys wins and goes on to face Orton at Wrestlemania 26.  I say, “Meh.”  Rhodes is okay, but Dibiase is milquetoast at best.  He’s dull and engages in Swagger Tactics.  Unless he develops a moveset and a personality in the next two months, putting Dibiase in a main event match at the biggest wrestling PPV of the year is a horrible idea.  They might turn on each other too, so who knows?

CM Punk – Punk is always a threat, no matter what the situation.  The card is stacked against him in this match, but I won’t be surprised if he makes it into the final five or six.  He’s crafty and he knows how to work a match like this.

Shawn Michaels – I think this whole Undertaker thing has passed.  No one wants to see a second match between these two.  We want to see something new.  You put on the match of the year last year, Shawn.  Let someone else have a moment of glory.

HHH – I think this might be the beginning of the end for DX.  One of these guys will eliminate the other, and the eliminatee will not be happy.  I’m betting HHH tosses HBK out, and this’ll lead to a HHH/HBK match at Wrestlemania.  It could work!

Chris Jericho – Jericho’s drunken escapade earlier this week compromises any chance he’ll have of winning this.  I’d expect R-Truth to toss him out.

Batista – Oh, please, not again…

John Cena – Cena needs to rest so he can try to be back for Wrestlemania and his supposed match with the Undertaker.  Winning the Rumble won’t help his cause…or will it?  I’m not sure.

It seems as though there are some more obvious names missing from this list.  Well, one, at least: where the hell is John Morrison?  He would probably be one of my top picks to win, along with Kofi.  But, at least according to WWE’s site, he isn’t in the match.  What gives?  I can also speculate until the cows come home about who else might be in the match.  We could say that RVD is in, if only to appease the old ECW crowd once again.  There’s a ton of scuttlebut about Edge returning at the Rumble, but he has unfinished business with Jericho, and unless Jericho somehow weasles his way to another title reign after being arrested, Edge won’t win.  I would absolutely love to see Bryan Danielson debut in the match and win, but that’s probably a pipe dream at best.

So who is my pick to win?  Jeez…there aren’t as many good candidates as I’d originally thought.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Kofi Kingston wins the Royal Rumble, and goes on to face Randy Orton at Wrestlemania 26, where Kofi captures his first WWE Championship.  That’s the hope, at least.

Okay, that’s all for this extra-long edition of Rantables.  I’ll be back next week with Rumble results and a review of WWE’s latest musical release, featuring songs written within the past year or so, many of which are quite good if I do say so myself.  Until then, stay awesome!

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