Gaffer's wrestling reports

Kevin Owens Not Returning as soon as we hoped 

Kevin Owens has been out since October undergoing double knee surgery and was thought to have been cleared for an in-ring return to competition soon. WWE began running promos of Kevin Owens return on the December 17th episode of Monday Night Raw.

Fans had hoped for a surprise entrance at this year's Royal Rumble for the prizefighter Kevin Owens, however according to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter KO may not be scheduled to return for a few more months, with the current plan to have Owens return after Wrestlemania 35.

Waiting until after Wrestlemania could be the safer move provided it's giving more time for Owens' knees to recover, also both Raw and Smackdown after Wrestlemania tend to be the biggest shows of the year, and a way of generating a buzz around a returning star.

Depending on Owens health they have several options to return Kevin Owens, and in my opinion, I hope it's sooner rather than later as I’d love some KOMania4.

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Stipulation added to WWE Raw Match 

In two days time on Monday Night Raw, we know there will be a WWE Raw Tag Team Championship match pitting the Revival against the champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable. The match has now had a stipulation added to the championship bout, this match will now be contested as a Lumberjack Match.

As WWE continues to build hype towards the Royal Rumble pay per view, here is what we know about this weeks edition of Monday Night Raw.

John Cena returns to Raw
Brock Lesnar & Braun Strowman will appear
Hulk Hogan will honor “Mean” Gene Okerlund
Revival vs. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable in a Lumberjack Match for the Raw Tag Team Championships
Alexa Bliss presents her new talk show with special guest Ronda Rousey
Elias vs. Baron Corbin

Of course as well as all this, Raw is taking place at the Amway Arena in Orlando, Flordia so there’s a good chance of an NXT talent making their main roster debut.

Big Offer Made To Kenny Omega from WWE & Update On His Future 

The IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega will be defending his title within a few hours at Wrestle Kingdom 13. With Omega considered one of the premier performers in New Japan and the World Scene, this hasn’t slipped passed WWE’s gaze.

According to the Wrestling Observer, Dave Meltzer has said that WWE has made a “Fantastic Offer” to Omega. It is not clear what that means monetarily but WWE does have some considerable power when it comes to contract negotiations and of course, WWE is looking to boost their roster with the moving to Fox later this year.

Another option to consider is the newly announced All Elite Wrestling, where Omega has a good chance of ending up. But with New Japan wanting to continue expanding into ‘The West’ they will not want to be losing one of their biggest stars so this will lead to some interesting discussions over the next few weeks.

However, has confirmed that Kenny Omega is wrapping up his time in New Japan Pro Wrestling, although Wrestle Kingdom is not expected to be his final appearance. We have been told in a similar angle to AJ Styles departure from NJPW to expect a beat down or send off at New Years Dash the following night.

New favourite to be WWE Champion after Daniel Bryan 

Sky Bet have released the betting odds for who will be the next WWE Champion after Daniel Bryan. We do want to point out that this is just the betting figures and made on speculation of future storytelling.

Daniel Bryan run as a heel WWE Champion has been fantastic and a highlight of each show he is a part of. We are not hoping for his run to be a short one, however, as wrestling fans, we are always interested in the future of the product, whether that be storytelling or fantasy booking.

At present The Miz is the current favourite to be the next WWE Champion, with odds of 5/6, making him the heavy favourite. Of course, there are some familiar names in the running, AJ Styles in second place with 7/4. More surprising is to find John Cena in 3rd favourite position with odds of 9/1, Randy Orton and Samoa Joe both fill out the top 5 at odds of 10/1.

Giving the work The Miz has put in over the last few years, it feels like The Most Must-See Superstar should have been competing for the WWE Championship for quite some time. But with rumours going around of the WWE Champion match at the Royal Rumble being a triple threat between Bryan, Styles and The Miz, it’s easy to see why the Miz has become a heavy favourite.

Could The Rock Win the Royal Rumble 

One of the biggest and best pay per views that WWE has to offer is a little over a month away and once again the rumour mill has been circulating potential winners. However it has been reported that plans may have changed once again due to Roman Reigns being out with leukaemia.

WWE reportedly were looking into having Dwayne The Rock Johnson win the 2019 Royal Rumble and go on to face his cousin Roman Reigns, presumably in the main event for the Universal Championship.

As we are all well aware by now Roman Reigns has had to step away from WWE due to a second battle with leukaemia. This has already had a big impact of WWE future plans, but once again plans maybe be changing.

According to WrestleVotes on twitter plans may still be in place for The Rock to win the Royal Rumble and go on to face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. The heavily touted match between The Rock and Lesnar has been discussed many times since both men’s return to wrestling.

We do not know how true these rumours are, but we are sure that this will not be the only story changing rumours between now and the Royal Rumble.

Hall of Fame 2019 Rumours 

Every year, fans like to speculate on who will be the latest person to enter the prestigious WWE Hall of Fame. We have had names like Vader, Rey Mysterio, Batista and Undertaker of course who’s name shows up every year.

The latest name to hit the rumour mill is one of the biggest superstars to have ever been a part of the WWE, even hitting mainstream success outside of the world of wrestling.

Per and Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio, WWE are pushing to have Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson be the headliner for 2019’s Hall of Fame.This won’t come as a big surprise to many, as The Rock has been guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame for many years.

With talks and discussions about The Rock being part of Wrestlemania 35 in some way, this would seem the most obvious way for WWE to get The Great One to be a part of Wrestlemania weekend, as well as gathering main stream attention.

They do stress that at this time, this is just a rumour. But there can be no doubt that The Rock would be the ideal candidate for the Hall of Fame.

WWE Hall of Fame & NXT Takeover: New York Swap Days 

The WWE Hall of Fame ceremony and NXT Takeover: New York are switching days ahead of Wrestlemania 35 in April. NXT will now take place on the Friday night, Saturday morning for us Brits, and the Hall of Fame will be on the Saturday night.

The first time an NXT Takeover happened on a Wrestlemania weekend was in 2016 when Wrestlemania was held in Dallas. NXT took place two days before and the Hall of Fame took place on the Saturday. No word as of yet how long this years Hall of Fame ceremony will be with the last two years being closed too four hours long.

One reason for this change could be because of the ROH/NJPW show is taking place at MSG on the 6th April, and WWE would not want to split the fan base between the two shows.

Early Royal Rumble 2019 Predictions 

The Royal Rumble is a little over two months away, and then we are once again on the road to Wrestlemania. The Royal Rumble is my favourite pay per view of the year, mainly because of the Rumble match, but also because we start to see the Wrestlemania card take shape.

I thought while we’re still some time away from the Royal Rumble it would be interesting to give my predictions for match ups or announced matches and see how I fare after the event on Sunday 27th January.

Finn Balor and Bayley will enter the Rumble’s at #30

Starting with a fairly easy one, the mixed match challenge draws to a close very soon. Balor and Bayley are the most logical winners of this event which would guarantee them the number 30 spot in their respective Rumble matches. However, I would not recommend putting money on either Bayley or Balor to win the Royal Rumble matches, even from the coveted number 30 spot.

Brock Lesnar will defeat Braun Strowman once again

Braun Strowman is currently out of action due to a shoulder injury. It is now touch and go whether he will be able to compete at December’s pay per view event ‘Tables, Ladders and Chairs’. However, it is highly likely the Monster Among Men will be back in action and ready for his sixth, yes sixth attempt at the Universal Championship within 18 months.

You have to feel that the time has passed for WWE to pull the trigger and have Braun Strowman beat Lesnar and become Champion. Disappointingly they continue to put him in this position where he will either lose cleanly or be cheated out of the win once again.

The heavy rumours of Seth Rollins winning the Royal Rumble and going on to dethrone Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 35, things don’t look too good for the Monster. Maybe he’ll give Nicholas a call and go after the Raw Tag Titles again!

NXT has a heavy presence in Men’s and Women’s Rumble

Let’s start off with the Men’s Royal Rumble, there are a number of people who could take a place in this years event. I would not expect Adam Cole or Roderick Strong to take part, as they both took part in last years Rumble matches, one at the Royal Rumble and one at the Greatest Royal Rumble.

If I were a betting man, and I am, I would be looking at EC3 and Velveteen Dream to make an appearance. EC3 was heavily rumoured to be getting called up to the main roster around Summerslam. However, due to suffering a concussion the night before Summerslam, his call up was postponed. If EC3 makes the jump I would expect him to stay up after the Rumble.

Velveteen Dream is immensely popular in NXT, but we’ve seen from the past that doesn’t guarantee you a good creative run when you are on the main roster. I selected Dream as I am thinking Gargano, Ciampa and Black will all be in feuds on NXT the night before. That has not stopped people being part of the Rumble before, but Dream after failing in his attempt at the NXT Championship must be close to finishing up his run in the WWE developmental brand.

On to the second ever Women’s Royal Rumble, and just like last year trying to predict the participants is very difficult. Last year’s event had 10 former wrestlers returning and only 2 appearances from NXT.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say once again there will only be two NXT call ups, one being the winner of the Mae Young Classic, Toni Storm. She has had main roster pay per view exposure on WWE Evolution back in October. It would make sense that not only does that promote a show on the WWE network, but would also bring more attention to NXT UK.

As far as picking a second woman, I originally thought of Bianca Belair. I have a feeling she will be taking on the feared Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship, and will not come out the other side of that match well.

I will have to pick the Champion Shayna Baszler, as this helps build a link to the four horse women of UFC with Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir and Ronda Rousey. For over a year now the heavily rumoured match of the four horsewomen vs four horsewomen it would seem the ideal time to start this build.

The Royal Rumble Winners

For the Women’s Royal Rumble, there can be only one option. The most popular superstar, robbed of her big moment at Survivor Series, Becky Lynch. Becky will win the women’s Royal Rumble, and go on to face Ronda Rousey at Wrestemania for the RAW Women’s Championship.

That was a nice and easy start to things. The men’s Rumble is where the field is more open, with three possible men stick out in my mind. Before I select my picks, I am assuming that both the WWE Champion and the Universal Champion retain their titles all the way to Wrestlemania.

Firstly, The Miz has to be in with a great shout of winning. The man who each year gets better and better has become one of the best acts in WWE, and with rumours of a face turn around the corner, this would set up a WWE Championship match between Daniel Bryan and The Miz.

The heavy favourite has to be Seth Rollins, the story writes itself. Rollins gets to beat Brock and do it for his friend and Shield brother Roman Reigns. With Roman being out of action for quite some time, I would expect this to be the direction. So that even though Reigns is not at the event, he will be heavily featured through out the build up. Expect this match to main event Wrestlemania.

Finally, and a bit more out there is the Scottish Psychopath Drew McIntyre. The man has has proven since his return to WWE that he has everything that is needed to become a top guy in WWE, and a a win at the Royal Rumble would cause a massive shock, but lead to a highly sort after match between Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre.

A lot can change in two months and I might be sitting here in February talking about how Kevin Owens makes a shocking return earlier than expected and wins the Royal Rumble. Only time will tell.

XFL Launch Cities Revealed 

Yes thats right, the XFL is still going ahead!

A week on from the XFL’s announcement  that the launch cities will be announced on December 5th it looks like the whole list has been leaked. The locations will each be home to a team when Vince McMahon’s football league relaunches in 2020, as shown on a listing on the official website.

Dallas, TX
Houston, TX
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
St. Louis, Mo
Seattle, WA
Tampa Bay, FL
Washington D.C.

Two of these teams were part of the original run of the XFL in 2001, Los Angeles and New York. On December 5th it is still expected that the teams will be announced and presumably the names of those teams also.

Rumours that Ronda Rousey is wanted on SmackDown Live in 2019 after the move to Fox. 

It is being rumoured that Fox are not only pushing WWE towards a more sports oriented directions for upcoming shows of SmackDown Live, but it appears as though they have also been making requests for certain talent to be on the blue brand.

Justin LaBar of Wrestling Inc. reported Fox is pushing WWE to have Ronda Rousey be a part of the SmackDown Live roster when Fox takes over the broadcast rights in October 2019. Fox feels that Ronda’s MMA background, popularity and credibility as an athlete will be a major selling point in promoting the show.

With Fox requesting to feature less comedy and more sports directions to fit in with their other sports programming, the addition of Rousey to Smackdown Live is expected to make her a main player in the efforts to do cross promotion between WWE and Fox’s other programs.

With the WWE draft usually taking place a week or two after Wrestlemania, it will be interesting got see if WWE hold off on moving Rousey to SmackDown Live until the show begins its broadcasts on Fox.