If you watch pro wrestling, you already know that it's the most important time of the year, the best possible time to be a wrestling fan. If you're a casual fan, this might be the only time each calendar year that you really pay any attention to going on. If you're not a fan of wrestling, why are you reading this article? Did you lose a bet? I'm sorry. But I'll try to make this entertaining. Please stay. Get comfortable. It'll be fun.
Because on Sunday, the WWE will air the 2014 Royal Rumble on Pay-Per-View. It's almost always one of the best events of the year, features the most indisputably entertaining and unique match in all of wrestling, but perhaps most importantly, officially kicks off the Road to WrestleMania, which is pro wrestling's equivalent of the postseason. Or, more accurately, their version of Sweeps Week, but one that stretches from the end of January all the way to the WrestleMania in early April.
So here's your full card and preview for the event. We'll encapsulate everything you need to know in easy-to-digest chunks, tell you why you should care, and let you know who all these sweaty weirdos are if you haven't watched wrestling since last year's WrestleMania.
WWE Tag Team Championship: Cody Rhodes & Goldust (c) vs. the New Age Outlaws
What am I looking at here? You probably know who Goldust is. If you don't, he's the fellow who looks like a gold Darth Maul in a supple bodysuit. His tag team partner is the fit, hairless gentleman who looks like he stumbled out of a trailer on the set of The Young and the Restless. Both of these men are the sons of Dusty Rhodes. No, seriously. It happened. Somehow. They're also the tag team champions. Their opponents are the New Age Outlaws, comprised of the Road Dogg and "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn. Yes, you know who they are. You're saying their catchphrases in your head right now. I'm real sorry about that. Stop it.
No, the New Age Outlaws haven't been wrestling since you stopped paying attention. I mean, they have, but mostly in TNA, which doesn't count as real life. They just came back to the WWE in the last month. We like to think it's because they just showed up at catering one day and wandered out to the ring and nobody has the heart to tell them they don't have jobs.
Why you should care: The Rhodes boys are one of the best tag teams in a long time and this match just MIGHT be the beginning of a long-rumored Rhodes vs. Rhodes feud that culminates in a match at WrestleMania. Also, Goldust is the best 44-year-old wrestler you've seen since Ric Flair was the same age, 78 years ago.
... And you probably want to say the New Age Outlaws' catchphrases along with them, don't you? Well, go ahead. This is your time to shine.
Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt
What am I looking at here? HOT BEARD-ON-BEARD ACTION. Daniel Bryan is the guy in proper wrestling gear, with the live crowd almost certainly going absolutely bonkers for him. Bray Wyatt is the extremely damp gentleman in the Tommy Bahama shirt and linen slacks.
Why you should care: Daniel Bryan is, without question, the single hottest thing happening in professional wrestling right now. This match will let you know why. He is the best and probably most intense wrestler in the world and has had crowds in the palm of his hand since last summer. You just may be standing on your couch yelling "YES! YES! YES!" before all is said and done. Bray Wyatt could potentially be something huge. If he cuts a promo at any point during the show, you'll understand why there are such high hopes for this compelling character, one of the best villains since Jake "The Snake" Roberts came around in the 1980s.
Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar
What am I looking at here? It's the Big Show and Brock Lesnar, man. C'mon, don't waste my time here. MEAT-SLAB-ON-MEAT-SLAB ACTION.
Why you should care: Because these two dudes both possess freaky strength and are going to manhandle the living daylights out of each other. This match is probably going to end with Brock putting a 500-pound dude on his shoulders and flinging him overhead and across his body. Here's a GIF of him doing his finisher to a shark in real life, with no special effects. It's going to be like that, but more impressive.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena
What am I looking at here? You know who John Cena is. Even if you've never seen wrestling, you know who John Cena is. For better or worse, he's on the Mount Rushmore of wrestling in the new millennium, along with Steve Austin, the Rock and Triple H. The good-looking guy with the bad tattoos and the championship belts is Randy Orton. He's never worn pants.
Why you should care: This will hopefully be the last match between these two for a long time. They don't have bad matches with one another, but the rivalry is stale. That being said, this is a world title match between two great performers for the unified championship! ... Which is somehow still two title belts. Whatever. The non-Royal Rumble matches aren't why you should buy the show, anyway.
The Royal Rumble match
What am I looking at here? The greatest gimmick match of all time. Two people start in the ring together and every 90 seconds (unless the show happens to run long, at which point the time increments may be reduced to 60 seconds), a new competitor enters the ring, until all 30 participants have entered. Their entrance orders are "randomly determined." It's every person for themselves. The only way to be eliminated is to be thrown over the top rope, with both feet touching the floor.
Why you should care: The last person standing gets a title shot — and ostensibly, the main event — at WrestleMania. But more than that, this is the most exciting and unpredictable match the WWE has to offer. It's always fun. Always. Even when it's terrible. CM Punk will have the No. 1 spot and fully half of the participants haven't been disclosed. The match is always good for a surprise entrant or three. Typically people we haven't seen in years. And this is also the first match back for the returning Batista. You know, if you're into that sort of thing. If all else fails, we've come up with a way for you to gamble on wrestling this year.
The Rumble will begin at 8 p.m. ET Sunday and is available only on pay-per-view. The pre-show and opening match will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET and will stream live on WWE.com, Facebook and YouTube.