It's rather simple to go down the short list of serious contenders to win Sunday's Royal Rumble match. There may be 30 men in the match, but there just isn't any faith in many of those men to win the match and the WrestleMania world title match that comes with it.
Two major names have been thrown out by fans as winners, based on their popularity, the timing and recent developments. Chris Jericho, who finally spoke this week, promises "the end of the world as you know it" starts on Sunday. This translates, in many minds, to have Jericho win the Rumble and square off with CM Punk at WrestleMania.
Since Jericho's speculated return, his feud with Punk has been teased, and this could be the payoff. However, it is Chris Jericho. Can anyone buy the idea that Jericho only gets the title shot if he wins the Royal Rumble? Jericho has never lost at the Royal Rumble in non-Rumble matches, but the match is a way to elevate a younger guy. Jericho can get there another way. His cryptic words could just include him distracting Punk in his title bout.
The other name being thrown out as a winner is Randy Orton, who is a former winner and competes in St. Louis, his hometown. Even when Orton was injured, some still believed that Orton could be thrown out there and win the match hurt, only to heal in time for WrestleMania. Now that Orton has returned, the rumors of his pending victory are stronger than ever. Comparisons could be made to the John Cena and Edge returns from injury in recent years.
The problem with that thought is that Orton already returned. There is no longer a surprise with that. Orton won't go to WrestleMania in a world title match because he has returned to give Wade Barrett a lot of heat and build to a WrestleMania match with him. So with Randy Orton and Chris Jericho, two top contenders, possibly not going to win the match, who comes out of Sunday's Royal Rumble with the victory?
My money is on The Great White, Sheamus. Sheamus is the perfect Rumble winner right now because he is strong, he's a fresh face into a title picture and he is in the rare position of being under the radar. Sheamus also doesn't have any storyline that he needs to sacrifice for the spot. Will anyone really miss his major feud with Jinder Mahal?
Since Sheamus came to Smackdown as the last pick of the Supplemental Draft, Sheamus has had a very underrated year. Sheamus was drafted as United States Champion but lost his title to Kofi Kingston before officially changing brands. He was involved in Christian and Randy Orton's feud over the World Heavyweight Championship. Sheamus barely got a chance at the strap, instead building a feud with Christian and destroying him at any chance. Sheamus also feuded with Mark Henry and would get Henry over right before his world title win.
Sheamus even did some fill-in work by feuding with Wade Barrett while Orton was having some time off. Needless to say, Sheamus has done a great job this year in getting people over and doing whatever he was asked to do. That kind of attitude needs to be rewarded.
Even though Sheamus is a former world champion, his perception in the current format of WWE does not have him as a top-tier guy. Remember the excitement when Alberto Del Rio won the 40-man Rumble last year? It was a far cry from the previous four years, where The Undertaker, John Cena, Edge and Randy Orton all got world title shots they could have earned anyway. Can we get back to the days of the world being rocked by Rey Mysterio or Batista getting a Royal Rumble win?
Sheamus can also do a good job with current World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. Bryan and Sheamus were in a feud at this point last year and were actually slated to face one another for the United States title at last year's WrestleMania. That bout was pushed to the dark match, only leading to a battle royal. The match could be seen again this year, only with the World Heavyweight Championship up for grabs.
Big Show has his feud with Bryan coming to an abrupt halt. Feuds usually end in steel cages, and their cage match at Royal Rumble will likely do just that. As Bryan becomes more of a full-fledged heel, Bryan will need a popular babyface for a WrestleMania showdown. Outside of Randy Orton, Sheamus is arguably the babyface with the loudest pop on the brand.
Sheamus has also seemingly done it all except for two things: win a Royal Rumble and win a World Heavyweight Championship. He can accomplish both, beginning with Sunday's event. Sheamus is a two-time WWE Champion, former United States Champion and a former King of the Ring. If you need Sheamus to do something and need to mix up the title scene, Sheamus is your guy. He is also a realistic winner of a Rumble match with his dominating strength.
The Great White has become, at least in my mind, The Great White Hope for the Royal Rumble this year. RAW will survive without a Royal Rumble winner, especially with Chris Jericho all but guaranteed to be slated in there. Sheamus, outside of an Elimination Chamber berth, may not get another chance at a world championship for months without the Royal Rumble berth.