In nearly 24 hours, WWE will present the 25th anniversary of the Royal Rumble, a pay-per-view widely considered to be the second biggest show of the year. While the card will feature a few heavily hyped championship matches, the main attraction will surely be the Royal Rumble match itself.
Typically occurring in the main event slot, the Royal Rumble match gives 30 Superstars the chance to headline WrestleMania with a shot at a World Championship of their choosing. This year, the competition heats up since it's recently been announced that anyone and everyone is eligible to compete in the annual bout, adding an extra wrinkle onto an already exciting match.
While I'm not completely sure what the added stipulation implies, it should stir speculation as to who we might possibly see walk out victorious. Given the talent on today's depleted roster, predicting an eventual victor could be more difficult this time around rather than in years past.
With surprises always welcome during the Royal Rumble match, this could very well be one of the more shocking Rumbles in recent history. With that being said, I will attempt to break down and analyze each aspect of the upcoming contest, not only who I believe will end up winning.
However, while reading, be sure to keep the following question in your mind: who will be the one?
As the winner of the Royal Rumble was first being discussed a few months back, it was heavily rumored that Randy Orton would be the one to emerge victorious. Obviously, this comes at the fact that this year's event will be hosted in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.
However, last year's event took place in John Cena's hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, and Cena lost the Rumble match, despite challenging for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. If Cena can walk out of his hometown without the win, then why can't Randy Orton?
Following Randy Orton's injury that he suffered at the conclusion of 2011, the most predictable result was to have Orton return during the Rumble and, inevitably, win it. Now that the Viper has returned earlier than expected, one must wonder how this affects his chances this Sunday.
My only main concern is that Randy Orton is too big of a name to win the Royal Rumble, as he can earn a World Championship match at WrestleMania all on his own. I still hope to see him in the world title picture come the show of shows, but a win here would do nothing to further his already illustrious legacy in WWE.
Besides, the former Legacy leader already has a Royal Rumble victory under his belt from a mere three years ago. Additionally, he wasn't even successful in his WWE title shot against Triple H at WrestleMania 25.
Since returning to WWE with a bang three weeks ago on Raw, Chris Jericho has become quite the hot topic among the internet dirt sheets. Once "Break the Walls Down" struck the arena earlier this month, there was not a doubt in anyone's mind that he had come back to target WWE Champion CM Punk, another wrestler claiming that he is the best in the world at what he does.
To say the least, the rivalry practically writes itself and is my personal dream match going into WrestleMania 28.
This past Monday night, Y2J claimed that this Sunday will indeed be "the end of the world as we know it." No one is exactly sure what he meant, but it of course coincides with his participation in the Royal Rumble match.
Unlike Randy Orton, Chris Jericho has yet to win a Rumble despite his numerous accolades, so it would be no problem to a number of viewers if a veteran of his stature was to win. I can't possibly think of a way to book Jericho in the Rumble and have him win, but be sure to see Jericho make his presence known come Sunday.
Since his Royal Rumble debut in 1999, Kane has managed to make more of an impact in the annual bout than any other Superstar on the roster. From that point on, Kane has yet to miss a single Rumble, now approaching his fourteenth consecutive appearance this upcoming Sunday.
Not only that, but Kane is also famous for his clearinghouse of sorts in the 2001 Rumble, eliminating a total of eleven wrestlers from the contest. Sure, the Big Red Monster has had a handful of notable moments since then, but nothing that comes close in comparison.
Now that Kane has reverted back to his devilish ways, I have a gut feeling we'll see Kane come up short against John Cena in their match earlier in the night, only for the former ECW Champion to re-emerge and win the Rumble.
After all, he sure as hell deserves it following the storied career he's had, and I fear this year might be his final chance to earn a World Championship match at WrestleMania.
For months now, Wade Barrett has been running rampant on Friday nights as a part of the newfound Barrett Barrage, essentially destroying everything in his path. Nearly a month ago, Barrett reached a whole new level of intimidation after throwing Randy Orton down a flight of stairs on SmackDown, sidelining the Viper indefinitely.
Subsequently, Wade Barrett has become the most feared heel on the blue brand, mostly due to the fact that Mark Henry is currently injured. Furthering his barrage by winning the 2012 Royal Rumble and headlining the WrestleMania against the World Heavyweight Champion would be the smart move at this point.
As I stated in my article earlier this week, having Barrett eliminate arch-rival Randy Orton to win the Rumble in its final moments would garner tremendous heat from the St. Louis crowd. Advancing to WrestleMania 28, the former Nexus leader is one step closer to becoming the first-ever English World Champion in WWE history.
This past Monday night on Raw, a number of videos aired hyping Sunday's Royal Rumble match. However, the most significant detail in the video packages was the fact that everyone is now apparently eligible for the Rumble this year for the first time in history.
Ironically enough, shots of both WWE Champion CM Punk and World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan were shown, among other WWE talent likely to participate in the bout. With that being said, it sounds to me that there's a huge possibility that either current champ could be making a surprise appearance at some point during the contest.
Only a few hours after successfully retaining his WWE Championship, CM Punk enters the Rumble and emerges victorious, making it the first time in history that a World Champion has won the bout (not counting when Ric Flair captured the WWE Title in 1992). Then, Punk challenges World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan to an Undisputed Championship match at WrestleMania 28.
Now, rumors have been circulating for quite awhile about backstage officials wanting to unify both titles at some point, and there's no better time or place than at WrestleMania between two of the best wrestlers in the company today. I don't completely agree with the idea of title unification, but seeing one of the most highly anticipated bouts in recent history finally come to fruition is appealing.
Sadly, CM Punk recently stated in an interview that he, in fact, won't be competing in this year's Royal Rumble, despite making the past two years entertaining. But WWE has gone out of their way in the past to keep some of their biggest angles secret. If done correctly, the Second City Savior's shocking Rumble victory could be the major swerve that many viewers are expecting.
Last Monday night, The Miz came up short of defeating former tag team partner R-Truth in their bout on Raw, essentially earning himself the first slot in the Royal Rumble match. While some may speculate this could be a "punishment" for the WWE Champion, I believe it's a blessing in disguise.
For one thing, let's not forget that top-tier talent such as Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio and even Chris Benoit were able to win the Royal Rumble from the first two spots. All three men went on to accomplish great things in WWE, so I wouldn't count The Miz out for a split second.
Remember when The Miz and John Morrison were engaged in a feud three years ago, each claiming that the other was the Marty Jannetty of their accomplished tag team?
I find it a bit humorous that Miz's predictions now ring true, as Morrison is no longer employed by the WWE while the Awesome One has already captured the WWE Championship.
With Miz following in HBK's footsteps by opening up this year's Rumble, there's always a chance we see the former reality star prove everyone wrong by winning the annual battle royal and bragging about it for the remainder of his career.
Around this time a year ago, I had my fingers crossed that Christian would finally return from his injury he sustained months prior, making his presence felt in the 2011 Royal Rumble match. Although that didn't happen, he went on to have a notable year in 2011 for the most part, capturing the World Heavyweight Championship twice and headlining several pay-per-views.
Last November, Christian was sidelined with an ankle injury during a house show while touring Europe. With his return date still undetermined, it's been heavily rumored that we see Captain Charisma come back during this Sunday's Rumble match. Sure, that'd be the most obvious choice, but it'd also make the most impact.
Personally, I believe Christian truly deserves his self-proclaimed one more match for the World Heavyweight Championship. What better way to earn it than winning the 2012 Royal Rumble and receiving one last run with the gold?
Targeting Daniel Bryan could make for an excellent feud, as both Superstars are similar in more ways than one. Slowly turning the former ECW Champion back into a fan favorite would make the rivalry even more heartfelt, setting the stage for a blockbuster of a match at WrestleMania 28.
It should also be noted that Christian hasn't competed in a Royal Rumble since 2005, which would make his participation this year that much more memorable.
Of all the suggested candidates for Sunday's Royal Rumble match, it seems as if current reigning Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes has gone unnoticed. Luckily, I've managed to remember him as another potential up-and-comer that could surprisingly walk out of St. Louis as the 2012 Royal Rumble winner.
Nearly a year ago, Cody Rhodes received his biggest push to date in a fresh feud with the high-flying Rey Mysterio. As a renewed psychopath, Rhodes was determined on making 2011 his year to shine.
He did just that, eventually capturing his first singles title in WWE last August in the form of the prestigious Intercontinental Championship. Recently, the Georgia native has been on the hottest streak of his career, picking up credible victories over the likes of Randy Orton, Justin Gabriel and even Booker T.
With all that, it's hard to not consider Cody Rhodes as a threat going into Sunday. Being the bright young star that he is, I wouldn't be surprised to see him live up to his promise of simultaneously holding both the Intercontinental and World Heavyweight Championships come WrestleMania 28.
As stated before, WWE is hyping this year's Royal Rumble as the first one in history where anyone and everyone is eligible for the match. In a case similar to WWE Champion CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler also has an equal chance of entering the bout and walking away with the victory.
Originally, this slide was reserved for Zack Ryder, but due to his recent "injury" sustained on Raw, Ziggler takes the spot instead. Why, you may ask? Regardless of how many world title shots Ziggler receives, no one ever believes that he will capture the gold.
Without a doubt, the bleached-blonde Superstar is a guaranteed future WWE Champion, but it's bound to happen sooner of later. Ziggler is known for working two matches in the same night, so why not further his bragging by having him come up short in the WWE title match, only to enter the Rumble later in the evening and end up winning it?
With John Cena and The Rock headlining WrestleMania 28, it gives WWE the chance to loosen up their big championship matches for the event with fewer big names—since the main event is what will be selling a majority of the tickets. No time better than the present to give Ziggler the WrestleMania moment that he's been waiting for.
I had a strong feeling last year that Sheamus was going to follow in Brock Lesnar's footsteps by winning the Royal Rumble shortly after his debut. But sadly, it was Alberto Del Rio who took that spot instead. A year later, Sheamus finds himself in the exact opposite role—as an unstoppable monster on Friday nights.
Since turning face this past summer, Sheamus has only lost a handful of matches, with only a few of those losses being clean. Despite his recent success, the Celtic Warrior has yet to be given his rightful shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, with his last chance at the gold being last June.
Sheamus has staked his claim a number of times over the last few weeks, asserting that this year's Royal Rumble is his for the taking, and his win-loss record makes that claim hard to argue with. Sure, he might be as a corny as hell in this role, but expect him to clean house come this Sunday.
Since Kane's return to WWE last month, John Cena has seemed to slowly develop a darker side to his character, despite his numerous attempts to "rise above the hate." With Kane targeting Cena's best friend Zack Ryder, the Cenation leader has finally brought back meaning to "ruthless aggression."
Once the ambulance containing an injured Ryder drove off this past Monday night, Cena unintentionally delivered a hilarious "serious" face that most would call constipated. Nonetheless, they're finally showing shades of a potential heel turn, and this Sunday's Royal Rumble match couldn't be a better place to execute it.
Regardless of whether he wins or loses his match with Kane, you have Cena unsurprisingly enter the Royal Rumble later that night to earn himself a title shot at WrestleMania. During the bout, The Rock's music hits, and the Brahma Bull appears on the stage, but doesn't enter the ring.
Meanwhile, Cena gets distracted during his stare down with Rocky and gets eliminated by another opportunistic Superstar. In rage, Cena goes crazy on everyone at ring side, similar to the tactics of Shawn Michaels at the January event in 2010.
Now, I'm not saying John Cena finally turns his back on the WWE Universe on Sunday, but be on the lookout for the latest chapter in the intriguing, ongoing Cena saga during the Rumble.
Earlier this month, rumors were circulating that Brodus Clay's impending debut would finally come to fruition during the 2012 Royal Rumble match, more than likely clearing house of everyone in the ring.
However, plans obviously changed, as Brodus is now instead dancing around the squared circle in a jumpsuit.
Although I originally dreaded the idea of Clay as a fan favorite, I've grown to like it as it's certainly catching on with most of the audience. With that being said, his participation in the Rumble remains unknown, but one would think that his exposure on pay-per-view would help benefit his increasing popularity.
Last year, we saw Santino Marella play the role of spoiler by almost upsetting Alberto Del Rio in the final moments of the match. Nonetheless, I have a feeling we'll be hearing "Somebody Call My Mamma" hit the arena for the first time at a Royal Rumble event in eight years.
There's a number of people (mostly WWE Superstars regulars) who could apply to this category, but Jinder Mahal has taken the more punishment over the last few weeks than anyone else.
When Mahal first engaged in a rivalry with Sheamus two months ago, I had some hope that the Punjabi Superstar would be benefiting from it somewhere during the program. Since then, Mahal has been squashed by the Celtic Warrior more times than I can remember in an extremely quick, decisive fashion.
At first, Mahal showed potential of one day being the next Muhammad Hassan, but instead was consistently buried on a weekly basis. WWE Creative has basically gone out of their way to ensure that this guy will not get over with the crowd, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him once again play the whipping boy during the match.
Any chance we see Santino Marella's record for shortest elimination at one second from 2009 get broken this year with Jinder Mahal?
Every year, we can expect at least one illustrious legend to compete in the annual Royal Rumble match as one of the surprise entrants. This year, the returning Mick Foley has already been confirmed via an announcement from Raw General Manager John Laurinaitis on Monday night.
From my knowledge, I believe this is the first time Mick Foley has competed in a WWE ring since the 2008 Royal Rumble match. Sure, he's not in the best shape of his career, but Foley can sure as hell make a match entertaining.
During his speech two weeks ago on Raw, he surely sounded passionate about competing in the bout. More likely, we won't be seeing the Hardcore Legend pull out the victory, but he deserves his shining moment as a returning in-ring competitor.
Let's hope that his performance on Sunday will indicate whether he'll be competing at WrestleMania 28 or not.
The Undertaker hasn't been seen on WWE television since WrestleMania 27, where he successfully expanded the famous streak to 19-0, only to collapse following the bout and be stretched out by medics at hand. During the ten months of his absence, numerous ideas have discussed for his inevitable return, especially in time for WrestleMania 28.
Although Undertaker didn't return last year until after the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, it's always possible we see the Deadman make his anticipated comeback this Sunday at the Royal Rumble event. Triple H has gone on record numerous times to say that he'll be waiting for Taker upon his return, but perhaps we see Taker take another WrestleMania route instead.
Similar to the Rock angle I proposed before, when the countdown strikes zero for the next Royal Rumble participant, the lights will go out and the signature gong will sound, signaling the emergence of the the Phenom. Subsequently, he eliminates a potential Mania opponent such as the Game or Chris Jericho, and then disappears as the lights flare once again.
This way, Taker isn't booked weak by getting eliminated himself and is fresh in the minds of the WWE Universe approaching WrestleMania 28. As he attempts to score his 20th victory at the show of shows, the build-up for the monumental match needs to be as historic as possible.
With more possibilities than ever before, I strongly believe that the 2012 Royal Rumble match has the potential to be something monumental. Being one of my top three WWE pay-per-views of the year, my hopes are up high we witness something special come Sunday.
Please note that all of my aforementioned Superstars are not only predictions with wishful thinking, but my analysis of what to expect during the Royal Rumble. Of course, you can draw your own conclusions as to what might transpire during the bout, so be sure to drop a comment below with you hope to see come to fruition.