WWE WrestleMania 29: 7 Possible Scenarios for Ryback
Seven months ago, Ryback wasn't even on the WWE's main roster.
Today, he's one of the most talked about wrestlers around and, in all likelihood, figures to play a huge role in both the short- and long-term futures of the WWE.
Ryback has ascended to the top of the company about as quickly as anyone in recent memory, but he's yet to compete on the grand stage known as WrestleMania.
That figures to change in 2013, however, when "Big Hungry" will most likely end up participating in one of the marquee matches for the WWE's biggest pay-per-view of the year.
But just who will he face?
Although it'll be a while until we find out, that won't stop me from speculating. Here are seven possible WrestleMania 29 scenarios, or opponents, for the WWE's resident monster, Ryback.
From pretty much the day that Ryback debuted in the WWE, he's been compared to one man.
That man is former WCW star Goldberg, who, like Ryback, rose to fame in the wrestling world by going on a lengthy undefeated streak and being booked like an unstoppable monster.
Though I don't necessarily think that Ryback and Goldberg are all that alike, it's obvious that the comparisons between the two will continue and that some will always associate Ryback with his "predecessor."
In fact, both Ryback and Goldberg have addressed each other on multiple occasions via interviews and Twitter, and neither man seems to have particularly nice things to say about the other.
In the world of wrestling, however, you never know whether things like this are being done to foreshadow a match down the road or if it's just a little trash talk to, well, get people talking.
I think that a Ryback vs. Goldberg match is unlikely because Goldberg doesn't have the greatest relationship with Vince McMahon and the WWE, but with the similarities that many see between the two (and the fact that they've continuously referenced one another), this match remains a possibility.
6. John Cena
I think we'll get the "twice in a lifetime" rematch between John Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania 29, but let's say that the WWE decides to go with CM Punk vs. The Rock at the PPV instead.
Then what happens?
Although I think it's essentially guaranteed that Cena will be involved with The Rock somehow, we may get a situation where Cena is on the outside looking in and instead finds himself doing something else on the biggest PPV of the year.
That something else may ultimately prove to be a match with Ryback.
While it does indeed seem like a long shot, WrestleMania season is one of the rare times of the year when the WWE doesn't shy away from face/face rivalries. We've seen it with The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (and Triple H), and we've seen it with The Rock vs. Cena.
So, what about Cena vs. Ryback?
We know that Vince McMahon is looking for the next "face of the WWE," and if he wants Ryback to be that guy like many think he does, there's no better way to show that than by putting Ryback against the man he will be "replacing."
While a Ryback/Cena rivalry sounds dreadful to hardcore wrestling fans, it may be something that the WWE could do to "pass the torch" to Ryback at what is sure to be one of the biggest PPVs the WWE has ever had.
5. Wade Barrett
Although Wade Barrett has essentially done a whole lot of nothing since his return, many fans (including me) expect him to play a big role in storylines going forward.
He's a borderline main-event talent who is one of the WWE's best all-around performers. As a result, I think we could see him involved in the World Heavyweight Championship picture come WrestleMania time.
Ryback should still be hovering around the main-event scene then as well and, whether or not either man is actually holding or challenging for the World title at the time, I wouldn't mind seeing the two former Nexus members clash in a WrestleMania rivalry.
There's obviously some history between the two, stemming back to their time in the Nexus. Even though that likely won't be addressed on TV, I think it makes sense to put two up-and-coming talents in a feud and let them show what they could do.
While both Ryback and Barrett have bright futures, they may not figure into some of the WWE's biggest WrestleMania plans. But an upper-midcard match between the two could be a nice, entertaining addition to the card.
At the very least, it would get Barrett a much-deserved WrestleMania match that actually matters for the first time in his career.
4. The Big Show
The Big Show shocked the world at Hell in a Cell when he won the World Heavyweight Championship...and didn't immediately lose it to a cashing-in Dolph Ziggler.
I still think Big Show will prove to be nothing more than a transitional champion. Whether that's true or not, a potential WrestleMania rivalry with Ryback remains a strong possibility.
We all know that the World Heavyweight title match likely will be only the fourth-biggest match on the card, so the WWE could choose to have a less-than-appetizing matchup of Ryback vs. Big Show for its B-level World title.
Even if Big Show drops the World title before WrestleMania 29 (which is almost a guarantee), though, he's been booked so strongly over the last month or so that I could see his push continuing into 2013 and the WWE needing another "monster" to step in and stop him.
The man who would stop Big Show's reign of terror? Ryback.
Although I don't really buy into Big Show as a big, scary main-eventer anymore, the WWE loves to push him as one. If that continues, it would make sense for Ryback to topple him on the grand stage of WrestleMania.
Big Show doesn't have the same value as a guy like CM Punk or Randy Orton, so I could definitely see the WWE having him lose to Ryback on the pay-per-view, which makes sense business-wise.
After all, Ryback could certainly do worse than beating an accomplished and established veteran at the biggest PPV of 2013.
3. Randy Orton
Rumor has it (via WrestlingInc.com) that Randy Orton may be turning heel "before the year is over."
If that happens, the WWE will be left with a lack of top-tier babyfaces, a gap that the WWE will almost assuredly try to fill with Ryback. And in a rather ironic twist, this might result in a feud between the two.
With Ryback settling in right behind Sheamus and John Cena as the No. 3 babyface in the WWE, he may not have the biggest match at WrestleMania 29. In all likelihood, though, he will have one of the bigger matches on the card.
In a similar position would be Orton, who doesn't figure to be in the biggest match at WrestleMania 29. At the same time, he will likely have a high-profile singles match on the show.
Hey, Orton. Meet Ryback.
Orton is one of the very best in-ring talents in the WWE, and with Ryback still needing some work in that department, "The Viper" would be a great choice to help lead "Big Hungry" to a quality match on the grand stage of WrestleMania.
This, of course, depends largely on whether or not Orton turns heel. If he does, and if Ryback is still getting a massive push come WrestleMania time, then we might see these two battle it out in one of the biggest matches on the biggest PPV of the year.
2. Brock Lesnar
Many fans thought that Brock Lesnar would cost Ryback his WWE Championship match against CM Punk at Hell in a Cell on Sunday.
When that didn't happen, a lot of us seemed to have dismissed the possibility of it ever happening in the future. But I actually think there's a pretty good chance that we'll get Ryback vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania 29.
I like to think about it this way: If the WWE is hellbent on pushing Ryback as a top star, then why not put him over a big name on the grandest stage of them all?
Even though he's only a part-time star these days, Lesnar is still one of the biggest names around. Should Ryback beat him, it could undoubtedly help establish him as the beast of the WWE.
What makes this match make even more sense is that having Ryback beat Lesnar isn't going to hurt any of the WWE's full-time stars.
If Lesnar loses at WrestleMania 29, so what? His heart isn't in wrestling, and that's expected to be his last PPV with the company anyway.
The way I see it, Lesnar vs. Ryback might not produce the greatest match in wrestling history. OK, it definitely won't. But it would accomplish one big goal in making Ryback look like one of the biggest stars in the business.
1. The Undertaker
There's been a lot of speculation about The Undertaker's future. Though most fans expect to see him compete at WrestleMania 29, it's certainly not a guarantee.
If The Phenom does come back for a Mania feud, though, his list of potential opponents is rather slim.
You have to believe, however, that Ryback will be on it. The WWE is clearly trying to build Ryback up as the company's next biggest babyface, and a WrestleMania feud with Undertaker would undoubtedly be a great way to do that.
Although I think hardcore fans would be disappointed with a Ryback/Taker rivalry, the bottom line is that the WWE needs to create new stars. A major feud with Undertaker could take Ryback to the next level.
I know the question on everyone's mind: Could Ryback end "The Streak"?
Well, anything is possible. I don't think it's likely, but I've always maintained that if Undertaker's streak is going to end, it should only be ended by someone who is going to be a main-eventer and face of the WWE for the next decade.
I'm not sure that Ryback fits that bill, but if the WWE thinks he does, then don't be shocked to see Ryback vs. Taker at WrestleMania 29, with at least a slight possibility of "The Streak" actually ending.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!