The WWE can go plenty of different routes with the Royal Rumble match this year.
With the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of The Rock vs. CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio’s surprising World title win and Dolph Ziggler’s Money in the Bank briefcase, there are more potential winners of the 30-man Royal Rumble than some might think.
Yet, who actually wins the match is going to depend entirely upon what the WrestleMania 29 card will look like, which is still up in the air at this point.
Or is it?
The closer we get to the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, the more it looks like WrestleMania’s major matches are starting to take shape.
But just how the Rumble itself will play out is a bit more of a mystery.
There are so many ongoing feuds right now that will likely have a huge effect on what happens during the match: The Shield vs. Ryback (Randy Orton and Sheamus?), John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler, The Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro, Big Show vs. Alberto Del Rio and even The Rock vs. Punk.
We can’t be sure what the WWE has in store for us in this match and there is always the possibility that the creative team throws a major curveball our way.
For example, what if a major name like Brock Lesnar returns as a surprise entrant and perhaps even wins the match? Better yet, what if the loser of the Punk/Rock match enters the Rumble and emerges victorious?
There are countless ways the WWE could choose to go with this match, but one man already seems like the runaway favorite.
Not surprisingly, that man is John Cena.
The widespread expectation these days is that it will be The Rock vs. Cena for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29.
If that match is indeed going to take place, the most logical scenario should see The Rock win the WWE title at either The Royal Rumble or Elimination Chamber and then go on to face Royal Rumble winner John Cena at ‘Mania with the belt on the line.
Many fans aren’t all that excited about this because we saw Rock vs. Cena last year, and some would rather see both guys participate in different matches this year.
But Cena is the WWE’s golden boy. He’s going to win the 2013 Royal Rumble, and here’s how it could happen.
The final eight competitors will be The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose), Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, John Cena, Randy Orton and Ryback.
It will be an even battle of four heels and four babyfaces, who, in predictable fashion, all happen to be feuding with each other.
In what will be a rarity, though, The Shield (and Ziggler) will be evenly matched against arguably the WWE’s four biggest babyfaces. But we can’t forget that there’s some serious tension between two of those faces, Orton and Sheamus.
With Orton seemingly on the verge of turning heel for a feud with Sheamus, it makes sense for Orton to throw babyface/heel alliances outside the window and eliminate Sheamus from behind, but only after Sheamus had just eliminated Rollins with the Brogue Kick.
Just like that, we’re down to six when Cena eliminates Ziggler because, well, Cena loves to bury Ziggler these days. Plus, Ziggler has the Money in the Bank briefcase, so he’s not winning the Rumble anyway.
We’re now down to five competitors: Ambrose, Reigns, Orton, Ryback and Cena.
Using the numbers advantage, the faces work together to eliminate Ambrose, only for Reigns to surprise everyone by eliminating Orton just after Ambrose is tossed up over the top rope.
The final three will be Reigns, Ryback and Cena, and the two babyfaces will join forces to eliminate Reigns, who still ends up looking strong in defeat.
Who will win the 2013 Royal Rumble match?
After the elimination of Reigns, we’re left with the end-of-the-match faceoff that we often get in the Royal Rumble, and this time it’s Cena and Ryback staring each other down in a moment that makes the crowd go wild.
Being the “underdog” that he is, Cena throws the first punch, and the two go at it for a five-minute ending sequence in which Ryback ultimately gets Cena up for the Shell Shocked only for Cena to counter it with an AA that sends Ryback over the top rope and gives “The Champ” his second Royal Rumble victory.
It may not be the outcome many fans want to see, but that’s the direction the WWE appears to be headed in.
Now that Big Show is no longer the World Heavyweight Champion, Ryback likely won’t win the Royal Rumble to set up that match between the WWE’s two behemoths. That match may still happen, but it won’t involve a World title.
Cena, on the other hand, hasn’t held the WWE Championship for well over a year, and his feud with The Rock “ended” almost a year ago when he lost clean to “The People’s Champ” at WrestleMania 28.
That’s not how it really ended, though.
With The Rock likely heading to WrestleMania as the WWE champion and a rematch with Cena seemingly a lock, Cena is going to be the No. 1 contender for the WWE title come ‘Mania time.
And he’s going to do so by last eliminating Ryback to win the 2013 Royal Rumble.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!