Fans have been waiting for the 2013 Royal Rumble since way back at Raw 1000 last July, and it's finally here.
In just three days, the WWE will hold the first pay-per-view event of the year, which just so happens to be one of the most anticipated non-Wrestlemania PPVs that the company has put on in quite some time.
With the first-ever meeting between The Rock and CM Punk, two other title matches and a 30-Man Royal Rumble, this year's PPV is a loaded show that has the potential to be great.
Going into the PPV, most fans seem to have their winners chosen and their outcomes already determined.
And guess what? So do I.
Here are my match-by-match predictions for the 2013 Royal Rumble PPV.
In a pre-show YouTube match that many would like to see on the main card, Antonio Cesaro will defend his United States Championship against The Miz in a match that’s been expected to take place for a while now.
The biggest moment of this Cesaro/Miz feud came on MizTV during last week’s Raw in a somewhat awkward segment involving Ric Flair. Also, in a somewhat surprising twist, Cesaro turned out to be the star of that segment.
Other than that one occurrence, though, there hasn’t been a ton of interaction between The Miz and Cesaro, which is both good and bad—good because it means that their Royal Rumble match will feel fresher and bad because there isn’t a ton of heat behind this feud.
The good thing, though, is that this is the perfect opportunity for the WWE to give Cesaro the biggest win of his U.S. title run.
Cesaro has been a great United States Champion, but the problem is that his list of challengers so far—Santino Marella, Justin Gabriel and R-Truth—has been pretty weak. The Miz, however, should prove to be his toughest challenge to date.
The Miz has been pretty awkward as a babyface, but he’s a former WWE Champion and WrestleMania headliner who has more credibility than all of Cesaro’s previous opponents.
These two should be able to put on a really good match on Sunday, and it’s a shame that the vast majority of fans won’t see it because it’s relegated to YouTube.
Expect this match to be the best YouTube match that we’ve gotten so far, and expect Cesaro to defeat The Miz to retain his title.
Cesaro has quickly evolved into one of the WWE’s top performers, and though he’s a main-eventer waiting to happen, he won’t get there just yet. He’ll have a very long U.S. title reign before he drops the belt, and when he does drop it, it won’t be to The Miz.
The Miz wouldn’t really benefit much from a midcard title reign these days, and assuming that he can adjust to his role as a babyface, he may be working back in the main event scene by the middle of the year. The U.S. title won’t take him there.
Cesaro should retain his title in clean fashion on Sunday, and The Miz should get his revenge by eliminating Cesaro from the Royal Rumble later that night.
The Pick: Antonio Cesaro
Team Hell No has held the WWE Tag Team Championship four more than four months now, which is longer than most fans probably thought they would.
The pairing between Kane and Daniel Bryan initially seemed like it would be a short-term deal, but after all the success that its had early on, it's still hanging around these days.
Unfortunately for Team Hell No, the duo seems to be losing some steam lately while another duo, Team Rhodes Scholars, seems to be gaining some.
Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes have been perhaps the biggest threat to Kane and Bryan's tag team title reign so far. But up to this point, the former duo has failed to actually win any titles despite getting multiple chances to do so.
The WWE is running the risk here of making Team Rhodes Scholars look weak if they lose again, but luckily, that shouldn't happen at the Royal Rumble.
With Team Hell No not nearly as hot as it was just four months ago, and with Bryan looking poised for another main event run, the seeds will soon be planted for a breakup between the two.
That will happen this Sunday.
During their WWE Tag Team Championship defense, something will go wrong with Team Hell No that causes tension between the two and ultimately costs them the title.
Team Rhodes Scholars has been more than ready to hold the belts for a while now, while Team Hell No doesn't need the belts as much Sandow and Rhodes do.
It's been time to do the title switch, and that will actually happen at the Royal Rumble.
The Pick: New tag team champions, Team Rhodes Scholars
We knew that this rematch would take place, but on this week's Raw, it was revealed that Alberto Del Rio would defend his title in the same type of match that he previously won to become World Heavyweight Champion—a Last Man Standing match.
That certainly changes things up a bit.
Not only will it likely improve the quality of their match (their previous Last Man Standing match was very good), but it gives the WWE the opportunity to have a shady finish without someone getting disqualified.
Initially, it looked Del Rio vs. Big Show might end with a non-finish to keep the rivalry going through Elimination Chamber, but now that there are no DQs, you can never really know how this match will end.
On paper, the Last Man Standing stipulation seems to favor Big Show, but we all remember that he just lost this very same type of match only a couple weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Del Rio's recent face turn makes it highly unlikely that he'll lose a match like this (faces almost always beat the count of 10) unless something shady happens that allows Big Show to get the win.
When it's all over with, though, look for ADR to retain the World Heavyweight title with another heroic performance that is similar to the one that he had on SmackDown.
Big Show has had a great run over the last six-plus months, but with Del Rio being pushed as the WWE's new top Hispanic star, it only makes sense for him to get another big victory at the Royal Rumble.
After all, ADR just won the title a couple of weeks ago. Would the WWE really take it off of him so soon?
Many think that ADR will drop the belt so that Dolph Ziggler can cash in on Big Show and give him yet another historically short title reign, but Ziggler's time isn't here—not just yet.
ADR is performing extremely well as a good guy so far, and an impressive Royal Rumble win will cement his status at the new top guy on SmackDown.
If he can avoid the wrath of The Shield, he'll continue on as World Heavyweight Champion.
The Pick: Alberto Del Rio
As Paul Heyman alluded to on this week's Raw, it's become a "foregone conclusion" to most that The Rock will beat CM Punk to win the WWE Championship this Sunday.
But is it really?
Although The Rock's confident guarantees make it seem like he's destined to win the title at the Royal Rumble, whether or not he actually does so depends upon how the WWE wants this feud to continue.
Think about it this way: the climax of this Punk/Rock rivalry will likely be The Rock ending Punk's historic WWE title reign, and it doesn't seem like the greatest idea to do that after just three weeks of build up to their first-ever match.
Ever since Punk turned heel last July, he has made a habit out of retaining the WWE Championship in less than honorable ways, with essentially every single one of his successful title defenses coming with controversy.
Maybe it's just me, but it would make much more sense for that to continue and for Punk to weasel his way to another successful title defense this Sunday.
If The Rock beats Punk to capture the WWE title at the Royal Rumble, then where does the story go from there? How does it make a better story to have the heel chasing the face?
At least to me, it would be more logical to have Punk cheat his way to retaining his title,, which would both get more heat on Punk and build up even more sympathy for The Rock.
Vince McMahon told Punk on this week's Raw that he would be stripped of the WWE title if The Shield interfered in his match against The Rock.
But the fact that he only mentioned "The Shield" is very important and sets the stage for either Brad Maddox or Brock Lesnar to ultimately be the one who costs The Rock his match against Punk.
That's what will happen.
The long-term money is in Punk retaining, and although The Rock will likely win the WWE title at some point, he shouldn't do it—and won't do it—at the Royal Rumble.
If Punk doesn't get himself intentionally disqualified to retain his belt, then don't be surprised if either Lesnar or Maddox somehow screws The Rock out of winning the title.
The Pick: CM Punk after interference from Lesnar or Maddox
The 30-Man Royal Rumble match could go a number of different ways.
Especially after what transpired on this week's Raw, you have to seriously consider the possibility of Dolph Ziggler entering the match at No. 1, winning it and having both a guaranteed title shot and the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 29.
There are also a number of other potential winners, including Sheamus, Randy Orton, Ryback and perhaps even whoever loses the WWE Championship match.
But the runaway favorite will ultimately be the man who wins it. That man is John Cena.
While it's safe to say that Cena winning the Royal Rumble again would be pretty predictable, that doesn't necessarily mean that the WWE needs to or will go another route.
It looks very likely that Cena will face The Rock for the WWE Championship in a rematch at WrestleMania 29, and in order to do that, he's likely going to have to win the Royal Rumble to get there.
Ideally, it would be a rising star like Ziggler or Ryback who wins the Rumble and gets the big push that goes along with it. But with such a loaded WrestleMania coming up, that doesn't seem too probable these days.
Cena is the WWE's top star, and after losing quite a bit in 2012 (and failing to win a World Title whatsoever), expect him to do a whole lot of winning in 2013.
His year will start off with a Royal Rumble win, and in all likelihood, it will end with him eliminating another top star to do so.
My guess? Cena last eliminates either The Rock or Ryback en route to winning his second Royal Rumble match.
Let the outrage begin.
The Pick: John Cena
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!