WWE Royal Rumble 2013: Contenders vs. Pretenders
Only one WWE superstar can emerge from Royal Rumble 2013 the winner and among the roster there are a handful of true contenders for that spot and a fair share of men unlikely to win.
On Monday's Raw, the cameras faded as a mass of men brawled in the ring, each one sure they'd be that last man standing come Jan. 27.
What are past winners Randy Orton, John Cena and Sheamus' chances? Will Ryback or The Miz take a huge step in their careers?
Taking into account Royal Rumble history and trends as well as the current paths of six superstars, let's separate the men with a real shot of winning and those bound to leave the US Airways Center unhappy.
It may be time for the Apex Predator to feast on championship gold again.
Orton won the WWE Championship three times in 2009 and once in 2010. He then won the World Heavyweight Championship twice in 2011. Then 2012 came and he was naked around the waist.
WWE clearly likes Orton as champ and it could be getting antsy as The Viper's titleless streak grows.
A rumored heel turn allows the company flexibility in booking a possible WrestleMania world title match. Orton would work well against Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler or whoever else might be carrying the belt at the time.
A 2013 Rumble win would be Orton's second and there are few men who seem as likely to win it all twice. Orton has been with WWE for over a decade and has spent most of that time at or near the top.
It seems almost inevitable that he will win the Royal Rumble again.
Wade Barrett could be a favorite for the 2014 Royal Rumble, but 2013 is not likely to be his year.
Barrett has been slugging it out with WWE's top guys, most notably defeating Randy Orton cleanly on the 20th anniversary of Raw. However, his recent success feels more about restoring prestige to the Intercontinental Championship than about leading to world title territory this WrestleMania.
Royal Rumble is going to come too soon for the Barrett Barrage to gain enough momentum to warrant a Rumble win.
His Intercontinental title makes him hard to buy him as a serious contender right now as well.
Of all the men to ever win the Royal Rumble match, exactly zero of them held a secondary title at that time.
A win would force WWE into a rare IC champ vs. world champ match or have Barrett vacate the Intercontinental belt, ruining all their recent work to build that championship back up.
The Miz lasted longer than anyone at last year's Royal Rumble, sticking it out for more than 45 minutes.
WWE has now built the narrative that Miz thrives in this type of match. Perhaps the next step for him is adding "Royal Rumble winner" to his resume.
The company is clearly okay with Miz headlining a WrestleMania as he and John Cena went on last at WrestleMania 27. His undefeated record at WrestleMania also speaks volumes about WWE's belief in him.
Read into the rumors about a big push in the works for The Miz as little or as much as you like. There's enough additional evidence that WWE is firmly behind the self-proclaimed awesome one.
Ric Flair passing off the figure-four to him and Miz having his own talk show segment are two prime examples.
The question this coming Sunday is if WWE supports Miz enough for him to earn a Rumble win.
The list of men who have won consecutive Royal Rumbles is a list of legends.
Shawn Michaels won the 1995 and 1996 Rumbles. Steve Austin followed that up with wins in '97 and '98. Hulk Hogan was the first man to do it, winning both the '90 and '91 Royal Rumble matches.
The chances are slim that WWE puts Sheamus in the same class as Michaels, Hogan and Austin.
Judging by Sheamus' WWE and World Heavyweight title reigns, WWE clearly thinks highly of him. WWE awarding him two Rumble victories in a row though is hard to imagine.
There are just too many big stars on the roster for Sheamus to beat them all out again.
It's never wise to bet against John Cena winning anything WWE-related.
2008's Rumble winner hasn't held a championship since October of 2011. 2013 may mark a return to championship glory for Cena and the Rumble is a probable road back there.
Four Rumble matches in a row with no victory, over a year without a title—the drought has to end sometime.
Cena is just too big of a star to be bypassed for those honors for much longer. If The Rock vs. Cena round two rumors have any truth to them, a Royal Rumble victory sets things up perfectly for that rematch.
Just don't expect him to win.
On Monday's Raw, Jerry Lawler said that Ryback was the favorite to win. WrestleMania 29 is going to be too crowded with established stars for Ryback to make that statement come true.
It's just too soon for Ryback to be a part of WrestleMania's main events. CM Punk, The Rock, John Cena and The Undertaker will likely headline WrestleMania 29. Ryback isn't ready to join those men.
Ryback is more likely to suffer a cheap attack from The Shield, furthering their feud.
Should he still be as hot come Royal Rumble 2014, the discussion can be reopened.