Most wrestling fans seem to think that John Cena winning the 2013 Royal Rumble is a foregone conclusion, and while that could very well be the case, there is no question that Daniel Bryan would be a better choice on WWE's part.
Make no mistake, I completely understand WWE's potential desire to have Cena win the Rumble match. His 2012 was littered with losses to the likes of CM Punk, The Rock, John Laurinaitis and Dolph Ziggler, and there is likely some internal pressure to book him in a stronger manner.
Also, Cena vs. The Rock II is staring the WWE right in the face and the WWE Championship could be on the line this time.
Also, while Cena did win the Rumble in 2008, the company's most iconic stars have won it multiple times with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin prevailing three times and both Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels winning twice.
A lot of fans are probably offended by the suggestion that Cena is in a similar class to those three legends, but he's obviously the face of WWE, and the company views him in that light.
Should Daniel Bryan win the Royal Rumble?
With all of that said, having Cena win would defy the very meaning of the Royal Rumble match. There have certainly been instances over the years with established stars going over in the Rumble, but the best way to utilize the match has always been to push a guy on the verge of breaking out.
Perfect examples of that include Yokozuna in 1993, Michaels in 1995, Austin in 1997, Alberto Del Rio in 2011 and even Sheamus last year.
All of those guys were obviously on the path to superstardom, but winning the Rumble accelerated their progress. There are plenty of superstars who would benefit from something like that this year, including Ryback, Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro and even Dolph Ziggler, but the one winner who makes the most sense to me is one half of the Tag Team Champions, Daniel Bryan.
Bryan was World Heavyweight Champion at this time last year, so I suppose it can be argued that he has already broken through, but he clearly isn't yet an established main-eventer since he has been in the tag-team division for the past several months.
Bryan and Kane have been fantastic together as Team Hell No and they have made tag-team wrestling important again, but Bryan is ready to spread his wings and fly solo.
It was becoming apparent near the end of Bryan's world title reign that the fans were finally starting to respond to him. He was fairly vanilla as a face and the general audience wasn't very interested in him, but once he turned heel and adopted a new persona, something seemed to click.
He lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in a mere 18 seconds at WrestleMania XXVIII, but his popularity soared after that and it continues to grow.
Not only is Bryan arguably the best in-ring worker the WWE has to offer, but he now boasts one of its most charismatic and entertaining characters as well.
The anger management segments allowed Bryan to test his comedic chops and he has managed to play well off Kane as well. Bryan is now the total package and he is more than ready to reach the main-event scene and stay there.
The easiest and most sensible way to do that would be to have Bryan win the Royal Rumble. The fact that he and Kane are still Tag Team Champions could be a potential pitfall, but I anticipate them losing the straps to Team Rhodes Scholars earlier in the night due to some dissension.
That dissension would then carry over to the Rumble with Bryan eliminating Kane and ultimately going on to win the match.
The beauty of Bryan is that he is pretty much the WWE's only tweener right now and he plays the role to perfection. He acts like a heel much of the time, but the fans love him anyway, so he can realistically face anybody if he wins the Rumble.
There is no doubt that the obvious feud for him after winning the Rumble, though, would be against Dolph Ziggler.
Ziggler is still in possession of the Money in the Bank contract, but the odds are in favor of him cashing it in successfully ahead of WrestleMania. In fact, it could easily happen at the Royal Rumble, so everything would be in place.
Bryan and Ziggler had some fantastic matches a couple years ago and they would tear the house down at WrestleMania. In addition to that, the feud leading up to it would be quite entertaining.
Coincidentally, Ziggler and A.J. are currently an item, while A.J.'s first WWE beau was Bryan. When Bryan lost at WrestleMania last year, he blamed A.J. for distracting him and there is still plenty of bad blood between them, especially after A.J. left him at the altar during Raw 1,000. With a natural connection already between them, there's no reason not to have them feud.
Since Ziggler is already entering the Rumble at either No. 1 or No. 2, having Bryan start the match with him would be a nice way to foreshadow it. Both Bryan and Ziggler could then go wire to wire a la Michaels and The British Bulldog in 1995. It would establish Bryan as a definite threat and the seeds would be planted for a 'Mania match as well.
Having Cena win may be the safer move, but the beauty of Cena is that he can be thrown into the main-event mix simply because he's John Cena. He doesn't have to win the Royal Rumble in order to challenge The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. The mere fact that he is the face of the company makes him an obvious candidate.
Bryan, on the other hand, needs something to trampoline him back up the totem pole. The World Heavyweight Championship picture is muddled, so it should be solved by the Royal Rumble. Cena, Rock and Punk are really the only guys vying for the WWE Championship, and wasting the Rumble win on Cena would be absolutely unnecessary.
The Royal Rumble is about building new stars, and Bryan is a guy who is now better equipped to be a world title contender and remain one for good.