In nearly 24 hours, WWE will present the 26th anniversary of the Royal Rumble, a pay-per-view widely considered to be the second biggest show of the year. While the card will feature a few heavily hyped championship matches, the Royal Rumble match itself is what has the biggest implications attached to it.
Typically occurring in the main-event slot, the Royal Rumble match gives 30 Superstars the chance to headline WrestleMania with a shot at a World Championship of their choosing. Given the vast number of top talent on today's star-studded roster, predicting an eventual victor could be more difficult this time around rather than in years past.
With surprises always welcome during the Royal Rumble match, this could very well be one of the more shocking Rumbles in recent history. With that being said, I will attempt to break down and analyze each aspect of the upcoming contest, not only who I believe will end up winning.
However, while reading, be sure to keep the following question in your mind: Who will be the one?
From the moment The Rock announced he'd be contending for the WWE Championship at this year's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, almost everyone immediately figured John Cena would win the Royal Rumble match to advance to face Rock in a WrestleMania rematch at the show of the shows. Fast forward six months later, and that's very much the case.
Of course, Cena won the 2008 Royal Rumble match, which was exactly five years ago from this upcoming Sunday. Is that a sign that history could repeat itself?
Being the established talent that he is, Cena doesn't need a Rumble win to contend for the WWE title at Mania. I've always believed that allowing someone else to win who hasn't won it before is almost always the better option since it feels fresh.
It's always possible that WWE could swerve us by having someone else win, which would be highly desired, but don't be surprised if you see Cena as the last man standing on Sunday.
After having arguably the worst year in his WWE career in 2012, Randy Orton has bounced back since the start of the new year in recent weeks. He's plowed through his competition and has announced his intentions to win the World Heavyweight Championship once again in 2013.
With a heel turn for Orton being heavily rumored, it's quite likely that we could see him turn his back on the WWE Universe any time within the next two months. It's also been reported that Orton is currently scheduled to face Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Championship at Mania, so winning the Royal Rumble is a huge possibility for The Viper.
However, given the fact Orton won the Rumble back in 2009, there's no need for him to win it again. If he were to win, though, expect Sheamus to win back the World title to set up their match at WrestleMania 29.
Since 1999, Kane has competed in a total of 13 Royal Rumble matches, just as many as Shawn Michaels. Despite his large number of appearances in the annual Rumble bout, Kane has yet to win one.
In 2001, Kane set the record for eliminating the most amount of Superstars in one Royal Rumble match by disposing of 11 Superstars. However, Kane was eliminated before he could secure the victory and a World title shot at WrestleMania.
Is there a likely chance he could win the 2013 Royal Rumble on Sunday? Probably not, but he certainly is the most deserving of anyone to win just one. He may never win one over the course of his career, but I still feel that it's long overdue.
Since re-debuting on the SmackDown brand in April 2012, Ryback has been on an absolute roll. While his undefeated streak may no longer be intact, he's only suffered two losses in singles competition over the last nine months, which is an impressive feat to say the least.
Although he's come up short of winning the WWE Championship from CM Punk in recent months, he remains hungry for the gold. The Royal Rumble match is perfect for Ryback as it allows him to go against all odds and decimate anyone who steps in his way.
That being said, expect Ryback to come close to breaking Kane's record of most eliminations in one Royal Rumble matchup. It's been reported that there's a chance of Ryback facing Big Show at WrestleMania 29, quite possibly over the World Heavyweight Championship.
Not only is Ryback a fresh face to win the Royal Rumble, but having him win the World title at Mania will automatically make him one of the biggest names on the SmackDown brand. There's no doubting that Big Hungry is extremely over with the WWE Universe right now, so why not reward him for his efforts by having him win the Royal Rumble?
At this time last year, Wade Barrett was my undeniable pick to win the 2012 Royal Rumble match. However, the elbow injury he sustained last February prevented him from continuing the strong momentum he had going during that time.
Upon his return, Barrett went back to his roots by debuting a new gimmick, look and entrance theme. He went on to win his second Intercontinental Championship on the New Year's Eve edition of Raw and hasn't looked back since.
To my knowledge, no one has ever won the Royal Rumble match while Intercontinental Champion, so I'd extremely shocked to see Barrett emerge victorious on Sunday. As ready as he is to contend for the World Heavyweight Championship, it just isn't the right time right now.
This candidate depends on which match headlines the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on Sunday, but it's still a possibility nonetheless.
If CM Punk loses the WWE Championship to The Rock, he'll technically be eligible to enter the Royal Rumble match later in the night. However, the only issue with this is the fact that Punk already has a guaranteed title rematch if he drops the title to Rock, so why would he need the Royal Rumble victory?
Of course, this specific scenario is a long shot, but there's still a slight chance it could happen. This same scenario could also apply to The Great One if he's unable to defeat Punk to win the prestigious prize.
I'll admit, I'm a big supporter of The Miz's recent face turn, but I understand how many people can see it as a failure thus far. Miz has floundered since losing the WWE Championship two years ago, so maybe the fact that he hasn't been in the main event scene is what's missing from his character.
He can easily connect with crowds, but the fact that he hasn't changed much about his persona since becoming a fan favorite is what's holding him back. Needless to say, the Figure Four Leg Lock submission maneuver is not working for him whatsoever, and I really hope he abandons that finisher before it's too late.
I, for one, would not be disappointed if Miz emerged victorious in Sunday's Royal Rumble match and went on to headline WrestleMania (again) for the World Championship. That way, he can reclaim his rightful place in the World title picture and finally be given a program he can work with.
Since winning the SmackDown Money in the Bank briefcase back in July, Dolph Ziggler has been on an unstoppable roll as he quickly approaches his inevitable World Heavyweight Championship reign. From retiring Chris Jericho to defeating John Cena in the main event of WWE TLC, Ziggler is primed to become World Champion sooner rather than later.
However, the fact that he's Mr. Money in the Bank doesn't prevent him from being an entrant in the Royal Rumble match. There have been talks of Ziggler winning the Rumble, but it'd quite the shocker given the fact he's entering at either No. 1 or No. 2.
If this was the case, could we expect a World title unification match at WrestleMania 29?
Personally, I've always been against just having one World Championship, but it's been heavily rumored for years now, so I wouldn't put it past WWE to go through with it at this year's show of shows.
Although he's currently embroiled in the tag team division, Daniel Bryan is more than ready to re-enter the World Heavyweight Championship picture. What better way to do than to win his very first Royal Rumble match?
I've found that Team Hell No has run its course, so I fully expect them to drop the WWE Tag Team Championship on Sunday. From there, both Bryan and Kane would enter the Royal Rumble later in the evening and be the final two competitors, where Bryan would eliminate his tag team partner to win the matchup.
Chris Benoit, who has been compared to Bryan numerous times in recent years, won the Rumble back in 2004 from an early number, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Bryan do the same. Although he wasn't in the Rumble last year, he put on an excellent performance in 2011 when he drew No. 2 and faced off against CM Punk.
Bryan was World Champion going into WrestleMania last year, but his unsuccessful title defense against Sheamus lasted a mere 18 seconds. He deserves another shot at the gold this year, and having him win the Rumble on Sunday would be the perfect way to go about it.
Although it has yet to be officially announced, there's a pretty likely chance that we'll be seeing The Shield make an appearance during the Royal Rumble match on Sunday. As seen in 2011 with The Corre and New Nexus, stables are forces to be reckoned with in Royal Rumbles due to the advantages in numbers.
If they truly wish to make an immediate impact in WWE, then entering the Royal Rumble would be their best bet. Eliminating a large number of people would help boost their credibility tremendously and make them the most feared force in all of WWE.
Of course, I wouldn't expect them to win, but eliminating as many people as possible is a good way to get yourself noticed in a Royal Rumble match.
The entire landscape of WWE was shaken to the core when Brock Lensar made his shocking return the night following WrestleMania 28, but his lack of appearances since then have somewhat hindered his momentum. Sure, he scored a clean submission victory over Triple H at SummerSlam, but Lesnar hasn't made a televised appearance since the night he departed from the company.
His plans for WrestleMania 29 are up in the air at the moment, but it's looking like he'll be facing The Game in a rematch at the event. It's safe to say not many people are chomping at the bit to see that for a second time, so why not shake things up a little bit?
It's believed that Lesnar should be back anytime now, but what if he was to return in the Royal Rumble and win it? Remember, it was exactly a decade ago that Lesnar emerged victorious in the Royal Rumble match before winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, so it's possible that history could be repeating itself.
If Lesnar were to win, expect him to face The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29, as that was the match officials were hoping to have originally when Lesnar first returned a year ago.
It seems that every year there's at least one Superstar who is eliminated from the Royal Rumble match almost immediately, and I expect this year to be no different. I doubt they'll be able to snap Santino Marella's record of the shortest amount of time spent in the Rumble from 2009, but they can certainly come close.
In recent weeks, 3MB have been stating that the odds are in their favor since all three of them will be entering this year's Royal Rumble. Given their vast amount of confidence, it'd be hilarious to see Heath Slater tossed from the ring upon entering the Rumble.
If not, then you could always have Drew McIntyre or Jinder Mahal fill the role instead.
While it was reported a number of months ago that there was a chance we might see Undertaker compete in this year's Royal Rumble, that was before he was confirmed to be wrestling at WrestleMania 29. That being said, it's unlikely we'll be seeing him after all on Sunday, but there's still a way you can have his presence felt at the event but not actually be seen.
Once the buzzer sounds, you have the gong strike and the lights go off, but Taker never comes out as an entry. His music distracts a competitor in the ring, which leads to their eventual elimination from the bout. Whoever that individual is can target Taker for intentionally costing them a Rumble victory and challenge them to a match at Mania.
Since there's a probable chance he could be facing WWE Champion CM Punk at WrestleMania 29, it's possible Taker would return and win the Rumble, but that's a bit far fetched. Besides, Taker won the bout back in 2007, so there's no need for him to win it again this time around.
Please note that the following slide does not contain any spoilers regarding tomorrow night's Royal Rumble match. I have no knowledge of who might be returning, so please refrain from posting spoilers in the comment section.
However, if I had to take a guess as to which currently contracted WWE Superstar would be returning on Sunday, it would have to be Christian. He's been sidelined with an injury since August, and it's recently been reported that he's due back to the ring by the end of the month.
As awesome as it would be to see Christian return Sunday night, I'm not getting my hopes up. It's been speculated in past years that he'd return in the 2011 and 2012 Royal Rumble matches respectively, but he didn't end up returning until the following month.
Even still, it'd be great for Christian to grace the WWE Universe with his presence on Sunday night given the fact he hasn't participate in a Royal Rumble since 2005. Sure, he has no chance of winning it, but it'd still be fun to see him back.
In 2011, we saw John Morrison scale the barricade to avoid being eliminated from the Royal Rumble match. Last year, Kofi Kingston dodged elimination in the Rumble by performing a handstand at ringside.
If there's one star who can benefit from a breakout moment in this year's Royal Rumble, it's Antonio Cesaro.
Since winning the United States Championship at SummerSlam in August, Antonio Cesaro has shown a great deal of potential as a singles competitor. He's had a fantastic past six months, and I expect his strong momentum to carry over into the new year.
While I don't see Cesaro winning the Rumble just yet, I have a feeling he'll pull off something awe-inspiring over the course of the contest. I'm not sure what exactly it would be, but I'd imagine it'd be something that will keep people talking for a long while to come.
With more possibilities than ever before, I strongly believe that the 2013 Royal Rumble match has the potential to be something monumental. Being one of my top three WWE pay-per-views of the year, my hopes are up high that we'll witness something special come Sunday.
Please note that all of my aforementioned Superstars are not only predictions with wishful thinking, but my analysis of what to expect during the Royal Rumble. Of course, you can draw your own conclusions as to what might transpire during the bout, so be sure to drop a comment below with you hope to see come to fruition.
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