On paper, CM Punk should be taken seriously as a potential Royal Rumble winner because, well, he's CM Punk.
A top star and the man recognized as having the longest WWE title reign of the modern era, Punk may be the greatest modern WWE Superstar never to win a Royal Rumble. He's due to win at least one before he hangs up his kick pads.
But looking at how he has been positioned in recent weeks—as the established veteran instrumental in getting Roman Reigns over as a viable singles star—Punk appears in danger of failing to win yet another Royal Rumble.
Currently outshined by the returning Batista and the scorching Roman Reigns, Raw ended on Monday night with Reigns defeating CM Punk in a singles match.
Punk has been in an extended feud with the upstart Shield stable. This means he is running out of daylight to compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, with WrestleMania just a few months away.
Each year at WrestleMania, there seems to be an odd man out. A Superstar too significant to leave off the WrestleMania card, yet one who seemed to have inexplicably fallen through the cracks. The Big Show has been in this position so many times that it should be named after him.
This was Batista's dilemma at WrestleMania XXIV, where his opponent was announced with less than three weeks until bell time.
The match against the late Umaga was billed as a "battle of brand supremacy," with little to no conflict between the two monsters to draw upon. Even if there had been a conflict, having three weeks to sell a WrestleMania match is like having three seconds to sell a used Ford Pinto.
Punk will need to kick things into high gear to avoid such a death sentence. He has very few novel WrestleMania matches at his disposal.
The two-week tease of a Punk-Shawn Michaels feud has predictably dried up—Michaels hasn't been on television since Dec. 16—leaving Triple H as his likely WrestleMania ceiling. A Royal Rumble win may be the only thing that could put him back on track for a memorable WrestleMania outing.
Punk has fought just about every incarnation of The Shield there is to fight. By the time the Rumble comes around in a couple of weeks, fans will be ready to see him paired with a new opponent. This makes Punk a candidate to begin a fresh feud through the Royal Rumble, possibly with a high-profile heel causing his Battle Royal demise.
For CM Punk, the Royal Rumble appears to be a tool to set up a larger storyline down the road and nothing else. He certainly has a chance to win, but for now that would come as a pleasant surprise.