WWE Royal Rumble 2014: Power Ranking Likely Rumble Winners After Jan. 20 Raw
WWE's 2014 Royal Rumble pay-per-view is coming up this weekend and the one thing everyone wants to know is who will win.
With the Dec. 16 episode of Raw, the first Power Rankings set was released as we tried to look forward in time and give our predictions.
How have things changed since then when you compare it to last night's Raw?
Are there any new names added to the list? Did anyone drop off because they have no chance anymore?
In the spirit of the final four concept, here are the four most likely winners of this year's Royal Rumble as of right now.
Honorable Mention: Brock Lesnar
The main reason Brock Lesnar is classified as an honorable mention instead of a legitimate fourth-most-likely winner is because he has not been confirmed for the event.
If WWE decides to add Lesnar into the mix, he should definitely be considered a threat.
Not only is he a main-event star and a former Royal Rumble winner who could be taken seriously as the winner once more, but WWE has also teased him having a role in the title picture.
Lesnar has said that he is gunning for the WWE Championship, so with those references being thrown out there, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that it could happen.
However, because Lesnar is not currently announced as a participant, this greatly hurts his chances to win.
On top of this, it's highly unlikely that Lesnar will be turning babyface soon and if Randy Orton retains the title, WWE will not headline WrestleMania XXX with a heel vs. heel match.
Having Orton drop the title and then building up a new feud with Lesnar could be an option but might be too much of a rush job at this point.
Like Brock Lesnar, Batista is both an intimidating specimen as well as a former Royal Rumble winner.
On top of this, any main-event star making a return is instantly in the running to win the Battle Royal.
Batista's a huge name, so he is undoubtedly going to be a major part of this event, whether or not he is the last man standing.
If Randy Orton is still the champion come WrestleMania XXX, a selling point that WWE could be hoping to capitalize on is the idea that both he and Batista were members of Evolution.
But in the grand scheme of things, does this really make more sense than any alternatives?
Is WWE truly bringing Batista in to give him the WWE Championship title shot in the main event of WrestleMania after having a four-year absence, ignoring all of the other wrestlers on the roster in the process?
More often than not, when this happens, it turns out to be a bust.
There's still a high chance that Batista can win the Royal Rumble, but there's an even bigger chance that he'll feud with someone else at the grandest stage of them all.
It is undeniable that Daniel Bryan is one of the most over wrestlers on the roster right now and WWE management cannot ignore that.
All plans for Bryan to build up to a match against Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania look to be dead with him turning back to a babyface position so quickly.
In that case, what is he doing for WrestleMania?
Unless WWE has something up their sleeves that nobody is alluding to yet, the two most-likely options would be a match against Triple H or a match for the WWE Championship.
Both of them would result in a feel-good moment of Bryan winning and getting some revenge on The Authority.
In particular, a Royal Rumble victory to showcase his talent and build him back up as the underdog challenger before winning the title back at WrestleMania (and having more than a single day title reign) would be a huge benefit for Bryan.
But there are some factors that may get in the way.
As of right now, WWE has not announced him as an official participant, probably because of his health.
If his concussion is significant enough to derail a Royal Rumble appearance, that would eliminate his chances at winning the event's marquee match.
There's also the simple idea that WWE may not have had Bryan walking out of WrestleMania as the champion in mind when crafting the Royal Rumble to begin with.
Instead, someone else may have been positioned to stand up against The Authority.
There have been references here and there, ever since December's ranking of potential winners, that CM Punk would get the Royal Rumble victory this year.
For weeks now, WWE has been building him up as a big deal.
He's almost single-handedly taken down The Shield and he's had issues with Randy Orton and Triple H as well.
Most importantly, someone in power has told Punk that he essentially stands no chance at winning the Royal Rumble and challenging for the title at WrestleMania: Kane.
That is the biggest telltale sign that Punk will "defy the odds" according to WWE logic and be the guy who points to the WrestleMania XXX sign at the end of the night.
Kane can easily be the person who CM Punk has a match with at Elimination Chamber as a stall while Orton retains the championship in the titular gimmick match itself.
Being in the first entrance spot of the night seems like an impossibility, which just adds more fuel to the fire.
WWE has not had a winner from that spot since 2004's Chris Benoit victory that is never mentioned.
There could be a thought process that it's been long enough that a coast-to-coast winner should happen and give WWE a second name to mention winning from that spot instead of just Shawn Michaels.
Keep in mind that Punk has exactly the type of character that could stand up to The Authority and be successful in taking them down.
He's also a main-eventer that WWE could trust in having the responsibility of the Royal Rumble win and there's an added benefit for him never having won it in the past.
Babyfaces are statistically more likely to come out on top and Punk is one of the top faces in the company right now.
Unless there is a huge twist in the works, the smart bet seems to be on Punk winning the 2014 Royal Rumble.
Do you expect this to happen, or do you think someone else will win? Who are you rooting for?
Tell us your ideas in the comments below!
Anthony Mango is the owner-operator of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment as well as the host of its podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.