The road to WrestleMania is slowly working its way around again, with the start barely over the horizon in the form of the Royal Rumble.
Soon enough, the big question will be at the forefront of everyone's mind again; Who is going to win?
The Rumble may seem a little too distant to start contemplating such matters, but as current efforts seem solely focused on deciphering the turbulent world-title scene and other goings-on across the world of the WWE, I thought I would give some direction to the chaos by offering up some candidates to take the Royal Rumble crown.
I thought that for a bit of fun I would attempt to find these wrestlers using the method applied in the game “Guess Who.”
I am going to attempt to systematically cut the field of potential winners down by making observations about past Rumble winners; establish trends from past winners, and then eliminate anyone who doesn’t fall into that category.
Then by the end, I should have a decent pool of names which should hopefully contain the winner of the next Rumble.
Every year we see many predictions as to who the winner will be. I may offer my personal choice at the end, but the main purpose of this is for me to rationalize the chances of certain superstars winning, and allow that information to stew in your brain and to let you make your own decision.
Ultimately, we may all reach a consensus as to who should win, but however obvious a candidate may seem, the outcome could be utterly different. Personally, I like it that way, so long as it is done correctly.
As with most situations, to determine a future outcome the best strategy is to extrapolate from previous trends. The way to do that in this instance is by examining past winners.
I will only consider the winners of the past 10 Rumbles, as frankly any result before then is from an entirely different WWE.
If you don’t want reminding of who won the past 10 Rumbles, you might want to skip this slide.
2000–The Rock–Rock would go on to lose in a fatal-four-way for the title at WrestleMania to Triple H, one of only a few unsuccessful Rumble-to-title conversions.
2001–Stone Cold–This would be Stone Cold’s third win in the Rumble, a record as yet unmatched. Austin would take the title from The Rock at WrestleMania X-7, in one of the most fabled heel turns in professional wrestling.
Stone Cold would start a streak at Houston, by which all Rumble winners would win a world title at that year’s WrestleMania, only broken in 2008 by John Cena, and subsequently Randy Orton this year.
2002–Triple H–Hunter recently returned from injury before his Rumble win, and would beat Chris Jericho at WrestleMania X-8 whilst clearly still handicapped from his injury.
2003–Brock Lesnar–Brock won the Rumble in his debut year in the WWE. Already a world champion, Brock would beat Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX for the WWE Championship, nearly breaking his neck in the process.
Lesnar’s is one of the more unusual recent wins, as most winners have been with the company a good few years before they take this honor.
2004–Chris Benoit–Although the WWE would like us to forget this one, Benoit won the Rumble and went on to provide us with one of the most memorable WrestleMania moments; celebrating in the ring after his World Heavyweight Championship win with Eddie Guerrero.
2005–Batista–The Evolution tough-guy would go against fellow member Triple H’s wishes by challenging him, and defeating him for the World Heavyweight Championship, thus turning his back on the stable.
2006–Rey Mysterio–The cruiserweight luchador triumphed at the Rumble shortly after the death of Eddie Guerrero, and led him to his first and only world title at WrestleMania 22.
2007–The Undertaker–The Deadman left it late in his career to win the Rumble, but it was worth the wait; strengthening his feud with Batista, and giving us some great matches throughout the year.
2008–John Cena–Superman came back impossibly early from his injury, entering number 30 to win the Rumble in typical Cena style.
Cena became the first person to demand a match at No Way Out instead of ‘Mania, but even after losing he worked his way onto the grand stage for the title match. He would ultimately lose, breaking the winners’ winning streak.
2009–Randy Orton–Last year Orton took the crown, aided by his fellow Legacy members in last eliminated Triple H. H would have the last laugh, beating Randy in Houston to retain the title.
So what trends can we establish, and what characteristics must our Rumble winner have?
Filling our Guess Who board today will be any male WWE superstar from any of the three brands. I will discount injuries for the time being, as we have seen many wrestlers come back from injury to win the Rumble.
The potential winners are:
Big Show, Carlito, Chavo Guerrero, Chris Masters, Cody Rhodes, Evan Bourne, Festus, Hornswoggle, Jack Swagger, Jamie Noble, John Cena, Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, The Miz, MVP, Primo, Randy Orton, Santino, Shawn Michaels, Ted DiBiase, Triple H, Batista, Charlie Haas, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, DH Smith, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Edge, Eric Escobar, Finlay, The Great Khali, Jimmy Wang Yang, John Morrison, JTG, Kane, Kung Fu Naki, Matt Hardy, Mike Knox, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio, Shad, Jesse, Tyson Kidd, The Undertaker, Christian, DJ Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson, Goldust, Paul Birchill, Shelton Benjamin, The Hurricane, Sheamus, Tommy Dreamer, Tyler Reks, Vladimir Kozlov, William Regal, Yoshi Tatsu.
Some of these names may seem unlikely, but let’s give everyone their fair shot for the moment.
I think it is fair to say that with the exception of Brock Lesnar, all of the winners had been part of the WWE for a good few years before their wins.
This may not prove a prerequisite to win the Rumble, but it does make sense that the powers-that-be only hand out Rumble wins to those who have proved they can handle that magnitude of responsibility.
So, my first Guess Who question is: Have you been in the WWE more than three years (cumulatively)?
Anyone who hasn’t must be eliminated.
The first faces to be flicked down are:
Cody Rhodes, Evan Bourne, Festus, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, Primo, Santino, Ted DiBiase, DH Smith, Drew McIntyre, Eric Escobar, Jesse, Tyson Kidd, DJ Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson, Sheamus, Tyler Reks, Vladimir Kozlov, Yoshi Tatsu.
A couple of names in that list strike me as standing some chance of winning: Kofi, Swagger, and DiBiase in particular as they are all undergoing major pushes. But when you consider who has won in recent years and what position their careers were in when they won, I think it is fair to take these guys out of the equation.
The recently appointed number one contender for John Cena's world title, Sheamus, also has to have his Guess Who face flipped down. Although he achieved a big milestone in his career on Monday's RAW, I feel justified in counting him out.
This leaves us with:
Big Show, Carlito, Chavo Guerrero, Chris Masters, Hornswoggle, Jamie Noble, John Cena, Mark Henry, The Miz, MVP, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Batista, Charlie Haas, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Edge, Finlay, The Great Khali, Jimmy Wang Yang, John Morrison, JTG, Kane, Kung Fu Naki, Matt Hardy, Mike Knox, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio, Shad, The Undertaker, Christian, Goldust, Paul Birchill, Shelton Benjamin, The Hurricane, Tommy Dreamer, William Regal.
Of course the main reason this outcome is so heavily pondered is due to the title shot received by the winner at WrestleMania. Although many names receive world title opportunities throughout the year, this one is prized not only because of where it is received, but because of the success rate of winners.
Therefore, it is usually the case that a Royal Rumble winner will either be a past champion looking for another reign, or someone who has won mid-card titles and is eager to make that next step up.
Looking at the past winners, this theory seems to have some merit. Rey Mysterio and Batista are perhaps the exception, who had both held other notable titles, but no major singles titles.
So my next Guess Who question is: Have you won either a world title or a mid-card singles title (U.S./Intercontinental) before?
Anyone who hasn’t is eliminated.
Going face down is:
Chris Masters, Hornswoggle, Jamie Noble, Charlie Haas, Dolph Ziggler, Jimmy Wang Yang, JTG, Kung Fu Naki, Mike Knox, R-Truth, Shad, The Hurricane, Paul Birchall.
This cut seems to have taken out many of the wrestlers that frequented the old cruiserweight division, as well as a few mid-carders who have yet to hold one of the mid-card titles.
You may believe that some of the names taken out here have a slight chance of winning, but ultimately it is very rare to see someone receive a world title shot without first winning the U.S. or Intercontinental belts.
This leaves us with:
Big Show, Carlito, Chavo Guerrero, John Cena, Mark Henry, The Miz, MVP, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Batista, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Edge, Finlay, The Great Khali, John Morrison, Kane, Matt Hardy, Rey Mysterio, The Undertaker, Christian, Golddust, Shelton Benjamin, Tommy Dreamer, William Regal.
“…and Golddust wins the 2010 Royal Rumble!”
Let’s face facts—that is a sentence we will never have to hear.
So, I think with a little common sense, the next Guess Who question should be: Do you honestly stand a cat in hell's chance of winning?
If not, bye bye!
Falling at this late stage is:
Carlito, Chavo Guerrero, Finlay, The Great Khali, Golddust, Tommy Dreamer, William Regal.
Some big names fell there, but based on current climes I don’t think any of these guys should really be in the running.
Khali has been world champ before so could be a dark horse, but he is currently out for surgery, and bluntly he doesn’t deserve this honor.
Regal could stand a chance of winning the Rumble then challenging for the ECW title. No-one has ever challenged for the ECW title after a Rumble win, so there is the possibility, but honestly I think there will be far better candidates for the win.
Big Show, John Cena, Mark Henry, The Miz, MVP, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Batista, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Edge, John Morrison, Kane, Matt Hardy, Rey Mysterio, The Undertaker, Christian, Shelton Benjamin.
I think that is about as far as we can cut the field down going off who has won it in the past. Now it’s just a case of picking out some favourites.
There aren't that many faces left upright on our Guess Who board, but selecting a winner is still no easy task.
As I mentioned earlier, a Rumble winner usually falls into one of two categories; a past world champion looking for another shot, and a mid-carder looking to take their career one step further.
If I split up the remaining names into those two groups it might be a little easier to pick out some possible winners.
Past world champions
Big Show, John Cena, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Batista, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Edge, Kane, Rey Mysterio, The Undertaker.
Yet to hold a world title (in the WWE)
Mark Henry, The Miz, MVP, John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Christian, Shelton Benjamin.
People like The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Big Show, John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Batista have no need to win the Rumble, with varying reasons.
Mainly, though, that they all have other more viable routes to the world title, and giving the Rumble win to any of these men is in my opinion a waste.
Kane has been threatening to do something useful for years, but has never been given that chance to sit atop the mountain…again, after his monumental one-day WWE title reign.
The Rumble would be a fantastic way for him to break back through, but again, it seems very unlikely.
Mark Henry falls into the same category as Kane, although he has never won a world title excepting the ECW title. It would be a gargantuan stroke of good luck for Henry if he was given the nod for the W.
On the other end of the scale, we have some of the younger guys chomping at the bit looking for that first world title. Some, however, are just too young or inexperienced, like The Miz, and MVP.
These two are just not ready for this kind of accolade.
Shelton Benjamin, in my opinion, is ready to step up to the world title scene some time in the near future, but not via the Royal Rumble. I think he is far more likely to win the Money in the Bank ladder match, so I will exclude him at this point.
In my view, from those groups, the most probable Rumble winners are:
Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Edge, Matt Hardy, John Morrison, and Christian.
So now I will take a more in depth look at the remaining candidates.
Since his split from his tag team partnership with The Miz, Morrison's career has only gone one way; up.
It has been showing no means of stopping either.
There is a belief that he is ready to take on main event status, and honestly I have to agree from a purely wrestling standpoint.
John Morrison has put on some of the best matches of the year so far, most notably when he won his Intercontinental title from Rey Mysterio, who is also in the form of his life.
I do question Morrison's ability to carry a major storyline, both in term of his ability as a performer and his capacity to handle the pressure.
If mustering a "Mr. Ziggles" chant is the extent of his crowd control then I am more than patient enough to wait for him to hone his craft that little bit longer.
Morrison, though, has paid his dues to the WWE, and my criticisms of him pale in comparison to the short-comings of some of the "main-event material" currently on offer.
There is an argument for Morrison taking the Money in the Bank title, but out of everyone who I would put in that category, I believe he is most qualified to take a Rumble win as an alternative into the world title scene.
Whether or not now is the time for this surge in his career is a different matter. I was a big advocate of the Miz and Morrison tag team staying together after the draft, as I feared the two would be drowned in the WWE's sea of talent, and could have better developed their careers as a duo.
In hindsight I am happy to admit defeat, as they have both flourished into excellent mid-card wrestlers.
The Miz particularly impressed me during his exchanges with Kofi Kingston at recent pay-per-views, producing mature and exhilarating wrestling performances.
What my apprehension probably got right is the fact that Morrison still has a little way to go before he's "there."
There is no doubting that he has all the potential to ultimately be one of the biggest names in the business, but frankly I cannot see the rush. There is plenty of time to allow him to mature into the wrestler we want him to be.
In the words of Sulayman, “don't shove John Morrison, give him a steady push.”
I think the likelihood of him winning this year's Rumble is shadowed by other, more likely candidates.
A Royal Rumble victory would simply be the crowning jewel in Chris Jericho’s career.
I’m sure there’s a pun in there somewhere.
This seems to be the only title Jericho has not yet crossed off his check-list. I would argue that he is the best wrestler currently in the WWE never to have held the Rumble title, and with his heel popularity sky-rocketing he is definitely a frontrunner.
The rejuvenative effect that his partnership with The Big Show has had on the tag team division was more than welcomed by most. However, that partnership will not last forever.
We have already seen disagreements between the two, and their encounter with The Undertaker can only divide them further. It will not be too long before efforts are solely aimed on their singles careers again.
Chris Jericho will always be a contender to main event WrestleMania, but the question we must ask ourselves is why does he need to win the Royal Rumble this year?
Jericho could easily drop back into world-title contendership at any stage, as was shown by the triple threat at Survivor Series. Does he really need to take this avenue into a world title match?
The sensible answer would be no. But I would never count him out.
The “Matt Hardy for the next world champion” bandwagon is already at a full head of steam. Almost every internet wrestling forum seems high on the idea that Matt should claim world gold before long.
But behind the lemming-like acceptance by most that this proposal warrants merit, lies the fact that there are few wrestlers more worthy to finally claim one of the biggest prizes in the business.
Very few wrestlers have as much passion for what they do as Matt Hardy.
From an early age he and Jeff would practise wrestling on a trampoline they got one year for Christmas. Matt would go on to run his own wrestling promotion, and through it find his way into the WWE. In this instance, determination bred success.
As the Hardy Boyz, Jeff and Matt became household names, with Matt subsequently playing second string to his younger brother.
Through whatever means, Matt has put in hard graft. Over a decade of solid work, gruelling matches, storied feuds, and shear gall has earned him the position he holds in the WWE, and few could argue against his labours deserving accolades.
I feel that Matt has paid his dues to a company that I am sure will reward him along the line with the title he craves most: world champion.
Will that process begin at the Royal Rumble? We can only wait and see.
You may argue that Hardy has a better chance of taking the Money in the Bank crown, but in all honesty I feel he is above that.
Nearly five years ago a man whom with which Matt began, and developed, his career with, Edge, earned the first ever Money in the Bank contract. The effect that had on his career is history, and he is now the seventh most decorated world champion in history.
For Matt to now begin walking that path at this stage in his career is, to me, wrong. A path that newcomers to the WWE like CM Punk should be, and have been, taking. He deserves better.
Whether anyone in power will agree is an entirely different issue.
Matt is not the same wrestler he used to be. Gone are the days when he could compete in the calibre of high-risk match that ultimately cemented his name in the wrestling annals.
His latest WrestleMania match is testament to that fact, as in one of his bread and butter extreme rules matches, he relied far too heavily on his brother to take the risks.
This, however, does not mean there is no place for him in the WWE.
One of my favorite wrestlers, Triple H, took a similar approach to his career.
Ladder and hardcore matches were once a staple to him, but now a superplex or anything of equal high impact to him would probably result in injury.
Matt has a more than adequate enough skill-base to accommodate this short-coming, and I feel he is more than deserving of having his name finally associated with world gold.
You would have to have been hiding under your sofa for the past year whilst watching wrestling to realize that this guy is on fire at the moment.
Everything he touches lately in the WWE turns to gold, and arguably he should have his hands on some currently had it not been for the interference of SuperCena.
Last year, Orton won the Rumble coming off the back of a huge influx of popularity after returning from injury and setting up the stable Legacy.
This year he is in an entirely different position.
Although he is still a massive star at the moment, he has gone slightly off the boil.
Pushing Kofi Kingston has taken some of the wind out his sails, but the Legacy team leader will always find a way to get back to full speed.
A Royal Rumble win would certainly achieve that aim, and put Randy back on his path to becoming one of the all-time greats.
It is a pretty hard to bet against someone with Rhodes and DiBiase fighting their corner, but I find it hard to imagine Orton taking this honor two years in a row. Not that he doesn't deserve it, but I think others could benefit much more from this win, and the WWE could miss a trick if they hand him his second Rumble win.
Nobody has successfully made the move from impressive mid-carder, to cemented main-eventer as competently as CM Punk in recent history.
It was apparent from his success and popularity in ROH that Punk’s career in the WWE would progress fast, and he hasn't disappointed.
His second Money in the Bank win last year was frowned upon by many wrestling fans. But after that disdain was converted into heel heat, things started making sense.
Punk has proved before that he can carry either face or heel personae, and I am sure there are many more good things going to be coming from his direction.
I'm not really sure why a Punk win at the Rumble would benefit the WWE. He has yet to main event a WrestleMania, so in that respect I would enjoy it. But could he not just find his way into that match another way? I think so.
I am no soothsayer, but it just doesn't seem like this is a very sensible option to take. Punk is fantastic, but it would just be a major disappointment if he were to win.
Sorry, CM, I just can't back you on this one.
Edge's interlude from the WWE due to injury was horrific timing; he was at the peak of his career, and only stood to further it.
I am sure I am not alone when I say I miss him, and wish him a swift return to our screens. However, in hindsight, his injury could stand to be a blessing in disguise.
We have seen Edge take time out of the WWE before in recent history, but something about this time seems different. The suggestion that he returns as a face not only makes sense, but for some reason it feels right.
I don't know about you, but I actually want to cheer Edge for once. I want to see him winning.
His title victories in the past have been brief, and dubious. His "Ultimate Opportunist" persona must take the blame for this, and a change in crowd status could see that trend reversed, and Edge having more credible title runs.
Had he not been injured, the opportunity to make such a change may not have arisen. It is becoming ever more popular a decision that that change takes place through a Royal Rumble win.
But, however much we want it to happen, there still remains the big question: will he be fit in time?
Regardless of the rumors that swirl around the blog-o-sphere he simply may not be capable of competing in time. It would be fantastic to see him shock the world by returning and winning a la John Cena-2008, but purely wanting something doesn't mean it's going to happen. If that were true I would have far too little time on my hands to blog about wrestling.
Early reports were that he would be out until around WrestleMania time at the earliest, if he recovered at all. Recent reports are that he is on the road to recovery, according to an interview Edge had with Play3-live.com, and says he would like to be back in time to be part of Wrestlemania.
Although that sounds promising, what it says about his chances of winning the Rumble is unclear.
I am sure Edge will want to return as soon as physically possible. If he can, I would peg him as one of the big favorites.
Since his return from TNA, Captain Charisma has been reacquainting himself with the WWE on its ECW brand, to many of his peeps’ dismay.
His fans believe that he should be now for the WWE what he was to TNA; main event material. Good performances as ECW champion have not done that notion any harm.
I have no doubt that Christian will at some point soon become more predominant in the WWE. His popularity alone demands it.
Will the Royal Rumble be the place he makes that move?
I am under the impression that all it would take for Christian to propel himself into the mainstream of the WWE is a move to one of the bigger brands. Sure, he would probably have a token Intercontinental/US title run, but sooner or later McMahon will bow to the pressure and give his fans what they want; world gold.
So does he really need this avenue to get into the world title picture? Probably not.
Christian is a talented, trustworthy, charismatic star. If you want evidence of that fact you will have to look no further than his next big match with Shelton Benjamin at TLC. They themselves hinted that it would be a show-stealer, and I have full confidence in believing them.
In short, if the course of Christian's career is to head toward being a world champion in the WWE, it will. He does not need this win.
I could be wrong, but I would say his chances are slim of winning the Rumble crown this year.
Unsound theories have often been offered up in the past as to why certain stars will win, a few of which I wish to quickly address.
The winner of the Royal Rumble does not alternate between SmackDown and Raw, this is a fallacy. It doesn’t take a genius to look back at previous winners to realise that this simply isn’t the case.
Raw has won it for the past couple of years (Cena, then Orton) which in some people’s eyes would now suggest a SmackDown winner, which again isn’t necessarily true.
Do not base who you think will win on the brand a Superstar belong to, as it will have little relevance.
Also having little relevance as to who will win is the heel/face characteristics of a wrestler.
Last year, many predicted that Randy Orton would win the Rumble, as a heel had not done so for many years. They all seemed validated when that assumption became truth.
But although they predicted the end result, this was not the reason behind Orton winning.
The only reason Randy won last year was that he was the best and most deserving person to take the title at the time.
It had literally nothing to do with the fact that he was a heel.
A win this year will also have nothing to do with how many Rumbles wrestlers have won before.
I often see comments stating how nobody has won two years in a row since Stone Cold, and many make assumptions based on that fact.
I cannot see why this information should affect who wins, and I urge others not to take this into account.
One thing I do believe needs saying about the winner of this year’s Royal Rumble is that the likelihood of them converting that win into a title at WrestleMania is high.
The WWE often remark on how probable it is that this conversion to a title will occur, and for that remark to remain a reality Rumble winners are going to have to take some more titles at ‘Mania.
If they don’t, the Rumble crown will lose its worth, and that would not be a good thing for the WWE.
But back to the question at hand: who will take the Royal Rumble crown this year?
Nobody outside the WWE can, or will be able to answer this question with any concrete assurance, regardless of the countless “so-and-so will definitely win the Royal Rumble” stories we will no doubt hear in the coming weeks.
I think the only thing we can do that has any credibility is to offer up some favorites, which I hope I have done using fair assumptions, and accurate logic throughout the course of this article.
Who you would like to back as your winner is up to you.
Personally, I would love to see Matt Hardy win. That is my heart’s answer to this question. He is one of the hardest workers in the WWE, and it would be a truly special moment seeing him win a world championship for the first time (excluding ECW that is).
My head on the other hand says that if Edge is fit in time it would be apt to see him return in ‘Ultimate Opportunist’ style and win the match, hopefully as a face at last.
I would say they are my picks, with differing reasons.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my run-down of the potential winners for this year’s Rumble. It is still a little while away, but there’s nothing wrong with getting your whistle wet in anticipation of one of the WWE’s most enjoyable pay-per-views.
I have left you only a few faces upright on the Guess Who board. Who will you pick?