Before you take my title and assume that I'm about to vomit out cynicism all over B/R, keep in mind how optimistic my past articles have been.
That being said, I find myself slightly overtaken by a sense of potential dread that this year's Royal Rumble will be utterly predictable.
Like always, I'm doing two things: 1) reserving ultimate judgment over how I feel until it officially happens and 2) attempting to argue with myself over the facts. Feel free to join me and argue however you wish.
Currently, I'm just afraid, but by the end of a little analysis, that could easily change.
What do I base my fear on? WWE seems to take situations that should be bedlams of mayhem and chance, and turn them into overproduced, overwritten flops.
The majority of battle royales we see typically travel down standard roads and end the way we see them going.
Maybe not everything about a battle royale is predictable before it even starts, but certain outcomes are easy to pick out as they go.
One "problem" is that the Royal Rumble has the potential to be as landscape-changing as Wrestlemania itself.
Wrestlemania is highlighted by big matches that don't tend to involve more than four people in a tag match, though typically only involving two people per singles match.
The Royal Rumble involves almost everyone, so a better question at this point would be, who ISN'T involved in the Royal Rumble this year?
With so many participants, more people just means more losers, right? Only if you're a pessimist.
First rule to remember about any Royal Rumble match: everyone, I repeat, EVERYONE involved is basically getting a shot at a top-tier title.
True, it's not a formal shot, more like a shot at a shot, but still. For everyone involved, a belt is closer than its ever been.
Maybe being present in the ring to watch the first guy get tossed out is comparable to surviving the first round of a weekly-elimination reality show, but for WWE wrestlers struggling to rise out of the low to mid cards, just standing in the ring during a Rumble match makes a belt feel within finger's reach.
To win, all they have to do is two things: 1) don't get thrown over the top rope and 2) if they do get thrown over, keep both feet from touching the floor. If you keep your head on a swivel, most think, it's a piece of cake!
While many fans feel that such a prestige is FAR out of the reach of some superstars (i.e. Kofi Kingston, John Morrison, Tyson Kidd, and the like), many rivalries and feuds have started because a brief alliance formed in the chaos and broke down as easily as it was created.
Second rule to remember about any Royal Rumble match: with so many participants, wrestlers with sordid and/or brutal pasts have the potential to cross paths, and even though a belt isn't priority when they meet, the chance that's on the line can't be taken lightly.
Simply put, relating to rule No. 1, if everyone involved has a shot at a shot at a title, everyone who is eliminated inherently has someone to blame for their chance at greatness getting ruined. "You threw me out! I thought we were friends, you know, friends that were dedicated to helping ME get to the top?"
A classic moment that sticks out for me was Royal Rumble '96, when Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels met in the ring together after many had thought their brutal feud had been put on the back burner.
One hit the ring, they charged at each other, and their fighting picked up right where it left off. Add to it the fact that Marty wanted a chance to win the big one and gain ground on his old rival and it makes things much more emotional.
Even if easy, go-to feuds pop up during the 2011 Rumble, like Rey/Alberto, Cena/Barrett/Punk, and even Hunter/Sheamus, we can still yearn for even more.
Maybe the odds are small that Darren Young will get to stare down Wade Barrett, seemingly in the hopes of getting revenge on the man who exiled him from Nexus, but if they did have that encounter, it could certainly open doors to thrust Darren back into some small bit of spotlight, whether he fights Barrett, or pulls a swerve and helps him.
Third rule to remember about any Royal Rumble match: the most important people are NOT always the winners.
If you think that only the winner deserves the attention, you're asking to be disappointed.
Like previous years, the winner of the 2011 Rumble will, to some extent, be someone we're going to expect, which gels with my sense of dread from earlier in this article.
Stone Cold, Cena, Mysterio, Edge, Randy Orton, HBK, Batista, all of them were at least favorites to win, even if they weren't necessarily shoo-ins.
They were on major rolls, and even if they were just coming back from injuries, in Cena and Edge's cases, their pushes clearly hadn't ended by the time they ran down the ramp to join the fray.
Thus, hoping the winner will be someone we DON'T expect...Bryan, Morrison, Tatsu, Barrett, McIntyre, Mason Ryan, Husky Harris [fill in the blank with your own favorite], is an exceptionally fine line to risk treading. Hold out hope, yes, but not a lot.
I have read no reports so far that Christian is going to be healthy enough yet to participate in the Royal Rumble (in fact, I've actually read the opposite, that he won't be in the match), but it wouldn't be the first time we've been shocked.
Despite all of us in the IWC seemingly having all the answers at our fingertips.
So, if I can't hope my favorite star will win, why should I even bother watching? Because of everything else that can occur.
All of us want answers to our burning questions: Who are the fated participants? What order will they be in? Who is entered into the Rumble that we had no idea would even be in it?
Maybe the odds that Yoshi Tatsu will be the last man left are slim to none, but the odds that he could eliminate a possible favorite to win, and get thrust into a high-profile feud as a result? Much better.
After all, it only takes one swift kick to send someone unexpectedly flying over the top rope, to destroy an opponent's grandest hopes and dreams for their career.
Then again, as I said earlier, WWE tends to overprepare these things to ensure that (what they consider to be) the most interesting angles are taken advantage of. WWE, as a worldwide business leader, is NOT going to let the fates decide how grand or how small their biggest show of the year will end.
Hypothetically, if DH Smith were to use power, cunning and slick wrestling moves to survive and he were to go against Miz or Edge for their title? He'd be extremely likely to fail, given how strong both champions have been lately.
WWE isn't going to risk losing an opportunity for a much better Wrestlemania moment.
Months ago, when John Cena was an unwilling member of Wade Barrett's Nexus, and both men were in the battle royale to determine the No. 1 contender for Randy Orton's WWE Title, we knew how it was going to end from the moment they started.
They wanted to have a key match at the following PPV, and the majority of the people involved were not meant to win due to the controversy surrounding Cena, Barrett and Nexus. Most of us knew this from the start.
Does this mean we shouldn't hold out hope that the Rumble will be exciting? No. If you've read this far, you've seen for yourself: this is a match full of "maybes." In at least an hour, 40 participants will enter the ring.
Depending on their order, how long they stay alive, and who they encounter? New doors could open for new rivalries, old rivalries could reignite, and the tide and tone of Wrestlemania could change entirely.
As it stands right now, Wrestlemania has a certain look. We can write all the Wrestlemania previews we want, plan and sketch it out to the letter if it were to happen tomorrow, and say, "man, the biggest stage of them all ain't lookin' so amazing."
However, I've been saying it for a while, here and elsewhere. A couple months can change a lot.
We still have Elimination Chamber between the Rumble and Wrestlemania, and the Chamber is almost as unpredictable as the Rumble should be.
Punk and Nexus are both growing into powerhouses once again.
Barrett and his group are on the rise. Barrett may have moved to Smackdown, but the winds of change haven't died down.
Reports are suggesting that Undertaker is doing everything he can to be a part of Wrestlemania.
Cena's attitude is picking up strength each week, whether he's forcing out what he calls "a curse" or keeping himself working as hard as he can to ensure both he AND Punk look great. This isn't a review of 1/17's Raw, but Cena vs. Punk was an exciting match, that proved one thing: outside interference is a lot easier to tolerate as long as both guys give EVERYTHING they have in them and put out an incredibly hard-fought battle.
Triple H is on his way back and reports are looking good that it'll be any day now, most likely as a special entrant in the Rumble.
Christian might not make it to the Rumble, but we still have the Chamber and Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania that he can show up for.
A lot can change in a short time and chaos is responsible for that. You throw everything together in a blender, and what comes out doesn't look anything like what you put in, but that's the predictable side of things.
The Royal Rumble has infinite potential and adding 10 more performers to the mix means that, maybe, we'll see much more emphasis on the people who DON'T win, rather than just make a big deal over the one, single, solitary soul that does win.
To those of us who aren't planning on ordering the PPV, keep one more thing in mind: the Rumble match will probably be more exciting to those who watch it as it happens, than to those who just read the results after it's over.
Stories unfold in the Rumble, heat picks up, friendships come and go, the dynamic of the match leaves room for anything to happen. The Royal Rumble match can tell a year's worth of stories within two hours.
As far as I'm concerned, John Cena can win this year's Rumble, as long as tons of cool instances and encounters occur before that to really change how we see everything else.
In that case? John Cena winning would mean a lot less when stacked up next to everything else that will result in the Rumble's aftermath.
Another idea to chew on: John Cena wins the Royal Rumble and gets the title back at Wrestlemania. Not an idea we'd like to see, unless he were pull a heel swerve, then we'd all love it. WWE has to know that.
As we all know, Wrestlemania is heralded as the culmination of the year's events. If you think about it, though, Wrestlemania is actually the calm after the storm. Wrestlemania has the feel of a huge show, but it's only after months of build up and promotion.
The Royal Rumble has the potential to change everything that we've foreseen, and only after a whirlwind of possibilities play out, meaning our real window to predict Wrestlemania is only two whole months.
Forget everything you thought you knew about Wrestlemania 27 before the end of January, and after the coming Royal Rumble PPV, feel free to restart your predictions.