The 25th anniversary of the Royal Rumble is just three weeks away! The start of the buildup for this event has seen several superstars staking their claim that they are going to win the annual January event. For this edition of Thunder’s Take, I’m going to list the superstars who in my opinion are most likely to win this year’s event and why. That said, here we go!
10. Drew McIntyre – This guy is definitely a long shot to win it all, but the fact that he’s been brought back to tv and has been a focal point on Smackdown over the last few weeks leads me to believe that he has a big year ahead. Drew has already held the Intercontinental Championship and has some decent pushes over the last couple years. Does it really make sense to have Drew win the Rumble to challenge a heel Daniel Bryan for the World Title? Not really, but I don’t think it necessarily matters if the champion is heel or face at this point, because the title can change hands at any time. The Rumble winner is going to be the person Vince McMahon feels is going to get the biggest reaction from his audience or a guy that Vince sees as potentially being the next big thing, and that is why Drew McIntyre has cracked my top ten list.
9. The Miz – First off, no WWE Superstar has worked harder to go from being a skinny kid with no wrestling background whatsoever to being one of the best all around package wrestlers in the company. The guy has the look, the talent, the charisma, and the intense personality needed to be a top star in WWE. I’ve seen enough of the Miz as a heel at this point. I’m not sick of him as a heel, but I’m ready for the change whenever the company wants to make it happen. The Miz will make a great face when the time is right. I don’t believe that WWE plans to have him win this year’s Rumble, but he is certainly a favorite when compared to the majority of the roster. 2012 will be a big year for Miz one way or another and I do believe you will see him challenge multiple times for the WWE Title, regardless of whether or not he wins this match.
8. Alberto Del Rio – With Del Rio nursing an injury, I expect him to be an unexpected entrant in this year’s event. I felt Del Rio winning last year’s Rumble was premature for his push into the World Title scene, especially when he didn’t win the WWE Title until August. What was the point for him? He hasn’t done much to change his character or to elevate himself in my eyes. His World Title match with Edge at WrestleMania was one of the best worked opening matches since Owen/Bret at WM 10. Rumor has it that WWE wants him to be a more vicious/aggressive heel for his character. I’m sorry, but when you sound like Alberto Del Rio, it’s hard to picture him being anything besides annoying. While I think Del Rio is a more likely candidate than the majority of the roster, I don’t think WWE is dumb enough to have this guy repeat as the Rumble winner. In fact, I’d rather see Santino win it.
7. Dolph Ziggler – Originally, Ziggler was one of my top two to win this event. Because of his recent push, however, I now think he will win a WWE Championship and be in the main event scene without needing a Rumble win. Could he win this event after losing to CM Punk in the WWE Title match? Absolutely. Do I think he’s the odds on favorite? Nope. What good does it do to make the number one contender lose only to become the number one contender again an hour later? It would be like WWE giving the MITB holder a title shot while he still has the briefcase…oh wait, they did that with Daniel Bryan. Ziggler will be in the WWE picture regardless of whether or not he wins the Rumble. I expect him to have a good showing either way.
6. Sheamus – A face Sheamus taking on a heel Daniel Bryan for the WHC at WM 28? I’d love to see it happen. Sheamus has been floating along for the past several months while gaining a huge fan following and having no legitimate program to work in. WWE needs to listen up here and DO SOMETHING WITH THIS GUY! Sheamus and Triple H put on a solid match at WM 26 and that was even before the great white had worked on improving his skills in the ring. Sheamus is ten times the wrestler now than when he won his first WWE Title at TLC 2009. The guy is money on the mic as a face and has continued to grow his character that is now love by the WWE audience. Overall, I like his odds to win this event.
5. Mark Henry – Henry had the best year of his career in 2011 and for the most part remained healthy through it all. He is now nursing a groin injury. Henry could easily continue a feud with Daniel Bryan heading towards WrestleMania by dominating this Rumble match and winning over the crowd more and more as Bryan continues down the heel path. The only problem with predicting Henry is that I’m expecting him to be in a triple threat match with Show and Bryan for the WHC and I don’t know if he will be healthy enough to compete in more than one match on the card. Outside of the injury and the possible title shot already, it would be perfect for Henry to continue his dominance by booking him to win this event.
4. Wade Barrett – Barrett was booked in a ridiculously short eight man tag at WM 27. The match shouldn’t have even been put on the card for the lack of time that it was given. Since the Summer, however, Barrett has been on a role with his “barrage” push into the main event scene. I like Wade Barrett as a heel, but for me he just lacks overall personality when I compare him to guys like Ziggler and Rhodes. If Barrett were to win the event, who would he face and for what title? It would probably have to be Orton getting the title back once again with Barrett challenging him at WrestleMania. It’s been done already. Could he go to Raw and face CM Punk for the WWE Title? Yup, but that doesn’t necessarily work either with Jericho’s return and his rumored booking to face Punk in April.
3. Randy Orton – After working seven great matches with Christian throughout 2011, who could you say had a more dominate year than Orton? This whole storyline injury sets up for a typical Rumble return, but does that necessarily mean he will be back to win the Rumble match, or to continue his rivalry with Wade Barrett by costing him the match? If Orton were to win the Rumble, one would assume that he would be booked to face Bryan at WrestleMania in what would easily be an epic encounter. Orton did not participate in the main event of WrestleMania the last two years(though he had the best matches on each show outside of the Undertaker matches) and it would make sense for the top face of Smackdown to be in the main event of the biggest show of the year. It seems likely that this will happen, but I actually expect his rivalry with Wade Barrett to continue until WrestleMania whether he wins the Rumble or not.
2. Chris Jericho – Y2J has returned and is setting up for a rivalry with CM Punk heading towards WM. Jericho has now appeared two weeks in a row on Raw without saying a word and has made himself one of the top heels of the show. With every accomplishment that Jericho has made over the years and the fact that he chose to return in January, it easily makes sense for him to add a Royal Rumble win to his resume. Regardless of whether or not he wins the match, however, he will be in a rivalry with CM Punk that hopefully gets showcased more than or at least equal to the Cena/Rock rivalry. Punk and Jericho together could steal the show without much effort, and I can’t wait for their match. Do I think Y2J might be booked to win this Rumble? Yes, I do. But I like one other pick better, and if WWE is smart, they’ll book it.
1. Cody Rhodes – Has an Intercontinental Champion ever won the Royal Rumble? Nope. Did Hulk Hogan win the 1990 Royal Rumble as WWF Champion and then defend against the Intercontinental Champion at WrestleMania VI? Yup. I don’t think that will happen here. I think if Cody wins the Rumble, he will forfeit the IC Title and set his sights on the World Heavyweight Championship. Rhodes and Bryan at WrestleMania would be an instant classic. The talks of Goldust/Cody Rhodes for WrestleMania need to stop. It would be embarrassing for Cody to have to face his washed up brother after the year that he’s had. Rhodes needs to be booked to win this Rumble. There is no better heel to be elevated into the World Title scene at this point in time than Rhodes. After defeating Rey Mysterio at last year’s WM and defending the IC Title successfully in some good matches, Rhodes is ready to move up. I like the concept of Jericho winning his first Rumble finally or Orton doing the comeback, but I think Cody makes the most sense for storyline purposes.
So there you have it. I expect one of these ten to win the Rumble. However, I’m hoping Santino wins as outside long shot(we can all have a dream, right?). Just picture the pop it would get if Santino and Nash were the last two guys in the ring and he eliminated him. Alright, enough of the fantasy picks. Cody needs to win this Rumble. Jericho, Orton, and Barrett are all big possibilities, but I think Cody makes more sense overall. I’m also thankful that this match is only thirty superstars. Having forty just made no sense if you weren’t going to do anything special with it. The only other random surprise that I might enjoy is having CM Punk enter and win the Rumble if he were to somehow be cost the title in his match with Dolph Ziggler. Despite Punk being champion, nobody in the company is more deserving to win a Rumble match than the most talented guy on the roster. That’s all for this special edition. I’ll have a Rumble prediction column if there is a big enough card booked before the event. Outside of that, I’m still working on part two of Know Your role and my Smackdown column will be up after midnight on Saturday as usual. Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck!