The beginning ofWrestleMania Season is nearly upon us. On this past Monday’s Raw go-home episode of Monday Night Raw, the final puzzle pieces will be maneuvered around the board to set the stage for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, the yearly prologue to WWE’s biggest event of the year. There are other matches on the card, like the triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between champion Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Seth Rollins, but the key piece of drama for the night will undoubtedly be the 30-man over the top rope battle royale for which the event is named.
The winner will get a main event title shot at Wrestlemania, so, along with the outcome of the aforementioned title match, the moment that last man standing is revealed will tip WWE’s hand in terms of what direction Wrestlemania Season is going to take. We will see a match up thrown together with box office potential the sole driving force behind it, or will the powers that be take a risk and try to offer us a match we would actually want to see? Maybe both? Possibly neither.
This is always one of the most exciting times to be a wrestling fan, and fortunately for all of us, there are a number of potential winners for Sunday. Unfortunately, the likelihood of a major surprise is all but ruled out by WWE’s reticence to truly push themselves beyond the same expected swerves.
Here’s the magnificent seven most likely to be the last one standing, facetiously pointing at that big ass WrestleMania sign.
Why He Should Win: Ziggler had a hell of a few months in 2014 after Daniel Bryan was taken out by injury, stepping up to become the company’s number one workhorse and continuing to connect with fans despite having no substantial support from creative. His multiple Intercontinental Championship reigns and their subsequent title defenses made a strong case for putting the strap back on the mat, and his second big sole survivor win at Survivor Series was incredible. He’s one of the hardest working guys on the roster and everyone loves him, a no-brainer to root for come Sunday.
Likelihood Of Actually Winning: We’ll have to file this under “cautiously optimistic, but don’t bet on it.” With the recent firing angle, the stage is set for a triumphant return and underdog win, but weighed against some of the other options and the inalienable fact that Ziggler has yet to be proven as a big draw lean towards him being the dramatic anchor of the match, popping the crowd with near eliminations, but not the final victor.
Why He Should Win: When The Shield initially broke up, Roman, having been protected the most, immediately was inserted into the main event and, while diehards are still skeptical, it’s undeniable that he possesses a star quality and presence. He’s still not there in the ring or on the mic, but you can see him in the main event of Wrestlemania and it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. How much of that is Roman’s talent and how much of that is how he’s presented is another story, but pairing his current status with his performance in last year’s Rumble and it’s no surprise he’s the favorite to win.
Likelihood Of Actually Winning: The dirt sheets can report to the contrary all they want, but Roman is probably going to win, guys. He’s the only guy you can seeing going toe to toe with any of the three combatants in the big title match (him ending Brock’s reign, him taking the torch from Cena, him getting revenge on Seth) and, sadly, he’s one of the only guys the WWE has treated like a deserving contender. Expect a silly Vince penned promo invoking some fucking cartoon character to close out the show
Why He Should Win: The Big Guy has come a long way since returning recently, especially in terms of audience connection. His raw, emotional promos and confidence have risen his stock, even if he’s still trailing behind some of the other push projects.
Likelihood Of Actually Winning: Even with the firing angle behind him, Ryback winning the Rumble is pretty unlikely. They already screwed the pooch the first time they tried to hotshot him to the main event, so maybe this time they take the slow approach and let him keep building up, perhaps for a win next year.
Why He Should Win: He didn’t even get to compete last year, despite being the number one pick and instead had to go through months of obstacles to make it into the Wrestlemania XXX main event, where he won a title that he never lost. Taken out by injury, the undefeated champion is finally healthy enough to compete and he’s the perfect guy to win the big match.
Likelihood Of Actually Winning: With his injuries, it’s hard to see the WWE take the big risk on Bryan again, even if it would solidify him as their top guy. Him unseating Brock or even having a rematch against Cena at ‘Mania would be incredible, though, so maybe fan support help again like it did last year.
Why He Should Win: In my opinion he’s the best wrestler on the roster, period. (Sorry, Bryan.) He’s Super Saiyan strong, he could have a five star match with David Arquette if they asked him to and his big Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale win at Wrestlemania XXX was every bit as impressive as Roman’s showing in the Rumble that year. Cesaro is an absolute beast and exactly the man you should have in the main event picture.
Likelihood Of Actually Winning: Look, it’s not going to happen, but at the very least, I hope the Rumble is used as a reset button to get Cesaro back to where he was a year ago.
Why He Should Win: Of The Shield members, Seth may be filling his role the best, but Dean has felt like the most over for awhile now. In a WWE Universe starved of a big mouth, CM Punk style anti-hero, Dean has risen to the occasion, putting his body on the line in big no holds barred matches and cutting amazing promos week in, week out. He may not perfectly embody what the WWE typically pushes to the top, but Dean has the potential to be the next Steve Austin when it comes to vitriolic tweeners who just love to fight, but even better than that, he’s the first Dean Ambrose, and maybe that’s what we need now.
Likelihood Of Actually Winning: There are a few fantasy booking scenarios where I can see Dean main eventing Wrestlemania, but they all involve considerable maneuvering and result in an all Shield triple threat match for the title. It COULD happen, but I won’t hold my breath.
Why He Should Win: He’s legitimately the most well booked, consistent performer on the roster right now. He’s damn good in the ring and is probably the biggest, most effective heel, behind Seth Rollins. Rusev doesn’t get enough love for his work, but this guy is exactly how new stars should be made, with a slow boil rather than a flash fry.
Likelihood Of Actually Winning: It’s more likely that he starts the long walk to getting his streak ended by John Cena at ‘Mania soon, but expect a big showing in the Rumble match regardless of the outcome.
Photo: Megan Elice Meadows
Between his title match that night and the Money In The Bank Brief case, there is absolutely no reason for Seth to be in the Rumble match, let alone win.
While it will be great to see #DAGAWDRANDYORTON back on the scene after an extended absence, it would serve no one, especially not Orton himself, for him to win the Rumble. Expect a lot of RKOs, though.
How fucking hilarious would it be if Batista came back AGAIN and won the Rumble for no reason, all while wearing skinny jeggings, Jordan III’s and Guardians of The Galaxy merch? He would be the greatest heel of all time.
I’m contractually obligated to list Cena here, as there is no scenario where his hand being raised in victory is a longshot, even if the competition in question is your son’s little league baseball game. Cena wins. It’s what he does. Never rule him out.
LOOK, MAN, YOU NEVER KNOW.