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Countdown to WWE Royal Rumble
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling





The Royal Rumble is upon us, and this one, more than any other in history, is wide open. There are a few different scenarios that can take place as we choose our winner, so hedging bets will be tougher than usual. Let's break down the leading candidates to get the WrestleMania title shot, including an offering from our special guest analyst, Natalya.

Ladies are first, so Nattie, er, sorry, Natalya, tell us about who your favourite is going into the big match.

"I don't know who will win the Royal Rumble, but I'm just a huge Randy Orton fan myself. I have definitely felt the fact that Randy's been missing for a couple of weeks, I know he's been out with an injury and stuff, struggling with that. I don't know, I guess us third-generation superstars and Divas kind of stick together, so can I say, maybe Randy?"

Interesting pick Nattie, certainly one that a lot of fans would get behind, especially the hometown crowd in St. Louis. While we're on the subject of The Viper, what has the atmosphere been like in the Smackdown! locker room with Orton gone?

"Smackdown hasn't been the same without Randy. I miss him. He's such a great friend and everything. I would hope for somebody like Randy."

Very true, very true Natalya. Getting back to the big match, any other thoughts on who could be the last man standing in the Royal Rumble ring?

"I'm also a fan of The Big Show as well, so you never know."

Well Nattie, on behalf of the entire SLAM! Wrestling crew, I want to thank you for giving your prognostication. Ladies and gentlemen, Natalya!

***applause***

Okay peeps, certainly the Canadian Diva has made a great pick, but there are a number of other candidates who could go over. Let's take a look, to borrow from Booker T, my "Fave Five" to win the Rumble.

#5 - Daniel Bryan This scenario assumes two things: First that Bryan loses in his bout earlier and gets into the Rumble bout, and that he would switch over to Raw and face whomever the champ would be there. Certainly, on a 'Mania card that features Rock vs. Cena, a CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan match would round out a paying audience that would die to see the two biggest indie stars of the 00s do battle on the grandest stage of them all.

#4 - The Rock One of the teases in the Cena vs. Rock buildup was the idea of the two competing for the WWE Championship. Here's how you build that up. First, you have Rock go over at the Rumble, then you have him interject himself in the Raw Elimination Chamber match to ensure that Cena walks out of the catch with the belt. We'll put the Mythbusters "Plausible" stamp on this one.

#3 - Wade Barrett Arguably, there has been no hotter heel on Smackdown than Barrett. While the moniker "Barrett Barrage" hasn't taken off, Wade's stock has risen considerably on Smackdown and he certainly has positioned himself as a main eventer. He's a bit on the outside still, but I expect him to get a good number of eliminations at the very least.

#2 - Sheamus Curiously, WWE hasn't done a huge amount to put Sheamus over; rather, Sheamus has transitioned into the world of babyface on his own merit. He's insanely intense and knows how to light up a crowd like no one else in WWE. The fans have taken to him, and he's still a fresh enough face in the Smackdown scene that he has a strong number of opponents to work programs with.

#1 - Chris Jericho This is the most likely scenario, especially with Jericho's odd-sounding promise that the world will change at the Rumble. Certainly, Jericho vs. Punk would be a fantastic in-ring and on-mic battle, and there's definitely money to be made both in the first contest between the two and the follow-up bouts that could carry for three months afterwards. Jericho has main evented at 'Mania twice before, going 1-1 in title bouts, so the idea of this being a personal rubber match could be used in Jericho's ego-driven promos as we head into Miami.

As for the rest of the card, here are my predictions:

  • CM Punk drops the belt to Dolph Ziggler with outside interference from Johnny Ace. Don't worry kids, he'll get it back in or before the Chamber.
  • I think regardless of victory, Bryan's dropping the title in his three-way steel cage match. I'm taking Big Show, as Mark Henry is apparently injured yet again.
  • Let's put Cena and Kane at a no contest with some quirky stuff happening to set up some more fun for a month.

    That's it folks, enjoy the Royal Rumble!

    ROYAL RUMBLE HISTORY