Well, possibly. Since The Streak became such an important part of WrestleMania many people have floated the idea that the Rumble winner could forego the usual title match and instead use the Rumble victory to challenge ‘The Dead Man’ on the big show. I’m not a huge fan of the idea, mainly because I like the tradition of the Rumble winner challenging for the biggest prize in the sport, but it’s something I could imagine WWE doing.
If a Streak match were a potential prize then I think the list of winners would open up slightly. Select members of the mid-card could potentially face ‘Taker while the notion of them appearing in a WWE title match would seem laughable. Damien Sandow, for example, would seem absurd facing someone like John Cena at ‘Mania, but I could just about see him facing Undertaker.
Someone perhaps a little likelier for that spot than ‘The Duke of Decency’ is Brodus Clay. His recent heelish antics make it clear that he’s going to become a solo act. If WWE dedicated themselves to rehabilitating his character so he’s viewed as an unstoppable monster (and they’ve the time to do it) he could be seen as a threat to Undertaker’s record by early April. He, like anyone else at his level, would benefit hugely from facing such a big name at WrestleMania, even if he lost.
The same goes for Ryback. The idea of him challenging for the WWE title is laughable after the last year but it’s just about conceivable he could wrestle Undi’. In fact, if the winner were open to challenge The Streak, then Chris Jericho could be a potential winner. He’s never faced Undertaker one-on-one in a televised singles match. It’s about the only fresh bout left for ‘The Phenom’ from the current roster.
Ultimately I don’t think this will happen. The recent title unification indicates that WWE has things mapped out for the championship and its holder until WrestleMania. Having someone win the Royal Rumble is the perfect way of continuing many of the stories they’ve already got going, they don’t need to introduce The Streak to proceedings. That’s big enough to stand alone.
With well over a month to go there’s plenty of time for WWE to select their winner. The fact that there’s now only one world title narrows the field. For the past decade WWE have been able to have upper mid-card talent like Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and Chris Benoit win the thirty man extravaganza and challenge for the less meaningful World Heavyweight championship. Having a single championship means that the winner has to be a major name or someone WWE has big plans for.
The obvious man to start with is probably CM Punk. Along with Daniel Bryan he’s been one of the most popular WWE wrestlers of 2013. Since losing the WWE championship to The Rock at this year’s Rumble and failing to regain it at Elimination Chamber he’s been out of the title picture. His time has instead been dedicated to his short feud with Undertaker, his disappointing feud with former pal Paul Heyman and taking on heel factions The Shield and The Wyatt Family.
|Punk waving to his fans there|
Since he started wrestling said factions it’s felt like Punk’s been killing time. Wrestling the ‘The Hounds of Justice’ is something for him to do until the important time of the year rolls around. It’s very much seemed like Punk is due for another shift up the card.
A WWE championship match would certainly fit the bill there. It would also ensure one of the promotion’s bigger names was involved in the title match. That’s something I think WWE will be keen on. Also worth noting is that CM Punk has never won a Royal Rumble match before. While doing so is not a prerequisite for having a great, Hall of Fame career, it is something that, nowadays especially, is something that’s seen as an important part of the careers of all-time greats.
Punk versus Orton is a match we’ve seen before. But we’ve not seen it for a while, and it could lead to an interesting storyline with Punk’s current animosity with The Authority well established. It could happen at the Rumble, making Punk’s inclusion in the thirty man match unlikely. But it could be held off until WrestleMania just as easily.
The same could be said of Daniel Bryan, of course. In a way Orton and Bryan are opposites. Orton is generally incredibly dull and is a specialist at the sports entertainment style. Meanwhile Bryan is the most popular man on the card and a rounded performer. Orton, unpopularity aside, represents the WWE approach of sports entertainment and working up the card based on promo abilities and look. Bryan represents the alternative approach of getting oneself over. Neither is “wrong” or “bad” but it does tend to divide fans.
Having Bryan win the Rumble to earn another title match with Orton would make sense and provide a fitting platform for their rivalry. The match could also be used to fill TV time in the weeks leading up to the show, Bryan pitted against various members of the roster to win stipulations that favour him on the big show, such as non-interference clauses for The Authority. In fact, that goes for Punk too.
This said, the fact that Bryan challenged Orton on the December 16th RAW is a strong indication that it's a match we won't be seeing at WrestleMania.
Then there's John Cena. Another match between he and 'The Apex Predator' is not something that appeals to me. It's probably not something that appeals to you. But it's an obvious thing for WWE to do. Cena being told he has to earn another title match and going on to win the Rumble is standard WWE fare. It would allow Cena to be portrayed as the all-conquering hero by regaining the title from Orty at 'Mania, which is something WWE are always keen on. That it would allow for a Cena heel turn and alignment with The Authority shouldn't be overlooked.
A less obvious candidate to win is Big E Langston. He may not have done anything particularly impressive during his time in the company so far but you only need to look at him to know that he’s going to be around for a long time. He’s a physically huge guy. It’s easy to see him being pitted against a top guy like Randy Orton. Obviously Langston v Cena is the big match. There’s still time for it to be set up for ‘Mania XXX, but a Rumble win and match with ‘The Viper’ looks like the sort of thing WWE would do.
|Any man entering 'Mania as champion would be a fresh match for Langston|
Not only that but Langston is the Intercontinental champion. It’s easy enough to imagine WWE wanting to relive Warrior versus Hogan from WrestleMania VI with modern players. And this time the newer star seems far likelier to stick around.
I don’t think Langston is actually going to leave the Rumble as the winner. But I do think it’s too early to completely rule him out. At the very least I think there will be a moment or moments in the Rumble designed to make him look incredible.
There are two guys on the part time section of the roster that I think are worth a mention here. The first is The Undertaker. The defence of his Streak has become one of the central attractions of WrestleMania over the last five years, but that doesn’t preclude him from challenging for a title. Putting him into a championship match would (obviously) allow WWE to promote a Streak versus title match. While that may not sound like the most thrilling thing ever I think it would be significant enough for casual fans who only ever tune in around WrestleMania to see what’s going on.
Of course, the real draw would be seeing ‘Taker facing Cena, and Cena’s not actually the champion right now. If he were to win the Rumble and challenge for the title it would almost certainly be Cena he faces. As mentioned above there’s time for Cena to regain the unified gold (although it doesn’t seem a likely thing for them to do). I’ve written many times before that if WWE are going to have anyone beat The Streak it will be Cena. Whether they’d actually go through with it or not is, for our purposes here, irrelevant. People know, consciously or subconsciously, that Cena is the only man whom WWE would sacrifice that incredible record for. Having ‘The Phenom’ make a surprise return to set that match up by winning the Royal Rumble would kick the Season off with a bang.
The other part time name I could imagine winning the Rumble is Brock Lesnar. If this happened I can imagine it leading to a storyline in which Lesnar vows to take down the company by winning the championship on the biggest show of the year. Winning a belt on a big show equating to destroying the company is wrestling logic at its finest. Frankly I think Lesnar would be a better fit for Streak challenger but he’s one of the few names big enough to fit into a WWE championship match at WrestleMania.