I will not lie or sugarcoat it; I am a sucker for the Royal Rumble. It does not matter what year it is or how many times I may have seen it (1992, by the way, I have probably watched about 40 times). I just live for watching and re-watching Royal Rumbles. While I have become jaded to the overall product in recent years, I still turn into a little kid chomping on pizza waiting for that buzzer to sound every time I watch a Rumble.

The 2013 Royal Rumble is shaping up to be an interesting one for a number of reasons. For one, World Wrestling Entertainment does not seem to be hyping it nearly as much as in previous years. I am not sure if that is by design or just feeling overwhelmed with the other stories, they want to hype at the same time.

Regardless, we have a relatively full Royal Rumble field and most interestingly, there are plenty of potential winners (Sorry, Dexter Brocks, but the Darren Young is not one of those).  As we have discussed on multiple VoicesofWrestling.com’s podcasts, this year more contenders than any other in recent memory. Over the past 10 years, it has been extremely easy to name one or two guys from Raw or one or two guys from Smackdown and be correct.

This year, I do not think you can do that. Sure, there is an outlier, a guy every “smart” fan thinks (or knows) is going to win, but it’s not a guarantee yet. There is no telling that the outlier in questions just gets a title shot without winning the Rumble. On the Smackdown side, there is simply no telling who is in line for the shot. With so many upper mid-card guys ready to make the ascension, the Royal Rumble could be a great opportunity for one of the guys on the outside looking in to break through that glass ceiling.

For the purposes of this article, I have pointed out seven names I believe are true contenders to win the Royal Rumble. I have also given them betting odds to make it a little bit more interesting and weigh the contenders I think have the best chance.

Dolph Ziggler
Odds: 50-1

With the announcement that he’ll be one of the first two entrants, it’s obvious he’s going to be the guy to go the distance and be in the match for over an hour. It’s a great showcase, so I’ll ignore the fact that he doesn’t really need a guaranteed title shot given he’s been holding a guaranteed title shot for almost a year now. That’s one of the reasons Ziggler has such low odds in my mind. I just simply don’t know what they would do if he won. Does he lose the title match earlier in the night then wins the Royal Rumble anyway? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

To me, the better and likely path with Ziggler is either winning the title at Elimination Chamber or perhaps waiting to WrestleMania and cashing in on Alberto Del Rio on the big stage. I just don’t see any reason why Ziggler will win, but I don’t want to rule it out. 2013 is the year of Dolph and holding the Money in the Bank briefcase AND a Royal Rumble would make him a bona-fied superstar.

Odds: 20/1

Fresh off a seemingly never-ending feud with Big Show, last year’s Royal Rumble winner Sheamus is floating in space without any real direction. The way Smackdown is currently constructed, Sheamus doesn’t make much sense winning the Rumble. The issue is assuming things will stay the way they are. It’s not a forgone conclusion that Alberto Del Rio will be the champion going into WrestleMania. As mentioned in the Ziggler write-up, Dolph very well could win at Elimination Chamber.

The money is on someone from the Raw side winning the Rumble since there will be many conflicts with Ziggler holding the briefcase, but you never know. I don’t feel comfortable writing off Sheamus for any reason because he was largely a surprise winner of last year’s Rumble and still could have WWE’s confidence.

The issue with Alberto Del Rio as currently champion is the face vs. face matchup doesn’t really work. Of course, if Ziggler wins earlier in the night or at some point leading up to WrestleMania, it starts to make a lot more sense.

With that being said, Sheamus may be on the outside looking in. He’s had his time at the top over the past year and I’d assume the thinking inside the WWE is giving another guy on Smackdown the main event rub. We’ll have to wait and see, Sheamus isn’t a great option, but he’s certainly an option.

Randy Orton
Odds: 5-1

Yes, I wrote Sheamus off because he’s a face and currently champion Del Rio is a face, but I don’t think Orton’s long term is as a face. The heel turn is coming and it can’t come soon enough. Orton is excessively vanilla as a face and you can tell in his work ethic and demeanor that he’s ready to make that switch.

Now as far as the Royal Rumble goes, Orton is a real contender. A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought so but as I sat down to write this article, he was a name that kept coming up in my head.

If he could figure out a way to turn heel in the midst of the match, perhaps bullying Ricardo Rodriguez, he’s good to go. Orton has been out of limelight for quite a while and it may be time for him to get back to top. I’m personally not clamoring for it since he was shoved down our throats for so many years, but I can live with it because we’ve had that break. I don’t know how fresh his heel character will be, but it’ll be an interesting path to go down again.

Orton just makes the most sense from the Smackdown side. If Del Rio keeps the title, Orton is a perfect opponent for him if that heel turn happens. If the turn doesn’t happen and Ziggler wins the title at Elimination Chamber, we have a new, interesting match in Orton vs. Ziggler. Two top guys and a Ziggler victory over Orton could be a real star-making match. I like Randy Orton a lot on the Smackdown side.

Odds: 30-1

To me, it’s shocking that Ryback has the odds I gave him. You can disagree with the poor odds I gave him, but you can’t argue with me that he’s a real contender. He just isn’t. Talk to me two or three months ago and I’d say he’s one of the top contenders. But today? He’s not even close in my mind.

Like Ziggler, I think Ryback is going to use the Rumble to get himself over. Ziggler will take the iron man role and Ryback likely taking the monster role. Do you remember the typical Kane Royal Rumble when he would throw out 10 guys in 10 minutes? Yeah, that’s probably what we’re looking at here.

However, as the story with Ryback, he won’t and can’t win the big one. Don’t be surprised to see The Shield run in and eliminate him to keep the monster status of Ryback up while still finding a way to get him out of match.

I wish I could say he’s a real contender, but I just can’t. There’s no path to the WWE Championship for him and even if there was, do you really think Vince McMahon trusts Ryback in a WrestleMania main event? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

He’s not a non-factor, he’s definitely in the running, and I just wouldn’t feel very confident about him.

Antonio Cesaro
Odd: 15-1

Cesaro is my real dark dark horse, really dark. I didn’t want to eliminate him because I’m a sucker for a real underdog story but he’ll have an uphill battle. Cesaro is on the rise, there’s no denying that. He’s had big match after big match thrown at him and has excelled at each one. He’s a star in the making, but is it too early to take him to that next level? I’d argue no, but I don’t know what WWE officials think.

The current Smackdown structure is in play to make Cesaro work and any potential matchup will be a fresh main event program. A battle with Del Rio doesn’t make a ton of sense given their current gimmicks, but Cesaro could turn his scorn on Mexico and Mexican-Americans.

If someone else wins, Ziggler specifically, then Cesaro doesn’t make much sense but I don’t want to rule him out just yet.

This would easily be the biggest underdog to win a Royal Rumble since Big John Studd in 1989 and it would make him a star in one night. I’m not going to put high odds on Cesaro because I’d imagine he’s given the “not ready yet” tag but I think that’s unfair. He is ready and I’d be ready to cheer him on to victory in the Rumble.

Wade Barrett
Odds: 10/1

Cesaro was my dark, dark horse, well, Barrett is my legimiate dark horse. Tell me a good reason why Barrett couldn’t be a main eventer by WrestleMania. He has the look, he can talk, he looks menacing, and he’s a solid heel but could easily go baby face if there was a need. Barrett is a great package and I’m eager to see him get to that top spot on Smackdown.

It just makes too much sense to give Barrett a legit chance here. He needs that extra little push to get to the top and the Royal Rumble could be that platform.

There are issues of course, there are probably arguments that he’s not ready, but like Cesaro, I just don’t believe it. Especially not on Smackdown where there’s a large group of “there but not quite there” guys. Unless we’re going to have Sheamus, Del Rio and Big Show trade the title for the next three years, one of those guys is going to need to take that next step. Why don’t we make this year’s Royal Rumble that jump off point?

I like Barrett a lot here, I don’t THINK he’s going to win but I’d love to see it and I’d have to imagine his name is being thrown around seriously. If not, it should be.

John Cena
Odds: 2/1

Yes, here we are. Here is your Royal Rumble winner. I hate to say it, but Cena is winning this thing. Any smart fan knows the plan for quite some time has been a Rock/Cena WrestleMania rematch.  There have been rumblings that perhaps WWE could change it up and add Punk/Rock, but given what we’re seeing at Royal Rumble, that’s probably not happening.

There’s an outside chance that Cena or The Rock do battle with The Undertaker, but again, it’s a longshot. There’s no reason to go against Rock/Cena II. It is the big money match, it is the most easily marketable, the two guys are comfortable with one another, there’s already a lot of story and narrative built-in.

Of course, this is all dependent on The Rock beating Punk at Royal Rumble or winning the title at Elimination Chamber but I’m almost certain one of those scenarios is happening.

It’s a little disappointing because the thought of Cena reigning supreme is boring for me and I’d imagine a large amount of fan base wouldn’t be happy, but I can’t argue with the business aspect of it. Cena is mainstream, Cena is on cereal boxes, and he’s the poster boy for the WWE and having him in the main event of your biggest show just makes too much sense.

You can’t argue with the fact that Rock/Cena made record business for WWE last year; WrestleMania was their highest revenue event, ever. The rematch will do just as well, or better.

No matter how against it we smart fans are, at the end of the day, it’s not up to us. Cena makes sense for business and makes sense as your 2013 Royal Rumble winner.