Over the next several days, I’ll be revealing my top five most-likely Royal Rumble winners. Today we’ll look at my number two most-likely Rumble winner, Daniel Bryan. –Scott Strandberg
This sincerely pains me. Ever since I first outlined this series, I had Bryan in the top spot. I want to believe that WWE couldn’t possibly make the same mistake two years in a row. It is plainly obvious who fans would rather see in the main event at WrestleMania, and that’s Daniel Bryan. Other than CM Punk, Bryan is the most organically popular Superstar of the last decade.
Furthermore, it’s clear that he’s 100-percent healthy. On his first night back in the ring, WWE had him pull double-duty on SmackDown. Sure, the second match was a six-man tag, but the first was a lengthy singles match with Kane. Just the mere suggestion that they were perfectly okay with him wrestling twice in one night was all I needed to know about his current injury-free status.
I was discussing this series with a friend last night, and I told him about my hesitation to put Bryan at number one. This friend asked me the question I needed to hear: “Let’s say I give you a thousand bucks of my money. I’m trusting you to put my money down on who you really think will win. Who you got?”
After I reconciled a brief — yet not insignificant — existential crisis, I gave him my answer. My answer was not Daniel Bryan. As much as I want Bryan to win the Rumble, if it came down to it, he’s not where I’d put my money.
The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that Bryan’s loss to Bray Wyatt on Raw was WWE’s way of calling back to their undercard match last year, when Bryan missed the Rumble match entirely. That would be a pretty clever way to set up this year’s Bryan Rumble win, yes? Well, unfortunately, the rational side of me knows that WWE rarely calls back to anything that happened more than a few months ago.
I’m not trying to exaggerate or be overly dramatic when I say this: By the time Monday morning arrives, we will all know exactly how WWE views Daniel Bryan. If he wins the Rumble, it will be clear that WWE has embraced Bryan as the true top-tier Superstar the fans so clearly want him to be. If he doesn’t, then they really do view him as a B+ player. I think it really is that simple.
Please, WWE. Prove me wrong. I desperately want to be incorrect on this one. My heart says Bryan. My brain does not.
There is only one scenario that would make me happy with my No. 1 pick winning the Rumble. Check back tomorrow to find out what that scenario is, in the final entry in the 2015 Royal Rumble Preview Series.