Over the next several days, I’ll be revealing my top five most-likely Royal Rumble winners. Today we’ll look at my number three most-likely Rumble winner, “The Viper” Randy Orton. –Scott Strandberg
When it comes to the title picture in WWE, never count out Randy Orton. The third-generation grappler is a 12-time world champion, who last held the company’s most prestigious title for 161 days in 2013-2014. He’s also a former Rumble winner, back in 2009.
Even though he’s been off TV for more than two months, Orton has to be considered one of three realistic options to win the Royal Rumble and headline WrestleMania. He’s already headlined two ‘Manias — last year, with Daniel Bryan and Batista, as well as WrestleMania XXV, with Triple H — and it’s highly unlikely that the 34-year-old has main-evented his last WrestleMania.
One of the reasons Orton is such a good candidate stems from the fact that WWE could easily work him into a feud with the champion, regardless of whether that’s Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins or John Cena. Okay, maybe not so much on that last one. I highly doubt that WWE would do Cena/Orton at WrestleMania, seeing as they’ve wrestled so very many pay-per-view matches over the last year-plus.
However, Orton/Rollins would be fantastic, as WWE could bring back Orton as an anti-Authority tweener, hell-bent on stopping Rollins’ rise to the top. It also helps that the last time we saw him, he was eating a Curb Stomp from Rollins.
Orton vs. Lesnar works too, partially because it’s a match between two legendary talents, and one that hasn’t happened in a very long time. The one and only time Lesnar and Orton wrestled a televised match was on a September 2002 Smackdown, during Lesnar’s first WWE title reign. It’s an incredibly fresh pairing, in a company where most of the top stars have wrestled each other countless times.
It’s virtually assured that Orton will make his return at the Royal Rumble, with an Authority-sized chip on his shoulder. As I said before, The Viper is the first guy in this countdown so far that I truly believe has a chance to win. He’s one of the unquestioned top hands in the company, and a man who WWE trusts to headline any pay-per-view.
Both Lesnar and Rollins are perfect foils for Orton, and either match would be a satisfying WrestleMania main event. The top two names on this list — to be revealed later this week — both have completely legitimate question marks surrounding them. There are no question marks surrounding Randy Orton. He’s as proven a commodity as there is, and I’ll put his chances of winning this year’s Rumble at a solid 10-15%.