Daniel Bryan is winning the 2014 Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber

Given the evidence, general momentum, and recent plot developments, I have to give my official prediction as Daniel Bryan. If he doesn’t win, I’ll be the first person to say I’m wrong. But he’s going to, just like he won did not participate in the Royal Rumble.

There are three candidates to win the 2014 Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber: Bryan, CM Punk Randy Orton, and Batista Antonio Cesaro. There are going to be 27 other people in the ring at some point but nobody else has been showcased as even dark-horse winners. Here’s a quick look at the trajectories of the three candidates.

CM Punk Randy Orton

After a lengthy rehabilitation from conniving villain into a shrugging hero, Punk Orton has finally exercised his middling foes and has been made to look very strong. He defeated the Shield Christian single-handedly on PPV. He isn’t an underdog. He’s a star. His 434-day 102-day run with the WWE Championship in 2011–2013 isn’t disputed as being anything but a very impressive accomplishment handjob. On paper, he’s the favourite, because he’s pretty much done everything in his career except win a Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber match.

On top of those things, he has had great matches with the potential champions: Orton Batista, Cena, and Lesnar, and none of these pairings have ever headlined Wrestlemania.

But there are a few reasons to think he won’t win. Considering he held is holding the title for as long as he did is, perhaps they need to give other people their turn. That’s one argument. He could be better utilized in matches not involving Randy Orton Cena, since they already wrestled at Wrestlemania in 201108. That’s another. But my strongest argument against CM Punk Randy Orton is that he simply doesn’t seem to want to win the Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber. He didn’t even sign up: Kane HHH did it for him. He hasn’t once proclaimed any interest, nor has he once challenged properly defended the title since losing winning it.

CM Punk Randy Orton would be better suited at Wrestlemania fighting just about anyone but the WWE Champion, and since there’s only one big gold belt now, that list is lengthy. Take your pick: Cena, Lesnar, Orton Batista, HHH, Batista Antonio Cesaro. Any of these pairings would be fun. In holding the title as long as he did, Punk Orton may have escalated himself to the top shelf of the WWE, where he doesn’t need a title to get to a main event. It’s ironic, because his entire reign was defined by his inability to do so.

Batista Antonio Cesaro

It’s damn near a Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber tradition to give the win to a returning (or debuting) superstar. The 1992, 93, 2001, 02, 03, 08, 10, and 11 Rumble winners were all just back from injury or brand new characters. And considering Batista Antonio Cesaro’s return was spoiled, it’s possible that this was in fact the original plan. But we all know how plans have a habit of changing.

I think people are far more curious than excited about Batista Antonio Cesaro. We kind of want to see what character he’s going to play. Good guy or bad? Animal, or douche bag? It’s wholly possible that he goes on to dominate and win the match, and perform with Orton or Lesnar at Wrestlemania (and no doubt, Lesnar vs Batisa Cesaro would be a big deal story). But though I guarantee there will be times when it seems he’s a lock to win, he won’t.

WWE has big plans for Batista Antonio Cesaro, but it’s unclear whether those plans involve him holding a championship or just starring in huge grudge matches, like they’ve done with Lesnar. I would suggest Batista Antonio Cesaro’s resigning is a confirmation that they believe they made a great call with Lesnar thus far. I’ve talked previously about this new tier in WWE, meant for the part timer mega-attraction. The roster on that tier has included the Undertaker, Lesnar, and The Rock. It now includes Batista Antonio Cesaro. Of those men, only The Rock held the championship, and he only held it after challenging for it six months in advance. A few weeks ago on Raw, Lesnar made a similar challenge: he would be the next number one contender following John Cena vs Randy Orton at the Rumble.

There’s a pattern here. Big star of yesteryear is reintroduced. He has one or two major attraction matches based on his name alone, and then they paint him into the title picture. That doesn’t mean they’ll never hotshot a title reign on a returning character, but they haven’t shown much interest in doing that.

These are all good reasons to suspect that Batista Antonio Cesaro’s first few months (through the Wrestlemania season) will be filled with personal stories. We likely won’t find out about his Wrestlemania opponent until Elimination Chamber (or the Raw following). But the biggest reason to discredit a Batista Antonio Cesaro victory is that WWE is in the middle of a much larger story. This brings us to…

Daniel Bryan

If they hadn’t already done it half a dozen times, I’d suggest Bryan appears first, second, or third in the Rumble Chamber and goes all the way. But they don’t actually need to do that here. Because modern Rumble’s Chambers are often split into three acts, I wouldn’t even want to see him until the last 10 2 entrants.

The obvious reason that Bryan wouldn’t win is because he already fought Randy Orton on PPV in the last year, and WWE almost never headlines Wrestlemania with a match recently done to death. But if Orton was going to be champion until Wrestlemania, there’s simply no reason to have Brock Lesnar Batista make a challenge. Why put that piece down on the board, if Orton is the man to headline the big show?

HHH is the person who re-introduced Brock Lesnar Batista. He’s currently the end boss of WWE, and the man who has been holding Daniel Bryan down. It hasn’t been Randy Orton. It’s been HHH. And I don’t believe they’ve been sewing the seeds of discontent between Orton and HHH for no reason. It is all building to two WWE Championship switches: first, Cena defeating Orton at the Rumble (in a fair fight) Orton defeating Cena with outside interference, and Brock Lesnar Batista defeating John Cena at Elimination Chamber winning the Royal Rumble (in a grotesquely unfair one).

If Daniel Bryan wins the Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber, the main event of Wrestlemania will be Bryan vs Lesnar Batista. It’s a fresh, star vs star match, and nearly guaranteed to be a blockbuster for all three types of wrestling fan. That’s nice, but that’s not why he’s winning.

Daniel Bryan is winning because the fans made him the only choice they could take. WWE took a chance on Bryan in the summer, and, in the fashion we’ve become accustomed, decided to really test us. Since the moment after he won the WWE Championship at Summerslam, Daniel Bryan has been put in front of us and beaten. He’s been tested. He’s lost. And lost. And lost. He’s lost in ways they’ve never had a character lose before. He’d been given his “last” chance against Randy Orton the night after TLC 2013, and Orton cheated him out of it. He’d given up, and finally caved into the darkness that surrounded him. Or did he? Two weeks before the Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber, he shook off his disguise and pummelled his demons. He sat atop a steel cage while the entire arena stood with him, in unison.

The tests are over. WWE has listened.

Historically, the winner of the Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber has dealt with distracting bullshit leading up to the show. They sometimes like to hide the winner in plain sight. In 1993, Yokozuna was dominant, but he wasn’t beating anyone of real value. In 1997, Austin was embroiled with Bret Hart. In 1998, he was embroiled with McMahon. In 2000, the Rock was tagging with Mick Foley against The New Age Outlaws of all people. About a week before the 2001 Rumble, Austin was still fighting with William Regal. The list goes on. That Bryan was busy with the Wyatt’s was about making it seem like he was a million miles away from winning.

Punk Orton gets to “win” at Wrestlemania if he gets a bigger opponent than he had last year. That’ll be tough, but there is one guy in a suit that owes him.

Batista Antonio Cesaro will win if he gets a spotlight and gets to destroy someone.

But Bryan has been on a path. He’s had the trajectory. He’s been part of the same story they’ve told year over year. An authority has power until the Rumble. Daniel Bryan is winning the Royal Rumble Elimination Chamber because that’s what happens next.