John Cena may have won the 2013 Royal Rumble, but he wasn't the only one to score a victory in the match. Cena's win was official and it will live forever in the record books; however, moral victories are often just as important when it comes to professional wrestling.
The Royal Rumble can make or break the career of many stars, and it affects a lot more than simply the winner. Having someone last for a long period of time or having him eliminate a large number of superstars could mean that he's in for a push, while being eliminated quickly is often a sign that a wrestler is low on the totem pole.
There were examples of both on Sunday, but it's always more interesting to focus on who is going to benefit most from the Rumble match. Several superstars shined brightly at the Royal Rumble and should have plenty of momentum moving forward because of it. Here are the three participants that came away looking strongest despite the fact that they were unable to overcome Cena in the end.
When it was announced that Dolph Ziggler would enter the Rumble at No. 1 or No. 2, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that he would steal the show. That is precisely what happened as he opted to be the first entrant and managed to last until the final four. Ziggler only amassed two eliminations total, but he narrowly avoided being thrown out on numerous occasions and he was constantly in the middle of the fray.
Ziggler has long been viewed as the WWE's workhorse, and he proved it on Sunday as he lasted in excess of 50 minutes before being eliminated by Sheamus. Due to the fact that Ziggler is still in possession of the Money in the Bank contract, he was never a threat to win the Rumble. He had a lot to gain in the contest, though, and he ended up coming out of it with a lot of positives.
Perhaps the biggest coup for him was eliminating Chris Jericho late in the match. Ziggler beat Y2J in August, which resulted in Jericho getting "fired," but he returned as a surprise entrant and turned in a great performance in his own right. The Show-Off got the better of Jericho once again by super-kicking him off the apron. It appears quite likely that they will reprise their feud and potentially duke it out at WrestleMania.
The WWE made a unique and interesting decision this year as an eight-man tournament was held at the Royal Rumble Fan Fest with the winner earning a spot in the Rumble match. All eight superstars who competed were members of the NXT roster, and Bo Dallas ultimately prevailed. The son of Mike Rotunda entered the match at No. 16 to little fanfare, but by the time his night was over, he certainly made a lasting impression.
Rather than wasting Dallas' spot and having him get eliminated immediately, he lasted for over 20 minutes and looked strong in his very first outing as part of the main roster. On top of that, he even managed to eliminate Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett. While it wasn't on quite the same scale as Maven taking out The Undertaker in 2002, it had a similar feel. It also showed that Dallas could be a force to be reckoned with moving forward.
Barrett ended Dallas' Cinderella run soon after as he eliminated Dallas from outside the ring and hit him with the Bull Hammer Elbow. Despite that, Dallas announced his arrival in a big way as he was among the final 10 men remaining in the Royal Rumble. Since a tournament will be held on Main Event to determine the No. 1 contender for the IC title in the coming weeks, I expect Dallas to enter and win with his Rumble performance acting as a big-time springboard.
There are a couple different ways to interpret Ryback's Rumble showing, but I choose to believe that it was a positive outing for the ravenous monster. Entering the match, it seemed as though Kane's record of 11 eliminations in a single Rumble could be in jeopardy, but Ryback entered at No. 30, so the mark was never in danger. Ryback made his presence felt immediately, though, as he eliminated Damien Sandow, Sin Cara and The Miz within a minute of entering the match. He then followed that up by taking out both Randy Orton and Sheamus.
Aside from Cena, Ryback was probably the biggest favorite in the match, so anything short of a win could be construed as a failure. When you consider the fact that he lost at three consecutive pay-per-views prior to the Royal Rumble, a win would have been even bigger for him had he been able to pull it off. Cena managed to overcome Ryback in the final two and eliminate him, though, so it looks like Ryback will have to keep waiting for his breakthrough.
Truth be told, there was no room for Ryback in the WWE Championship scene and the World Heavyweight Championship will probably be around the waist of Dolph Ziggler soon enough, so I don't see an obvious avenue for Ryback to the main-event scene. With that in mind, the WWE booked Ryback as well as it possibly could without having him win and the showdown with Cena at the end definitely made Ryback look like a surefire future star.