The Royal Rumble is one of the most exciting events on the WWE calendar. One of the dimensions that has most captured the imagination of fans over the years is the surprise entrants who enter the field. In the early years, such participants were happenstance when someone got hurt, or were used to inject some local flavor like when Mil Mascaras entered the fray in 1997.
In the last decade, there have been more harmless surprises like Kharma returning to the ring for a one off appearance, or The Hurricane getting involved this past year. There have also been more momentous surprise appearances, though, like John Cena returning early from injury in 2008, and Edge doing much the same in 2010 to not only surprise fans, but change the landscape when they actually won the match. WWE strived for a similar effect in 2016, though enough pundits saw Triple H coming that he was the betting odds favorite to win, despite not being announced for the match.
2018 saw the first women’s Royal Rumble. In part to celebrate the progress women have made in WWE, and in part because there are only so many women on the main roster, the match featured surprise appearances from legends like Lita, Trish Stratus, and Molly Holly, as well NXT stars like Kairi Sane.
So who can we expect to crash the party in 2019? This article takes a look at ten surprise entrants to keep an eye out for in the men’s match and ten on the women’s side.
20 Male: The Rock
Reports surfaced throughout 2018 that The Rock might be eyeing a WWE return, and specifically that he wanted to work WrestleMania 35. There is no such thing as a low profile Rock match at this point, and so it was only natural for further reports to suggest Rock would be challenging someone like Roman Reigns is Brock Lesnar for a world title.
While Reigns is out and the latest reports suggest Rock isn’t interested in working Lesnar, there are still plenty of dream match scenarios possible opposite opponents like Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Braun Strowman, or Batista. A Rumble win opens the door for Rock to go to Raw or SmackDown and immediately shake up the title picture.
19 Female: Cris Cyborg
Cris Cyborg May not have ever manifested the cross over mainstream appeal of Ronda Rousey, but she is nonetheless a famous fighter and one of the few women on the planet many fight fans would pick to take Rousey heads up. Indeed, for all of her accolades and domination of the MMA sport, her greatest claim to fame may be how widely cited she was as a dream opponent for Rousey at the peak of her fame.
Rumor has it that WWE views Cyborg as a candidate for a match in their own ring opposite Rousey. It would still have a dream match feel and given WWE and UFC’s friendlier relationship in recent years, it’s not out of the question it could happen at WrestleMania. One way to set up the match and draw the maximum potential to it would be for Cyborg to show up and win the women’s Rumble.
18 Male: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is one of the best veteran talents and biggest draws left working in professional wrestling on a fairly consistent basis these days. He spent most of his wrestling time in 2018 working for New Japan, but reports suggest that the door is always open for him to make a WWE return.
Jericho doesn’t have any business winning a Royal Rumble at this stage of his career, but he would be an electrifying surprise entrant. Moreover, a Rumble appearance could serve both his and WWE’s interests as there is a well established history of people making one shot returns for the event, so he wouldn’t need to be tied down to a long contract that he seems resistant to.
17 Female: Chelsea Green
Chelsea Green had her moment with WWE as part of the cast of Tough Enough. Her run on the show only lasted so long and she didn’t get signed in the aftermath.
Since that time, Green has cultivated her persona as The Hot Mess—an act she started up in Impact Wrestling and has further honed on the indies. She stood out, in particular, at the All-In super show, as both a solid worker and especially strong character work. Add on that she’s the real life girlfriend of WWE mainstay Zack Ryder, and she’s fit right in debuting with WWE via the women’s Rumble.
16 Male: Kenny Omega
Kenny Omega May have had more buzz around him the past five years than any other active wrestler from outside the WWE system. He did spend some time in WWE developmental, where he felt misused, and has since risen to prominence as one of the best respected workers in the business, particularly for his efforts in New Japan.
Big names from The Bullet Club are rumored to be starting their own promotion imminently. Between those reports, and Omega hinting in interviews that WWE has made him offers and he has passed, the general sense is we won’t see him in a WWE ring anytime soon. However, Omega is the kind of special talent who could debut based on his talent and reputation alone, like AJ Styles did in 2016, and have an immediate impact. Omega is far from a sure thing, but is conceivably in play for this Rumble.
15 Female: Toni Storm
Toni Storm made a splash at the original Mae Young Classic as one of the top talents in the field, and one with clear charisma and youth in her side. WWE confirmed it was taking her seriously in booking her to win the second iteration of the tournament.
Storm has worked for WWE’s UK brand and it feels like only a matter of time before she is drafted to NXT, if not hotshotted straight to the main roster. A surprise appearance in the women’s Royal Rumble could offer her a big stage for such a debut, even if it doesn't mean her sticking around for the time being.
14 Male: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels stunned the wrestling world whe he returned from an eight and. A half year retirement to work the main event of Crown Jewel. WWE and Michaels haven’t said anything about him working another match, but rumors persist that HBK is not done yet. Given how much of his legacy is tied up with WrestleMania, it would only make sense for him to at least stick around for a ‘Mania program. What better place to start such an angle than at the Royal Rumble?
Michaels would not only be a fun nostalgia entry, but he has the credibility to be a legitimate threat in the match and demonstrated at Crown Jewel that he can still go in the ring to boot.
13 Female: Alison Brie
It may seem a little out there to pick an actress who has never worked a match to enter the Royal Rumble. However, the star of Netflix’s GLOW has rudimentary ring training from her work on the show. Additionally, the idea of a GLOW and WWE doing a bit of crossover promotion may be too good to pass up for each side as WWE loves its opportunities to link to mainstream media, while GLOW may be able to attract even more viewers from the mass of WWE fans with an entertaining appearance from Brie in this context. Not to mention, we've seen the cast of GLOW and the WWE women's roster interact on mainstream television already.
12 Male: MVP
MVP’s name has surfaced more than once before. Once in recent years as a rumored talent to go back to WWE, or work for other major US companies. There’s good reason to anticipate him coming back, too, as he is a talented worker with a big body who got over nicely, especially as a heel in his original WWE tenure.
Whether it be for a one off surprise appearance, or as the start of a new full time run, MVP may well be in the mix at the Rumble. Either way, it seems like a WWE appearance will come at some point for MVP.
11 Female: Alundra Blayze
Alundra Blayze is one of the greatest female wrestlers to have ever lived. Unfortunately, she peaked at a particularly dismal time for women’s wrestling in major US promotions and was largely squandered by WWE and WCW alike over the course of the 1990s.
It was a surprise when WWE welcomed Blayze back into the fold for a Hall of Fame induction and tee she iconically dropped her WWE title in the trash upon debuting for WCW. Even more surprisingly, despite not having worked a match in over a decade and being in her mid-fifties, Blayze worked the battle royal at Evolution. It would be difficult to buy Blayze as a threat to win the Rumble now, but she could make for a very fun surprise entrant at some point in the match.
10 Male: Kurt Angle
In his its recent appearances on WWE television we saw Kurt Angle relieved of his duties as Raw GM, beaten by Dolph Ziggler in the first round of the Crown Jewel World Cup tournament, and tapping out cleanly to Drew McIntyre on Raw.
For all of these setbacks and convincing losses, Angle remains a bullet proof legend of the business. Fans anywhere in the world would mark out to hear his music play during a Rumble match, and it could be fun to see what sort of match his Rumble performance would set up for WrestleMania. Not to mention it would be quite a rub for the star who eliminates him.
9 Female: Io Shirai
Io Shirai was a true standout from the second Mae Young Classic tournament, met with universal excitement when she signed with NXT en route to her finals appearance opposite Toni Storm.
There is a precedent of the top female talents from developmental getting a chance to show what they’re made of at the Rumble. Even though an appearance hasn't always meant a spot on the main roster, these kind of entries have worked before. Shirai would fit in nicely in that context, given the opportunity to nail a signature high spot or two before getting ushered over the top rope and out.
8 Male: Jeff Jarrett
As recently as a year ago it would have been unthinkable that Jeff Jarrett would step in a WWE ring again. Jarrett went into WWE sponsored recovery for his personal issues, though, and—purportedly based on Triple H’s backing—was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Jarrett isn’t a likely candidate to work a full time schedule at a WWE level at this stage of his career, but could be a fun enough surprise entrant for a few minute run in the Royal Rumble. Many expected Jarrett to be a regular fixture in WWE following his induction, and while that may not happen, a surprise entry could definitely work.
7 Female: Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie McMahon is one of the most recognizable women attached to the WWE brand. As the company’s top female executive, she has been a sensible choice to make big announcements for the women’s division like introducing the women’s Rumble concept last year. From there, McMahon joining the broadcast team for that match added an extra special dimension to it.
The next step for McMahon and the women’s Rumble? Actually entering the fray.
Surely, WWE would have the good sense not to book her to win, but McMahon could make a very good fake out entrant in the final four or so, to give doubt as to a more worthy athlete getting the run of the Rumble victory.
6 Male: Aleister Black
Aleister Black has been one of the most consistently pushed talents in NXT for the length of his tenure. He has won TakeOver match after TakeOver match, and that includes a respectable run as NXT Champion.
Black won his match with Johnny Gargano to tie up a key loose end of his NXT run and further establish himself as one of the brand’s top stars. He could transition back into the title picture but there’s a sense in which he feels like he has been there and done that. A main roster call up is in order and a surprise entrance in the Royal Rumble would be a suitable platform to introduce him.
5 Female: Maria Menounos
Maria Menounos has demonstrated her commitment to wrestling via her recurring roles with WWE and has exceeded many fans’ expectations in actually working matches (and at a reasonably high level for someone with minimal training). The WWE of course, loves any mainstream connections they could find.
Menounos could be a fun surprise entrant to mix things up in this year’s Royal Rumble. She wouldn’t be in the mix to win, but as an underdog, or potentially even as comic relief, she would be a welcome guest to show up in the middle stages of the bout and contribute to the flow of the action.
4 Male: Christopher Daniels
Christopher Daniels is on the short list of the best known and most talented independent wrestlers to have never been contracted to WWE. In this current era, during which guys like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe whom Daniels worked with a lot in the past are heavily featured, The Fallen Angel wouldn’t feel out of place, were it not the fact that he’s forty eight years old at this point.
Daniels could be a fun one off addition for the Rumble, especially if he shared ring time with guys hardcore fans associate him with for a brief cameo. Who knows? If he got a big reaction, maybe he could justify a one year contract to boot.
3 Female: Kaitlyn
Seeing Kaitlyn back in a WWE branded ring was one of the unexpected joys of this year’s Mae Young Classic. Though she isn’t the in ring wiz that some of today’s top female stars are, she can hold her own with the middle of the pack and still has name recognition with long term fans.
Be it a one shot deal or the start of a comeback tour, Kaitlyn could be a fun and potentially important surprise entrant for the women’s Rumble. It's a happy medium in seeing a nice surprise, but at the same time, having a surprise entrant with some credibility.
2 Male: Chavo Guerrero
Rarely has a talent been as badly misused by WWE as Chavo Guerrero. Despite his pronounced talent, he never got a sustained, meaningful push in the company, and lowlights included getting the worst of a weirdly long feud with Hornswoggle, and being cast as Kerwin White and as Jack Swagger’s eagle mascot.
The time for Guerrero to be properly featured in WWE has come and gone. Still, he can go in the ring and could be a fun enough mid-card surprise entrant to draw a nostalgic pop from the crowd. Every year, we seem to get at least one random name people don't expect, so Chavo can't be ruled out.
1 Female: Renee Young
Renee Young isn’t a trained wrestler, and there aren’t exactly a ton of wrestling fans clamoring for her to have a run in the ring. However, in the tradition of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Booker T, and others entering the fray not from backstage, but by standing up from the announce table, Young could make her presence felt in an unexpected way.
Young would be an in and out entrant who’d need to be specially protected by more experienced talents. Still, the surprise would be a fun change of pace, and Young has stated in past interviews that she’d be willing to try her hand in the ring if WWE called on her to do so.