The 2019 Royal Rumble is right around the corner and will signal the start of The Road To WrestleMania 35, which is why there is so much riding on the winner of this match because Roman Reigns won't be main eventing WrestleMania for the first time in five years.
The Royal Rumble is one of the most anticipated events of the year because there are so many surprises that are usually added to the show and so many options that WWE has when it comes to the winner of the match.
This year's show will be different because the winner could actually be given the chance to main event WrestleMania, something that Shinsuke Nakamura wasn't able to do when he won the match for the first time earlier this year. There are so many stars that could be called up from NXT or even recruited to WWE to make their return or debut at The Royal Rumble much like AJ Styles back in 2016.
The Royal Rumble has afforded the winner the chance to main event WrestleMania for most of its history, but in recent years this hasn't been the case, but finally, that could be about to change.
The following list looks at surprise entrants that could be added to next year's Royal Rumble. That could include stars who are set to make their return to the company in the coming months, as well as any stars that could be promoted from NXT or even returning legends. There are also a number of stars who are not currently signed to WWE that could be brought in for a one-off appearance, or better yet, make their WWE debut.
20 Adam Cole
Adam Cole has been one of the biggest stars on NXT over the past year, ever since he made a surprise appearance in this year's Royal Rumble and stole all the headlines despite showing the effects of his match with Aleister Black from Takeover: Philadelphia the night before.
Cole is a former N.A. Champion and has led Undisputed Era to the top of the developmental territory and it's thought that if he is handed a place in the Royal Rumble again next year, then this could be the beginning of his long overdue promotion to the main roster.
19 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was reinstated in the WWE Hall of Fame earlier this year as it appears that WWE is finally willing to look past the comments that the WWE legend made a number of years ago that were made public back in 2015.
Hogan has been hinting that he will be returning to WWE for a long time and hosting Crown Jewel may have only been the beginning.
If Hogan was going to make one more in-ring appearance, then it's likely that the Royal Rumble would be the easiest one for Hogan to be part of since it doesn't have to include too much physicality.
18 Shawn Michaels
Shawn Micheals made his long anticipated return to the ring at Crown Jewel, but it's reported that HBK could have signed up to wrestle a lot more than just one match.
Michaels is being thrown around as a possible name to be The Undertaker's final opponent at WrestleMania 35 next year. In order to get a shot at The Deadman, Michaels could be entered into the Royal Rumble next year and when he's unable to win the match and main event WrestleMania, he may well settle for another shot at the man who retired him more than eight years ago.
17 Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens would definitely be a huge surprise since he only recently underwent double knee surgery, something that he has needed for a long time and has only recently been able to finally undergo the procedure.
Owens is scheduled to make his return to WWE at some point during next year's WrestleMania season.
The Royal Rumble may seem like a target date that's a little too early for a return, but we've seen wrestlers return sooner than expected, especially for the Royal Rumble match. Owens has been one of the best things on WWE TV for a long time and the sooner he is back, the better.
16 The Rock
The Rock has been the bookies' favorite to make his return to WWE and go on to main event WrestleMania for the past few weeks. The original plan apparently had The Rock winning the 2019 Royal Rumble and then going on to face Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania. Since Reigns has since been forced onto the sidelines, plans may have changed.
The most recent reports suggest that The Rock could instead make his return and go on to face Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania, which seems like a strange but somewhat acceptable replacement for The Big Dog.
15 Kassius Ohno
There is no one in NXT who deserves a place in the 2019 Royal Rumble more than Kassius Ohno. The man who was once known as Chris Hero and pitched as the third member of The Shield has been overlooked for so many years on NXT that he has to be wondering if his chance has come and gone.
Ohno is fantastic on the mic and has always been a guy that WWE can depend on to put on a good match against anyone that is thrown at him. Even if he isn't promoted to the main roster following the match, Ohno still deserves to be in the Rumble.
14 Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn has been missing from WWE ever since Money In The Bank where he lost to Bobby Lashley and the following week it was revealed that he would be missing from WWE for the rest of 2018 after undergoing surgery for two torn rotator cuffs.
Much like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn could be a long shot since his estimated return time isn't thought to be until after The Royal Rumble.
Much like Kevin Owens, there's always the possibility that his recovery timetable changes. If his recovery is going well, then there's no reason why WWE wouldn't allow him to be one of the 30 names in the hat.
13 The Undertaker
The Undertaker has been present on WWE TV over the last few months, but it's thought that he will take a leave of absence once again following Survivor Series and could then make his return to as part of The Royal Rumble next year so that he can pick up a feud heading into WrestleMania.
It was at the Royal Rumble back in 2017 that Roman Reigns and The Undertaker began their feud when The Deadman was eliminated by the Big Dog. They would later collide in the main event of WrestleMania, despite the fact that neither man actually won the Rumble match.
Fandango has been out on the shelf since the summer when he confirmed that he would be missing for around six months because he needed to undergo surgery on a shoulder. The former NXT star could, in theory, be cleared in time to make his return to WWE as part of the 2019 Royal Rumble where he could link up with his former teammate Tyler Breeze.
Fandango has been struggling on the main roster for the past few years and this could be the kind of return he needs to be thrown back into the action and could be a welcome boost for Breeze too.
11 Velveteen Dream
Velveteen Dream just battled for the NXT Championship at Takeover: War Games and there isn't a man on the NXT roster who deserves a chance to be headlining the brand more than the former Tough Enough star. Dream has become a phenomenon on his own over the past few years and has proved a number of doubters wrong in the process which is why he deserves to book his place in one of the biggest matches of the year.
Dream has come through the ranks in WWE over the past few years and has never been given a shot of this magnitude.
If 2019 is going to be his year, then it should start out with a Rumble appearance.
10 Cody Rhodes
All In was a huge success and Cody Rhodes has become one of the most successful former WWE stars on the outside of the company ever since his departure, but speculation has been rife over the past few months when it comes to the fact that Rhodes could be looking to make his return to WWE in the future.
Rhodes was part of the company for a number of years and had many many great moments there. Rhodes has said that he has no interest in a WWE return at this time, but there's always the possibility of a one-off appearance by Cody, or perhaps coming in with several Bullet Club members.
Cody Rhodes' older brother Goldust has been sidelined over the past few months after undergoing surgery on both of his knees back in the summer, but Goldust is one of the legends that wouldn't allow an injury to stand in the way of him being able to step back in the ring at the Royal Rumble for what could be the last time.
Goldust was one of the biggest legends in WWE throughout the Attitude Era and he deserves one big last push if he is coming to the end of his career which WWE could give him as part of next year's WrestleMania season.
The Animal made his return to WWE for the first time since 2014 when he was part of SmackDown 1000 and reunited with Ric Flair, Triple H, and Randy Orton but as part of that segment, Batista hinted at a possible match with Triple H at WrestleMania. He stated that The Game had accomplished everything in WWE apart from being able to defeat him.
Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble match and went on to main event WrestleMania XXX alongside Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton.
After being promised a world title run, plans changed due to Daniel Bryan's white-hot status, but perhaps 2019 could be the retirement run Batista has always wanted.
Kane once held the elimination record for a single Royal Rumble, before Roman Reigns was able to break it back in 2014. Kane recently returned to WWE for a program with his kayfabe brother The Undertaker and DX, but will again take a hiatus.
Kane does have a job serving Knox County now which means that he isn't as flexible as he used to be with his wrestling career. His retirement is definitely getting closer and closer, but we all know how the Rumble goes every year. Kane could very well be one of the names WWE brings back into the fold next January.
6 Tommaso Ciampa
Tommaso Ciampa is the reigning NXT Champion right now and one of the biggest stars that NXT has created. He's also one of the best heels in WWE right now. Ciampa has been able to create a fantastic heel persona for himself over the past year and WWE has to want Ciampa to make his debut on the main roster as part of the Royal Rumble.
Andrade Cien Almas made his debut in the Royal Rumble when he was NXT Champion and Ciampa could well do the same thing this coming year. When looking at the NXT roster, there aren't many more suited for a Rumble appearance than Ciampa.
5 The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks have been on WWE's radar for a long time now but they have turned down offers from the company so many times that many fans believed that they would never see the Young Bucks in WWE.
In recent months, Nick and Matt have looked as though they could be heading to WWE, especially since WWE's Tag Team Division is looking at its best right now.
The inclusion of The Young Bucks could be exactly what the company needs since their biggest star will definitely not be part of the match and shocks and surprises could be the best way for WWE to ensure that the Rumble is a success.
4 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio left WWE back in 2016 when his year-long WWE contract came to an end and he was part of the noise surrounding Paige. Even though Del Rio's departure from the company wasn't considered to be on good terms, reports over the past year have suggested that Vince McMahon could be looking to bring back Del Rio since there is now a huge gap in the main event picture.
Del Rio returned to WWE after he was fired from the company before, which means that it's possible he could make a return in future if WWE is able to offer him the deal that he wants.
3 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is someone that many of the WWE Universe would expect to make his return at the Royal Rumble, since he has been coming and going from WWE for a number of years now.
On top of his WWE work, he has also been able to be part of his own projects outside of the company like the recent Jericho Cruise.
Jericho is someone that WWE has always been able to depend on when push comes to shove and if the company is in dire need of a main event level superstar to dominate the Royal Rumble then Jericho would be the obvious one to call.
2 John Morrison
John Morrison worked for WWE for a number of years under the names Johnny Nitro and John Morrison before he was released from the company despite being one of the best prospects for the future.
Morrison has since gone on to become one of the best wrestlers outside of WWE but now that the company has the resources to accommodate someone who has the talent that Morrison possesses and WWE could even now find a place in the women's division for his wife Taya Valkyrie. Morrison is another star who didn't leave WWE on the best of terms, but enough time has gone by that this could now be seen as water under the bridge.
1 Kenny Omega
Kenny Omega was once part of WWE's developmental set up and having seen the way that WWE is run from the inside, he isn't someone who wants to make his return to the company any time soon. Omega has become a star over in NJPW and WWE are definitely interested in bringing him back to the company and since Roman Reigns can't be the main guy for WWE at the moment, Omega could be the one to steady the ship.
There is no reason why Omega can't debut in the same way that AJ Styles did back in 2016 but go on to win the whole thing and then take his place in the WrestleMania main event.