“It’s time to rumble...it’s time for the Royal Rumble! Participants include The Show-off, Dolph Ziggler, The Game, Triple H, The Voice Of The WWE, Michael Cole, legendary luchador Mil Mascaras...it’s time to climb aboard the train with The Godfather, the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all-time, The Honky Tonk Man, and who can forget my long-lost son, or is that Finlay's long-lost son, Hornswoggle..."
Since you definitely read that in your best Vince McMahon impression, take a deep breath. All those guys and more are on this list. Since it’s humble beginnings in 1988, the Royal Rumble has been one of the marquee attractions for the WWE. It signals the beginning of WrestleMania season. More often than not, the Rumble match itself is a wild hour-plus of action.
It’s probably the biggest night of the year next to ‘Mania. There’s always surprise entrants galore. Some of them garnered some of the loudest reactions in Rumble history – John Cena returning in 2008, AJ Styles debuting in 2016, other returns from Edge and Jericho. Some of the best Rumble moments are borderline magical.
These aren’t those, however. These surprise entrants are pretty groan-inducing. For whatever the reason, someone on the booking team thought these were all good ideas. While surprise entrants definitely have their place in a Rumble, as does the occasional sprinkling of some comedy, the point is usually to get a reaction out of the crowd. The only reaction these entrants got was apathy from the crowd, wondering why in the world they were in there.
20 Drew Carey – 2001
We all know celebrities and wrestling go together like pink and black, but when the main event of WrestleMania and a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship are at stake, let’s have some modicum of realism. Keep celebrities who have no athletic skill out of the Royal Rumble.
Drew Carey taking part in the 2001 festivities would’ve sunk the whole event if not for it being the Rumble. He came, he waived, we booed, we groaned until Kane spooked him (thankfully, he was wearing dark pants). He could’ve been used a lot better than taking a spot from a deserving performer.
19 Dolph Ziggler – 2018
Last year’s past Rumble was one for the ages. No, it didn’t match the emotional resonance of the still-greatest Rumble ever (1992), but it certainly had its moments. Shinsuke Nakamura winning the whole thing was a really big moment and a nice surprise for fans. The big reveal of who was No. 30? Not so much.
Several months before being paired with Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler had grown tired of how he was being treated. He won the IC title and then called it quits. While Ziggler wasn’t actually done, him returning so soon after was really anticlimactic, especially in the face of being the last entrant.
18 Triple H – 2016
After trying to really push Roman Reigns in 2015 and failing, Vince McMahon decided to go full tilt boogie on turning The Big Dog into The Guy. In order to do that, they tried to stack the deck completely against him and reformed The Corporation in a way in order to do it.
The 2016 Rumble set another precedent- it was the first time the WWE Championship was defended in the match itself. Reigns was the defending champ entering at number one. He got blasted midway through the match and walked off to take a breather. But the time “surprise entrant 30,” Triple H came down, not only did the most unpredictable match become very predictable, but it also became obvious what would be headlining WrestleMania.
17 Michael Cole – 2012
It had been years since there was a true heel announcer on the show. Jerry Lawler was the last one, but then he started shouting “puppies,” and we all began to love “Uncle” Jerry. So the WWE went back to the well and had Michael Cole try his hand at being unlikeable. On purpose.
He would conduct mount-level sermons on how amazing The Miz was. For his own protection, he had a booth constructed specially for him - The Cole Mine. The whole ordeal was already grating on nerves when Cole was a surprise entrant in the 2012 event. Thankfully, Kia Stevens, aka Kharma, was the very next surprise entrant and she was a surprise entrant fans were happy to see.
16 Mil Mascaras – 1997
At 55 years old at the time with over 30 years in the business, Mil Máscaras was, and still is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever come out of Mexico. He had wrestled Superstar Billy Graham at MSG and even Mick Foley as Cactus Jack at a Clash Of Champions event. But one-third of Mexico’s big three never even competed on PPV, let alone the Royal Rumble.
Until 1997’s event in the Alamodome, that is. While the legend did get some cheers, the sea of humanity in the stadium barely knew who he was. To seal the lackluster performance, he refused to do the job to anyone and eliminated himself instead.
15 The Godfather – 2002
Everyone loves The Godfather, right? The fun-loving, free-wheeling character was a big staple of the Attitude Era and in some ways embodied a lot of what the WWE undercard was all about at the time – brash and outlandish defiance to cultural norms.
After spending the better of 2001 as the repressed Goodfather with Right To Censor, it was pretty cool to see The Godfather return to his old self at the 2002 Rumble. No one expected him to win, and he didn't last long, but he did spend more time dancing with the ladies than competing in the ring.
14 The Missing Macho Man – 1991
The 1991 event had, for its time, one of the coolest angles surrounding the WWE Championship match. Due to The Ultimate Warrior refusing to give the Macho Man a title opportunity, the Macho King unloaded his scepter right into the Warrior’s skull, costing him the match and the championship.
Later on, during the Rumble, the entrant didn’t show. The announcers pondered who it was until No. 30 had arrived and then they knew it was Savage. But to the crowd in attendance and at home, it didn’t do a whole to further the story, and fans were deprived of an appearance from their king.
13 Bob Backlund – 2000
If for some strange reason you haven’t seen the 2000 event, carve out some time for yourself and watch it. The PPV boasts one of the best undercards the PPV has ever had. The debut of Tazz, a tables match featuring the Dudleys and the Hardys, and a riotous match between Cactus Jack and Triple H.
There’s barely a dull moment on this entire PPV, except for that time the WWE dusted off Bob Backlund as a surprise entrant. After the initial pop for the former champion, an even louder one was heard two minutes later when Chris Jericho dropkicked him out of the ring.
12 Haku – 2001
How the stories of tough-as-nails Haku was and is are the stuff of legend. If you believe them, then there’s at least one person walking the planet without an eye, thanks to the former King. In WCW he was Meng, the Hardcore Champion.
For historical purposes, it was a nice surprise to see him at the 2001 Rumble. He was still the Hardcore Champion in WCW, but in classic WCW fashion, no one thought to renew his contract, or get the belt off him before he left. However, to casual fans, he was just another old-school mid-carder who hadn't been relevant in WWE in nearly a decade.
11 The Honky Tonk Man – 2001
It’s easy to look back at the Expansion Era with nostalgic fondness. For a lot of fans, it’s the time they became fans. Some of the best early memories of this time were of watching the greatest Intercontinental Champion of All-Time, The Honky Tonk Man as he did his thing as an Elvis impersonator.
But by 2001, the business has passed him by completely. So even as a surprise entrant in the 2001 event was just a waste of roster space for someone who worked all year and earned. Being that this was the same year Drew Carey joined the fray, what do you expect?
10 The Godfather – 2013
Over ten years after he surprised the world, The Godfather did it again in 2013. Again, his surprise appearance was met with cheers from the male crowd that adored the ladies. Also again, wrestling fans who were clamoring for wrestling and legitimate possible winners in the match just weren’t interested.
The Godfather was a memorable character and a big part of the Attitude Era when fans needed a brief reprieve from the main action. But for die-hard fans of the sport of it all, the presence of an older performer, who was a mid-carder throughout his career, wasn’t as welcomed as it once was.
9 Carlos Colon – 1993
For everyone who thinks Vince McMahon doesn’t pay tribute to the past the way he should, then you’re not paying a lot of attention, especially during the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. At the 1993 event, not only was Bob Backlund booked to an iron man Cinderella story, but there was an also an appearance from Carlos Colon.
Part of the issue with surprise talents that were really only popular in one territory is that no one cares about them in others. Not only had Carlos Colon seldom, if ever worked in Sacramento during his run, but Gorilla Monsoon comically tried to refer to him as a youngster. Colon was in his mid-40s by the time he made his surprise entrance, which was less than memorable.
8 Jerry Lawler – 2012
It's stunning that Michael Cole actually lasted longer than Jerry Lawler in the 2012 event. An announcer who never saw in-ring action a day in his life lasted longer than one of the most beloved sports entertainers of all time.
No one would have ever expected the King to win the 2012 event or even last longer than a few minutes. But after less than a minute he was gone. Some people deserve a little bit better than a 43-second appearance in the biggest match of the year. Then again, he did need to get back to the commentator’s table.
7 The Squat Team – 1996
There was a whole lot of beef in the ring during the 1996 Royal Rumble when Vader and Yokozuna were in the ring. So why not toss a humongous tag team, The Headhunters, into the equation? The two mountains of men came out to little or no fanfare at all.
Why debut a tag team like this? They didn’t do anything except both get eliminated in less time than it took to make a Hot Pocket. There was clearly no plan for them, otherwise, they might have done more with them than booking them as quick fodder for other monsters.
6 Hiroki Sumi – Greatest Royal Rumble 2018
2018 marked the first year more than one Royal Rumble event was held. The company sent a whole lot of their personnel halfway across the world. They needed as many as possible, as they put on the biggest Royal Rumble in company history, with 50 entrants, breaking the 2011 record of 40. Fifty wrestlers in total competed in a long, grueling contest, albeit not for a WrestleMania title match.
One of them was a surprise no one was expecting, no one asked for, and no one really cared about, at least on this side of the globe. Grand Sumo Champion, Hiroki Sumi might be revered in Japan and might have been an awesome sight for the live crowd, but was a waste of time for the rest of the world.
5 Rey Mysterio - 2014
Whether the WWE wanted to admit it or not, there was no plan in place for Daniel Bryan and the Yes Movement to take over the Royal Rumble and later on, WrestleMania. It’s supposedly one of the main reasons CM Punk quit. The company also fed Rey Mysterio to the wolves as the 30th entrant.
The 2014 match was more or less a one-hour marathon Daniel Bryan chant by the crowd. You’d think the WWE would have been smart to call an audible and ride the wave. But instead, they tried to hold firmly to their plans. This meant the thunderous chants only got louder as number 30 was about to come out. Never before was Rey Mysterio the biggest heel in the world, and it wasn’t even his fault.
4 The Bounty Hunters – 1994
Similar to 20 years later in 2014, as far as the fans were concerned, 1994 was Bret Hart’s year, but the company was pushing Lex Luger really hard down our collective gullets. As the 1994 Royal Rumble came along, Mr. Fuji offered a bounty on Lex Luger’s head to ensure he wasn’t going to be facing Yokozuna at WrestleMania X.
Maybe if he hired some bigger names than Tenryu and the Great Kabuki he might have succeeded. But these guys were both pretty “meh” kind of deals, even Kabuki, who had fame in World Class but had seen his best days.
3 Hornswoggle – GRR 2018
It’s always a big pop when that familiar jingle hits and the diminutive Hornswoggle charges towards the ring, but enough is enough already. The guy isn’t even on the active signed roster anymore. He’s not going to be winning any Royal Rumble anytime soon - unless they find enough little people for that Rumble.
Obviously, they include him in matches like the Greatest Royal Rumble. Fifty guys and they decide to give a payday to an ex-employee. The crowd wasn’t that receptive to the guy, either. At a certain point, everyone was just waiting for someone to throw him out and move on.
2 Jimmy Snuka – 2008
Before the WWE really got going, Jimmy Superfly Snuka was a god among men. Madison Square Garden was his cathedral. But that was a very long time ago. So when came out as a surprise during the 2008 event, the thunderous ovation wasn’t much of a thunderous ovation that Snuka normally received.
The crowd, despite being a New York crowd with plenty of nostalgia, wasn’t into the surprise at all until one entrant later when Roddy Piper made his appearance and the entire match stopped just to watch the two legends get it on. But before Piper showed up, Snuka’s cathedral was quiet.
1 Vickie Guerrero – 2018
Vickie Guerrero was a great heel with terrific mic skills and timing. She has certainly earned her space in the business as more than just Eddie’s widow. But being a guest in the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble was a spot that should’ve been given to a woman who actually knows how to work matches.
Three full rosters full of women and a Performance Center full of up and comers. Heck, they could’ve bought Vickie back and have her bring her daughter Shaul (fka Raquel Diaz) with her to work the match. In either event, at least it wasn’t James Ellsworth in a wig.