The Royal Rumble match is arguably the most entertaining match in pro wrestling history. The match rules make for drama that pro wrestling fans love. As the clock winds down, fans are hanging on the edge of their seats waiting for the next participant. The Royal Rumble took the old battle royal match to a new, more exciting level. Then in 1993, WWE made it so that the winner would main event WrestleMania. This added to the excitement and drama of the match. Then WWE did something that sent the entertainment value of the Royal Rumble through the roof: the surprise entrant.
The surprise entrant has become a source of unmatched entertainment that provides suspense, speculation, and nostalgia. Just last year, fans in Orlando were treated to an unfamiliar theme followed by the debut of one of the best wrestlers in the world, AJ Styles. WWE has also treated fans to old favorites like The Boogey Man and Bubba Ray Dudley. They have also thrown in the occasional comedic curveballs, such as Michael Cole and Drew Carey. Fans love speculating about just what big surprises are in store for the Royal Rumble match. However, it’s extremely hard to guess what’s up WWE’s sleeve. But, that won’t stop the speculation.
With that said, let’s take a look at the top 15 possible surprise entrants for the 2017 Royal Rumble.
15 Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio was another former WWE Superstar rumored to be in WWE conversations for a return due to the brand extension. The roster could still use the help of a great veteran like Mysterio. The former two-time World Heavyweight Champion and former WWE Champion has kept himself busy since leaving WWE in 2015. He has been wrestling for Lucha Underground, AAA in Mexico, and taking on top stars such as Kurt Angle on the independent wrestling circuit. Mysterio would be a great addition to the Raw Cruiserweight Division and would also make interesting competition for WWE Superstars such as Kalisto, Neville, and Sami Zayn. Texas is a big Lucha Libre state and Mysterio’s return at the Royal Rumble would potentially blow the roof off of the Alamodome.
14 John Morrison
John Morrison wrestled in WWE from 2004-2011. Morrison was a former ECW Champion, three-time Intercontinental Champion, and five-time tag team champion. As impressive as that is, it is puzzling how the talented Morrison wasn’t even more successful. Since leaving WWE, he has found tremendous success on the independent wrestling circuit, in Lucha Underground, and also in Mexico’s AAA promotion. Morrison is arguably the most talented pro wrestling star not currently under contract to WWE. It has also been rumored that Morrison’s name was brought up in WWE circles about a return to strengthen the roster due to the brand extension. The roster still needs work and WWE would be foolish not to consider brining him back. Having Morrison return in the Royal Rumble and break Rey Mysterio’s record Rumble time of 1:02:15 would be an epic way to reintroduce him to the WWE Universe.
13 The Authors of Pain
The Authors of Pain may appear to be an odd possibility for next year’s Royal Rumble. They’ve only been in NXT for a short time and despite showing promise; still need some seasoning. However, Vince McMahon is in love with big guys and big guys and the Royal Rumble go together like peanut butter and jelly. In general, there have been a parade of big men to make their way through WWE that had little more to offer other than their size. Zeus, The Great Khali, and Giant Gonzalez are just three examples of this. A more specific Royal Rumble example would be the The Squat Team aka The Headhunters in 1996. The massive duo made their WWE debut in the Royal Rumble match but soon disappeared. The team was a spectacle especially when they came toe to toe with Yokozuna and Vader during the match. It would also be great to see legendary manager Paul Ellering back on the main roster. He is the manager of The Authors of Pain in NXT.
12 Chris Masters
The Masterpiece Chris Masters wrestled in WWE from 2005-2007 and again from 2009-2011. Masters struggled with wellness policy violations during his time with WWE. However, it’s been five years since he’s stepped foot in a WWE ring and has gained much experience since then. The Masterpiece has wrestled in a number of different promotions such as TNA Wrestling, Global Force Wrestling, and the NWA. He would bring some needed experience and depth to WWE, which is still experiencing some growing pains as a result of the brand extension. WWE has shown forgiveness in the past with other WWE Superstars such as Goldust, Booker T, and Jerry Lawler. It might be time for Masters to get one last chance with WWE and the Royal Rumble could be that chance.
11 Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura is the current NXT Champion. Although, the NXT Champion appearing on WWE television is nothing new, appearing in the Royal Rumble match would be. The 36-year-old Nakamura is another veteran wrestler just waiting to get the call up to WWE’s main roster. Before singing with WWE, he was a New Japan Pro Wrestling Superstar. Nakamura held the IWGP Championship numerous times and tangled with top stars such as Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, and AJ Styles. It is possible that WWE could give the NXT Champion a spot in the Royal Rumble to give the WWE Universe a taste of “The King of Strong Style” before a full main roster promotion. This would be a similar strategy, which was used with Rusev in 2014. The Bulgarian Brute made his WWE debut in the Royal Rumble match but did not resurface again until April for full time duty.
Carlito wrestled for WWE from 2004-2010. He had a successful run highlighted by defeating John Cena for the United States Championship in his first televised match, winning the Intercontinental Championship, and winning two tag team championships. Carlito is also the brother of current WWE Superstar Primo and the cousin of current WWE Superstar Epico. There were some rumors that he was contacted about a return right before the WWE draft. A return would make a lot of sense. Forming a faction with Primo and Epico would probably be at the top of the creative ideas for him upon his return. The Royal Rumble match would also be the logical place for him to get reacquainted with the WWE Universe. WWE has a history of returning stars re-debuting in the Rumble. Goldust and Mr. Perfect in the 2002 Royal Rumble match is just one example.
9 The Great Khali
The Great Khali last wrestled for WWE in 2014. Khali feuded with top WWE Superstars such as The Undertaker, Kane, Triple H, and Batista.The former World Heavyweight Champion could be a potential one-night return at the Royal Rumble. At 7’1 and well over 300lbs, Khali is one of the largest superstars in WWE history. The Punjabi Nightmare would definitely be a big surprise entrant if he gets the Rumble call. Although the end of his WWE run was forgettable, fans tend to forget and become nostalgic pretty quickly. Khali would possibly be a crowd pleaser if given a spot in the Royal Rumble. Also, let’s not forget how Vince McMahon just loves the big guys. Maybe, it won’t be much of a surprise if Khali walks down the aisle at the Alamodome and enters the Royal Rumble.
8 Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle has been rumored to be on the WWE radar since leaving TNA Wrestling in March. Angle has struggled with a number of issues outside the ring since he left WWE in 2006. There is said to be concern within WWE due to these issues, which have included several alcohol related arrests. However, its seems hard to believe that the four time WWE Champion won’t make some type of return at some point. Angle is still capable of having outstanding matches but probably not as part of a full time schedule. In recent years, WWE has been more open to part time performers and have found success with part timers such as Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, and Sting. Angle returning at the Royal Rumble may not be out of the question.
7 The Great Muta
The Great Muta has yet to set foot inside a WWE ring and time is running out. The Royal Rumble match traditionally has been a great way to get an aging veteran a shot to work a big time WWE event. Mil Mascaras, The Great Kabuki, and Carlos Colon are just a few examples. The 53-year-old Muta is more than deserving of earning a legend’s spot in the Royal Rumble match. His late 1980s WCW run was short but extremely memorable. Muta had some amazing matches with Sting, Ric Flair, and Lex Luger. That run established him as one of the best wrestlers in the world. Muta would go onto to win the WCW Television Championship, IWGP Championship, NWA Championship, and the All-Japan Triple Crown Championship. In recent years, WWE has been very inviting of pro wrestling legends outside of the WWE Universe. Muta could finally be on the radar for his WWE debut.
6 Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin was set to make his WWE return in August on SmackDown Live when he learned that he had a full tear of his rotator cuff. It was a huge set back for the former WWE Superstar who was hoping to climb back into a WWE ring after a six year absence. During an interview with Jim Ross, Benjamin stated that the rehab on such an injury could take six months to a year. It’s probably a long shot but six months from August would be January. Benjamin’s rehab would have to go extremely well for him to be physically ready to go at the Royal Rumble. If he were, then he would have to be at the top of the list of surprise entrants for the Royal Rumble match.
5 Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal vs The Big Show at WrestleMania 33 is said to be a done deal. Show is rumored to be returning to WWE action to renew that storyline. The former NBA superstar and “The World’s Largest Athlete” have had previous run ins with each other over the last several years which put this story in motion. They have crossed paths on Raw and in WrestleMania 32’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Another chapter in this rivalry could be told as a part of the Royal Rumble match. Shaq eliminating Show from the Rumble could be the fuel needed to turn this feud from a campfire into a roaring inferno. Their presence in the Rumble together would also be the “big guy factor” that Vince McMahon just loves.
Sting made his long awaited WWE debut at Survivor Series 2014. Unfortunately his run with WWE seemingly came to an end after suffering a serious neck injury in his match with then WWE Champion Seth Rollins at Night of Champions 2015. However, The Icon is famous for saying, “The only thing for sure about Sting is nothing’s for sure.” He has held off on neck surgery that would end his in ring career and still speaks of unfinished business with The Undertaker. There has to be concern within WWE that a match between Sting and The Undertaker could be a disaster due to both WWE Superstars’ physical conditions and advanced ages. Would fans be satisfied with the two legends crossing paths during the Royal Rumble match? It’s an interesting compromise that would give fans at least a confrontation and wouldn’t have WWE gambling with a high profile pay-per-view match.
3 The Undertaker
The Undertaker was rumored to have said his match with Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32 was his last. The Deadman also went undrafted in the 2016 WWE draft. Is The Undertaker really finished? Never say never in the crazy world of professional wrestling. The stars might be aligning just right for Taker to be a surprise entrant in next year’s Royal Rumble match. The Royal Rumble is being held in his home state of Texas. There is also another legendary star living in Texas who has been saying he wants a match with Taker and that’s Sting. Could these two legendary superstars finally cross paths in the Royal Rumble match? Physically, Sting is a much bigger question mark than The Undertaker. With that said and putting the dream match scenario aside, Taker might still be a safe bet to start his WrestleMania 33 preparation with the Royal Rumble match.
2 Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe debuted in NXT in 2015 and soon captured the NXT Championship. The former TNA Wrestling star recently dropped the NXT title to Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT TakeOver : Back To Brooklyn in August. Without NXT Championship matches in his schedule, Joe looks to be free to make his way on up to the main roster. The 37-year-old isn’t getting any younger and the Royal Rumble could be the best place to launch his main roster WWE career. An imposing physical wrestler like Joe could definitely announce his presence with authority in a match like the Royal Rumble. WWE could even consider an angle where Joe breaks the record for most eliminations, which is 12 and is held by Roman Reigns. This would give The Samoan Submission Machine instant credibility with the WWE Universe.
1 Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode debuted for NXT in June after being one of the cornerstones of TNA Wrestling for over ten years. Roode is a technically sound wrestler who has found success in singles, tag teams, and factions. The Glorious One is a two time TNA Champion, two time NWA Tag Team Champion, and a six time TNA Tag Team Champion. The 39-year-old veteran is just waiting to get the call to the main roster. Next year’s Royal Rumble match just might be the ideal time for that call up. An impressive showing in the Royal Rumble would be a great way to introduce Roode to the WWE Universe. Not to mention what a great moment it would be for the clock to tick down to zero followed by “Glorious Domination” blaring throughout the Alamodome.
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