The Royal Rumble may be my favorite of the four big WWE pay-per-views. The unpredictability, the way it kicks off the road to WrestleMania, the Rumble is where anything goes. Part of the appeal of pro wrestling for me are the surprises and with all the dirt sheets out there, you don’t get many of those anymore. AJ Styles showing up at the 2016 Rumble, Daniel Bryan not being a participant in 2014, you never know how things are going to go even if you know what might happen.
Every year we get 30 participants, all vying for a shot at the greatest prize in professional wrestling, a shot at the WWE Championship, or maybe the Universal title. I wish though that WWE would trim the number of entrants down a little bit as there are people we know have no shot to win. Do we need to see Mojo Rawley or Rhyno in there for a few minutes only to get dumped out by Jinder Mahal or Aiden English? Ugh. If they cut it down to 20, the wrestlers could get a little more time in there to do their stuff and I feel it would make it more competitive. But as of now, that isn't likely to happen especially when you consider how large the roster is and the Rumble is a good way to get as many guys as you can involved.
With that in mind, the following is a look at some of the surprises we'd like to see and others that we wouldn't.
15 Want - Dalton Castle
Could you imagine if Dalton Castle showed up at the Royal Rumble with the boys? I think that might pop me more than anything WWE could pull off. Yes, the majority of the audience would be at a loss for words not understanding how awesome what they're witnessing would be, but whatever. I think Castle would be perfect in the mid-card squaring off in programs with the likes of The Miz. Am I the only person who thinks a Castle/Miz feud could headline a PPV? WWE loves characters and there aren't many going right now as unique as Dalton Castle. I imagine that his entrance would last the entire two minutes before the next entrant made their way to the ring and I have absolutely no problem with that.
14 Don't - Samoa Joe
I may be in the minority, but I'm not really pining to see Samoa Joe make his way to the main roster. I wouldn't count myself as a huge fan of his and while he's solid in the ring, there are a few guys in his mold already on the main roster. Samoa Joe is basically Rusev with a deeper move set. At the same time, Joe is a veteran who has proven himself to be one of the greats of his generation. What good would it do for Joe to debut at the Royal Rumble?
If the powers that be wanted to move him up to the main roster, he deserves to get a real push that included vignettes and promos, not just a spot in the Rumble among 29 other guys.
13 Want - Kazuchika Okada
If you’re reading this blog, you already know that Kazuchika Okada is one of the best in the world and would be a legitimate contender if he showed up at the Royal Rumble. The majority of fans may not know who he is, but it wouldn't take long for that to change once they saw how solid he is in the ring. Seeing as he holds the IWGP championship, one of the most prestigious titles out there, why wouldn't we want to believe that the Rainmaker would want to see how he stacks up with the WWE roster?
Ichiro Suzuki had an amazing career playing baseball in Japan, but was barely known to Americans. When he came to the United States, he became a phenomenon. Okada should do the same, saying hello at the Rumble.
12 Don't – Shaquille O’Neal
Look, I get there’s a bunch of buzz about Shaq vs. Big Show at WrestleMania. I actually would probably enjoy the match when you consider that it’s just an attraction. There’s nothing on the line outside of pride in a match like this. And that’s why I don’t wanna see Shaq in the Royal Rumble. That match means something and there’s a real prize on the line. For Shaq to enter, having wrestled basically no matches in his life, and for him to potentially eliminate guys you want me to take seriously spells disaster.
I guess the match would help conceal how green O’Neal is, but no, just don’t. Let him confront Big Show on RAW or something. God, now that I hear myself say it, that’s not what I want either.
11 Want - Ricochet
There aren't many professional wrestlers in the world today more exciting than Ricochet. The guy puts together strings of high-flying moves and it looks like he's doing them with ease. He's the kind of performer who could carry the Cruiserweight division and put it on the map. He's basically wrestled and won titles for every other promotion in the world and has nothing left to prove outside of making it in WWE. Ricochet is the wrestler that could do the crazy spots we've become accustomed to seeing Kofi Kingston perform to keep from being eliminated.
I can't imagine what sort of awesomeness he could bring to the match. WWE seemed to love his former partner Evan Bourne/Matt Sydal when he was with the company and Ricochet is very much like him.
10 Don't – Shane McMahon
No. Stop. Don’t do it. Enough. Come on already!
Do you think I want to see Shane McMahon in the Royal Rumble? I didn’t care about his match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania. I didn’t watch him as part of Team SmackDown at last year’s Survivor Series. I DON’T CARE ABOUT SHANE MCMAHON! Why does this company keep giving us stupid McMahon storylines all the time? I don’t take Shane seriously against the rest of the roster and he does nothing to garner my attention. He’s never actually participated in the Rumble match which makes me even more leery that he might cross that off the list this year.
Keep Shane O’ Mac in the back where he can play another lame McMahon character which we can at least no pay attention to.
9 Want - Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura is a veteran and he isn't getting any younger. He's soon to be 37 years old, has been wrestling and doing MMA for more than 15 years and much of that has been doing strong style. It's time for Nakamura to make his presence known to the wider WWE universe and doing so as the NXT champion, is the perfect introduction. As champ, his coming in and knocking lower tiers guys out is believable and he doesn't have to even stay on the main roster.
It's great promotion for NXT as well to show that they have guys that need to be taken seriously as those on the main roster. He has history with a lot of guys on RAW and SmackDown and it could be a good way to build a program with someone should they decide to have him drop the belt and get a bump to the main roster.
8 Don't - Bob Backlund
There's always a few legends who make their way into the Rumble and while we all know they stand no shot to win, it's usually fun to see them. I get a strong feeling that this year Backlund is going to enter the Rumble as he's doing that stupid gimmick with Darren Young. I've never been a Backlund fan and can't understand why he was so over and held the WWE title for nearly six years over the course of two reigns. Some of the nostalgia entrants make sense, others not so much.
When Kevin Nash appeared a few years ago, he looked jacked. Backlund is an old man. You wouldn't see a 67-year-old man get a shot to make the Patriots in training camp. Why should this be any different? Make the Rumble Great Again!
7 Want - Nia Jax
Okay, so there have only been three women enter the Rumble (Chyna, Beth Phoenix and Kharma) and Jax should be the next in line. If she only does one thing in the match, can she be the person to eliminate James Ellsworth? Please?! Can we just bury that guy and never see him on the main roster again? WWE has consistently been building Jax as the monster heel of the women's division, why not have her go over some of the guys who you know have no chance to win the Rumble?
Does anyone think Nia Jax eliminating The Ascension or either of The Shining Stars will hurt them at all? They’re already afterthoughts on the broadcast with no chance at main-eventing WrestleMania. It’s the perfect opportunity to keep her looking strong.
6 Don't – Big Show
Would it be a surprise if Show entered the Rumble? Not really. He’s participated in more than a handful of them over the past decade, but has been off WWE TV for an extended period of time. For realsies, I don’t want to see this guy and I can’t imagine anyone else does either. He's flip-flopped between heel and face so many times that he’s impossible to be taken seriously.
If he shows up in the Rumble, he better get dumped over the top rope right away and not send a bunch of dudes out because those guys will effectively be buried. Big Show had a great run, but continue to have him do outreach for WWE and keep him out of the ring. Plus, you gotta keep him fresh for that Shaq match, right? Urghh...
5 Want - CM Punk
I don't think there's anyone whose appearance would be more of a surprise at the Rumble than CM Punk. When he left WWE in 2014 Punk basically torched every bridge that that he walked across. Just a couple weeks ago, Stephanie McMahon shut down Punk chants that broke out during RAW live from Chicago and not in a friendly way. But Punk’s return would give WWE an instant draw and another legitimate title contender no matter which brand he ended up with. Punk vs Owens? Punk vs Styles? A Punk return combined with a Reigns heel turn would print money.
I realize that Punk is the biggest longshot to appear at the Rumble, but really, what else is he doing? He might as well come back for the fans and a huge payday.
4 Don't - Triple H
We haven't seen Triple H the wrestler on WWE TV since he betrayed Seth Rollins on RAW, costing him the Universal title. It looked like we might get the Triple H/Rollins feud that's been bubbling below the surface for the past couple years, but that was a number of months ago and so far, nothing. For Triple H to come out at the Rumble now to kick things off seems like it's a missed opportunity. Does anyone at this point care about that feud? It seems like WWE really missed the boat and having Triple H come back now would hurt the Jericho-Owens, Reigns-Rollins program that's been happening as of late. And does anyone, outside of the boss’ daughter, really want to see Triple H at the top of the WrestleMania card again?
3 Want - Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid may be retired but if there was ever a shot to see him for a quick one off appearance, I think it's at the 2017 Royal Rumble. It's being held in his hometown of San Antonio, he's in great shape as evidenced by his appearance at last year's WrestleMania, and he's been doing some training at the WWE Performance Center. I don't even want to see Michaels in a program after the Rumble, I just want to see him in there for like 20 minutes. Give us a little bit of HBK with Styles or Rollins. Let's see him knock out Jericho. He hasn't participated in a Royal Rumble since 2010 and seriously, who wouldn't love to see HBK compete again? And now that we've seen him talking about the Rumble on Raw, the plot thickens.
2 Don't - Broken Matt Hardy
If Broken Matt Hardy showed up the roof would get blown off the Alamodome, but where does his character go from there? Hardy isn't going to get a title run and while he and Brother Nero would be fun to see in the tag division, I’d bet the characters would be more muted than they are in TNA. Vince McMahon isn't going to have Total Nonstop Deletion on his programming, not the way it was presented by TNA. He left characters like that behind a long time ago and when they do show, they don't really make it. Look at how The Ascension bombed when they came in. Although I do think a Matt Hardy/Stephanie McMahon promo would be good in how bizarre it could be.
1 Want - Kurt Angle
GIVE THIS MAN A FINAL RUN ALREADY, VINCE! Seriously, if there's anyone who needs one last go-round with the WWE it's Angle. The Olympic gold medal winner has done so much in his career and he is sure to end up in the Hall of Fame. As such, let's see what Angle can do one last time. Right now, Rusev is in a terrible storyline with Jinder Mahal. End that garbage with an Angle return in the Rumble to go after the Bulgarian Brute. There's only one place left for Angle to go and it's home to WWE. Sure, this program should have happened a few years ago when Rusev was red-hot instead of the WrestleMania match with John Cena which killed his momentum. It's not like Rusev’s character can get hurt any more than he has in the past couple of years.