One of the most fun aspects of the Royal Rumble match is when someone makes a surprise return, whether it be from an injury, re-signing to the company after taking a leave of absence, or they are a legend who is making a one-off appearance. These things are virtually impossible to predict, but that’s part of what makes them so interesting, as we never quite know who is going to show up. Last year, we had surprises like Bubba Ray Dudley, Diamond Dallas Page and The Boogeyman, and 2016 will no doubt have a handful of tricks up its sleeve.
That being said, who are some of the people you’d like to see make a return as an entrant in the match? Since it’s 2016, I figured I would narrow down my choices to the top 6 of my preferences that I think are within the realm of possibility (as people like Bret Hart and Edge are just not plausible) with one extra longshot just for fun’s sake.
The COO hasn’t been in the ring for a match since last year’s WrestleMania and if you’d believe it, hasn’t participated in a Royal Rumble since 2010. A six-year absence from the Royal Rumble is enough that I think fans would be shocked to hear his theme come on, plus with the current storyline and his feud with Roman Reigns being at the forefront of the company, it just makes sense for him to participate and be one of the top potential winners of the match.
The Phenom wrestled far more in 2015 than I ever would have imagined, judging by his track record from the previous few years beforehand, which means there’s more of a chance that he could appear in the Royal Rumble match than there’s been in a long while. With the lack of star power for this year’s event as well due to the numerous injuries, having someone like The Undertaker involved does nothing but upgrade the quality of the match as well as the credibility of the winner. If the 30 participants are jobbers like Heath Slater and Bo Dallas, who really values the man who beats them all, considering how beatable the other 29 people were? The Undertaker alone is a name that would immediately be considered a potential top five favorite to win and whoever would eliminate him would get a big rub out of it.
To be fair, we don’t know how healthy or unhealthy Sting currently is, so this could be something that is quite likely or it’s something that couldn’t possibly be considered. Working with the assumption that it isn’t 100% guaranteed that he cannot wrestle, how awesome would it be to see Sting compete in a Royal Rumble match? Just like The Undertaker and Triple H, as soon as his music would hit, the crowd would go bananas and he would have to be someone worthy of the final four of the night, if not a potential winner. In this scenario where he’s healthy enough to compete in the Royal Rumble, we would have to also assume he’d be wrestling at WrestleMania, and his inclusion in this match could lead to the feud that would take place there. If we want to talk ideals, just imagine the roof blowing off the place with Sting being the one to eliminate The Undertaker. Now you want it to happen, right?
Like the Sting situation, the status of Daniel Bryan’s injuries play the biggest factor into whether or not he’d be making an appearance in this match. I’m sure if WWE reaches a point where they feel confident in allowing him to get back in the ring, they’d be clamoring for him to return and participate as one of the 30 entrants, but that’s not something we’re able to bet too much on. Bryan himself continually talks about how he’s feeling great during interviews, but WWE won’t clear him. Either he’s blowing it out of proportion and he’s actually not healthy enough to wrestle or he could theoretically get the okay to come back at any time. Let’s hope that the latter is the case and WWE gives us the surprise that we’re all hoping for with Bryan making his return, even if he would likely fail to win for the third time in a row.
Getting a bit more realistic here with someone that I doubt would be on many lists, I personally would love to see Sean Waltman enter the fray at some point in the match. X-Pac was one of my favorites back in the day and while we’ve seen Kevin Nash make his return as Diesel and the New Age Outlaws wrestle their fair share of matches on the main roster, the two missing elements are Razor Ramon and X-Pac. Scott Hall is in no condition to wrestle, unfortunately, but Waltman is still doing his thing, so he’d be a cool name to toss into the middle 10-15 range where people are getting a bit tired and need something to rejuvenate them. He doesn’t need to make a big splash by eliminating a ton of people or anything, but just showing up, hitting a Bronco Buster and an X-Factor, and be one of those guys who hangs around and fills out the ranks.
Just for fun, I’d love to see a quick return from Santino Marella for a comedic spot somewhere during the match. As far as what he could do, I’d prefer to leave that up to him to think up some ideas so I could be surprised, but two of my favorite things that have happened over the past couple of Royal Rumbles were his record-setting elimination time and his Coba vs. Socko fight. One suggestion I would have would be to play somewhat into those strengths and to tie into last year’s Axelmania gimmick, where Curtis Axel claimed to be the man with the longest match time. We could do something that’s never been done before by having Axel start at #1, Santino at #2, and as soon as the match begins, Axel is dumped over the top rope, perhaps beating Santino’s record with Santino being the person responsible for that elimination. Or, alternatively, Marella can just be a goofball at some random point in the match before being tossed out by a serious person like Kevin Owens. Either way, I’m down with seeing him show up in some fashion.
Longshot: Kurt Angle
By no means do I actually believe this is going to happen, but how amazing would it be if it did? Kurt Angle isn’t tied to TNA Wrestling right now and he theoretically could wind up back in WWE at any minute, barring any behind the scenes contractual issues that we’re not privy to. Even though he’s said that he wants to take time off from wrestling, he also indicates repeatedly that he’s interested in a return of some sorts, and I think it’s safe to say the fans would welcome him back with open arms.