Normally, with every pay-per-view event, I like to do a breakdown of the noteworthy superstars who haven’t been booked for the card, but with the Royal Rumble, you can never be sure just who is going to appear. With that in mind, the only people that we know for sure are being kept out of the mix are the wrestlers who are unfortunately injured and will likely be out of capacity for many months, making their timetable for returning unlikely for the Royal Rumble.
Crazier things have happened, but generally speaking, we can place our bets that the following people won’t be on the card, and their absence will definitely be felt. Let’s take a look at the stars who will be sitting at home come Royal Rumble time.
Daniel Bryan was kept out of the 2014 Royal Rumble for some reason, as WWE wanted to go with Batista for their winner and the opponent for Randy Orton. As history now shows, they would be forced to acknowledge their mistake and would change their minds, eventually undermining Batista’s victory and finding a backwards loophole-type way into effectively giving Bryan the win he deserved from the beginning. Funny enough, in 2015, WWE would yet again go into the Royal Rumble with someone else in mind, much to the ire of the fans. For that event, it could be justified more, but WWE would still do a poor job of booking Bryan in the match, to disastrous results.
This time around in 2016, Bryan is yet again injured, but signs don’t seem to be pointing towards his return like last year. It’s up in the air as to whether or not he’ll ever wrestle again period, let alone participate in the Royal Rumble match. This is a shame, as Bryan could have been a big star to help bulk out the 30-man match with notable names. If the story was different and he was back in action several months ago, fans would no doubt be expecting him to be one of the top potential choices to win and go on to defend the title at WrestleMania, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, nor should it be, considering his history of being injured. Even if he wouldn’t win the belt, he still would have provided a good example of a fan favorite that could be rooted for, and his absence leaves a gaping hole.
Speaking of fan favorites, Cesaro was just starting to finally get some traction for a solid push before he went down with an injury. This happened at the worst possible time, as he could have spent the late fall having a solid upper midcarder run and building him up to be a potential dark horse to win the Royal Rumble (at least before the title was put on the line). At the very least, Cesaro would have been able to provide quality entertainment as someone who could come into the match early and last quite a while, since he’s proven to have uncanny stamina in the past—just look at his series of uppercuts.
Cesaro may not have been anywhere near in the running to win the match as far as WWE’s creative team would be concerned, but you would have to imagine his stock would rise somewhat with an impressive elimination or something that would then help lead to a decent match at WrestleMania, as opposed to him probably missing the biggest show of the year.
Although Tyson Kidd wasn’t in as good of a position as Cesaro when his injury happened, he is still someone who would have been a valuable asset to the Royal Rumble match. People often only give credit to the winners, and it’s easy to forget the 29 other people involved, but that shouldn’t be the case. Without people like Tyson Kidd to fill out the ranks, the match itself would be boring and we’d just be counting down the seconds until someone big enough to clean house would come in.
Kidd is one of those quintessential guys who can come in at an early number and help liven things up when the match starts to get a little tiresome around entrant #11. By then, the novelty of new entrants has worn off a bit and there usually aren’t a ton of important people in the match, so the attention of the crowd is spread out evenly among various midcarders. There’s only 90 seconds to make an impact and wow the audience or bore them, and someone like Kidd has shown in the past that he can jump into this type of match with a lot of energy, have some fun, and then be a worthwhile guy to be tossed out by someone more important.
Here is another case of someone who definitely wouldn’t have been eliminating people left and right, but that doesn’t mean he is better off in his current position. The odd situation with Sin Cara is that his injury could end up actually benefiting Kalisto in the long run, separating the two of them and allowing for WWE to be more serious with a push for the still-active half of The Lucha Dragons. However, on the flip side of things, WWE could look at this the wrong way and end up tossing Kalisto to the wolves.
With the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line, Kalisto stands no chance, but he had a slight edge over someone like Sin Cara. If both of them were in the match and one of them looked stronger than the other, it would be Kalisto getting the featured “OMG he looked like he was about to be eliminated but he hung in there” moment while Sin Cara would be fodder for a bigger guy like Rusev or Sheamus to just toss out with ease. With Sin Cara not competing in the match, WWE might put that responsibility on Kalisto to fill the void. After all, the primary focal point story of this match is going to be about Roman Reigns and the title, not the typical Royal Rumble fun. They will need to set up a couple heels to look strong so they appear to be big challenges for Reigns to overcome (or just fall short of overcoming) at the end. To do that, they have to eliminate people—many people—and a guy like Kalisto only could have avoided that if Sin Cara had also been in the mix. That way, it would have been a philosophy of not needing to outrun the bear, but being faster than the person you’re with so the bear eats them. Sin Cara would have taken the hit, and now that responsibility could fall on Kalisto.