Each January, wrestling fans get pumped for a match that only comes around once a year – that match is the Royal Rumble. This isn’t just your typical battle royal match where everyone is trying to throw each over other top rope for no reason; no, this is an opportunity to propel someone to new heights, for a chance at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. It’s a kickoff to the “Road to WrestleMania” and luckily for every wrestling fan, it’s going to happen in less than two weeks.
Typically, this match has thirty spots, which are scooped up by most of the active roster, typically through an announcement by each one. There are a few left open to surprise fans with wrestlers from the past, that were previously injured, or even from other promotions. When done right, this usually gets everyone out of their seats yelling in excitement, or as former WWE announcer Jim Ross would say: “Business is about to pick up!”
So, in the spirit of tradition, let’s do like the crowd does and countdown to the biggest and best surprise entrants for WWE’s Royal Rumble!
10. Edge (2010)
Edge tore his Achilles tendon during a house show match in July of 2009. Most fans weren’t expecting to see Edge for awhile as it was reported he could be out for up to a year.
When he left, Edge was one of WWE’s biggest heels, but thanks to Chris Jericho mocking his surgery, when Edge suddenly showed up in the 29th spot of the 2010 Royal Rumble, he received a hero’s welcome! Going immediately after Jericho, Edge was able to survive until the end and win it all.
9. Kharma (2012)
Kharma’s history with the WWE is relatively short as the Royal Rumble match was her only official one with the company. In mid 2011, she revealed to the WWE Universe that she was pregnant, and would have to take a break for the foreseeable future.
When the 2012 rolled around, fans were stunned to see Kharma show up to the Rumble, not only because she had been gone, but she was only the third woman ever (Chyna and Beth Phoenix are the other two) to be included in this. She eliminated two people (including Michael Cole) and was herself eliminated by Dolph Ziggler.
8. Triple H (2002)
Keeping the trend of “injured superstars” going, Triple H had a match against Chris Jericho where he ended up tearing his left quadriceps muscle completely off the bone, famously still finishing the match, despite the incredible pain. This happened on May 21st, 2001 and kept Triple H out of action for over eight months; the injury was so bad some thought he may never wrestle again.
Well, he did, and made his in-ring debut at the 2002 Royal Rumble, coming out at the twenty-second spot. Triple H took on Austin, who previously was dominating the match, tossing multiple wrestlers out of the ring. Eventually, Triple H eliminated Kurt Angle to become the winner, and went on to win the WWE Undisputed title at WrestleMania 18.
7. Chris Jericho (2013)
After losing his WWE contract in a match with Dolph Ziggler in mid August of 2012, Jericho was forced to leave the WWE. In actuality, he had to go tour the world with his band Fozzy. After about five months, fans began to forget about Y2J and that’s when he decided to come right back into their lives at the 2013 Royal Rumble.
Coming in at number two, Jericho ended up working for over forty-seven minutes before being eliminated by his previous foe, Dolph Ziggler. Jericho has “come back” so many times, that it’s becoming less effective these days, but back in 2013, people were still more than happy to see his light-up jacket shine brightly in the dark.
6. Roddy Piper (2008)
By 2008, Piper’s full time in-ring days were long gone, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still jump in to wrestle from time to time. Well, in the 2008 Royal Rumble, Piper’s spot came one after another old-school wrestler, Jimmy Snuka. There was a massive difference in the reaction each wrestler received; Snuka’s was more of a golf clap, while Piper received an extremely loud pop that carried out all the way until he climbed into the ring.
Everyone else that was in the ring suddenly stopped and let these two go at it for a little bit. While neither were anywhere near “wrestling shape” it was still fun to watch the two guys chop at each other until both were eliminated at the same time by Kane.
5. Rob Van Dam (2009)
Due to burn out from the wrestling business, RVD left the WWE back in 2006 to take a break and heal up. He eventually started making the rounds in the indy wrestling scene, but in early 2009 he decided to come back to the WWE for a special appearance.
Without any advertising, RVD just showed up, much to the crowd’s surprise, destroying almost everyone who was in the ring at the time. He hung around for almost fourteen minutes before eventually being eliminated by Chris Jericho.
4. Booker T (2011)
Booker T left the WWE back in 2007 due to being linked to a company that was selling performance-enhancing drugs; Booker denied ever using this company, and ended up asking for his release from the company soon after. He went off to TNA Wrestling and worked internationally for the next few years, falling very much out of the mindset of most WWE fans.
Then 2011 rolled around, and Booker suddenly came back to the company, joining the match at number 21 – the crowd went absolutely nuts for his return. Unfortunately, he only lasted a minute and was eliminated by Mason Ryan; yes, the Mason Ryan. It’s okay, be honest, you don’t know who he is.
3. Bubba Ray Dudley (2015)
Last year, the Rumble was in Philly, where once Daniel Bryan was eliminated, the crowd became extremely grumpy for the remainder of the match. Before that occurred, WWE smartly booked to the live crowd by bringing out Bubba Ray Dudley at number three, where he did a bunch of the usual Dudley spots with R-Truth. Amazingly, this would be his first ever appearance at the Royal Rumble.
Bubba left the WWE back in 2005 to work in TNA for the next decade, only stopping when he decided TNA was going downhill, and decided to bail on them for greener pastures. Any fan would be happy to see Bubba back in the WWE, but these fans had the added ECW history, so the pop for him was that much bigger. He was eventually eliminated by Bray Wyatt, showing that not every surprise return ends in glory, but for those fleeting moments, each of these wrestlers got to ride a high that must rival actually winning the whole thing.
2. John Cena (2008)
On October 1st, 2007, John Cena was in a match with Mr. Kennedy and while performing a hip toss, he ended up tearing his pectoral muscle completely off the bone, instantly putting him on the injured list.
Initially, Cena was expected to be out for seven to ten months, but was somehow able to return in about four months, catching literally everyone off-guard. He entered at the 30th spot, so ultimately his time in the ring was shorter than some, but he did have an epic mini-battle against Triple H, eventually tossing him out and winning the Rumble. This might sound like a tired formula of having an injured wrestler return and win, but it works with the fans every single time.
1. Diesel (2011)
2011 was a good year for legendary returns as the man, Kevin Nash, hadn’t been in WWE since he left in 2004, going off to TNA for the next few years. Topping that, the gimmick of Diesel hadn’t been seen since 1996, so needless to say, when the big man stepped out and put on his black glove, everyone in the arena exploded with cheers.
Diesel fared a bit better than Booker T, as he lasted almost three minutes, eventually being eliminated by Wade Barrett. Nash ended up signing a Legends Contract with WWE, making random appearances ever since then, including feuds with CM Punk and Triple H.