WWE’s Road to WrestleMania begins next Sunday at WWE Royal Rumble 2016. The main event of WWE’s annual January PPV is a 30-man battle royal. Unlike years past, the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns, has been forced to defend his title in a Royal Rumble match. Over the years, the WWE Universe has grown accustomed to the Rumble serving as the return match for WWE Superstars who have taken a break for whatever reason, or for WWE to debut talent that they just acquired, or has graduated from their developmental system.
With WWE’s biggest star — John Cena — out of action alongside other big names like Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and Cesaro, who could WWE be planning to surprise the fans with at this year’s Royal Rumble? There have been a few big names rumored to be making a return as an entrant in the Rumble Match. Below is a quick look at those who have been on the dirt sheets and if there seems to be any validity to their possible inclusion on January 24.
— WWE (@WWE) January 17, 2016
As Cageside Seats noted, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has already been booked for WrestleMania 32; although, his role and level of participation have yet to be determined. WWE hopes to make this year’s Mania the biggest of all time, which could mean putting The Rock in the main event as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, as they did for WrestleMania 29 when The Rock defended the title against John Cena in the main event. The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar or even The Rock vs. Roman Reigns could make for a WrestleMania main event that could provide easy mainstream coverage. Unfortunately, for those who hope to see a return of “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment,” there have not been any indications that WWE plans on bringing The Rock back before WrestleMania in Dallas.
Then again, that’s the whole point of a surprise.
— Cageside Seats (@cagesideseats) January 16, 2016
As Roman Reigns continues to feud with The Authority, it has been heavily rumored that Triple H could make a surprise return to the ring to try to take the title from The Big Dog with a Rumble victory. If WWE is truly hoping to book Roman Reigns vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 32, the easiest way to book that story is with Triple H taking home the gold at Royal Rumble and defending against Reigns in April. The same Forbes article suggests that The Rock won’t be competing at WrestleMania at all, which would make Triple H a much more likely candidate than The Rock.
While he hasn’t even made an appearance at the Rumble since 2010, the Undertaker has competed at WrestleMania for the last sixteen years. Assuming things go as planned and he wrestles at least one more Mania match, why couldn’t he start his program with a return in the Rumble match? If Undertaker enters late, he can be eliminated by his future WrestleMania opponent, thus using the elimination to begin the program’s story. Still a part of the WWE roster as a part-time wrestler, WWE could use the Dead Man to pull a big swerve. However, as What Culture point out, using the Phenom as anything other than the winner of the 30-man battle royal would really lower his value for a match-up at WM32.
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) January 15, 2016
Regarding a Daniel Bryan surprise return, “doth protest too much” may come to mind when reviewing news available to the Internet Wrestling Community. Reports continue to come through that Daniel Bryan won’t be allowed to compete in the Rumble match, despite being cleared by his doctors to compete. There was even a false rumor going around that WWE would be releasing Bryan soon. WWE loves to pull one over on the IWC. Could that be the case at the 2016 Royal Rumble with a surprise Daniel Bryan return?
Even since news broke that members of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Bullet Club would be heading to NXT, fans have been speculating as to whether they’d be making their return as entrants in the Royal Rumble match. The most recognizable name to American wrestling fans, A.J. Styles, has been keeping his name in everyone’s minds regarding the Rumble. At a Revolution Pro Wrestling event, A.J. Styles cut a promo in which he teased being a Royal Rumble match entrant. While it would surely cause a raucous among the IWC, an unannounced debut may not go over well with the mainstream WWE Universe that is less familiar with Styles, who was most successful domestically in TNA.
AJ Styles Potentially Reveals WWE Royal Rumble Involvement !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! https://t.co/3uCicziPyC
— Natalie Keegan (@natsislost) January 17, 2016
Finally, the WWE has a ton of talent at Full Sail University that would be more than willing to take a Rumble match spot. The most obvious choice would be Finn Balor, the current NXT Champion and winner of the NXT Male Competitor of the Year and Overall Competitor of the Year, as voted by the WWE Universe. Samoa Joe could also be called up, which would be really interesting if fellow former TNA star A.J. Styles also debuted. Sami Zayn has already made an appearance on the main roster in a match against John Cena, and word has it that Triple H is really big on Baron Corbin.
— Slice Wrestling Ent (@ENTSLICE) January 16, 2016
Some of the most enjoyable Royal Rumble moments have come when unexpected entrants make their way through the current as part of the most important battle royal of the year. With the stakes as high as they’ve ever been, it would make sense to see living legends like The Rock, Triple H or Undertaker make a surprise return. The Daniel Bryan rumors could all be a work, and the teasing of A.J. Styles could prove to lead to his eventual debut. The WWE Royal Rumble airs live on the WWE Network on Sunday, January 24, at 8/7c.
[Photo by Getty Images/Dimitrios Kambouris]