The Royal Rumble pay-per-view is one of the most exciting WWE events of the entire year. Each January, 30 superstars have an opportunity to become the number one contender for the world championship and main event WWE’s biggest event, WrestleMania. While typically there are only a few worthy candidates to actually win the match, the fans are oftentimes salivating over the potential of an old face popping up as an entrant. Over the years, there have been many occasions where fans erupt over a surprise entrant in the match.
In 2013, Dolph Ziggler was the first person to enter the Royal Rumble match. He grabbed a microphone and arrogantly called out the second entrant. Out comes Chris Jericho to a resounding ovation.
2011 saw two entrants who generated a pleasant surprise from the audience. After a four-year absence and a stint with TNA, Booker T returned to the WWE by way of the Royal Rumble match. Not only was the crowd extremely elated, but so was color commentator Matt Striker.
“This is what pay-per-view is all about because you never know! This is a mark-out moment. I’m marking out bro!”
On the same night, former WWE Champion Diesel returned as entrant number 32 to yet another resounding ovation. This was his first time back in a WWE ring since 2003.
Interestingly, this was the first and only time that there were 40 participants in the Royal Rumble match. Alberto Del Rio would go on to win the match but was unsuccessful in his WrestleMania 27 World Heavyweight Championship bout against Edge.
It would seem that WWE is due to have another 40-man Royal Rumble match since there are now other brands under the umbrella, such as NXT, the cruiserweight division, and also the newly-acquired United Kingdom division. However, according to Dave Meltzer, this concept will most likely never return due to WWE realizing that it was a bad idea.
When asked why WWE only did the 40-man Royal Rumble once, seeing how they now have NXT and the brand split, he replied, “The idea at the time is that it didn’t work well.”
There is some validity to this statement based on the notion that there are only a few people who actually have a chance of winning every year anyway. However, the 2011 roster was full of talent who could have used a Royal Rumble victory to catapult their career and main event WrestleMania. Names include Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk (who was leading The Nexus at the time), Dolph Ziggler, and John Morrison. Randy Orton was able to last until number 38 before he was eliminated by Alberto Del Rio.
While Santino Marella ended up being the runner-up — one of the most comical moments in Royal Rumble history — he had no chance of winning the match and fell in the runner-up position because many in the match thought he was already eliminated.
If there is any year that would make sense for it to be 40 participants in the Royal Rumble, 2017 would be the one. While only a few are likely to win every year, there are many times that the match allows someone to have an impressive showing that helps them gain credibility outside the match. Names such as Rusev, AJ Styles, Kane, Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho, Curt Hennig, and Kurt Angle never won a Royal Rumble match, but each could say that there was a time that they appeared in the bout which helped propel their career afterward.
Currently, there is a list of names who can be booked to have an impressive showing at the 2017 Royal Rumble, whether they win it or not.
[Featured Image by WWE]