I can’t help but feel like I’m not particularly excited for this year’s Royal Rumble event. Despite the sheer wealth of talent that will be entering this year’s Rumble match, it just feels bland, there’s no intrigue or hype surrounding either the men’s or women’s 30 person battle royal. I honestly couldn’t care less about who’s going to WrestleMania this year.
Regardless, we can at least be guaranteed an exciting hour of wrestling when the two Rumble matches come around. They’re fun, chaotic and can deliver a cracking surprise every now and then. In fact, the surprise factor of who could show up in amongst the 30 participants is one of the biggest reasons wrestling fans of past and present are drawn back in for Rumble season.
So let’s have a go at running down 5 potential surprise entrants for this year’s Royal Rumble event. Should any of these names come sprinting down that ramp in Houston, then it’ll take this event from being a simmer to a full-blown extravaganza.
1. Cain Velasquez
With the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar opting to enter this year’s Rumble as the number one entrant, speculation immediately started flying regarding who might be the first man to step up to ‘The Beast Incarnate’. Naturally, many predictions were for one of Lesnar’s greatest rivals: Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez recently stepped into the squared circle in an curtain-jerking title match with Brock at WWE’s last Saudi show. Unfortunately the match didn’t quite live up to the hype of the blockbuster box-office attraction. It felt like a prolonged prelude to the inevitable rematch between the two former UFC fighters, an attuned wrestling fan might have already penned them to be a WrestleMania main event. So how are they going to go about setting up this huge rematch? Well, I guess it’ll be the Rumble.
Cain wouldn’t necessarily be a total shocker of a surprise entrant, but it would be a lot of fun seeing him beat down Lesnar and eliminate him early on in the match. Otherwise we might be doomed to an hour long ‘Bork smash’ fest.
2. Matt Riddle
Speaking of renowned former UFC fighters, NXT’s Matt Riddle is another potential surprise entrant for this year’s Rumble match. NXT have provided a long list of talent for Rumble surprises, ranging from Adam Cole to Rhea Ripley. All of them have been given a warm welcome by the Rumble audience, a typically smarky cohort of the WWE Universe who tend to enjoy the goings-on of NXT. So for this year, we turn to ‘The Original Bro’ to get a small taste of the main roster as part of the 30-man match.
Riddle could easily score a couple of eliminations, positioning him as one of the top talents of the black and gold brand and a threat to the main roster stars if and when he makes the jump to RAW or SmackDown Live. Maybe Riddle will even get his long-awaited chance to ‘retire’ Brock Lesnar. Whichever way you look at it, Matt Riddle would be a really interesting addition to the fray.
3. Shayna Baszler
‘The Submission Magician’ dropped her NXT Women’s Championship to Rhea Ripley on the final NXT episode of the decade. It was a huge moment and a perfect swansong for Baszler as part of the third brand. Even though the majority of NXT stars have moved on from the idea of transitioning onto the main roster, it seems like a natural move for Baszler to make a dive into the main roster and start rebuilding herself as a force to be reckoned with.
Shayna has been laying the foundations for a feud with Becky Lynch. Since defeating both her and Bayley at Survivor Series in the show’s main event, many fans have been anticipating a singles bout between Baszler and ‘The Man’ at this year’s WrestleMania. It would be a huge attraction, and could definitely be worth setting up as part of this year’s Women’s Rumble.
Baszler could easily wipe out the majority of the main roster, following her dominant reign of terror in NXT and her equally impressive run during the brand warfare angle at Survivor Series. Shayna must be entering as one of the, if not the bookies favourites come Rumble weekend.
4. Nia Jax
Again, not a huge surprise for the Women’s Rumble match, but definitely one that could affect the landscape of the Women’s division. Nia Jax’s comeback has been teased in recent weeks, but she has yet to be given an official return date. You can only assume that those on the injured reserve list are kept on the sidelines until Rumble season for the sake of a short-lived wave of momentum, something that Nia could definitely do with heading into her next run.
Nia Jax had a pretty memorable Rumble night, entering the men’s Rumble match at number 30. Nia became the third woman in history to be included in a male Rumble match, whilst also making the biggest impact by going toe-to-toe with WWE veteran, Randy Orton. So there’s precedent for Jax to make a comeback in either of the two Rumble matches. But perhaps WWE shouldn’t start making a trope out of this.
Nia could easily fit into one of the two Women’s championship pictures for WrestleMania season. She doesn’t have to win the Rumble match, as that victory will probably be reserved for either Ronda or Shayna, but she could make a big enough impression to put her in the conversation for the show of shows.
5. John Cena
John Cena is undoubtedly one of the biggest WWE superstars of all time. At this point, the majority of the WWE Universe would genuinely be surprised if the former 16-time World Champion were to show up for a one-night-only appearance at the Royal Rumble this year. Even though rumours are circulating of a potential WrestleMania programme being written for Cena this year, there’s nothing to suggest that we’ll see him anytime soon. So what better time for Cena to make his return and instantly return to his former stature.
Cena would be an absolute show-stealer, whether he won or lost in the Rumble match, he’d be the talk of the wrestling world. Everyone would be suspecting his next rival, fans will start booking him into championship matches and we’d be returning to the status quo set in the 2010’s.
Nobody can deny that they’d mark out for the leader of the Cenation at this year’s Rumble event.
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