8 Most Memorable Royal Rumble Surprises Ever

4 months ago by johnuary@hotmail.com

8 Most Memorable Royal Rumble Surprises Ever

It is that time of year again that even the most curmudgeonly wrestling fan lightens up a little and looks forward.

No, not WrestleMania season – not quite yet anyway, but maybe Royal Rumble…cycle? Phase? Let’s keep workshopping that.

A lot of that excitement boils down to the simple pleasure of watching that countdown clock approach zero and unveil the next entrant into the marquee match of WWE’s January pay-per-view…sorry, premium live event.

Sometimes, with the greatest of respect, it’s not much of a surprise and out trudges Jerry Lawler or The Boogeyman.

But ever so occasionally we get a sign that WWE does care about its audiences and springs a true surprise that really catches everyone by surprise. Here are some of the best from down the years.

8. Kharma (2012)

Kia “Awesome Kong” Stevens short run with WWE is one of wrestling’s big ‘what-ifs.’ After running riot in TNA for years there was plenty of excitement Stevens signed with WWE.

Vignettes ran prior to her debut revealing a new ring name – Kharma. That was followed by repeated attacks on Divas Champion Michelle McCool.

No one expected what came next. Kharma broke down in tears on an episode of Raw. She later revealed she was pregnant and taking a leave of absence.

Fast forward to the 2012 Rumble match. Fans popped big-time when Kharma marched to the ring and were delighted to see her.

Her appearance lasted only a minute but was low-key one of the great Rumble moments of all time.

7. Mr. Perfect (2002)

Sometimes WWE/WWF will wait until the entrant’s music hits in the arena for the surprise to blindside the audience. On rare occasions they might promote a special entrant in advance.

This has happened in the case of both Mickie James and Lita, whose involvement in this year’s match was going to be kept secret at first.

It was a similar story in 2002 where “Mr Perfect” Curt Hennig was mentioned online in the build up to the big day.

It did not take away the enjoyment factor and fans were over the moon to hear that familiar, classical-style music.

Out walked Perfect who had quit the Federation six years earlier for WCW. He had last worked a WWF match all the way back in 1993.

Ironically, one of the men in the ring as Perfect entered was Triple-H, his former on-screen protégé.

It turned out to be a bittersweet swansong for Hennig. His strong performance and the crowd reaction earned him a new contract. Sadly he was released four months later and died the following year.

6. Roddy Piper (2008)

Nostalgia is a big part of why the best surprise entrants into the Rumble work so well.

That was the case in 2008 when WWE returned to its spiritual home – Madison Square Garden.

MSG’s connection to the ‘rock-n-wrestling’ years made it the perfect place to add some familiar faces into the mix.

First up was 64-year-old Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. He was followed by one-time rival “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a sprightly 53.

Of course, both men were barely mobile and WWE did the right thing having Kane dump them out after a minute.

Watch closely and you will see CM Punk watching with a smile. Proves you never stop being a kid.

5. The Three Faces of Foley (1998)

Mick Foley has picked up a lot of accolades in his lifetime. As many know he is the only person to enter the same Rumble match more than once – three times in fact.

Even better, he did so in three different gimmicks: Mankind, Dude Love, and Cactus Jack.

Foley got all three characters over independently and would switch back and forth between all three as storylines dictated.

It made perfect sense that all three characters would appear. And so they did: Cactus Jack at number 1, Mankind at 16, and finally Dude Love at 28.

It is a surprise that WWE has not tried to emulate the marvellous moment in the years that have passed.

To do so would require someone to develop an organic following of not just one or two but three different personae. It makes Foley’s achievement all the more impressive.

4. Ronda Rousey (2018)

Rousey was not an entrant into a Rumble match on this occasion but is certainly a surprise worthy of inclusion.

Speculation about former UFC fighter Rousey wrestling into a WWE ring had been rife for a while after guest appearances at shows dating back to 2014.

That possibility was confirmed when Rousey interrupted the aftermath of the first ever women’s Rumble match in 2018.

Asuka had won the inaugural event before being joined by Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss, holders of the two women’s titles at the time, apparently about to pick which title she intended to challenge for.

Instead, the strains of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” rung around the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and the worst kept secret in wrestling was here.

In case anyone was still not clear, Rousey did what all WWE main eventers do at some point in their lives and pointed to the WrestleMania sign.

What followed was a whirlwind 14 months that included a brilliant debut, a lengthy title reign, engaging feuds, and a WrestleMania main event to boot. Not bad!

3. AJ Styles (2016)

Sometimes things just fit. That was definitely the case when AJ Styles made his long-awaited WWE debut (minus a few shows in 2002) at the 2016 Royal Rumble.

Styles came through the curtain at number three and fans were ecstatic to see the “Phenomenal One” make his entrance.

Styles enjoyed a renaissance after ending his nearly 12-year association with TNA at the end of 2013.

He seized the opportunity to reinvent himself and took as many bookings as possible.

Then he worked extensively in the States and in the UK, as well as redefining as IWGP Heavyweight Champion and leader of the Bullet Club in New Japan.

That left one final frontier uncharted. Many fans were united in their curiosity to see how Styles might fair in the ‘land of the giants.’

He did not disappoint. Styles was immediately plunged into a face-off with WWE Champion Roman Reigns and has not looked back. The past six years have positively flown by.

2. Edge (2020)

It is harder than ever in the days of social media, smartphones and non-stop news to keep a secret.

For a business such as pro wrestling which is predicated on surprises, myths, and mystery that can sometimes pose something of a problem. Nothing stays secret for long these days.

As far back as October 2019, wrestling news sites were reporting that Edge might be nearing a WWE in-ring return.

It was a sensational prospect given that Adam Copeland was forced to retire at the age of just 37 in 2011 due to legitimate neck injuries and seemed done for good.

Then the rumblings started. Eventually, Copeland felt obliged to issue a quick but clear statement on Twitter denying any such activity was in the works.

Thankfully, it was just a ruse and the Royal Rumble 2020 arrived. With it, confirmation that he had been cleared for action. Edge was back!

1. John Cena (2008)

Some of the best Royal Rumble match surprises are active wrestlers returning from injury.

An honourable mention on that front for Triple-H, who returned at the 2002 Rumble after missing the whole ‘Invasion’ saga.

Perhaps the most spectacular Rumble return was that of John Cena in 2008.

The surprise 30th entrant was an ever-present member of the roster and the face of the company.

That was until he suffered a torn pectoral muscle on the 1 October 2007 episode of Raw.

Cena was forced to vacate the WWE Title which he had held for more than a year at that point.

At the time it was speculated that he might be on the shelf for six months to a year, essentially keeping him off television until at least WrestleMania.

When that familiar song boomed over the sound system at Madison Square Garden, the arena erupted.

He may not have always been the most popular or beloved member of the WWE roster over the years but on this night, the champ was well and truly here.

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