With 60 wrestlers in action Jan. 28, only so many spots are available to the active roster. Some of the best moments in every Royal Rumble come with the shock of returns and surprises. In today’s breakdown, we try to keep things realistic. CM Punk, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan are not going to appear in our predictions.
Legends and Familiars Return
- Kurt Angle – Who cares if it makes no sense in terms of storylines? Did it make any sense when Angle joined the Shield for a half hour? WWE has been protective in its booking of Angle since his return to television. The Royal Rumble is another perfect opportunity to use him without asking too much of him. Whatever WWE has planned for Angle at WrestleMania, the Rumble is a good place to start
- Beth Phoenix – Trish Stratus and Lita feel more expected entries than actual “surprises” at this point. Phoenix is as close to the company as ever after rightfully taking her place in last year’s Hall of Fame class. Phoenix twice discussed her passion for what is happening in the women’s division right now on E & C’s Pod of Awesomeness, and recently joined the broadcast team for the upcoming Mixed Match Challenge. A Phoenix and Natalia clash at the Royal Rumble? Yes please. The Glamazon paved the way for powerful women like Nia Jax. She already has Rumble experience, too.
- The Great Khali – Time will tell on whether Jinder Mahal will be in the Rumble or a competitor for the United States title. Either way, Khali is clearly on good terms with the company after his cameo the last time WWE took a network special to Philadelphia – Battleground. Let the superstars in the ring freak out when the 7-foot-1 Punjabi playboy hits the ring. Let Khali chop someone’s face and dance. Let someone like Randy Orton get some revenge for Battleground with an RKO. Let a young guy get some steam by eliminating the tallest man in the match.
- Obligatory ECW Hat Tip – Guys like Rhyno should get a great reaction from the fans in the Rumble, but there is no way it stops there. While Bully Ray retired at Ring of Honor, does Bubba Ray make one more appearance? Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and Shane Douglas have all been in the ring for House of Hardcore in the last month. Some other names to keep in mind – Stevie Richards, D-Von Dudley, Sabu and (we wish) Rob Van Dam. This is not exclusive to the men because any former ECW woman’s competitor who shows up would be great for crowd reaction.
NXT Call Ups and Cameos
- Hideo Itami – Technically not a call up, but it makes a lot of sense to get the Japanese star back on PPV. We have not seen the true master of the GTS on a main roster network special since his WrestleMania 31 cameo. WWE already shown some faith in Itami when he teamed with Finn Balor in a surprise debut. Keep it up, because any fan of Kenta Kobayashi can tell you there is more to this character than a cruiserweight title shot.
- Lars Sullivan – Remember when Rusev showed up and made a splash in before his full debut? Do it again. It is clear that Sullivan is in for a big run in NXT this year, but get the main roster fans excited about him early. One day, when Braun Strowman or Roman Reigns is out of fresh opponents, there will be a lot of buzz about a clash between freak and monster. Philly will explode for this one.
- Kairi Sane – With the need to fill out 30 women, we should expect multiple competitors from the Mae Young Classic. Sarah Logan is already in as a member of the Riot Squad. While the winner of the tournament develops in NXT, why not give her a first chance in front of the main-roster audience. Sane loses nothing if eliminated, and it gives other NXT women even more storyline jealousy after whatever happens the night prior on NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia. Some other Mae Young contestants that fit perfectly here: Serena Deeb, Candice LeRae, Piper Niven and (depending on longterm WWE plans) Shayna Baszler.
- Kassius Ohno – Philadelphia would explode for the artist formerly known as Chris Hero. Ever since CM Punk teased the idea of Ohno ahead of Roman Reigns in the original Shield, fans wondered “what if.” Ohno has been a good solider, and puts on strong match after strong match since his return last year to NXT. It appears that the primary NXT storylines do not have Ohno as a key component right now, so why not give him a little reward for so many years in developmental and see how things go? Philadelphia is a safe place to try it.