Top 10: Royal Rumble Surprise Returns

January is a special time in the world of Wrestling. The road to WrestleMania begins and some of the biggest and best storylines and matches start to form around the turn of the new year. There is no better feeling as a wrestling fan when you’re watching the WWE Royal Rumble live and the excitement starts to build as you try to guess who’s next, the countdown happens and then the entrance music hits…

Here are my personal top 10 times of when that music has shocked me to the core and left me open mouthed with shock at the return that I am witnessing.



  1. ‘Mr Perfect’ Curt Hennig – 2002

After spending the previous 5 years down in WCW, Mr. Perfect made his surprise WWE Return in the 2002 Royal Rumble match. He entered at number 25 and made the final three, before being eliminated by eventual winner Triple H. He only lasted another 4 months in WWE however, as he was released in May due to his involvement in the infamous ‘Plane Ride From Hell’ where a number of controversial, alcohol fuelled incidents occurred, his fight with Brock Lesnar caused the termination of his contract. He sadly died less than a year later in February 2003, aged just 44, and I was there in person to witness his posthumous 2007 Hall of Fame induction the night before Wrestlemania 23.


  1. Kharma – 2012

Best known from her time in TNA as Awesome Kong, Kharma was one of the first major acquisitions from Triple H when he took over as an executive. She became pregnant though not long after her debut, and so her WWE career was cut pretty short. She made a surprise return to WWE at the 2012 Royal Rumble event, becoming the third woman to ever enter the match and even eliminated Hunico (now portraying Sin Cara) and was eliminated quickly by Dolph Ziggler. This marked her last appearance in WWE and she asked for her release a few months later.

  1. Booker T – 2011

In 2011, the Royal Rumble had 10 extra places added, to become a 40 man event, it was the first and last time that happened. There were two very big surprises that night, Booker T being the first, after being in TNA for the three years previous to this, he cleaned house and even treated the crowd to a spinaroonie, before being eliminated by Nexus member Mason Ryan. He has since become a commentator, and play by play announcer for the WWE Network and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame two years later in 2013.

  1. Mankind and Dude Love – 1998

In 1998, Mick Foley was competing mostly as Cactus Jack, and was announced as a Royal Rumble participant in that year, entering at number 1. His tag partner Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) entered at #2 and eliminated Cactus Jack. But this wasn’t the last we saw of Mrs Foley’s Baby Boy in this match. A while later the countdown was on to entrant #16 and the music of Mankind hits, and he comes out and eliminates Charlie. He was then eliminated by Goldust. Then fast forward to #28, the third face of Foley, Dude Love, entered the match, and lasted until the final four alongside The Rock, Stone Cold and Faarooq. He was the first wrestler to appear more than once in a rumble match. Foley is more recently the General Manager of Raw. He is due to have hip surgery at some point so, it’s unknown how much longer he will be around.

  1. Chris Jericho – 2013

Usually there will be vignettes galore when Chris Jericho makes a return or an appearance in WWE, but to our surprise there was nothing, and when Dolph Ziggler was standing in the ring in 2013 awaiting the second entrant in the Royal Rumble match, he was as surprised as anyone when the lights went out and Jericho’s music hit, especially having ‘ended’ Jericho’s career the previous summer. Y2J lasted 45 minutes in the match, and put in an incredible performance. He is currently in the main event scene on Raw, and recently won the United States Championship, the only title which had eluded him throughout his illustrious career, and it meant that he became a ‘Grand Slam Champion’. Giving the first ever undisputed champion (he beat The Rock and Stone Cold on the same night, you know!) his place in history, and more substance to his self proclaimed persona as ‘The Greatest of All Time.’

  1. Rob Van Dam – 2009

RVD Left WWE in 2007, after six years as one of the most popular superstars to come out of the ‘Invasion’ angle in 2001. During his hiatus he would spend his time working on the independent scene and then moving to TNA. During this hiatus he actually made a surprise and unannounced return in the 2009 Royal Rumble match, coming in at #25 to one hell of an ovation, he lasted 13 mins before being eliminated by Jericho. He is one of the best Hardcore Champions in WWE History, and is frequently linked with a return to the company. Don’t be surprised if he is one of the entrants this coming Sunday.

  1. Bubba Ray Dudley – 2015

Ten years previous to this The Dudley Boyz competed in their last WWE Match, they went to TNA and wrestled as ‘Team 3D’ for a number of years and Bubba’s ‘Bully Ray’ character actually made it as TNA World Heavyweight Champion twice in 2013. When the 2015 Royal Rumble match was announced as emulating from Philadeliphia PA, the home of ECW, there were rumblings that a few old ECW names would be part of the match. Bubba Ray Dudley was not the first name you would have thought of, which made his appearance at #3 even more shocking and special. Not only that, it was actually his first, and only ever Royal Rumble match, as he was always too busy throwing other Tag Teams through tables with D-Von (who has also never ever been in a Rumble match.)

  1. Edge – 2010

Six months previously, the ‘Rated R Superstar’ was on the shelf with a torn achilles. His then tag partner, Chris Jericho kept calling him weak and replaced him as champion with The Big Show. WWE were very quiet about his recovery from the injury and thus making it even more surprising when he came out at #29 in the Rumble and in the process surprising the entire building, eliminating Chris Jericho, and eventually eliminating John Cena, to win the entire thing, and head to WrestleMania, where he would lose to Chris Jericho. Since then, Edge has won multiple World titles, married Beth Phoenix, fathered two children been forced to retire from wrestling and taken up his place in the WWE Hall of Fame.  

  1. Diesel – 2011

Remember me talking about the 2011 Royal Rumble, being 40 entrants, and Booker T being a surprise entrant? Well he wasn’t the only one… as the countdown kicked in towards entrant #32, no one at all could have guessed that Diesel would be the man whose music would hit. Donning the singlet of Big Daddy Cool, for the first time in over 15 years, he was eliminated by Wade Barrett, and went on to sign a Five year legends deal with WWE. He became NXT Commissioner at one point, and even made a second return to the Rumble in 2014, becoming one of Roman Reigns’ 12 victims. Like most of the names here. Nash has also gone on to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, under his Diesel persona.

  1. John Cena2008

Most probably THE most famous return in Royal Rumble history, three months previous to this, John Cena had been injured and forced to relinquish the WWE title, the fans were told he would need 7 Months ‘on the shelf’ meaning Rumble and ‘Mania were both a miss for him. But this is ‘Super Cena’ we’re talking about, the scene was set, ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena,’ Madison Square Garden. Twenty nine men had entered the match, and there was time for one more. The countdown kicks in, and to the shock of every single man, woman and child present in that arena, John Cena’s music hits and there he was! The Garden went INSANE! With no previous mention of him even being in contention to make the match, everyone was shocked to see him show up. He ended up coming out, clearing house and winning the whole damn thing! Cena is now just one WWE title win away from equalling Ric Flair’s record of 16. Don’t be surprised to see this happen sooner, rather than later.

Thank You for reading this, and we look forward to many surprises in the next Royal Rumble!

If you would like more Rebellious Noise coverage on WWE then check out the Talk and Beans podcast and our RN YouTube channel for more Wrestling content such as our interviews with Willam Regal, Finn Balor, Neville and Robbie Brookside below;