The 2017 Royal Rumble is finally here. A long-standing Rumble tradition is to have a few surprise entrants on hand. They’re often past superstars, wrestlers from other federations, or celebrities who are also big WWE fans. 24 wrestlers have been confirmed for the match, which leaves six open spots for some possible shockers. So we’ve compiled a list of six people who could possibly be among tonight’s unannounced entrants.
6. Samoa Joe
The former TNA champion is currently in NXT, where he’s held that title as well. His 17-year career has been an impressive one, also consisting of stints in Ring of Honor, UPW, and several independent federations. He’s been with NXT since May 2015, so it’s about time for one of the most popular stars in TNA history to be called up to WWE’s main roster.
5. Ronda Rousey
The most badass woman in the history of the UFC also happens to be a huge WWE fan. She even appeared at WrestleMania 31, helping the Rock take on the Authority. The queen of the octagon would fit right in with the restructured women’s division, now that they’re more focused on being athletes than eye candy. Rousey has long been rumored to transition to WWE after her UFC career is over, and many fans believe it’s just a matter of time before she appears. And if there’s any woman who could hold her own in the ring with 29 men, it’s Rowdy herself – a nickname bestowed on her by the legendary Roddy Piper.
4. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura’s meteoric popularity is matched only by his insane talent. Starting his career in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he also spent time in MMA before signing with WWE in January 2016. A two-time NXT champion, he just dropped that belt at last night’s Takeover pay per view, which conspicuously frees him up to make the jump up to the main roster. His appearance would get a massive pop, and likely bring in a lot of viewers who only watch NXT because they feel it’s superior to Raw and Smackdown. Bringing up Nakamura is a no-brainer for WWE suits. Do it already, Vince.
3. Rob Gronkowski
The New England Patriots tight end is another athlete from a different sport who is a huge wrestling fan. He’s mentioned interest in a WWE career once he leaves the NFL, and his friend Mojo Rawley has confirmed this rumor. “He’s dying to get in the ring, but I can tell you it won’t be while he’s in season,” the Hype Bro said. However, while the Patriots are headed to next Sunday’s Super Bowl 51, they’ll be playing without Gronk, who was placed on injured reserve after hurting his back in November. IR is an automatic season-ender, even if you heal before it’s over. So, since he won’t be playing in the big game anyway, why not take the opportunity to chase another one of his dreams?
2. Finn Balor
Another star who achieved massive success in NXT, Balor was one of the few who actually got the promotion to the main roster. His debut lived up to the hype, and he went on to become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion at Summerslam in August. However, he suffered a severe shoulder injury during that match, and was left with no choice but to relinquish the title the very next night on Raw. He spent the next few months healing and rehabbing. And while he was tentatively scheduled to return at WrestleMania, we’ve heard rumors that he had tests to be medically cleared just last week. So his return sounds like a strong possibility.
1. Kurt Angle
Returning stars of the past always go over great, especially as Rumble entrants. No other time gone by in WWE history is viewed with the rose-colored glasses that the Attitude Era is. While that period certainly had its share of flaws, fans tend to see it as the perfection they’d love to see the company return to. So, a superstar from that time would pretty much be guaranteed the biggest pop of the night.
Kurt Angle was one of Attitude’s biggest draws, with his Olympic gold medals, the three I’s, and that greco-roman onesie. Oh, it’s true. It’s damn true. So, after the recent announcement that he’ll be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame this year, speculation is rampant that he might make a return to the ring. He’s said that there’s NO WAY he will return for the Rumble – but a surprise Rumble entry would be the perfect opportunity for him to come back home.
Bonus Pick – Shaquille O’Neal
After clashing at the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal last year, Shaq and the Big Show have been carrying on a good-natured beef on Twitter, hinting at their upcoming match at WrestleMania. At 7’4, the basketball legend is no doubt the only man that Show has ever had to look up to in the ring. The two giants coming face-to-face again would do a lot to hype up the match, so his involvement seems likely.
What do you think about these possibilities? Who do you hope to see as a surprise entrant? Tell us in the comments below!