There are many reasons why most fans consider the Royal Rumble to be one of the most exciting pay-per-views of the year, but there is no question that the ever-present possibility of surprise entrants is one of the biggest.
While the idea of the surprise entrant is a fairly new phenomenon that has picked up steam over the past decade or so, it is one of the biggest topics of conversation ahead of every Rumble match. In fact, it has gotten to the point where fans are disappointed if there aren't at least a couple good surprises per year.
Surprise Rumble entrants come in many different forms, from legends who haven't been seen in years to people who don't usually wrestle to superstars who are returning from a prolonged absence due to injury. Whatever the case, they are almost always a shock to the fans who are watching, and that is a big part of the fun.
In all likelihood, there will be at least a few more that fans will be talking about during the 2013 edition of the Royal Rumble, but here are the 10 best surprise entrants to ever take part in the Rumble match over its first 25 years in existence.
Although the Royal Rumble wasn't first contested until he was past his prime, Bob Backlund certainly has a great deal of history in the match. He lasted more than an hour in the 1993 Rumble, which was a record until Chris Benoit broke it in 2004, but Backlund's crowning Royal Rumble moment came in 2000.
After three years away from the WWE, and even more between his last wrestling match, Backlund returned at the 2000 Royal Rumble in Madison Square Garden. Backlund entered 14th and was eliminated by Chris Jericho after just two minutes in the ring, but he got a great reaction and really took the crowd by surprise.
Backlund returning at MSG was fitting because he defended the WWE Championship there many times and sold the building out on countless occasions as well. Today's fans may not know a lot about Backlund, but New Yorkers will always have a profound respect for the scrappy, multi-time WWE Champion.
Mil Mascaras is best known as a Mexican wrestling legend who captivated fans across the world in the 1970s and 1980s in particular, but his WWE resume isn't an extensive one. Mascaras did work for the WWE on occasion, including a feud with then-WWE Champion "Superstar" Billy Graham; however, his biggest WWE moment came in 1997.
The WWE had forged a relationship with a Mexican promotion at the time and was bringing in some Mexican talent, with several competing in the 1997 Royal Rumble. Mascaras was chief among them, as he is arguably the most popular Mexican wrestler ever.
Mascaras didn't receive a huge pop, since 1997 was well past his prime years, but he brought plenty of energy to the match and got to mix it up with some future WWE legends. Mascaras even eliminated fellow luchadores Pierroth and Cibernetico, but he inadvertently eliminated himself after nearly seven and a half minutes, as he dove over the top rope and to the floor in an effort to take out Pierroth.
The 2012 Royal Rumble was billed as a match in which anyone could enter, and the WWE certainly made good on that tagline. After several months away due to a pregnancy, Kharma returned as the No. 21 entrant in the Rumble match. Interestingly enough, that remains the only official match in Kharma's WWE career.
She made an instant impact as the third female to ever enter the Rumble, as she essentially scared Michael Cole into eliminating himself and eliminate Hunico as well. She was only in the ring for a little over a minute, as Dolph Ziggler eliminated her from behind, but the fans were definitely shocked and delighted by her presence.
Unfortunately for Kharma, she had suffered a miscarriage prior to her Rumble appearance, and the emotional toll proved to take a lot out of her. She was unable to get in the necessary shape to make a full-time return and was subsequently released. Hopefully, she gets an opportunity to return one day, but even if she doesn't, she'll always have her Rumble participation to hold onto.
The Honky Tonk Man may have referred to himself as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, but some of his most memorable moments are less than spectacular from his perspective. His loss to The Ultimate Warrior in 30 seconds at SummerSlam 1988 is chief among them, but his 2001 Royal Rumble appearance isn't far behind.
After a brief return to the WWE in 1997 and 1998 to manage Billy Gunn, Honky Tonk once again disappeared, only to resurface in 2001 as a surprise Rumble entrant. It's safe to say that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Kane was tearing through the competition and had already eliminated five men by the time he entered at No. 12.
Rather than engaging in combat with The Big Red Monster, The Honky Tonk Man brought his guitar and proceeded to sing a song. Kane was unamused, though, as he grabbed the guitar and crushed it over Honky Tonk's head before tossing him out in a little over a minute. The Honky Tonk Man was never a factor, but his appearance was entertaining to say the least.
The 2011 Royal Rumble was the biggest of all time with 40 entrants, and while it generally received negative reviews, it did play host to a couple fantastic returns. One of them was six-time world champion Booker T, who came back to the WWE after four years in TNA and various other promotions.
Booker T's theme song is recognizable from the first note, so the crowd went nuts when his music hit. Even announcer Matt Striker couldn't contain himself, as he proclaimed that he was "marking out" for Booker's return. Booker entered at No. 21 and only lasted about a minute, but he made his presence felt.
The New Nexus had been running roughshod over the Rumble, but Booker decimated the group, and even had time to perform a Spin-a-Roonie. Mason Ryan quickly recovered and tossed him out, however. Even so, it was a great moment, and it led to Booker's permanent return to the WWE as an announcer and now general manager of SmackDown.
Rob Van Dam's WWE tenure was tumultuous to say the least, but there is no question that the fans love him. His accomplishments in ECW are still talked about today, and the fact that the WWE trusted him enough to give him the WWE Championship in 2006 said a lot about his ability. Things didn't ultimately work out, but RVD made a memorable return in 2009.
Van Dam's title reign was cut short due to a drug possession arrest, and he unfortunately had to leave the WWE in 2007 to tend to his cancer-stricken wife, but the WWE obviously left the door open for him. That much was apparent in the 2009 Royal Rumble, as RVD shocked the crowd by entering 25th. The fans chanted his name as he hit his signature offense on everyone in the ring and he proceeded to remain in the match for nearly 14 minutes.
Although RVD didn't eliminate anyone, he acquitted himself well and the fans were excited to see him. It turns out that there was no contract in place, as that was his final WWE appearance before joining TNA, which is where he remains to this day. Even if Van Dam never makes another WWE return, his final appearance was a great one.
Back in June of 2009, Edge and Chris Jericho formed a promising tag team and captured the World Tag Team Championships, but after just a couple weeks, Edge tore his Achilles tendon and was out of action. It was initially reported that Edge would miss several months, and perhaps as much as a year, but The Rated R Superstar had other plans.
With the 2010 Royal Rumble winding to a close, it looked as if Jericho might pull it off until the buzzer sounded for the No. 29 entrant. The familiar lyrics "you think you know me" blared over the sound system, and Edge made his way to the ring. Jericho had made disparaging remarks about his countryman and former tag team partner while he was out injured, so Edge speared him immediately and ultimately eliminated both him and John Cena to win.
Some fans like to say that they knew Edge was coming back all along, but I don't necessarily buy it. He had only been out for six months prior to his return, and Achilles injuries generally take much longer than that to heal. His comeback was nothing short of miraculous, and it was definitely one of the crowning moments in his Hall of Fame career.
Mick Foley's most popular persona over the years was likely Mankind, but who can forget his alter egos Cactus Jack and Dude Love? Foley was one of the rare breeds who was able to thrive under multiple gimmicks, and he went somewhere no superstar had ever gone before back in 1998, as all three of his personalities entered the Royal Rumble match.
Foley was the first entrant as Cactus Jack, and it just so happened that No. 2 was his old friend and tag team partner, Chainsaw Charlie. That didn't matter to them, though, as they went toe to toe and battled while utilizing a number of weapons. Charlie eliminated Jack, but that wasn't the last that we would see of Foley that night. He came back at No. 16 as Mankind and got revenge for his earlier exit, as he threw out Chainsaw Charlie.
Foley's plans were foiled once again, however, as Goldust eliminated him soon after. Foley took one last shot, as he entered 28 as Dude Love, but Faarooq dashed his hopes as well. The Three Faces of Foley weren't surprise entrants in the traditional sense, but nobody expected Foley to enter three times, so it remains one of the most shocking and hilarious sequences in Rumble history.
There seems to be a lot of hatred when it comes to Kevin Nash among the Internet wrestling community, and some of it is well-deserved. He held back a lot of top talent while in WCW and has an archaic way of thinking about the professional wrestling business, but there wasn't a single fan who didn't leap out of their seat and cheer when Diesel made a surprise appearance in the 2011 Royal Rumble.
Nash himself hasn't been a part of the WWE since 2004, but the Diesel character had an even longer drought. Nash initially left the WWE in 1996 for a more lucrative contract in WCW, and that is the last time that Diesel was seen, with the exception of the ill-conceived Fake Diesel gimmick. When Diesel entered at No. 32 with his jet-black hair and truck music blaring, the live crowd became unhinged.
As someone who actually likes Nash despite his flaws, I consider it to be an awesome moment. Diesel got his licks in and interacted with some of the younger talent before Wade Barrett tossed him out after two minutes and 45 seconds. Diesel's actually impact on the match wasn't great, but he set the bar for returning legends when it comes to the Royal Rumble.
Whether you love him or hate him, John Cena is the biggest star in the WWE currently and among the biggest stars of all time alongside Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock. Because of that, the WWE suffered a major blow in late 2007 when Cena tore his pectoral muscle and was forced to vacate the WWE Championship after more than a year with it in his possession.
Cena was supposed to be out of action for at least seven months, but just four months later, he made a miraculous return as the 30th entrant in the 2008 Royal Rumble. With essentially everyone in the ring laid out aside from Triple H, The Game looked on in shock as Cena walked out onto the ramp. The Madison Square Garden crowd went wild as Cena posed and stared into Triple H's eyes.
Cena cleaned house and last eliminated Triple H to win the match in shocking fashion. There was no inkling that Cena would be ready for the Rumble. He made a surprise appearance at Tribute to the Troops a month earlier, but his arm was still in a sling, and it seemed like he had a lot of recovering left to do. Cena gave a new meaning to the label "quick healer" and remains the best surprise entrant of all time.