The Royal Rumble is routinely among the most exciting pay-per-views on the WWE calendar, and most of that has to do with the Rumble match itself. Seeing 30 superstars interact in an environment where so much is on the line is entertaining, as is the prospect of surprise entrants.
Over the past several years, surprise entrants have become a huge part of the Royal Rumble's aura. Of course we get to see the WWE's top current stars compete, but there are often a few blasts from the past who enter the Rumble match and get a great pop from the crowd.
Among the surprise entrants in 2012 were "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, Road Dogg and Kharma. The year before that saw Booker T and Diesel return to the fray as well. I'm all for low-card guys getting their due and receiving an opportunity to compete in the Rumble match, but if I'm given a choice between a WWE legend and Yoshi Tatsu, I'll take the legend every time.
Most fans seem to have the same perspective, and that is bolstered by the fact that more people seem to talk about the potential surprise entrants in the 2013 Rumble than who might actually win it. Part of the allure is that there's a only a handful of superstars who can realistically win the Rumble, while almost anyone you can possibly think of is a candidate to be a surprise entrant.
With that said, there are some guys who have a better chance than others when it comes to competing in the Royal Rumble.
One guy who seems to be a surefire lock is Billy Gunn. The WWE recently signed Gunn to be a trainer, but he and Road Dogg have reprised their partnership as The New Age Outlaws on the house-show circuit.
Gunn can still put on a show, so I'd be shocked if he isn't a part of the Rumble this year.
Aside from Gunn, things are pretty much a crapshoot. Two names that have been mentioned a lot in recent weeks are John Morrison and Shelton Benjamin. Both men were reliable hands who parted ways with the WWE over the past couple years. The WWE's mid-card could use an infusion of talent, though, so their return is a possibility.
The legends who interacted with Heath Slater during the lead up to the 1,000th episode of Raw also need to be taken into consideration due to the fact that they are obviously on good terms with the company.
Vader, Sycho Sid, Diamond Dallas Page, Bob Backlund, Rikishi, Road Warrior Animal, Faarooq and Bradshaw are among them, and any one of them could possibly compete.
Obviously it isn't possible for all of them to compete in the Rumble match, but I can see one or two of them taking part. Vader seems to be the most likely due to the fact that he is good in the Rumble environment and his son is a developmental talent for the WWE as well.
JBL would also be a great choice due to the fact that he'll be calling the match anyway.
Injured superstars can also be considered surprise entrants, and there are a couple good ones on the WWE roster at the moment.
Christian has been out of action for several months with an injury, and while there hasn't been much talk about his status, he seems like a possibility to return at the Rumble.
Mark Henry falls in this category as well, but there have been conflicting reports regarding his readiness to return to the ring.
A few more names worth mentioning are The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho. All of them are with the company on a part-time basis with the exception of Jericho, but he has essentially reached the point where he can return whenever he pleases.
The Undertaker is definitely a possibility, but I'm guessing he won't be in the Rumble. Taking part in the match doesn't do much for him or the WWE, especially when he can return on an episode of Raw and boost ratings.
Lesnar, on the other hand, is much more likely to be in the Rumble match, although it remains to be seen if it will be in a surprise capacity. Lesnar hasn't been seen since the night after SummerSlam, so he could simply enter the Rumble out of the blue, but I suspect that we'll see him in the coming weeks and his participation in the Royal Rumble will be announced ahead of time.
Jericho is another question mark, but I like his chances of being involved in the Rumble as well. There has been talk regarding Jericho returning for a couple months in order to do a WrestleMania program, and the Rumble match would be a great spot for his return. Perhaps he can go after Dolph Ziggler so they can reprise their feud and finish it at 'Mania.
It's obvious that not everyone I mentioned can be in the Rumble due to the fact that the current stars need plenty of spots, but I can definitely see Gunn, Morrison and Vader as non-roster surprises along with the return of Christian, Lesnar and Jericho.
Clearly this is all speculation, as the WWE tends to keep a pretty tight lid on things like this. If nothing else, there is a long list of potential surprises, and that will be reason enough to tune in on Jan. 27.