The Royal Rumble would be a 60-minute handcuff of competition—no better than an Iron Man match—without the element of surprise. Surprise eliminations, surprise wins and, most importantly, surprise entrants are the lifeblood of WWE's January spectacular.
With just less than two-thirds of the Royal Rumble participants announced and the pay-per-view to commence in nine days, there will be room for surprise entries. What makes surprise speculation so fun this time of year is the multitude of return rumors, some of which come true.
This year's rumors brought about the familiar slew of names, from Hulk Hogan to the Ultimate Warrior to Batista to Sting to Chris Jericho. Several of those rumors have already come to fruition. Being that this is the road to a milestone WrestleMania XXX pay-per-view, all of them should be taken seriously.
One potential return many haven't been talking about is that of Rob Van Dam, whose previous WWE run lasted just three months. PWInsider (via WrestlingInc) quietly reported there are plans in place for RVD to return at the Royal Rumble.
It would make sense, with RVD's original contract reportedly allowing a 90-day window before he must once again take time off. His batteries should be fully charged by now, especially with an incentive to come back during a time when WWE gets its most exposure.
Van Dam's chances of resurfacing on WWE pay-per-view should be given a very stingy line of +150, indicating one would earn just $150 on a $100 bet if he rumbles. The line suggests there is a strong chance of Rob Van Dam appearing.
The Ultimate Warrior's chances took a severe hit with the announcement of his Hall of Fame induction on Raw. Never has a member of the WWE Hall of Fame appeared in the Royal Rumble the year they were inducted. The betting line for the Ultimate Warrior appearing in the Rumble should be set at +500, which is still a bargain.
Chris Jericho insisted he will not return to the WWE anytime soon, according to the Tweet below:
Ok guys here's the deal...Im not coming back anytime soon next year! No secrets, no shenanigans, no plans. Sorry!! I still love you tho...— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) December 27, 2013
Given the constantly blurred lines between reality and fiction in the wrestling business, along with Jericho's history of exploiting those lines, any denial on Jericho's part should be taken with a grain of salt. Jericho has appeared in the last two Royal Rumbles as part of return campaigns. His calculated start-and-stop stints with the WWE have kept him novel.
A Chris Jericho return is always welcome.
Who should be a surprise entrant in this year's Royal Rumble?
According to WrestleZone's Chris Cash, Toronto newspaper and elevator ads have mentioned Jericho's return to WWE. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via WrestleZone) says WWE is denying these claims.
Where there's smoke in WWE, there's usually fire. Efforts by both parties to extinguish these flames should lower the line to +200 based on suspicion alone.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via SEScoops) reported WWE is in talks with current free agent Sting. This seems to have been the case each year he fails to appear in a WWE ring.
WrestleMania XXX or not, Sting's lines should remain as high as +900. If he ever does come to terms with WWE, it will likely be for a moment bigger than just a nostalgic Royal Rumble cameo.