WWE Royal Rumble 2015: Top 10 Most Underrated Returns in Rumble History
Since its inception in 1988, the Royal Rumble has become one of the most unpredictable and exciting events on the WWE calendar. Every fan looks forward to the 30-man Royal Rumble match each year for the twists, turns and surprises it might bring.
It's been par for the course in recent years for inactive Superstars, alumni and WWE Legends to make returns in the annual Battle Royal; from Booker T to Goldust, you never know who might make an appearance in the Rumble.
Some of the greatest and most memorable returns in WWE history have come at the Royal Rumble: John Cena, Edge, and Chris Jericho have all made electric comebacks at the event in years past. With what's being rumored and speculated, the 2015 installment looks to be no exception.
Without question, Cena's historic homecoming in Madison Square Garden will be forever remembered, but very rarely do the Rumble returns of Mr. Perfect, Mick Foley, Bob Backlund and others get the recognition they deserve.
As the 2015 Rumble draws near, this list will look back on the 10 most underrated surprise entrants in the match's illustrious history.
10. The Godfather (2013)
In retrospect, the 2013 Royal Rumble was a better match than people give it credit for; there were a handful of cool surprises, solid stories and strong showings from a number of entrants.
Among the Superstars who returned that year was Chris Jericho, who made a shocking comeback from the No. 2 slot. The best part about it was that no one knew it was coming; thankfully, it wasn't leaked online as all of Jericho's prior returns had been.
He stole the show that night in the Rumble by lasting nearly 50 minutes, longer than every other participant except for Dolph Ziggler. Well, The Godfather returned in that Rumble as well, and it made for a pretty sweet moment.
After retiring from wrestling in 2002, The Godfather sparingly made appearances on WWE programming. Before showing up in Phoenix at the Rumble, he hadn't appeared in WWE for more than five years.
Granted, his time in the Rumble was short-lived; he lasted all of five seconds before Ziggler eliminated him. However, he may have become the only man in history to leave the Rumble while his music was still playing from his entrance.
Only The Godfather.
9. Sheamus (2014)
There wasn't much to remember about the 2014 Royal Rumble match; we were treated with a few cool surprises with the return of Kevin Nash and Roman Reigns breaking Kane's longstanding record of eliminations, but that was about it.
Obviously, every time the countdown clock struck zero, fans were hoping Daniel Bryan would come out; he never did. However, overlooked in all the controversy surrounding Batista's win was Sheamus' shocking return to the ring.
After being sidelined in early August with a torn labrum, Sheamus made his long-awaited comeback in the 2014 Rumble at No. 17. In fact, he lasted the fourth longest of anyone in the match and scored an elimination over Big E.
Fans met Sheamus with a warm reception when he initially entered, but when it came down to the final three of him, Batista and Roman Reigns and it became clear Bryan wasn't coming out, the Pittsburgh crowd turned on them all. The Celtic Warrior went from being loved to hated within a matter of a minutes, but it didn't take away from his hot return in the Rumble.
The remainder of his 2014 was rather lackluster, but at least he came back looking stronger than ever.
8. Honky Tonk Man (2001)
Newer WWE fans may recognize The Honky Tonk Man as "the guy Santino Marella used to call out when he was intercontinental champion," but his legacy in WWE goes way beyond that. Considered one of the greatest intercontinental champions of all time, it's a sham he isn't already in the WWE Hall of Fame.
The 2001 Royal Rumble match was packed with random returns, and among them was The Honky Tonk Man. Unfortunately, he entered the ring at a time when Kane was on a massive roll, and The Big Red Monster wasn't in the mood for Honky Tonk Man's silliness.
After Honky Tonk Man sang his own entrance song, Kane retaliated by smacking him over the head with his own guitar before sending him spiraling over the top rope. The former intercontinental champion's time in the Rumble was short-lived, but it was a fun reminder of why he was so easy to hate during his prime in the '80s.
7. Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka (2008)
Technically, I'm cheating with this selection by including two returning Legends, but they were both in the match for the same period of time, so I'm counting it.
The Royal Rumble pay-per-view event in 2008 took place in Madison Square Garden, and no two WWE Hall of Famers had more history in that building than Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. So, it was only fitting they played some sort of role in the Rumble matchup.
Evidently, they weren't in the greatest ring shape, but they didn't need to be. Simply seeing the longtime rivals in the same ring together for the first time in years was enough to leave a lasting impression.
It wasn't long after that they were both taken out simultaneously by Kane, one of the Rumble match's greatest competitors. Coincidentally enough, they ended up teaming up at WrestleMania the following year in a Handicap match against Chris Jericho.
We will forever remember the 2008 Rumble for John Cena's shocking return in the No. 30 slot, but Piper and Snuka deserve to be recognized for having a nice nostalgic moment.
6. Bob Backlund (2000)
One of the most popular Superstars of his era, Bob Backlund is often overshadowed by the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Stone Cold Steve Austin and others. However, there is no denying the impact he had on the business, cementing his place in history as one of the greatest WWE champions of all time.
When he returned to WWE in the mid-'90s after a near-decade hiatus, he wasn't the same star he once was. Backlund was forced to change with the times, adapting a "crazier" persona that saw him running for president and doing all sorts of outlandish things.
He wrapped up his second stint with WWE in 1997, but he made a surprise return in the Royal Rumble match three years later. The event that year took place in Madison Square Garden, an arena where Backlund made a name for himself many years earlier.
He lasted all of two minutes in the matchup, but even after he was eliminated, he exited through the crowd like only the kooky Backlund could. The fans in MSG that night gave him a favorable reaction for it.
Backlund's Rumble return actually saw him stick around through WrestleMania 2000, mentoring Kurt Angle and making a Triple Threat match for the European and Intercontinental Championships at The Show of Shows.
5. Road Dogg (2012)
Oh, you didn't know?
After a near 10-year hiatus away from the company, Road Dogg returned to WWE at the 2011 Slammy Awards. He received a great reaction from the fans that night, reciting his signature slogans with ease.
His one-off appearance at the Slammys was what led him to return to the ring the following month in the 2012 Royal Rumble as the No. 23 entrant. In the five minutes he was in the Rumble, he showed he hadn't lost a step in his years away from the ring.
Although he rode solo that night, he'd later reunite with his longtime tag team partner Billy Gunn and the rest of D-Generation X that summer at Raw 1000. Coincidentally enough, it was at the Rumble event in 2014 where the two won their first set of WWE Tag Team Championships in more than a decade.
The 2012 Rumble is better off forgotten, as it didn't possess many redeemable qualities. However, one of the few good things to come out of it was seeing Road Dogg back in the ring and having a blast in front of the WWE Universe.
4. Goldust (2002)
Goldust has probably made more Royal Rumble returns than anyone else in history, which isn't surprising given the number of stints he's had with the company. Since his surprise return in 2013 was so well-received, people tend to forget he had a memorable outing in the 2002 Rumble as well.
Following weeks of vignettes hyping his arrival, he officially returned to WWE in the Rumble match as the No. 2 entrant, marking his first WWE appearance in nearly three years. He kicked off the match with Rikishi and clocked in at 13 minutes before longtime rival The Undertaker eliminated him.
Some may have figured that the Goldust character was past its prime at this point, but his appearance in the Rumble was the start of one of his best runs with the company. From there, he'd go on to form one of the most entertaining tag teams in WWE history with Booker T.
He lasted longer in the 2002 Rumble than any other Rumble he's ever participated in, and his exceptional outing that night set the stage for the success he'd have that year. It didn't have the same surprise element that his 2013 comeback did, but it was equally, if not more, impressive.
3. Mick Foley (2004)
Despite "retiring" from active competition in 2000, Mick Foley has been known to make a few returns to the ring over the last decade. One of his many comebacks came in the 2004 Royal Rumble match as a surprise entrant.
In late 2003, Foley "took his ball and went home" after refusing to face Randy Orton in a match on Raw, relinquishing his on-air duties as an authority figure. Orton would also spit in his face and kick him in the head, writing him off TV for the next several weeks.
During the 2004 Rumble, only Orton and Chris Benoit (the eventual winner) were left in the ring. When Foley's music hit, the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia came unglued.
Foley made a beeline toward the ring and immediately set his sights on the then-intercontinental champion. His intentions were never to win the Rumble and advance to WrestleMania; rather, he was determined to exact revenge on Orton and make him pay for his sins.
Within a minute of entering the ring, the former WWE champion took it to Orton and clotheslined him over the top rope and down to the floor, eliminating himself in the process. The heated rivals later met in a Handicap match also involving The Rock and Evolution at WrestleMania 20 as well as in a Hardcore match at Backlash.
2. Kharma (2012)
The signing of Kia Stevens, formerly known as Awesome Kong in TNA, to WWE in late 2010 was met with much anticipation; she was unlike anything the Divas division had ever seen before. Fans anxiously awaited the moment she made her WWE TV debut, until it finally happened at 2011's Extreme Rules event.
Now known as Kharma, she would appear during Divas matches on Raw and SmackDown, demolish whoever was in the ring and then leave. She ran rampant over the roster before having to take a leave of absence due to pregnancy in May 2011.
Eight months later, she returned sooner than anyone ever expected as a surprise entrant in the 2012 Royal Rumble, becoming only the third woman in history to enter a Rumble match.
Her sheer intimidation factor forced Michael Cole to eliminate himself, even tossing Hunico over the top rope in impressive fashion. It took a distraction from Vickie Guerrero at ringside for Dolph Ziggler to eliminate her.
Fans may look back on her return as a "cool moment," but she deserves an immense amount of credit for going through what she did and then making a comeback almost immediately afterward. Unfortunately, this was the one and only match Kharma wrestled in WWE before departing the company that summer and returning to TNA just recently.
1. Mr. Perfect (2002)
Similar to Goldust, Mr. Perfect's participation in the 2002 Royal Rumble was no surprise; he had been advertised for the event many weeks in advance. What was a surprise, however, was how well he fared in the ring against the best WWE had to offer at that time.
This marked Curt Hennig's first WWE appearance in nearly eight years after leaving for WCW in 1996. Although his prime had taken place a decade earlier, you would have never known from his performance in the Rumble that he was 42 years old.
Entering at No. 26, Mr. Perfect lasted approximately 15 minutes, the fourth longest of any other competitor in the match. While he didn't eliminate anyone, he was able to mix it up with the likes of Triple H, Kurt Angle and Stone Cold Steve Austin before The Game took him out.
With the Atlanta crowd behind him, Mr. Perfect didn't look out of place whatsoever. The extremely favorable reaction he received that night along with his impressive outing earned him a contract with the company.
Regrettably, WWE never capitalized off the momentum he had coming out of the Rumble and put his talent to total waste during his latest run there. He left the company in May and sadly passed away the following year.
Mr. Perfect's Royal Rumble return may not be among the most memorable, but it does deserve to be recognized as one of the best—or at least as being better than perfect.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and like his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.