If the WWE Royal Rumble was a Tesla, surprise entrants would be its super charger. Surprise returns and entrances have become so synonymous with the Royal Rumble over the years, it’s basically part of the criteria of how great a Royal Rumble was.
The Triple H Era seemed like a perfect fit for Royal Rumble surprises, as the era has had no shortage of high-profile returns. In fact, it could be argued that there may have been too many returns given away in advance, with Brock Lesnar and Cody Rhodes both advertised ahead of time. By bell time, everybody from NJPW star Jay White to Stone Cold Steve Austin were rumored as surprise returns.
None of them came anywhere near the Alamodome.
Instead of loading up the Royal Rumbles with surprise outsiders and nostalgia, WWE finally doubled down on its future. The men’s Royal Rumble only had three surprise entrants: Booker T, the first surprise who came two-thirds into the Royal Rumble match; Edge and celebrity wrestling highlight reel Logan Paul.
Venerable legends like the aforementioned Edge, Bobby Lashley, Booker T and Brock Lesnar all took a backseat role, spending less than 15 minutes in the Royal Rumble combined. Stars of the present and future of the Royal Rumble, meanwhile, were in the limelight. GUNTHER not only broke the all-time endurance record, but he also paced the field in eliminations with five.
With WWE going on 12 consecutive years with at least one part-timer in the WrestleMania main event, it’s finally starting to trust in its current generation amid consistent sellouts and big ratings spikes under the Triple H Era. And while the women’s Royal Rumble packed a bigger punch in terms of surprises and moments, it was 20-somethings Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan who had its most notable performances by making history as the first and final two entrants.
WWE Royal Rumble 2023 | Every Surprise Return
Booker T Enters At No. 21
Booker T, who appears on NXT as a color commentator, entered the Royal Rumble at No. 21 as the match’s first surprise. Booker T spent less than one minute in the Royal Rumble after being eliminated by Royal Rumble standout—and party-pooper—GUNTHER.
Edge Enters At No. 24
Similar to Booker T, Edge came and went in the Royal Rumble, lasting 1:04.
Edge’s elimination was done to further his ongoing tensions with The Judgment Day, which seems on track to culminate at WrestleMania. While brawling with The Judgment Day outside of the ring, this gave way to the return of Beth Phoenix, who speared Rhea Ripley amid the chaos.
Logan Paul Enters At No. 29
Logan Paul made the most of his eleven minutes spent in the Royal Rumble, most notably when he and Ricochet combined for one of the craziest Royal Rumble spots in history.
Seemingly thinking of the same death wish, Paul and Ricochet performed dueling springboard dives where both crashed into each other in midair. The spot received a huge reaction, and will figure to be replayed as part of WWE lore for years to come.
Roxanne Perez Enters At No. 8
While there was no NXT presence in the men’s Royal Rumble, the same was not the case for the women’s Royal Rumble, which boasted three NXT Superstars. Roxanne became the first NXT star of the night to be featured, and she was able to showcase her quick-hitting offense in front of her home state of Texas.
Though she is just 21 years of age, Perez is clearly on the short list of top recruits at the WWE Performance Center. Given her combination of talent, and ties to Booker T, she’ll be a shoo-in for the main roster sooner rather than later.
Zoey Stark Enters At No. 13
Zoey Stark spent a considerable amount of time in the Royal Rumble, which was a soft landing for Stark after her feud with Nikkita Lyons was placed on hold due to injury. Starks was ultimately eliminated by Sonya Deville, but her presence in the Royal Rumble bodes for her future on the main roster.
Asuka Enters At No. 17
This just barely qualified as a surprise entrant since Asuka is technically a member of the main roster. But Asuka’s extended absence, and return under a new gimmick, qualifies her entry as a surprise.
Asuka received perhaps the biggest reaction of the women’s Royal Rumble match, and she even made the Final 3. With a literal fresh coat of paint, Asuka should roar into WrestleMania season as long as WWE finds an adequate opponent.
If all else fails, she’d be a great candidate to return to NXT.
Piper Niven Enters At No. 23
Piper Niven dropped the Doudrop moniker and delivered an encouraging sign for the Triple H Era. Doudrop’s return to Piper Niven is an indication that Triple H remains at the helm of WWE creative, even with Vince McMahon back as Chairman of the WWE Board.
Indi Hartwell Enters At No. 26
Indi Hartwell was not as heralded as her NXT predecessors, as the announce team instead used her stint to poke fun of her relationship with Dexter and whether or not Booker T knows whom she is. Hartwell has felt like a fifth-year in NXT senior of late, especially as the only member of The Way who did not get called up to the main roster.
Michelle McCool Enters At No. 25
Michelle McCool seemingly made history as the first Royal Rumble entrant to enter through the front row. McCool entered to a nice pop, and even picked up an elimination of Tamina. McCool was eventually eliminated by Royal Rumble winner Rhea Ripley.
Nia Jax Enters At No. 30
Nia Jax premature entered the Royal Rumble at No. 30, but she still received a massive reaction. It’s unknown whether or not Nia Jax’s appearance was a one-off, or if grown adult men will be rage-tweeting about her presence on a weekly basis, but it was nice to see her back.
Jax was treated like the typical battle royal giant—with the exception of The Big Show—as the entire field teamed up to eliminate her.
Top 3 2023 royal rumble entrants Synthesized by BSS news
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