There are a few things we know for sure about Sunday's 2014 Royal Rumble. Dave Batista, who will star in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy this summer, has returned just in time to enter himself in everyone's favorite gimmick match. CM Punk, embroiled in a feud with the McMahon-based Authority stable of the WWE, will begin the Rumble at the #1 spot to lessen his chances of realizing his dream of main eventing Wrestlemania. Besides those specifics, we're mostly left with a list of a little more than half of the Rumble's entrants, with no real hints given as to when they will enter the last man standing event.
With that in mind, let's see if we can guess who some of the surprise entrants in the Rumble are. The expected often happens every January in the Royal Rumble — long-term story lines can help you suss out some of the match's details — but the unexpected gives plenty of opportunities to make a lasting impression on fans, and can even lead to something larger for the entrant, depending on who they are and where they are in their career.
The Part Timers
Rob Van Dam
Van Dam has been out of the WWE since losing a World Heavyweight title shot in October at WWE's Battleground pay-per-view, but it's believed the part-time wrestler will be back in action for Wrestlemania season. He hasn't reemerged as of yet with just a few months to go, however: the place to get the biggest pop from the crowd in the lead-in to WWE's most significant event would certainly be at the Rumble.
Excitement should be higher for Van Dam this time around, too (with cynicism maybe a little lower): when he rejoined the WWE in 2013, he still had the stench of his TNA run on him, making it shocking that he was as entertaining and high-energy in the ring as he was. It's unclear just what the plans for him would be, since he spent most of his last stint with WWE fighting for the World Heavyweight title that has since been merged with WWE's primary championship, but he could certainly play the role of Chris Jericho by helping to put over up-and-coming superstars simply by working programs with them.
Speaking of Jericho, he has spent the last couple of months denying that he's returning to the ring, as he is instead busy with writing another book as well as touring and recording with his band, Fozzy. With that being said, Jericho's Royal Rumble appearance (and subsequent six-month stint with the WWE) were absolute shocks to everyone, even some of those within the company itself, as Jericho and the WWE managed to keep a secret by having him drive to the event and hide until right before he was set to enter the Rumble match.
Considering all of that, Jericho might be full of it when he says he's not coming back just yet. It could very well end up being RVD or Jericho appearing, though, since they seem to serve similar roles at this stage of their career.
The Rumble is also an excellent place to debut a brand new talent, depending on the talent in question. WWE failed to generate much interest in one of their newbies, Bo Dallas, last January, but that's because Dallas has a somewhat complex character that takes constant exposure to work: a quick appearance in a match loaded with other superstars and spectacles isn't the place to debut someone like that. Alexander Rusev is much simpler to understand: he's about 300 pounds of pure strength and has monster heel written all over him. Once he throws a few veterans over the ropes, everyone is going to understand his character in a hurry.
Rusev is part of WWE's developmental program, NXT, and his whole gimmick at the moment is that he is a Bulgarian beast who has taken on (and taken out) multiple visiting WWE superstars. There are unlikely to be many debuts of brand new superstars like Rusev at this month's Rumble, but he's one who can easily use the match as a springboard to a story line in the WWE, and therefore has the best shot of anyone at NXT to make an appearance this coming Sunday.
The Forgotten Injured Superstars
Getting injured isn't a positive in and of itself, but separating the Irish brawler from television for a significant length of time was probably in Sheamus' best interests. He'll seem fresher when he returns from his shoulder surgeries — which could be as soon as this Sunday in order to create an additional credible threat to win the whole thing — and might even get a heel turn somewhere along the way, which fits his character much better since he's kind of a jerk bully as a face anyway. A change like that would make his character even more relevant and new, and also make it easier for him to work against the likes up up-and-coming superstar Big E Langston, the current holder of the Intercontinental title and likely a significant piece of WWE's future.
Sometimes, if WWE doesn't have a story line for a wrestler who has missed time with injury, they just sit and wait for the right moment to bring them back. That seems to happen often with Christian, who took time off at first for injury but then, by his own (rare) admission, for the birth of his child. It's been months and months since he appeared in the ring, however, and the Rumble, which by WWE's reckoning is the first step on the Road to Wrestlemania, makes all kinds of sense for his return.
Christian won't challenge for the unified titles, but it's easy to picture him coming back and working in the rejuvenated tag team division a la another Attitude Era star, Goldust, or getting involved with the Intercontinental Championship, which the WWE seems to be trying to repair all the damage they've done to over the years. That, or Christian will continue his reign as the guy creative has nothing for, and will sit backstage at shows for a while longer.
The Old Timers
Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Admit it, you marked out a bit when Jake Roberts showed up at the end of Old School Raw with snake in tow. Roberts has worked hard to get back into shape and sober up — with the help of Diamond Dallas Page and his DDP Yoga regimen — and while it's hard to imagine him returning to the WWE for a singles match or anything like that at age 58, seeing him come to the ring to deliver his signature DDT to someone like Dean Ambrose would make all kinds of sense for both characters.
Spoilers, I guess? Sting's contract with TNA is reportedly up, and it's been no secret for years that the WWE wants to get a hold of the biggest star of the modern era that has never wrestled for their company. While Sting is certainly not the guy he used to be in the '90s when he faced off against the nWo, he still has the name, and at a time when the WWE is launching the WWE Network, which will include every WCW match — pay-per-view or otherwise — that the Stinger participated in. Getting him on board heading into Wrestlemania 30, around the same time as the network launch, is a way to print money via T-shirts and the like, and not just because this iteration of Sting needs to wear a shirt to the ring to hide the fact he's in his mid-50s.
Whether the eventual plan is to have him wrestle the Undertaker, or just to get him in the ring on a part-time schedule for a year leading into Hall of Fame induction, is unknown. He's their white whale, though, so it wouldn't be a surprise at all if he finally lands on WWE television before the month is up.