Normally, a staple of the Royal Rumble matches each January is the surprise appearances by newly signed or returning wrestlers. From big acquisitions like AJ Styles entering or Ronda Rousey appearing after the Rumble, to legends like Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam and Diamond Dallas Page who’ve returned to work the battle royal, fans have come to expect an unexpected face or two to pop up.
Over the last couple years though, we’ve seen a trend toward the surprises coming from WWE’s Developmental system/stand-along brand, NXT. That was certainly the case for the 2019 show from Phoenix’s Chase Field.
Jeff Jarrett was really the only traditional surprise entrant in either the men’s or women’s Rumble. Kurt Angle, Dolph Ziggler and Nia Jax were unannounced participants in the main event. Hornswoggle wasn’t in the women’s match, but had a quick cameo. Maria Kanellis may have been meant as a shock, but she’s on the roster, so she wasn’t much of one.
Most of the slots which weren’t announced in advance went to wrestlers from the black-and-yellow brand.
In the women’s match, 2017 Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane returned for a second straight year. This time, she was joined by 2018 runner-up Io Shirai, and MYC competitors and fellow NXT Superstars Xia Li, Kacy Catanzare, Rhea Ripley and Candice LeRae.
There were fewer open spots on the men’s side, but three NXT stars still worked their way into the match, including current North American champ Johnny Gargano and long-reigning NXT UK titleholder Pete Dunne, along with former NXT champion Aleister Black.
Is this the wave of the future? We’ll see. In the meantime, you can see a list of everyone who entered the men’s match here and women’s match here, and check out the entire live blog here.