One of the best parts of the annual Royal Rumble PPV is the surprise entrants that turn up during the Rumble matches themselves. Whether it’s a return from injury or legends/Hall of Famers turning up for that sweet, sweet nostalgia pop, it’s always a good time.
Admittedly, your writer had low expectations for surprise entrants this year. Given the problems that the world- and the United States in particular- currently has with COVID-19, I didn’t think they would be as keen to go into that bag of tricks. Both due to health concerns and the fact that the atmosphere would be diluted due to having no fans in the Thunderdome. As it turns out, I was wrong. And rarely have I been this glad to be wrong.
Two major returns of legends occured during the Men’s Royal Rumble match. First, at #8, was Carlito. Carlito had last been seen in a WWE ring in 2010, and although he was briefly advertised for Raw Legends Night last month, it did not eventuate.
Carlito gained a reputation post-WWE as “a body guy”, and lived up to that in his Royal Rumble return, looking more muscular and shredded than ever. He had some steak to go with that sizzle, too, putting in a good performance and hitting his signature moves in smooth fashion. According to Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com, the idea was to give Carlito a producer’s tryout on the post-Rumble Raw. This would mirror MVP’s career trajectory last year, making his return as a surprise in the 2020 Rumble match and initially becoming a backstage producer and occasional on-screen character, before transitioning later in the year to become a full time performer as the leader of the Hurt Business.
Details regarding Carlito as a producer are currently unknown, but we do know that the WWE association for the former United States and Intercontinental Champion goes beyond the Rumble itself. Carlito appeared on-screen on the Feb 1st Raw, competing in a tag team match, teaming with old rival Jeff Hardy to face Elias and Jaxson Ryker. Hardy and Carlito would be the victorious team, with the “cool” one hitting his Backstabber finisher en route to a Hardy Swanton. Carlito also got a good spotlight pre-match with a well-produced hype video, mixing in highlights of his first WWE run with clips from his 2021 Rumble return. It would certainly indicate WWE intends to use Carlito in some capacity going forward.
Another extremely noteworthy return in the Men’s Rumble match… it’s… it’s Christian! For the first time in 7 years, Captain Charisma stepped into a WWE ring for a sanctioned match, and looked excellent in doing so. He hit his moves and bumped like the old days, and also had a great emotional reunion in the match with life-long best friend, Edge.
While comments post-match from Christian seemed coy on future appearances- “I asked for one more match, maybe that was it”- fans were quick to note on Twitter that Christian was owed a WWE Intercontinental Championship match, by virtue of winning a no. 1 contenders match on Raw in 2014 before being declared ineligible to compete due to concussion issues. The IC Champion in back then was ironically the same man that holds the title now- Big E.
Big E added fuel to the social media fire by tweeting a picture of himself going face to face with Christian following the legend’s last win on Raw. It certainly seems like E would like to see Christian have “one more match”… will it actually happen? Time will tell.