The WWE loves to use the Royal Rumble for surprise returns, and Randy Orton could be this year's major wildcard. Orton hasn't been mentioned much on TV recently (a tactic commonly used by the WWE when they want to surprise the WWE Universe) and he's instantly a contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at all times.

As one of the most experienced and accomplished Superstars on the WWE Roster, Orton plays a pivotal role in the Rumble PPV almost every year.

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Just as I have already done with John Cena, Randy Orton will be the next subject in a series of "Royal Rumble Résumé" articles in which we take a look at some of the biggest names in WWE, how they have fared at the Rumble in the past, and then make predictions for how they will do this year. 

For each WWE Superstar, we will take a look at both their experience in the Rumble Match and in other matches at the Rumble PPV.

Randy Orton's singles matches at Royal Rumble

Orton appeared at every Royal Rumble from 2004-2014 and competed twice in 2011. Of his twelve matches at Royal Rumble, Orton has competed in singles bouts five times. Fortunately for Orton, every match he's had at the event outside of the 30-man battle royal has been for a world title. Both times that Orton walked in as the champion, he has left as such. The three times he challenged for a world title, he failed.

Considering these were all main event caliber matches with direct implications for WrestleMania, batting .400 is nothing to shake a stick at. In 2014 (his last Rumble appearance) he defeated John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. So, he's got momentum on his side, assuming he returns at this year's event.

Royal Rumble Match entry number

Orton has been in a total of seven Royal Rumble matches.

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His entry numbers are all over the board, from starting the match in 2004 with #2, entering at #30 in 2006, and landing square in the middle at #16 in 2007. While his entry number averages out to #21 or #22, he's been one of the last five entrants in his three most recent appearances. The late 20s are usually where the big surprises come in, so it would make sense for Orton this year.

Length of stay and elimination order

In 2012, coming in at #28, The Viper lasted less than six minutes. When he won the event in 2009, he lasted more than 48 minutes. On average, Orton lasts just shy of 28 minutes. He's lasted until the final four five times, and has lasted until the final five in all of his last six attempts. With a late drawing as predicted above and an in-ring time of 20+ minutes, it would make sense for Orton to be a part of 2016's final four.

Eliminator / eliminated

Orton has never entered a Rumble match without eliminating at least one opponent. His best year in terms of eliminations was his first year, in which he threw out five competitors.

Over the course of his seven Rumble matches, he average 2.5 eliminations each year. Of his 17.5 total eliminations, Wade Barrett and The Big Show were the only repeat offenders. Of the six men that have tossed Orton from the Rumble, five of them are former world champions: Mick Foley, Rey Mysterio, Shawn Michaels, Alberto Del Rio, and Chris Jericho. He was eliminated by Ryback in 2014.

After winning the Rumble match in 2009, he went on to face Triple H in a losing effort at WrestleMania 25 with the WWE Championship on the line. 

Predictions

Based on his Royal Rumble Résumé, we can expect Orton to be a major player, should he return that night. As one of the last entrants, he'll likely be there until almost the very end. While I don't expect Orton to win this year, it certainly isn't out of the question, especially if he's making a big surprise return. He will probably eliminate some legitimate contenders when he hits the ring, upper-mid card talent like Kevin Owens or Sheamus — and maybe someone like Zack Ryder, just for kicks. It'll take a big name like John Cena to get rid of Orton, if he returns.

Royal Rumble 2016 will air live on the WWE Network on January 17.