Pat McAfee Confirms Original Plans for WWE Return at Royal Rumble 2023

Pat McAfee made his triumphant return to the WWE commentary team on Saturday night at the Royal Rumble. The former NFL punter opened the pay-per-view by entering the arena and joining Michael Cole and Corey Graves, but later confirmed on The Pat McAfee Show that he was originally booked to be in the Men's Royal Rumble match as a competitor. However, he declined to wrestle due to his busy schedule not allowing him to train to get back into in-ring shape.

"They said immediately (after I left to work for College GameDay), Hunter (Triple H), Stephanie (McMahon), and Nick (Khan), 'Rumble is like the perfect time to come back,' because that's when people come back and it's after college football season. I was like, 'perfect.' I need something to keep me in shape. I get fat and I need something to keep working out for. I tried. Everybody saw me, I was getting after it. By week nine....I think I could have (done a couple minutes in the Rumble), but I don't want to disrespect anybody. There were only 29 guys who came out because where the f— was Rey Mysterio? Is he okay? There are only so many spots and there is a lot of danger and s— that can happen," McAfee explained (h/t Fightful).

"I told them, maybe week 13 or 14 of the season, 'Hey, want to let you know, the season has been a grind with Gameday being an extra work day, I'm not going to be able to be in good enough shape for Rumble. I don't want to disrespect Royal Rumble. I'm just letting you know where I'm at right now. I'm not waking up an extra hour or stay up an extra hour to get in shape or whatever is needed.' It's one of those combos. 'We'll chat later, all good.' It was the goal, Royal Rumble was the goal, I wasn't able to keep up with it because GameDay getting dropped in and what that schedule became," he added.

Cole called into the show and admitted McAfee's return took him completely by surprise. Cody Rhodes wound up winning the Rumble by entering from the No. 30 spot.