Oh, Big Boys: WWE Royal Rumble Recap and Review

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Surprise returns! Port-a-potty spots! The strap! An outdated transphobic joke! This show had everything and more. A very solid Rumble delivered us two unsurprising, but not undeserved, winners, and a great new GIF of Brock Lesnar making a 😮 face.


Sheamus vs Shorty G (Kickoff)

Sheamus starting off the preshow is a bit of a surprise, but I guess they don’t want to pay to fly some cruiserweights out to Houston. This is Sheamus’ first match back for the better part of a year, and he looks great for it. The majority of this is pretty cut and dry; Shamus dismantles Gable, revealing an unsurprising finger interest as he tries to snap Chad’s hand. After hitting 10 Beats of the Bodhran, Sheamus asks if we’re entertained, and the crowd gives a low murmur. Shorty G starts bleeding from his ear—I guess he was forced to listen to Sam Roberts on the preshow panel prior to the match. The height challenged Gable has some good offense here, almost getting the win with a double German suplex, but Sheamus lands the Brogue Kick, and it’s another victory for tall people.

Verdict: This was exactly what we all expected, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Sheamus needed the win, and the artist formerly known as Chad can afford the loss.


US Championship: Andrade (c) vs Humberto Carrillo (Kickoff)

Zelina is wearing an entire chandelier on her chest, and I’ve never envied anyone more. The crowd weirdly isn’t super into this one, even though it’s a good show from both guys. Carrillo starts out using his speed, but Andrade’s able to match him. Andrade goes for the Three Amigos to mock Eddie Guerrero, but Carrillo counters into a roll up. The two exchange shots in the middle, while Zelina gives an impassioned monologue at ringside. We don’t get to hear much of it, because Jerry Lawler is on commentary trying to remember which wrestler is which. Humberto gives a huge rana off the top rope, but Andrade kicks out just at 2.5. He goes for another, but Andrade rolls through into a cover and gets a sneaky pin to retain.

Verdict: Really fun, fast paced stuff here. Handsome men have rights, at last.

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Roman Reigns vs King Corbin (Falls Count Anywhere)

Reigns starts by taking out Corbin’s hot friends, who somehow still hold onto the sedan as a large man comes swinging at their coworkers. What pros. The two slug it out in the ring for a bit before taking it outside. Corbin hits Reigns with the steps and tries to put him through the announce table, but Reigns turns it around and pursues him through the crowd. Joyous fans raise their beers to honor these sweaty, big men ambling after one another.

At one point the crowd chants ‘USA’ after a table spot, which is a bit silly, as the show is of course airing on the WWE Network. Ziggler and Roode come in to interfere for the king, but the Usos arrive to even the odds. The two teams take each other out, while Roman shoves Corbin into a port-a-potty and tips it over, taking some cues from the local high school vandals in your favorite city park. Corbin manages to escape without a shred of shit on him, which feels just a little unrealistic, even for a professional wrestling match. The two fight through the crowd some more, and Reigns hits a huge spear on top of the dugout to win.

Verdict: Good match! They made nice use of the stipulation moving throughout the arena, the Usos and ZigRoode taking each other out made sense, and we got to see a dude shoved into a port-a-potty. There’s nothing else I can ask for.


Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Alexa Bliss and Bianca Belair are #1 and #2, respectively. Mighty Molly Holly comes in at #3, while Nikki Cross is #4, and she and Bliss team up against the other two. Lana comes out with and says she’s going to win the match for Lashley the Hottie. Mercedes Martinez makes her debut and gets Lana on the apron, but Liv Morgan runs in and eliminates her. Morgan climbs up to the top rope and Lana pushes her off, making her the second elimination. Bianca tosses Mighty Molly over the top, while Alexa gets rid of Mandy—but wait! Otis breaks her fall with his body, so she’s still legal. Romance lives. Otis starts dancing ringside as Rose’s hotter partner, Sonya Deville, enters. Fire and Desire are both eliminated by Belair when she ducks Deville, letting Mandy take the hit, and then knocking Sonya out after her. As beefy as Otis is, he is unable to catch them both. Bliss (3 eliminations) and Belair (6) are the only ones left at the halfway point. The two tug of war with Bianca’s hair on the apron, and Alexa is knocked into the post and eliminated. (That’s 7 eliminations for Belair.)

Belair is alone in the ring when Charlotte’s music hits. As a fan of extremely strong women, I’m shedding a small tear here. Naomi returns at #18 and the arena explodes. She and Charlotte team up to attack Belair, but Charlotte is her father’s daughter and immediately turns on Naomi. Charlotte eliminates Belair, and goddamn am I excited to see that one on one match. Beth Phoenix returns for her second Rumble match, followed by Toni Storm and Kelly Kelly. The blondes all go after each other while Naomi simply chills in the corner for a second.

Charlotte gets to work, eliminating Sarah Logan and Kelly Kelly. Naomi is tossed out but lands on the barricade. Natalya joins Beth at #23 to remind us what friendship looks like. We get Xia Li at #24, followed by Zelina Vega in one of the greatest feathered outfits I’ve ever seen. Shotzi Blackheart, Carmella, and Tegan Nox all join the chaos in varying levels of sparkly gear. #29 is Santina Marella and a waste of 90 seconds. He eliminates himself and also way too many of my brain cells (RIP). Naomi makes a bridge out of desk apron to get back to the ring, which gets a bigger pop than Santina’s entrance. Shayna Baszler is our #30 and comes in hot, eliminating Li, Nox, Vega, Blackheart, Carmella, Storm, and Naomi. That’s seven already for the Queen of Spades, for all you counting freaks. Beth and Natalya hit a Hart Attack on Shayna and hug, before Beth eliminates Natalya. Shayna gets rid of Beth (bringing her to 8 eliminations), and she and Charlotte are the final two. Baszler goes to shove Charlotte who’s clinging to the rope, but the Queen uses her legs to pull her over the top to win.

Verdict: Hell yeah!!! Hell yeah women!!!!!! This was great if you ignore the Santino thing, which I absolutely am. Belair was the ironman and looked like a star with all her eliminations. Beth Phoenix being in the final 3 with her bloody hair was fantastic. Charlotte winning is deserved, no matter what Twitter wants you to think. Yeah baby! I love it! Great stuff here!


SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley vs Lacey Evans

Lacey is wearing some sequined camo gear, which is a lot to contend with just on its own. Bayley fakes an injury early on to get an advantage, backing Lacey into the corner. She mocks Evans with a salute before her moonsault, but Lacey gets out of the way. The two end up right next to Lacey’s family at ringside, and Bayley is mean to a seven year old again. Summer hangs onto her mom’s hand while hissing loudly at Bayley. This kid rocks. Lacey lands a standing moonsault in the ring, then goes up to the top rope and tries another, but Bayley has her knees up. She grabs Lacey’s tights to get the win and retain.

Verdict: This was fine, if not remarkable. The crowd was so burnt out after the Rumble, it really hurt an already ‘meh’ match. No appearance from Sasha was a surprise, especially after she didn’t show up in the rumble match either. That album must be pretty damn pressing.

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Universal Championship: The Fiend Bray Wyatt (c) vs Daniel Bryan (Strap Match)

No red light for this one, which is a huge loss for fans of campy horror aesthetic. Bryan starts out with the Yes kicks once the two are literally and metaphorically tied together, only The Fiend isn’t fazed. Bryan gets whipped a fair amount with the strap, but this is exactly what he asked for, so who am I to judge what he’s into. The Fiend dominates for a while, but Bryan manages to fight back with a running knee, followed by a leap from the turnbuckle onto The Fiend outside the ring. The clown gets Bryan on the announce desk, but Daniel hits multiple low blows, so it’s a good thing the Fiend already adopted all those puppet children, because he probably can’t have any of his own now. Now it’s Daniel’s turn to wield the strap, whacking the Fiend before throwing him back in the ring. Some more Yes kicks and hits from the strap, but The Fiend only begs for more. I’m not even trying to make this match sound horny, this is literally just how it went down. Bryan manages to kick out of Sister Abigail, but the Fiend locks in the claw again, and he’s out.

Verdict: Great job by Bryan here in possibly the best Fiend match we’ve seen yet. I like WWE’s running theme that the only way to beat an unconquerable monster is to kick him in the balls a few times.


Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs Asuka

Crowd seems low for this one as well, but it’s a 6 hour show, and I’m tired just sitting on my couch watching it. For a while Asuka seems she’ll put Lynch down for the third time here, as she manages to escape the Dis-arm-her on the ropes and kick out of the leg drop. After Asuka lands a German suplex and a strong kick to the head, Becky looks as out as the audience. The ref goes to call the match, but Becky clings to his leg and begs him not to, like my dog when I leave for work. Asuka delivers another round of strikes, but Becky kicks out. Lynch tries the Dis-arm-her again, Asuka counters, and Becky stumbles into the ref. With the distraction Asuka attempts the mist, but Becky knows it’s coming. She kicks Asuka in the stomach and the Empress green mists herself. Lynch finally gets in the Dis-arm-her and retains.

Verdict: Becky finally getting her revenge, and being the first person to expect the green mist in four months, makes a great end to her saga with Asuka. The high intensity parts of this match especially clicked, when the two women just fought it out as hard as they could.


Men’s Royal Rumble Match

Lesnar #1 quickly eliminates #2 Elias after smashing him with his own guitar. Rowan is #3, and also gets immediately eliminated by Brock. Roode meets the same fate. Morrison lasts 9 seconds. Kofi gets some offense in and manages to make it until Mysterio arrives. Big E is in at #8 to give both men some back up, and all 3 gang up to attack Lesnar. Brock eliminates Mysterio then Big E, and and F5 takes out Kofi. Cesaro’s out next, but his new tiny black shorts aren’t enough to save him. Brock’s friend Shelton Benjamin is out, and the two share an extremely strong hug. Lesnar offers an alliance, before instantly eliminating Benjamin. Shinsuke comes in with some kicks, but again, Lesnar makes quick work of him.

I’m confused about why these guys are even getting in the ring at this point. Just take a breather, man. Pull out your Switch and play a little Pokémon on the outside. Surprise entrant MVP chases Heyman for a second, but Lesnar forces him into the ring and eliminates him. Keith Lee is next, and Brock is psyched for another big dude. “Who’s this motherf*cker?” He asks Heyman. Strowman comes out and he and Lee square off, while Lesnar takes advantage by tossing both out. Ricochet is #15, followed by McIntyre. Kentucky’s favorite son hits Lesnar with a low blow, the only place he can actually be injured, and McIntyre lands a Claymore to eliminate him. McIntyre then eliminates Ricochet, and stands alone and Scottish in the ring.

From here on it’s much more of a traditional Rumble. The Miz makes a brief appearance, and then it’s time to repopulate the ring with AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, and Karl Anderson. The countdown to #21 hits, and it’s Vikings star Edge! Holy shit. After retiring almost a decade ago, it’s incredibly surreal to see Edge compete. His expression as he walks down the ramp, when he stands in the ring and listens to the crowd, is something else. I don’t even mind we have to pretend his spear is anything stronger than a swift hug. I’m crying over here. Edge eliminates Styles, and King Corbin (#22) takes out Riddle (#23), the ultimate victory for step-dads over rebellious teens. McIntyre tosses Corbin (his fourth elimination). Orton (#25)and Edge re-form Rated RKO to get rid of the OC. Friendship! When Reigns (#26) eliminates Ziggler, I’m still wiping tears from my eyes about 46 year old spinal fused king Edge.

Raw’s Joe & Kev vs The Seth Rollins Boy Cult storyline comes into play in entries 27-30. Owens (#27) tosses Rollins (#30) over the ropes, but he’s gently caught by AOP. Another beautiful, romantic gesture. Rollins eliminates Aleister Black (#28), Kevin Owens, and Samoa Joe (#29), who fight with Buddy Murphy and AOP all the way to the back, as the Messiah’s friends ditch him to defend their own honor. Rollins is eliminated soon after, and Edge turns on Orton before the Viper gets him first. Reigns eliminates Edge, but gets caught with a Claymore and thrown out. In lieu of a sign, McIntyre gazes up at the tron with watery eyes and gives an emotional version of his werewolf howl.

Verdict: All of this was fantastic. I get why people didn’t like the beginning; the first half of the match is the Lesnar variety show, and it’s so unlike a traditional Rumble match that it doesn’t feel like it belongs on this PPV. But that’s also what makes it work, deviating from the formula and offering a different kind of match from what we’ve seen for 30+ years. To be honest, sitting through two hour long rumbles in one night is a slog. It’s even worse if the matches feel identical. This mixes up the norm and gives us a traditional Rumble, followed by a little bit of Lesnar getting down to MVP’s theme. Once he’s eliminated we go back to the regular style, leading to a great surprise in Edge returning and a solid victory in McIntyre. We also now have the set up for McIntyre vs Lesnar at mania, which will be a big boy fest for the ages.