The Royal Rumble has the distinction of being maybe WWE’s only show to always be good. That’s not a commentary on the rumble matches themselves, which sometimes suck, but just on the overall feeling of the PPV. Even if you get BS endings and winners nobody wanted, there’s something magical in the nostalgia of hearing theme songs that haven’t played for a decade. Luckily, this year’s show gave us two very deserving winners, so it didn’t rely too much on legend appearances. But when they did bring them out, I shed a few tears. And spit in a few faces.
Women’s Tag Team Championships: Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler def Charlotte Flair and Asuka (Kickoff)
The women’s tag started things off on the kickoff, right after Asuka cut a Japanese promo with more energy than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Even on drugs. The champs were in control in the beginning, until Jax pulled her to the other corner and she and Baszler took turns beating her down. When Flair finally got the tag she hit Natural Selection on both heels, but couldn’t get the win. Ric Flair’s music hit and Charlotte gave a very impressive eye-roll. She continued the fight, getting Baszler in the Figure Eight before Lacey Evans came from behind and chopped at her arm. Ringside, Ric slipped Lacey some brass knuckles as Charlotte went for the Figure Eight again, and Lacey clocked her. Jax hit the leg drop to win, and Ric somehow managed to be an even worse father than we all expected. This was just alright; I’m over Baszler and Jax teaming, and WWE seems over the Women’s tag championships getting their own storyline.
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre def Goldberg
This was a bit of a surprise to open the show, but maybe McIntyre only works first so he can be in bed by 9. I wouldn’t blame him. McIntyre started things off with a headbutt and a spear before the bell even rung. On the outside, Goldberg ran Drew through the barricade, laying out the Scot. McIntyre still insisted on fighting this man in his 50s, and the bell rung. Drew his a Claymore, but Goldberg kicked out at 2. Double spears to McIntyre’s dying ribs almost got the win, but even a Jackhammer couldn’t put away the champ. Goldberg gave us some of his world famous acting as he simply couldn’t believe it. Drew landed another Claymore to retain at 2:30. This was exactly what I thought it was gonna be and I don’t have anything else to say.
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks def Carmella
Had to explain to my roommate why a sommelier is relevant to this storyline, so already a huge L for me personally. Banks started out in control, until Reggie hopped up for the distraction and got slammed on the apron, but still allowed Carmella to use his back as a springboard to wipe out Banks. What a gentleman. Sasha came back with a Meteora, but hurt her knee in the process. Carmella tossed her out of the ring, but she was gently caught by Reginald. The sommelier got a hurricanrana for his trouble, then was thrown out for being just too distracting in that sweet maroon blazer. Carmella almost got the win with the Code of Silence, but Banks escaped and locked in the Bank Statement to make the challenger tap. This was fine; nothing above their last match together, but solid enough.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match: Bianca Belair Wins
As announced previously, Bayley started us off in the first spot. #2 was Naomi, making a very welcome return to what should have been a huge pop in a world not ravaged by a preventable pandemic. She knocked Bayley over with a Rear View just before Bianca Belair arrived at #3. Bianca and Naomi squared off as we all shed a tear for the power of women’s wrestling. 4 was Billie Kay, who joined commentary instead of the ring. Shotzi Blackheart came in at 5 and shot Billie with her tank before hopping in the ring. Shayna Baszler and Toni Storm joined, with Baszler eliminating Blackheart. 8 was Jillian Hall, who agreed to work with Billie Kay, and the two double teamed Naomi. The IIconics briefly reunited as Peyton Royce joined the fray. Jillian Hall turned on Billie, then got eliminated by Kay, who was in turn tossed by Riott. Rhea Ripley was in at 14 and cleared house, including eliminating Toni Storm. Baszler knocked off Victoria, while Ripley got Santana. Charlotte came out at 15 as Bayley eliminated Ruby. Ripley scored her third elimination by sending Dana packing. Lacey and her sugar coworker’s dad were 17, before Mickie James was out to face off with Charlotte, which is something I now desperately need in my life. Alicia Fox was #21, followed by R Truth and the various men who don’t have other storylines going on. After using Fox to knock down everyone else, Alicia rolled up Truth and won the 24/7 championship. She was immediately eliminated by Mandy Rose and rolled up again by Truth. We don’t deserve good things. Ripley eliminated both Rose and Kai, while Carmella (feat Reggie) entered at 24. After a save from Reginald, Mella took out Nikki Cross. Tamina was 25, wiping out Reginald with a superkick and eliminating Carmella. In a great spot, Bianca sent Naomi over the top, but she landed on her feet and used Bianca’s braid to climb back in. My abs ached just watching both of them hang off the apron. Everyone teamed up to beat down #27 Alexa Bliss, presumably to avoid any fireballs, but the ThunderDome screens went out as Alexa felt the power. Before she could officially transform or whatever, Ripley dumped her over the top, which was actually hilarious. Nia Jax was 29, and the new tag champs eliminated Evans, Naomi, Moon, and Tamina, before squaring off with each other. Jax eliminated Baszler, then got taken out by Lana. Natalya turned on former partner Lana, before being eliminated by Belair.
Our final three were Charlotte, Bianca, and Rhea. Ripley and Belair briefly teamed up to take on the Queen, with Bianca throwing her over the ropes and both women knocking her off the apron. Ripley tried to take advantage and throw a gloating Belair over, but they both ended up on the apron once more. Double face busters knocked down both women in the middle of the ring. Rhea Ripley’s makeup hasn’t budged a centimeter, and I am so ducking impressed. Bianca went for the KOD, but Ripley just escaped. A clothesline sent Rhea to the outside, and the EST is going to WrestleMania! A very emotional Belair thanked her parents and husband, Montez Ford, and things felt okay for just a moment. Sometimes this company does the right thing. Like, very, very rarely. But this was the right thing, and it felt great.
Universal Championship: Roman Reigns def Kevin Owens
Reigns and Owens immediately started slugging it out in the middle, ending with a Superman Punch. Owens came back with a Pop Up Powerbomb, but Reigns got to his feet. They fought to the outside and Reigns hit a big spear, but scrappy KO (as coined by Michael Cole) still got up. Reigns went for the steps and ate a superkick from Owens just before he connected. Kevin bounced Reigns off the ThunderDome audience, but not one of those virtual faces sold for the champ. Owens wanted a dive off the bleachers onto Reigns, but Roman got out of the way. Reigns got a hold of the chair and laid into Owens between the screens, then followed up with a Superman Punch. When Kevin still wouldn’t stay down, Roman tossed him off into the table below. Still, Owens climbed to his feet, because he loves nothing more than being slapped with a steel chair. He began to retreat backstage, slowly regaining strength until Roman ran him over with a golf cart. Yet, Kevin somehow pulled himself up, even after being nailed with a small cart going max speed (15 mph). Owens got a second wind and rained down punches, then hit another Pop Up Powerbomb into the table. A splash onto the prone Reigns wiped out both men, but Roman barely beat the count of 9. Kevin grabbed some stairs to lay out Reigns once more, then climbed into a forklift. He climbed the top and hit a senton to crush Reigns yet again, but, somehow, the Big Dog got to his feet.
Owens dragged Reigns back to the entrance ramp, but Roman came back with a Superman Punch and a spear through the LED board. Roman found some handcuffs laying around the place and tried to lock them around Owens, but KO wasn’t about to fall for that one again. He hit Reigns with a big right and used the cuffs to attach Reigns to the lights. Unable to get up, Roman knocked out the ref before he could hit 10, while Heyman came out with some Crisco or a bobby pin to free him. Another ref ran out and Roman locked in the Guillotine on Owens to win. This wasn’t their best bout together, and it ran a little long for my tastes, but it was still solid work from both guys.
Men’s Royal Rumble: Edge Wins
The first two spots were enemies to friends to enemies Edge and Randy Orton. Edge took Orton to the outside and laid into him with chairs, wiping out the Viper. Dolph Ziggler took out Jeff Hardy as Orton bled all over ringside. Nakamura was in at 7, followed by Carlito and his apple at 8. Orton was helped up the ramp while Carlito delivered backstabbers all around. Xavier Woods was in at 9, and went right after Ali. Big E came in to back up his bud and eliminate Sami. Ali took out Woods, then got eliminated himself by Big E. Ricochet and Elias came in, with Elias eliminating Carlito and taking the cool torch for himself. 15 was Damien Priest in some sick white leather, and 16 was an angry Miz destroying Bad Bunny’s DJ set up. Bad Bunny came down to get mad at Miz and Morrison, allowing Priest to eliminating the both of them, followed by a crossbody from the Bunny himself. The mayor of Knox County eliminated Ricochet, then briefly reunited Team Hell No to the joy of like 5 people who remember 2012. It took all of two minutes for Kane to be eliminated by Priest, while King Corbin came in at 19 to eliminate Nakamura. #20 was Otis, who delivered a caterpillar to Priest, only to be eliminated by Corbin. Dominick was in at 21 to eat a spine buster from Corbin, then eliminated the King in return. Bobby Lashley joined to knock off Mysterio and Priest quickly, then faced down Big E. 24 was Captain Charisma, much to my own joy, who worked with Riddle and Big E to topple Lashley. Edge and Christian shared a gentle Canadian hug before double teaming Riddle. AJ Styles was out next, followed by Rey Mysterio. Omos pulled both Big E and Mysterio over the rope to eliminate them as Sheamus and Cesaro made their entrances. New dad Seth Rollins was 29, and our final competitor was big beefy Braun Strowman, who eliminated Styles. Rollins snuck back into the ring to eliminate Daniel Bryan and crush all our dreams, while Strowman knocked out Riddle.
We were down to four: Rollins, Strowman, Edge, and Christian. Seth tried to propose a truce, but Strowman planted him and ran through Edge and Christian. Strowman fought to the apron as Rollins knocked him down, taking Christian with him. Edge evaded the Stomp and tossed Seth, but found himself caught with an RKO from a returning Orton. My life flashed before my eyes before Edge managed to send him over and win. I’m very happy with this result, but I can’t say this was one of my favorite rumble matches. Maybe for the 5 seconds where I considered Christian headlining WreslteMania. That was really nice. A very deserved congratulations to Haven star Edge.
- Edge and Christian!!!! Edge and Christian hugging on my TV in 2021!!!!!
- Naomi is back and she absolutely killed it
- Carlito looks shredded as hell. I better go buy some apples.
- McIntyre/Goldberg is the length all wrestling matches should aim for
- Bianca vs Sasha is the match that will make me unashamed to be a wrestling fan
- Booker T standing stock still while Bad Bunny circled him rapping to an imaginary crowd was, objectively, hilarious
- While it delivered a very welcome result, the men's rumble slogged a bit. Women's should have ended the show- Bianca's victory was the highlight of the whole night
- Both Reigns/Owens and Banks/Carmella weren't quite as good as previous matches between the two
- Women's tag titles continue to be passed around as part of other storylines instead of building actual tag teams... I'm tired