It’s Royal Rumble time again! Despite me just writing a post as to why my interest in the WWE product is waning, I will always be excited for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view event. It’s the kickoff to Wrestlemania and, more importantly, it has my favorite “special” match rules. The 30-person Royal Rumble always has something fun and goofy in store for the WWE Universe and, I will say, this year’s Royal Rumble was leagues better than any of the previous years’ by a long shot!
They kicked off the pay-per-view with the match I wasn’t looking forward to, the Falls Count Anywhere match between Roman Reigns and King Corbin. They kind of ran this feud into ground already and I really questioned why these two had to duke it out once again after it should’ve ended in last month’s TLC. Maybe it’s precisely because I didn’t think this match would be any good which is why I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
One thing that surprised me with this Falls Count Anywhere match is how they used the stipulation in different ways thanks to where the WWE was holding the Royal Rumble. This year, it looks like they were holding the event in a baseball stadium. This led Roman Reigns and King Corbin to use a super large space to conduct their brawl. Sure there were the plodding moments when they would have to stumble around until they got to the designated spot to do the brawl but it was nice to see things like a dugout and a wide stage where they can perform dives out of nowhere.
There were some hiccups, such as the aforementioned dull spots wherein they had to actually get to those areas. I also didn’t like how there was this weird intermission portion when Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler all of a sudden beat down of Roman Reigns and then the Usos got involved. It was strange because, all of a sudden, Reigns and Corbin were out of the picture and the focus became Roode, Ziggler and the Usos fighting it out! The finish itself was kind of unspectacular, with The Big Dog spearing Corbin on top of the dugout to get the pinfall victory. It was a fun brawl for the most part but there were definitely some slow parts and that intermission just was out of place.
The next match of the night was the Women’s Royal Rumble and this was probably my match of the night for so many reasons. The Royal Rumble has always been the WWE’s opportunity to bring back some fan favorites and do some goofy stuff and the Women’s Royal Rumble certainly had them this year!
They didn’t have that many returning names and I even think some of the ones the WWE chose this year, Molly Holly and Kelly Kelly, were kind of hit or miss. The one home run returning Superstar was Santina Marella! This was a huge surprise and I’m rather glad that they used her for the comedy gold she can execute. Yes, I know Santina Marella is really Santino in drag but, since the WWE has made it “canon” that she’s really his sister, I’m going to keep on calling Santina Marella as a bonified WWE Diva!
I also really loved the pacing of the entire thing this year. The first part probably had most of the best parts and the closing portion was fun. Sure, the middle was a little dead but that’s okay. I needed some kind of breather after the first third was complete.
The main reason why I loved the first half of the Women’s Royal Rumble is because that’s when most of the fun stuff happened. We had Bianca Belair’s massive explosion of power as she made elimination after elimination. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross teaming up and, gasp, didn’t betray each other. We got to see a quick brawl between Lana and Liv Morgan, which led to them eliminating each other… and Liv looking like an idiot for gloating too soon.
Strangely enough, the best thing about the first half was the entire Mandy Rose-Sonya Deville-Otis love triangle! Well, it’s mostly the Mandy Rose and Otis affair as Otis managed to break Mandy’s fall a couple of times in some really fun ways! Eventually, Sonya Deville did get herself and Mandy eliminated by accident but it was a fun ride while it lasted! Sorry, Naomi! You’re Spider-Woman act was fun but it wasn’t as sensational as the Mandy Rose saves!
The second half had its fun moments as well but it just wasn’t as good as the first half. The second half did have Beth Phoenix doing a massive run despite her getting a heavy cut on the back of her head. The second half also had the entire Santina thing as well as Shayna Bazzler’s quick massive rush to eliminate as many women as possible. Ultimately, Charlotte came out on top to win the Women’s Royal Rumble. I’m okay with the choice but I was hoping it would be Shayna Bazzler so she can go after Becky Lynch in a clean one-on-one match. Also, where the heck was Sasha Banks? What did she do this time?
Besides these nitpicks, this was a super fun Women’s Royal Rumble and, while it was kind of all downhill from here, the slope of the drop wasn’t all that steep.
The next match had Lacey Evans take on Bayley for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. I’m sorry but I’m still not all that convinced with Lacey Evans being a good gal. It’s like the WWE gave her John Cena’s military schtick and, while I will admit it works on some level as she did serve in the military, her heelish Southern Belle persona was much more fun.
This match wasn’t a bad match but it did suffer in my eyes as it had to follow a truly awesome Women’s Royal Rumble match. The action was clean and actually good but just rather pedestrian in a way. I do think Evans has to change her wrestling style and limit her athletic moves like the moonsault and concentrate more on doing strikes and grappling moves as she does have the build for it and she does botch the flippy moves sometimes. Basically, focus on doing more power moves than the graceful ones.
The finish was kind of dumb. Evans had the advantage and went for her springboard moonsault but Bayley manages to get her knees up in time. Bayley rolls Lacey up and grabs a handful of tights at the 2 count and gets the pinfall victory to retain her Smackdown Women’s Championship. This felt awkward because Bayley started using the tights a little too late and it didn’t look like Lacey Evans even tried to kick out anyway. While a good match, I do believe these two could’ve pulled off a better one.
The next match had Daniel Bryan taking on The Fiend in a Strap match for the Smackdown Heavyweight Championship and, lo and behold! The WWE scrapped the terrible red lights so we can actually see what’s going on! This simple change made this The Fiend match infinitely better than any of his previous matches!
I generally am indifferent to Strap matches but this was more of your traditional match actually. Thankfully, they didn’t have that stupid “touch all turnbuckles to win” stipulation this time around! Of course both Daniel Bryan and The Fiend took turns using the strap against each other. I mean, it would be ridiculous if they didn’t even try!
Things did start out slow but that was to be expected. Once things started going, the match started to get really good. I loved how they teased the possibility that Daniel Bryan was actually going to win. I mean, I knew he wouldn’t be able to but there were a couple of times when I thought the WWE just might do it. Unfortunately, just as Bryan was getting fired up, The Fiend entered his invincibility mode and started no-selling the moves. A mandible claw slam later and The Fiend wins by pinfall. This was, overall, a good match with some really good in-ring storytelling. I am concerned with the WWE pushing the entire The Fiend becoming unstoppable trick because, if they do it too often, fans’ll get tired of it. For now, it’s fine, however.
The last non-Royal Rumble match of the night had Becky Lynch defending her RAW Women’s Championship against Asuka, who had Kairi Sane in her corner. This was an insanely good match with fantastic storytelling in the ring. The action was excellent and the pace followed a nice and brisk momentum. There is something to be said when the competitors in a match seem pretty even in skill since it feels like they can work together well. This was definitely true for Becky Lynch and Asuka as they put on one hell of a match!
The finish was brilliantly executed. Asuka intentionally tosses Lynch into the referee so that she could ready her green mist. Before she could spray it into Lynch’s face, however, The Man counters it with a kick to the Empress of Tomorrow’s gut, leading her to spitting it in the air in a glorious fountain of green. Lynch locks on the Dis-Arm-Her to get the submission victory and retain her RAW Women’s Championship.
While this was a great match overall, I really hoped Kairi Sane would’ve done something to help Asuka out. I guess they wanted this match to have a clean finish but it just seemed weird for Asuka to have Kairi Sane with her but not do anything. This is mostly a nitpick on something that could’ve put this match over the top but it was still an excellent bout.
We finally head to the final match of the night, which is the Men’s Royal Rumble. Seeing that Brock Lesnar was going to start at the Number 1 position and his claim that he was still going to win, I already knew the person who was going to eliminate The Beast was going to win this year’s Royal Rumble. I did second guess myself when I did see who took Brock out but we’ll get to that.
The first half of this year’s Royal Rumble did see Brock Lesnar enter at the 1st spot and then promptly eliminating anyone who got in. If this wasn’t executed well, everyone would be groaning at why the WWE thought it was a good idea to have Brock Lesnar dominate again. The thing is, it worked! This was a nice twist to Royal Rumble history and, in hindsight, the only man who could pull a stunt like this is The Beast. This led to monstrous heat on Brock and the fans cheering wildly when he was eventually thrown over the top rope.
Unfortunately, this worked a little too well as the Royal Rumble heat started to get lukewarm after Brock’s elimination. Things felt rather uneventful for a good time until the returning Rated R Suuuuuuuuperstar Edge made a successful return to a WWE ring! Sorry MVP but you were just fodder for Brock’s rampage! Edge’s return led to a reunion of sorts with Randy Orton to reform Rated RKO for a short time. I was rather miffed when the commentators didn’t call Edge “The Ultimate Opportunist” when he eliminated Orton, though. They practically gave that away yet they didn’t touch it!
The final 3 had Roman Reigns, Edge and Drew McIntyre face off against each other. Well, briefly anyway as Reigns almost promptly dumps Edge over the top rope after the face off, even after The Rated R Superstar speared Reigns. The Big Dog then turned his sights onto McIntyre and went for a spear but McIntyre countered with a Claymore kick! Drew McIntyre, the man who surprisingly eliminated Brock Lesnar earlier, then tosses out Reigns to win this year’s Royal Rumble!
This was one heck of a Royal Rumble match. I didn’t even mention the Superstars ganging up on Seth Rollins and everyone nailing him with their finishing move, which was also rather satisfying. I was hoping to see a few more Legends return so that was kind of a letdown. Even so, seeing the WWE put their faith on Drew McIntyre, the guy who used to be in 3MB, and win the entire thing was a pleasant surprise as well. Just don’t make him a generic tough guy, please, WWE?
This was one of the best Royal Rumbles the WWE has produced in a long time. All the matches were really good and just a blast to watch. I hope the WWE can keep this up until Wrestlemania because, after watching this year’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view, I am once again intrigued with their product.
What did you think of this year’s Royal Rumble? Let me know in the comments section below!