Ah, the Royal Rumble. Probably my favorite pay-per-view events, even when you include Wrestlemania. Unlike “The Grandest Stage of Them All,” there’s always this air of mystery when it comes to the Royal Rumble. While I never expect any titles to change hands during it (though I would be more than okay if it did happen), there’s always a sense of anticipation and mystery whenever a new entrant will come in after that weird buzzer sounds. It could be one of the current WWE roster, a returning Superstar or even a WWE Legend. Honestly, I would also be okay if it were someone like David Arquette, Drew Carrey or some celebrity to spice things up a little bit. There’s always this element of mystery who’s going to enter the ring next.
This year was a mix of both excitement and, frankly, apathy. As much as I love the Royal Rumble, a lot of why I love it is because it cements what’s going to happen at the subsequent Wrestlemania. After all, the winner gets a title shot during “The Showcase of The Immortals.” Unfortunately, the WWE’s roster has admittedly been thinning out of really big name performers, at least at the caliber I expect when it comes to being part of the main event of Wrestlemania. Still, I watched this year’s Royal Rumble with cautious optimism as you never know who might surprise you.
Before we talk about the Royal Rumble matches proper, I do have to give reviews on the supporting bouts. The quick summary for them would be “they’re fine.” Nothing really exceptional but some of them were definitely better than others. The lamest one, as expected was Drew McIntyre defending his World Championship against Goldberg. As good as Goldberg was during his heyday, we just gotta face the fact he’s not the rampaging bull he was. He’s still strong and could probably spear me with enough force to literally tear me in half (and I mean literally) but his stamina isn’t the same so I expected it just to be a very quick but energetic match, which we did get.
The finish, as expected came from practically out of nowhere. After getting nailed by both a spear and a (admittedly lame) jackhammer, The Scottish Warrior (ugh, hate that nickname) survives them both. He sidesteps another spear from Goldberg then connects with a Claymore to get the pinfall victory and retain his WWE World Championship belt to stay on top of RAW. Even when you factor in the pre-match assault, this was a very short match but it had to be because Goldberg just can’t go all out for a long time. Even with that in mind, this was far away the worst match of the night.
The match between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens for Reigns’ WWE Universal Championship didn’t fare that well either. Then again, this was mostly because of the finish. We’ll get to that later but I also didn’t care for some of the stunts done here. That’s what this Last Man Standing match was, by the way. It was the Kevin Owens stunt show. Roman Reigns may have gotten some hits but KO took the brunt of the punishment. He got thrown off the top of a stage, performed a swanton from the top of a forklift and run over by a golf cart! The golf cart bit did catch me by surprise thanks to some clever blocking. However, all the jumping from the top of something into a collapsing platform just doesn’t have the same punch it did. Props to Owens but I’ve seen it done so many times before it’s lost its luster.
While it was engaging, the finish just took all the wind away from its sails. Kevin Owens managed to get some handcuffs away from Reigns and locked The Head of the Table in a position he allegedly couldn’t get to his feet. The referee almost counted him out but Reigns took out the referee by slamming the official into a steel beam. As this was a Last Man Standing match, he didn’t get disqualified. A new referee arrived while Paul Heyman tried to unlock the handcuffs. Unfortunately, it took forever for some reason. You could even see the official counting up to 5 before the camera took him off frame!
What’s worse is Roman Reigns actually got to his feet! Sure, he was in a crouching position but, as the commentators mentioned, it was enough for the referee to stop the count. If he could’ve done this, why did Roman Reigns do it before? Anyway, after an excruciating period of time, Reigns got free and put Owens, who was probably twiddling his thumbs in the background instead of trying to prevent Heyman from freeing Reigns, in a guillotine chokehold to knock KO out. Kevin Owens fails to answer the 10 count, giving the win to Reigns for this Last Man Standing match and retain his WWE Universal Championship. Boo. An okay match but spoiled by a botched finish.
The best of the undercard was Sasha Banks defending her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Carmella. This was definitely worthy of being on a pay-per-view as it was generally exciting to watch and there were genuine moments when I didn’t know who was going to come up on top… for a few minutes. After a while, you could see where it was going but I appreciate the attempt. There was really good back and forth between the two. There was even a dangerous moment when Carmella did a suicide dive and landed hard on the floor! She was okay, thankfully, but it looked painful! Besides that gaffe, the match was really fun.
The finish came after The Boss got out of Carmella’s Code of Silence submission hold. Banks attempts a crossbody but Carmela counters with a superkick. The Staten Island Princess comes in with another superkick but Banks kicks out at 2. The Boss manages to rally and locks in the Bank Statement to get the submission victory and retain her Smackdown Women’s Championship. While not the best match I’ve seen from Banks, this was entertaining enough to warrant a watch.
We then come of the meat of the Royal Rumble shows, the actual Royal Rumble matches! Let’s start with the Women’s because, as fun as it was, it was the lesser of the two. One thing I felt the WWE was relying too much on before was bringing in all the nostalgia acts. This was partially because the Women’s roster was thin in previous years. They had a few and I’m glad they went with characters like the out-of-kilter Victoria and the annoying Jillian this time around.
A few of my favorite bits from the Women’s Royal Rumble had Billie Kay trying to partner with other competitors before entering the match and eventually settling for Jillian, Alicia Fox winning and losing the WWE 24/7 Championship during the Royal Rumble in a span of a couple of minutes, Carmella being saved by her sommelier Reginald (but only because it looked like he was going to botch the save), the entire Women’s roster fearing for their life when little Alexa Bliss entered and Lana getting some form of revenge on Nia Jax by eliminating the Irresistible Force with a low bridge.
I, however, didn’t like the supposedly “big save” both Naomi and Bianca BelAir did. I know the rule is the feet have to touch the floor to be officially taken out of the Rumble and Naomi technically didn’t. It just looked dumb. Also, the entire rocking back and forth seemed utterly unnecessary. With their athletic background, they could’ve done it on their own but they had to do it for the WWE to have their highlight reel moment.
The final four boiled down to Rhea Ripley from NXT, Charlotte Flair from RAW and Bianca BelAir and Natalya from Smackdown. I was afraid Charlotte Flair would win it again and I hoped she wouldn’t. However, looking at the ring, I didn’t see anyone I really wanted to make it to Wrestlemania as well! Natalya is almost immediately eliminated by BelAir. The EST of the WWE and the Nightmare team up to eliminate Charlotte Flair. The remaining two have a decent mini-match with BelAir finally taking out Ripley to win this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble and punch her ticket to Wrestlemania.
The good moments definitely outweighed the bad ones. I didn’t like how some of the eliminations were blocked terribly, especially Bayley’s elimination from the Rumble. There were also some moments when things got too cluttered and some spots weren’t given time to breathe, like the subdued return of the IIconics (who I loved!) and the ongoing storyline between Charlotte Flair and Lacey Evans. I mean, Charlotte didn’t even factor into Evan’s elimination! Still, this was a generally fun Women’s Royal Rumble and I loved most of it.
The Men’s Royal Rumble was, hands down, the best match of the night. Even right at the start, it was full speed ahead with Edge and Orton coming out first to reignite their feud. It got even better with mostly heels coming in early to help beat down on the returning Edge, making him look like a real underdog. We had just a few but very appreciated returning Legends such as Carlito, Kane and Hurricane Helms and they all had their time to shine. The biggest return was, obviously, Christian as he reunited with his best friend, Edge, to help him out.
Some of the moments I really enjoyed was Edge eventually taking out Orton, leading to The Viper to be sent to the back… but not eliminated, a brief reunion between the New Day, Team Hell No briefly hugging it out until Kane decides the few seconds of bliss was enough, Hurricane Helms trying his luck with chokeslamming Lashley and Big E and Omos helping out AJ Styles throughout the match. I even liked the entire Bad Bunny splash because, as goofy as it was, I can’t hate on someone who is seemingly living out their childhood fantasy of participating in a WWE ring, even if it is for a split second.
The apparent final four was Edge and Christian as well as Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins from Smackdown (sorry, RAW). The Monster Among Men tries to eliminate Edge but Christian tries to save his buddy and it looks like they’re about to succeed until Rollins sneaks up from behind and pushes both Strowman and Christian over the top rope. Edge, almost immediately, takes out Rollins and it seems like he’s won but Orton manages to get back into the ring and nails The Ultimate Opportunist with an RKO! Orton tries to toss Edge out from the opposite side of the ring but Edge counters and eliminates Orton! Edge is going to Wrestlemania!
This was a better planned out Royal Rumble than the Women’s as you could actually see everything that was happening. The entrants were timed and there was enough drama. What really got me was how intense it was at the start with Edge and Orton going at it from the outset. Seeing Edge win was just the icing on the cake.
This year’s Royal Rumble was actually pretty good. Even the worst match, which is the Drew McIntyre vs. Goldberb for RAW’s most coveted prize, was a blast to watch. Even if I don’t care for Bianca BelAir that much, I can definitely see her having a good match with either Asuka or Sasha Banks (but Sasha Banks would be better). The possibility of Edge and Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania (Battle of the Spears?) is intoxicating. This was a good start to the Road to Wrestlemania.
What did you think of this year’s Royal Rumble? Let me know in the comments section below!