We are on the road to WrestleMania, and WWE has hit the ground running with the 31st Royal Rumble event. The performers pulled out all the stops to great effect in trying to really kick off the WrestleMania season. Enough of the introductions, let’s get down to it.
Drew Gulak, TJP, and Jack Gallagher vs Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik, and Kalisto
Winners: Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik, and Kalisto
Luke Gallow and Karl Anderson vs The Revival
Winners: The Revival
Bobby Roode US Open Challenge vs. Mojo Rawley
Winner: Bobby Roode
Despite what a spectacle the main show was, the kickoff show was particularly lackluster. The Bobby Roode US Open Challenge was the only one that really made any impact. I understand wanting to keep the Cruiserweight division on TV, but I don’t think this is the way to do it. Perhaps it would be better to treat 205 Live much like NXT. Keep it as its own show, and let the championship and big storyline matches in on the PPVs. Doing it this way just feels like they’re throwing away talent. But perhaps the influx of groups like the Cruiserweights, as well as female performers and NXT call-ups, WWE is suffering from too much talent. Could it be that there simply isn’t enough time to do something with all the talent currently under contract?
Bobby Roode got the biggest pop during the kickoff, but who’s surprised. Mojo Rawley got some real boos as he made his way out to answer Roode’s open challenge. I suppose that it could be seen as fans were hoping somebody else would have accepted the match invitation, but I personally feel that people just aren’t into Mojo. Even with his new heel turn, he still feels very cookie cutter, and I think fans see that. If WWE is going to do something with him, it needs to be soon. Wait too long, and fans may not care at all once his push comes along.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Handicap Match for the WWE Championship
Winner: AJ Styles
Good way to kick off the show, I think. These kind of matches always end up being kind of gimmicky, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a lot of those non-gimmick matches have a greater effect when they’re further down on the card.
This match did a good job at making AJ’s win seem real while not making Owens and Zayn seem weak. There was some great tag team work from the Yep Movement, constantly tagging in and out while they beat down Styles. Having Styles try to constantly be in between the legal man and his partner was an excellent touch too. And the ending was perfect, with a false tag happening and AJ pinning Owens, who was not the legal man at that point. It really pulled the whole thing together, and protected Owens and Zayn perfectly. This thing probably isn’t over yet due to the finish, so I only hope the next chapter is able to be this effective as well.
The Usos vs. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin (Two out of Three Falls Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship)
Winners: The Usos
It’s kind of hard to knock the Usos for anything. Ever since their heel turn months ago, they have been on fire. In my opinion, Smackdown owes the current legitimacy of their tag division to the Usos. But that’s not to knock Gable and Benjamin. They still have some work to do, but they are really starting to come into their own. Surely a title run is somewhere in their future.
I was kind of surprised to see the Usos come out on top with two falls to none, with the second fall coming from a sneak roll up. Good stuff, honestly. It’s nice to see WWE willing to break their habits from time to time. These multiple fall matches always seem to come out to the last fall, with the two parties being equal. While it’s an easy way to protect talent, it becomes stale really quickly. Very nice touch there.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Wow, did not see that coming. I was dreading from the moment he entered the match that Roman Reigns was gonna snag the win here, but I applaud WWE for not taking that route. At this point, Reigns vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania for the Universal Title seems like a forgone conclusion. I think it would have been a huge mistake to use the Royal Rumble as the beginnings of that set-up, and I think WWE realized it too. In today’s landscape, fans are more in touch with what’s going on behind the curtain, and it’s been all over every blog and site that covers the company that Reigns taking down Lesnar is pretty much set in stone. It would have been a huge mistake to take away the excitement of a Royal Rumble winner just to set up that match. Give me something else to look forward to, surprise me. I was definitely surprised.
Renee Young interviewed a victorious Nakamura in-ring after the match, asking who he plans to challenge at WrestleMania. Nakamura responds with AJ Styles. Fantastic. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about a title match, and I would venture to guess that quite a few fans would agree. The sheer amount of talent between these two men almost guarantees an instant classic at the Showcase of the Immortals. I’m chomping at the bit for this one for sure.
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan vs The Bar (Raw Tag Team Championship Match)
Winners: The Bar
This was… weird. Jason Jordon gets whipped into the ring post on the outside early on in the match, and is out for the entire thing, leaving Rollins to defend the titles by himself. At one point, Jordan tags himself in to relieve a beat-down Rollins, only to sell his head injury as something more, and tag himself back out.
According to rumors, Jordan is currently dealing with a back injury that is preventing him from taking bumps. Understandable, but why not set it up to have somebody fill in for him, and give the fans an actual match? The outcome could still be the same, and even set up the same storyline, which would be Rollins being upset because his partner wasn’t there to help. I just don’t completely understand the decision to go this route, but perhaps it will make sense down the road. Just my opinion.
Brock Lesnar vs Braun Stroman vs Kane (Triple Threat Match for the Universal Championship
Winner: Brock Lesnar
With Reigns vs Lesnar being the likely route it is, I wasn’t too excited about this match. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was enjoying it. It wasn’t terribly long, and ended up being an all-out spot fest. Seriously, the entire area looked like a demolition crew just came through when everything was said and done. Braun looked incredibly strong throughout the entire match, with Lesnar getting in a few good spots too. Kane ended up being the glue that held all the pieces together. He didn’t look too strong, but that’s not his spot now. He’s there to make the others look good, something he’s really good at doing. Don’t take that as a knock against Kane. I have all the respect in the world for him, but that’s how the business works: You have people help make you when you start out in the business, and you reciprocate for the up and comers when you’re towards the end of your career. Circle of life and all that. This match was well put-together, and did everything it set out to achieve, which was to keep the belt on Lesnar, while making Strowman look good as hell. Title reigns are coming to Braun in the future, guaranteed.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Bravo! The first ever women’s Royal Rumble match was a huge success. It was smart to have this match as the main event on the card. If WWE wants the women’s division to look as well and draw just as much as the men’s, then give them the right spots to do it. It comes down to about half presentation and half talent. By giving the women the main event spot, WWE is putting the spotlight on them to let them show that they can be the big money match as well. Great decision.
The beginning was a little rough, and I’m going to pin that on Sasha Banks. She seemed out of it. Maybe it was nerves or something else, but I wasn’t buying anything that involved her. It got to a point where I seriously began to wonder if the remaining time on her WWE career clock was measured in months instead of years. She picked it up as the match went on, but with being one of the first two participants in the match, she really dropped the ball when she had a bigger share of the spotlight.
Quite a few one-time returns for this match as well, but I suppose that was to be expected, although I had hoped to see a few more women from the Mae Young Classic show up here. Kairi Sane did, and she looked phenomenal. I hope to see more of her in the future.
Asuka wins, and as she stands in the ring with Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss, assumedly about to announce who she plans to challenge at WrestleMania, Ronda Rousey shows up! Quite a surprise, since she’s been so adamant the past few weeks about having other projects that would prevent her from making a debut. Turns out she’s signed a full time contract as well. The women’s division was already doing well, and this is just going to help out more. I can’t imagine the draw she’s going to bring in. Hopefully, she can wrestle.
All in all, one of the better Royal Rumbles in quite some time. If this event is any indication of what to expect as we inch closer to WrestleMania in April, then I’d say we have an exciting and extremely entertaining couple of months ahead of us.
Tune in next week as I cover Raw and Smackdown in the aftermath of the Royal Rumble!
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to read more!