When Charlotte Flair won the first Royal Rumble match of the night, I got a bit concerned. It wasn’t a bad result in its own right, but I was worried the men’s Rumble would have a similar, chalk-y winner.
And that would have been a problem. When the last five Royal Rumble winners are Roman Reigns, Triple H, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura (who failed to win a major title, turned heel, and sulked off to the midcard for all eternity), and Seth Rollins...well. Let’s say we needed some energy and surprise to this thing.
Drew McIntyre is certainly that: a fresh, surprising winner who deserves a major title match.
And let me clarify what I mean when I say “deserve”. People always talk about tenure or that it’s someone’s turn to get a shot, like that’s a thing that should ever matter. The reason why McIntyre deserves this is really simple; he’s been brilliant lately.
His face turn has gotten a very positive reaction from the fans. He’s been incredibly charming and charismatic with his time. He’s been passionate when talking about all the times he’s missed out on title opportunities that he’s made this outcome feel like it should happen. He deserves it, most simply, because he’s earned it.
Now...the rest of the men’s Rumble match? For the most part, I was not a fan at all.
When WWE announced that Brock Lesnar would be the first entrant, I winced because I knew this is how it’d go. Watching Lesnar is always a pyrrhic experience for me. It always takes too long for someone to defeat him for my taste. Lesnar eliminating a bunch of midcard goons? Sure, whatever.
But folks, I almost turned the damn show off when he punked out Keith Lee, the need to write this review be damned. When you tease Lee being the guy to eliminate Lesnar and then he fails, it doesn’t make me happier to see McIntyre succeed later on; in just makes me sad that it wasn’t Lee.
I didn’t like the Seth Rollins portion of the Rumble, either. It had a very similar feel to Lesnar; between them both, a majority of the Royal Rumble participants came and went without too much fanfare.
I haven’t even said anything about Edge yet, have I? Edge was brilliant in this; the men’s Rumble was extremely short on surprises, but Edge is as big as they get. From his confrontation with AJ Styles to getting the better of Randy Orton, everything he did was captivating. Hell, having Reigns eliminate him was perfect for McIntyre’s ultimate triumph as well.
The final four (Orton, Edge, Reigns, McIntyre) was fantastic, and WWE picked the right winner. I’m still absolutely furious over Keith Lee’s elimination, but I can’t be too angry when WWE used the Rumble to elevate someone up the card, which is pretty much what we all want from the Rumble. McIntyre vs. Lesnar could be fantastic.
All in all, I feel very strongly about this Rumble, both good and bad. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but strong feelings have to be a success, right?
Charlotte wins the Royal Rumble
The women’s Rumble was much more fun throughout the entire match, but with a finish that I’d consider a bit of a letdown.
The story for much of this was Bianca Belair. Belair entered the match second and dominated the first half of the match. She held off Alexa Bliss early on, endured as the ring filled up, and systematically went about eliminating as many people as possible. From Mighty Molly to the Otis-aided team of Fire & Desire, Belair couldn’t be stopped. And when Bliss tried to use Belair’s hair against her on an elimination attempt, Belair showed off her strength to yank Bliss into a ring post for yet another elimination.
She set a record of eight eliminations by the time Charlotte finally forced her out of the ring. You know who else had eight eliminations? Shayna Baszler. Baszler entered at 30 and chucked everyone in sight out of the ring. She had eight of the final 10 eliminations before ultimately falling to Charlotte.
And if there was any weak part of this Rumble, I’d definitely point to the finish. Baszler was working to eliminate a bloodied Beth Phoenix when Charlotte tried to eliminate them both. Baszler hung on, which would seem to set up one of those epic 1-on-1’s to end the Rumble, right?
Well...not quite. Baszler quickly got Charlotte to the ropes, and a lengthy struggle eventually resulted in Charlotte flipping Baszler to the outside. It felt like we got robbed of a more entertaining finish.
But with that said, this Rumble had more surprises and silly moments - hello, Santina! - and did more to invest in the future of its division, even if Charlotte ultimately won. Baszler and Belair need to come in and shake up this Four Horsewoman domination of the main roster titles.
The Fiend crushes a dream
This was super fun! The strap match is something we haven’t seen in a long time, and it certainly felt new and fresh. It’s also the sort of match that is right up Daniel Bryan’s alley; he is so damn brilliant with matches where he can use the violence and unique rules to tell a story.
And what a story, too. Bryan and Wyatt have so much history with one another, and channeled that into something that serves them both moving forward. Facing an unstoppable force of nature, Bryan tapped back into the Yes Movement - the moment in his career where he exemplified passion and resilience. He was battered, bloody, and wearing a litany of welts by the end of this thing, but Bryan still persevered and had the Fiend (apparently) on the ropes.
And just as Bryan started to pick himself back up with all the salt and vinegar we’ve come to expect from him…the Fiend stood up.
Stood up and laughed.
Y’all, I love this character. I’m sure you could nitpick if you wanted - this is the internet, after all - but Wyatt has had fun story after fun story with the Fiend. This match also set a precedent for what it’s going to take to finally overcome this nightmare of a fighter.
You’d better bring more fight than Yes Movement Bryan to get the job done.
Becky Lynch def. Asuka - I’m quickly beginning to realize that it’s going to be hard for undercard matches to really stand out at the Royal Rumble. It takes something special, and this match wasn’t that.
It was a good match, but nothing that you couldn’t see on Raw, SmackDown, NXT, World’s Collide, etc. It also featured a really weird moment that just stuck out like a sore thumb: Asuka kicked Lynch in the head and the ref wanted to stop the match, only for Lynch to grab his leg at the last moment and beg him off.
...So what was that supposed to do, exactly? Give Asuka reason to complain at the result later? Make us rally behind Lynch? It just felt weird.
The finish to the match was great, though. Lynch kicked the Green Mist right out of Asuka’s mouth before setting up a Disarmher to win.
Roman Reigns def. Baron Corbin - If you’ll allow me to be a conspiracy theorist for a moment, I think WWE decided to put this match first because it would be the least likely spot for the crowd to rebel. I can’t really blame them if that was the logic, but I also want to give them credit: Reigns and Corbin used the entire ballpark well and the match had some great visuals.
See, WWE? I can be fair. Now please end this feud forever and ever. ‘Kay?
Bayley def. Lacey Evans - This was just average, wasn’t it? This match was essentially a cooldown match for the first Royal Rumble match, and nothing really significant happened. Bayley won by pulling the tights and...that’s the end to this story. The commentators summed it up by saying Evans is “definitely going to be a champion in the future” and moved on to the next match.
I wasn’t able to catch the pre-show due to life getting in the way, so my apologies for that. But judging from the main card, I thought this was a fairly successful Royal Rumble. There were some issues for sure, and I’m pretty darn concerned about Bayley’s title reign on SmackDown, but I can’t be mad with McIntyre getting a shot at Brock Lesnar.