Last night’s Royal Rumble culminated from Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. This was the 32nd Royal Rumble in history where the winner is guaranteed a championship match at Wrestlemania. There was also the women’s Royal Rumble, where Carmella was guaranteed the 30th spot after winning the Mixed Match Challenge. Daniel Bryan defended his WWE Championship against AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar defended his Universal Championship against Finn Balor.
The pre-match show starts with Roode & Gable as Raw Tag Team Champions taking on Razar of the Authors of Pain and The Revival would receive Raw Tag Team Title shots. This showed how weak the tag team division really is. I thought it was good enough to build up Roode & Gable as tag team champions, however it didn’t do anything to advance AOP and The Revival. I am looking for Heavy Machinery to be next in line for the tag team titles. The match gets a 2 star rating. It was equivalent to an okay Raw match.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev to become the United States champion for a second time. It makes me wonder about the direction of Rusev, or lack thereof. Lana tried to distract Nakamura, but Rusev knocked her off the apron and Nakamura capitalized by delivering the Kinchasa to win. This was a decent match, but it also showed that Rusev’s face push was pretty much killed. It’ll be interesting to see if Nakamura gets any momentum after winning the title. The match gets 2.5/5 stars.
Buddy Murphy successfully defended his Cruiserweight championship against Hideo Itami, Akira Tozawa, and Kalisto. This was the best match in the pre-show. It had an international flavor as wrestlers from Australia, Japan, and Mexico were all represented in the match. It also really shows how 205 Live has elevated their game. This really shows Murphy as a dominant champion but there were several near falls and false finishes in the match. There were enough high spots, but there was psychology and desperation in the match, which elevated the importance of the cruiserweight title. This match gets 3.5/5 stars.
Then the main show started with Asuka defending the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Becky Lynch.
This match was hot! Asuka and Lynch are both physical competitors and we got to see Asuka with some heelish tactics with her yelling in anger in Japanese and acting a bit more desperate than normal. Lynch is able to have the anti-hero attitude that Steve Austin had while having the underdog persona that Daniel Bryan had during the Yes Movement. It was just a brutal physical competitive match, I loved the in-ring psychology and the wrestlers both used the Asuka Lock and the Disarm Her submission moves. Asuka wins by submission. 4.5/5 star match. I was a bit surprised with Lynch tapping out, but she looked really strong in tapping out.
The next match was The Bar defending the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against The Miz and Shane McMahon. The match did not pick up until McMahon got the hot tag. It was tough to watch to be honest. While, I enjoy The Bar as a heel tag team, I have a hard time getting behind The Miz as a face. McMahon pins Cesaro after a ridiculous moonsault to become the new Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Overall, I did like the post-match celebration with The Miz’s father at ringside. The match fell flat though with a 1.5/5 star rating.
Ronda Rousey successfully defended her Raw Women’s Championship against Sasha Banks. This was a brutal and physical confrontation. For a brief moment, I thought Banks was actually going to pull off the upset. Her and Rousey work so well together in the ring. This really elevated Banks as a top contender and she did tease a little bit of Four Horsewomen after the match. I am seeing a slow burn towards a heel turn for Sasha Banks. They should have her be more aggressive and more willing to do what it takes to win, even if that means cheating a little. Rousey has really came into her own in WWE. This match was excellent with a 4/5 star rating.
Becky Lynch wins the 30 Women Royal Rumble match to receive a title opportunity at Wrestlemania. I was on the edge of my seat when her and Charlotte Flair were the final two women in the match! I loved the heel tactics by the Riott Squad. I loved Liv Morgan getting eliminated in record time. Nia Jax teasing to break Becky’s face was great, and this will set up Becky Lynch vs. Nia Jax at Elimination Chamber. The action was a lot more suspenseful, Lynch selling her knee injury got the crowd all the more behind her and the crowd erupted when she won! I think Lynch jumps ship to Raw and we will see Rousey vs. Lynch at Wrestlemania 35.
Daniel Bryan, with the help of Erick Rowan, defeated AJ Styles to successfully retain the WWE Championship. The crowd was dead for this match! I mean you can tell the crowd was spent after the women’s Royal Rumble match. There was some good in-ring psychology by both, and it had that old school feel where they were wrestling in ROH all over again, more wrestling holds and brutality. Styles’ moonsault off of the barricade was great. I enjoyed the ending, where it looks like Bryan is going to have a stable since Rowan aligned himself with Bryan. 3.5/5 star match
Brock Lesnar defeated Finn Balor to retain the Universal Championship. People tend to crap on Lesnar, but he can tell a story like no other in a match. This was like “David vs. Goliath”, except Goliath won in the end by submission. Balor pushing Lesnar into the corner of the announce table was a great spot, given Lesnar’s issues with diverticulitis. Balor sold desperation like no other but just came up short. I think we will see Demon King Balor against Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Lesnar attacking Balor after the match enhanced this feud in a great way. 4.5/5 star match.
Seth Rollins eliminates Braun Strowman to win the men’s Royal Rumble. This was a terrible Royal Rumble match. You waste spots on Apollo Crews, Shelton Benjamin, Titus O’Neil, Curt Hawkins, and No Way Jose, when you could’ve had a couple more NXT Wrestlers, or heck I’ll take Cedric Alexander to highlight 205 Live or Tyler Devlin from NXT U.K. Hawkins and O’Neil did have a fun comedy spot. I would’ve had Jeff Jarrett eliminate Elias to give him one last match against Elias at Wrestlemania. Mustafa Ali stole the Rumble. He is winning hearts over with his underdog can-do attitude persona and he plays it very effectively. He sells like no other too. But, this is where WWE messed up. You have him eliminate two Smackdown Superstars in Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura , yet who does he get eliminated by? NIA FREAKING JAX! What in the heck WWE? The only surprise entrant was Jeff Jarrett, unless you count Johnny Gargano and Aliester Black. I hated this Rumble besides Ali’s heroics in the Rumble. Seth Rollins is so bland as a face too. I guess I’d rather have him than Strowman. Strowman can go away now. Just awful poor sequencing in this match. 1.5/5 stars. No suspense. Nothing.
Overall, the PPV gets 3/5 stars. NXT Takeover Phoenix was better.