Considered one of the big four live events WWE puts on each year, Royal Rumble is always full of surprises and can’t-miss action. This year was no different, as we witnessed the return of Andrade, Naomi, Liv Morgan, Sami Zayn, Pat McAfee and more.
The event comes days after Vince McMahon, WWE co-founder and former CEO, resigned from his role as TKO executive chairman and his position on TKO’s board of directors. TKO is the parent company of WWE as of last year when it merged with UFC. McMahon’s resignation follows a lawsuit that was filed on January 2, which accused him of sexual misconduct.
There were over 48,000 people in attendance at Tropicana Field — normally the home of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays — for this event, and from the energy inside the stadium, you could tell. I, along with everyone around me, was on my feet every time the countdown came on before the Royal Rumble match entrants, and the chants that started out of nowhere easily picked up around the entire stadium.
Attending live wrestling events is indescribable. It’s something that I think everyone should experience once in life, because it’s so different from any other sport. It will be a night I’ll never forget, so to reminisce, let’s look at some of the standout moments of the night:
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
In this match, two women start in the ring, while every 90 seconds, another woman enters until the number of wrestlers reaches 30. Each woman is trying to throw one another over the top rope to eliminate them from the match. In this case, Natalya started the match with Naomi, who returned from her hiatus with WWE. After 90 seconds, Bayley entered third, and so on and so forth.
The stipulation for the match itself makes it interesting, but also the caliber of it, as the winner gets a shot at a world title and main eventing WrestleMania in April. Some standout moments were seeing some of NXT’s greatest superstars, Roxanne Perez and Tiffany Stratton, in the rumble. They held their own, which hopefully means they’ll be part of the full-time roster soon. Another fun moment was when Chelsea Green was caught in a sequence of attack after attack. From her own teammate accidentally hitting her to Nia Jax laying blows, Green was a pure ragdoll for a solid two minutes. Speaking of Jax, she was the woman so many superstars tried to get out, but failed. That was until Jade Cargill made her debut and proved just how strong she is. I’m stoked to see what the future looks like for Cargill, though it was briefly hinted in the ring that a matchup against Bianca Belair is imminent.
At the end of the match, the last three women standing were Cargill, Bayley and Morgan, who returned from injury. Bayley had been in the match for over an hour at this point, a feat that only she and Naomi accomplished this time around. While my bet was for Morgan to win, Bayley won in the end. Still, I was satisfied with this outcome and some of the surprises. Did I mention R-Truth randomly appeared as part of his normal funny antics, because he thought it was the Men’s Royal Rumble? It’ll be exciting to see how this storyline with Bayley aiming for a mania main event goes. It’s so deserving for the workhorse of the women’s division and can make for a great feud against her fellow Damage CTRL member, Iyo Sky, who currently holds the WWE Women’s Championship.
Fatal Four-Way Match
In a fatal four-way match for the WWE Universal Championship, Roman Reigns defended against LA Knight, Randy Orton and AJ Styles. While I knew Reigns was definitely retaining, and most likely from outside help as usual, I was still excited to see the actual match. Knight has become a megastar that you can’t help but love. Styles has always been phenomenal, and since his recent return, he’s come back with an even heavier grit. As for Orton, he’s fresh on a return and is as clean as ever with his moves.
Since this was a fatal four-way match, there were no disqualifications. That meant they could use weapons and spend as much time outside the ring as they wanted. For Orton and Knight, that meant taking turns dropping Reigns and Styles on top of the announcer’s table. For Styles, that meant connecting on several steel chair shots with each of his competitors. For Reigns, that meant getting Solo Sikoa to do his dirty work, as usual, but also saving Reigns from being pinned. The actual match was great, as all of the competitors each had a bone to pick with Reigns. Sadly, when you already know the outcome, it takes away from the match just a little bit. Reigns hit Styles with a spear to win the matchup and retain his championship.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
With the same stipulations as the Women’s Royal Rumble, the Men’s Royal Rumble closed the night. I was going back and forth between my pick for winner — CM Punk or Cody Rhodes — but in the end, Rhodes pulled off the victory. What made this so significant was the fact that he also won the rumble last year. Back-to-back rumble wins are something super rare for a superstar. Now Rhodes can finish his story and rewrite history from last year’s WrestleMania when he lost to Reigns. Similar to the Women’s Royal Rumble, two NXT-bred superstars, Carmelo Hayes and Bron Breakker, really showed out with their performances. Unfortunately, it looks like Punk suffered a torn triceps during the match and will be out with injury for several months.
Overall, the night was fantastic because there’s truly nothing like the Royal Rumble. Sure, there could have been a few more surprises or returns, but you can’t have everything. There was also a match between Kevin Owens and Logan Paul for the United States championship. Again, a great matchup in terms of the wrestling, but the same tired ‘brass knuckles’ storyline was used, and it gets old after a while. I highly recommend people go back and watch this premium live event if they can, or at least the two rumble matches. The road to WrestleMania has officially begun!
“Sports Entertainment Solidified” is a pro wrestling column by Maddy Myer that runs every Monday.