The road to WrestleMania officially kicked off on Saturday night with the Royal Rumble from The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis.
Lots of excitement going into the event not only because it’s the freaking Royal Rumble, but there was no clear front runner on who would win the Rumble matches, like in years past.
However, rumors during the week gave away the finish to the women’s Rumble, while the fate of the men’s Rumble became evident a couple of hours into the show.
The show opened with the Universal Championship Match between Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. The poetry of this match was beautiful from beginning to end, with well-timed callbacks to their days in The Shield.
Reigns admitted on SmackDown that Rollins took a piece of his soul when he ended The Shield.
Rollins made his way to the ring with The Shield entrance music and garb. That alone worked on two fronts because it was an excellent piece of nostalgia and used as a device to get in Reigns’ head.
The back and forth action lived up to the high standards these two have set over the last few years. Rollins won by DQ when Reigns refused to break the front choke after the count of five. Reigns’ assault wouldn’t end there as he grabbed a chair and walloped Rollins in the same fashion Rollins had done do him years earlier.
The way Rollins fell into the ropes was also done in the same manner as Reigns had fallen on that fateful night. A perfect example of pro wrestling storytelling.
Ronda Rousey made her surprise return to WWE and won the Women’s Royal Rumble. This was Rousey’s first appearance since WrestleMania 35, and she entered the Rumble at #28.
Rousey quickly eliminated SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair in the final frame, who volunteered to enter the Rumble in an attempt to control her fate at WrestleMania.
Overall, the women’s Rumble was a fun outing with surprises and memorable moments. Sasha Banks entered at #1 and Melina at #2 for a surprise return. The fans were happy to see Melina back, and the emotion on her face said it all. Then, she was eliminated one minute in.
Kelly Kelly’s stunt double was one of the…look, I know they said it was the real Kelly Kelly, but it didn’t look like her at all.
In a change of pace from the past, many of the division’s heavy hitters entered the Rumble early on. Liv Morgan at #6, Bianca Belair at #8, and Sonya Deville #11. The audience was firmly behind Belair while Deville drew heat for keeping her jacket on, meaning she’s still a “WWE Official.”
The Bellas were babyfaces and suddenly switched to their past mean girls’ persona. Nikki Bella straight up threw out Liv Morgan, one of the emotional favorites to win. Something about it deflated things for a bit.
Perhaps, the idea of a part-timer easily eliminating a star on the rise was tough to swallow and would have gone down easier if it was a member of the full-time roster.
Impact Knockouts Champion Mickie James entered at #20 to a big reaction. She wore the Impact Knockout’s Title and came out to her “Hardcore Country” theme.
Using her Impact entrance music instead of her old WWE theme made James’ participation feel unique, an authentic crossover appearance.
James went right after Michelle McCool, revisiting their old rivalry, another great nod to the past.
Rousey’s win likely sets up a match with Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania.
I didn’t get to watch the Raw Women’s Title Match between Becky Lynch defending against Doudrop because the nurse came in to do my vitals and run some tests.
Oh yeah, I should probably mention I’m writing this from my hospital room. I’ve been admitted since Thursday evening for a non COVID issue that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
I hope you all and your loved ones are doing well.
I did see the finish where Lynch Manhandle Slammed Doudrop off the middle rope for the pin. Honestly, I was checked out of this match as soon as it was announced. The creative going in did nothing to convince me that Doudrop had a chance to win.
Bobby Lashley defeated Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Championship due to interference from Roman Reigns with an assist from Paul Heyman.
This was a dream match years in the making, and it lived up to the hype in the best way. Both men tried one-upping each other early on with their amateur wrestling credentials.
Each traded one giant German suplex that gave the other pause for a brief moment.
The two resumed traditional wrestling exchanges until it looked like Lesnar would get the upper hand. Lashley saw the writing on the wall and kicked Lesnar in the gut, and things transitioned from mat wrestling to an exchange of high-impact power moves.
It was Mothra vs. Godzilla colliding over Tokyo as both monsters threw their best at each other. Then, Lesnar got the upper hand and began to take Lashley to Suplex City.
Lesnar kept count with every suplex he threw, each looking more devastating than the last. The way Lashley landed looked like it hurt. His body torqued ￼￼more like a legitimate back suplex you’d see at a wrestling meet, which occurs more often than the pretty ones we see in the ring.
I wasn’t sure if Lashley was hurt and trying to avoid damage to his shoulder, attempting to add a legitimate twist to the bump, or simply too tired to take the move head-on.
The referee was taken out accidentally via an F5, Roman and Heyman did their dirty work, and Lashley crawled over Lesnar for the three count.
While a clean finish would have been nice, WrestleMania plans dictate otherwise. Still, no complaints here.
Edge & Beth Phoenix defeated The Miz & Maryse in a mixed tag team match. It was surprising to see Edge and Phoenix get the win since The Miz lost to Edge at Day 1. It was a fun enough match that gave the fans what they wanted. No more, no less.
Brock Lesnar won the men’s Royal Rumble as the surprise 30th entrant and became the 7th person to win two Rumble matches, with his first in 2003.
Honestly, it wasn’t much of a surprise as the whole scenario was telegraphed from the moment Lesnar lost the title. Lesnar took so much heat in the finish that the quickest back to Reigns was to win the Royal Rumble.
One question remained. Who’s Rumble spot would Leanar steal? Typically, an unannounced Rumble entrant who lost a title match earlier in the night jumps someone backstage to acquire their number.
Well, nothing like that happened.
There was no grand plan to get from point A to point B. Leanar was simply a surprise entrant and drew #30 AFTER being assaulted in his loss to Lashley. It was a plausible enough way to get Lesanr in the Rumble and everyone saw it coming from miles away.
As for the men’s Rumble match itself, it was utter garbage. Possibly, the worst Rumble match ever, and it has nothing to do with the finish. There were no NXT suprises, no fun moments, no front runners throughout the match and some head-scratching eliminations.
Madcap Moss eliminated AJ Styles, which is a sentence no one thought they’d ever type. Big E, was eliminated as if he was just another guy instead of the former WWE Champion. Sadly, Kofi Kingston’s daring stunt to save himself from elimination didn’t come to fruition as his feet hit the ground before the trick could begin.
Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon were two of the surprise entrants along with Lesnar. The randomness of Shane’s entry felt beneath him as powerful and calculating McMahon.
McIntyre was reportedly out for four months due to a legit neck injury. When he came out, many believed we were getting another John Cena-style situation with McIntyre returning early from injury to win the whole thing.
It would have been an excellent way to rejuvenate his character. However, McIntyre’s only purpose was to give Lesnar his heat back as the final elimination after he eliminated Lesnar in 2020.
The men’s Rumble was essentially a battle royal where nothing extraordinary happened and served one purpose, getting Lesnar to WrestleMania. There was no care or craftsmanship in how the objective was obtained.
It’s hard to recall the last time an event began so strong and ended poorly. WWE is all about the production of big moments. However, they do it at the cost of engaging storytelling, which makes the end result hollow and detrimental to the product.