The 29th Royal Rumble match was another Rumble PPV where WWE did something for the first time ever. It was the first time where the WWE Championship was defended by the champion, who was Roman Reigns. It’s not the first time where the WWE Title would go to the winner because we all remember the 1992 Royal Rumble with Ric Flair’s win, but this was a special occasion where the champion was forced to defend the title. That’s because the evil bosses Vince McMahon, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon wanted to make things tough on Roman, who was the babyface WWE Champion even though the fans weren’t fully behind Reigns. It was a one match show in a lot of ways, but the undercard did have some intriguing matches.
This review was originally written on the night it happened in 2016. I am adding some 2021 thoughts in blue font because there’s always more to say.
WWE Royal Rumble
Amway Center in Orlando, Florida
January 24, 2016
The show begins with a limo pulling up as Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon arrived. They were interviewed by Jojo. Vince said they’re giving Roman Reigns an opportunity. Vince knelt down to make fun of Jojo’s height. He said that Roman can make history and Stephanie went over the same point. He said he loves this night “almost as much as I love me.”
Analysis: Even on a PPV we have to start with a promo. At least it was about two minutes only instead of 15 minutes in the ring!
A video package aired setting up the Royal Rumble with a focus on Roman Reigns of course.
The pyro and crowd shots showed that it was a sellout, which is no surprise for an event like the Royal Rumble.
Dean Ambrose is out first for the IC Title match. The announce team for the show are Michael Cole, John Bradshaw Layfield and Byron Saxton. They replaced Lawler with Saxton likely because Lawler’s a heel announcer on Smackdown, so putting him with JBL would be weird with having two heels out there. Kevin Owens entered as well. There were announce tables for the Spanish and French announcers as well.
Last Man Standing Match For The Intercontinental Title: Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens
(Pre-match notes: Dean Ambrose was the babyface Intercontinental Champion while Kevin Owens was a heel.)
The way to win this match is to knock down your opponent for a referee’s count of ten. No countouts or disqualifications. They were both very aggressive early on. Ambrose nailed a bulldog as Owens went to the floor. Ambrose hit a suicide dive that sent Owens over the announce table. Owens actually landed on Cole, so that shut up Cole briefly – nothing wrong with that! Ambrose whipped Owens into the steel steps. Ambrose attacked Owens with kendo stick shots. Owens nailed a cannonball splash on Ambrose against the barricade outside the ring. Those barricades are pretty soft, so it broke it a bit. Owens beat on him with the kendo stick some more. Owens rammed Ambrose back first into the barricade again. Owens brought some chairs in the ring and then hit Ambrose in the back with a chair shot. As Ambrose struggled to his feet, Owens sat on some chairs in the ring. Ambrose got back to his feet and hit his clothesline off the ropes. Mauro Ranallo calls that the Lunatic Lariat on Smackdown, but Cole doesn’t call it that. Mauro is better. Owens came back with a chair shot to the back. There were two seated chairs in the ring, Owens went for a powerbomb, but instead it was Ambrose with a back body drop that sent Owens through the chairs. Ambrose went for a dive outside the ring, Owens caught him, sent him back first into the side of the ring apron and then whipped Ambrose into the steps at ringside. Fans were chanting “this is awesome” as the referee counted Ambrose down for eight.
Owens set up some tables outside the ring. Some fan was yelling stuff at him as Owens stacked two tables by the ring post in the corner. Owens set up Ambrose for a superplex through the stacked tables, but Ambrose fought out of it and threw a chair at Owens’ head. Chair shots to the head are banned as they should be, yet apparently you can do that. Owens nailed a superkick. Ambrose countered a Popup Powerbomb with a hurricanrana and then Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds. The crowd counted along with the referee as Owens was down for a count of eight. Ambrose nailed another Dirty Deeds DDT on a chair. When the ref counted Owens down, Owens rolled onto the floor and landed on his feet at 9. That was a clever way of breaking the count. Fans chanted “Fight Owens Fight” for him. Ambrose set up a table outside the ring. He placed Owens on the table. Ambrose went to the top rope and hit an elbow drop to drive Owens through the table. It wasn’t exactly the same as going through the Spanish announce table, but it’s still effective. Both guys were up at the count of 8.
Ambrose nailed some chair shots to the ribs and back. Owens: “I hate you!” Ambrose: “I hate you!” That was funny. Another table was set up in the ring by Ambrose. They fought on the turnbuckle, Owens countered a suplex into a cradle suplex (I believe that’s a Falcon Arrow) of his own that sent Ambrose through the table. Wow that was a great spot. Ambrose got up at 9. Popup Powerbomb by Owens in the middle of the ring. Ambrose stumbled to his feet at 9 and then fell down again. Owens with a chair shot to the back. Owens folded open four chairs in the ring. He went to the top for a moonsault, but Ambrose got up, shoved Owens off and Owens did a flip onto his back right through the two stacked tables outside the ring! Holy shit! That was huge. Massive pop from the crowd for that. The referee counted Owens down. He wasn’t moving. Owens stayed down for the 10 count, so Ambrose wins the match at 20:50.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Analysis: ****1/4 That was an awesome match where both guys put their bodies on the line and there was a decisive conclusion to it. The final bump by Owens looked a little risky, but he was able to land safely. It sounded painful! I like how they had some outstanding spots for the near finishes. Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds twice yet Owens was able to avoid losing. Owens nailed his Popup Powerbomb and Ambrose was able to get to his feet too. Stuff like Owens rolling to the floor to break the count is so clever. Then Owens countering the suplex with one of his own to drive Ambrose through the table. Then there was the decisive ending that was the kind of massive bump by Owens that you don’t see very often. This was also the third PPV in a row where Ambrose beat Owens. I would say that ends the feud and I hope that Owens isn’t hurt by it. The good thing is that Owens is such a good talker that will always get a reaction. He does need to be booked stronger, though. With that said, a match like this helps to legitimize the Intercontinental Title. Two awesome wrestlers put on a very entertaining match that is already an early match of the year contender. No complaints from me when you can start a PPV off with a match that’s over four stars out of five.
(This match was fantastic. I don’t know if most WWE fans remember it for being some classic brawl, but it was terrific. That final bump by Owens was crazy! Nice to see Ambrose win with a move that really a counter. They busted their asses, had a wild match with weapons and the crowd was really into it the whole way. If you haven’t watched it much in the last five years, give it another watch because it’s really entertaining.)
They showed replays of the big spots while Ambrose celebrated the win.
There was a replay of The New Day’s trombone getting destroyed by Chris Jericho a few weeks ago.
The tag champs The New Day made their entrance. It was Big E and Kofi Kingston walking out with the tag team titles as Big E mentioned how sad they were losing Francesca the trombone. Kingston wanted people to bow their horns for a moment of silence for Francesca. Xavier Woods entered with a new trombone as the other guys danced. “Welcome the newest member of The New Day…Francesa 2.” Woods told Kofi he had needs – that was funny. They talked about how 2016 for New Day will be all gold everything. Even golden unicorns. Because New Day rocks.
Analysis: That was fun like usual. Welcome Francesca 2 to The New Day.
Tag Team Titles: The New Day’s Big E & Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods) vs. The Usos
(Pre-match notes: The New Day were the champions that were still heels, but the face turn was coming soon by the time they got to WrestleMania. The Usos were faces.)
Jimmy nailed Kofi with a clothesline and then a double team knee drop by The Usos. I think some fans were booing The Usos. I’m not a huge fan of that because these guys are really good in the ring, but they don’t have much character development. Big E tossed Jey shoulder first into the turnbuckle. Dropkick by Jey sent Big E into the barricade. Woods did a cheap shot with a DDT as Kingston distracted the referee. Woods was yelling at Cole, which is always a good thing. The crowd was chanting for Francesa, but Woods said that he’ll play when he wants to. Yeah that’s right, there was a crowd chant for a trombone. Big splash from Big E. Jey broke free with a spinning kick on Kingston. Big E tagged in, but Jimmy also tagged in. Jimmy was on fire (with the crowd booing) with some kicks, punches and a Samoan drop. Kofi jumped off the top, so Jimmy nailed a Samoan Drop on him. Jimmy nailed a running butt splash on Kofi and then a top rope corkscrew attack by Jimmy on Big E gets two. Kingston sent Jey over the barricade. Big E nailed a Belly to Belly suplex. The crowd chanted “New Day Rocks” for the champs. Jey took out Kingston with a dive off the barricade. Big E hit a running splash while Jimmy was on the apron, so they crashed to the floor. That’s always a great spot by Big E. He doesn’t do it in every match, but saving it for a PPV is smart. That gets a two count. Jimmy with a superkick on Kofi. Jey tagged in and hit a top rope splash (to boos) on Kingston. He covered, but Kingston’s foot was under the bottom rope. It was Woods that put the foot under the rope. Jimmy took out Woods with a suicide dive. Big E drove Jimmy back first into the barricade. Big E made a blind tag as Jey hit a superkick on Kingston. Jey jumped off the top, Big E snuck into the ring, caught him and hit the Big Ending for the win at 10:53. Awesome finish!
Winners by pinfall: The New Day
Analysis: *** That was the usual very good tag match from two teams that are familiar with eachother. What an awesome finish with Big E showing up as a surprise to Jey to nail the finisher. It was the right call to keep the titles on The New Day because they’re the best team in the company and there wasn’t that much of a build up to this match. There wasn’t any point in the match where I thought The Usos might win the titles. The crowd reactions were telling. As great as The New Day are as champions, they are getting cheered a lot more and The Usos were booed, so I hope it doesn’t lead to a turn for The New Day. They won’t be as entertaining as faces because faces get less promo time and aren’t allowed to be as creative as when they are heels. I’m not sure who The New Day might feud with after this. Perhaps it’s time to call up the Enzo & Cass team from NXT because that would be an awesome feud.
(These teams have wrestled a lot over the last five years and I wouldn’t label this as one of their best matches. However, it’s still a good tag team match that got a decent amount of time. I liked the finish a lot with Big E catching Jey and finishing him off right after.)
Post match, The New Day celebrated the win with Woods playing the trombone.
There was a commercial for some Create A Superstar game and then the WWE 24 series after Royal Rumble focusing on WrestleMania 31 last year. I’ll watch that soon.
Highlights were shown from the end of Monday’s Raw with The Wyatt Family dominating Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.
The Wyatt Family did a promo from their darkened room. Bray Wyatt said that they have slaughtered the beast and the chosen one. He said they will slaughter them all. He said that when the dust settles he will truly have the whole world in his hands while holding his hands out as if he was going to hold the WWE Title. Then he sang the song a bit. The apocalypse is here according to Wyatt: “Run.”
Analysis: The group was built up well on both Raw and Smackdown this week, so it made sense to give them a short promo.
United States Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto
(Pre-match notes: Del Rio was the heel US Champion while Kalisto was the babyface challenger.)
There’s nobody from the League of Nations with Del Rio. Kalisto nailed a suicide dive early. So many people on the roster are doing suicide dives these days. Del Rio nailed a jumping enziguri for a two count. The announcers talked about the similarities between Kalisto and Rey Mysterio with JBL saying they are both like an “annoying pest.” Del Rio nailed a double axe for two. Del Rio tossed Kalisto chest first out of the ring – that’s a bump Mysterio used to do all the time too. Knees to the ribs by Del Rio. They fought on the turnbuckle, Del Rio tried to pull the mask off and Kalisto prevented that. Del Rio avoided a corkscrew attack and nailed a standing side kick to the head for two. Kalisto jumped off the middle rope with a spinning DDT on a standing Del Rio for a two count. Kalisto nailed a kick and a hurricanrana that sent Del Rio face first into the mat for two. They went up top and Del Rio hit a reverse suplex that sent Kalisto to the mat hard on his stomach. They tried to do a spot where Kalisto gets a rollup with his feet, but it missed. He was still able to get a rollup for two. Del Rio tripped up Kalisto by the turnbuckle. Del Rio took his time going for his double foot stomp, Kalisto moved and then hit Salida del Sol, but Del Rio grabbed the bottom rope. That was a great nearfall. Springboard by Kalisto is countered into a dropkick by Del Rio. The top turnbuckle was exposed by Del Rio. Kalisto kicked him and sent him into the exposed turnbuckle with a headscissors move. Kalisto hit the Salida del Sol for the pinfall win at 11:30.
Winner by pinfall AND NEW United States Champion: Kalisto
Analysis: **3/4 A good title match to put over Kalisto again. If this was the first US Title win for Kalisto then it would be a huge moment. The problem is they’ve done three title changes in about three weeks now. It doesn’t feel like a big deal because the title loses its value with all of the title changes. I think some of their other matches were better, but maybe I’m just tired of it after writing about four of their matches in the last few weeks. Is he going to lose it again? I hope not. I picked Del Rio to win, but I have no problem with the change because this show needed a change in one of the undercard matches and this one was the best choice. Kalisto’s had a lot of momentum since his big spot at TLC last month, so it is as if WWE is rewarding him for that.
(This is the classic case of using the more established champion like Del Rio to elevate the younger, newer guy like Kalisto. It wasn’t an outstanding match or anything like that, but it did its job of making Kalisto look like a bigger star. I don’t think Kalisto’s US Title reign is remembered that well, though. He is a good talent. The issue is fans don’t view him as a big deal.)
The PPV Kickoff panel discussed things. They were Renee Young, Corey Graves, Booker T in a scarf and Jerry Lawler.
There was a recap of Mark Henry and Jack Swagger winning a four team tag title match to gain entry into the Royal Rumble. I’m not going to review it although I read Damien Sandow was cheered heavily in that match, so that’s encouraging.
Stephanie McMahon was in her office when Paul Heyman showed up to talk to her. Heyman was sucking up to her. He told her that Brock Lesnar will be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion going into WrestleMania. Heyman said he wanted to re-negotiate Lesnar’s contract. Stephanie says that as long as Lesnar takes his aggression out on Reigns then she’ll be more than happy to negotiate. Heyman said that tonight the Roman Empire gets taken down to Suplex City.
Analysis: A solid promo face off to set up the main event.
There were commercials for a new WWE Network show: Edge & Christian’s show that Reeks of Awesomeness. There were clips of stuff from their show. It looks like some silly comedy. I like them so of course I’ll give it a try. It debuts after Fastlane in February.
The commercial for Fastlane features Eva Marie. That show is on February 21 in Cleveland.
There was a video package to set up Charlotte defending the Divas Title against former friend Becky Lynch. It featured promos from both women as they showed clips of them together and pics as well. Lynch said a champion should be a role model while Charlotte plays dirty, so that’s where the issue is. Really good video package.
Divas Title: Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Becky Lynch
(Pre-match notes: Charlotte was the heel champion while Lynch was the energetic face that was popular with the fans.)
Lynch was the aggressor early on as the crowd cheered her on. When Charlotte grabbed an armbar, Lynch sent her out of the ring to counter it and Lynch nailed a kick to keep Charlotte on the floor. Flair stepped in front of Charlotte, but Lynch was able to nail a clothesline. Flair grabbed Lynch and kissed her on the lips, which led to Charlotte hitting Lynch in the back. The ref saw it, but didn’t kick Flair out. Nice suplex by Charlotte in the ring as she took control. JBL was losing his voice a bit on commentary. Charlotte nailed a dropkick for two. Leg lock by Charlotte to keep Lynch grounded. After a couple of minutes of that, Lynch fought out with the Electric Chair Drop as both girls were down. Lynch nailed some huge clotheslines followed by a jumping kick, then a forearm shot and Charlotte came back with a sweet neckbreaker off the ropes. Lynch hit a forearm to counter the Figure Eight. A neckbreaker by Charlotte didn’t connect well and Lynch nailed an Exploder Suplex. Leg drop by Becky as well as another Exploder Suplex. Charlotte got a rollup and then hit a Spear for two. Flair was freaking out at ringside. Lynch came back strong and nearly won. Lynch ended up applying the Disarmer armbar. Flair tossed his jacket on Lynch’s head. That led to Becky letting go. Charlotte got in a cheap shot and then hit a Spear for the win at 11:40.
Winner by pinfall: Charlotte
Analysis: ***1/4 A really good match full of action and some awesome near finishes as well. I liked the intensity of both women and the way they built it up. While I expected Charlotte to win, they did a good job of building up some big spots for Becky as well. The crowd really wanted her to win and they were pissed off when Flair cost Lynch the match. The jacket spot was unique, that’s for sure. I thought Flair was pretty hilarious outside the ring and his presence gives Charlotte a lot of heel heat.
(A cheap win for Charlotte due to Ric Flair’s blatant interference. It made people want to support Becky more since Charlotte had to cheat to win, so that’s some classic booking designed to help Becky long term. It also kept Becky in the title picture, which would lead to both women in the title match at WrestleMania. Just like New Day vs. Usos, they would have more matches over the years and better matches than this one, but this is still a good wrestling match.)
Post match, Charlotte continued the attack on Lynch by slamming her head into the title and then punching her. Sasha Banks music hit. She received a huge pop.
Banks kicked Lynch out of the ring and said “my spotlight.” Banks had some purple hair. The fans were chanting for Sasha as she extended her hand. They did their handshake together. Flair left the ring. When Charlotte was about to leave the ring, Banks attacked her and Banks hit the Banks Statement on Charlotte. The crowd cheered wildly as Banks won that battle. Charlotte didn’t look happy about it.
Analysis: It looks like we have our divas match at WrestleMania, which is fine with me. Banks has been cheered for so long that WWE had to make her a babyface and in one segment they got that done. I like her more as a heel, but Charlotte’s doing well, so I don’t mind it too much. They could end up doing Charlotte vs. Sasha vs. Becky, but I think it’ll be a singles match at WrestleMania. Perhaps the triple threat is better for Fastlane.
(It did end up being Charlotte vs. Sasha vs. Becky at WrestleMania while also discarding the Divas Title and bringing back the Women’s Title. Then later in the year, the brand split happened so that led to Raw and Smackdown Women’s Titles. These three women would wrestle eachother a lot over the next few years.)
A commercial aired for WrestleMania 32. It’s 70 days away.
There was some video about fans getting some interactive experience at the WWE Performance Center. See more at WWE.com/ChexMix if you care. I can’t say I do.
The “All About The Numbers” video aired for the Royal Rumble.
Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
The #1 entrant for the Royal Rumble is WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns. He was booed by the majority of the crowd. It’s Rusev at #2 and Lana was with him before she left. Rusev nailed a spin kick on Reigns. Rusev sent Reigns out of the ring through the middle rope. Reigns came back with a Drive By kick and then tossed Rusev out. It’s AJ Styles as #3. Wow! Yes! Awesome moment to see him in WWE. The announcers called him by his name, mentioned all the hype and the crowd was very supportive of him.
(This was so great aside from the bad camera work. We certainly thought AJ Styles’ WWE debut was possible at the Royal Rumble, but didn’t know for sure. I’m glad the pop was so loud. It was great to see.)
Styles hit the Pele Kick on Reigns, but Reigns came back with a Samoan Drop. It’s Tyler Breeze at #4. He nailed some kicks on both guys and then he went after Reigns. The crowd was chanting for Styles big time. Styles nailed some kicks on Breeze. Reigns nailed a punch while Styles had Breeze in the air and Breeze was eliminated. Curtis Axel is #5. His Social Outcast buddies were with him at ringside. He went after Styles. Reigns knocked Slater off the apron, Styles knocked Rose off the apron, Reigns knocked Dallas off the apron and Styles eliminated Axel with a clothesline.
Chris Jericho is #6. Good reaction for him. He went after Reigns and Jericho sent him shoulder first into the ring post. Leaping clothesline by Styles. Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho, but Reigns nailed him with a punch. Kane is in at #7 in his Demon Kane gear as Cole noted it’s his record 17th Rumble with a record 42 eliminations. Kane with a boot for Styles, a punch for Jericho and side slam on Reigns. Goldust is in at #8 with Cole noting it is his 11th Rumble match. Goldust hit a bulldog with Kane. Jericho with a suplex on Styles. More “AJ Styles” chants from the crowd as Goldust hit a snap slam on him. Ryback is #9 as he got in there knocking everybody down with punches and knees. Ryback with a spinebuster on Kane. Some fans supported him, but some were booing. Kofi Kingston is #10 – he’s a master of avoiding elimination, so let’s see what he can do this year.
Ryback nailed a huge back body drop on Styles. Then Styles nailed a springboard clothesline on Jericho. Goldust almost eliminated Styles, but he was able to hang on. Titus O’Neil is #11 as he cleaned house on everybody including a backbreaker to Jericho. Backbreaker by O’Neil to Styles. O’Neil with a back body drop on Goldust, then Goldust stayed on the apron and O’Neil eliminated him with a running body attack. Reigns was nearly eliminated and Cole was yelling loudly about it. R-Truth is #12 and he pulled out a ladder from under the ring. He set up the ladder in the ring while everybody just stopped to look at him. He set up the ladder, climbed up and reached for a title that wasn’t there. Everybody laughed. Kane tossed out R-Truth and then tossed out the ladder. Kane sent Kingston out of the ring, but Kingston landed on Big E’s shoulders (Big E & Woods are at ringside), so Kingston avoided elimination by landing on the shoulders of his buddy. The crowd was cheering the creativity. Luke Harper is #13 while Kingston is still on E’s shoulders outside the ring. Vince McMahon was at ringside with the League of Nations trio of Sheamus, Rusev and Alberto Del Rio. They yanked Reigns out of the ring. They tossed Reigns into the barricade at ringside and then tossed Reigns into the steel steps. Rusev nailed a kick on Reigns and Del Rio nailed a kick on Reigns as well. They barely showed any action in the ring because they just focused on Reigns on the floor. He was not eliminated. Stardust is #14. The League of Nations set up Reigns on a table outside the ring. Rusev ran across the two tables and hit a huge splash that put Reigns through the table. The League of Nations were celebrating with McMahon. They left. Big Show is #15 with Cole noting that it is his 11th Rumble match while mentioning that Show has been the runner up twice (that was 2000 and 2004, but not like they can say 2004 since Benoit won).
Show nailed some huge chops on Stardust and Jericho. Show tossed O’Neil out of the ring. Reigns was helped to the back. Show eliminated Ryback from the match as well. Neville is #16 as the second half of the match begins. Missile dropkick from Neville as they show Reigns being placed on the stretcher. Neville with a headscissors on Harper. They keep cutting back to Reigns and missing action in the ring, but Reigns made it to the back. A replay showed that Jericho nailed a dropkick to knock Kingston off of Big E’s shoulders so that eliminated Kingston. Braun Strowman is #17 and he dumped Kane over the top pretty easily. That wasn’t a very impressive showing for Kane. May be time to retire soon. Strowman faced off with Show. Strowman choked out Show and dumped him out. That’s a big way of putting over Strowman. My favorite healthy wrestler on the main roster Kevin Owens is #18. Owens limped to the ring while selling the match he had earlier. He brawled with Styles in the ring as the crowd went wild. Styles wanted Styles Clash on Neville, but Owens nailed a superkick. Owens tossed out Styles. The crowd was pissed. They chanted “AJ Styles” as he went to the back. I was hoping he would last longer, but if it leads to a feud with Owens I don’t mind one bit. Dean Ambrose is #19 and Owens was waiting for him. They brawled around. It was disappointing because they kept showing Roman Reigns highlights as if the other people in the ring didn’t matter. Sami Zayn is #20. Oh hell yeah. My favorite wrestler in the company (since Daniel Bryan is hurt). The crowd was on fire for him. He went right after Owens. They threw punches. Zayn got the advantage and tossed Owens. Awesome moment!
Analysis: I think Owens has a feud with everybody and I love him for it! Seriously, he’s the best heel in the company. I hope Zayn is on the main roster from this point forward although I know he’s got NXT stuff going on too.
It’s Erick Rowan at #21, so three Wyatt Family guys are in there. Rowan sent Neville over the top and Harper eliminated. Rowan sent Stardust on the apron and Harper kicked him out. Strowman choked out Jericho. Mark Henry is #22. He was met by a body slam from Strowman. Harper/Rowan helped Strowman send Henry out of the match. It is probably Henry’s last Royal Rumble and he was in there for about 30 seconds. Zayn was beaten up by the three Wyatt Family guys and he was tossed out by Harper. Brock Lesnar is #23. Huge ovation for him. He has suplexes for Rowan and Harper. Lesnar nailed a huge clothesline on Strowman that looked stiff as hell. Lesnar with a clothesline sent Rowan out of the ring. German Suplex by Lesnar on Harper. Clothesline for Strowman. Jack Swagger is #24. He went after Lesnar, was met with a F5 and then Lesnar tossed Swagger over the top to the floor. Swagger was in there for about 15 seconds. Lesnar nailed Strowman with three running knees to the side of Strowman. The Miz is #25 to almost no reaction from the crowd. He walked around the ring and put on a headset. He didn’t go in the ring. Lesnar gave Harper a belly to belly suplex and a German Suplex. Lesnar with a German Suplex on Ambrose. Lesnar nailed a clothesline to eliminate Harper. Miz was still on commentary.
Alberto Del Rio is #26 with Lesnar going after him right away. Lesnar went after Strowman again and Lesnar nailed a clothesline to eliminate him. The Miz celebrated it. The story is that Lesnar eliminated the three Wyatt Family guys that were in the ring. Here’s Bray Wyatt at #27. I thought they would have done it where he would have his Wyatt Family guys in the match, but they are gone. Wyatt held his arms up, though, so the Wyatt Family guys went after Lesnar. Lesnar ended up dumping the three guys out the ring. Lesnar nailed a suplex to Wyatt. He wanted the F5, but Harper hit a superkick on Lesnar. Wyatt nailed Sister Abigail on Lesnar. The three Wyatt Family guys tossed Lesnar out even though they were eliminated. Dolph Ziggler is #28. He was on fire. The Miz finally went into the ring because Lesnar was gone.
Analysis: There’s the big angle to set up Lesnar vs. Wyatt at WrestleMania. They cost him the WWE Title, so Lesnar gets his revenge there. Wyatt feuds with the top guys and loses to them like he will lose to Lesnar.
(It sure seemed like this angle was building to Lesnar vs. Wyatt at WrestleMania 32. That didn’t happen. Lesnar ended up wrestling Dean Ambrose while Wyatt wasn’t even in a match at WrestleMania 32, but he did take part in a brief angle with The Rock and John Cena that night. Bray did have a back injury going into WrestleMania although it wasn’t believed to be that serious. It’s surprising that WWE went away from the Lesnar/Wyatt match after the build they did in this Royal Rumble.)
Sheamus is #29. Here comes Roman Reigns and he nails a Superman Punch on Sheamus in the aisle. Reigns tossed out Del Rio and Miz. Wyat went after Reigns. The crowd is booing Reigns as he hit a Superman Punch. The #30 entrant is Triple H. Long staredown with Reigns.
Triple H was in the ring facing off with Reigns. Hunter hit a Pedigree on Ziggler. Reigns hit a Spear on Wyatt. The six guys in the match are Reigns, Hunter, Wyatt, Ambrose, Ziggler & Jericho. Oh wait there’s Sheamus so that’s seven guys. They did this big sequence where everybody was hitting their finishing moves. It was hard to cover it all. Ziggler almost eliminated Triple H with a superkick, but Hunter was able to hang on. Then Ziggler ran at him like a dumbass, so Hunter dumped him out. JBL said “we’re down to five” even though there were six guys.
Wyatt had a staredown with Triple H. Sheamus nailed a Brogue Kick on Wyatt to save Triple H form a Sister Abigail. Then Sheamus/Hunter tossed out Wyatt together. Reigns couldn’t toss out Sheamus and Hunter. Ambrose with a neckbreaker on Sheamus. Jericho with a cross body block on Ambrose. Jericho with a Codebreaker on Hunter, but then Ambrose tossed Jericho out.
Final four: Reigns, Sheamus, Ambrose and Triple H. Ambrose with a dropkick on Sheamus against the ropes, but then Sheamus nailed a huge Brogue Kick on Ambrose. Sheamus missed another Brogue Kick. He was on the apron, so Reigns dumped him out. Triple H eliminated Reigns meaning we have a new WWE Champion. People cheered Reigns being eliminated.
Ambrose was on fire against Triple H as he hit his clothesline off the ropes. Triple H booted Ambrose. Hunter was on the apron. Ambrose with a shoulder tackle. He went for another attack, but Triple H blocked it with his knee. Triple H dumped Ambrose out with a back body drop to win the match and the WWE Title. The match went 61:42.
Winner of the Royal Rumble AND THE NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Triple H
Analysis: ***1/2 It was a pretty good Rumble that was better than the last couple of years, so that’s a positive at least. It was entertaining at times, but the ending didn’t excite me much at all. I know a lot of people predicted it. I figured it was a very possible choice too. I just didn’t want it to happen because to me putting the title on Triple H again is a step backwards. He’s 46 years old. What’s he gonna do, put over Roman for the WWE Title at WrestleMania? That’s nice, but Roman is already a two-time champion and a match like that feels predictable. Reigns got screwed at Survivor Series and then he lost clean here. If Triple H was going to win, it should have been a lot cheaper than this. In WWE’s defense, injuries forced their hand with this booking. They weren’t left with that many options. That doesn’t mean this was the best choice. I just kinda shrug my shoulders and move on. I look forward to other feuds.
ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Roman Reigns at 59:48. (He was out of the ring for about half of the match.)
Most Eliminations: Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman with 5.
Best Performers (3): AJ Styles, Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns.
Other thoughts on the Rumble match as well as plans going forward:
– The match was well booked. I thought there were some fun moments and I wasn’t bored while watching it.
– The AJ Styles debut was well done. Putting him in at #3 is a great spot because he was in there for a good amount of time and got some nice spots in although he didn’t connect on the Styles Clash on anybody. I liked seeing him work with Kevin Owens out there.
– Speaking of Owens, he seems to have a lot of feuds going on and I loved seeing Sami Zayn in there attacking him. I’m not sure if this means Zayn is full time on the main roster or not. I know he’s got some NXT storylines going on too. Zayn’s my favorite guy in the company right now with Daniel Bryan out, so I hope he’s in there more.
– Brock Lesnar looked awesome. That’s why he should have won. He’s the biggest star they have and they should have put the title on him again. I think having him against Wyatt at WrestleMania is going to be good for Wyatt in terms of making him look like a bigger star. The problem is that nobody is going to believe that Lesnar will lose.
– I’m not a huge fan of having Roman Reigns out of the ring for 30 minutes to avoid putting him in there while Lesnar was there. It’s lame booking to write a guy out of a match. It reminded me of 1999 when they did it and I hated it then. At least this match was much better.
– Braun Strowman eliminated the most guys with five eliminations. I picked Lesnar to hold that honor, but I wasn’t surprised that they put over Strowman that much. He’s their big guy of the future, which is why they had him eliminate the older big guys like Big Show and Kane.
– Then there’s The Miz coming out there and not going in the ring. If there are no rules, why does anybody ever go in the ring in the first place? Just hang out there. They can use weapons too, yet nobody does.
– At least R-Truth made me laugh. Comedy works in a match like that when it’s so repetitive for an hour.
– I didn’t expect Ambrose to be in there at the end with Triple H. That would have been a nice surprise to have Ambrose go over, but of course that didn’t happen.
(It did lead to Triple H facing Ambrose at the Roadblock event on WWE Network, which was a very good match. Much better than Hunter/Reigns at WrestleMania.)
– What this match showed more than anything is what’s wrong with the main event picture right now. The guy they want to be top face isn’t cheered that much and the top heel is a part timer who wrestled one match in the last year. This is supposed to get people to tune into WrestleMania? It doesn’t excite me much. I get why they are doing Triple H vs. Reigns based on this storyline where Roman is screwed by the bosses. I just don’t think it’s very exciting especially when they do all these things to make Reigns sympathetic, yet a lot of the crowd is booing the guy.
– I don’t consider myself a Triple H hater. I just don’t think that he should be main eventing another WrestleMania. The problem is that ego gets in the way and when you run the show with your father in law you can do what you want. With that said, their original plans were Triple H vs. Rock (not happening due to Rock likely not wrestling due to movie commitments) and Triple H vs. Rollins (not happening due to Rollins knee injury), so this is really Plan C. I just find it weird that a guy in charge of Talent Relations that is supposed to be looking out for the future of the company is putting himself in another main event of WrestleMania when he stopped wrestling full time over five years ago. Putting him in a match at WrestleMania is fine. If Reigns beats him, so what? This is not the Daniel Bryan story from two years ago. Bryan was beloved. Reigns gets booed. Part of it is the booking, yet they don’t seem to understand it. What a shame.
– The end game needs to be the end of The Authority at WrestleMania. If Reigns wins then he gets the WWE Title and The Authority angle ends. It’s that stale storyline that is hurting WWE as much as anything right now. That doesn’t mean that Triple H and Stephanie are bad characters. It just means that the angle is dead. Here’s hoping it ends for good at WrestleMania.
– The story with Triple H and Roman Reigns really isn’t much different than the Daniel Bryan story in terms of the way it’s been booked. Bryan won the title, got screwed over by Money in the Bank guy – it was just a few months before Reigns did. Other things happened to make things difficult. Then Triple H realizes “okay I have to put this guy over” because he’s pushed so much as a heel so he did that for Bryan at WM30 and he’ll do it for Reigns at WM32 this time with the title. Bryan beating Orton/Batista in the same night added to it, but is essentially the same idea. The difference is that Bryan was the most universally loved babyface in a very long time while Reigns is booed by a large portion of the fans. The problem also is that they just did the same f’n thing two years ago with a better wrestler. That’s why I’m not going to sit here and say this is great. It’s repetitive.
(I really said it all there huh? I don’t have much more to add.)
Post match, Triple H celebrated with the WWE Title while his wife Stephanie and father-in-law Vince McMahon celebrated with him. There was some pyro going off as the WrestleMania logo was shown in the background. End show.
This event had a runtime of 2:59:45 on WWE Network.
It gets a 7.5 out of 10 from me.
Last year I gave only WrestleMania a score above 7.5, so I think I’m a tough grader. That shows that I liked this event quite a bit.
A very good PPV to open up the year from WWE. It was much better than the last few Rumble PPVs, so give them credit for starting the year off right.
All four undercard matches were good at worst and great in the case of Ambrose/Owens. That was an excellent Last Man Standing match. They gave all of those matches at least ten minutes as well, so that certainly helped. Also, the fact that they were all title matches made them feel more important.
While I didn’t love the booking of the Rumble match with Reigns being out for half of it (what a way to last an hour!) and Triple H’s win was too clean, it was still an improvement over the last couple of years. I really liked the Brock Lesnar booking in the match with Bray Wyatt even though they never had a match at WrestleMania. Also, the debut of AJ Styles was one of the most memorable Royal Rumble moments even though the camera work/directing could have been a lot better! It’s a good show overall.
Best Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens (****1/4 out of 5)
Worst Match: Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio (**3/4)
Five Stars of the Show
1. Dean Ambrose
2. Kevin Owens
3. AJ Styles – His WWE debut should have put him at the top, but I can’t ignore the guys above him.
5. Becky Lynch
Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.
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