Edge is back, and Drew McIntyre is a star. Those are two takeaways from Sunday’s strong Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Edge was the big surprise of the night, but the winner of the night was McIntyre. Not only did he eliminate Brock Lesnar, he tossed out Roman Reigns last to win the whole match.
Elsewhere on the show, Charlotte Flair won the women’s Royal Rumble to earn a Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. Becky Lynch retained her title by tapping out Asuka, and Daniel Bryan was unable to topple The Fiend. The highlight of the night, though, was the Men’s Royal Rumble match itself — the best in years.
Men’s Royal Rumble
This was a textbook case of how to build a star. Drew McIntyre won the match, and looks to be WWE’s next big thing.
Brock Lesnar started the match at number one and decimated. It was awesome. Elias, Erick Rowan, John Morrison, Keith Lee, Shelton Benjamin, Braun Strowman. All were tossed out by Lesnar, who ended up with 13 eliminations.
Lesnar’s run would end at with McIntyre and Ricochet. As McIntyre entered the ring, he and Lesnar began squaring up. Lesnar began unstrapping his gloves, so you know something big was about to happen. Alas, Ricochet hit a low blow to Lesnar from the behind and McIntyre eliminated The Beast with a Claymore Kick. The crowd went insane.
And that’s not the last time the crowd went wild, because the number 21 entrant was Edge. The Returning Rated R Superstar. He didn’t win the match, and was eliminated second to last by Roman Reigns. (The crowd, as you would imagine, wasn’t stoked on that.) He looked in great shape, and it seems as though he’s headed to WrestleMania for a big match.
The final two were Reigns and McIntyre. Reigns shot for a huge spear, but was cut off by a Claymore Kick and tossed over.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Excellent Royal Rumble match. Everything that’s fun about the Royal Rumble — surprise entrants and eliminations, characters from different brands facing off with each other in enticing ways, the ability to build a new star — this Rumble absolutely nailed.
Becky Lynch submits Asuka
A return match from last year’s show, Becky Lynch defeated Asuka with a Disarmer armbar to retain her Raw Women’s Championship. The finish came as Asuka was preparing to spray the green mist into Lynch’s face, as she had done for weeks in a row on Raw, but Lynch kicked Asuka in the gut, causing Asuka to misfire the mist into the air.
This was a very good match that could have been great with an extra few minutes. One of the highlights came towards the end, where Asuka hit Lynch with a stiff-looking kick to the jaw. The ref was about to call off the match, but Lynch literally held him back from doing so. She fired up as Asuka delivered more kicks, which led into the final stretch.
Not that every title match should have false finishes, but it felt like the match ended as the two women were about to work to a crescendo, not quite at the crescendo. Still, crisp action and a well-told story.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
The Fiend Bray Wyatt is still Universal Champion
Daniel Bryan is an absolute magician. For the second time, he convinced an arena that he could beat Bray Wyatt and win the Universal Championship. But just like Survivor Series, it was not to be. The Fiend retained his title in the strap match after a Mandible Claw slam and pinfall.
It ended as a great match, but started slow. Wyatt worked over Bryan, welting him up with the strap and beating him around the ring. Eventually Bryan hit a comeback, with multiple running knees, a gnarly-looking Yes Lock with the strap and, as with every good Bryan match, a well-timed small package. But after hitting a running knee for a two count, The Fiend pops up, invincible like, and hooked in the Mandible Claw for the win.
Rating: 3.75 stars. This was also aided massively the absence of Wyatt’s infamous red lights.
Bayley retains her SmackDown Women’s Championship
A thought for these women, who were in the dead zone having to follow the Royal Rumble. After an OK match, Bayley pinned Lacey Evans after countering a moonsault attempt.
The match wasn’t anything special, but both women worked hard. The truth is that they never really had a chance, considering what they were following. Admittedly, they did get pockets of the crowd into it — so props for that. And Lacey Evans, though she did botch one springboard attempt, has shown huge improvement from where she was just a few months ago.
Rating: 2 stars. It was fine. Big credit to Lacey Evans though, who’s showing noticeable improvement.
Charlotte Flair wins women’s Royal Rumble
This was a very good Royal Rumble match. Charlotte Flair may have won, but the two big stars were actually from NXT: Bianca Belair and Shayna Baszler.
Alexa Bliss and Bianca Belair started as number one and two. Halfway through the match, Bliss and Belair were the only women left in the ring. Belair eliminated eight women alone. Key eliminations included Lana, who was quickly eliminated by Liv Morgan, and Liv Morgan, who was subsequently (illegally) eliminated by Lana. Mandy Rose was thrown out of the ring, but landed on Otis, intent on winner her affections, in such a way that her feet never touched the ground. Later, Rose was thrown out and caught by Otis again. Belair then tossed Sonya Deville onto Otis and Rose, eliminating both Rose and Deville.
After some back and forth, Belair eliminated Bliss. She was then met in the ring by Charlotte Flair. Minutes later, Belair was eliminated by Flair. The second half of the match was quiet, thickening the field in the ring after everything was essentially reset halfway through.
Number 30 was Shayna Baszler, who eliminated seven women, including Beth Phoenix. Baszler had great fire, and looked like a star. It came down to Baszler and Flair, with Flair skinning the cat and throwing over Baszler.
Surprise entrants included Mighty Molly Holly, Beth Phoenix (who got bloodied up bad on the back side of her head), Kelly Kelly, a returning Naomi and, uh, Santina Marella.
Rating: 3.25 stars. There were some quiet periods, and some of the performers looked lost or sloppy at points. But overall this was a well laid-out Rumble match, and a mostly well-executed one too.
Roman Reigns defeats Baron Corbin
These two have been feuding for months now, hopefully this Falls Count Anywhere match is the end. After what felt like a very long bout, Roman Reigns pinned Baron Corbin with a spear atop a dugout in Houston’s Minute Maid Park arena.
The match began in the ring, where Reigns dominated. But it quickly turned into a generic brawl, with the two scrapping around the arena. There were some nice spots: Corbin hit a impactful chokeslam through the ringside announce tables for a 2, and interference from The Usos, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode led to one of the Usos landing a dive from the sound stage onto Roode and Ziggler on the concrete floor. At one point, Reigns threw Corbin into a portaloo and tipped it over. That was… something.
But really, nothing stands out about this match. Both men will be in the Rumble later tonight, so the story is unfortunately likely to continue there.
Rating: 1 star. Long and boring.
Kickoff Show results
Sheamus pins Shorty G: No surprise here, as this is Sheamus’ return match. It wasn’t a squash, as Gable got some offense in, but ultimately Sheamus won with a Brogue Kick.
Andrade retains the US Championship: These two had a nice, long match, ending with Andrade winning via rollup.