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LECLAIR’S WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2022 REPORT
JANUARY 29th, 2022
ST. LOUIS, MO AT THE DOME AT AMERICA’S CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK (U.S.), WWE NETWORK (Int.)
Announcers: Michael Cole & Pat McAfee (Smackdown), Jimmy Smith & Corey Graves & Byron Saxton (Raw)
-The show opened with a video montage highlighting previous Royal Rumble winners. The package transitioned into hyping the show’s other major matches.
-“We are officially on the road to WrestleMania,” proclaimed Michael Cole. The camera swept over a wide shot of the Dome at America’s Center, then closed in on the ringside area. Cole welcomed the audience to the show, and Pat McAfee to his first Royal Rumble.
-Roman Reigns’ music rang out. “There’s no better way to start out and evening of magic than with this man,” McAfee said. Cole said Reigns has held the Universal title for 516 days, making him the fifth longest world champion in WWE history. Cole wondered if Reigns could survive the night. Pyro shot from around the small, circular stage set up as Reigns held up the Universal title. McAfee said there are over 44,000 people in attendance.
Cole said that Reigns has dominated for over seventeen months, but that he did so with his cousins the Usos, and his special council Paul Heyman. He said cracks began to show last night, and it appears Rollins has succeeded in getting under Roman’s skin. The crowd booed Reigns as he took post in the corner of the ring.
The Shield’s music hit the PA system. Reigns immediately scowled. The crowd popped. Seth Rollins appeared atop the first level of the dome crowd. He was adorned in full Shield riot gear. Seth laughed all the way down the steps and through the floor corridor lined with fans. He received what sounded like universal cheers. Rollins rolled over the ringside barricade and jovially climbed the steps before getting in the ring and laughing in Roman’s face.
Rollins received huge cheers as his name was announced. Reigns received loud, consistent boos.
(1) ROMAN REIGNS (c) vs. SETH ROLLINS – WWE Universal Championship match
Seth Rollins danced mockingly, flashing off his riot vest as soon as the bell rang. Roman Reigns went to grab a quick headlock, but Rollins ducked out of it. Reigns managed to toss Seth into the corner and deliver a clothesline. Rollins moved out quickly, shot himself off the ropes and quickly dropped the champion with a Slingblade. Reigns popped to his feet quickly, but Seth clotheslined him over the top rope to the floor. Seth hit a dive through the middle rope onto Reigns below. He quickly slid back in the ring, called to the crowd, and hit the dive a second time.
Reigns returned to the ring slowly. Rollins sized him up from the apron. He leapt to the top rope and dove at Reigns, but the champion caught him with a massive uppercut. Seth carried himself to the bottom rope. Reigns slid to the outside and rounded the ring for a quick Drive-By. Rollins fell to the outside to collect himself. Reigns gave him some space, then cocked a fist for the Superman Punch. Reigns charged, leapt off the steel steps, but missed the punch. Rollins kicked Reigns in the gut, scooped him up and gave him a Powerbomb through the announcers desk.
Rollins quickly rolled Reigns back into the ring. He climbed to the top rope and hit a frog splash. Rollins hooked the leg, but Roman kicked out just before three. Rollins looked around maniacally. He climbed to the top rope again. He went for the Phoenix Splash, but Reigns moved. Seth landed on his feet. He quickly grabbed Reigns and hit a Buckle Bomb. Roman rolled toward the center of the ring. Rollins immediately hit the Stomp and covered Reigns for another very near fall.
Seth retreated to the corner, perhaps setting up for a second stomp. He charged, but Reigns popped up and caught the challenger with a clothesline. Reigns gathered his wits and pulled himself to a seated position as the match crossed the 6:00 mark. Reigns mounted a downed Rollins and through brutal elbows at the challenger’s face. He gave Rollins a a powerbomb and covered him for a two count. “Is this a game to you?” Reigns asked as Rollins began laughing at him. Roman mounted Seth again, reigning down elbows. Rollins grabbed him in a triangle. “Go to sleep!” Seth exclaimed. Reigns deadlifted Rollins and gave him another powerbomb.
Reigns stumbled into the ropes, collecting himself. He tossed Rollins into the ring post shoulder first. Seth crumbled to the outside. Reigns pursued. He tossed Seth over the barricade, into the timekeeper’s area. Roman dragged Seth back into the open and threw him into the steel steps. “You’re in Roman’s world now, Seth!” McAfee said. The crowd booed Reigns heavily as he cocked his fist. Reigns caught Rollins with the Superman Punch and covered him for a near fall as the match hit 9:30.
Rollins rolled to the outside in a heap. Reigns looked around at the crowd with contempt, then slowly rolled to the outside and began stalking Rollins. He gave Seth a spear on the outside, then tossed him back in the ring. Reigns taunted the crowd, threw his arms back and charged for the spear. Rollins countered into the Pedigree. He draped an arm over Reigns for a near fall. Rollins headed to the corner and began tuning up the band. A “burn it down” chant ensued. He charged, but Reigns blocked him. Rollins kicked Reigns in the head repeatedly to weaken him. Reigns shoved him away, shot off the ropes and caught Rollins with a spear on the ricochet. Rollins clutched his ribs, but began laughing. He reached out his hand, asking Reigns for a fist bump. Roman grew incensed. Rollins continued to beg for a fist bump.
Reigns grabbed the Guillotine. Rollins kept pulling himself enough to force his body forward. He fell within an inch of the bottom rope. Referee Charles Robinson raised Seth’s hand. He let go, and it fell onto the bottom rope, forcing a break. Robinson counted all the way to 5, but Reigns refused to let go. The referee called for the bell. Massive boos rang down. “He deserves this!” Reigns yelled.
WINNER: Seth Rollins by disqualification in 14:22, Reigns remains champion
A huge “Roman sucks” chant broke out. Reigns looked around, unflinching. He rolled to the outside. Reigns grabbed a steel chair from the announcers area. He hesitated for a moment, then returned to the ring. Rollins slowly returned to his feet. Reigns cracked the chair over Rollins’ back, recreating Seth’s betrayal of the Shield. Reigns bent the chair over Seth repeatedly. He threw the weapon down and smiled. Roman began to leave, but instead decided to grab another chair. He beat Rollins with it mercilessly. The chair broke over Rollins’ back, side, and shoulder. Roman threw up a “#1”, smiled, and walked out, slinging the Universal title over his shoulder. He talked to himself the entire way up the ramp.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Excellent opener, with some baffling creative choices. I thought they’d laid a pretty solid groundwork to begin transitioning Roman Reigns into a babyface after last night’s Smackdown. In actuality, it seems they’re going that much harder in the opposite direction. Not only was Seth Rollins a complete and total babyface tonight, they made it hard not to carry on with that direction going forward. I suppose Seth could just continue with the overbearing laugh, slotted against babyfaces and get away with remaining heel, but this crowd was fully invested in him. and WWE made sure to give fans a reason to continue feeling that way even beyond tonight. If they’d stopped simply at the one night return of Shield Seth Rollins to create a clear divide for tonight’s show, I’d understand, but Reigns’ vicious beatdown of Rollins in the match’s aftermath nearly assures continued sympathy. Both men worked incredibly hard, incredibly fast, and created a chaotic opening match that is sure to keep people talking even beyond the show. This felt like a Brock Lesnar match in some ways, but big moves out of the gate and minimal down time. I loved the return of the deranged Roman Reigns who talks to himself, too.)
-The Raw announce team took over to talk up the women’s Royal Rumble match. Corey Graves wondered who may have drawn “unlucky” number one. Sasha Banks’ music hit and she headed to the ring. The returning Melina was announced as the second entrant.
(2) Women’s Royal Rumble match
(#1) Sasha Banks and (#2) Melina shared some brief mutual respect before engaging in a pose-off in the center of the ring. Melina threw a kick, but Banks caught it and delivered one of her own. Sasha lifted Melina up and over the top rope, then sent her crashing to the floor. Banks mocked Melina’s signature split pose. “Bring out the next one!” Banks exclaimed. The countdown clock began. Tamina entered at #3.
Banks delivered a sliding dropkick through the bottom rope. She slid onto the apron and delivered double knees to Tamina on the outside. “What is she doing!” Jimmy Smith exclaimed, believing Banks was eliminated. Graves quickly corrected him, making it clear that Banks went through the bottom rope. Sasha tried to toss Tamina out, but she held on. Banks sent her to the corner and hit the double running knees. Tamina pulled herself up and Banks tried to hoist her over again. Tamina broke thinks up with a headbutt.
Kelly Kelly entered the match at #4 (3:37.) As she headed to the ring, Tamina lifted Banks to the top rope. Sasha kicked herself free and slid safely back into the ring. Kelly Kelly went for a tilt-a-whirl headscissors, but Tamina didn’t complete the move with her. Tamina stumbled to the corner. Kelly Kelly went for a handspring back elbow, but Tamina blocked it. Banks returned to the fold and gave Tamina a snapmare. Kelly Kelly tried to reverse-rana Banks out of the ring. Sasha held on and shoved Kelly out instead, her second elimination.
Aliyah entered at #5 (5:35.) She went to work on Banks. Sasha ducked her clothesline, but Aliyah caught her with a Thez-Press. Tamina slapped Aliyah in the face. Aliyah caught her with a kick to the head. Banks grabbed Aliyah and shot her toward the ropes, but Aliyah held on. Banks caught Aliyah with a kick to the midsection. Liv Morgan entered at #6 (7:02.) She took down Aliyah, then went after Banks. Morgan catapulted Banks into a balancing act on the top rope. Banks held on. Morgan gave Tamina a missile dropkick. Liv downed both Banks and Aliyah in the corner and stomped at both women. She pointed at the WrestleMania sign. Graves said it was a little too early.
Banks gave Aliyah the Three Amigo suplexes. Queen Zelina Vega entered at #7 (8:50.) Zelina gave Aliyah a knee to the face, but then ate a knee from Sasha Banks. Tamina tried to power Banks out of the ring, but Sasha landed on the apron. Queen Zelina gave Banks a hip check, sending Banks to the floor and eliminating her. The crowd booed heavily. Bianca Belair joined the match at #8 (10:35.) She gave Liv Morgan a quick clothesline, then dropkicked Tamina. An “EST” chant broke out. Belair kicked Tamina’s skull right into the ring post. She gave Zelina a stalling deadlift suplex, then kipped up.
Belair tossed Morgan to the apron. She caught her with a kick off the springboard, then hit a moonsault on Zelina. Morgan managed to hang on. Dana Brooke entered at #9 (12:20.) Dana tried to scoop Aliyah over the top rope, but Zelina cut her off. Brooke went to work on the Queen instead. Tamina saved the elimination. Brook completed a cartwheel, then dropkicked Tamina. She hit a rolling neckbreaker on Liv Morgan.
Bianca Belair positioned Aliyah on the top rope. Liv Morgan ran in to try to eliminate both women, but failed. Michelle McCool enetered at #10 (14:00.) Liv Morgan tossed Dana Brooke over the top rope, but Reggie caught her in his arms and safely delivered her back to the apron. Michelle McCool hit Zelina with a Styles Clash. She tossed Dana Brooke over the top rope and eliminated her.
Sonya Deville entered next at #11 (15:48.) She took her time walking down the ramp. She faked removing her jacket, then thought better of it, walked around the ring, and took a seat at commentary. Saxton told her to take her jacket off and compete. Sonya said she will, in due time. In the ring, the remaining women bunched up in the corners working each other over. The countdown began again.
Natalya entered at #12 (17:38.) Liv Morgan immediately attacked her. Nattie fought back and lifted Morgan to the apron. Liv sunset flipped back over Nattie and caught her with a kick. Nattie quickly recovered and took Morgan down. Tamina scooped Belair onto her shoulders and tried to toss her out. Nattie appeared from behind and dumped them both over. Tamina fell to the floor, but Belair hung on. She rolled back to safety.
Cameron entered at #13 (19:31.) “Anybody can show up!” Jimmy Smith said. Cameron gave Liv Morgan a hurricanrana. Saxton said Cameron is good friends with Naomi. Sonya Deville removed her jacket and hit the ring upon hearing Byron. She attacked Cameron, suplexing her out to the apron. Sonya slammed Cameron’s head into the turnbuckle and sent her crashing the floor, eliminating her.
Naomi conveniently entered next at #14 (21:35.) Sonya looked on, challenging her to get in the ring. Naomi checked on Cameron first, then went to battle. She and Deville traded a flurry of punches. Naomi tossed Deville to the apron and gave her a high kick to the head. Deville crashed to the floor, eliminated. Carmella entered at #15 (23:01.)
CHECK IN: Naomi, Liv Morgan, Natalya, Bianca Belair, Queen Zelina, Carmella, Michelle McCool, Aliyah still in the match at the halfway point.
Carmella visited Corey Graves at the commentary table before entering the ring. Inside, Natalya assisted Bianca Belair in trying to toss Michelle McCool. No-go. Rhea Ripley entered at #16 (25:02.) Rhea jogged to the ring, but then decided to retrieved Carmella, who was still getting her mask put on at ringside. Queen Zelina pounced, rescuing Carmella. The duo enlisted Natalya, and, together, they beat down Ripley in the center of the ring. Ripley fought to her feet and lifted Carmella and Zelina onto the apron at the same time. She dropkicked them both out of the ring, and out of the match. Ripley kicked McCool in the face, face-planted Morgan, and dropkicked Belair.
Charlotte Flair entered at #17 (27:17.) Ripley continued to take down opponents as Flair walked slowly down the ramp. Naomi, Morgan, and Belair tossed Natalya onto the apron. Belair tried to break Nattie’s vice grip on the ropes. Flair entered the ring and gave Aliyah a big boot before dumping her over the top rope awkwardly. She gave Morgan a fallaway slam. Naomi flipped over Flair’s back, but ate a chop from the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Naomi tried to flip Flair over the top, but Charlotte dumped her to the apron instead. Naomi used her hands to steady herself and avoid elimination. Sonya Deville appeared and pulled her out of the ring, eliminating her. Referees came in to separate Noami and Deville as the two headed to the back.
Ivory entered at #18 (30:03.) She was dressed in Right to Censor gear, carrying a microphone. She said it’s been a long time, but nothing has changed. “It’s hard for me to look at you girls. ” She called the other women “wayward, lost little girls.” Rhea Ripley got in her face. Ripley scooped her up, dumped her over the top rop to the apron, gave her a pat on the head. “Don’t you touch me!” Ivory said. Ripley shoved her to the floor, eliminating her. “How dare you!” Ivory cried. Graves took serious offense with this.
Brie Bella at #19 (32:02.) She made her rounds, taking down Liv Morgan, Nattie, and Rhea Ripley. She began a “yes” chant with the crowd. Brie dumped Natalya to the apron and tried to stomp her out, but Nattie hung on. Natalya slid under Brie’s legs and started hoisting her over. Brie frantically twisted herself and kicked free of Nattie’s grasp, collapsing to the apron. Meanwhile, Belair and Ripley hoisted Flair in a stalling, double suplex. They positioned her on the apron, but Flair hung on.
Mickie James joined the fold at #20 (34:05.) She carried the IMPACT Women’s title with her. She stepped onto the apron and ate a big boot from Michelle McCool. McCool stepped through the bottom rope to retrieve James. Mickie fought back quickly. She planted Morgan, then McCool, then kicked Ripley to the mat. Mickie gave Michelle McCool a hurricanrana over the top and to the floor, eliminating her. The crowd got solidly behind James as she called out to them.
Alicia Fox entered the match at #21 (35:50.) Fox gave Morgan and Ripley a pair of drop kicks. She dropped Mickie with an axe kick. Ripley clubbed Fox in the back and began lifting her over the ropes. Morgan joined in to help. Flair worked over Natalya. Mickie, Belair, and Brie Bella tussled in the corner. Nikki A.S.H. entered at #22 (37:35.) Rhea Ripley immediately turned her focus to the ramp, awaiting her former partner. Nikki appeared from the other side, attacking Rhea from behind and nearly dumping her over the top. Rhea overpowered Nikki, returned to the ring and gave chase to A.S.H. Nikki rolled to the outside through the bottom rope.
Flair attacked Ripley from behind. They battled in the corner. Nikki rejoined the fray, working over Belair in the opposing corner. Summer Rae entered next at #23 (39:38.) She immediately engaged Natalya, playing up their Twitter feud. Summer ate a flurry of face slaps, but then caught Nattie with a step over wheel kick. Charlotte Flair cut her off, dropping her and throwing her hands up in celebration. Natalya dumped Summer over the top rope with ease. Charlotte turned her focus to Nattie, hoisting her onto the apron. Nattie hung on again, sliding herself back under the bottom rope.
Nikki Bella entered at #24 (41:22.) Nikki gave Natalya a spinebuster and soaked in a warm reception from the crowd. Belair deadlifted Nikki, but Brie ran in to pull her down. The Bellas gave Belair a double pancake slam. Alicia Fox offered a fist bump to the Bellas, but they dumped her over the top rope instead. Sarah Logan joined the match at #25 (43:15.) She quickly attacked the Bella Twins, assisting her former partner, Liv Morgan. Liv tossed Nikki into the air and caught her with an awkward looking headbutt. She came face to face with Liv Morgan, but the Bellas recovered and took them both down. Nikki and Brie tossed Logan over the top rope with ease.
Liv Morgan dove at the Bellas, but they caught her and dumped her to the apron. The crowd rose to their feet. Morgan fought valiantly, but Nikki drove her shoulder into Morgan’s midsection and eliminated her. The crowd booed heavily. Lita entered next at #26 (45:02.) The Bellas went to greet her, but she ducked a punch from Brie and dropped Nikki with a clothesline. Mickie James attacked her, and the two exchanged an awkward sequence in the center before battling to the corner. Lita sent Mickie to the apron and hit a quick draping DDT, eliminating James. Lita turned and came face to face with Charlotte Flair.
Lita and Flair traded chest chops. The crowd came alive. Lita backed Flair into the corner. Mighty Molly Holly joined the match at #27 (47:10.) As she reached ringside, Nikki A.S.H. attacked her out of nowhere, having left the ring under the bottom rope at some point. Nikki tossed Holly into the ring steps, then slid into the ring. She ripped Holly’s cape off, screaming that there can only be one superhero. Nikki dumped Holly over the top rope, eliminating her.
Ronda Rousey entered the match at #28 (48:55.) The remaining women in the ring stopped in their tracks, all turning to look toward Ronda as she marched toward the ring. Rousey peppered Nikki A.S.H. with punches and dumped her to the apron. She tossed Nikki Bella to the apron. She applied a double guillotine from the corner. She booted Nikki A.S.H. out of the ring and the match. Brie Bella came to her sister’s aid, but wound up dumping Nikki, payback for their previous appearance. Ronda found this amusing. She backed Brie into the corner and begin jabbing at her midsection.
Shotzi joined the match at #29 (50:59.) Belair and Ripley moved into position to eat a top rope cross body from Shotzi. The newcomer went after Lita. Meanwhile, Ronda dumped Brie Bella over the top rope, eliminating her. Flair worked on Natalya in the corner. Rousey traded shots with Bianca Belair. Rhea Ripley joined their fight. Shotzi worked over Lita. The clock counted down for the final entrant. Shayna Baszler drew the final slot, joining the match at #30 (52:40.)
Ronda Rousey looked on as Baszler entered the ring. Shayna went to work on Lita. She took her down, then gave Nattie a knee to the face. Rousey and Baszler circled each other and looked to engage, but Flair interrupted. Rousey turned her attention to Natalya, dumping her to the apron. Ronda kicked Shotzi in the face and tossed her out. Rousey went back to work on Nattie. Belair shoved Ronda out of the way and pushed Natalya out, eliminating her. Ronda took exception to this, immediately choking Belair. Natalya ran back in the ring, trying to attack Rousey. Ronda tossed her out a second time.
Lita hit Charlotte Flair with a Twist of Fate. Ripley shouldered Lita into the corner. Ripley hoisted Lita to the top rope, but Lita managed to give her a hurricanrana off the top and across the ring. Lita set up for a moonsault. Ripley blocked it and shoved her to the apron. Lita hung on. Flair caught her with a big boot and eliminated her.
CHECK IN: Ronda Rousey, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, Shayna Baszler, Charlotte Flair remain
Ripley and Rousey battled to the apron. Flair tried to dump them both, but couldn’t. Ripley shoved Ronda into the ring post. Ronda slumped to the apron, but stayed in. Flair checked Ripley off the apron and eliminated her. Flair and Belair traded quick shots and near eliminations. Flair wound up on the apron and tried to take out Rousey. Belair intercepted and nearly eliminated Flair. Belair went for a springboard back elbow on Shayna, but Baszler caught her in the Clutch. Belair broke free and hoisted Baszler up for the KOD. They stumbled toward the ropes, allowing Flair to swoop in and eliminate them both.
Only Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey remained. They circled one another, staring with disdain. Rousey psyched herself up. Flair charged at her for a big boot. Rouisey caught her in a capture suplex and hoisted her over the top rope to the floor.
WINNER: Ronda Rousey in 59:47
(LeClair’s Analysis: Lots to unpack here. I think it was pretty natural to question whether or not Ronda Rousey would have the crowd’s support after the tail end of her run in 2019. We quickly found out that, against the right opponent, Rousey should have no problem getting cheered. Ronda looked impressive in limited action after nearly three years away. She was quick, confident, and carried every bit of star power we’ve come to expect. The other women in the match sold her involvement appropriately, and it made for an exciting back half of a match that was otherwise filled with a lot of clunky action and underwhelming returns. The legends they managed to secure for the match felt largely inconsequential, either remaining almost entire inconspicuous like Michelle McCool, or being unceremoniously tossed nearly as quickly as they entered. There are several interesting talking points aside from the winner here, too. Sasha Banks’ early entry and completely uneventful, early elimination felt like a strange message to send. I don’t know if she’s not physically ready to compete for a long time, but she could’ve pretty easily been hidden in a match. It was a curious decision, and it led to the crowd briefly turning on the match. They very wisely had Bianca Belair enter the match immediately after, though, quelling any major backlash they began to receive over Banks’ early exit. Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley both managed a great deal of offense and showcasing despite losing. I was quite surprised to see Bayley held out, either because she’s yet to be cleared, or because they felt Rousey’s return was sufficient. Ultimately, I think the match worked without her. This wasn’t a high-end Rumble match by any means, but it felt newsworthy enough and it very smoothly set up the Smackdown Women’s title match for WrestleMania. Overall, a thumbs up here.)
-Doudrop headed to the ring for the Raw Women’s Championship match. Jimmy Smith tossed to clips of her ongoing feud with Becky Lynch as she made her entrance. After a sponsor read from Byron Saxton, Becky Lynch’s music hit. Lynch held the title up high as the camera cut to a pro-Lynch sign in the crowd. Lynch settled into the corner with a smile as Mike Rome delivered standard championship introductions. Lynch received a solid babyface reaction.
(3) BECKY LYNCH (c) vs. DOUDROP – Raw Women’s Championship match
Becky Lynch and Doudrop locked up in the center of the ring. Doudrop tossed Lynch back to the corner with ease. Becky stood up quickly with a smile and stretched her arms. Lynch grabbed a side headlock, but Doudrop broke free. She tackled Becky and hit the ropes. The champion slid to the outside to compose herself. The referee began his count. Lynch returned to the apron at 5, ducking a charge by Doudrop and catching her with a kick to the face.
Doudrop shot Lynch to the corner and charged, but the champion sidestepped her. Doudrop shook it off, dropped Becky and climbed to the middle rope. Becky rolled to the outside again. Lynch grabbed at Doudrop’s legs and took her down, dragging her to the outside. Becky got her back in the ring and hit the ropes. Doudrop dropped her again and splashed her. Becky rolled to the outside a third time. Doudrop gave chase. She charted at Lynch, who sat at the ring steps. Becky moved, sending the challenger crashing into the steps. Becky rushed back to the ring, trying to earn a count out. Doudrop answered the referee’s count before too long.
Lynch stomped at Doudrop as soon as she returned to the ring. She grabbed a seated chin lock. The crowd became distracted by something happening off camera to the right. A chant involving “fire” broke out, presumably indicating something was aflame. Becky Lynch mounted Doudrop’s back and applied a sleeper hold. By this point, hardly anyone was paying attention to the match, all looking off camera. Lynch continued to work Doudrop closer and closer to the mat as the match hit 5:00. Doudrop managed to return to her feet, lifting Lynch with her. She dumped her into the corner. Becky wasted no time climbing to the top rope. She caught Doudrop with a missile dropkick and covered her for a one count.
Lynch said she said whatever it was burning on fire, confirming earlier suspicion. “I am fire!” she cleverly exclaimed. Doudrop took her down and hit a running senton. Doudrop tried to capitalize, but Lynch wrestled her to the mat and applied the Disarm-Her. Doudrop battled free, so Becky transitioned into an armbar. She kicked the challenger in the face and neck repeatedly, all while maintaining the hold. Doudrop managed to roll through it, deadlift Lynch, and deliver a sit-out powerbomb for a two count.
Doudrop worked Becky to the corner and downed her. She hit a rolling senton and covered the champion for another two. Doudrop climbed to the middle rope, looking for a splash. Lynch got her knees up. She climbed to the top herself and hit a Molly-Go-Round, covering for two. Doudrop rolled to the apron. Lynch stayed on the offensive, punching at Doudrop’s neck and upper back. The referee admonished her. Lynch finally let up.
Lynch tried for a leg drop off the middle rope, but Doudrop moved. She began headbutting Lynch. She hooked the champion up for an apron suplex to the outside, but Lynch guillotined her. Becky worked Doudrop into a bent position over the top rope. This time, she connected with a top rope leg drop and covered for a two count at 11:40. Lynch grew impatient, willing Doudrop to stand up. She set up for the Manhandle Slam but it was easily blocked. Doudrop hit Lynch with a powerslam for a near fall. She dragged the champion to the corner and set up for the splash again. Lynch grabbed her leg and chop blocked her. Becky climbed the ropes to meet Doudrop, then quickly set up and excuted the Manhandle Slam off the middle rope. Becky hooked the leg for a three count.
WINNER: Becky Lynch in 12:58 to retain the Raw Women’s Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt like a peculiar match to book, but the result was never in question. I thought it was imperative that Lynch get a strong, clean win over Doudrop, regardless of her heel status. Doudrop certainly got in more offense than I felt was warranted given the way this feud has gone, but in the end, the champion got a clean win off a big finishing move. No harm done. Becky certainly continued to work the match like a heel, but the company made no real effort to hide the fact that the crowd was behind her. Unfortunately, the match suffered greatly from what I presume was a fire somewhere in the stadium off camera. They never really recovered after the opening minutes, and Lynch and Doudrop never really reached a place that warranted them coming alive.)
-Mike Rome announced the official attendance as 44,390. He thanked the city of St. Louis.
-Jimmy Smith, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton turned their focus to the WWE Championship match. They tossed to a hype video package, the same one shown earlier on the pre-show.
“It’s the one we’ve been waiting for!” Jimmy Smith claimed as Bobby Lashley’s music hit and he walked to the ring with M.V.P. at his side. Lashley slapped hands with fans on his way down the ramp. Graves said there’s zero fear in Lashley. He said two juggernauts are about to collide. Smith said he was in Bellator to witness Lashley’s undefeated run. Graves said Bobby has never stepped in the ring with someone like the Beast.
Brock Lesnar entered, flanked by Paul Heyman. He let out a primal yell and smiled as pyro shot from the entrance-way. Graves said Lesnar may have verbally insulted Lashley, but believes Lesnar knows he’s in for all out war. Mike Rome introduced Bobby Lashley. Paul Heyman stole the microphone to invoke his signature Lesnar introduction. The crowd recited it with him in unison.
(4) BROCK LESNAR (c, w/ Paul Heyman) vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/ M.V.P.) – WWE Championship match
Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley jogged in place briefly before locking up. The jockeyed for position, then broke clean in the center. They circled, then locked up again. Brock slid underneath Lashley’s grip and hit a German suplex. Lashley no-sold it, immediately popping back up and circling the champion. They locked up again. Lashley slipped behind Lesnar and delivered a German suplex of his own. Brock rolled right to his feet, smiled, and nodded at Bobby.
Lesnar grabbed a waistlock and gave Lashley a second German suplex. He held on, rolled to his feet, and hit a third. Lashley returned to his feet, angered. Lashley threw a series of right hands. Lesnar shrugged them up and scooped Bobby up for an F5. Lashley slid down his back, hit the ropes, and connected with a spear on the champion. Bobby backed himself into the corner and loaded up again. He hit a second spear. Brock immediately rolled to the outside, clutching his ribs.
Lesnar slumped against the barricade near the time keeper’s area. Lashley leapt the outside and charged for another spear, but Brock side stepped it. Lashley went crashing through the barricade. Brock tapped his skull and laughed. Brock tried to toss Lashley into the ring post, but Bobby blocked it and sent Lesnar back into the ring. Back inside, Lesnar ducked Lashley and sent him crashing into the ring post. Brock hit a fourth German suplex, then a fifth as the match crossed 5:00. Bobby pulled himself up by the ropes. Lesnar hit a sixth German suplex. Lashley struggled to stand. Lesnar dragged him to his feet and hit a seventh.
Lashley crawled around on the mat. Brock clubbed him, grabbed him by the waist and hit an eighth German suplex. Brock hoisted Bobby up for the F5. Lashley slid down his back and grabbed the Hurt Lock. Lesnar began to fade quickly. M.V.P. screamed to Lashley. Brock tried to move toward the corners, but Bobby kept in position. Lesnar finally launched his body toward the corner, breaking the hold and also crushing the referee. Lashley wandered out of the corner and into the clutches of the champion. He hit the F5, but Lashley’s legs took out the referee. Lesnar covered. The crowd counted to five and beyond, but there was no referee to make it official.
Roman Reigns appeared out of nowhere and speared Brock Lesnar. He turned his glare toward Paul Heyman. Paul looked horrified, but then Roman stuck out his hand. Heyman smirked and handed him the WWE Championship. Reigns stood, waiting. He loaded up and slammed Brock in the head with the title. Reigns left the ring slowly. Paul Heyman sauntered out behind him, hands crossed at his waist. Heyman looked up at Reigns with admiration.
A new referee rushed down the ramp. Bobby Lashley climbed on top of Brock Lesnar. The referee counted to three.
WINNER: Bobby Lashley in 10:14 to win the WWE Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: The most logical finish to the unexpected detour WWE took at Day 1. Though I expected a little bit more from the match itself after years of hype and anticipation, it served its purpose as a means to an end. Paul Heyman has been golden with Roman Reigns, and the Reigns character has felt like it was missing something without him. Getting Heyman back in his pocket all but guarantees Reigns’ continued run as a strong heel, and it gets the company’s original plan for WrestleMania back on track. Meanwhile, Bobby Lashley slyly transitions into a babyface role with an easy-out to make him a heel, given the nefarious means by which he won the title. This wasn’t a strong win for the new champion, but he’s been well protected and generally well booked and can easily survive and thrive going forward despite the run-in finish. Though the match fell short of expectations, it accomplished a much larger storyline purpose.)
-A video package for Edge & Beth Phoenix vs. The Miz & Maryse aired.
The Miz and Maryse entered in matching red gear. Graves said they’re a beautiful couple who should reaffirm people’s belief in love and marriage. Saxton groaned. Graves said Saxton has never been part of a couple. “You think you know me…” came through the speakers and the crowd popped big. Edge and Beth Phoenix sported matching attire as well. They posed together on the ramp to Edge’s typical pyro.
(5) THE MIZ & MARYSE vs. EDGE & BETH PHOENIX – Mixed Tag Team match
Maryse and Beth Phoenix began the match. As soon as the bell rang, Maryse rolled to the outside and began running. Beth gave chase and quickly tossed her inside. Maryse tried to escape again, but Beth caught her by the foot. Miz tried to pull Maryse out, so Beth let her go. Maryse toppled out, taking Miz down with her. The “it” couple returned to the ring together. Maryse tagged out, bringing Edge to the ring as well.
Edge gained a quick upper hand over Miz, until the fight made its way toward the heel corner. Maryse slapped Edge in the back, distracting him. Miz dumped Edge over the top rope, then went outside to retrieve him. He worked Edge over, tossing him back in the ring and punching his back repeatedly. Miz taunted the crowd, then Beth Phoenix. “You’re not getting in!” he yelled. Miz began the “it” kicks. He wound up for the final blow, but Edge ducked it and rolled Miz up for a two count.
Miz ducked a clothesline attempt and hit a neckbreaker for his own two count. Miz taunted Beth again. He dragged Edge toward the ropes and draped him there. Miz argued with the referee, allowing Maryse to slap Edge again. Beth Phoenix retrieved a chair and chased Maryse around ringside. In the ring, Edge kicked Miz in the gut and hit Edgecution. Beth willed Edge to make a tag. Edge crawled, but Miz grabbed his leg. Edge kicked Miz clear out of the ring. Maryse jumped in to try to stop Edge from making the tag, but Edge reached Beth.
Beth Phoenix leapt in the ring and attacked Maryse. She grabbed her by the hair, spun her around, and hit a spinning sidewalk slam. She covered Maryse, but Miz broke the pin up at two. He helped Maryse back to their corner. Miz backed up and ran into Phoenix. He spun around, laughing at Beth. “You want me?” he asked pompously. The crowd cheered. Beth scooped Miz up and drove him into the corner. She delivered a flurry of punches before being pulled away by the referee.
The referee forced Miz back to the outside. Maryse hit Beth in the back with her brick-filled clutch purse. She covered, but Beth managed to kick out. Maryse stomped away at Phoenix. Edge returned to his corner. Maryse posed and adjusted her ring gear after becoming enraged over breaking a nail. Maryse mounted a chin lock, but Phoenix lifted her into Electric Chair position. Maryse slid down her back. The two took each other down with double clotheslines.
Both women crawled to their partners as the match hit 8:30. Edge and Miz entered the match after tags. Edge connected with the Edge-O-Matic for a two count. He climbed to the top rope, but was distracted by Maryse. Miz climbed up to meet Edge. Beth Phoenix knocked Maryse off the apron. Beth positioned herself under Miz and gave him a powerbomb. Edge hit a diving elbow and scored a near fall.
Edge and Miz returned to their feet slowly. Maryse pulled Beth Phoenix off the apron. Edge hit Mix with a flapjack. He set himself up in the corner, but Maryse distracted him again. Maryse gave Edge a hurricanrana off the top rope. Miz hit Edge with Skull Crushing Finale and covered him for a near fall. Miz called on Maryse to help him execute a double Skull Crushing FInale. Beth returned and speared Maryse. Edge and Beth hit a double spear on Miz.
Miz and Maryse reached for each other’s hands. Edge and Beth lifted them up and hit tandem Glam-Slams for a double cover and three count.
WINNERS: Edge & Beth Phoenix in 12:29
(LeClair’s Analysis: The right couple won. I’ve been on record as saying I enjoyed the early days of Edge and Miz’s feud, and liked their match at Day 1 quite a bit. I thought it quickly grew tired once Beth and Maryse got involved. There’s no question Edge and Beth loved getting to work together, and I could, if nothing else, appreciate that aspect. By the time we finally got to this match, though, it felt like the feud had already limped through its last leg. The match itself wasn’t particularly good, feeling more like a house show tag match than anything else. Edge and Miz both worked reservedly, while Beth and Maryse awkwardly moved through their relatively limited spots. Maryse’s hurricanrana on Edge looked great, and the finish was fun. Nothing much else to see here, and I’m happy this feud is (hopefully) over.)
(Author’s Note: During the women’s Royal Rumble match, I included timestamps for each individual entrant in the match. I realized, after it was too late to change my method, that it would be more interesting to note elimination times. I’ll transition to that format for the men’s Rumble match. Apologies for the inconsistency.)
-Michael Cole and Pat McAfee returned to the table, talking up Elimination Chamber in Saudi Arabia. They tossed to a video package for a National Medal of Honor Recipient Flo Groberg. Afterward, they showed him at ringside with his wife.
-Cole wondered who would entered the Rumble first. A.J. Styles music hit. “It’s the Phenomenal One!” McAfee excitedly announced. Cole said if there’s any man who can go wire to wire, it’s Styles. The familiar chord of Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme cut through the silence. McAfee stood up to dance. The crowd serenaded Nakamura with his theme, a much more pleasant accompaniment over Rick Boogs.
(6) Men’s Royal Rumble match
(#1) A.J. Styles and (#2) Shinsuke Nakamura circled each other as Pat McAfee returned to his seat and settled in. “We’ve been backstage for three hours!” he said. Nakamura gave Styles a couple of quick kicks, working him toward the ropes. Styles ducked a kick, but Nakamura caught him with the other leg. The two men stumbled toward the ropes, neither attempting to eliminate the other just yet. Styles hit Nakamura with a sliding forearm as the entry clock appeared for the first time.
Austin Theory entered the match at #3. Styles downed Nakamura and quickly turned to challenge Theory. Theory gave Styles a backdrop, then delivered the same move to Nakamura. He tried to dump Shinsuke over the top rope, but Styles tried to sneak in and eliminate Theory. No one went over the top. Nakamura and Styles worked together to lift Theory in the corner. Robert Roode entered the fold at #4.
Nakamura downed Theory in the corner and shoved his boot in Austin’s neck. Roode gave Shinsuke a spinebuster, then came face to face with A.J. Styles. He said he’s been waiting for this for a long time. He threw a punch, but Styles blocked it and set up for a Styles Clash. Roode caught his leg in the rope and fought free. Styles maintained control and tossed Roode up and over the top rope to the floor, making him the first elimination at 4:30.
Austin Theory gave Nakamura a spinning backbreaker as the clock ran down again. Ridge Holland came in at #5. Theory and Styles worked together to dump Nakamura over the top, but the Intercontinental Champion hung on to the bottom rope. Styles and Nakamura traded blows. Styles ducked a shot and tossed Nakamura clean over the top to the floor, eliminating him at the 5:50 mark. Styles went to battle with Ridge Holland. He punched Holland’s nose guard and recoiled. “Are masks legal?” he asked.
Montez Ford joined the match at #6. He quickly tossed A.J. over the top rope, but Styles hung on and rolled back to safety. Ford backflipped out of a clothesline attempt from Theory and gave him an impressive dropkick. Ford tossed Theory to the apron. Holland gave Ford a tilt-a-whirl powerslam. Styles chopped Ridge. The clock counted down again. Damian Priest entered at #7 to a surprisingly muted reaction. He clotheslined Ridge Holland right away, then gave Theory a backbreaker. Priest and Styles traded punches. Styles tried to hoist Priest over the ropes. Theory joined in to help. Somehow, Theory wound up on the apron. Priest kicked at Theory incessantly, but Austin wouldn’t drop to the mat.
Sami Zayn skipped to the ring at #8. Montez Ford cornered him. Zayn tried to dump him over, but Ford clutched the ropes. Priest and Zayn paired off. Holland worked over Theory. Styles traded blows with Montez Ford. The clock counted down again. Johnny Knoxville entered at #9. The cast of Jackass Forever flanked him. Knoxville wore a ridiculous white bodysuit with red shorts and pads. He immediately took down Sami Zayn and pointed to the WrestleMania sign. Styles looked at him with amusement. Knoxville gave Styles a hard forearm to the chest. “Bring it!” said Johnny. Styles did, hitting chops, a back elbow, and a clothesline. Montez Ford hit Knoxville with a frog splash. Ridge Holland placed Knoxville on the apron. Sami Zayn gave him a Heluva Kick to eliminate him at 13:13. Sami was then immediately tossed out at 13:23.
Angelo Dawkins joined his partner, entering at #10. Cole reminded everyone that A.J. Styles has survived the first third of the match. Omos entered at #11. The wrestlers in the ring spilled to the same corner to set up a showdown. Omos dropped Holland, then gave Ford an uppercut. He eliminated Angelo Dawkins with ease at 16:05. Montez Ford climbed to the top rope and jumped. Omos caught him by the throat and dumped him over the top rope, eliminating him at 16:20. A.J. Styles stepped to Omos. Omos tossed him into the ring post. Styles crumpled to the floor, falling through the bottom rope.
Ricochet came to the ring next at #12. He flew into the ring off the top rope with a drop kick on Omos. Omos didn’t budge, shaking it off and then pancaking Ricochet. Omos stepped on Ridge Holland’s throat. Austin Theory threw his body at Omos and bounced off of him. Ricochet went back on the attack, but Omos have him a massive chop. Chad Gable entered at #13, just as Omos gave Ricochet a massive hip toss across the ring. Ricochet landed awkwardly on his knees, but seemed okay.
Gable rounded up wrestlers to stand opposite Omos. he sent Damian Priest to attack him first. Priest stunned him for a moment, but Omos gaving him a huge clothesline. “What do we do now?” asked Theory. Omos dumped Priest out at 19:30. The rest of the competitors pounced, trying to hoist Omos out. Dominick Mysterio entered at #14 and joined the effort. A.J. Styles backed away from the pile, got a running start and threw his body into Omos, finally sending him toppling over the top and eliminating him at 20:15.
Styles gave Chad Gable a running backbreaker out of the corner. Happy Corbin entered at #15.
CHECK IN: Happy Corbin, Ridge Holland, Ricochet, Dominick Mysterio, Chad Gable, Austin Theory, A.J. Styles remain at the halfway mark.
Ricochet went for a springboard moonsault onto Corbin, but Happy blocked it and shoved him over the top rope, eliminating him at 22:04. Corbin caught Styles with a stiff uppercut. Dolph Ziggler entered the match at #16. Cole said he’s behind only Kane in all-time Royal Rumble appearances. Cole and McAfee discussed Austin Theory’s performance thus far, saying Vince McMahon must be proud of him. Happy Corbin hit Dominick Mysterio with Deep Six, then tossed him out of the ring at 23:48.
Styles and Theory battled in the corner. Theory tried to clothesline Styles, but A.J. ducked and Theory tumbled to the apron. Styles kicked him out, eliminating him at 24:10. Sheamus entered next at #17. Just before he hit the ring, Styles tossed Ridge Holland out at 24:50. Sheamus went to work on Styles, slamming his head hard on the ring post. Sheamus gave Chad Gable an Irish Curse backbreaker, then tossed Styles to the apron. Sheamus began the Ten Beats to Styles as Rick Boogs entered at #18. Styles managed to survive Sheamus, though it wasn’t shown on camera.
Boogs hoisted Chad Gable up for a powerbomb, but wound up carrying him to the corner. Gable slid into an arm hold, but Boogs powered him back in the ring. Boogs military pressed Gable and tossed him out at 27:08. A loud “Boogs” chant ensued. The countdown appeared again, entrant #19 on the way. The spot belonged to Madcap Moss. Happy Corbin welcomed him in. They went to work on Sheamus in the corner. Corbin nearly eliminated him, but Sheamus held on. Rick Boogs military pressed Ziggler and tried to toss him out, but Ziggler tied himself up in the ropes. Corbin and Moss went to work on Styles. A.J. wound up on the apron and went for the Forearm, but Moss ducked it. Corbin hit him with a backbreaker, and Moss tossed him out at 29:04. The crowd booed heavily.
Riddle entered at #20 to quell the disappointment over Styles’ elimination. He scootered to the ring. Corbin and Moss waited for him to enter. Riddle kicked his flip flops and gave Moss a German suplex. Corbin downed him with quick elbows. Rick Boogs came in to help Riddle. He lifted Moss for a Gutwrench suplex, but Corbin pulled him down. Boogs stumbled out onto the apron. Corbin eliminated him with a clothesline at 30:42. The countdown beckoned #21. It was the returning Drew McIntyre. Corbin and Moss looked on with fear. Drew marched to the ring, never breaking gaze with the duo.
Moss tossed Riddle toward McIntyre. Drew dropped him. Ziggler charged, but Drew dropped him too. McIntyre tossed Moss at 32:13, then immediately dumped Corbin at 32:18. Not yet satisfied, he rolled under the bottom rope and tossed Moss into the ring steps. He lifted the top step off its base and hit Corbin in the head with it, then took down Moss. He suplexed Madcap onto the base of the steps. As McIntyre finally took a breath, Kevin Owens entered at #22.
Drew McIntyre met Kevin Owens on the ramp. They traded punches. McIntyre tossed KO into the video apron, then into the ring. Owens recovered quickly and caught McIntyre with a Pop-Up Powerbomb. Owens turned to Sheamus, then Riddle joined the fight. Owens stomped on Riddle’s bare foot repeatedly, then kicked him in the chin. McIntyre returned to his feet and traded blows with Sheamus. The crowd counted down to #23, Rey Mysterio.
“Why not Rey?” McAfee asked. Cole said Rey made history in the Rumble before. Mysterio went to work, dropping Sheamus and then catapulting Riddle over the top and onto the apron. Mysterio’s flurry was stifled by a stunner from Kevin Owens. Wrestlers paired off in corners and the timer counted down again. Kofi Kingston entered at #24. Kingston went after KO. Owens tried to make short work of him, tossing him to the apron. Kingston leapt to the top rope, but Owens shoved him to the outside. Kofi grabbed the top of the barricade, planning to save himself, but his feet scraped the floor, eliminating him at 37:15. The outside referee came over to tell him he’d been eliminated in what appeared to have possibly been a mistake.
Otis entered the match at #25. The crowd seemed a little disengaged on the back of Kofi’s elimination. Wrestlers worked on each other in the corners until Big E entered at #26. E gave KO a quick belly-to-belly. He caught a flying Riddle out of mid-air and threw him overhead. He gave KO a splash. E set up for the Big Ending, but Sheamus caught him with a Brogue Kick. He lifted Big E to toss him, but Rey Mysterio foiled his plan. Sheamus gave him a backbreaker for his trouble.
Bad Bunny entered the match at #27. The crowd seemed excited to see him. He gave Sheamus a quick guillotine, then climbed to the top rope. He caught Sheamus with a big cross body, then ran into Kevin Owens. Owens went for a stunner, but Bunny caught him with a tilt-a-whirl headscissor instead. Riddle gave Bunny a fist bump, then ate a well-excuted Canadian Destroyer from Bunny. Sheamus tried to toss him, but Bunny hung on. Sheamus went for for the Brogue Kick, but Bad Bunny pulled down the top rope and Sheamus spilled over the top rope to the floor at 42:55. Sheamus was enraged, trying to re-enter the ring. Referees pushed him back.
Bad Bunny tripped Dolph Ziggler int the ropes. He looked to Rey Mysterio, who hit the 619. Mysterio helped Bunny toss Ziggler out at 43:50. Bunny tried to eliminate Mysterio, but Rey hung on. Kevin Owens gave Bunny a stunner. Shane McMahon’s music hit, and he entered at #28. While the camera was on Shane, Otis eliminated Rey Mysterio at 44:10. McMahon hit the ring and threw punches at Owens. KO tried to fight back, looking to toss McMahon. Shane used KO’s momentum against him and tossed him clean over the top rope, eliminating him at 45:03.
Shane McMahon came to blows with Drew McIntyre and the two paired off toward the corner. Big E and Riddle worked on Otis at the ropes. Randy Orton entered at #29 to a massive pop from the hometown crowd. Cole said that if Orton can win, he’ll tie Stone Cold for most Rumble wins (3.) Orton gave Big E an RKO and then unceremoniously tossed him out at 46:58. Riddle jumped off Otis’ back and gave McIntyre an RKO. RKBro worked together to toss Otis out at 47:25.
The clock ticked down to #30, the final entrant. It was Brock Lesnar. Riddle looked on in shock. Wrestlers began banding together to take on the Beast. Lesnar entered the ring and dropped McMahon, then Orton. He gave Shane an overhead belly-to-belly. He delivered the same to Riddle and Orton. He clotheslined Orton over the top rope and out of the match at 49:15. Bad Bunny circled Lesnar. “Jump out of the ring!” McAfee exclaimed. Lesnar gave Bunny an F5, then tossed him out at 49:47.
McMahon ate another belly-to-belly. Riddle got caught out of thin air and tossed out at 49:59. Shane stumbled into the ropes. Lesnar clotheslined him out at 50:20, leaving only Lesnar and McIntyre. “A few more people here this time,” Drew said. He got in Brock’s face. Lesnar shoved him. They traded punches. Brock powered Drew into the corner, then hoisted him onto his shoulders for an F5. Drew slid out and gave him a Glasgow Kiss. McIntyre set up for the Claymore. Lesnar ducked it. He scooped McIntyre up and F5’ed him out of the ring to win the match.
WINNER: Brock Lesnar in 51:21
Lesnar pointed toward the WrestleMania sign as pyro shot from around it. McAfee said that Reigns and Heyman should walk down to the pharmacy and buy all the Depends they have. Cole worked through a replay of Lesnar’s rampage. Lesnar smiled, pointing to the sign once more. “If I’m Roman Reigns, I’m scared to death,” Cole said as the show faded out.
(LeClair’s Analysis: A chaotic finish to a relatively subdued men’s Rumble match. I think the crowd was a bit worn out from the rest of the night, and they had trouble coming alive for anything more than the major spots, even seeming to undervalue some at times. This was methodically worked, and booked. Roster depth is a big problem, and it showed throughout the early stages. A.J. Styles and Austin Theory were the early story, surviving the early doldrums, staving off multiple elimination attempts and looking impressive in doing so. The crowd was certainly enamored with Styles, and he should get a nice babyface run going forward. They played the usual hand with Omos being the mid-match monster, only to be thwarted by a handful of wrestlers teaming to dump the big man. Styles getting the payback was a nice touch. Drew McIntyre’s return was a good surprise, and though it never really felt like his match to win, he got some strong revenge on Corbin and Moss and re-solidified himself as a powerful big man worthy of far more than mid-card fodder with those two. Hopefully, there’s something bigger for him in the works before too long. The New Day proved to have the most disappointing showings of the night, with Kingston being eliminated in seconds by what looked to be a mistaken slip on the barricade. It prevented him from his usual annual feat of athleticism. Though I think that gimmick is a little tired, the crowd certainly seemed disappointed that they wouldn’t be treated to it. Meanwhile, Big E was a total afterthought. He’s been shuffled down the card even quicker than his counterpart. There is no mistaking it – WWE has said loud and clear that he’s not worth taking seriously anymore. The finish of the match came in a hurry, with Lesnar eliminating scores of wrestlers so quickly that we never even got to a traditional “final four” moment. I don’t necessarily mind, given that these matches can often feel a little overly scripted to provide the same distinct moments each year. The ultimate finish felt like a foregone conclusion with the way things were put into motion earlier in the night. The crowd seemed to know it, too, but that didn’t stop them for popping for both Lesnar and McIntyre and being largely happy when Brock won. Predictable doesn’t always have to be bad.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: At times, this felt a bit like the marathon shows of yesteryear, but it was plump full of storyline development and good enough action to keep the audience engaged, or at least attentive from start to finish. There’s no question, the lack of depth on both the men’s and women’s side contributed to significant lulls in the middle of both Rumble matches, and neither are poised to rank highly on anyone’s all-time list. I thought they weaved the story of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns nicely throughout the night, and left some interesting clues as to the direction of other wrestlers along the way. I’ve been critical of recent WWE Premium Live Events feelings largely inconsequential, meandering along while the creative bides its time for WrestleMania season. They got said season kicked off in a huge way tonight. The Mania card is quickly beginning to take shape, and I think the direction is largely quite intriguing. Rousey seemes properly aligned as a babyface (for now) up against Charlotte Flair. Roman Reigns is firmly entrenched in his heel role after flirting with a turn before tonight’s events. Paul Heyman is back where he belongs, and Brock Lesnar comes into Mania as the pissed off babyface with two major grudges to settle. Meanwhile, the return of Drew McIntyre should dramatically help the cause on Friday nights. A.J. Styles’ performance and reaction should instill the confidence that he can be a top babyface on Raw again. Despite some misses (namely the mixed tag match, and the Raw women’s title match, which weren’t so much bad as they were underwhelming), the action was largely entertaining and the show felt like the most important event WWE has had in many months. Though Wade, the callers, and I nearly spelled out the entire evening with relative ease on last night’s Smackdown post-show, I can’t and won’t complain at all about the night being predictable. They made logical, sound booking decisions to get where we thought they wanted to go for WrestleMania. That, to me, is a substantial win.