The road to WrestleMania is now in full effect with the Royal Rumble now in the history books. As always the event was packed with surprises, fantastic in-ring action and furthered storylines on route to the biggest show of the year.
The show kicked off with the highly anticipated SmackDown Women’s title match between defending champion Asuka and Becky Lynch. Expectations were high going into this and the action more than delivered in what was a thrilling encounter. Both Women put on what could be described as potential ‘Career Defining’ performances, with Lynch keeping her momentum strong and the champ showing why she may be, in the eyes of some, the best all-around female talent on the roster. Asuka retaining was the smart decision as this gives her the chance to work with and possibly elevate someone at WrestleMania – Nikki Cross maybe? – and also enables Lynch to work with a certain champion from the Red Brand. More on that later!
The Bar then defended the Blue Brands tag titles against The Miz and Shane McMahon. This was better than expected with the champs delivering once again. They have quietly become one of the best teams in wrestling today and have definitely filled the roles of a go-to team for decent matches. The only thing here that could be critiqued is the amount of offence Shane-O-Mac was allowed to get in (perks of being the Boss’s son?). The decision surprised no one and will ultimately lead to a breakup and a match between the new champs at ‘Mania. Oh, fun!
Ronda Rousey vs Sasha Banks was next. Oddly this felt like filler for the Raw Women’s title defence as, from this fans point of view, I’ve never caught on to all the hype around ‘The Boss’. The match was good but not great, with Banks continuing the trend of dangerous Suicide Dives. The result was never in question and the crowd, as a result, weren’t as invested as opposed to the earlier Women’s match.
The second ever Women’s Rumble match surpassed last years! Yes, we said it. Having the field of 30 comprised of current and active competitors gave the match instant credibility and featured incredible performances from the likes of Rhea Ripley, Nikki Cross, Charlotte Flair, and even Dana Brooke, who continues to tilt on the cusp of greatness. With more ring time and the right opponents, she could be a future star. The surprise, or not so, the addition of Becky Lynch kind of gave away the winner but the reaction she received when she entered and ultimately won, further cemented her position as the hottest star in the company. The main event for Mania this year will see her, Rousey and Charlotte battle in a triple threat match for the ages!
The WWE title match between Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles was excellent. The surprise of having Rowan aid the champ en route to victory was equally as good as this presents the very pleasing possibility of a faction based around Bryan. The only thing that let this down was the crowd who were clearly on a come down from the prior match and this was evident here. Where this leaves Styles is interesting as rumours of him not resigning yet continue to fuel rumours of him leaving for AEW.
The Universal title match between Brock Lesnar and Finn Bálor went above and beyond any expectations fans may have had. Action packed from the start with a finish that was very creative and outside the usual Lesnar suplex fest finish we have come to know. More proof that when motivated Lesnar is still a stud in the ring and that Bálor deserves an extended run at the top of the card.
The main event Men’s Rumble match didn’t seem to hit the heights of the Women’s match earlier on due to the crowd being on serious burnout by then. However, the match featured plenty of surprises. The return of Double J had the inner child in all of us screaming from the rooftops! The NXT inclusions were another fantastic touch too. Aleister Black especially looked very comfortable in among the main roster talent. Surely his time is now? Pete Dunne, Andrade and Drew McIntyre came across as legit main event players and kept the momentum going for each of them. The Nia Jax involvement was a shock but definitely added to the drama when she became physical with the men. In the end, the right man won in Seth Rollins who, after an incredible 2018, deserved this moment and is now surely heir to the throne of Suplex City.
Overall, The Royal Rumble was a fantastic card if not, as is now the norm with big shows, overly long. If this was the first stop on the road to WrestleMania, the final destination should be tremendous night and we as wrestling fans always wait for with bated breath!
What did you think of the Royal Rumble PPV this year? Which matches stood out to you? Who should have won that didn’t? Have your say in the comments section below.