With apologies to “Mama” Cass Elliot, the road is definitely a place for a lady – especially when it’s the “road to WrestleMania”, and the lady is former UFC champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. Because it’s clear from Rousey’s appearance in the closing minutes of WWE’s annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, that she has every intention of going down that road.
Presumably, she’ll face whichever champion Asuka – who won the right to challenge either RAW champion or Smackdown champion Charlotte Flair, by winning the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble – doesn’t. Unlike earlier in the night, when winner of the Men’s Rumble, Shinsuke Nakamura – announced he’d be facing AJ Styles at Mania after his win, Asuka never got the chance to declare her intention. She was in the ring with both champions and was going to choose, but instead Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” filled the arena, announcing Rousey’s arrival. The world’s most dangerous woman came down the ramp in a leather jacket and T-shirt resembling that of her hero and namesake, WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and entered the ring. After trying to shake hands with Asuka, who brushed her hand away, Rousey looked over both champions, smiled an enigmatic smile, and pointed deliberately at the large WrestleMania sign hanging in the arena. She left the ring and walked over to Stephanie McMahon, who had been at the commentary table for the match, worldlessly shook her hand, and then went back up the ramp, smiling and pointing at the sign.
While it was no surprise that Rousey would be going to WWE, both parties had been playing it cloy as to whether she would be there tonight. Her arrival marks another chapter in the company’s revolution, which is best represented by the fact that the women’s rumble was the show’s main event, with the men’s going on midway through the show.
The men’s match started off with Rusev and Finn Balor as the first two entrants. Rhyno joined them next to the delight of the Philadelphia crowd who cheered for the final champion of the original ECW. But they went completely mild for number four, Baron Corbin. And especially didn’t appreciate him throwing out Rhyno after A GORE attempt turned into a Deep Six. Corbin then got eliminated himself by Balor, and on the way up, he attacked Heath Slater who was coming in as number six. This led to a fun running joke where the next few people to enter would attack Slater who was still on the floor trying to recover and enter the ring. NXT champion Adrian “Cien” Almas was the night’s first surprise entry, interrupting Elias’ musical self-introduction. Bray Wyatt came in after that, and he and Rusev exchanged some big shots. Big E was next and didn’t attack Slater, but rather force-fed him some stanky pancakes before joining the fray. Like last year, Tye Dillinger was appropriately announced as the number 10 entrant, but when he didn’t appear on the ramp, the cameras showed he had been attacked backstage by Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. After some discussion, Zayn named himself as the replacement and headed into the match. Sheamus was up next, and instead of taking a shot at Slater, he rolled him into the ring – which ended up costing him, as Slater immediately eliminated him to the delight of the crowd, who stop chanting “Rusev Day” long enough to cheer for Slater. That didn’t last long, though, as he fell victim to Sister Abagail and shortly followed Sheamus. Xavier Woods entered as number 12, followed by Apollo Crews and then Shinsuke Nakamura who made an impact by eliminating Sami with a hanging corner kick. Cesaro was next in and he used his power in a brawl with his former League of Nations partner Rusev, Kofi Kingston who came in right after him, and then Crews, who he eliminated. Former WWE champ Jinder Mahal came in as number 17 and he went right after the New Day, expelling both Woods and Big E. Seth Rollins, wearing some fiery new tights (burn it down!), came in like a house of fire and impressively eliminated Cesaro with a huge front monkey flip – man, did Cesar take some air. Jinder tried for the New Day trifecta, but Woods lay down on the ground, breaking Kofi’s fall. Big E then gave him an assist by putting down a plate of pancakes for Kofi to stand on so his second foot never hit the floor. His partners pogo sticked Kofi back in the ring, which looked cool, because he soared in, landed behind Mahal, and then threw him out, only to be chucked out himself by Almas. “Woken” Matt Hardy came in, but temporarily called a truce with his enemy Bray Wyatt, and joined with him to throw out Rusev, much to the chagrin of everyone celebrating Ruusev Day. They then continued their rivalry and eliminated each other. John Cena was next and being seen as an obvious threat, everyone in the ring attacked him simultaneously. But he’s Superman and staved off the attack and heaved Elias over and out.
Speaking of superheroes, here comes The Hurricane! He and Cena squared off, but there was only room for one, and that one was Cena. Aiden English came in next, filling time until Adam Cole made his way into the ring, taped up after his battle at last night’s NXT Takeover show. Balor eliminated English anti-climactically, and speaking of which, up next was the walking snoozefest Randy Orton. Almas tried to leap off the top rope to attack Orton, but got caught in a not-great-looking RKO. Titus O’Neal filled spot number 25 and surprisingly wasn’t eliminated before the Intercontinental Champion, The Miz, joined the match.
And then – holy cow, Rey Misterio returned to WWE, entering at number 27. Wow, great surprise! He quickly eliminated Adam Cole and then thrilled the crowd with a 619 on Miz. The cheers turned to boos with the arrival of Roman Reigns at number 28. He tried to throw Miz out but the Miztourage jumped on the apron and blocked the attempt. But only once, as Reigns and Rollins then had a Shield moment and double-powerbombed Miz out of the ring on top of them. Reigns didn’t bask in nostalgia, though, and threw Rollins out right after that. To his part, Rollins tipped his hat to Reigns, respecting the move, and recognizing that it’s every man for himself. Goldust was the meaningless penultimate entrant, and was only killing time before the surprise return of Dolph Ziggler at number 30. Ziggler hit some superkicks, and eliminated Goldust, but his return was pretty much wasted when he got eliminated out of nowhere by Finn Balor.
Misterio hit a 619 on Reigns, and then Orton hit a fantastic-looking RKO on Nakamura. Reigns eliminated Orton, and Rey hit a double 619 on Cena and Reigns, before getting thrown out by Balor. The last four in the ring were Cena, Reigns, Nakamura, and Balor. Nakamura was the clear fan favourite, while nobody seemed to like Reigns or Cena, judging from the “you both suck” chants when they squared off. Reigns was getting the better of the exchange on Cena, but when he tried to end it, Balor went on the attack. He Slingbladed both men down, but got caught by Nakamura. Nakamura tried to end Balor, but Balor hit a beautiful jumping footstomp. Balor couldn’t capitalize, though, and got thrown out by Cena. Cena and Reigns then double-teamed Nakamura for a while before turning their attention on each other again. Cena pointed to the WrestleMania sign, but that proved to be premature, as he got caught by Nakamura. The two of them battled it out in the ropes, but a big kick by Nakamura put Cena down and out to the floor.
Nakamura, with the crowd, solidly behind him, challenged Reigns to bring the fight (“come on!”), and Reigns obliged, flattening the King of Strong Style with a clothesline. Reigns tried to throw Nakamura out, but Namakura caught himself on the ropes. Nakamura locked on an armbar and tried to pull Reigns over the top rope, but Reigns powered himself free and powerbombed Nakamura in the centre of the ring. Reigns went for a Spear, but ate a couple of big knees, including one off the top rope. Nakamura was going for the kill, but ate a Spear instead. Reigns tried for another Spear, but this time, Nakamura stopped him with a hard knee to the face, and then threw Reigns out to win the Rumble. After the match, Nakamura announced he’d challenge AJ Styles at WrestleMania for the WWE Championship.
Whereas the returns of Misterio and Ziggler are expected to last, it’s likely that many of the surprise entrants in the women’s match were one-time appearances only. Though, based on their time in the ring, many of them could certainly hang with today’s roster, as all of them seemed to be as good as in their prime. In fact, at times, it looked like many of the women of yesteryear were looking too strong against the current crop. Two of the leaders of that crop, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, started this match. They barely got started when Sarah Logan came in, followed by Mandy Rose. Hall of Famer Lita returned to the ring as number 5, and despite the #TimesUp belt she was wearing, it looked like time has had no affect on her – as she quickly eliminated Rose.
Kairi Sane, the winner of the Mae Young Classic, entered next, and she made used some cool moves to take everyone down, even daring climbing the ropes to drop a few high elbow drops. Tamina came out next and was the first to get face-planted by Lita, who then hit a rapid succession of moves on the others, including a Twist of Fate and a scary-looking moonsault. Lita then low-bridged Tamina to eliminate her, but then got thrown out by Sasha. Dana Brooke came out next and shoved Sane off the rope to eliminate her. Torrie Wilson is a perfect ten, but came out as number 9, to eliminate Dana Brooke. The actual number 10 was Sonya DeVille (sorry, Tye Dillinger fans), and she used her power to lift Torrie and place her on the apron – and then kicked her down to the floor. Liv Morgan entered next, and she was followed by Molly Holly, and it’s always great to see her.
Though Sarah Logan wouldn’t agree, as Molly eliminated her. She then hit a Molly-Go-Round on Sasha before Lana, the Ravishing Russian, came in as number 13, wearing an outfit that could easily have taken the Women’s Revolution back 20 years. Michelle McCool came in next, earning “Undertaker” chants in honour of her husband, and she quickly eliminated DeVille and Morgan, Molly, and then Lana in quick succession. Ruby Riott’s entrance marked the halfway point, and then Vicky Guerrero screeched her way to the ring.
Her incessant, annoying “Excuse Me!” screams didn’t earn her too many friends, and the four other competitors ganged up on her and threw her out. She hit the ground just as Carmella’s music hit. Carmella jaw-jacked her on the ramp, so Vicky grabbed her briefcase and thunked Carmella in the head with it, knocking her silly. Natalya entered next, prompting guest commentator Stephanie McMahon to make the most generic statement ever on commentary: “here she comes.” To be fair, Stephanie was much better on commentary than Booker T, who really was terrible tonight. Carmella smacked Natalya on the outside, and down she stayed until even after the next entrant – the effervescent Kelly Kelly – got into the ring. Natalya eventually got into the ring and threw out McCool. Naomi was next in, and she butt-bumped a few of the women before getting taken down hard by Becky Lynch, who was thrown out by Riott a minute later.
Jacqueline came in next, but as tough as she is, didn’t eliminate anyone before being thrown out by the next entrant, Nia Jax. Jax followed that up by throwing out Kelly and then Natalya before press-slamming Riott onto the top rope corner, where she slid off to the floor to be eliminated. Jax tried to throw out Naomi, but all the women on the floor (including Sasha, who several times left the ring through the ropes so wasn’t eliminated) caught her, and helped Naomi perch herself on the barricade. Nia stood alone in the ring and glared at Ember Moon, who made her way down as number 23, and entered only to get heaved across the ring hard by Jax immediately. Meanwhile, Naomi walked the barricade to the announce table, then used a chair to wheelbarrow herself to the ring steps, and she climbed back in. But it was all for naught, as she immediately got caught by Jax and thrown over the top. “The Glamazon” Beth Phoenix returned next and she exchanged powerful shots with Jax.
She tried to power lift Nia out, but couldn’t do it. The most she could do was team up with Natalya to knock Jax through the ropes. They embraced, but then Natalya turned on her friend and threw Beth out. Asuka then came in and as some women scrambled away, Ember Moon relished the chance to take on her former nemesis. She made a good showing, even hitting a one-armed Eclipse on Asuka. But having only one good arm cost her, and Asuka threw her out right after that. Mickie James came in as 26 with a crazy new hairstyle and short pants – doesn’t she normally wear long pants? I’m not complaining, mind you. But I am complaining about Nikki Bella returning – she was number 27. Though this did lead to an unintentionally hilarious commentary moment where Nikki botched a move and Stephanie said “she hasn’t lost a step”. Truer words, Steph, were never spoken. Of course, Nikki then got an elimination, this time of Carmella. Brie Bella then came back, adding to the terribleness of the Bella in-ring performances. The twins double-teamed Natalya, while Bayley made her way to the ring. Trish Stratus, who looked younger and fitter than ever, came in as the last entrant, and hit some Stratusfaction on both Bellas simultaneously. She then faced off against her longtime rival Mickie James, which the crowd loved. Mickie went to put Trish away, but Trish kicked Mickie right off the top rope to the floor. Nia then started smashing everyone, until she ran into a double assault by Trish and Asuka. The Bellas tried to double suplex Nia over the top, but it took all of the women in the ring to do it, which seemed to disappoint the crowd, who booed after Jax went over.
Sasha then shockingly threw her friend Bayley over the top, unapologetically smack-talking to her after it was done. Trish eliminated Natalya, but got caught when she tried to hit Stratusfaction on Sasha, who put on the brakes and threw her out. This left Sasha, Asuka, and the Bella Twins. The twins and Sasha triple-attacked Asuka, and it looked like they were going to form a power trio. But as Sasha went for the double knee stomp on Asuka, the Bellas caught her and threw her over, leaving them in the ring with Asuka. She levelled them both with a series of kicks, and tried to throw out Brie, but Brie was able to catch hold of the top rope and hang on. Then Nikki backstabbed her own sister, and pushed her down to the floor. Asuka and Nikki battled it out for a bit, and they both spilled over the top rope and landed on the apron. Nikki clubbed Asuka with a forearm, but after hitting the canvas, Asuka kicked Nikki’s leg out from under her, and Nikki fell to the floor, leaving Asuka’s as the winner, the number one contender, and still undefeated.
Royal Rumble – Full Results
Preshow Match 1: Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik, and Kalisto vs. TJP, Jack Gallagher, and Drew Gulak
This match started off at about 5:25pm, and the announcers made a point of noting that the doors had just opened and people were trickling in. As if to pre-emptively explain if the crowd was quiet for this one, when it’s really because nobody cares about the 205 division. The trio of luchadors started off dominating the motley crew of villains. The first big moment of the match saw them hit simultaneous moonsaults from the same corner post onto their opponents on the floor. But then they went to a commercial break and when they returned, the bad guys had grounded Lince Dorado, and punished him for a while. Gulak tried to convince Gallagher to not do a move off the ropes, but Gallagher tried it anyway, and crashed and burned. This allowed Dorado to tag out and the masked team took over and things picked up. Dorado hit a sweet somersault dive to the floor. After a few reversals, Kalisto hit the Salida del Sol on TJP and got the pin.
Winners: Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik, and Kalisto
Match Rating: 7/10
Preshow Match 2: Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. The Revival
This one started off pretty smash-mouthed, with the two teams’ styles complementing one another pretty well. Some good, sneaky teamwork let the Revival take control, and they took turns working over Anderson’s knee. This continues for a while, and eventually Gallows tries to help his partner. He ends up eating a corner post on the outside, leaving Anderson prone to a double-team and a chop block to the knee, leading to a pinfall.
Winners: The Revival
Match Rating: 7/10 (not a great match, but points for its old-school presentation)
Preshow Match 3: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Mojo Rawley – United States Championship match
This was an open challenge, and the crowd was less than pleased to see Rawley accept it. Seriously, in Philadelphia, they couldn’t find an ECW original? Hopefully the lameness of this surprise isn’t representative of who will be surprise entrants in the Rumble match. Rawley used his power to take control, but after some trash-talking, got felled by a Spinebuster. That left him dazed and prone for a Glorious DDT that looked pretty sloppy, which we’ll blame on Rawley because he’s awful.
Winner and still US Champion: Bobby Roode
Match Rating: 5/10 (7 for Roode, -2 for Rawley)
Match 1: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles (c) – Handicap match for the WWE Championship
The match started off very deliberately, with AJ outwrestling his opponents. Eventually, the odds got to him and Team Kami started wearing AJ down. The champion escaped a top rope move with a beautiful hurancarana on Sami, and followed that up with a Pele Kick and a moonsault-DDT combo, which woke up the crowd. Owens tagged in, but got caught quickly in a Calf Crusher. He was on the verge of tapping when Sami made the save. AJ nearly got pinned after a sneaky kick by Owens from the apron and a huge Blue Thunder Bomb by Sami. He was able to fight out, though, and nearly got another pin after a Phenomenal Forearm. A quick sequence saw AJ fight out of a double-team attempt, send Sami to the floor, and then reverse a Pop-Up Powerbomb by Owens – who wasn’t the legal man – attempt into a front-rolling cradle and got the pin.
Winner and still WWE Champion: AJ Styles
Match Rating: 7/10
Backstage, Owens and Zayn complained to Shane McMahon about the loss, noting that Owens hadn’t tagged in, so the referee shouldn’t have counted. They asked Shane if he’d allow the decision to stand and therefore screw Kevin over by bad refereeing. He answered, simply, “Yep.” A great edit saw them snap back to the crowd just as Owens started a blood-curdling scream of protest.
Match 2: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin vs. the Usos (c) – 2 out of 3 Falls match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships
Benjamin and Gable took early control with some clever double-teaming, but eventually the Usos were able to reverse the momentum, including with a pair of flying dives by Jey on both opponents, while Jimmy recovered from the beatdown. A neat sequence of moves ended with a close kickout by Jimmy after a Paydirt from Benjamin. Later, Gable hit a moonsault off the top to the floor landing on both Usos. Some confusion as to which Uso was legal saw Gable nearly get pinned after eating a big superkick, but he was able to barely get his shoulder up. After some more “twin magic”, Gable ate a Malachi Crunch Superkick combo and got pinned. 1-0 for the Usos. Gabriel and Benjamin took out Jimmy early in the second fall with a Doomsday Device type move on the floor. They then tried to put Jey away, but out of nowhere, he rolled up Shelton with a small package and got the surprise win, to retain in two straight falls.
Winners and still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Usos
Match rating: 7/10
Match 3: Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Match Rating: 8/10 (not a great Rumble, but the final four stuff was really good)
Backstage, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon are celebrating their brand’s win, while Stephanie McMahon and Kurt Angle have to look on. Steph and Kurt give credit to the blue guys (no, no the Blue Meanie, sadly), but say that RAW will be well-represented later on.
Next comes a shameless plug for KFC, as they have a Rumble with the winner as the next Colonel. This was a Rumble with a bunch of guys in Colonel Sanders costumes in a Rumble. The last two were Miz and Rusev. But then a surprise final entrant came in – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, in full Col. Sanders regalia. He won by eliminating The Miz and Rusev. Whooooooo! This was harmless but dumb, then turned awesome when Flair got in there, for the ridiculous cheesiness of the whole thing.
Match 4: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (c) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro (The Bar)
If you’ve watched RAW for the past few weeks, you’ve seen this match too many times. The crowd was dead for this one. Early on, the most interesting stuff was the disagreements breaking out at the commentary desk, with everyone ganging up on Booker T and crapping all over him and his bad commentary. Rollins got beaten up for a while, but every time he went to his corner, Jordan had been attacked by The Bar – including being knocked silly after being run into the ringpost – and wasn’t able to be there to receive the tag. Making this effectively a handicap match. Rollins toughed it out, though, and finally put down both of The Bar with a double frogsplash. Jordan tagged in, but was still too dazed to compete, and tagged himself out immediately. Rollins had to go in there again, but he was easy pickings for The Bar, and they put him down for good.
Winners and new WWE Tag Team Champions: Sheamus & Ceasro
Match Rating: 3/10
Match 5: Brock Lesnar (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane – for the Universal Championship
This started off ugly, with all three hitting slobberknocking shots on each other. Braun hit Brock with a really stiff knee to the face that looked pretty gross. Brock returned the favour by punching Braun stiff in the face. THe match spilled to the floor and Braun clocked Brock with the ring steps. He then went back in the ring and set up some tables. Kane tried to chokeslam Braun, but Braun blocked it and gave Kane one of his own. Brock then took Braun to Suplex City, but Braun left town and powerslammed Brock through a table. Kane then put Braun through one. Later, Brock tried to pin Kane, but Braun simply picked him off of Kane and sent him to the floor. Outside, Brock got out of Braun’s clutches, and put Braun through the announce table with an F-5. He then turned over another announce table right on top of Braun. Kane then tried to capitalize by attacking Brock, but he got caught and dumped onto and through the third announce table. The match then went back into the ring where Braun hit Brock with a few powerslams, before Kane broke up the pin and threw Braun to the floor. Braun tried to get back in, but Brock whipped Kane into him, sending Braun to the floor for good. Brock then F-5’d Kane in the centre of the ring and got the pin.
Winner and still Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar
Match Rating: 5/10 (not good, but it was fun to watch, in hopes that Brock and Braun would really come to blows)
Match 6: Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Match Rating: 7/10