Of all the Royal Rumbles I’ve seen, this was definitely one of them.
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. Claire is on blog duty and I’m doing your recap.
Come walk with me to St. Louis and try to figure out what WWE has up its sleeve for Wrestlemania season.
Let’s get ready to talk about the Royal Rumble!
Friend of Foe
I wondered why Roman Reigns entered the match first. Not only is it the champion’s honor to arrive second, but he’s Roman Reigns; he’s the damn Head of the Table! Then that familiar little Jim Johnston ditty echoed throughout the St. Louis arena, and the crowd went nuts. Seth Rollins, decked in Shield drip, entered the ring from the crowd, firmly setting himself up as the Joker to Roman’s Batman. Seth is firmly in Roman’s head and this was his way to cash in on that fact.
And I dug every second.
Rollins controlled this match from the opening ding. Seth countered a Superman Punch on the outside of the ring and turned it into a power bomb onto the commentary table, The Shield’s signature move. Every move Seth did was a matter of psychological warfare. Whether it was the bomb to the table, the frog splash, the buckle bomb, and, of course, the constant maniacal laughing.
Seth wanted to break Roman and for a while, it looked like that just wasn’t going to happen. No matter what Seth did, Roman didn’t give in and didn’t go down for the count. In a very poetic moment, Seth countered a spear with a pedigree, which has all of the subtlety of a sledgehammer. But it was great for the story and made better by the fact Roman kicked out. It was Triple H’s manipulation of Seth that led to the end of The Shield. Kicking out of that pedigree, and withstanding all of Seth’s Architect-era moves, was Roman fighting the past and doing his best to win.
But here’s the thing about chasing or even fighting ghosts: It’s impossible to win. Seth won this match the minute he showed up in tactical gear because he showed the Tribal Chief has cracks in his armor. The final crack reared its ugly head when Seth extended his hand for a fist bump while laughing in the face of his “brother.” From there, it was the guillotine choke and it seemed academic at that point.
Now, we can question Charles Robinson’s role in Seth reaching the ropes, but that’s not the main story here. Roman was DQ’d for not breaking the hold, yelling to the crowd to boo him because Seth “deserves this.”
The story took another turn when Roman finally let go of a lifeless Rollins and grabbed a chair. It was time for payback, even if it was a few years late. But hey, revenge is a dish best served cold, right? Roman nailed Seth in the back with a chair in the same manner Seth did to Roman all those moons ago.
And he wouldn’t stop. Roman gave Seth more hits than Bad Boy in the ‘90s. Even when it looked like he was done, he grabbed another chair and continued playing the hits. The man actually broke the back of the chair.
Roman, mercifully, grabbed his belt, and walked out of the arena talking to himself. Seth is living rent free in the Universal champion’s clearly crowded head.
This? This thing right here? This is a story. While the DQ finish might elicit groans because WWE goes to this well way too much, it’s the right move. A great match with an even better story that’s just getting started. This is a version of Reigns nobody knew existed. The champ is unsure of himself, erratic, and anything but dispassionate.
Rollins, typical of the Joker, is pushing Roman by making a mockery of everything his former friend holds dear. The Shield? A joke. Paul Heyman? Also a joke. The Bloodline? So many chuckles.
Family and loyalty are punchlines for Seth. Weaponizing them against Roman is smart, especially when Paul is no longer in his corner and we question if Roman’s dominance is partly due to having his cousins in his corner at all times.
Seth and Roman had my curiosity. Now, they have my attention. Pretend I used the Calvin Candie gif from Django Unchained.
As a brief aside—trust me, very brief—it was weird St. Louis was in the bag for Seth. He’s the guy who broke up the fan favorite group and has no scruples about exploiting his past villainy. By all accounts, Roman is the good guy here, or at the least, the person we can relate to the most. Weird. But I digress.
Roman Reigns—that guy again—and Paul Heyman played Brock Lesnar. At least that’s how it seems at the moment. And I really hope that’s the story they go with because it takes this entire Roman Reigns saga to another level of dope that I didn’t think was possible.
Before we even get to that finish, let’s talk about the few minutes before. And yes, it’s just a few minutes. Brock and Bobby Lashley engaged in anything you can suplex, I can suplex better. This was two MMA guys having a fight. Everything looked good for the WWE champion until Lashley slapped that Hurt Lock on him. Lesnar used their combined body weight—which I believe is two metric tons—to break up the hold and put Bobby in the F-5.
Oh but wait. The referee was in the way! With the ref out of commission, Reigns makes his way to the ring and spears the champ. After engaging in a brief stare session with the man he once called “wiseman,” Reigns motioned for the belt. And to the surprise of everyone in the arena, Heyman obliged.
This is wrestling so you know what happened from here. The second ref hits the ring, apparently missing Roman hitting Lesnar with the belt, and counts three as Bobby pinned Lesnar in their first-ever contest. If not for Roman and Paul, the big story here is the return of the All Mighty Era. But, yeah, this is all about the Tribal Chief, his counsel, and the Beast.
The match itself was okay. Brock and Lashley don’t work the best together and Lashley took those suplex bumps type awkwardly. As it was the case for most of last year and the first month of 2022, the WWE championship is secondary. Lashley’s big moment is the inciting incident for more Roman, Paul, and Brock.
On one hand, that sucks. Especially since Lashley looked weak even getting that win. On the other hand? It’s still the most compelling story in all of professional sports entertainment wrestling. SmackDown is must-see TV this week.
If you’re here and read anything on this site, you know Ronda Rousey made her return to WWE tonight. You also know that the 28th entrant into the Women’s Rumble is going to WrestleMania. Which is cool, if you’re into that sort of thing. I can’t say that I am but it’s my job to recap how it happened and what it means.
Prior to Ronda’s theme hitting the arena speakers, this was a semi-entertaining Rumble. Not every return worked—why did Melina do her split gimmick once Sasha eliminated her?—but it was a cool mix of nostalgia (shoutout to Ivory. RTC for life!), returning to old feuds (Michelle McCool and Mickie James), and furthering current stories. Rhea Ripley let Nikki A.S.H. distract her like we all predicted, but it didn’t cost her the match.
Sonya Deville not only eliminated a returning Cameron to mess with Naomi, but made sure Naomi’s 2022 highlight reel will not feature her defying gravity and avoiding elimination. We even got Mickie James sporting her Impact championship, accompanied by her Impact music and referenced as the Impact Women’s champion. That was probably the coolest moment of the night, and well-deserved.
But you’re here to talk about the winner. Eventually, it came down to Shayna Baszler, Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, and Ronda Rousey. We got a brief interaction between Shayna and Ronda broken up by, you guessed it, Charlotte. Eventually, Bianca and Shayna set eyes on each other while forgetting the other two women in the ring. Charlotte took advantage and threw them both out, much to the dismay of The EST.
From there, we got a very anticlimactic ending as Charlotte went at Ronda like the Hulk going towards a building, and Ronda simply tossed her out.
There were fun moments, but the match was filled with too many legends to create actual suspense. Ignoring the fact that Ronda’s music telegraphed the ending, but no one believes in their heart of hearts that any of those other surprise entrants have a shot at winning. Meaning the Rumble is missing one of its best ingredients: Suspense.
In the end, Ronda is getting her title shot and more than likely, her opponent is Charlotte. I’m not excited but maybe they’ll change my mind between now and then. Maybe.
Here We Go Again
Let’s not mince words here. And by “let’s” I mean “me.” The Men’s Rumble was not very good. Competent? Sure. They’re seasoned pros at this whole wrestling thing. But the match was boring and indicative of a larger problem within WWE. Outside of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, most of the roster are treated like mid-carders. Even when they’re supposedly main event staples. As a result, the place that used to be “where anything can happen” is more predictable than a rerun.
My issue isn’t with Brock winning; it’s with the fact it was predictable and no one else in that match posed even the slightest threat to Brock. Anyone shouting about Drew McIntyre needs to kill that noise. Despite beating Brock for the WWE championship, Drew’s position on the roster is just like everyone else’s. The same goes for Big E, the man who was WWE champ all of 5 minutes ago, and is now treated like just a body. WWE didn’t present anyone else on the roster as viable a option to win.
And rather than use the final spots to put someone young and upcoming over, the last men standing were RK-Bro, Brock Lesnar, SHANE MCMAHON and...BAD BUNNY. There’s barely anyone young left for them to put over since they tossed everyone to the bushes due to budget cuts, and they devalued guys like Big E and AJ Styles by putting the boss’s son and a musician in the final standoff.
The boss’s son and a musician.
The Rumble itself isn’t worth talking about because it was just there. They didn’t even give us the Rey Mysterio and Dominik interaction they teased for two weeks! Did that make or break the thing? No, but it shows the level of neglect here with doing anything remotely interesting.
The Roman and Brock story is a great one, no argument here. But the fact we’re doing these two dudes again at yet another WrestleMania says more about WWE’s structural and creative problems. For *counts on fingers* seven years now, WWE made these two the only people we should truly care about. That’s seven years of not building up anyone on that level on your roster. Seven years of creative bankruptcy, and seven years of openly admitting the last time you truly created someone big enough to hold it down with your current big star was 20 years ago.
If that’s not a problem, then the people at Webster need to redefine it in the dictionary.
Came Back For You
Doudrop isn’t over. WWE cut her legs out from under her early. But losing so many matches to Bianca Belair did her no favors. The fact that Becky did all she could to avoid Bianca but had no issue taking on Doudrop was also the big tell.
And that’s a shame because the match was solid. Putting this match right after the Women’s Rumble was a bad idea. No one believed Doudrop had an actual chance and the way WWE told the story to this point, they were 1000 percent correct.
That said, both women came to play. The story in question: Can Becky Lynch find a way to win against someone of Doudrop’s stature and power. For 99 percent of the match, the answer was an empathic “nah.” Doudrop was immune to all of Becky’s usual tricks, including the Dis-Arm-Her. Becky’s first Manhandle Slam attempt had no chance in hell of working, so she improvised when it looked like she was ready to take an L.
Doudrop climbed the top rope, Becky cuts her off, and then, finally, nails the Manhandle Slam to put her challenger away.
Solid match! But no one was into it and I confess, even I found it hard to sit through, despite the good work from both women.
Becky moves on to find her Mania dance partner and Doudrop? Only Vince McMahon knows the answer to that.
You’re All I Need
Maryse is underrated. The former champ was the MVP of this match, working when she was in the ring and working even harder when she was outside of the ring. There’s not much to analyze or say about this match. It was fun! Seeing Beth in the ring was great. Seeing Beth powerbomb Miz was even better. Edge and Maryse got the win with twin Glam Slams, and everyone went home happy.
Royal Rumble started hot. It actually started great. And it was all downhill from there. Despite the great opening, the solid women’s championship match, and the fun tag match, the main attractions of the show failed to deliver. I was unsatisfied and there’s only one grade I can think of associated with an unsatisfactory feeling.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.