Here we are. The big moment for kayfabe reasons but meta reasons as well. With the People’s Champion lurking in the background, the wrestling world wondered what that meant for Cody Rhodes’ story. CM Punk is a part of that world and he had more than $.02 on the subject. Punk knows that story well and believed Cody’s fate mirrored his own when The Rock eclipsed his WrestleMania main event spot. Logically, the men’s Rumble had to end with these two face-to face. For both Cody and Punk, going through the other before getting to Mania felt necessary.
To that end, the territory booked the match’s last portion beautifully. These two squared off what became a one-on-one match. With everyone else dispatched, including Drew McIntyre and GUNTHER, they went to work.
That’s also the moment that saved an otherwise disappointing men's Rumble. Jey & Jimmy Uso entered at number 1 and number 2, respectively, but outside of the first few minutes, their interactions lacked fire. And their respective eliminations don’t allude to any future matches.
Kofi Kingston faces GUNTHER on the next Monday Night Raw for the Intercontinental championship. That made it weird when GUNTHER eliminated...Kofi. Obviously they planned for GUNTHER’s longevity, but why let GUNTHER eliminate the guy he’s wrestling in a few days? It robs Kofi’s momentum and makes it an even bigger forgone conclusion.
That, and just an overall flatness took away from a few returns, namely Andrade and Omos. Well, mostly Andrade. Omos is still, well, Omos. Poor Bronson Reed practically eliminated himself because Omos didn’t fully do his job.
But let’s get back to the end, shall we?
Both men, but mostly Punk, kept that Mania sign in their sights. They battled back and forth at a pace benefitting the fact that one of them isn’t quite in wrestling shape at the moment. The storytelling made up for the slower pace. We got a Pedigree from Punk, a Bionic Elbow from Cody, and Punk exclaiming that he didn’t wait 10 years to lose to “Dusty’s kid.” That was the moment I saw the ending coming.
This whole thing with Cody is about doing something his dad couldn’t. And proving he’s beyond the “Dusty’s kid” moniker. And that’s what he did. Was it pretty? Not particularly. But it was effective.
DO THE WORK.— WWE (@WWE) January 28, 2024
FINISH THE STORY.@CodyRhodes just won the Men's #RoyalRumble Match for the second year in a row! The American Nightmare has his sights set on @WWERomanReigns as the Road to #WrestleMania is underway! pic.twitter.com/RkHT2oAsLT
Cody wasted no time picking his opponent: Roman Reigns. With WrestleMania 70 days away (glad WWE spelled it out because me and math are not friends), one wonders how much intrigue we get between now and then related to the former Rocky Maivia.
Cody plans on finishing his story but we’ll see whether it’s yet another dream deferred for the American Nightmare.
Before I get to Bayley and all the props she deserves, the big story from the women’s Rumble is Jade Cargill. And I’m honest enough to admit I slightly lost my mind when she showed up late in the Rumble and finally made her debut.
More than how she showed up, it’s what she did once she got there. Let’s set the stage a bit.
Nia Jax entered the Rumble and the entire tenor changed. The woman dominated with eight eliminations while fighting off several attempts at ousting her from the match. Not only did Nia throw multiple women over the top rope, but she talked trash with her own running commentary. They continued Nia’s established dominance from Raw and made her a natural disaster in this Rumble.
And then guess what happened? The timer stopped and Jade entered at number 28. And everything from there was a perfect debut. She lifted Nia on her shoulders, slammed her, to the mat, then ever so gingerly tossed her over the top rope, much to everyone’s shock. Becky Lynch counted herself amongst those in dismay. Naturally, that led to a small back and forth between Becky and Jade, which eventually gave way to another dope spot featuring Bianca Belair and Jade.
Both women held other women over their heads and met in the middle of the ring. Their eyes locked like two people in a romantic comedy. They discarded the women above their heads and focused only on each other. Smartly, WWE only teased that interaction without actually engaging.
The territory did the deed by that point; Jade made a triumphant debut and got over like rover. She found herself in the final four and almost won the Rumble. I worried about Jade and wondered what happened after all that hype last year. Well, I worry no more. Like those of you with AllState, she’s in good hands.
As I said, she almost won. Ultimately, the night belonged to Bayley. She entered at number three and simply outlasted everyone. Commentary mentioned early Bayley’s lack of gold and how that differed from her Damage CTRL compadres. To that point, Bayley seemed tentative when Asuka and Kairi Sane entered. That became part of the match’s subtle storytelling. Bayley wanted this moment for herself.
She didn’t want any chance that Kairi or Asuka might take her spot. Or, if you look at it another way, she wanted to avoid eliminating her teammates or putting them in a compromising situation. Luckily for her and the crew, those situations never materialized. Even without backup, Bayley survived and thrived.
In retrospect, she's the perfect choice.
Few more notes before moving to the next section:
Naomi is back! She entered at number two and the crowd went wild. She had a great showing during the Rumble and lasted until the end.
Jordynne Grace! The woman who defeated Naomi for the TNA Knockouts championship found her way to St. Petersburg, Florida and got an incredible rub.
Damage CTRL eliminated both members of The Way. I chuckled.
Liv Morgan returned! In fact, she showed up at number 30 and, through a tussle, eliminated Jade. Before she turned her attention to Bayley, the Role Model eliminated her.
A Rumble that picked up steam and turned into a fantastic piece of work.
ROMAN RULES at ROYAL RUMBLE!@WWERomanReigns outlasts three of #SmackDown's best at #RoyalRumble and is STILL your Undisputed WWE Universal Champion!@HeymanHustle @WWESoloSikoa pic.twitter.com/hvpr8ENLad— WWE (@WWE) January 28, 2024
Well, this never truly got off the ground for me. The Fatal 4 Way for the Undisputed Universal championship certainly had its moments, but as soon as it truly got started and the chaos set in, it ended. Even the Bloodline interference came early. I always love seeing Solo Sikoa but I expected him later. But maybe with this match being No DQ, the Bloodline shenanigans that keep that title around Roman Reigns’ waist needed to start earlier than normal.
Every wrestler got their moment but I don’t know what to think about it. Obviously, Roman won, but it fell flat. There’s always the possibility someone (Randy Orton) got injured so they called an audible. And if so, that’s the smart move. But if not? Yeah, I have no clue why the sone suffered from stunted growth.
Logan Paul vs. Kevin Owens didn’t set my world on fire, but it at least started a small blaze. A fun match that told a couple stories: One, how much pain could KO endure with his hand? And two, Logan is a proper villain whom you can’t outvillain. New word.
There’s no need to talk about Logan’s skill in the ring at this point. The man has it and showed it here in spades. It’s still wild fast he developed considering the relatively short time he spends in the ring. Well, the televised time anyway. That’s a testament to his work ethic and getting willing dance partners.
Usually I’d say a finish with Logan’s partner, Austin Theory, and Grayson Waller lending a helping hand to the champ is overbooked and overkill, but it worked here because it got KO to the point where he slipped up. I love when wrestlers do things in the heat of the moment that hurts them in the end. KO using Logan’s brass knuckles and getting caught? Perfect. We’re getting a rematch. When? I have no clue but it’s happening.
The Royal Rumle was a mixed bag. Nothing was outright awful but the show didn’t maintain its momentum after the women’s rumble. And that’s where all the news happened too, so it’s just hard competing with that.