This article contains spoilers for WWE’s Royal Rumble event, held last Saturday in St. Louis, Missouri.
WWE Universal Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns (c)
The match: Seth Rollins wins via disqualification, Roman Reigns retains.
Matt’s Review: Every single viewer came into this match expecting a classic, and Reigns and Rollins delivered… that is, until the finish. Sending a RAW superstar to a different brand is always a risk for main event-caliber feuds, but this one made sense. Rollins has always been Reigns’ Achilles heel in his WWE run, and if there’s anyone on the roster who makes sense to dethrone the Tribal Chief, it’s Rollins.
Rollins’ entrance to the Shield’s theme, complete with tactical vest, was a brilliant callback to the shared history of both champion and challenger. The match didn’t disappoint either: the Spear into the Pedigree was a brilliant maneuver, and I loved the post-match beatdown by Reigns on Rollins by way of a steel chair. The ending of the match was a bit boring (as disqualifications always are), but justified for the purposes of the feud.
Where I start to get worried, both as a viewer and someone who covers WWE frequently, is where this leaves Reigns. His gimmick has begun to grow stale and generate “go away” heat akin to levels seen by Triple H during his reign of terror in the mid-2000s. The finish of this match was perfect and left both wrestlers looking good, but my concern lies with Reigns’ future.
Matt’s Rating: B-
Justin’s Review: WWE made a risky decision sending a RAW star to SmackDown to enter a feud with the Tribal Chief, but storyline-wise, it began to make sense. Rollins was built up as Reigns’ most prominent opponent yet, over the likes of Brock Lesnar and Edge. This wasn’t due to his sheer physical dominance, but because he had the ability to get into Reigns’ head better than anyone before him.
These two stars go back a decade. The Shield brethren was built up so strongly to make Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins look like future stars and was torn down so effectively with Rollins joining the Authority to become their new pet. You would assume that ten years later, a monster heel Roman Reigns wouldn’t care anymore. As shown throughout the feud, however, he still can’t forgive Rollins for his betrayal.
WWE booked Rollins perfectly to come out on top. From mocking Reigns’ bloodline to reminding him how he put a chair in his back, to coming out with the iconic Shield attire and music, Rollins seemed to be the first person in years to come into a match vs Reigns with the upper hand. However, once again, yet another challenger to the Tribal Chief falls short.
The match started off fast, with Rollins gaining a ton of momentum to begin. The power-bomb through the announcers table was arguably the spot of the match, especially due to its Shield callbacks. Reigns began to gain some momentum back, but the ending was the head-scratcher. Ending a match and feud with this much history should not be in a DQ finish, but that’s exactly what WWE did. Reigns refused to break out of the guillotine, causing Rollins to win via DQ.
Post-match, Reigns absolutely brutalized Rollins with a chair, yet another call back to their Shield days. The only way this match would’ve had a successful payoff is if Rollins were to win the Royal Rumble and set up a WrestleMania rematch, but clearly, that didn’t happen. The match started firing on all cylinders, but the finish dropped the rating a ton.
Justin’s Rating: B-
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
The match: Ronda Rousey wins, entering at 28 and last eliminating Charlotte Flair.
Matt’s Review: In another match with an obvious conclusion, WWE still managed to underwhelm even the most casual of fans in what should have been a classic Rumble match. Sasha’s unceremonious and early elimination was a disappointment, as well as the lack of any NXT 2.0 stars. It was disappointing to not see either Asuka or Bayley as well, but that likely is due to their injuries not being completely healed.
The biggest issue with this match was its pacing. There were no real memorable moments aside from Ivory’s incredible return, and Ronda and Charlotte being the final two was yawn-worthy. Somehow, this match looks like a five-star classic compared to the men’s rumble (more on that farce later), but on its own, this women’s rumble match was the worst in its four-year history.
Matt’s Rating: D
Justin’s Review: This year’s Women’s Rumble had so much potential due to the big-name stars participating and the unpredictability behind it. WWE completely flopped with the booking of this match and made it arguably the worst of the night.
It was disappointing to see Asuka and Bayley not show up, but they still could’ve built up a good enough match to make up for their absence. Eliminating Sasha Banks and Liv Morgan so early on for no reason seemed pointless, as both had major ironwoman potential. There were no interesting spots, and the only memorable moments were Ivory’s cameo, the setup for Naomi vs Sonya Deville, and Ronda Rousey’s return. Other than that, nothing in this match was noteworthy.
Although Rousey returning was a cool moment, it shouldn’t have ended with her winning the Rumble. She can come back whenever she wants and get a Women’s title match at WrestleMania due to her star power and credibility, so giving her the win here was unnecessary. The win should’ve been given to someone who needs it, like Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, Sasha Banks, or Shayna Baszler. The match had no noteworthy spots, and the outcome just made it worse.
Justin’s Rating: D-
Becky Lynch vs. Doudrop
The match: Becky pins Doudrop after a top rope uranage slam.
Matt’s Review: This match was better than what I thought it would be, but added nothing to an already weak card. Doudrop needs her old name back, and at this point, it’s an insult to both viewers and her that she retains her degrading moniker. A top rope uranage was a nice climax to what was a boring yet serviceable match, but the highlight by far was the Wrestlemania sign erupting into flames in the background, a sign of things to come.
Matt’s Rating: C-
Justin’s Review- Of all the matches on the card, this was by far the most predictable. There weren’t many expectations going into it, and there wasn’t much excitement either. Becky Lynch will clearly be walking into WrestleMania 38 as women’s champion, so from the start, Doudrop clearly had no chance. Although there were some solid spots, it wasn’t some memorable match, and the predictability made it even worse.
Justin’s Rating: C
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley vs. Brock Lesnar (c)
The match: Bobby Lashley wins after Roman Reigns attacks Lesnar.
Matt’s Review: Oof. What should have been a barnburner of a hoss match was instead used as a springboard to a Wrestlemania feud everyone is already sick of. The match started out incredibly well, with both competitors delivering suplexes to each other in a test of strength and dominance.
When the match had begun to ramp up in speed, the referee was knocked out and Roman Reigns delivered a Spear to Brock. The crowd in the arena booed. And so did everyone at home. This is going to be the third time we’ve seen this match at Wrestlemania, and the seventh overall. Worse, the ending made Lashley look weak.
Matt’s Rating: C-
Justin’s Review: Yes. This match deserves an F.
In quite possibly one of the biggest letdowns ever, Bobby Lashley vs Brock Lesnar somehow managed to not deliver. If booked correctly, this match could’ve been one for the history books, but it was booked the exact way it shouldn’t be booked.
This match drew a lot of parallels to Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg. Two massive superstars with loads of potential to make an all-time match turned into a five-minute finisher fest. WWE should’ve built up this match with smaller moves, instead of jumping straight into Lashley spears and Lesnar F5’s. The only somewhat good part was in the beginning when both men had a mini suplex competition trying to one-up each other.
The ending was even worse with Reigns costing Lesnar the title. Although this was a smart way to book it, it shouldn’t have led to a Lesnar rumble win. Similar to Rousey winning the rumble, a Lesnar vs Reigns match doesn’t need to be set up by the rumble. Ultimately, it seems as if WWE had no intention of having this match deliver, and it was just another set-up for the inevitable Reigns vs Lesnar match.
Justin’s Rating: F
Edge and Beth Phoenix vs. Miz and Maryse
The match: Edge and Beth Phoenix win after a dual Spear on Miz.
Matt’s Review: This match had no right to be as good as it was. Beth Phoenix was a house of fire, Maryse pulled off a hurricanrana, and the ending was awesome. There was a lush collection of storytelling in this match, and the jackknife powerbomb into an elbow drop tandem move was particularly impressive.
Matt’s Rating: B
Justin’s Review: Surprisingly, this mixed tag team match has an argument to be the best match on the card. It exceeded expectations, and although it isn’t a match that will be remembered for eternity, it was a solid overall outing.
It had a good mix of story-telling and spots, and seeing Beth Phoenix back in the ring was exciting. Despite the predictability aspect, this match over-delivered and gets onto the B scale.
Justin’s Rating: B
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
The match: Brock Lesnar wins, entering at 30 and last eliminating Drew McIntyre.
Matt’s Review: This match is in the running with 2015 for the worst rumble match in WWE history, and I’m tempted to award this match that honor. Let’s talk about the upsides first. Bad Bunny’s appearance was an exciting follow-up to his incredible Wrestlemania debut, Johnny Knoxville’s appearance was the highlight of the match and Drew McIntyre’s return injected some much-needed adrenaline into the blandest rumble match in history.
Now, for the bad.
There was an insurmountable amount of bad in this match. Lack of star power is one thing, but WWE’s treatment of ascending main event talent is my biggest quip with this match. Kevin Owens being haphazardly eliminated by the ghost of Shane McMahon and his phantom punches was an insult to viewers everywhere. Big E’s random elimination at the hands of RKBro was abysmal and cements his return to the mid-card. Damian Priest was eliminated by modern-day Giant Gonzalez Omos in pathetic fashion. There were no NXT 2.0 appearances whatsoever on the card, signaling that it is solely a developmental promotion and eliminating any interest in it for myself and countless viewers worldwide. Brock’s win was predictable, boring, and downright insulting.
In all honesty, this match was worse than 2015 for one reason: lack of star power. And as someone who is completely over the Head of the Table gimmick at this point, this match deserves no higher than an F+.
Matt’s Rating: F+
Justin’s Review: Similarly to the women’s rumble, this match had high expectations due to the unpredictability behind it. From Big E to Kevin Owens to AJ Styles, there were five to six superstars who had a realistic shot at winning the rumble. Immediately after Lesnar lost the WWE title, any chance of anyone else winning this rumble fell to zero.
The match had some good moments, which is why it’s graded higher than the women’s rumble. The first three entrants being Styles, Nakamura, and Theory were all good selections, Johnny Knoxville’s cameo was done right, the return of McIntyre and Shane McMahon return was exciting, and Bad Bunny making an appearance was great, but the downsides completely outweigh the upsides.
There was a whole period in the rumble where it was just mid-carder after mid-carder coming into the ring. It’s usually good to throw a lot of them in the match to fill up the ring, but having them come one after another without any cool spots or big entrants in between makes for a dry portion of the rumble. Guys like Damian Priest and Austin Theory were taken out earlier than they should’ve, and again, the Lesnar win was the worst possible outcome.
Justin’s Rating: C-