WWE Royal Rumble 2018 live review: Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble matches, Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane for the WWE Universal Championship, AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match for the WWE Championship

By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

WWE Royal Rumble 2018
Aired January 28, 2018 live on WWE Network and pay-per-view
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Wells Fargo Center

A video package opened the show and said the Rumble is about the opportunity to trail blaze and make history… Tom Phillips welcomed viewers to the 31st annual Royal Rumble…

1. AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match for the WWE Championship. Phillips was joined on commentary by Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. The Spanish and German broadcast teams checked in during the ring entrances. Greg Hamilton delivered the in-ring introductions for the title match. Mike Chioda was the referee.

The heels worked the numbers advantage early on with Styles getting in some occasional offense. At 8:40, Styles avoided a cannonball from Owens in the corner. Owens acted like he aggravated his ankle injury from Smackdown and quickly tagged in Zayn. Owens checked back in and ate a Pele Kick before tagging out again. Zayn set up for his finisher, but Styles caught him with a kick and then a reverse DDT at 10:20.

Styles put Owens in the Calf Crusher at 11:05. Owens teased tapping. ayn returned to the ring to break it up, which drew boos from the crowd. Styles threw a series of strikes at Zayn and then tossed him to the floor. Owens rolled up Styles for a two count. Styles ran Owens through the ropes and into the ring post.

A short time later, Styles had Zayn in the air. Zayn reached for a tag and missed. Styles dumped Zayn to ringside. Owens ran in and superkicked Styles. Owens shot Styles into the ropes for the Popup Powerbomb, but Styles ended up rolling up Owens and pinning him to win the match…

AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match in 15:55 to retain the WWE Championship.

Powell’s POV: As much as I hated the idea of Owens and Zayn as co-challengers because of my belief that it defines them down, this was an entertaining match. The idea of the finish was that Zayn never tagged Owens and therefore Styles pinned the illegal man. In other words, this isn’t over yet. I’m surprised they didn’t open the show with the women’s Rumble match with the goal of putting some distance between the two matches. In fact, they’re going to the tag title match next.

A WrestleMania 34 video aired. We’re 70 days away…

Backstage, Owens and Zayn vented to Shane McMahon about the referee costing them the match. “Did I see it?” Shane asked. “Yep.” Shane walked away…

2. Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in a best of three falls match for the Smackdown Tag Titles. Not much of a reaction for the challengers. The Usos delivered some mic work on the way to the ring with the theme being that you can’t prepare for them. Phillips noted on commentary that the same official who overturned the finish that would have given the tag titles to Benjamin and Gable was working this match. The challengers isolated Jimmy for a good stretch.

Jey finally tagged in at 7:15 and worked over both opponents and performed dives onto both men at different times. Jey performed a cross body block on Gable in the ring for a two count. At 10:10, Gable performed a moonsault off the top rope and onto both Usos at ringside. The referee pointed out that Gable had the illegal Uso when he brought one back inside the ring.

Jey Uso superkicked Gable and then performed a top rope splash for a two count. The broadcast team continuously questioned what it would take to get a fall in the match. One of the Usos made a blind tag. Both Usos hit Gable with several superkicks and pinned him to win the first fall in 12:15.

The second fall didn’t last long. Benjamin and Gable performed a Doomsday Device on Jimmy with Gable leaping off the apron. However, one of the Usos caught Gable in an inside cradle and scored the pin to win the match two falls to none…

The Usos defeated Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in 13:55 in a best of three falls match to retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.

Powell’s POV: The crowd was lifeless during the match. The in-ring action was solid, so it’s more a case of creative not doing nearly enough to get Benjamin and Gable heat or even over as a team going into this.

An ad aired for the WWE 24 feature on WrestleMania 33 that will air on WWE Network after the Royal Rumble. It actually featured behind the scenes comments from Undertaker… Michael Cole joined Graves and Saxton on commentary and set up a Royal Rumble numbers video…

3. The 30-Man Royal Rumble match. A graphic listed 90-second intervals between entrants and the usual rules. Jerry Lawler was introduced as a guest commentator for the Rumble match. Aiden English walked out and introduced Rusev as the first entrant. The second entrant was Finn Balor. The third entrant in the match was Rhyno. There was a brief round of ECW chants.

The fourth entrant in the match was Baron Corbin. The broadcast team noted that Corbin won the Andre the Giant battle royal and eliminated Braun Strowman from last year’s match. Corbin eliminated Rhyno at 4:10. Balor eliminated Corin seconds later. Corbin threw a fit hit End of Days on Rusev on the floor and then gave Balor a backbreaker before agents and referees ushered him away.

The fifth entrant was Heath Slater. Corbin blasted Slater with a clothesline on the entrance ramp before heading backstage. Referees tended to Slater on the stage while Balor and Rusev remained down at ringside.

The sixth entrant was Elias, who brought out his guitar and introduced himself on the stage. Elias kicked Slater before walking past him. Elias continued to talk as he entered the ring and said the countdown clock would not start until he gave them the performance of the year. Elias played his guitar and sang a song until the clock interrupted him.

The seventh entrant was NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas, who was joined on the stage by Zelina Vega. She took the NXT Championship and brought it backstage. Almas caught Elias with double knees in the corner and then set up for his finisher, but Elias avoided it and came back moments later with a clothesline.

The eighth entrant was Bray Wyatt. Cole noted that it was Wyatt’s fourth Rumble and he lasted nearly 30 minutes last year before being eliminated by Roman Reigns. Wyatt attacked Slater at ringside. He set up for his finisher on Elias, but Balor broke it up. Wyatt came right back with a clothesline on Balor. The fans chanted “Rusev Day” as Rusev got back to his feet and tried to reenter the ring.

The ninth entrant was Big E, who picked up Slater and shoved pancakes in his mouth at ringside.

The tenth entrant was once again supposed to be Tye Dillinger. However, he didn’t come out. They cut to a camera backstage that showed Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn beating up Dillinger. “I got this,” Zayn said. Zayn headed to the ring and took Dillinger’s place in the match.

The eleventh entrant was Sheamus, who immediately rolled Slater inside the ring. Slater popped right up and clotheslined Sheamus over the top rope and to the floor to eliminate him from the match. The broadcast team noted that it was Sheamus’s birthday. Wyatt hit Slater with Sister Abigail and eliminated him from the match.

The twelfth entrant was Xavier Woods. Big E and Woods teamed up and worked over Elias. They tried to eliminate him, but he survived.

The thirteenth entrant was Apollo Crews. Cole noted that only four entrants had come from the teens in Rumble history.

The fourteenth entrant was Shinsuke Nakamura. Saxton picked Nakamura to win the match. Nakamura put Zayn on the top rope and then threw a knee to his chest that eliminated him from the match.

The fifteenth entrant was Cesaro.

The sixteenth entrant in the match was Kofi Kingston. Cole noted that all three members of New Day would be in the match at the same time. Kingston entered the ring and immediately ate an uppercut from Cesaro. At 24:35, Cesaro eliminated Crews from the match.

The seventeenth entrant was Jinder Mahal, who was accompanied by one of the Singh Brothers (the other is injured). Cole noted that it was Mahal’s first Rumble match. Lawler picked Mahal to win the match. Mahal eliminated Woods at 26:10. Mahal and E fought on the apron. Mahal caught E with a kick to the head to eliminate him from the match. Look out, Kofi!

The eighteenth entrant was Seth Rollins. Cesaro caught Rollins with a shot from behind and tried to eliminate him, but Rollins avoided it. Rollins ended up catapulting Cesaro over the top rope and to the floor to eliminate him from the match. Mahal pushed Kingston over the top rope, but Kingston’s right foot landed on Woods, who was still lying down. E put a plate of pancakes under Kingston’s foot. Kingston hopped on one foot while Cole reminded viewers that both feet must hit the floor. Mahal blocked Kingston from returning, so E and Woods gave him a boost up and over Mahal. Kingston ended up eliminating Mahal form the match at 29:10. Almas eliminated Kingston at 29:30.

The nineteenth entrant was “Woken” Matt Hardy. Wyatt and Hardy ended up punching Rusev. They looked at one another and then teamed up to clothesline Rusev over the top rope and to the floor to eliminate him at 30:30. Hardy and Wyatt ended up throwing punches at one another and eliminated each other at 31:00.

The 20th entrant was John Cena. Elias, Rollins, Nakamura, Almas, and Balor surrounded Cena and worked him over briefly. Cena ended up eliminating Elias at 23:35.

The 21st entrant was The Hurricane (Shane Helms), who received a strong reaction. Lawler said it looked like Hurricane had been spending time at Tony Luke’s (restaurant). Hurricane ducked a clotheslined from Cena and grabbed him by the throat, but Cena brushed him off and eliminated him at 33:35.

The 22nd entrant was Aiden English.

The 23rd entrant was Adam Cole, who came out with his ribs taped. Cole noted that Cole was in a brutal Extreme Rules match with Aleister Black at NXT Takeover the night before. Balor eliminated English.

The 24th entrant was Randy Orton, who caught Almas with a cool RKO and eliminated him. Cole noted that Almas was in the match for 29 minutes and had nothing to be ashamed of.

The 25th entrant was Titus O’Neil.

The 26th entrant was The Miz, who delivered Daniel Bryan style kicks to Cena and Rollins. Cena tried to hoist him up for an Attitude Adjustment, but Miz avoided it and dropped Cena with a Skull Crushing Finale.

The 27th entrant was Rey Mysterio, who received a good reaction from the crowd. Mysterio eliminated Cole at 42:50 with a huracanrana over the top. Mysterio hit the 619 on Miz.

The 28th entrant was Roman Reigns, who was booed loudly. Reigns entered the ring and threw uppercuts at anyone who came near him. Reigns glared at Miz, who ran into a clothesline. The fans booed as Reigns worked over Miz. Reigns eliminated O’Neil at 45:00. He was close to eliminating Miz, but Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas came out and saved Miz. Rollins hit the Stomp on Miz. Rollins and Reigns teamed up for a double powerbomb that threw Miz onto Dallas and Axel to eliminate him. At 45:55, Reigns eliminated Rollins. Reigns looked at Rollins and smiled. Rollins smiled and nodded while Cole said Rollins would have done the same to Reigns.

The 29th entrant was Goldust. Cole noted that Goldust is tied for second behind only Kane for most Rumble matches.

The 30th entrant was Dolph Ziggler, who walked out to his awful entrance theme. Ziggler charged the ring and went right after Cena, who caught him going for a superkick and tried to give him an AA, but Ziggler landed on his feet (sorta). Ziggler ended up eliminating Goldust. Balor eliminated Ziggler at 49:40.

The remaining six entrants at the 50-minute mark were Cena, Nakamura, Balor, Mysterio, Reigns, and Orton. Mysterio hit a 619 on Reigns. Orton ducked some kicks from Nakamura and gave him an RKO. Cena encouraged Orton, who tried to give him an RKO. Cena blocked the RKO and Reigns eliminated Orton. Mysterio gave Reigns and Cena a double 619 before Balor tossed Mysterio to ringside to eliminate him at 51:45.

The final four were Reigns, Cena, Balor, and Nakamura. The fans chanted for Nakamura. Cena punched Nakamura and then Reigns worked over Balor. Cena nodded at Reigns and smiled. Cena looked at the WrestleMania sign. Balor and Nakamura jumped up and threw punches at Reigns and Cena and knocked them down, then had a moment where they fought one another.

Cena and Reigns had their own showdown a short time later. Reigns performed a Samoan drop and was booed loudly. Cena avoided a Superman Punch and then went for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Balor caught him with a sling blade clothesline. Balor hit the same move on Reigns and Nakamura, but then ran into a Nakamura kick. Nakamura went for his finisher, but Balor caught him with a double stomp. Cena immediately grabbed Balor and tossed him over the top rope at 57:45 (Cole gave Balor credit for being in the match for 57 minutes and 30 seconds).

The final three were Reigns, Cena, and Nakamura. Cena and Reigns teamed up to work over Nakamura briefly, then went back to fighting one another. Cena went for the Five Knuckle Shuffle again and connected on Reigns. Reigns avoided the AA and hit Cena with a Superman Punch. Reigns kicked the motionless Nakamura out of the way and then lined up in the corner and let out the primal scream before running into an AA.

Nakamura stood up and grabbed Cena from behind, but Cena elbowed him. Cena tried to suplex Nakamura over the top rope, but Nakamura put him on the apron instead. Nakamura caught Cena with a running knee that eliminated him at 60:45.

The final two were Nakamura and Reigns. “Come on!” Nakamura said. Reigns and Nakamura traded punches with the fans cheering Nakamura’s shots while booking Roman’s. Reigns caught Nakamura with a Superman Punch. Reigns looked at the WrestleMania sign. Reigns tossed Nakamura over the top, but Nakamura held onto the top rope. Reigns walked over to him and ate a kick. Nakamura applied a hanging triangle. Reigns powered him up and ended up powerbombing him at 63:00.

Reigns went to a corner and waited for Nakamura to get up. Reigns let out the primal scream and ran at Nakamura, who put his boot up. Nakamura caught Reigns with a knee from the second rope and then went for his finisher, but Reigns speared him instead. Reigns scooped up Nakamura and tried to eliminate him, but Nakamura grabbed the top rope and freed imself. Both men ran the ropes and Nakamura caught Reigns with a Kinsasha and then tossed him over the top rope to eliminate him.

Shinsuke Nakamura won the 30-man Royal Rumble match in 65:35.

Renee Young entered the ring and congratulated Nakamura on the win before asking him if he’d decided which champion he wanted to face. The fans chanted AJ Styles. Nakamura then said AJ Styles. Nakamura sat on the ropes and looked at the WrestleMania sign. Cole noted that Nakamura lasted 44 minutes and 40 seconds during the Rumble…

Powell’s POV: Very good drama once the match was down to the final four and then especially the final two. This was great use of Reigns in that he’s the least popular person with this live crowd, which was clearly pulling for Nakamura. It’s nice when WWE pleases their fans instead of fighting them. I have no doubt that Reigns will still be challenging for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania. I’m just happy they didn’t have him take the Rumble path to get there. Oh, and were 70 days away from Styles and Nakamura stealing the show.

Backstage, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were celebrating Nakamura’s win with a Yes! chant in front of Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon. Angle and Steph were confident about the Raw side. Stephanie said she thinks everyone will be pleasantly surprised…

A chicken shack commercial aired and questioned who would be the next KFC Colonel. Footage aired of various WWE wrestlers working as The Colonel in a Rumble match. Ric Flair came out as The Colonel and eliminated Rusev and Miz to win the match to become the next Colonel…

Powell’s POV: Yep, that just happened. The KFC Rumble was actually filmed earlier today. By the way, I can’t be the only one who immediately thought of Ronda Rousey after Stephanie mentioned everyone being pleasantly surprised.

4. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan vs. Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Titles. The international broadcast teams checked in during the introductions for the match, which was good timing considering that everyone was still coming down from the Rumble. The challengers were dominant early on. Cesaro ran Jordan into the ring post while Sheamus worked over legal man Rollins. Jordan remained down for several minutes.

Late in the match, Rollins performed a frogsplash onto Sheamus and Cesaro. Jordan stumbled up the ramp and took a tag from Rollins. He took a couple of steps forward and stumbled, then tagged Rollins back into the match. Jordan held his head as he left the ring and sat on the ring steps. Rollins continued to fight both opponents, but he ended up eating a Brogue Kick from Sheamus. Cesaro tagged in and hit Rollins as Sheamus performed White Noise in a double team move. Cesaro pinned Rollins to win the match…

Sheamus and Cesaro defeated Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan in 12:50 to win the Raw Tag Titles.

Powell’s POV: Jordan never tagged into the match until the closing moments and then he tagged out again. He’s missed some house shows due to an injury recently. He worked last night, but our correspondent noted that he didn’t tag into that match. The situation made Rollins look good in that he fought in the Rumble and then worked a glorified handicap match here before being pinned. Unfortunately, the live crowd was wiped out from the Rumble match and never got into this one. It’s hard not to feel bad for these guys because they deserved better, but you can’t blame the crowd in this case either.

A video package set up the WWE Universal Championship match…

5. Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane in a Triple Threat for the WWE Universal Championship. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match (Heyman took care of Lesnar’s introduction). Cole noted that Lesnar had held the title for 301 days. He said only four reigns had gone that long in the last 25 years.

Lesnar teased going after Strowman, but he instead drop Kane into the corner. Strowman pulled him off and ended up dropkicking Lesnar into the corner. Strowman worked over Lesnar with knees. Lesnar came back with a right hand and went for an F5, but Kane broke it up and chokeslammed Lesnar, who went to ringside. Strowman and Kane fought in the ring.

Lesnar returned to the ring and hit Kane with a chair to the back as he had Strowman by the throat. Strowman punched the chair back into the face of Lesnar. Strowman followed Lesnar to ringside and threw him into the barricade. Strowman picked up a piece of the ring steps and slammed them into Kane and then did the same to Lesnar.

Strowman pulled out two tables and set them up inside the ring. Strowman had Kane pinned after chokeslamming him, but Lesnar broke it up and then performed three German suplexes on Strowman, who then scooped him up and powerslammed him through one of the two tables set up in the ring. Kane ended up putting Strowman through the other table, which was set up in the corner of the ring.

Kane chokeslammed Strowman and covered him. Lesnar broke it up and then put Kane down with an F5. Strowman pulled Lesnar up from the pin and German suplexed him. At 7:00, Lesnar performed an F5 on Strowman onto the German broadcast table. Lesnar took the Cole’s broadcast table and dumped it onto Strowman. Cole could be seen motioning for something afterward. Lesnar put Kane through the Spanish broadcast table with an F5.

At 9:00, Strowman stood up and Brock acted surprised. Strowman got the better of an exchange at ringside and rolled Lesnar back inside the ring. Strowman performed two powerslams on Lesnar. Kane returned and hit Strowman with a chair repeatedly. Kane ended up going for a Tombstone on Lesnar, but escaped and then used Kane as a battering ram to knock Strowman off the apron. Lesnar hit the F5 for the win. Strowman barked afterward that Lesnar didn’t beat him…

Brock Lesnar beat Kane and Braun Strowman in a Triple Threat match in 10:55 to retain the WWE Universal Championship.

Powell’s POV: The crowd came back to life for that match. They weren’t red hot, but the Rumble hangover seemed to be wearing off. The effort was there from all three men. It was just hard to shake the feeling of predictability. Then again, it has been all year when it comes to Vince McMahon’s build to Lesnar vs. Reigns II, though at least the men’s Rumble finish came off as a surprise in part because Reigns had been pushed so aggressively.

Ads aired for the WWE 24 on WrestleMania 33, and the Andre The Giant documentary that will premiere on ESPN on April 10… The broadcast team hyped Elimination Chamber as a Raw exclusive event for February 25… A video package set up the women’s Royal Rumble…

JoJo introduced guest ring announcer Maria Menounos, who got some boos. “I get it,” she said. “I get it.” Menounos introduced Stephanie McMahon, who received more boos. Stephanie joined Cole and Graves on commentary, meaning Booker is out. Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss and Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte were introduced separately and they both took seats next to the Cole broadcast table for the match…

6. The 30-Woman Royal Rumble match. The rules of the match were the same as the men’s Royal Rumble match. The first entrant was Sasha Banks. The second entrant was Becky Lynch. Banks wore Wonder Woman gear. Banks went for a Backstabber, but Lynch held the ropes. The third entrant was Sarah Logan of Riott Squad. Logan tossed Banks into the air and then headbutted her on the way down.

The fourth entrant was Mandy Rose. Cole noted that Paige was not able to compete in the match as advertised due to an injury. Graves picked Rose to win and said she’s God’s greatest creation. Stephanie said Rose can squat over 300 pounds. Rose caught Banks with a knee to the face.

The fifth entrant was Lita, which got a big pop from the live crowd. She wore a #TimesUp logo as part of her gear. Lynch and Banks waited for Lita nad put her down briefly, but she got up and got the better of them. Stephanie noted that Lita had the names of Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Sensational Sherri, and others who couldn’t be there written on her arm. Stephanie even mentioned Chyna. Lita eliminated Rose at 7:15.

The sixth entrant was Kairi Sane, who was well received. Sane put Banks down and then performed her top rope elbow drop. She performed another on Lynch as the clock was counting down.

The seventh entrant was Tamina Snuka. Lita planted Tamina and then hit the Twist of Fate on Banks and Lynch. Lita went up top and performed a moonsault without getting much air. The fans chanted “you’ve still got it” anyway. Lita eliminated Tamina, but then Lynch eliminated Lita at 11:00.

The eighth entrant was Dana Brooke. At 12:25, Brooke pushed Sane off the top rope to eliminate her.

The ninth entrant was Torrie Wilson, who received a good reaction. Torrie immediately hit a facebuster on Brooke and then worked over Banks and threw a rough dropkick at Lynch. Wilson ended up eliminating Brooke at 14:20.

The tenth entrant was Sonya Deville. At 15:45, Deville kicked Wilson off the apron to eliminate her.

The eleventh entrant was Liv Morgan. Graves questioned whether Morgan and Logan would work together or take the every woman for herself approach. They ended up answering the question by teaming up on Banks.

The twelfth entrant was Molly Holly, who got a nice reaction. Molly eliminated Logan at 18:05. Molly went up top and performed a flip onto Banks. Deville caught Molly with a kick once she stood up.

The thirteenth entrant was Lana. Morgan and Deville teamed up on Lana.

The fourteenth entrant was Michelle McCool. She threw a kick and tripped, but got right back to her feet. Fans chanted for McCool’s husband Undertaker. McCool eliminated Deville, Morgan, Holly, and then Lana.

The fifteenth entrant was Ruby Riott. The four entrants in the ring at this point were Riott, Banks, Lynch, and McCool.

The sixteenth entrant was Vickie Guerrero. She came out screaming “excuse me” at the participants from the moment she walked on the stage and continued once she was in the ring. The four women stopped and ended up chasing Guerrero down when she ran away. They eliminated her from the match at 25:10.

The seventeenth entrant was Carmella. She came out and jawed at Vickie, who took the Money in the Bank briefcase and struck Carmella with it.

The eighteenth entrant was Natalya.

The nineteenth entrant was Kelly Kelly. Natalya tried to eliminate her, but Kelly survived and ended up doing her head-scissors spot on McCool. Natalya eliminated McCool at 29:05.

The 20th entrant was Naomi. Cole said Kelly Kelly was Naomi’s mentor. Riott threw Lynch over the top, but she skinned the cat. Riott pried her fingers off the rope to eliminate her at 31:00.

The 21st entrant was Jacqueline. Natalya and Jacqueline tried unsuccessfully to eliminate Kelly.

The 22nd entrant was Nia Jax. Let the bodies hit the floor. Jax eliminated Jacqueline and Kelly. She pressed Riott over her head and dropped her on the top turnbuckle before dumping her to the floor. Naomi kicked her from behind and then threw a series of kicks at Jax before going for a huracanrana. Jax caught Naomi and dumped her onto the apron. Naomi kicked Jax, who punched her off the apron and into the arms of several women. Naomi ended up no the apron but was not eliminated.

The 23rd entrant was NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon. She came out with her left arm heavily wrapped. Cole noted that the arm was injured in her match with Shayna Baszler at NXT Takeover. Meanwhile, Naomi used Maria Menounous’s chair to get from the barricade to the ring steps and back into the ring. Naomi went for a cross body block, but Jax caught her and eliminated her at 36:25.

The 24th entrant was Beth Phoenix. Cole noted that Phoenix eliminated Great Khali from a men’s Royal Rumble. Phoenix and Jax went face to face. The crowd chanted “this is awesome.” Phoenix tried to power up Jax for a move, but was unable to do so. She got her up the second time and brought her to the ropes, but Jax pounded on her back to stop it. Natalya entered the ring and helped Phoenix knock Jax through the ropes. Phoenix hugged Natalya, who then attacked her and eliminated her at 39:05.

The 25th entrant was Asuka. There was an NXT throwback battle between Asuka and Moon, which got a rise out of the crowd. Moon ended up hitting the Eclipse. However, Asuka came back and targeted Moon’s bad arm before eliminating her at 40:50.

The 26th entrant was Mickie James. She had some big hair.

The 27th entrant was Nikki Bella, who received a good reaction. Nikki knocked down a few women, including Asuka, with forearms. A “John Cena sucks” singalong broke out briefly. Carmella moonwalked and made the You Can’t See Me gesture at Nikki, who ended up eliminating her from the match at 44:10.

The 28th entrant was Brie Bella. She ran out and helped her sister, who was being ganged up on by several opponents. Brie led the fans in a Yes! chant. Cole noted that Banks had been in the match for 45 minutes.

The 29th entrant was Bayley. She had an exchange with Asuka, who caught her with a kick to the head.

The 30th entrant was Trish Stratus. The crowd wanted Rousey, but they were happy to see Stratus. Trish performed a double bulldog on the Bellas. She performed her head-scissors on Bayley to pull her off the ropes. Mickie and Trish went face to face and the crowd roared. They traded hard forearms. Trish ended up eliminating James at 49:50 by kicking her off the top rope.

Jax caught Trish with a clothesline. A bunch of women ganged up on Jax, but she threw them all off. The Bellas tried to suplex Jax from the apron. A group of additional women eliminated Jax at 50:45. Banks eliminated Bayley at 51:00. Graves said he’s been saying for years that she would stab her best friend in the back.

Cole said he believed the remaining participants were Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Trish, Natalya, Asuka, and Banks. Stephanie questioned what would happen if it came down to the Bellas. Graves assumed it would be every woman for herself. Trish eliminated Natalya with a kick at 52:20.

Trish mocked Banks for saying she’s the Boss, but then Banks eliminated her at 53:55. Banks talked smack and pointed at the WrestleMania sign, then backed into Asuka. The fans chanted, “Asuka’s gonna kill you.” Banks appeared to talk Asuka into teaming up on the Bellas, but Banks struck her instead. The Bellas shot each other a look and then joined Banks in putting the boots to Asuka.

At 54:45, Banks went for her double knee press on Asuka, but the Bella Twins caught her in the air and eliminated her. Cole raved about Banks lasting as long as she did. Asuka threw kicks to the chests of the Bella Twins. Brie skinned the cat when Asuka tried to eliminate her. Nikki performed the new version of the Rack Attack on Asuka. Nikki turned and blasted Brie with a forearm that knocked her off the apron and eliminated her at 56:40.

The match came down to Asuka and Nikki Bella. Nikki caught Asuka with a kick from the middle rope. She tried to hoist Asuka over the top, but she caught herself on the apron. Nikki hit her with a forearm, but Asuka still didn’t fall. Nikki charged at Asuka, who caught her with a kick and then pulled Nikki over the top and onto the apron with a head scissors. Nikki knocked Asuka to the apron, but then Asuka kicked Nikki’s legs out from under her and Nikki fell to the ground to end the match…

Asuka won the Women’s Royal Rumble in 59:10.

Graves wondered which championship Asuka would challenge for. Cole congratulated Stephanie for the first Rumble. “Congratulations to us all,” she replied. Charlotte and Bliss entered the ring with their title belts and stood on opposite sides of Asuka. They raised their title belts. Asuka nodded.

Ronda Rousey made her entrance wearing a Roddy Piper inspired t-shirt and Piper’s leather jacket. Cole asked Stephanie what she knew. “I’m speechless Cole,” she said. Rousey was all smiles as she walked to the ring. Once in the ring, Rousey looked at the women and then pointed at the WrestleMania sign. Rousey offered Asuka a handshake, but Asuka slapped her hand away. Rousey pointed at the WrestleMania sign again.

Rousey left the ring and slapped hands with the fans. She approached Stephanie and offered a handshake. Stephanie was apprehensive, but they shook hands. Rousey went back to slapping hands with the fans. Cole said there was breaking news on social media regarding Rousey as she went to the stage, smiled, and waved to the fans before heading backstage to end the show…

Powell’s POV: WWE threw ESPN a bone, as the story Cole was referencing is their report that Rousey has signed a full-time contract with WWE. The angle was not as hot as I envisioned it would be, though it wasn’t bad either, and this will certainly generate some mainstream buzz for the company. I enjoyed the women’s Royal Rumble. I get the decision to put it on last because of the historic theme they played up and because of Rousey, but I enjoyed the men’s Rumble match more. Both were entertaining and it was fun to see some of the female legends back in the ring again, though I must question why they felt the need to have some of the Rumble surprises at Raw 25. This was a long, yet entertaining show. The tag matches didn’t come off well for different reasons, but the overall show and especially the two Rumble matches were crowd pleasers.

Dot Net Members will hear the Royal Rumble audio review with Jake Barnett and I discussing the show later tonight. Join us on the ad-free website and hear all of our audio content from our nearly 10-year history by taking advantage of the sale on the main page. Thanks for watching along with me tonight.

Readers Comments (8)

  1. Thought for sure the positioning of the men’s rumble match meant they were going with Roman. Pleasantly surprised that someone apparently stopped Vince from being Vince on this one.

    • Seriously. Roman Reigns may go on to an even more successful career, but people will always hate him. At least WWE seems to have finally come to terms with that.

  2. I guess both of Will Pruett’s X chromosomes will be happy that the Women’s Rumble is going on last.

  3. Good job of mixing in the legends for the Women’s Rumble. Lita and Torrie were okay, but Molly Holly looks phenomenal still. Definitely still in ring shape.

    Well laid out through the first 15 entrants. The ending will matter, of course, but this has been a big success so far.

    A special credit to Steph so far as she’s actually added to the commentary.

  4. Overall, I enjoyed the show. The only thing I didn’t enjoy much, was Ronda Rousey, though that’s more to do with me not being an MMA fan than anything. And I agree with Barton Hollow on two points.

    1) Stephanie’s commentary was a pleasant surprise, I marked out a tiny bit when she mentioned Chyna.

    2) Molly did look to be in tremendous shape, and despite it being unlikely, it’d be cool to see her work a short term program leading up to Wrestlemania.

  5. Average PPV, but watch how many “hits” the mark on this site give it….

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