By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Royal Rumble Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship: The awkward heel vs. heel feud that was spawned out of desperation turned out to be one of the true highlights of the show. Rollins was positioned as the babyface and it was fun to watch his character get inside the head of the Reigns character by making The Shield entrance while dressed in his Shield attire. The finish of the match with a big letdown, as WWE continued its recent trend of having wrestlers get disqualified by ignoring the referee’s five-count. I assume this was done because they want to have a rematch at Elimination Chamber, but that doesn’t change the fact that they opened the night with a deflating finish. Even so, I really enjoyed everything that led up to the finish and this was the best match of the night.
Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship: The Hit is for the work of the wrestlers. It was a blast until the ref bump. Did we really need that visual pinfall to show viewers that Lesnar would have beaten Lashley had the referee not been knocked out? The interference by Roman Reigns along with the Paul Heyman betrayal was expected in some form and was more than enough protection for Lesnar in a rare loss. Instead, the creative forces went overboard in protecting Lesnar while showing zero regard for how it made their new WWE Champion look.
Edge and Beth Phoenix vs. The Miz and Maryse: A fun mixed tag match. There was never any question regarding the outcome, but Miz and Maryse played their pest heel roles well and the crowd took great delight in watching Edge and Phoenix get the better of them. That said, I’m ready for Edge to move on to something more meaningful at WrestleMania.
The 30-Woman Royal Rumble match: WWE has a spoiler problem. I don’t know if they are leaking their own spoilers to generate late interest in their shows or if things are simply leaking out the old fashioned way. Either way, I don’t blame the reporters. It’s not their job to protect WWE, it’s WWE’s job to protect itself. Ronda Rousey entering the match ruined should have been a huge surprise. We should still be buzzing today about Rousey making a shocking return and winning the Rumble. Instead, we knew it was coming and something that should have been shocking instead felt predictable. It was fun, just not nearly as a fun as it should have been. Aside from that, this Rumble match was fine for what it was. The list of entrants made it clear that this was a nostalgia heavy match so I never got my hopes up for much more than that. Still, I wish the match had been laid out in a way that actually made someone other than the winner look strong.
WWE Royal Rumble Misses
The 30-Man Royal Rumble match: This felt off from the start when they opened the match with a 2017 dream showdown scenario by having AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura enter first and second. They went on to deliver the heavily expected story of Lesnar entering and winning the Rumble match. With the Rousey leak and Lesnar winning, this turned out to be one one of the most predictable Rumble events the company has ever produced. And not predictable in a good way such as certain years when everyone knew the top babyface was going to win and wanted to see it happen. This was predictable in a deflating way that screams there’s Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, and everyone else is just fighting for scraps. There were no major twists or turns. No one from NXT entered the match. Tired ass Shane McMahon was back and he even got to eliminate Kevin Owens. The biggest surprise was Bad Bunny not only entering the match, but being booked to look like an in-ring mega force in that he took on all comers and even had the balls to go face to face with Lesnar. I wish the match architects spent half as much time making sure that their full-time wrestlers looked even half as good as Shane, Bad Bunny, and Johnny Knoxville.
Becky Lynch vs. Doudrop for the Raw Women’s Championship: The WrestleMania sign catching fire was obviously an issue in terms of distracting the live crowd, but this was an odd choice for a match to begin with. WWE creative wants Lynch to be booed, yet they booked her against a fellow heel? And don’t even get me started on the stupidity of the Doudrop name. Both wrestlers worked hard and had a solid match, but this was a strange match on paper and in execution.