Over the past few years, the Royal Rumble has gone from my favorite WWE pay-per-view of the year to an exercise in predictability by creative, futility by the hard working talent in the ring and stubbornness by the powers that be in refusing to listen to what modern wrestling fans want. However, there is an air of uncertainty this year. Predicted matches for the WrestleMania card seem to now be up in smoke and this change of creative direction has opened up many possibilities for the winner of this year’s Royal Rumble. Did uncertainty with storylines on this year’s road to Wrestlemania actually translate into an entertaining Royal Rumble match?
BAYLEY vs. CHARLOTTE (Raw Women’s Championship): The two former friends stared each other down at the opening of the match. There were a few blown spots early on, but Bayley was able to get back on point with a head scissors take down and then a cross body block through the second rope out of the ring. Charlotte cut her off by slamming Bayley’s head into the ring apron and then catapulting her into the ring steps. Charlotte maintained a deliberate pace, wearing down the challenger, all the while taunting her fellow “horsewoman”. Bayley tried to mount another comeback, but both women nailed each other with a clothesline. Bayley came back with a series of arm drags, followed up by a bulldog and a cross body. Charlotte was nearly pinned after Bayley nailed her with a beautiful elbow drop off the top rope. Charlotte once again put the pressure on her opponent by locking in the Figure Eight Leg Lock. Bayley reversed the move, but Charlotte reversed it right back. After a mishap where Bayley is dropped from the top rope, Charlotte got the quick roll up victory. WINNER: CHARLOTTE
ROMAN REIGNS vs. KEVIN OWENS (WWE Universal Championship): Before Owens’ best friend Chris Jericho could be locked into a shark cage and suspended high over the ring, Jericho and Owens tried to deliver a beat down to Reigns. Roman was having none of it and unleashed on both men, locking Jericho into the cage. The No Disqualification fight quickly went out of the ring and into the crowd. Reigns slammed Owens onto every surface imaginable, only for Owens to counter him and hurl Reigns into the steel ring steps. Owens followed that up with a chair shot to the ribs. Owens launched Reigns into the barricade, and then followed that up with a cannonball, nearly knocking Reigns out. Owens erected a frightening pyramid of steel chairs and attempted to power bomb Reigns through it, but Reigns fought off the move. Reigns then looked to suplex Owens onto the chairs, but Owens staved off the attempt. Owens delivered a critical backstabber to fight off a comeback by Reigns. Owens avoided a Superman Punch, but got hit by the Drive By dropkick. Reigns’ usage of a table backfired and Owens drilled him through the table with a frog splash. Chris Jericho, as expected, dropped a weapon from the cage for Owens to use, brass knuckles. Owens hit Reigns with his own move, the Superman Punch. But Reigns kicked out of the pin attempt. Owens went for a power bomb, but Reigns countered and drilled him with a Samoan Drop through a steel chair. Owens fell victim to his own set up as Reigns countered a Superplex attempt and he hit him with a Superman Punch, sending Owens crashing through the pyramid of chairs. Reigns decided to add an exclamation point by power bombing Owens through an announcers’ table. Out of nowhere, Braun Strowman appeared at ringside. Strowman choke slammed Reigns onto the announcers’ table and then power slammed him through another table. This enabled Owens to regain his bearings and pick up the pin. WINNER: KEVIN OWENS
NEVILLE vs. RICH SWANN (Cruiserweight Championship): Neville sought to use his strength to dominate, but Swann fired right back with a pescado to Neville over the top rope. Neville hit Swann with a missile dropkick from the top rope, but was nearly pinned with a rolling crucifix. Neville attempted his butterfly lock submission, but Swann made it to the bottom rope to force the break. Neville throughout the middle of this match tried to keep it on the ground. He nailed Swann with knees into the back and elbows to the head while locking in a Reverse Chin Lock. Neville went to the top rope again, but Swann caught him with a dropkick as Neville was coming down. While sitting on the top rope, Swann drilled him with a drop kick and followed it up with a Frankensteiner out of the ring and a Phoenix Splash. Swann dug deep and showed a previously unseen level of aggression, which took Neville by surprise. Neville attempted a Superplex, but Swann countered. Swann went for a kick, but Neville countered with a super kick. Swann hit his Enziguri finisher, but couldn’t get the pin as Neville got his foot on the bottom rope. Neville nailed the Superplex with his second attempt. Neville locked in this butterfly lock and Swann, in the middle of the ring, had no choice but to tap out, leaving us with a new Cruiserweight Champion. WINNER: NEVILLE
JOHN CENA vs. AJ STYLES (World Championship): The match opened up with both men trying to feel each other out, all to the tune of annoyingly grating commentary by David Otunga and John Bradshaw Layfield. Styles looked good until he tried to mock Cena’s Five Knuckle Shuffle, which Cena countered. Cena went for an early Attitude Adjustment, but Styles countered with an Enziguri. Cena tried to build momentum with some shoulder blocks, but Styles pushed back with several stiff clotheslines. Cena nailed Styles with the Protoplex and went for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Styles countered with a German Suplex followed by a facebuster. Every single time one man tried to build momentum, the other cut him off. Cena attempted a top rope Superplex, but Styles countered with an Argentine backbreaker into a spin out power bomb. Styles missed the Phenomenal Forearm, allowing Cena to deliver an Attitude Adjustment. But Cena was unable to get the pin fall, causing frustration to mount. Cena hit Styles with a stiff clothesline, but his second attempt was countered with a Pele kick. Styles connected with the Phenomenal Forearm, but he was not able to pin Cena with this. Both men traded blows in the middle of the ring. Cena went for the AA again, but Styles locked in the Calf Crusher submission. Cena countered this into an STF. Styles then locked in Cena’s own move, the STF on him. Cena powered out and locked in a Figure Four Leg Lock. Styles fought out and locked in a Cross Arm Breaker. Cena once again powered out with a one armed power bomb. Cena went for his top rope leg drop, but Styles caught him with a power bomb. AJ followed it up with a Styles Clash, but could not put Cena away. Cena delivered an amazing variation of the Canadian Destroyer, but Styles kicked out of the pin. Styles hit a well timed ushigoroshi, but Cena would not go down. Cena pulled out an Attitude Adjustment, then rolled into another one and then another. This win not only gives Cena the title, but also ties Ric Flair at sixteen world championships. WINNER: JOHN CENA
ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH: Big Cass was the first entrant. He and Enzo Amore “dazzled” the crowd with their comedy stylings (yawn). Chris Jericho entered at number two. Jericho looked to size up Cass, but Big Cass went to work with stiff blows to Y2J. A missed EMPIRRRE ELLLLBOW missed its mark. Kalisto entered at number two and unleashed his high flying offense on both competitors. Mojo Rawley came down next, followed by Jack Gallagher. Mark Henry entered next and proceeded to unleash on all of the competitors and immediately eliminated Jack Gallagher. Braun Strowman entered next and dumped both Mojo Rawley and Big Cass out of the ring. He then eliminated Kalisto with authority. He got rid of Mark Henry, who amazingly hung in for dear life before both feet hit the floor. Sami Zayn then entered next. He and Strowman exchanged blows until the next entrant, Big Show, entered the ring. Show and Strowman faced off. They exchanged blows until Strowman delivered a clothesline which knocked down Show. Big Show recovered and choke slammed Strowman. He then delivered the WMD punch to Jericho. Strowman then did the unthinkable and eliminated Big Show. Tye Dillinger made the WWE Universe happy by entering at number 10. James Ellsworth then entered, but he hesitated entering the ring. Dillinger and Zayn nearly eliminated Strowman, but Braun then ran through the men like a freight train. Dean Ambrose entered next. He talked Ellsworth into jumping into the ring; Ambrose used him as a pawn, letting Strowman obliterate Ellsworth, while Ambrose hit Strowman with a stungun on the top rope. Baron Corbin entered next. All of the men proceeded to dog pile Strowman, but Braun powered out, immediately eliminating Dillinger. But the remaining men all hit high impact corner moves allowing Corbin to clothesline Strowman over the top rope, eliminating him. Kofi Kingston entered next, followed by the Miz. Sheamus and Big E came in thereafter. Rusev entered next, followed by Cesaro. The Swiss Superman proceeded to deliver a Big Swing to everyone still in the match. Bray Wyatt entered next, demolishing all in his path. He and Xavier Woods traded blows. Apollo Crews entered next. Sheamus and Cesaro eliminated all three members of the New Day, but Jericho then eliminated both Sheamus and Cesaro. Randy Orton entered and delivered RKOs to Corbin and Rusev, then caught Zayn with one as Sami flew off of the top rope. Dolph Ziggler was next to make his way to the ring and unleashed more super kicks than a Young Bucks match. Luke Harper entered the match and eliminated Crews. Wyatt tried to keep the peace between Harper and Orton. Harper surprisingly hit Wyatt with a lariat, then Orton with one. Harper tried to deliver Sister Abigail to Wyatt, but Orton saved Bray by hitting Harper with an RKO. The next entrant was Brock Lesnar, much to the chagrin of the other competitors still in the ring. Lesnar took multiple opponents to Suplex City, and then delivered an F5 to Orton. Enzo Amore entered the match next. He was immediately clotheslined and eliminated by Lesnar. Goldberg then made his way to the ring. After a momentary pause, Lesnar went after Goldberg, who evaded and hit Lesnar with a spear. Brock was then eliminated by Goldberg, which shocked Lesnar, the audience and the world. If the crowd wasn’t already on their feet, the next entrant’s music certainly sent the crowd into overdrive; it was the Undertaker. Goldberg delivered a devastating spear to Undertaker. Taker eliminated Corbin and Goldberg eliminated Rusev. Goldberg tried to take out the Deadman, but Taker eliminated him instead. The final entrant was Roman Reigns, who traded blows with the Deadman. Taker delivered a chokeslam to Reigns. While distracted with other opponents, Taker got eliminated by Reigns. Roman then got rid of Jericho. Wyatt and Orton proceeded to stomp a mudhole in Reigns. Reigns got the quick elimination of Wyatt, but Orton hit Reigns with an RKO and then eliminated him. WINNER: RANDY ORTON
There were so many twists and turns during this main event that I had absolutely no idea what direction WWE was going in. Did not expect Randy Orton to walk away as the 2017 Royal Rumble winner, however, I have my suspicions as to where they’ll go with this (match against a champion Wyatt at Mania). What were your thoughts of this year’s Royal Rumble? Did it surpass your expectations, or did it disappoint you to no end?