Jan. 27 (UPI) — The road to WrestleMania has begun as WWE hosted the 33rd annual Royal Rumble event to determine who will main event the company’s biggest show.
The Royal Rumble on Sunday featured the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble matches where 30 superstars from Raw, Smackdown and NXT competed against each other. A competitor is eliminated if they are thrown over the top rope and both feet touch the floor. The last one remaining would earn a world championship match at WrestleMania.
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, despite already holding world championship, entered the Men’s Royal Rumble at No. 1 to prove that no one in WWE worthy of challenging him. Elias came out second and started performing a song which Lesnar interrupted by attacking him outside the ring.
The Beast would smash Elias’ guitar across his back and eliminate him. Lesnar would begin to dominate and eliminated Erick Rowan, Robert Roode and John Morrison one by one. Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman would gloat by holding up the WWE Championship.
Kofi Kingston then entered the match looking for revenge against Lesnar would had defeated him for the title. Kingston would receive help from Rey Mysterio and his fellow New Day partner Big E who came out next. The trio teamed up on Lesnar but the champ weathered the storm and eliminated each of them.
Lesnar continued to impress by eliminating Cesaro, his friend Shelton Benjamin, Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, returning WWE veteran MVP, the towering Braun Strowman and NXT North American Champion Keith Lee. Lesnar’s rampage ended once Ricochet and Drew McIntyre entered the Rumble. Ricochet kicked Lesnar below the belt which allowed McIntyre to Claymore Kick him out of the ring. Heyman and Lesnar looked on at McIntyre in shock.
One of the biggest surprises of the night was the arrival of Edge who entered the Royal Rumble at No. 21. Edge is a multi-time world champion and Hall of Famer who retired in 2011 due to injury. The Rated R Superstar was impressive, uses the Spear on multiple opponents.
Edge also teamed up with Randy Orton briefly, a callback to their former partnership known as Rated RKO. Seth Rollins was No. 30 and came to the ring with his followers AOP and Buddy Murphy who helped him to eliminate Aleister Black, Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe.
Rollins would be eliminated by McIntyre, with Roman Reigns, Edge and Orton remaining to make up the final four. Edge would betray Orton and thrown him over before he was eliminated by Reigns. McIntyre then took out Reigns with a Claymore and eliminated him, punching his ticket to WrestleMania.
The Women’s Royal Rumble match was started by Alexa Bliss at No. 1 followed by NXT’s Bianca Belair. Hall of Famer Molly Holly came in at No. 3 as her superhero alter ego Mighty Molly. Newlywed Lana made a big entrance at No. 5 but she was soon confronted by her former lover Liv Morgan who came in at No. 7.
Morgan quickly got revenge on Lana by eliminating her. Lana, despite being taken out of the match, then returned the favor by throwing Morgan onto the ground, resulting in a brawl. Mandy Rose also competed in the Royal Rumble and was saved by Otis who was laying down on the ground. Otis, later on, was unable to hold onto Rose after catching her due to her tag team partner Sonya Deville also being thrown at him.
Belair had an impressive showing, eliminating multiple grapplers as she cleared the ring. The EST of NXT was then confronted by Charlotte Flair who entered at No. 17. Surprise entrants included a returning Naomi, Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix, returning veteran Kelly Kelly and Santina Marella who is actually Santino Marella dressed as a woman. Marella eliminated himself from the match after confronting his former partner Phoenix.
NXT’s Shayna Baszler entered at No. 30 and eliminated seven other women. Flair, Baszler, Natalya and Phoenix were the final four remaining. Phoenix, who was bleeding from the back of her head, betrayed Natalya who she had teamed up with before she was taken out by Baszler.
Flair won the Royal Rumble after she used her legs to flip over Baszler onto the floor.
Bryan fought hard against the seemingly unstoppable Fiend and tried everything from kicking the monster below the belt multiple times to using the strap as a whip. Bryan, at one point, was able to escape from The Fiend’s Sister Abigail and applied his LeBell Lock submission hold. The Eater of Worlds, however, was able to somehow power out of the hold.
Bryan ended up nailing The Fiend twice with the Running Knee throughout the match but it wasn’t enough. The Fiend stood still as Bryan whipped him with the strap and applied the Mandible Claw. The Fiend then slammed down Bryan and pinned him for the three count, ending the violent bout.
Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch defended her title against Women’s Tag Team Champion Asuka who came to the ring with her tag team partner Kairi Sane. The Man had something to prove with this match, having never been able to defeat Asuka.
The highly-competitive bout featured both women pushing each other to the limit. Lynch dealt heavy damage to Asuka after she slammed the Empress of Tomorrow off the ring apron. Asuka would later apply the Asuka Lock which Lynch escaped from and delivered vicious kicks to the champ’s head.
The referee nearly ended the match after Lynch appeared to be unresponsive but The Man eventually regained her senses and kept the contest going. Lynch was able to kick Asuka in the stomach which caused her to spit out her green mist. Lynch took advantage of the situation and locked in the Dis-arm-her, causing Asuka to tap out.
Other moments from the Royal Rumble included Sheamus defeating Shorty G; United States Champion Andrade successfully defending his title against Humberto Carillo; Reigns defeating King Corbin in a Falls Count Anywhere match; and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley successfully defending her title against Lacey Evans.