Results and fallout from last weekend’s Royal Rumble, as well as some thoughts about where people might be heading for WrestleMania and beyond are our main focus this week In This Corner.
As with most big shows, there were both positives and negatives about the event held at Chase Field last Sunday evening in front of an announced crowd of 48,193 fans. Ticket sales during the last few days must have been strong as that is a great number, even if slightly exaggerated. Unfortunately, with a stadium show and no roof to hold crowd noise in, and an event that lasted close to six and a half hours when counting the pre-show, the crowd heat (noise level) at the Rumble did not come across as a plus for the workers in the ring for much of the night, especially when the Styles-Bryan championship match had to follow the women’s rumble. It was well-designed and well-executed, but also had a cheap ending with Erik Rowan returning to interfere on Bryan’s behalf during a ref bump that led to Bryan’s win.
The Finn Balor-Brock Lesnar Universal title affair was a little over eight minutes of solid wrestling action telling a believable story that ended the way most would think it would , with a Lesnar victory. There were moments when Balor’s offense created the belief that he just might be able to pull off the unexpected. That meant both guys did their respective jobs well with Lesnar selling convincingly, particularly with his strong facial expressions and Balor kicking it into an extra gear during his comeback to the point where the outcome seemed momentarily in doubt. A post-match beatdown of Finn by Brock did not seem to serve any purpose other than to diminish Balor’s effort and put him back down to where he was before the bout instead of elevating him the way it had.
The women’s rumble had some real sloppy segments with missed spots and also conveniently threw logic and rules out the window. It also seemed to go on forever as it appeared they gave each girl time to get her spots in before allowing the next entrant to make her way down the aisle. Hornswoggle chased Zelina Vega out from under the ring. Nia Jax attacked Lana, who sprained her ankle in Rusev’s loss earlier to Nakamura. The last few minutes had some great action that had the crowd into it in a big way, with the Becky Lynch fans popping when she talked Finlay into allowing her to take the injured Lana’s place in the rumble even though she had tapped out earlier on the show to Asuka in their title match. Lynch proceeded to win by throwing out her rival Charlotte.
In the men’s rumble, Jeff Jarrett was a surprise entrant early and did a segment with Elias that went too long given how long the show was already running. Angle joined the fray, but was eliminated by Nakamura, who was surprisingly dumped out by Mustafa Ali. Gargano got a big reaction, but was sent out by Ambrose, who was subsequently eliminated by NXT’s Aleister Black. Ali threw Samoa Joe out and Lashley was tossed by Rollins. Ziggler showed up despite saying he would not be in the Rumble as speculation had him going on hiatus and possibly leaving the company. No Way Jose took longer to get to the ring with his conga line than it took for him to get tossed, but it didn’t seem to much bother him as he just danced his way back to the locker room with his supporters none the worse for the brief cameo.
Nia Jax attacked R-Truth and just took his coveted 30th spot to enter the men’s rumble. She slugged a few of the combatants and eliminated Ali before Ziggler got her with a superkick and Mysterio hit her with a 619, leading to Orton dropping her with an RKO. Rey and Randy tossed Nia. It came down to Rollins and Strowman with Seth getting the victory after curb-stomping Strowman from the apron.
The NXT Takeover show the night before the Royal Rumble included some great action with Johnny Gargano defeating Ricochet to win the North American title in a five-star match and Tomasso Ciampa holding onto the NXT championship with a victory over Aleister Black in another very good contest. The War Raiders upended the Undisputed Era to capture the tag team belts in another real solid match on the card.
Raw had a confrontation between Rollins and Lesnar that saw Lesnar repeatedly F-5 his challenger for WrestleMania. Ambrose, who the company announced gave his notice and will be done after his current contract expires in April, lost to Rollins cleanly early in the show. Reports indicate Ambrose turned down a very lucrative offer for a multi-year contract from WWE due to unhappiness over the direction of his character. Though Ring of Honor and New Japan would certainly like to have him, many people are assuming he will be heading to the new All Elite Wrestling promotion after his 90-day no-compete clause expires.
There is still talk that WrestleMania will be headlined for the first time ever by a women’s title match and it will include Ronda Rousey, Charlotte and Becky Lynch in a three-way. Some fans would probably prefer the Lesnar-Rollins Universal title match end the show, but that may also depend upon who will be going over as Lesnar may be back at the negotiating table around that time with likely offers from UFC and AEW pouring in at the end of his WWE deal after Mania or after another Saudi show in May . It is almost a foregone conclusion that AEW will snare Kenny Omega as his contract with New Japan is expiring imminently.