The road to WrestleMania 36 officially kicks off as Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas hosts the Royal Rumble tonight.
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar will enter the men’s Rumble match at number one. Among the other names announced for the Rumble are Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Kofi Kingston, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Drew McIntyre, Rusev, Bobby Lashley, Aleister Black, Kevin Owens, and Samoa Joe.
The WWE title is not on the line, but if someone does eliminate Lesnar, that could put them in line for a title match at WrestleMania. However, the eventual winner may instead target the Universal Championship -- which is on the line tonight in a strap match between "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan.
The women’s Rumble match currently has Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, and Natalya among the announced participants. The winner can face either the Raw or SmackDown Women’s Champion at WrestleMania.
Looking to avenge her loss against Asuka from last year's Royal Rumble, Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch will defend her title against Asuka tonight.
Bayley will defend her SmackDown Women's Championship against Lacey Evans, Reigns and Corbin will face off in a falls count anywhere match, Andrade puts his United States title on the line against Humberto Carrillo, and Sheamus takes on Shorty G.
The pre-show starts at 5 p.m. Eastern time, with the main card starting two hours later.
RIP Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
Show Recap --
Enjoy the show, everyone.
The event is at a baseball stadium, so there’s no big stage. They have two small screens by the entranceway. There are very large screens above the ring.
Sheamus defeated Shorty G
Sheamus did his Beats of the Bodhrán spot and the crowd had a very difficult time counting in unison. Sheamus controlled the early portion of the match. Gable got a chance to shine, using the Chaos Theory suplex for a nearfall. Sheamus fought out of an ankle lock, kicked out of a crucifix pin, and won via pinfall after a Brogue Kick.
Andrade (w/Zelina Vega) defeated Humberto Carrillo to retain the United States Championship (14:17)
Tom Phillips is on commentary with Jerry Lawler for the Raw team.
Andrade went for the triple vertical suplexes and Phillips had to tell us about six times that he was doing this to mock the WWE Universe. Carrillo used a hurricanrana off the top rope for a nearfall. He tried a standing rana but Andrade caught him in a rollup for the pinfall win. A fine match, but not on the level of their previous matches.
The pre-show matches happened back-to-back, and by the time they were done, there were still 30 minutes remaining until the main show. There were interviews with Charlotte Flair and Kofi Kingston, as well as recaps and commercials for the Network.
ROYAL RUMBLE MAIN SHOW
Steve Austin narrated the Rumble intro video.
There’s still a Washington Nationals logo on visitors dugout in the Astros’ stadium.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Roman Reigns defeated Baron Corbin (21:17)
Corbin took his time getting to the ring so Reigns went after him and the match started outside the ring. Early in the match, Corbin side-stepped a superman punch and hit a Deep Six for a nearfall. Corbin dodged another superman punch later and chokeslammed Reigns through an announce table for two.
Corbin beat him up through the crowd, then Reigns put him through two different tables with consecutive Samoan drops for a two count. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler attacked Reigns and were about to handcuff him to a railing but the Usos made the save. Roode and Ziggler beat up Jey until Jimmy took them out with a big dive off a tall platform.
Corbin slammed Jimmy on a bike rack, then Reigns gave him consecutive superman punches. Reigns drove Corbin into the side of a portapotty, which Michael Cole called, “a structure.” Reigns placed Corbin inside of one and tipped it over, which led the crowd to chant “holy sh-t.”
They found themselves on top of the dugout. Corbin stood over Reigns on the dugout and was getting booed, which was a cool visual. Reigns responded with a superman punch and a spear for the pinfall win. The crowd had a good time with this. At least the ones close to the action.
Kevin Owens told Samoa Joe that he had a good history in Houston, including winning the Intercontinental title there. Owens said he would eliminate Seth Rollins and win the Rumble. He knew he struck a nerve with Joe and Joe repeated what he said on Monday, that he would go through Owens if he had to.
Sonya Deville told Kayla Braxton that she and Mandy Rose were not Owens and Joe. Deville said she would gladly eliminate herself if it came down to her and Rose. Deville left and the camera focused on Rose, who said nothing. Braxton disappeared from the frame.
Cole acknowledged the death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. They aired a graphic for Kobe.
Charlotte Flair won the Women’s Royal Rumble Match (54:17)
Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Jerry Lawler are the announcers. The entrant intervals are 90 seconds (for both Rumble matches).
Alexa Bliss and Bianca Belair were entrants one and two. Belair received a good reaction. “Mighty Molly” was third, Nikki Cross was fourth, Lana was fifth. Lana cut a promo on the way down, mocking the fans. Mercedes Martinez was sixth. Liv Morgan was seventh and eliminated Lana to a big pop (the crowd also cheered when Martinez almost eliminated Lana).
Moments later, Lana yanked Morgan off the top to eliminate her. They brawled until referees separated them. Mandy Rose was eighth, Candice LeRae was ninth. Belair eliminated Molly, who looked good for the time she was in there.
It seemed like Rose was eliminated by Bliss, but Rose actually landed on Otis, who happened to appear in the perfect spot. The crowd popped big for Otis saving Rose. Sonya Deville was tenth. Rose and Deville teamed up to eliminate Martinez. Kairi Sane was 11th. Sane teased using her umbrella, then took out Bliss and Cross with a double clothesline.
Mia Yim came out at number 12 as Sane gave LeRae an Insane Elbow. Belair used Bliss as a weapon to eliminate Cross. Deville clocked Rose by accident, but Otis saved her from elimination again. Belair then tossed Deville into both of them and they all fell down. So Rose and Deville are out. The crowd was into the Otis and Rose stuff.
Dana Brooke was number 13. Belair eliminated LaRae by press slamming her over the top. The crowd booed. Bliss eliminated Sane by slapping her off the top. Tamina entered at 14 and was quickly eliminated by Belair. So far, Bliss and Belair are doing the best.
Dakota Kai was 15th. Bliss eliminated Yim. Chelsea Green was 16th and eliminated Kai. (Green came out with Robert Stone.) Bliss then immediately eliminated Green. Belair eliminated Brooke. That left us, for now, with Bliss and Belair, who started the match.
They went back and forth on the apron. Bliss tried grabbing Belair’s hair, but Belair used this to yank Bliss into the post and Bliss fell out. Belair eliminates Bliss. Belair was alone until Charlotte Flair entered at 17. Naomi made her return at 18 to a big pop. Charlotte and Naomi gave Belair a combo suplex. Beth Phoenix came out at 19.
Naomi nailed Phoenix and Charlotte with a springboard crossbody. Toni Storm entered at 20, wearing the black and pink gear she wore at Worlds Collide. Charlotte booted Belair off the top rope for the elimination. According to my timer, Belair lasted about 33 minutes.
Kelly Kelly was 21st. She gave Storm a stink face. Sarah Logan entered at 22 and was almost immediately eliminated by Charlotte. Kelly almost got a surprise elimination of Charlotte, but Charlotte eliminated Kelly. Charlotte has a bloody nose. Natalya was 23rd and handed out clotheslines. Natalya and Phoenix gave Charlotte a powerbomb.
Xia Li was 24th, Zelina Vega was 25th. Phoenix appears to have blood on her hair. Not sure if it’s her own or Charlotte’s. There’s also a streak of blood on Charlotte’s arm. Shotzi Blackheart was 26th. Natalya almost eliminated Naomi but she landed on the barricade (similar to John Morrison years ago). Carmella entered at 27 as Naomi found her way to an announce table.
There appears to be even more blood in Phoenix’s hair, so it’s possible she’s cut on the head. Phoenix and Natalya thought they eliminated Charlotte, but she went through the middle rope. Tegan Nox entered at 28 but quickly ate a Glam Slam.
Santina Marella was 29th. Big pop. Marella tried to make friends with Phoenix, who was not impressed. Marella grabbed the snake puppet from out of their bra but was intimidated by Phoenix and Natalya. Marella hit themselves with the snake and fell over the top.
Shayna Baszler was 30th. She attacked Charlotte on the outside, then eliminated Yim, Nox and Vega. Blackheart tried to eliminate Baszler, but Baszler hung on and Blackheart fell out. Naomi used a piece of the announce table as a bridge to enter the ring. Baszler eliminated Carmella, Storm and Naomi.
Natalya and Phoenix gave Baszler a Hart Attack, then Phoenix eliminated Natalya. Charlotte reappeared and tried to eliminate the remaining women, but couldn’t. Baszler and Charlotte faced off as the crowd buzzed. Baszler eliminated Phoenix, leaving Baszler and Charlotte as the final two.
Charlotte used a leg scissors to yank Baszler from the ring. Charlotte wins. Fireworks went off as Charlotte celebrated. Charly Caruso interviewed Charlotte. Charlotte said she didn’t care if people liked this or not, she just reminded everyone that this was her division.
I enjoyed this match. Charlotte winning is going to get exactly the reaction you imagine, but maybe that’s the point.
Bayley defeated Lacey Evans to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship (9:26)
Evans’ husband and daughter watched from ringside. Bayley controlled the match until Evans made her comeback. Evans tried a springboard moonsault but Bayley got her knees up, then pinned Evans while holding the tights for the pinfall win. Bayley retained. This was an ordinary match at best.
Strap Match: Bray Wyatt defeated Daniel Bryan to retain the Universal Championship (17:32)
For those keeping score, the strap is 13-feet long. The referee held up Wyatt’s custom face belt as if it was a normal occurrence. Bryan wore dark blue and black.
Bryan immediately hit Yes kicks in the corner, but Wyatt powerbombed him and followed up by hitting him with the strap. Bryan’s body got very red very quickly. Wyatt caught him in the arm with the strap and Bryan’s elbow was bloody. Bryan countered a Sister Abigail with a kick to the head, then followed with the running knee for a nearfall (about six minutes into the match).
Wyatt fell outside, then Bryan nailed a dive from the top. Wyatt fought him off and tossed him into the steps. Bryan used the strap to drive Wyatt into the ring post. Bryan used a running knee off the apron, but Wyatt came right back with a clothesline, turning Bryan around.
Wyatt put Bryan on the announce table, so Bryan responded by kicking him in the nuts about five times, followed by a DDT on the table (which didn’t break). The crowd cheered as Bryan got ready to use the strap. Bryan whipped Wyatt as the crowd chanted “yes.”
In the ring, Bryan hit a missile dropkick, followed by Yes kicks, strap shots, and a kick to the head. Wyatt no-sold it and asked for more. Bryan responded with violent-looking kicks to the head. He led the crowd in Yes chants and went for the running knee but Wyatt caught him with Sister Abigail for a very close nearfall.
After exchanging slaps, Wyatt went for the mandible claw, but Bryan tried catching him in a submission. Wyatt seemed to get the mandible claw, but Bryan countered and hooked Wyatt in the Yes Lock, using the strap across his face. Wyatt escaped and hammered away at Bryan.
Bryan used a schoolboy for two, followed by the running knee for a nearfall. Bryan started to Hulk up, but Wyatt popped right to his feet. Bryan tried using the strap, but Wyatt no sold it. Wyatt applied the mandible claw, slammed Bryan while holding the claw, and pinned Bryan for the win. Wyatt retained. This was another testament to how good Daniel Bryan is.
After the match, officials checked on Bryan, who had welts on his back. The crowd politely applauded for Bryan as he was helped to the back. Bryan did a great job selling here. He eventually brushed off the help and limped to the back on his own.
They announced an attendance of 42,715 and gleefully mentioned that it beat Taylor Swift.
There was a commercial for the next show in Saudi Arabia. Phillips mentioned the full location this time.
Becky Lynch defeated Asuka (w/Kairi Sane) to retain the Raw Women’s Championship (16:24)
Asuka had new black, purple and green gear. Lynch wore all black.
Early in the match, Lynch avoided a hip attack and applied a Disarmer in between the ropes, then followed with a missile dropkick for two. Asuka followed with a neckbreaker into the ropes, followed by a dropkick for two. Asuka used a shining wizard for two. Lynch came back with a bulldog and low dropkick for two.
Lynch used a front suplex off the apron, splatting Asuka on the outside. Lynch followed with a dropkick and Exploder into the barricade, then a diving leg drop in the ring for two. Asuka came back with strikes, then used a hip attack on the apron. Lynch responded with a thrust kick and Uranage off the middle rope for two.
Asuka caught Lynch off the top with a codebreaker, then applied an armbar until Lynch countered into a cover for two. Asuka applied the Asuka Lock but Lynch quickly got a rope break. Asuka followed with a German suplex and kicks to the head. The referee checked on Lynch, who sold being knocked out, and backed off Asuka.
The ref was about to call the match but Lynch stopped him. Asuka followed with kicks to the chest and head for a nearfall. Asuka countered a Disarmer into a schoolboy for two, then Lynch hit an inverted DDT.
Lynch almost ran into the referee by accident, then Asuka was about to mist her, but Lynch kicked her in the gut and Asuka sprayed mist straight up into the air. Lynch then applied the Disarmer and Asuka tapped. Lynch retained. Appropriate finish and a good match, but nothing spectacular. Asuka had green mist all over her face at the end.
Drew McIntyre won the Men’s Royal Rumble Match (1:00:06)
Booker T was announced as a guest commentator, joining Cole and Graves. The announcers said that Rusev and Bobby Lashley will not be in tonight’s match because they got into a brawl earlier and weren’t medically cleared. No footage was shown.
Brock Lesnar was first, Elias was second.
Elias called Lesnar a braindead gorilla and Paul Heyman his fat zookeeper. The crowd loudly yelled, “walk with Elias.” Elias began singing, but Lesnar got tired of it and hurriedly went after him, which was funny because Lesnar almost tripped over himself. The match started and Lesnar gave Elias a German, then smoked him with the guitar. Lesnar eliminated Elias.
Erick Rowan was third and was eliminated in eight seconds. I was hoping that Lesnar would smash the cage but he didn’t. Robert Roode was fourth. He got a couple of shots in, but Lesnar gave him an F5 and eliminated him. John Morrison was fifth. He was almost immediately eliminated with a belly-to-belly suplex over the top. Welcome back.
Kofi Kingston was sixth. The crowd actually went wild as Kingston hammered away at Lesnar, but Lesnar quickly knocked him down. The crowd chanted for Kingston as Lesnar gave him a German. Rey Mysterio was seventh. Mysterio wore black and yellow in what appeared to be Batman-inspired gear. Lesnar took down both Mysterio and Kingston with a clothesline.
Big E was eighth and was all business upon entering. He rallied Kingston and Mysterio who all went after Lesnar. Kingston gave Lesnar a Trouble in Paradise and Big E gave him a Big Ending. Mysterio followed with a 619. Big E got down on his knees for the Hardy Boys spot, but as Mysterio jumped off, Lesnar caught him then eliminated him.
Lesnar then leaped off Big E’s back and hit a jumping clothesline on Kingston. He eliminated Big E and Kingston. This was an incredible sequence.
Cesaro was ninth. He hit a series of uppercuts, but Lesnar responded with knees, a vertical suplex, then eliminated Cesaro.
Shelton Benjamin was tenth and Lesnar was delighted to see his old friend. Benjamin shook hands with Heyman, then hugged Lesnar. They stood side-by-side, then Lesnar suplexed him and eliminated him. Lesnar was very amused with himself.
Shinsuke Nakamura was 11th. He hit a series of strikes, but Lesnar ducked a Kinshasa and easily eliminated him. This was disappointing.
MVP was 12th and received a good reaction. He wore gear inspired by Black Panther. Lesnar gave him an F5 and eliminated him. Eleven straight eliminations for Lesnar.
Keith Lee was 13th and got a big reaction. Even Lesnar was impressed. Lesnar tried to knock him down but Lee didn’t budge, then Lee knocked down Lesnar with a shoulder block which got a big pop. They then knocked each other down with clotheslines.
Braun Strowman was next at 14. Strowman went after both men with clotheslines in the corner, then knocked Lee out of the ring (through the bottom rope). Strowman tried to eliminate Lesnar, but Lesnar handed out German suplexes to both Strowman and Lee. As Strowman and Lee brawled near the ropes, Lesnar eliminated them both. Crowd didn’t like that.
Lesnar has the new elimination record. Ricochet entered at 15. Lesnar knocked him down and gave him a suplex. Drew McIntyre entered at 16. He went face-to-face with Lesnar and looked massive. Ricochet gave Lesnar a low-blow, then McIntyre Claymore kicked Lesnar out of the ring. Lesnar eliminated about 26 minutes into the match. The crowd went absolutely nuts.
(Correction: Lesnar tied the elimination record with 13.)
McIntyre easily eliminated Ricochet by chucking him out of the ring. The Miz was number 17. McIntyre immediately gave him a Future Shock DDT, Claymore Kick and eliminated him. Lesnar was still at ringside. The crowd sang the good-bye song as he got to his feet.
AJ Styles was 18th. They fought for a bit until Dolph Ziggler came out at 19. Karl Anderson was 20th. Ziggler wanted to work with Styles and Anderson to eliminate McIntyre but Styles attacked Ziggler. Cole thought this was weird, but I guess he didn’t notice Ziggler blind-siding Styles earlier.
Edge was 21st. Massive pop. He even got fireworks. The stupid director missed Edge’s first spear, taking out Ziggler. He also speared Anderson and took down McIntyre. Styles tried strikes on Edge, but Edge countered and hit a spear.
Baron Corbin is 22nd. Edge eliminated Styles. Matt Riddle was 23rd. Big chants of “bro.” Riddle kicked away at McIntyre, then knocked Edge down with a knee. Corbin then abruptly eliminated Riddle. Luke Gallows was 24th.
Corbin gave Edge a Deep Six (Edge made sure to protect his head and neck), then McIntyre eliminated Corbin. Randy Orton was 25th. Orton gave both OC members RKOs. Edge and Orton exchanged looks, then they each eliminated members of the OC. I didn’t mention it before, but Edge is in great shape.
Roman Reigns was 26th. Reigns speared Ziggler and eliminated him. Kevin Owens was 27th. He handed out cannonballs, powerbombed McIntyre and gave Reigns a stunner. Owens also avoided an RKO and gave Orton a stunner, too. Aleister Black was 28th. He handed out knee strikes to Owens and Edge, then gave McIntyre a Black Mass. “This is awesome” chants.
Samoa Joe was 29th. He and Joe didn’t waste time trading fists. Joe got better of the exchange and booted Owens. Seth Rollins came out at number 30. Joe helped Owens to his feet as Rollins entered with Buddy Murphy and AOP. Owens and Joe slipped under the bottom rope to attack the heels. Rollins’ crew then attacked Edge and Orton (outside the ring).
Rollins gave McIntyre and Reigns curb stomps. Black went to work on Rollins but Murphy interfered, then Rollins eliminated Black. Owens gave Rollins a stunner and chucked him over the top, but AOP saved Rollins from being eliminated. As Owens attacked AOP, Rollins eliminated Owens.
Joe put Rollins in the Coquina Clutch until Murphy got in the way, then Rollins eliminated Joe. A brawl broke out on the outside with Owens, Joe, Murphy and AOP.
Orton, Edge, Reigns and McIntyre all got to their feet and surrounded Rollins. Rollins tried to form an alliance with Reigns. Reigns teased joining, then gave him a superman punch. They all traded moves on Rollins before eliminating him. The final four is Reigns, Edge, Orton and McIntyre.
Edge and Orton exchanged words before attacking the other men. The crowd chanted “This is awesome” again. Orton gave McIntyre an RKO, then Edge followed with a spear. Edge and Orton then gave him a double RKO. Orton setup for an RKO on Edge but Edge caught him. Orton tried to play this off like it was no big deal, which the crowd thought was funny.
Edge, a bastard himself, then eliminated Orton. This was great. The crowd chanted “you still got it.” It’s down to Edge, Reigns and McIntyre. Edge and Reigns brawled. Reigns went for a spear but Edge dodged and hit a spear of his own, which got a big pop. Edge and Reigns traded blows on the apron until Reigns eliminated Edge. The crowd booed.
Reigns gave McIntyre a superman punch, but McIntyre followed with a Claymore Kick. McIntyre tossed Reigns. McIntyre wins.
This was really good.
(I was pulling for Edge, but I assume they have other plans for him.)