After an extremely long show, two of the most popular superstars in WWE today punched their tickets to a title match at Wrestlemania, as Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch won their respective Royal Rumble matches.
The women's Royal Rumble match came first. Unlike last year, they didn't have to go to the well of bringing out numerous legends and wrestlers from the past. In fact, there wasn't a single competitor who wasn't on the WWE or NXT roster. Prominent NXT wrestlers like Io Shirai and Kairi Sane showed up and even those who hadn't received a lot of NXT TV time yet like Kacy Catanzaro and Xia Li made their debuts on WWE television.
The big moment happened at entrant 28 though. Lana had been “injured” earlier in the night when she was knocked off the apron during the Rusev/Shinsuke Nakamura match. While she came out when her music played, it became clear that she couldn't make it down the ramp. As officials tended to her, Becky Lynch (who had lost cleanly to Asuka earlier in the night) came out, insisting that she get Lana's spot.
Finally, Fit Finlay gave the OK, and Lynch headed down to the ring. The final three would come down to Lynch, Charlotte and Nia Jax. Nia would be eliminated, but then took out her frustration on Lynch, who had to convince referees she was OK to continue after an attack to her knee. While Charlotte was giddy at her fortune, Becky Lynch was able to stave off multiple attacks to that knee, and finally knock Charlotte out to send her to Wrestlemania, presumably to challenge Ronda Rousey.
Meanwhile, the men's Royal Rumble was fairly straightforward for most of the match. It started with a nice comedy bit with Elias and Jeff Jarrett, playing off the guitar and singing gimmicks. Jarrett was the only legend, though we did see some surprises in Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black.
Then the final few superstars came out. Bobby Lashley came out at No. 26, and Rollins nearly immediately eliminated him. Lashley was enraged, and with the help of Lio Rush, he sent Rollins through an announce table.
Meanwhile Braun Strowman, who entered at No. 27, also suffered an injury spot as he went shoulder-first into a ring post, and went to the outside to recover for a while. At No. 30, R-Truth came out, as expected. However, he was blindsided by Nia Jax, who took his spot and became the first woman since Kharma in 2012 to enter the men's Royal Rumble (though of course at that time it was just the single Royal Rumble). Nia looked strong, eliminating Mustafa Ali, before a combination of Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton took her out.
The final four were Rollins, Strowman, Andrade and Dolph Ziggler. Strowman eliminated both Andrade and Ziggler, and while Rollins and Strowman battled along the apron for minutes, Rollins eventually got the win after a stomp into the apron.
So two of the biggest babyfaces secured their spots. While Rollins/Brock Lesnar seems like a lock at Wrestlemania, it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't as simple as a Ronda Rousey/Becky Lynch singles match. After all, did Fit Finlay really have the jurisdiction to put Lynch into that match? Don't be surprised if Charlotte finds her way into the Wrestlemania match as well.
The rest of the Royal Rumble:
-Brock Lesnar successfully retained the Universal Title against Finn Balor. Balor put up a strong fight and was able to counter much of Brock's offense. He targeted the midsection, and it even seemed like he might get the win at one point after a Coup de Grace. However, Lesnar would kick out and eventually he would trap Balor in a kimura, forcing Balor to tap out. Lesnar wasn't done though, as after the match he would attack Balor, tossing him around before finally hitting the F5 that he couldn't hit in the match.
-Daniel Bryan beat AJ Styles, though I don't think anyone would have predicted the way he retained. At the end of a back-and-forth mat-based match, Erick Rowan, of all people, made his way down to ringside. There was a ref bump, which allowed Rowan to enter the ring, grab Styles by the face and slam him to the mat. When the ref came to, Daniel Bryan was able to get the pin. It looks like Bryan has recruited Rowan (who hadn't been seen since tearing his bicep at Summerslam).
-Ronda Rousey beat Sasha Banks after a back-and-forth match that featured some great submission transitions. Sasha Banks was made to look like a real match for Rousey, and it even seemed at one point like she might tap. However, she was able to power out, and eventually pin her after a Piper's Pit. After the match, Banks looked extremely upset, though she would eventually meet Rousey in the walkway, shake her hand, and put up four fingers.
-Shane McMahon and The Miz won the Smackdown tag titles from The Bar. This was a shockingly normal match considering the participants. The match ended on a major high as Shane McMahon hit a Shooting Star Press on Cesaro for the pin to win the titles. The two celebrated with Miz's dad, who was sitting in the front row.
-Asuka successfully defended her Smackdown women's title against Becky Lynch in the match that opened the main show. Asuka winning isn't a surprise, especially considering the result of the Royal Rumble match, though the way she won was a bit of a surprise. Asuka locked in the Asuka Lock and then bridged over, which forced Becky to tap out.
-Shinsuke Nakamura regained the U.S. title in the preshow, as he beat Rusev to become a two-time champ. Lana got up on the apron to try to stop Nakamura from removing a turnbuckle cover. Nakamura got in her face, and while Rusev tried to attack Nakamura from behind, Nakamura moved and Rusev hit Lana. While Rusev showed concern about Lana's well-being, Nakamura struck from behind and got the pin.
-Buddy Murphy successfully retained his title, finally pinning Hideo Itami after a wild four-way cruiseweight match.
-In an unannounced match, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable beat Scott Dawson and Rezar in a match that would have given future tag title shots to both the Authors of Pain and the Revival if they had won.
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