Royal Rumble 2021 Review
WrestleMania might technically be WWE’s biggest show of the year, but the Royal Rumble is still arguably the most popular. The 30 person, over the top rope match, is a highlight because of its unique story structure but also because it sets the stage for WrestleMania.
This year’s actual Royal Rumble matches did not disappoint, though some of the other matches around it were not as good. Still, it was an over solid pay-per-view event that gave fans an idea of what they might be in for in 2021 from WWE.
Away from the wrestling aspects of the show, Bad Bunny’s performance was perfectly fine, though musical numbers often seem out of place. At least this one was actually relevant as the song he performed was about Booker T. At least Bad Bunny’s performance made sense.
R-Truth was also firing on all pistons. He was perfectly weird on the preshow, lost the 24/7 Championship to Alicia Fox during the Women’s Royal Rumble match, and recovered it. Then, Peter Rosenberg won the title from him, a disconcerting moment for everyone.
Bayley took her nonstop trolling of Michael Cole to new levels by having his name shaved into the back of her head. And Billie Kay is the unofficial MVP of the evening. She kept her headshot/resume gimmick rolling through the early part of the Women’s Royal Rumble match, and was hilarious.
Women’s Tag Team Championship Match
This was the battle of two odd couple teams. Charlotte Flair and Asuka defended their titles against the former champions Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. The outcome of the match wasn’t exactly a surprise as Jax and Baszler reclaimed their titles in a solid match.
Asuka and Flair were not destined for a long reign. Charlotte has been developing a singles feud with Lacey Evans while Asuka has a whole thing with Alexa Bliss. And if that feud comes to an end soon, Asuka will certainly have people hunting her championship on the road to WrestleMania.
The loss was used to further Charlotte’s feud with Evans. Ric Flair and Lacey interfered in the match, costing Charlotte and Asuka the titles. The absurd thing about this is Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler do not need help to win a championship match. But maybe Lana will finally get her shot to pick up the titles with Asuka.
It was unfortunate to see this match relegated to the preshow as it featured Asuka who is still the Raw Women’s Champion. But three out of the four competitors would return later in the evening as during the Women’s Royal Rumble as entrants.
WWE Championship Match
For some reason, WWE keeps dragging Goldberg out of mothballs for random title shots. No WWE fan can forget the worst booking decision of 2020 when he beat “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt for the WWE Universal Championship. It was a train wreck, to say the least.
This time, he was challenging Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship. Drew McIntyre won, which was a good call. Had Goldberg picked up another undeserved title, the next sound WWE would have heard would have been WWE Network cancellations followed by channels changing to TNT.
All Goldberg did was deliver a few half-hearted spears, and eventually hit a sloppy Jackhammer. Drew hit a headbutt, a spear, and a pair of Claymores. Goldberg simply was not up to this short “match” at all. Given the amount of talent on WWE’s roster, there had to be someone better to fill this spot.
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Carmella had already lost a title match to Sasha Banks. But Sasha wanted to beat up Carmella’s sidekick Reginald, and gave Carmella another title shot in exchange for that honor. Reginald and Banks faced off on SmackDown in what was a rare and solid intergender match on WWE programming.
Much like last time, Banks and Carmella turned out a great title bout. Carmella’s new gimmick is slowly being refined, and she’s playing the part of the heel quite well. Thankfully, WWE has seen fit to give Banks a real singles title run for the first time since NXT.
While there was nothing wrong with this match, it’s time for this feud to come to an end. Carmella has now lost two title shots and Banks needs to move on to new competitors. Given who won the Women’s Royal Rumble match, it’s likely her WrestleMania 37 dance card is officially full.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Speaking of the Women’s Royal Rumble match, the smart money was on Bianca Belair this year. And that smart money paid off. Bianca entered the match at number three and picked up the win. The last three women in the ring were her, Charlotte Flair, and Rhea Ripley.
This was a great move. Fans are behind Belair and want to see her in big money matches. But having her outlast two former women’s champions to close out the match built her cred that much more. Plus, Belair’s very real emotional reaction to the win was an incredible moment.
The expectation at this point has to be Bianca Belair challenging Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. That pairing has brilliance written all over it as well as the potential to steal the show. Once again, the smart money should be on Belair picking up her first WWE title at WrestleMania 37.
As always, there were several surprise entrants in the match. Lana made her return, eliminating Nia Jax. Naomi also entered at number two with Bayley at number one. It was good to see that Naomi hung around the match for a long time considering fans haven’t seen her for months.
The match also featured a nice mix of talent from all three brands as well as a few returning veterans. Jillian Hall, Alicia Fox, and Victoria all made appearances. Fox even picked up the 24/7 Championship during the match, a curveball no one would have predicted going in.
WWE Universal Championship Last Man Standing Match
Ever since Roman Reigns returned with Paul Heyman at his side, he’s been on another level. His heel turn suits him perfectly and is exactly what he’s needed for a long time. But as is often the case, Kevin Owens has been the one to defy authority.
The feud between Owens and Reigns has served both men perfectly. It has raised Owens’ profile to main event status once again. For Reigns, it has cemented him as the top heel in WWE. But as good as it has been, this Last Man Standing match is the right point to end it on.
If Sammy Guevara was watching tonight, he must have been suffering from PTSD. Reigns absolutely leveled Owens with a golf cart, much like what’s been done to Guevara on multiple occasions. For his part, Owens hit Reigns with a Swanton off a forklift and through a table.
This was a great, hard-hitting match with some huge spots. It’s hard to imagine this duo topping this Royal Rumble face off. Roman came out on top and it’s time for both parties to move on to something else. Continuing this feud would only diminish what both men have achieved to this point.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Unlike the Women’s Royal Rumble match, there was no clear front runner for who would win the Men’s. Daniel Bryan has been pushing hard for weeks, saying it’s his last mountain to climb in WWE. He’s also been indicating that this run might be his last.
The match was opened by the returning Edge at number one and Randy Orton at number two. Their feud was reignited after Edge was shelved with an injury in May 2020. Their feud was rebuilt tonight, and will quite likely lead to another big match down the road.
One of the big moments of the night featured the return of Carlito. After WWE mistakenly advertised him for their Legends night a few weeks back, he finally appeared. And he looks like he’s in the best shape of his career. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a bigger WWE return for him.
Damian Priest had a huge night in his first Royal Rumble. He successfully eliminated The Miz, John Morrison, and Kane, though he was eliminated by Bobby Lashley. Incidentally, Kane entered at number 18 for his 18th Royal Rumble match. Watching these two big men go face to face was incredible.
Even more Royal Rumble surprises
The Hurricane’s brief appearance was a huge surprise since he relatively recently popped up on an AEW pay-per-view event. Christian also returned, putting him and Edge together in the ring for the first time in a long time. It was incredible to see them together again.
Seth Rollins also popped up for the first time since Survivor Series. Whether this was a one-time situation or he’s back for good remains to be seen. Unfortunately for him, he was followed up by a returning Braun Strowman. They were both eliminated
Surprisingly, Edge ultimately won the Royal Rumble. He won his second Royal Rumble 11 years to the day after winning his first. Edge also became only the second person to enter at number one and win the match. This means he will face someone for a title at WrestleMania.
But this isn’t a Goldberg situation. Edge is in amazing shape, and is ready to finish his career strong. You can tell he wants to be in the ring and wants to do a great job of it. He wouldn’t be wrestling again if he couldn’t hang. It will be great to see him take one more shot, win or lose.