Royal Rumble 2021
Date: January 31, 2021
Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe, Tom Phillips
It’s officially the Road To Wrestlemania and that should only be a good thing. The other major positive this year is how wide open both Rumbles could be, which means we could be in for a lot of drama. Other than that though, it is going to be a bit sad to watch the Rumble with no crowd. Let’s get to it.
Kickoff Show: Women’s Tag Team Titles: Asuka/Charlotte vs. Nia Jax/Shayna Baszler
Jax and Baszler are challenging and it’s Charlotte grappling with Baszler to start. Charlotte gets the better of things and takes it over to Asuka in the corner for an exchange of kicks with Baszler. Jax and Charlotte come back in with Charlotte driving her into the corner and handing it back to Asuka. That means a running splash in the corner from Jax and Baszler starts pulling on the arm. Asuka fights up and manages a facebuster but Jax is right back with a sitout powerbomb for two.
Baszler comes back in but Asuka gets over for the tag to Charlotte so the pace can pick up. A double Natural Selection drops both challengers and gets two on Baszler. Jax is still down so Baszler hits a hard running knee for two on Charlotte. With Jax and Baszler both on the floor, Charlotte hits a moonsault onto both of them but here’s Ric Flair. Charlotte shrugs off the distraction though and grabs the Figure Eight, only to have Lacey Evans pop up with the Woman’s Right with brass knuckles to knock Charlotte silly. The big leg from Jax finishes Charlotte for the titles at 10:27.
Rating: C. This could have been on any given Raw but I’m getting scared of the idea of building up to a Charlotte vs. Lacey Evans match at Wrestlemania with all of the focus on Ric. The match was acceptable enough, but the important thing was the title change. Charlotte and Asuka never should have been champions and thankfully this mess of a reign ended in about a month.
The opening video looks at some famous Rumble finishes over the years and how this can mean a new beginning for anyone who could win. Not bad at all.
We recap Goldberg vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE Title. Goldberg made a surprise return at Raw Legends and challenged McIntyre. There isn’t much more to it than that but the key has been that Goldberg returns and wins titles.
Raw World Title: Goldberg vs. Drew McIntyre
McIntyre is defending and a Glasgow Kiss sets up a spear to Goldberg before the bell. They head outside with Goldberg sending him into the steps and there’s a spear through the barricade. McIntyre manages to get back in and the bell rings, with the Claymore hitting for two at about five seconds. Another Claymore misses and the ribs are banged up so Goldberg hits the spear. Another spear connects for two and a not very good Jackhammer gets two on McIntyre (now THAT is something you don’t see very often). Goldberg misses another spear and the Claymore retains the title at 2:32. And there’s the sigh of relief.
Post match respect is shown and Goldberg says McIntyre passed the test.
Sasha Banks says she is going to be celebrating when she drinks the finest champagne of Carmella’s tears.
Smackdown Women’s Title: Sasha Banks vs. Carmella
Carmella, with Reginald, is challenging despite having failed to win the title in multiple previous title shots. An early Bank Statement attempt sends Carmella bailing to the floor and the trash talk starts from there. Back in and Banks takes her down with a front facelock before trying the rope walk armdrag. That’s broken up and a Reginald distraction lets Carmella knock her down and the chinlock is on. Back up and Carmella takes her to the top but gets knocked away, setting up the Meteora.
Banks comes up favoring her knee so Carmella hammers away and shouts about how much better she is. Carmella gets knocked into the corner again and the slingshot double knees connect for two. Two Amigos connect and Banks is thrown outside, with Reginald making a catch. Sasha headscissors him down so Reginald is ejected but Carmella nails a suicide dive. Back in and a trio of rollups give Banks two each, followed by the Third Amigo. The frog splash hits knees though and Carmella nails a low superkick for two. Not that it matters as Banks pulls her into the Bank Statement to retain at 10:22.
Rating: C-. Total TV level match here without the most drama in the world. Banks is not about to lose the title to Carmella, who never really felt like that big of a threat. The match worked out fine enough, but the build wasn’t great and it felt like more of a matter of killing time with a token title defense more than anything else.
Big E. fires up Xavier Woods in the back, saying they need an hour to take their place among the wrestling gods. Sami Zayn comes up to say they’re part of the conspiracy but Kofi Kingston, in gear, comes up to hype up the team. Of note: New Day has matching Brodie Lee/Luke Harper gear.
Bad Bunny, with Booker T., performs his song about Booker T.
Rumble By The Numbers video.
Women’s Royal Rumble
90 second intervals, Jerry Lawler is on commentary and Bayley (with COLE cut into the back of her hair because she wants to challenge him after she wins) is in at #1 and Naomi is in at #2. Bayley talks trash to start but Naomi jumps over her and snaps off a hurricanrana (minus most of the snap). A springboard kick to the face sets up the Rear View but neither can get the elimination. Bianca Belair is in at #3 and it’s a spinebuster into a handspring moonsault for two on Bayley.
Naomi tries a powerbomb on Belair but they roll around (as in they do something close to cartwheels without letting to, causing Lawler to say “that’s how I roll”) until Naomi winds up on the apron. Billie Kay is in at #4 but sits in on commentary because the ring is stacked at the moment (her words). Bayley shoulders them both in the corner and it’s Shotzi Blackheart, with tank, in at #5.
Billie tries to offer her resume so Shotzi fires said cannon at her to draw some screams. Shotzi gets in and cleans house as Kay is back on commentary to wait for a better partner. Shayna Baszler is in at #6 so Baszler offers a resume, earning herself a shove into the barricade. To continue the tradition, Baszler gets in and hits a bunch of people but no one has been eliminated yet, though Billie still hasn’t gotten in the ring.
It’s Toni Storm in at #7 and THIS TIME FOR SURE for Billie, but this time time Toni just walks past her. Toni hits some hip attacks but walks into the Rear View as Billie can’t believe how badly this has gone so far. Baszler gets rid of Shotzi and Jillian Hall, with the song, is in at #8. Billie proposes a team of Billie and Jillie…..and Hall actually goes for it, with Billie finally getting in the ring. There’s a double suplex to Naomi and it’s Ruby Riott in at #9.
Riott strikes away at Storm but gets caught with a German suplex. Kay saves Riott for some reason and now Jillian agrees to help them as well, though Riott doesn’t seem interested. Victoria is another surprise return at #10, giving us Bayley, Naomi, Belair, Kay, Baszler, Storm, Hall, Riott and Victoria for a rather full ring.
Peyton Royce is in at #11 but Billie isn’t sure if she should do the IIconics pose with Peyton or keep teaming with Riott. Victoria gets annoyed at Peyton for doing something like the Widow’s Peak and shows her how it’s done. Santana Garrett from NXT is in at #12 and some eliminations are teased with no one going out. Again. Liv Morgan is in at #13 and it’s Oblivion to Bayley.
The Riott Squad gets together until Jillian kicks them down, only to turn on Victoria as well. Billie kicks Jillian out and screams about it so the Squad gets rid of her as well. Rhea Ripley is in at #14 and now we should clear out some of these people. House is cleaned with a series of kicks to the face and Storm is out in a hurry. Victoria grabs a Tarantula on Shayna and with that broken up, the Kirifuda Clutch is good for the fast elimination. Some kicks to the face get rid of Garrett and it’s Charlotte in at #15, though she’s walking rather slowly.
House is cleaned in a hurry, with Charlotte knocking Ripley down twice and getting in a pair of nipups. Bayley and Riott are knocked outside, but only Riott is eliminated as Bayley went through the ropes. Dana Brooke is in at #16 and goes up top for a flip dive onto a bunch of people. Liv’s handspring headscissors is a bad idea as Peyton kicks her out and it’s Torrie Wilson in at #17 (allowing commentary to continue the myth that she was ever anything serious).
Ripley is sent to the apron so Brooke charges, only to get powerbombed onto the apron for the elimination as Ripley seemed like she barely held on. Ric Flair introduces Lacey Evans, in a copy of Charlotte’s robe, who is in at #18. The match basically stops so Charlotte can stare at Lacey and then beat the fire out of her. They fight to the floor (neither is eliminated) and the ring is full of feathers from the robe. Charlotte gets back on the apron and pulls Royce out, followed by Shayna getting rid of Torrie and Belair dumping Bayley.
Mickie James, billed as a legend, is in at #19 and the staredown with Charlotte is on in a hurry. They slug it out for a bit until Mickie manages a hurricanrana out of the corner to drop Charlotte. With no one being eliminated, Nikki Cross is in at #20, giving us Naomi, Belair, Baszler, Ripley, Charlotte, Evans, James and Cross.
It’s Cross getting to clean house and Alicia Fox of all people is in at #21. Hold on though as here’s R-Truth to try and enter the match, with the gang of morons following. Actually Fox pins him to win the title but it’s Mandy Rose in at #22. Fox is tossed and Truth gets the title back, meaning the chase is on again. NXT’s Dakota Kai is in at #23 and hits a bunch of clothesline. Lacey punches James out but Belair can’t get rid of Naomi. Carmella is in at #24, with Reginald giving her water and the required mirror.
Ripley drops Kai HARD onto the apron for the eliminations (referees are right there to check on her) and then gets rid of Mandy as a bonus. Cross tries to toss Carmella but Reginald makes the save, allowing Carmella to toss Cross instead. Tamina is in st #25 and superkicks Reginald, who was saving Carmella, meaning it’s another elimination.
Tamina and Ripley have a staredown, with Tom Phillips lying to us by calling it “interesting”. Belair knocks Naomi to the floor but she lands on her back, meaning the feet never touched. Naomi grabs Belair by the hair and uses it like a rope to pull herself back in (with Belair hanging onto the bottom rope by her feet).
They’re both back in and it’s Lana in at #26. She can’t get rid of Ripley and things settle back down in a hurry. Alexa Bliss is in at #27 and gets to clean house for a bit but everyone jumps her….and the lights go out because she starts becoming the Fiend…..but Ripley tosses her anyway. Well at least it fixed the lights. Ember Moon is in at #28 and it’s a not great Eclipse to Baszler. A double middle rope Codebreaker hits Charlotte and Tamina and Nia Jax is in at #29.
Baszler kicks Lacey out and Jax gets rid of Moon to clear the ring a bit. Jax and Baszler get rid of Naomi but Jax sides with Tamina (family) over Baszler. Tamina superkicks Jax though, with Baszler making the save to get rid of Tamina in a hurry. Baszler and Jax slug it out until Ripley breaks it up, only to have Jax toss Baszler. Lana jumps on Jax’s back, followed by a low bridge to get rid of Jax. Natalya is in at #30 to complete the field, giving us Belair, Charlotte, Lana, Belair and Natalya, but Jax and Baszler jump Natalya in the aisle.
Jax and Baszler beat up everyone else and then throw Natalya inside, with everyone down. We get another reunion between Natalya and Lana, with the former turning on her again for the elimination. Natalya gets Ripley to the apron but Belair dumps Natalya to get us down to three. Charlotte smiles at Ripley and Belair and it’s time for the three way staredown. Charlotte goes after both of them and manages a suplex on Belair. A missed big boot puts Charlotte on the apron though and a pair of forearms gets us down to Ripley vs. Belair.
They’re both on the apron in a hurry and wind up sitting down for the staredown. They agree to get back in and it’s Belair driving in shoulders in the corner. Ripley is knocked to the apron again but she slides through Belair’s legs and a double hair takedown gives them a breather. Back up and they slug it out with the Glam Slam and Riptide being countered. The KOD is broken up as well but Belair ducks a shot and clotheslines Ripley out to win at 58:55.
Rating: B-. The ending is what mattered here as you had two young, mostly unproven stars fighting for the big win and Belair pulled it off. That’s what the point of the Royal Rumble is all about and it worked here. The rest of the match was pretty good but not great, with a few too many goofy/legendary (ok that might be a stretch) entrants and turning on each other spots, but that’s minor by comparison. Belair winning is the right call in a match where they could have gone a lot of different ways.
Post match Belair is in tears as she dedicates the win to her parents. How in the world is she better as a face?
Miz and John Morrison talk to Bad Bunny but get scared off by Booker T.
The Kickoff Show panel talk about the women’s Rumble and the Kickoff Show title change. Cue R-Truth, who is distracted by a possible John Cena sighting. Peter Rosenberg hits him low and steals the 24/7 Title.
We recap Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for Reigns’ Universal Title. Owens has had Reigns beaten twice but Reigns has cheated to retain the title. The key is that Owens won’t stay down, so tonight it’s a Last Man Standing match. WWE official Adam Pearce was involved as well, as he was #1 contender but handed it to Owens to mess with Reigns.
Smackdown World Title: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
Owens is challenging and it’s Last Man Standing. Reigns starts fast with a Superman Punch for four but Owens is right back with the Pop Up Powerbomb for the same. They head outside with Owens being sent into the steps and getting caught with a spear for nowhere near ten. That means Reigns can start hammering him with the steps as they head off to the area near the stage.
Owens manages to get in a shot to the face though and the shot with the steps puts Reigns on a table. A missed chair shot lets Reigns get in another right hand and they fight into the area around the fan screens. They head up another level and Owens gets in a few chair shots to the knees. Reigns is back with some chair shots of his own but gets caught by a Stunner. That’s fine with Reigns, who gets in a shot to the face and throws Owens off the stands and through the tables.
Owens is up at nine and stumbles backstage….where Reigns runs him over with a golf cart (strike up the AEW fans). Reigns makes the mistake of saying that Owens’ grandfathers aren’t happy with Owens, sending Owens into a rage. The Pop Up Powerbomb puts Reigns onto a table and a frog splash drives him through it for the crash. Reigns makes it up again so Owens hits him in the face with a ladder. Owens puts him on a table and then raises a forklift to give him something to use for a Swanton (good thing there was a camera above the forklift for a good angle).
Somehow Reigns beats the count at nine but is down at ten, which is good enough to keep things going. They head back into the arena with Reigns almost begging off but managing a spear through the set. That’s only good for nine as Owens rolls off the stage, with Reigns looking rather frustrated. Reigns says he can’t quit because he can’t go home if he does, and pulls out some handcuffs.
Owens manages another Stunner and handcuffs Reigns to the set, where Reigns can’t get to his feet. The referee gets to nine so Reigns sends him face first into the set, allowing Paul Heyman to come up and unlock the cuffs. Actually hang on as it takes so long that the referee spontaneously stops counting. Reigns finally gets out and guillotine chokes Owens out for the win at 24:54.
Rating: B-. Oh man that ending destroyed everything they had going on as Heyman took probably over a minute to unhook those handcuffs. As usual, this was like watching a hardcore match where your video kept buffering as they would do a spot, then stop, then do a spot, then stop. Reigns winning was the right call and there were some good spots, but the ending hurt it and there was a lot of stalling again.
Men’s Royal Rumble
90 second intervals and Edge is in at #1 and Randy Orton is in at #2. They waste no time in brawling to the floor, with both guys ramming the other into the announcers’ table. Sami Zayn is in at #3 and they fight inside, with Edge getting double teamed. Mustafa Ali is in at #4 and goes after Edge because he doesn’t like Hall of Famers and legends coming in and taking his spot. Fair enough actually.
Jeff Hardy is in at #5 but Orton starts snapping off RKO’s. Edge hits a spear to Orton though and they head outside with Edge hammering away again. Dolph Ziggler is in at #6 as Edge hits an Impaler onto the announcers’ table Orton is busted open as Edge chairs him in the knee. Ziggler eliminates Hardy as referees come out to pull Edge off of Orton. Shinsuke Nakamura is in at #7 as Orton is slowly carried to the back.
It’s Carlito in at #8 as the first surprise return so we can get a battle of the apple with Nakamura. Xavier Woods is in at #9 and goes right after Ali but gets jumped by Zayn. Big E. is in at #10, giving us Edge, Orton (out but not eliminated), Zayn, Ali, Ziggler, Nakamura, Carlito, Woods and Big E.
New Day gets together to clean some house as John Morrison is in at #11. Big E. gets rid of Zayn and Ali dumps Woods but gets tossed out by Big E. to clear the ring a bit. Ricochet is in at #12 and gets to pick up the pace a lot. Edge can’t keep up with Ricochet and it’s Elias in at #13 to clean house, with Graves not being pleased. A jumping knee catches Carlito and Elias tosses him out.
Nakamura suplexes Ziggler and it’s Damian Priest in at #14. The Reckoning hits Elias and some kicks to the face rock Morrison. Priest tosses Elias as we see Orton getting his knee treated. Edge and Priest slug it out but neither is out as Miz is in at #15. Hold on though as he needs to stop and destroy Bad Bunny’s DJ setup. With that out of the way, it’s the Skull Crushing Finale on Big E. Miz and Morrison start cleaning house but cue Bad Bunny, allowing Priest to toss the two of them. Bunny dives onto Miz and Morrison and it’s Riddle in at #16.
A Nakamura vs. Riddle slugout gets the fans’ attention but Priest breaks it up. Daniel Bryan is in at #17 and strikes away with little avail. Kane (looking like he’s just done with this stuff) is in at #18 and gets rid of Ziggler and Ricochet. We get a Team H*** NO reunion but Kane drops Bryan in a hurry. Priest and Kane have a showdown with Priest escaping the chokeslam and striking away.
Kane is tossed to give Priest his badge of honor and it’s King Corbin in at #19. Nakamura kicks him in the face as commentary talks about Giant Gonzalez. Corbin gives Nakamura Deep Six and tosses him out. Otis is in at #20, giving us Edge, Orton (in the back), Big E., Priest, Riddle, Bryan, Corbin and Otis for a big field. The Caterpillar connects but Corbin tosses Otis in a hurry.
Dominick Mysterio is in at #21 and is taken down by Corbin in a hurry. That doesn’t last long though as Dominick gets up and tosses Corbin, sending Cole through the roof. Riddle and Priest slug it out as Bobby Lashley is in at #22. Lashley sends Dominick flying out and clotheslines Priest out as well. Big E. and Lashley slug it out as I’m much more intrigued than I would have expected. Lashley gets powered up and has no idea what to do with Big E., who wants him to bring it. That’s broken up and it’s Hurricane in at #23.
The double chokeslam to Big E. and Lashley doesn’t work (Graves: “There’s a difference between being delusional and having a death wish.”) and Hurricane is out in a hurry. In your big surprise, Christian of all people is in at #24 (Edge is stunned but then smiles) and helps low bridge Lashley out. Christian hits the Unprettier on Big E. (remember: he was #1 contender to the Intercontinental Title when he retired) and we get the big (and rather emotional) reunion with Edge. Riddle tries to interfere and gets taken down in a hurry, setting up Edge’s assisted splash.
AJ Styles, with Omos, is in at #25 and Peles Christian (dang that’s nice to be able to say) in a hurry. The spear drops AJ and it’s Rey Mysterio (with a beer themed mask as WWE is now endorsing the product, meaning Cole gets in a commercial) in at #26. Omos saves AJ from getting eliminated and then pulls Big E. out. Big E. gets knocked over the announcers’ table and it’s Christian vs. Bryan against the ropes. Sheamus is in at #27 and gives Edge the ten forearms to the chest.
Omos breaks up a 619 to AJ and pulls Rey (with his stupid beer mask, including logo) out for an elimination. Cesaro is in at #28 and Swings Sheamus (Sheamus: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”), followed by one to Bryan as well. Seth Rollins makes his big return at #29 and slugs it out with Cesaro. It’s Braun Strowman in at #30, giving us a final group of Edge, Orton (still not eliminated), Riddle, Bryan, Christian, Styles, Sheamus, Cesaro, Rollins and Strowman.
It’s time to clean some house as Strowman gets rid of Cesaro, Sheamus and Styles in a hurry. Edge and Christian spear Strowman down as Rollins is on the floor without being eliminated. Bryan and Riddle strike it out but Edge takes Riddle’s place. The running knee has Edge in trouble but he hangs on to avoid the elimination. There’s a running dropkick to Christian and another one to Strowman in the corner. Riddle and Bryan fight again with Bryan being sent to the apron, only to come back in with a missile dropkick.
Rollins comes back in with a Stomp to Bryan and the elimination, setting up a showdown with Riddle. The Final Flash sends Rollins outside but Strowman gives Riddle a right hand. A Stomp on the apron gets rid of Riddle, so Rollins tells Strowman that they need to team up. Strowman throws Rollins down instead and runs over Edge and Christian. Edge gets to the apron and tries to leverage Strowman out so Christian comes over to help. Rollins dumps Edge and Christian and Edge tosses Rollins…..so Orton can come back in with the RKO. Edge is right back up to toss Orton though and wins at 59:12.
Rating: B. The ending helped this one a lot as I wouldn’t have bet on Edge winning the whole thing. It felt like a genuine surprise and the impossible dream of returning to the top of the mountain can be an incredible story. You can go a lot of ways with that and it was nice to have the Orton “surprise” run in not work for him. Hopefully they don’t do another Edge vs. Orton match, but they can burn it off at Fastlane or Elimination Chamber if they have to.
As for the rest of the match, thank goodness they had Christian for a genuine surprise because it was lacking pretty hard otherwise. There were some good moments but a lot of it felt like going through the motions. The limited surprises they had were just ok, save for Christian who actually shocked me. Overall it’s a pretty strong Rumble, but the Edge and Christian focus made up a good chunk of the positives.
A .7 Rousey sign pointing ends the show.
Overall Rating: B. This was a weird one as the Rumbles are both good and I was happy with the winners, but I wasn’t wild on the majority of the Rumble matches. The rest of the card was the usual hit or miss show, but overall this show, like every Royal Rumble, is going to be judged based on the Rumble finishes. Those worked well here and they have a direction for Wrestlemania, though they have a lot of other questions left to answer on the way there.
Drew McIntyre b. Goldberg – Claymore
Sasha Banks b. Carmella – Bank Statement
Bianca Belair won the women’s Royal Rumble last eliminating Rhea Ripley
Roman Reigns b. Kevin Owens – Owens could not answer the ten count
Edge won the men’s Royal Rumble last eliminating Randy Orton