Royal Rumble 2023
Date: January 28, 2023
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Pat McAfee
It’s time to get on the Road To Wrestlemania and that means we should be in for a big night. There are two Royal Rumbles, but the real main event is probably Roman Reigns defending the World Title against Kevin Owens. The interesting piece there is not in the result, but in what Sami Zayn is going to do. That should make for a heck of a show so let’s get to it.
Hardy (a musician) talks about the opportunity and how you kick down a door in front of you.
Pat McAfee is back to join commentary and Graves is livid.
Men’s Royal Rumble
90 second intervals and Gunther is in at #1 and Sheamus is in at #2. They slug it out hard to start with Gunther not being able to throw him out. The Irish Curse slows Gunther down but it’s too early to toss him out as well. Sheamus takes him into the corner and the Miz is in at #3. Miz annoys Sheamus before he can get in though and the chase is on, allowing Gunther to chop Miz down. Sheamus and Gunther take turns missing each other but hitting Miz by mistake.
Kofi Kingston is in at #4 and hits a Boom Drop on Gunther and Sheamus as Johnny Gargano is in at #5. Miz can’t toss Gargano out so it’s One Final Beat to cut Miz down instead. Sheamus hits the forearms to Miz on the apron and the Brogue Kick gets rid of him. Gunther can’t get rid of Sheamus and it’s Xavier Woods in at #6. New Day gets to clean house for a bit before stopping for a dance (spanking is involved). Everyone else gets back up and it’s Karrion Kross in at #7.
Kross, Gunther and Sheamus get to beat on each other with the heavy shots until Chad Gable is in at #8. Suplexes and shooshing abound but Woods actually takes Gable down in a wrestle off. Drew McIntyre is in at #9 and drops everyone before kicking Kross in the face for the elimination. Gunther and McIntyre have the showdown and it’s time to chop it out. Santos Escobar is in at #10, giving us Gunther, Sheamus, Kingston, Gargano, Woods, Gable, McIntyre and Escobar.
A quick trip to the apron has Escobar in early trouble but he kicks Sheamus in the head. Escobar dives back in to drop Gable but Gargano catches him on top. The super Phantom Driver hits Gargano and it’s Angelo Dawkins in at #11. Dawkins gets to clean house and Gunther kicks Woods out. Kingston hits his standing double stomp on Escobar but Gunther knocks him off the apron and into a well placed chair. That was a NASTY crash but one foot is still on the chair.
Brock Lesnar is in at #12 though so none of that might matter. Most of the people in the ring stops for Lesnar and it’s time for Suplex City on a bunch of people. Escobar, Dawkins and Gable are all out….and it’s Gunther vs. Lesnar. They stare each other down and it’s Bobby Lashley in at #13. Lashley spears Lesnar down and hits McIntyre with another one. There’s one for Sheamus as well and Lashley gets rid of Lesnar. That’s not cool with Lesnar, who throws in part of the announcers’ table.
Baron Corbin is in at #14 as Lesnar throws some steps around. Lesnar runs Corbin over before he can get in and wrecks various other things at ringside. Seth Rollins is in at #15 as it seems Kingston is gone (not confirmed though). Rollins takes forever to get in and throws Corbin inside. A superkick and clothesline get rid of Corbin and Rollins slugs it out with Sheamus.
Otis is in at #16 and World’s Strongest Slams McIntyre. Rey Mysterio is in at #17….or at least he is supposed to be as he doesn’t show up. Rollins dumps Lashley and there’s the Caterpillar to Gunther. Dominik Mysterio, in a Rey mask, is in at #18. Otis is eliminated during Dominik’s entrance as commentary suggests that Dominik jumped Rey and took his mask. Dominik stays outside for warmups before coming in for some worthless shots to Sheamus.
Elias is in at #19 and guitars Gunther but McIntyre and Sheamus give him stereo kicks to the face (OUCH). That’s it for Elias and Finn Balor is in at #20, giving us Gunther, Sheamus, Gargano, McIntyre, Rollins, Rey Mysterio (yet to be seen), Dominik Mysterio, and Balor. Sheamus won’t let Balor go after McIntyre and gets dropped for his efforts. Dominik saves Balor from being dumped by Gargano and Balor kicks Gargano in the head. That’s it for Gargano, leaving us with Judgment Day gs. Sheamus/McIntyre. Booker T. of all people is in at #21 and it’s a Book End into a Spinarooni.
Gunther tosses Booker without much trouble and it’s Damian Priest in at #22 to complete Judgment Day. Brawling ensues and it’s Montez Ford (dressed like a boxer) in at #23. Ford sends Dominik to the apron but can’t get rid of him. Instead Balor sends Ford over the top but some cat skinning is good for the save. Priest chokeslams Ford out without much trouble though and it’s Edge in at #24.
Spears abound to Judgment Day and Edge tosses Priest and Balor. We get the Edge vs. Rollins staredown but Dominik interrupts, allowing the rest of Judgment Day to pull Edge out. Austin Theory is in at #25 as Edge chases Balor up the aisle. Edge beats up Priest at the entrance but Rhea Ripley jumps Edge. Cue Beth Phoenix to go after Ripley though and I think we have a mixed tag set for Elimination Chamber. We get back to the match with Theory taking down Rollins and hammering on McIntyre.
Omos is in at #26 and side slams Theory before getting chopped by Gunther. A chokeslam drops Gunther and it’s Braun Strowman in at #27. The Omos vs. Strowman staredown is on and they hit each other in the face a few times. Strowman’s right hand just annoys Omos but a running clothesline gets rid of him. Strowman beats up various humans and it’s Ricochet in at #28.
Sheamus and McIntyre go after Strowman and get him to the apron but can’t get him out. Sheamus saves McIntyre from an elimination and slugs it out with Gunther again. With Sheamus on the apron, McIntyre helps him again but Gunther puts both of them out. Logan Paul returns at #29 and everyone goes after him.
Paul gets back up and hits a Buckshot Lariat on Ricochet but Gunther sends him to the apron. That’s broken up and it’s Paul vs. Strowman for a bizarre staredown. Strowman and Ricochet beat up Paul and send him through the ropes to the apron as Cody Rhodes is in at #30. That gives us a final grouping of Gunther, Rollins, Theory, Strowman, Ricochet, Paul, Dominik and Cody. After taking his time with the entrance, Cody hits a Cody Cutter on Theory.
Dominik tries Three Amigos on Cody but gets caught with the Cross Rhodes. That’s it for Dominik but Strowman Monsterbombs Cody. The Last Symphony hits Strowman but Ricochet hits Gunther with a standing Sliced Bread. Ricochet and Paul land on the apron and springboard at each other, colliding in the air for one of the coolest spots you’ll see in a long time. Cole says there are seven left, meaning Rey is officially not in. Cody gets rid of Strowman and Theory dumps Ricochet to get us down to four, as Paul apparently evaporated somewhere.
Cody clotheslines Theory out, leaving us with Cody, Gunther and Theory. Rollins and Cody team up on Gunther and they both hit Pedigrees. With Gunther down (not out), Cody and Rollins slug it out but Paul comes back in toss Rollins. So we’re officially down to Gunther, Cody and Paul, the latter of whom gets in the Wrestlemania sign point. The big right hand is countered into Cross Rhodes and Paul is gone, leaving us with Cody vs. Gunther.
Cody flips away from Gunther but gets chopped in the corner. With the Wrestlemania sign over them, Gunther gets sent to the apron but blocks the Disaster Kick to get back in. They both go on top with Gunther getting Cody to the apron and stomping as well as he can. A butterfly superplex brings Cody back in but the Cody Cutter drops Gunther again. Gunther gets back in from the apron and Shattered Dreams makes it worse.
Somehow Gunther manages the running dropkick though and there’s the powerbomb to drop Cody again. Cody is sent to the apron but hangs on and they chop it out. The sleeper goes on with Cody still on the apron but he tries to pull Gunther over. Gunther is smart enough to let him go and chop Cody back inside. Cody pulls him into Cross Rhodes though and Gunther is out to give Cody the win at 1:11:25.
Rating: A-. Now THAT is how you do a Royal Rumble, as they kept this filled with star power and kept it moving throughout. You had mini feuds and stories throughout the match and then the last ten minutes had some actual drama. Cody was the big favorite to win throughout but what matters here is they showed they know how to do a Royal Rumble. It was an excellent performance throughout with only a few down spots. Cody gets the win but this was an absolute star making performance for Gunther too. Awesome match and one of the better Rumbles of all time.
We recap the Mountain Drew Pitch Black match. Bray Wyatt returned and LA Knight doesn’t think too much of him. They have attacked each other, but now it’s time for Bray’s first match back after returning a few months ago. No one knows the rules, but you win by pinfall or submission.
LA Knight vs. Bray Wyatt
Pitch Black match meaning….the lights are going to be all neon, including Knight’s gear. Wyatt, all covered in paint, starts fast and choke throws Knight. They head outside with Bray loading up the announcers’ table (and knocking around all of the light up neon stuff). Knight fights out of a suplex and hits a clothesline to drive them through the table. A kendo stick shot just wakes Wyatt up though and it’s Sister Abigail to give Wyatt the pin at 5:03.
Rating: D+. Yes it was stupid and yes it was WWE getting a nice check, but it was five minutes and Wyatt gets his feet wet with a win now that he is back. That’s about all you can ask for out of something like this so I’ll take what I can get. Wyatt going too far is always a danger and thankfully they mostly avoided it here.
Post match Wyatt puts on a new mask and stalks Knight, whose kendo stick shots have no effect. They fight to the tech area and Wyatt cuts him down with the Mandible Claw. Uncle Howdy pops up on a balcony above the stand and dives down onto Knight, meaning it’s time for a bunch of explosions and fire. The Firefly Fun House characters pop up above the platform too and look down on Knight.
Tonight’s attendance: 51,338.
Raw Women’s Title: Alexa Bliss vs. Bianca Belair
Belair is defending and hammers on Bliss in the corner. Bliss pulls her out of said corner and hits a dropkick to the ribs. Some kicks to the ribs have Belair in more trouble and we hit the chinlock. Belair powers that up and snaps off a suplex before pounding down forearms in the corner.
The handspring splash hits knees but Belair is fine enough to hit a faceplant. Now the handspring moonsault can connect for two but Belair can’t quite powerbomb her. Instead Bliss grabs a DDT for two and a backsplash gets the same. Back up and Belair hits a quick KOD to retain at 7:02.
Rating: C-. Not much to see here as Belair runs down someone else. I’m not sure what is coming for her at Wrestlemania but she almost has to lose at some point. There is nothing left for her to do on Raw save for maybe losing to Rhea Ripley, which very well may come in Los Angeles in a few months.
Post match we see a playground and visions of Uncle Howdy, as Bliss sees various images from her past. What in the world does the writer of this story have on WWE? They’ve been at this for years now and I still don’t get the appeal.
Women’s Royal Rumble
90 second intervals and Rhea Ripley (favoring her ribs from earlier) is in at #1 with Liv Morgan in at #2. Liv knocks her into the corner to start and gets in a few shots, only to get pulled out of the air. Ripley muscles her up for a suplex and Dana Brooks is in at #3. Brooke dropkicks them out of the air and knocks Ripley around a bit before going up top with Morgan. A superplex brings Morgan back down and it’s Emma in at #4. Emma cleans some house, including a neckbreaker over the middle rope to Ripley.
Shayna Baszler is in at #5 and goes after Ripley’s arm before ankle locking Liv. Baszler stomps on Dana’s arm and Bayley is in at #6. Liv grabs Oblivion on Bayley before she can get in but Bayley saves herself on the apron. Bayley fights back on Liv and B Fab is in at #7…and is the first one out at Ripley’s hands. NXT Women’s Champion Roxanne Perez is in at #8 and snaps off a headscissors to Ripley. As Perez gets to clean house, Dakota Kai is in at #9. Damage Ctrl takes too long to pose and get jumped by Liv and Dana.
Iyo Sky is in at #10 to complete Damage Ctrl, giving us Ripley, Morgan, Brooke, Emma, Baszler, Bayley, Perez, Kai and Sky. Morgan and Brooke get springboard missile dropkicked down before Brooke and Emma are tossed. Perez goes after Bayley but a hard dropkick from Sky puts Perez out. Natalya returns at #11 and goes after Baszler, who put her on the shelf. Candice LeRae is in at #12 and gets knocked into the corner by Baszler. We get the Natalya vs. Baszler showdown with Natalya snapping off a German suplex. They fight to the apron with Damage Ctrl eliminating both of them.
Zoey Stark from NXT is in at #13 and gets to kick a bunch of people. A kick to Ripley staggers her a bit and it’s Xia Li in at #14. Li gets to fire off a bunch of kicks of her own as Damage Ctrl gets rid of LeRae. Becky Lynch is in at #15 and this should clear out the ring a bit. Lynch unloads on Bayley and they fight to the floor (not out) with the rest of Damage Ctrl going after them. The trio takes out Becky and sends her over the announcers’ table but no one is eliminated.
Tegan Nox is in at #16 and helps Liv beat up Stark. Asuka is in at #17 (in long tights, with what looks like tiger/clown face paint and short hair, which might be her old Kana persona) and cleans house before starring Bayley down. Bayley gets scared and Asuka kicks Nox out. Piper Niven (yes Piper Niven, not Doudrop) is in at #18 and gets to clean house. Splashes abound and Tamina is in at #19.
Tamina goes after Doudrop, with commentary saying they have been dreaming of this showdown. No, no you haven’t you liars. Everyone else breaks it up and Becky is back in to start hitting people. Chelsea Green returns at #20, giving us Ripley, Morgan, Bayley, Kai, Sky, Stark, Li, Lynch, Asuka, Niven, Tamina and Green. Speaking of Green, Ripley tosses her in 5 seconds. Lynch gets rid of Kai and Sky back to back but Bayley dumps Lynch as well. Morgan gets rid of Bayley and Damage Ctrl brawls with her to the back.
Zelina Vega is in at #21 and is dressed as a character from Street Fighter 6, which she will be in as a character. Doudrop takes Vega to the apron, where Li and Vega strike it out. Li gets knocked to the floor and a middle rope Codebreaker hits Niven. Raquel Rodriguez is in at #22 and runs people over, including a fall away slam to Stark. Mia Yim is in at #23 with a tornado DDT to Stark and Lacey Evans is in at #24.
House is cleaned again and Michelle McCool, coming out of the front row, is in at #25. Tamina is out and Indi Hartwell from NXT is in at #26. Not much happens until Sonya Deville is in at #27. Yim hits Stark with Eat Defeat and Deville gets rid of her. Evans Cobra Clutches Vega to choke her out and send her hard to the floor for the elimination. Shotzi is in at #28 and has to save herself from a fast elimination. Deville gets rid of Hartwell and Nikki Cross is in at #29.
Cross forearms just about everyone….and Nix Jax is back at #30. The final grouping is Ripley, Morgan, Asuka, Niven, Rodriguez, Yim, Evans, McCool, Deville, Shotzi, Cross and Jax. Everyone surrounds Jax but she shrugs them off, setting up the showdown with Rodriguez. Jax drops Rodriguez and Morgan but a bunch of people go after her, with Ripley not being able to slam her. A horrible Riptide (fair enough) plants Jax and everyone gives her the giant treatment for the elimination.
Rodriguez knocks Evans out but gets caught in Asuka’s armbar. Asuka and Deville go to the apron with the latter being kicked out. McCool is out, with Shotzi and Yim following her. We’re down to Ripley, Morgan, Asuka, Niven, Rodriguez and Cross, with Niven getting to clean some house. Rodriguez kicks Niven out though and picks Ripley up for the trip to the apron. Ripley kicks Rodriguez out and Morgan gets rid of Cross. That leaves us with Ripley, Morgan and Cross so we reset a bit.
Morgan gets tossed into a Codebreaker on Asuka and manages to put Ripley on the apron. Ripley pulls Morgan out to the apron with her and kicks her down but not out. Asuka’s hip attack is blocked and all three of them wind up on the apron. Asuka mists Morgan and gets kicked out, leaving Morgan and Ripley. Morgan kicks the feet out so Ripley is hanging on by her hands but a headscissors drops Morgan to give Ripley the win at 1:01:07.
Rating: C. Well, the important thing is it cleared last year’s bar by about a mile. Having the NXT women in there helped a lot as there was no reason to not have them in there before. Other than that, they went with what mattered the most, as the idea was to have Ripley get the big win to move back into the main event scene. Ripley has been ready for the next big title run and this should set her up for that rather well. They had some dead spots in here but I’ll take some NXT surprises and a few returns (not Jax, never her) over the same legends every year. Not a great Rumble, but a passable enough one.
Hardy performs the show’s theme song, with commentary basically ignoring him.
We recap Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the World Title. This is all about finding out which side Sami Zayn is on, even if there is nothing to really suggest that he is anything but loyal to the Bloodline.
Undisputed WWE Universal Title: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
Reigns, with Paul Heyman and Sami Zayn, is defending. They take their time to start with neither going very far. Owens knocks him to the floor though and takes over early, including a backsplash to crush Reigns. Back in and Owens gets whipped hard into the corner, allowing Reigns to hit the jumping apron kick for two. Reigns grabs the chinlock before firing off the corner clotheslines.
Owens hits his own running clothesline for a breather before another one sends Reigns outside. The apron Bullfrog splash connects and the real version gets two back inside. Owens takes too long to follow up though and it’s a sitout powerbomb to give Reigns two. The Superman Punch is countered into a German suplex for two on Owens, only to have the Superman Punch connect to give Reigns a near fall of his own. The spear goes into the post though and Owens nails a superkick.
Owens hits the Swanton for two but gets caught on top. Some elbows knock Reigns down and Owens tries a jumping spinning moonsault but crashes down instead. Back up and Owens tries a more traditional moonsault, which misses anyway. The spear connects for two but the referee gets bumped. The Pop Up Powerbomb hits Reigns but there is no one to count. Reigns hits him low and tells Owens to grab a chair. Sami: “You told me not to do anything!”
Sami goes looking and finally finds one but takes a second to slide it in. The Stunner connects for two on Reigns, who comes back with the spear for the same. Owens bails to the floor and lands in front of Sami. Zayn tells him to stay down but Reigns hits another spear to send Owens through the barricade.
Back in and….Owens rolls outside again. This time Reigns sends the back of Owens’ head into the steps (OUCH) and then does it again. Reigns throws what used to be Owens back inside, with Heyman acknowledging Reigns as Zayn is looking worried. Some slaps to the face wake Owens up…and another spear cuts him down to retain the title at 19:14.
Rating: B-. The ending was about as obvious as you could get, but the question was what Sami would do. In this case that would pretty much be nothing, though you can all but guarantee something is coming before the end of the show. For now though, Owens gets to be the latest designated victim as we get closer to Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes at Wrestlemania. Not a great match, but that was never really the point.
Post match Jey goes to give Sami his own lei but Reigns says hang on a second. The big beatdown is on Owens, with a chair being wrapped around his neck in the corner. Solo Sikoa hits the running Umaga Attack as commentary wants someone to do something about this. Reigns busted out the handcuffs as Sami is looking more and more uncomfortable. Owens is cuffed to the rope so the Usos can superkick him over and over.
The fans chant for Sami as Reigns picks up the chair. Reigns talks a lot but Sami FINALLY gets in front of him before the swing. Sami says Owens is done and this is beneath Reigns. Instead, Reigns hands Zayn the chair, but Zayn doesn’t want it. Zayn finally takes it, with Reigns telling him about how Owens has held him down since day one(ish). Zayn loads up the chair and…..pauses, until Reigns hits him in the face.
They go nose to nose with Reigns saying this is his whole life. Zayn nods….and blasts Reigns in the back with the chair to a MONSTER reaction. Jimmy and Sikoa are livid and kick Zayn down as Reigns sits up and looks crushed. Jey Uso looks at Zayn but doesn’t beat on him as he is told to, instead walking up the ramp and looking upset.
Reigns unloads on Sami with the chair (Fans: “F*** YOU ROMAN!”) and rips up the lei before leaving Sami laying. I know Cody is the #1 contender and all that, but with that segment and that reaction, they better have something huge for Sami between now and Wrestlemania or Cody is going to be sacrificed to the wrestling gods in Los Angeles. That segment, especially that reaction, was an all timer and there is nothing that is topping it for a long time in WWE.
Overall Rating: B. This is a bit of a weird Royal Rumble as the show is normally built around the Royal Rumbles. In this case though, you have an awesome men’s Rumble, an ok women’s Rumble and an incredible post main event angle. That Zayn/Bloodline segment is more than enough to boost this up a bit and tied together with an all time men’s Rumble, the rest of the show is good enough. The Wyatt and Belair matches weren’t great, but they clocked in at a combined 12:05 (call it 20 for the post Wyatt match stuff) out of a four hour and twenty minute show. This show worked and the Road To Wrestlemania could be great.
Cody Rhodes won the Men’s Royal Rumble last eliminating Gunther
Bray Wyatt b. LA Knight – Sister Abigail
Bianca Belair b. Alexa Bliss – KOD
Rhea Ripley won the Women’s Royal Rumble last eliminating Liv Morgan
Roman Reigns b. Kevin Owens – Spear
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