By Elijah Nevlin
On Jan. 27, the WWE hosted its 37th annual Royal Rumble event, an important night for professional wrestling fans, as it marks the start of the road to WrestleMania.
In the event’s signature Royal Rumble match, 30 participants enter in timed intervals of 90 seconds. Wrestlers are eliminated by being thrown over the top rope and having both feet touch the floor. The last person standing is declared the winner and is rewarded with a world championship match of their choosing at WrestleMania.
The first match of the night was the women’s Royal Rumble. The winner had the choice to wrestle either WWE Women’s Champion Iyo Sky or Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley. Wrestlers representing all three major WWE shows appeared: “Monday Night Raw,” “Friday Night SmackDown” and Tuesday’s “NXT.”
Surprises started early, as No. 2 was the return of Naomi, a former champion who had not been seen in the WWE in two years. No. 3 was Bayley, the leader of villainous “SmackDown” faction Damage CTRL, which also included champion Sky.
The biggest surprises of the match came when wrestlers from other companies appeared. Knockouts Champion Jordynne Grace, representing Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, had a dominant showing in the rumble. Grace traded blows with Naomi, whom she had defeated for the Knockouts Championship just weeks before.
No. 28 Jade Cargill debuted. A former All Elite Wrestling talent who held the TBS Championship for over 500 days, Cargill made her long-awaited WWE debut and showcased her strength by eliminating powerhouse Nia Jax.
In the end, Bayley outlasted 29 other women to win the match. This past Friday on “SmackDown,” Bayley confronted Sky. Former friends Asuka and Kairi Sane attacked Bayley, who used a metal pipe to fight back and declared that she had challenged Sky for the WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania.
Bayley has been at times the most beloved woman in the WWE roster, but has never had a moment in the spotlight until now. It feels great to see Bayley potentially in the main event of WrestleMania this year, and fans definitely hope to see her defeat Sky and win her fifth championship.
The next event of the night was a fatal four-way match for the WWE Undisputed Universal Heavyweight Championship, a title that consists of two separate lineages. Wrestler Roman Reigns has held the Universal Championship for over 1,200 days and the historic WWE Championship for over 600 while leading the infamous Bloodline faction. Challengers in this match included Randy Orton, AJ Styles and L.A. Knight.
During this match, Reigns ordered his cousin Solo Sikoa to attack Orton. This gave Reigns the opportunity to pin AJ Styles unopposed and retain his championships. Fans have grown tired of Reigns, as interference from The Bloodline has become commonplace. For such a long-reigning champion, Reigns is rarely able to defeat opponents on his own and almost always relies on The Bloodline to remain on top.
The third match saw the WWE United States Championship put on the line, as controversial social media star and champion Logan Paul defended against Kevin Owens. The ending of the match was fitting to Paul’s reputation.
Paul attempted to use brass knuckles and had them taken away by Owens who was able to knock Paul out with his own weapon. Owens pinned Paul, but the referee noticed the brass knuckles on Owens’ hand and declared Paul the winner by disqualification.
Last year, the “American Nightmare,” Cody Rhodes, won the match but was cheated out of his WrestleMania championship match by The Bloodline. This year, he entered at No.15 and accomplished the incredible feat of winning back-to-back Rumble matches.
The final two of the Royal Rumble were Rhodes and CM Punk. CM Punk is a twenty-year veteran who had not wrestled on WWE programming since losing the 2014 Royal Rumble match. CM Punk was hungry to earn the WrestleMania main event match that had always evaded him, planning to challenge “Raw’s” World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins for his championship.
Rhodes instead vowed to “finish his story,” a mission statement for Rhodes to defeat Reigns, win the WWE Championship, and put an end to The Bloodline. Rhodes eliminated Punk to win the match, putting focus toward Reigns and making his goals for WrestleMania clear.
Rhodes’ actions at the rumble made it confusing when on this past “SmackDown,” Rhodes stepped aside and allowed The Rock to challenge Reigns himself. After years of chasing the WWE Championship, Rhodes fought and earned a grand opportunity, and had given it up without question. To invest in a wrestler, wanting nothing more than to see them succeed, and for them to give up on their goals is not fun to see.
We are still months away from WrestleMania XL, so anything can happen with Rhodes and his Royal Rumble opportunity. Regardless, the 2024 Royal Rumble featured great surprises, unique moments, and millions of fans still wanting to see Rhodes finish his story.