WWE Royal Rumble grades and analysis


Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons

Matthew Rago, Editor-in-Chief


United States Championship: Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carrillo


  • Andrade counters Carrillo’s springboard arm drag by slamming Carrillo into the mat
  • Carrillo executes a picture-perfect springboard moonsault to the outside of the ring
  • Carrillo counters Andrade’s attempt at Eddie Guerrero’s Three Amigos
  • The challenger stunned the champion with a superkick for a near fall
  • Andrade meets Carrillo on the top rope with a step-up enziguri; Carrillo executes a top rope hurricanrana
  • Andrade counters a hurricanrana attempt into a rollup for the pinfall.

Result: Andrade defeats Carrillo via pinfall

Grade: D+

Analysis: Despite a somewhat hot build, Andrade and Carrillo don’t possess the same chemistry that Andrade and Rey Mysterio enjoy. Where Mysterio and Andrade exchange quickfire strikes and counters, Carrillo and Andrade labored through most of their high spots, fumbling around as they positioned themselves for big moves.

As evidenced by his WWE resume, Andrade is a star. Cagematch.net users rated Andrade’s NXT Title match against Johnny Gargano as the greatest WWE match of all time. His series against Mysterio reminded fans of what makes the Lucha Libre style so intoxicating. His partnership with Zelina Vega has allowed him to slink to the background, strategically resurfacing for angry, scathing promos in broken English or fluent Spanish.

However, burdening Andrade with matches against an undercarder masquerading as a upper midcard talent does him no favors, particularly on a Big Four pay-per-view card.

Carrillo, on the other hand, appears to have star potential if WWE can shed the perception of the happy-go-lucky babyface who’s just happy to be there. Carrillo’s athletic prowess is evident every time he soars through the air or executes an acrobatic maneuver with ease. However, Carrillo currently feels like the 1-2-3 Kid to Sean Waltman’s X-Pac–an insanely talented performer in need of an edgier character.

Falls Count Everywhere: King Corbin vs. Roman Reigns


  • Corbin chokeslams Reigns onto an unimpaired announce table
  • Corbin intercepts Reigns midair and chokeslams him through a second announce table
  • Reigns hits Corbin with two Samoan Drops through wooden tables
  • Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler ambush Reigns before overcoming the Usos’ intervention.
  • Jimmy launches himself off an elevated surface onto Ziggler and Corbin
  • Corbin backdrops one of the Usos onto a steel barricade
  • Reigns traps Corbin in a porta-potty before tipping it over
  • Reigns spears Corbin onto a divide separating sections for the three-count

Result: Reigns defeats Corbin via pinfall

Grade: C+

Reigns and Corbin were hampered a slow, lumbering start. Thankfully, they were able to recover some of the heat thanks to a liberal amount of interference and a few dangerous spots.

Nevertheless, this was a lackluster effort from two performers that have offered better in the past. Too much down time in between spots led to fan apathy until the Usos emerged to assist a battered Reigns.

WWE needs to pull the plug on the Corbin-Reigns feud. Corbin appears to be stuck in upper midcard purgatory. He has a makeshift faction at his disposal, yet the alliance seems to serve no real purpose other than to get three talented performers television time. Sure, he can go toe-to-toe with legitimate main event talent, but it never seems to elevate his stock within the company, even on nights where he emerges victorious.

Additionally, WWE fans simply don’t care enough about Corbin to warrant inclusion in the main event scene. He generates a reaction, but not enough of a response to headline a major event. Furthermore, positioning him opposite of someone like Reigns–who fans went from actively opposing to polite indifference–makes Corbin’s losses unrewarding.

For all involved, let’s hope the talent involved move on ahead of Wrestlemania.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match


  • Alexa Bliss and NXT’s Bianca Belair begin the match at No. 1 and 2, respectively
  • “Mighty” Molly Holly enters No. 3 under her superhero persona
  • Holly hits a cross body on Belair and Bliss
  • Bliss executes a sunset bomb on Belair; Holly spikes Bliss’ head into the mat with a reverse Natural Selection
  • Mercedes Martinez debuts at No. 6
  • Liv Morgan enters at No. 7 and immediately eliminates Lana; Lana re-enters the fray and eliminates Morgan before the two begin to brawl
  • Candice LaRae enters at No. 9
  • Mandy Rose falls from the ring apron onto Otiz Dozovic, who was laying on the outside of the ring, saving her from elimination
  • NXT’s Mia Yim enters at No. 12 as Kairi Sane lands an InSane Elbow on Candice LaRae
  • Belair uses Bliss as a battering ram to eliminate Nikki Cross
  • Sonya Deville is knocked into Mandy Rose as she lay in Dozovic’s arms, eliminating them both.
  • Bliss eliminates Sane
  • Chelsea Green enters at No. 16, eliminates Dakota before being eliminated by Alexa Bliss
  • Belair eliminates Bliss by using her momentum to ram Bliss into the ringpost
  • Naomi returns at No. 18
  • Beth Phoenix enters at No. 19
  • Toni Storm enters at No. 20
  • Charlotte Flair eliminates Belair by kicking her off the top rope
  • Kelly Kelly returns at No. 21
  • Kelly Kelly stink faces Alexa Bliss
  • Flair eliminates Kelly Kelly
  • Xia Li enters at No. 24
  • Shotzi Blackheart enters at No. 26
  • Naomi saves herself from elimination by scaling the barricade, inching her way to the announce table and using the table top as a makeshift bridge
  • Tegan Nox enters at No. 28
  • Santina Marello enteres the Royal Rumble as Santina Marella.
  • Shayna Baszler enters at No. 30
  • Baszler eliminates seven within two minutes; final four are Phoenix, Natalya, Baszler and Flair
  • Phoenix and Natalya hit a Hart Attack on Baszler; Phoenix eliminates Natayla
  • Baszler eliminates Phoenix
  • Flair eliminates Baszler

Result: Flair eliminates Baszler to win the Women’s Royal Rumble

Grade: B


The first-third of the contest was highlighted by the return of Holly, Martinez’s debut and advancement of the Lana-Morgan angle. However, it wasn’t until the second-third of the match–when legitimate contenders such as Charlotte Flair, Naomi and Beth Phoenix arrived–that the Women’s Royal Rumble found its footing.

It’s been a long time since Bliss felt like a championship-caliber star. WWE obviously demoted her after a string of unfortunate injuries and it reflects in her positioning on the card. However, Bliss came off as a crafty, opportunistic veteran prior to her elimination.

Belair shone bright in this match, eliminating eight superstars in just over 32 minutes. By the time Belair was confronted by Flair, Belair felt like a star on par with last year’s Wrestlemania headliner. She overpowered Tamina, military pressed multiple opponents and exuded the elusive ‘it factor” that escapes so many  of her peers. Furthermore, WWE hasn’t exhausted her appeal by awarding her an NXT Title reign, meaning that when she inevitably ascends the WWE ladder, it will feel novel and organic.

The Women’s Royal Rumble match inadvertently exposed the fissure in talent between the women’s main event scene and the rest of the roster. Outside of Flair, Baszler and perhaps Bliss or Naomi, it didn’t feel like anyone on the main roster was worthy of winning the Royal Rumble. WWE has had a tremondous challenge in presenting women outside of the Four Horsewomen as main event worthy.  WWE’s hesitance to ransack the NXT women’s division–which features an incredible backlog of talent–for the sake of competing against AEW has sabotaged the main roster’s ability replenish itself and avoid entropy.

Giving Flair the victory was a misstep. Flair has never been less interesting, having accomplished so much in her short career that there’s really not a new angle to explore under her current persona. Flair is already the women’s version of Randy Orton–too big a name to ever be relegated to the midcard but no longer over enough to carry a brand. She’s arguably the greatest women’s performer–if not the greatest performer–in WWE history, but storytelling is also contingent on novelty, which Flair sorely lacks.

Nevertheless, this was an incredibly fun match at times. Marello’s cameo provided fun comedic relief. Brief appearances by Dakota Kai, Nox and Green underscored how promising the NXT women’s division is. Baszler’s dominance was on full display and Naomi’s emergence as the women’s version of Kofi Kingston continues


Smackdown Women’s Championnship: Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans


  • Evans negotiates the rope, hitting a cannonball dropkick on Bayley
  • Evans’ daughter grabs onto her mom’s arm in an apparent unscripted move
  • Evans transitons from a standing moonsault into a springboard, top rope moonsault; Bayley gets her boots up and pins Evans

Result: Bayley defeats Evans to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Grade: F

Analysis: …What was that? Even for a cool down match, this was a boring, poorly executed contest. Bayley’s title reign has been redundant, overshadowed by the infinitely more interesting and talented Becky Lynch despite an excellent heel turn from the former.

Evans, still operating under the Sassy Southern Belle gimmick, was miscast a face. Despite Evans beingboth  a talented performer and an engaging promo, she’s burdened by a ridiculous gimmick displaced from the early 90s. A former U.S. Marine, Evans is saddled with a gimmick that makes her look like a caricature of what being American really is. Rather than present Evans as the hero, WWE apparently combed through the laziest American stereotypes and asked Evans to simultaneously depict them all.

WWE needs to reshuffle the Smackdown women’s deck and let their women tear the house down.


WWE Universal Championship Strap Match: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan


  • Wyatt plants Bryan with an emphatic powerbomb before scalding him with the strap
  • Bryan hits a running knee for a two-count
  • Bryan leaps over the ringpost to hit a cross body
  • Bryan lashes Wyatt across the head
  • Wyatt intercepts Bryan with a Sister Abigail; Bryan kicks out at two
  • Bryan counters the Mandible Claw by transitioning into a strap-assisted Yes Lock
  • Bryan hits a second running knee; Wyatt kicks out at two
  • Bray Wyatt hits a Mandible Claw-Chokeslam combination for the pinfall

Result: Bray Wyatt defeats Daniel Bryan via pinfall to retain the WWE Universal Championship

Grade: B+


After a character arch that saw Bryan revert back to his former persona, it seemed natural that Bryan would be the one to dethrone the man (fiend?) responsible for his epiphany. However, that wasn’t meant to be on this night as Wyatt withstood a ferocious comeback to retain his Universal Championship.

The match was strong, particularly for a match burdened with an underwhelming gimmick. The two superstars used the strap sparingly, preserving its impact. And while Wyatt’s matches have devolved into gimmickry more often than not, this match didn’t overstay its welcome or rely too heavily on Wyatt’s supernatural persona to drive the match forward.

With Bryan presumably out of the title picture and the Miz embroiled in an angle alongside John Morrison, there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut evident candidate to challenge Wyatt going forward. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say Reigns is going to be positioned to reclaim the throne he surrendered ahead of his cancer treatment. And while that would make for a nice feelgood moment–my father passed away from cancer seven months ago–it’s not the moment Wrestlemania needs, as Reigns seemingly indefinite stay in the Wrestlemania main event absent of character alterations has left fans with a sour taste in their mouth.

WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka


  • Lynch drops Asuka face first from the ring apron to the floor
  • Asuka executes a modified Fisherman Suplex, instead planting Lynch on her tailbone
  • Lynch lands a modified version of the Rock Bottom from the middle rope; Asuka kicks out at two
  • Asuka kicks Lynch under the jaw, appearing to temporarily knock her out. The referee prevents Asuka from attempting a pinfall attempt
    • Lynch grabs the leg of the referee, preventing him from calling for the bell
  • Lynch kicks Asuka in the stomach, knocking the green mist from Asuka’s mouth; Becky locks in the Dis-Arm-Her for the submission victory

Result: Lynch submits Asuka to retain the Raw Women’s Championnship

Grade: A

Analysis: This was a fast-paced, hard-hitting match that reestablished both Asuka and Lynch as the faces on the women’s division. Asuka is not only the most underappreciated talent in all of WWE, but she may also be the most technically proficient, period. Depriving Asuka of her rightful place atop the WWE mountain is a gross miscalculation that WWE fans will question and debate long after Asuka departs.

Lynch’s fantastic title reign continues. Now that she has overcome her personal kryptonite, WWE will either position Lynch across Flair or scramble to present an unlikely challenger as a legitimate threat to dethrone arguably the most dominant women’s champion this side of Ronda Rousey.

However, despite strong showings from both Lynch and Asuka leading to a fantastic match, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge was transpired mid-match. Asuka appeared to legitimately knock Lynch out, which in any other combat sport would result in a stoppage. The referee breaking the fourth wall and forcing Asuka to retreat to the corner rather than attempt a pinfall was confusing at best and sabotaging at worst. Asuka has a legitimate claim for a rematch and while she will likely be demoted back to the midcard as one-half of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, WWE would be wise to book a rematch on the Grandest Stage of them All.


Men’s Royal Rumble Match


  • Brock Lesnar and Elias enter at No. 1 and 2, respectively
  • Lesnar breaks Elias’ guitar over his back before depositing him over the top rope
  • Lesnar immediately eliminates Rowan, Roode, Morrison
    • Kofi Kingston (No. 6) ends Lesnar’s elimination streak
  • Mysterio enters at No. 7
  • Big E enters at No. 8; Kingston hits Lesnar with a Trouble in Paradise, Big E executes a Big Ending and Mysterio lands a 619
    • Lesnar eliminates all 3
  • Cesaro enters at No. 9
    • Eliminated by Lesnar
  • Shelton Benjamin enters at No. 10
    • Eliminated by Lesnar
  • Lesnar and Benjamin hug before Lesnar eliminates Benjamin
  • Shinsuke Nakamura enters at No. 11
    • Eliminated by Lesnar. Yes, there is a pattern here.
  • MVP returns, entering No. 12
    • Eliminated by Lesnar
  • NXT North American Champion Keith Lee enters at No. 13
    • Lee shoulder tackles Lesnar, the crowd erupts
    • Eliminated by Lesnar
  • Braun Strowman enters at No. 14
    • Eliminated by Lesnar
  • Strowman dropkicks Lee out of the ring before Lesnar German Suplexes each twice
  • Lesnar eliminates both Strowman and Lee; Lesnar ties the Royal Rumble record with 13 eliminations
  • Ricochet enters at No. 15
  • Drew McIntyre enters at No. 16
    • McIntyre eliminates Lesnar after Ricochet low blows the champion
  • Drew McIntyre catches Ricochet’s attempt at a standing moonsault; McIntyre eliminates Ricochet
  • The Miz enters at No. 17
    • Eliminated by McIntyre
  • The crowd chants, “Na, na, na,” at Lesnar
  • AJ Styles enters at No. 18
  • Dolph Ziggler enters at No. 19
  • Karl Anderson enters at No. 20
  • Edge returns at No. 21
  • Edge hits Styles with a spear
    • Edge eliminates Styles
  • King Corbin enters at No. 22
  • Matt Riddle enters at No. 23
    • Corbin eliminates Riddle
  • Luke Gallows enters at No. 24
  • McIntyre eliminates Corbin
  • Randy Orton enters at No. 25
    • Orton RKOs the OC before teaming with Edge (Rated RKO) to eliminate Gallows and Anderson
  • Reigns enters at No. 26
    • Reigns eliminates Ziggler
  • Kevin Owens enters at No. 27
    • Owens delivers a Pop-Up Powerbomb or stunner to the entire field
  • Aleister Black enters at No. 28
  • Samoa Joe enters at No. 29
  • Owens and Samoa Joe’s alliance breaks down.
  • Seth Rollins enters at No. 30
    • Owens and Samoa Joe meet Rollins, Buddy Murphy and AOP outside of the ring
    • Rollins curb stomps McIntyre and Reigns
  • Murphy trips Black as he attempts a springboard moonsault; Rollins eliminates Black
  • Owens stuns Rollins and dumps him over the top rope; AOP catches Rollins and return him to the ring
  • Murphy interferes as Samoa Joe traps Rollins in the Coquina Clutch; Rollins eliminates Samoa Joe
  • Reigns, Edge, Orton and McIntyre combine to eliminate Rollins
  • Final Four: Edge, McIntyre, Reigns and Orton
  • Edge and Orton team up to hit a double RKO on McIntyre
  • Edge eliminates Orton
  • Reigns eliminates Edge
  • Drew McIntyre hits the Claymore Kick on Reigns; McIntyre eliminates Reigns


Result: D



First and foremost, the return of Edge, who endured career-ending triple fusion neck surgery, represents what makes WWE so special. It was authentic, emotional and a culmination of a painstakingly slow return to a WWE ring. As fans, we’ve developed a connection with the Rated R Superstar, watching him progress from a gothic lackey as a member of Gangrel’s Brood to an 11-time champion and Wrestlemania main eventer.  Welcome back.

This was the most unique Royal Rumble this author has ever witnessed. Royal Rumbles usually stagnate once the ring gets congested with a backlog of competitors. With Lesnar depositing every competitor from No. 2 to No. 14 in rapid fashion, the Rumble never got the opportunity to get mired down by competitors loitering in the corner.

With that said, WWE must make a concerted effort to present its entire roster as legitimate combat athletes. Yes, Lesnar was once UFC Heavyweight Champion, but WWE promotes itself as a combat sport. Instead, it feels like an entire  roster of fake athletes, save for a handful, jockeying to compete against a “real” athlete.

Nevertheless, this was the greatest Royal Rumble in recent memory. McIntyre was presented as a star, capable of staring down the immortal. His journey from failed project to a legitimate main eventer has rightfully been spotlighted by WWE brass.

Lee’s cameo was a expert bit of foreshadowing for bigger things to come. Lee, whose athletic ability betrays his formidable size, exudes charisma and will one day be a pay-per-view main eventer.

The sheer amount of talent featured in this Rumble–whether is be Morrison, who was cast as a disposable entrant, or Alesiter Black–really highlights how loaded the WWE main roster is. That’s not even including NXT mainstays such as Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole.

McIntyre and Lesnar will be the hoss fight that Wrestlemania desperately needs. First, it presents an up-and-coming superstar against arguably the most dominant champion in WWE history. Second, the story isn’t a rehash, as this is McIntyre’s first title opportunity. Finally, McIntyre’s ascension from WWE also-ran to a believable challenger to Lesnar feels endearingly organic.