WWE Royal Rumble 2021: Every Match Ranked

As I said on Saturday, the Royal Rumble this year was an event I was very excited about, and I’m thrilled to say that it didn’t disappoint. Once again, the stage looks set for Wrestlemania with some matchups that I’m looking forward to seeing on the horizon, hopefully with crowds to make it all the better.

Anyway, I just want to get talking about these matches, so here are my rankings.

6 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Goldberg
(WWE Championship)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Drew retained, but not in the excited way that I should be, I’m just glad I didn’t have to experience to utter disappointment and anger that would’ve been Goldberg winning the title. I was invested in the match, but not for the right reasons.

As you’d expect, this match was the same as just about every match Goldberg has had since he returned. Both men hit some signature moves, there were a couple of surprising kickouts, then one last signature move put the nail in the coffin. As soon as Drew kicked out of the Jackhammer, I knew he was winning, and I just don’t think it’s all that fun to watch two men hit a bunch of finishers for two minutes before a pin.

As I said, happy for Drew, don’t care about the match.

5 – Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler def. Asuka & Charlotte Flair(c)
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Talk about making Charlotte look strong in defeat…

What was the point in giving these two the titles? No-one’s come out of it looking good. Baszler & Jax won the titles back in the lamest fashion, needing THREE separate interferences to finally put Charlotte away. It perpetuates this idea that the fans have had for years that WWE treats Charlotte far better than the rest of their women’s roster. Meanwhile, Asuka was cast entirely aside to tell this story, despite being Raw’s top champion in the women’s division.

The match was fine, but given that Baszler, Jax & Flair were all going to be heavily featured in the Rumble, it was clear they were saving the bulk of their energy. This whole situation just makes me feel bad for Asuka. She was one of the best things going in the entire company during spring & summer of 2020, and since autumn, she’s been treated like she’s nothing. It boggles my mind, and I can only pray that she gets something better heading into Wrestlemania, and doesn’t have to drop the title to Charlotte beforehand…

4 – Sasha Banks(c) def. Carmella
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

I really don’t have anything to say about this one, it was a decent match with an obvious outcome. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, but given that they had a very similar, and much better match last month, I didn’t really care.

3 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Kevin Owens
(Universal Championship)
(Last Man Standing)

I was cautiously optimistic about this one in my predictions. The feud had been built damn-near perfectly over the past month, and it had all the promise in the world. However, it was also a Last Man Standing match, which are often very slow, sometimes dull affairs. Thankfully, this match mostly avoided that.

The opening section wasn’t super engaging, but there was at least the novelty of seeing the two men fighting between the screens of the Thunderdome, it was a unique visual. The match also didn’t hold off on going for the big spots straight away, and I thought this might’ve been a short one when Reigns threw Owens off the stands into the tables. Thankfully, the match continued to build for there, and I really got into it. Reigns hitting Owens with a golf cart was a shocking moment, and it was framed perfectly so that you didn’t see it coming until the last second.

The whole section backstage was a great section of Owens getting his own back after Reigns schooled him throughout the match’s early section. The forklift spot was another great one and was the second time the match tricked me into thinking it was the finish. As things moved back into the arena, the excitement continued to build, and yet another false-finish with the spear through the barricade kept me gripped into the finish.

The best false-finish was the handcuffs, and I genuinely thought Owens was about to win the title, but the ref bump put paid to that. Then…there was the botch with the handcuffs. A new ref came down as Heyman tried to unlock Reigns’ handcuffs, but Heyman just couldn’t do it, so the new ref got to a count of about 7, but had to stop because Roman was still cuffed and couldn’t get up. It did ruin the finish’s pace, but it was also quite funny, so it didn’t detract from my enjoyment as much as it probably should’ve.

While I was hoping Owens would win, Reigns’ retaining is almost certainly the right move, I quite like how strong they’re presenting his Guillotine chokehold, and given what he’d already gone through, it makes total sense that Owens’ body would give up the ghost by that point. A really good match and a strong retention for the champ.

2 – Edge won the Men’s Royal Rumble

For the past few years, I’ve noticed that the Rumbles don’t have filler entrants anymore, and I think that has increased the overall quality of the matches significantly. You look at Rumbles like 2013 & 2014, and so many of the entrants are people like 3MB, Los Matadores and complete jobbers who have no chance in hell of winning or doing anything of interest. That’s just not the case anymore, WWE’s talent roster is deep that everyone who comes in is a great wrestler who can leave an impact on the match and I think that’s why every Rumble since about 2016/2017 has been a lot of fun to watch (even if we hated the winner).

The match set forth its primary story straight away and it really worked. The heels filling the ring and beating down Edge put the odds against him straight away (as if coming out #1 wasn’t enough), and it made that comeback story feel all the sweeter. The first half of the Rumble wasn’t super eventful after the Edge/Orton stuff died down, but there were enjoyable spots and a healthy dose of surprises as the ring built up with competitors. Carlito is always a welcome sight, and Damian Priest made one hell of an impact, which I hope translates to being featured on the main roster from now on.

The second half was where things really heated up, and there was action all over. Riddle got to last a surprisingly long time in the match and him & Bryan coming to blows every now and then was great fun to watch. Lashley squaring off with Big E was something I got far more into that I was expecting to, and I would quite like to see a full-length match between the two of them now. Christian showing up was absolutely perfect, and nothing will make my heart swell more than Edge & Christian hugging as active wrestlers once again.

I went into this not too keen on Edge winning the thing, as I thought Daniel Bryan winning would’ve been a far better story, but by the time Edge was pointing at the sign, I was all-in on seeing him fight for a title at Mania. I’m not sure which champ he’s going to fight either. Roman would make more sense from a heel/face perspective, but also, there’s not really anyone else on Raw for Drew to fight at Mania. There’s even the remote possibility that Orton somehow gets the title and we get Edge vs Orton 3 at Mania instead.

Either way, this was a thoroughly enjoyable Rumble with a satisfying conclusion, and I am hyped for Wrestlemania this year.

1 – Bianca Belair won the Women’s Royal Rumble

This was one of the best Royal Rumble matches of all time. Not quite the best, there is a small handful I think are better, but not many.

The pacing on this was unbelievably good, almost in spite of itself. For the first 14 entrants (almost half the match) there was only 1 elimination, but it made the first half feel so lively. Bayley, Naomi & Bianca carried the bulk of the action as outstanding wrestlers POURED into the ring like you wouldn’t believe; Toni Storm, Shotzi Blackheart & Shayna Baszler, just to name a few. The first half of this Rumble was so much stronger than the men’s because there was so much more going on in terms of both story & action. While wrestlers like Bianca & Bayley were wrestling like there was no tomorrow, Billie Kay was running around ringside trying to win over anyone and everyone who joined the match. Billie is gifted when it comes to comedy is wrestling as this was a wonderful through-line, that actually continued when she got in the ring with Peyton Royce & The Riott Squad.

Then Rhea & Charlotte got in the ring, and shit got serious. Rhea looked like such a beast from the moment she entered, there was just something about her presentation and the way she kicked the shit out of everyone that screamed star-power. As much as I had picked Belair in my predictions and I was thrilled to see her win, in my heart, I was rooting for Ripley, and she went on a tear. Charlotte did the same, and I know I bitched about Charlotte’s presentation earlier, but I thought it was really good in this match and paid off well.

The 24/7 title stuff was a bit weird, but it suited Alica Fox and didn’t last too long or over bare on the match. The last run of entrants added a lot to the match. Carmella got a good mini-story with Reginald, Alexa Bliss managed to look good despite being eliminated really quickly as everyone mobbed her as soon as she got in. Lana FINALLY got one over on Nia & Shayna in a satisfying moment, and Nia didn’t injure anyone, which is always a plus. Also, Natalya was there, I guess.

What really put this match over the top though, was the final 3, which was utterly flawless. I was genuinely out of my seat as Charlotte, Rhea & Bianca faced off – the same three women who were in each other’s face over the NXT Women’s Championship last year. I wanted both Rhea & Bianca to win, and them ganging up on Charlotte was the most pleasing thing of all. They teased us just enough with the potential of Charlotte shit-canning them both to make it very satisfying when they finally got rid of her.

Then we had Rhea & Bianca face off in the final two. Two women who both stood a really good chance of winning the match, who told a brilliant story together back in NXT, facing off in a match-within-a-match for about 3-4 minutes. They did a fantastic job of teasing some false-finishes and played with the fact that we genuinely had no idea which one of them was going to win in the best possible way.

When Bianca finally won, it was a tremendous emotional climax and felt so very deserved. Not only because of the great work she’s done week-to-week recently, but because of how damned hard she fought for it in this match. Unlike Edge, who took a backseat here and there in his Rumble, Bianca was always amongst the action, with her & Naomi especially putting on a great show constantly battling.

It’s a masterclass in making a new star, and I can’t wait for her to put on the performance of a lifetime at Wrestlemania against (hopefully) Sasha Banks.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comment below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday where I’ll be covering my favourite Fall Guys levels!

WWE Clash of Champions 2020: Every Match Ranked

Clash of Champions (GOLD RUSH!) is behind us for another year, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. There were three matches that I’d say were good, and that I enjoyed, while the other 5 matches were just…there. None of them were terrible, but they all failed to get me excited for one reason or another, and I imagine most will be forgotten to history very quickly.

Regardless, let’s break it down match by match and see what rose to the top.

8 – Asuka def. Bayley(c) via Disqualification
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Well, this was a bit of a bummer, but it wasn’t WWE’s fault, so I’m not going to be too harsh on it.

I’ve no idea what’s going on with the women who weren’t cleared to compete. It could’ve been an injury, it could’ve been COVID, or it could just be a cold, and they were being careful. Either way, I don’t think there’s much point speculating, however, it did back WWE into a bit of a corner. This is “the one night of the year where every championship MUST be defended” after all. Aside from cleverly changing the tagline to “every match is for a championship”, WWE still needed Bayley to have a match so they could hit the story beats in the Bayley/Sasha story.

Ultimately, I think it would’ve been better to have someone like Naomi or Lacey Evans come out and take a quick loss, but at least having Asuka come out was a more interesting choice. The DQ loss was a bit weird, especially considering Asuka disappeared immediately after, they could’ve just had Sasha attack Bayley to end the match instead.

It was a rubbish situation, and I don’t blame WWE for having to scramble something together, but there was little action in the match, and it ended on a DQ, so it’s got to go last.

7 – Bobby Lashley(c) def. Apollo Crews
(United States Championship)

Was it just me, or did these two not click very well tonight? It seemed like there were a lot of moments where the timing and communication between them seemed really off in the ring. There was a couple of times where Lashley went to bump way too early on Crews’ offence (or vice versa) and had to readjust. There was some enjoyable stuff, though, I especially liked the opening, where the two kept powering up against each other, and there have been enough moving elements surrounding this story to hold my attention.

At the end of the day, I’m not going to care or remember this match once I’ve finished writing about it, and I definitely think it’s time to see some fresh faces in the US title scene.

6 – Asuka(c) def. Zelina Vega
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Well, I’m thrilled that this got moved off of the pre-show, but they’d clearly only planned for a short pre-show style match.

There were highlights though, I liked the fact that Vega wasn’t just squashed by Asuka (even though she probably should’ve been). I’ve said for ages that Vega is a much bigger and better talent than WWE treat her as, and I hope little performances like this will start to make the wider audience (and those in the back) realise that she’s more than just a great talker/manager. She can go in the ring too.

I’d love to have something more complex to say about this match, but that’s really it. The action was fine while it was happening, but I’m never going to have a desire to go back to it.

5 – The Street Profits(c) def. Andrade & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Well, I still can’t say I was excited to see it, but I think this may have been the best match these two have had (the finish notwithstanding). I suppose it’s bound to happen when you have to wrestle almost every week for six months, but there was a clear feeling of chemistry between the two teams. They told a pretty standard story in the ring, but the action felt very smooth, and the build to the hot-tags got me into the flow of the match.

Sadly, the finish is the only thing anyone will remember. I don’t know what the official word is on what happened, but watching it back, it looks pretty clear to me that Garza messed up his leg. Clearly, this meant some sort of finished had to be improvised pretty quickly, but it feels like the referee didn’t communicate his plans to the wrestlers (or vice versa) and it all went a bit wrong. It’s disappointing – and means that we’re going to have to do this match again once Garza’s healed – but this is what happens on live wrestling shows sometimes.

As I said, I was into the match up until that point, and I guess keeping the belts on The Street Profits is a good idea. I just hope that the draft in a couple of weeks gives them at least one other team to fight.

4 – Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura(c) vs Lucha House Party
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Kickoff Show)

I don’t know if it’s just because the fact it was on the pre-show lowered my expectations, but I found this match rather enjoyable. It was nothing extraordinary or even particularly memorable, but I distinctly remember feeling pleasantly surprised as I watched it. Which isn’t something I often feel for a pre-show match.

I think it’s odd how they didn’t really commit to the story of dissension in the Lucha House Party, but I think it made for a better match. The teamwork between Dorado & Kalisto was a lot of fun to watch, and there were a few really cool spots in there. I really liked the moment when Kalisto was being held by Cesaro, only for Daraod to perform a diving push to give Kalisto the momentum to finish the DDT. Cesaro & Nakamura aren’t forming as nicely as I’d hoped they would though. I think they need to go with a more brutal style to really take advantage of their respective strengths.

I’m not surprised that they retained, but a title change would’ve been nice. I feel like the interesting story is with Lucha House Party right now, and giving them the titles would’ve put a bigger spotlight on that.

3 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)
(Ambulance)

This felt like a nice little wrap-up of Randy Orton’s story in 2020.

It depends on what you like in your wrestling as to how much you’ll have enjoyed this match. As someone who tends to favour the action, I was slightly underwhelmed, however, the story it told was a gripping one. I’ll admit, when the Big Show appeared to attack Orton, I was quite confused and even more confused when he disappeared just as quickly. Given Drew’s response to it happening, I wondered if we were going to see Drew turn heel during this match. Then Christian showed up, and it became apparent what was going on, and once I understood the story they were trying to tell, I started enjoying it a lot more.

They did about as much as they could’ve with the ambulance gimmick, but if we’re being honest, that’s not much. The visual of Drew’s hand reaching out of the ambulance and forcing the door open was cool, but I’m not sure it was worth the slog that surrounded it. The action wasn’t the focus, though, so it didn’t matter. Instead, this was a story that pulled together the loose threads from Orton’s rise to power this past year. Not only with Drew giving him the punt kick and sending off to Smackdown (probably), but seeing all of the legends he’s wronged was a lot of fun.

You could argue it made Drew weak to need all this help, but I’d disagree. Orton’s done some truly despicable things over the past year, and to see everyone come back to kick his ass felt quite cathartic. It’s the classic storytelling trope of the villain finally getting what’s been coming to them all year. Sure, the visual of Ric Flair gleefully driving the ambulance away might be a bit goofy, but it’s a satisfying conclusion to the story. At least until Edge returns for the rubber match.

2 – Sami Zayn def. Jeff Hardy(c) & AJ Styles
(Intercontinental Championship)
(Ladder)

I expected this one to place highly going into it, but I honestly didn’t expect it to be because of Sami’s antics more than the action of the match. The action was good, of course, but it definitely wasn’t what this match will be remembered for. Hardy’s jumped off plenty of ladders in his time, and we all know the crazy stuff Styles is capable of, but never before have we seen handcuffs used so creatively, let alone in a ladder match.

It was utter genius. Firstly, handcuffing by Hardy’s earlobe is horrific, and so much better than the twisting screwdriver Orton did a few years ago (which wouldn’t have even been painful). Pile on that the fact that he was handcuffed to a ladder, and it made for some tense action. Then there was how Zayn used the handcuffs against Styles. First of all, I LOVE the shit-eating grin Zayn got on his face when Styles realised he handcuffed the two of them together. I adore this man, but in moments like those he becomes the most punchable person on the planet, it’s masterful stuff.

I’m not sure where Zayn goes with the title from here, but I’m very excited about it. I’d imagine the first port of call would be a singles feud with Jeff Hardy, one where he undoubtedly uses underhanded tactics to win. From there, the whole world is wide open for Sami, but I’m sure it’ll be wonderfully entertaining.

1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Jey Uso
(Universal Championship)

This is how you turn a bad guy into a monster.

This match turned Roman Reigns into the new Brock Lesnar in all the best ways. It took the best elements from his style of matches and merged them with the brilliant story being told in order to create something that feels new.

The match was paced to perfection. The slow beatdown of Jey for the first third of the match didn’t feel like a bore for a second. Reigns carried himself and moved in the ring like a badass, and I felt gripped by his performance. He’s a guy with a gigantic chip on his shoulder and will take any opportunity to exert his dominance. Jey’s comeback came at just the right time and lasted just long enough to give everyone an optimistic sense of false hope. Much like when people such as Styles & Bryan fought Brock Lesnar, we knew Jey was never going to win, but we want to believe, and that’s what this comeback let us do. It helps that Reigns is one of the best at timing a kickout for the very last second.

Then, there was the final segment. Reigns taking control via an incredibly subtle, but utterly glorious low-blow was such a brilliant touch. Then, the heartbreaking descent into the end of Jey Uso, at least, it would’ve been if no-one had stopped him. As Reigns bore down on Jey, screaming at him and beating him senseless, it felt so very weighty and meaningful. Reigns’ change in attitude has been great fun to watch over the past month, but here is where he became a real bastard. Jimmy throwing in the towel was terrific too, it only serves to put emphasis on just how much Reigns doesn’t give a shit about anything other than getting his way. The truth of it was, I really felt like Reigns would’ve reduced Jey to a bloody mess if Jimmy hadn’t stopped him. The image of Jimmy scrambling in the ring to shield Jey’s body with his own was glorious and will cement Reigns as the bad guy to end all bad guys for the rest of this generation.

If you wanted a flashy, high-action match, then you might’ve been disappointed, but when you take the time to step back and look at the fantastic story that was told here, you should be able to appreciate it on a whole other level.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back this time next week, where I’ll be covering NXT Takeover: 31!