30th Jan2023

‘WWE Royal Rumble 2023’ PPV Review

by Phil Wheat

Welcome to this review of the Royal Rumble 2023, right here on Nerdly. I’m Phil Wheat and we have not only TWO Rumble matches to look forward to but also a Bloodline main event that promises to bring things to a head with that long-running storyline! Let’s get into it.

Match #1: Men’s Royal Rumble  – Winner: Cody Rhodes

The following is courtesy of wwe.com:

Before the match started, the surprises had already begun as Pat McAfee made his return to commentary, delightfully shocking Michael Cole. Fight Night kicked off the Men’s Rumble as Intercontinental Champion Gunther and his fierce rival Sheamus entered at No. 1 and 2, respectively. Not long after Sheamus scored the first elimination by Brogue Kicking The Miz (No. 3) into oblivion, he formed a match-long alliance with his good friend Drew McIntyre after The Scottish Warrior entered at No. 9. McIntyre got payback on Karrion Kross (No. 7) by eliminating him, though Kofi Kingston (No. 4), known for his spectacular saves, took a nasty tumble as Gunther threw him out. Business picked up when Brock Lesnar (No. 12) rumbled his way to the ring, eliminating Santos Escobar (No. 10), Angelo Dawkins (No. 11) and Chad Gable (No. 8) in quick succession. Bobby Lashley (No. 13) immediately made an impact of his own, attacking Lesnar and Spearing Sheamus before eliminating The Beast and bringing the WWE Universe to a fever pitch. An infuriated Lesnar destroyed the announce table with steel steps before F5-ing Baron Corbin (No. 14) as Corbin was attempting to enter the match. Moments later, 2019 Royal Rumble winner Seth “Freakin” Rollins (No. 15) immediately made an impact by tossing Corbin in the ring and then out of the Rumble before also eliminating Lashley.

Rey Mysterio (No. 17) was supposed to enter, but he never came out. Dominik Mysterio (No. 18) followed by holding his father’s mask, perhaps revealing what happened to his father. Dominik received backup from Finn Bálor (no. 20), as they threw out Gargano. At number 21, Booker T shocked the WWE Universe by entering his ninth Rumble, delivering a Bookend and a massive Spinaroonie before being eliminated by Gunther. With Damian Priest entering at 22, The Judgment Day was at full force and eliminated Montez Ford (No. 23). Their momentum was stopped when Edge (No. 24) made his return, disposing of Bálor and Priest, but The Judgment Day got the last laugh when Priest and Bálor helped Dominik eliminate The Rated-R-Superstar. Edge continued his assault on The Judgment Day until Rhea Ripley blindsided Edge with a clothesline, but Beth Phoenix returned to obliterate The Nightmare with a massive Spear. The ring soon filled with giants when Omos (No. 26) and Braun Strowman (No. 27) battered each other until Strowman eliminated The Nigerian Giant. Although they each tried to save each other throughout the night, McIntyre and Sheamus were eventually eliminated by Gunther. Rounding out the field were a pair of Superstars returning from injury: Logan Paul (No. 29) appearing in his first Royal Rumble Match and Cody Rhodes (No. 30), who most recently defeated Seth “Freakin” Rollins in a Hell in a Cell Match while competing through a gruesome pectoral injury.

Rhodes made good on his return, tossing out Dominik and Strowman. In an electrifying moment Paul and Ricochet (No. 28) stood on the apron and trash-talked one another before each launching themselves off the opposite top ropes and crashing into each other full force in mid-air. With the match down to Rhodes, Paul, Gunther and Rollins, The Ring General broke Rey Mysterio’s record for longest time spent in a traditional Royal Rumble Match, lasting more than 70 minutes. As Rhodes and Rollins were trading blows, Paul snuck back in to eliminate Rollins. Rhodes, however, ended Paul’s night by getting rid of the brash Superstar. With the last two competitors having entered at numbers 1 and 30 respectively, Gunther and Rhodes battled for the ultimate glory for almost another 10 minutes. Rhodes paid homage by trapping Gunther in the ropes and hitting him with a kick below the belt, but Gunther fought back with a massive dropkick and a Powerbomb. After an earth-shattering Cross Rhodes, Rhodes realized his dream by clotheslining Gunther over the top rope to win his first Royal Rumble Match, much to the delight of the WWE Universe.

My Score: 4 out of 5

Match #2: Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match – Bray Wyatt def. LA Knight

The following is courtesy of wwe.com:

The first-ever Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match proved to be a bizarre but captivating battle that also was the first match for Bray Wyatt since his return. With the arena darkened, LA Knight and Wyatt took it to each other, the ringside area lit up in glow-in-the-dark colors. Knight quickly brought the fight to Wyatt, jumping onto his adversary and crashing through the announce table.  With no disqualifications in play, Wyatt took out a toolbox while Knight tried to incapacitate Wyatt with a Kendo stick. The weapon assault was to no avail as Wyatt connected with Sister Abigail to win his return match. After the match, Wyatt continued to stalk Knight, who frantically attempted to fight him off with a Kendo stick, only for Wyatt to put him in the Mandible Claw. Uncle Howdy then appeared and made a jaw-dropping jump off a scaffold and onto Knight before fire engulfed the surrounding area.

My Score: 2 out of 5

Match #3: Raw Women’s Championship – Bianca Belair def. Alexa Bliss

The following is courtesy of wwe.com:

After months of an unstable Alexa Bliss attempting to find her footing while dealing with constant appearances by Uncle Howdy, Bianca Belair had her work cut out for her when defending the Raw Women’s Championship. Bliss started out strong, using Belair’s hair against her in an electric opening sequence that kept The EST down. Belair showcased her agility by hitting Bliss with a moonsault before attempting the K.O.D., but Bliss evaded the deadly maneuver and connected with a DDT. Bliss stayed aggressive until she was leveled by a massive K.O.D., as Belair kept her reign intact. After the match, Uncle Howdy mocked Bliss from the TitanTron, asking, “Do you feel in charge?”

My Score: 2 out of 5

Match #4: Women’s Royal Rumble – Winner: Rhea Ripley

The following is courtesy of wwe.com:

Rhea Ripley (No. 1) had her night start as a Nightmare after being Speared by Beth Phoenix earlier in the evening. Ripley had to contend with Liv Morgan (No. 2), who had volunteered to start the match the past couple of weeks. Dana Brooke (No. 3), Natalya (No. 11), Tamina (No. 19) and Morgan broke their record for most Rumble appearances with six, while Emma (No. 4) made her first appearance at the Royal Rumble, despite being a pioneer of the Women’s Evolution. B-Fab (No. 7) also made her first appearance but had the dubious honor of being the first woman eliminated. Bayley (No. 6), Dakota Kai (No. 9) and IYO SKY (No. 10) dominated, as Damage CTRL eliminated Brooke, Emma, NXT Women’s Champion Roxanne Perez (No. 8), Natalya (No. 11), Shayna Baszler (No. 5) and Candice LeRae (No. 12). NXT had quite the presence with not only Perez but Zoey Stark (No. 13) and Indi Hartwell (No. 26) making their Royal Rumble debuts.

The Man Becky Lynch entered at number 15, trying to take out Damage CTRL, but the trio overwhelmed her and hurled her over the announce table. Asuka (No. 17) and Piper Niven (No. 18) both showed off new looks with Asuka returning to a deafening ovation and eliminating Tegan Nox (No. 16). Chelsea Green (No. 20) continued the parade of returnees but was eliminated in brutal and quick fashion by Ripley. After being tossed by Ripley, Green broke the record of Superstar eliminated the fastest in the Women’s Rumble. Lynch soon made her way back in the ring, eliminating Kai and SKY before Bayley had the final laugh by tossing The Man. Morgan, however, stunned Bayley by immediately throwing her over the top rope as well. Lynch and Damage CTRL then brawled their way to the backstage area. Zelina Vega (No. 21) dressed as Juri from Street Fighter and eliminated Xia Li (No. 14). Michelle McCool (No. 25) entered the Rumble in unique fashion, coming into the match from the front row. McCool dominated early, hitting Vega with the Faithbreaker and tossing Tamina (No. 19). Rounding out the field were Nikki Cross (No. 29) and a returning Nia Jax (No. 30), the latter of whom stopped all the other women in their tracks.

Jax had a bullseye on her from the get-go, with all the other competitors ganging up to try to eliminate her, but she was able to shake them. Ripley took a piece of Jax in all-out rage, dropping her with the Riptide before the other 11 Superstars eliminated Jax from the Rumble. As the field thinned, Niven was eliminated by Raquel Rodriguez (No. 22), while Morgan and Ripley broke the record for longest time in the ring. Ripley continued her dominance by ejecting Rodriguez, and Morgan dumped Cross, leaving the final three as Asuka, Ripley and Morgan. With everyone having gone over the top rope onto the apron, Asuka attempted to hit Ripley with the green mist but instead blinded Morgan. Seconds later, Ripley got rid of Asuka. Morgan, blinded with the mist, kept up the attack and almost eliminated Ripley. Ripley, however, flipped the blinded Morgan off the apron with a devastating headscissors takedown to win a record-setting Royal Rumble.

My Score: 3.5 out of 5

Match #5: Undisputed WWE Universal Championship – Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens

The following is courtesy of wwe.com:

Heading into his Undisputed WWE Universal Championship defense against bitter rival Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns had exonerated “The Honorary Uce” Sami Zayn but said that Zayn had one final test to fully join The Bloodline, which would happen at Royal Rumble. KO made good on his promise to defeat Reigns or die trying. A heart-pounding splash from the apron onto Reigns to the ringside floor followed by another splash from the top rope took the wind out of Reigns.  Reigns eventually connected with the Superman Punch after his first attempt was countered. Reigns’ Spear attempt was also evaded as KO countered into a brutal Swanton Bomb that nearly gave him the win. Owens nearly scored the win after hitting Reigns with a Pop-up Powerbomb, but WWE Official Chad Patton was down on the outside after Reigns had shoved Owens into him. Reigns took advantage by hitting Owens below the belt, then barked at Zayn to get a steel chair, but Zayn had some hesitation. Owens then Stunned Reigns out of his boots with Reigns barely escaping the pinfall. Owens kept on fighting, kicking out after another Superman Punch and Spear combo. Zayn pleaded with Owens to stay down as Reigns obliterated KO with a Spear through the barricade. Zayn then watched in horror as Reigns repeatedly drove KO’s head into the steel steps. Owens tried to fight back but Reigns connected with a third Spear that ended KO’s championship aspirations. After the match, the rest of The Bloodline joined the ring, with The Usos connecting with a 1D on KO and Solo Sikoa hitting a huge hip splash onto Owens in the corner. Paul Heyman then brandished a pair of handcuffs, locking Owens in the ropes and allowing The Usos to pummel him with superkick after superkick. As Reigns was about to hit a defenseless KO with the chair, Zayn stopped Reigns, pleading with him that this was beneath the champion. Reigns then handed the chair to Zayn and demanded that he strike Owens with it, even slapping Zayn across the face several times. Zayn instead used the chair to hit Reigns, seemingly ejecting himself from The Bloodline. An enraged Bloodline beat down Zayn, sans a deeply conflicted and emotional Jey Uso, who left the ring and headed back up the ramp in disgust.

My Score: 4 out of 5

Final Verdict: 4/5

This was an intriguing Rumble – with three great matches in the two rumble matches and the main event but everything just fell flat. The Bray Wyatt match was, frankly, a huge misfire. It looked good with the black light but I don’t think the concept really came off right, even more so when the appearance of Uncle Howdy and the rest of the Firefly Funhouse was underlit and came off totally muddled. Even the women’s title match didn’t work – that had been built like a huge feud so I, honestly, expected something more hard-hitting, more vicious from the two. But it felt like a regular match, not something you want from a PPV match… at all. Thankfully the two Rumble matches hit the right notes, with the men’s match really having a big-fight PPV feel – and a stunning star turn from Gunther who, despite not winning, came out of this one looking better than the eventual winner Cody Rhodes… who, I may add, was the most predictable winner of this entire pay per view. In terms of the women’s match, there were some really odd choices to make their return to the WWE – how many are permanent remains to be seen – but the in-ring action was great and the winner, Rhea Ripley, was a perfect choice. As for the main event… the match was good but the post-match storytelling elevated it to the next level. Truly. I haven’t been 100% on board the Sami Zayn/Bloodline story but the fact this one hit home even for me was a sign of truly great storytelling. And has me even more excited to see what’s next for Sami, KO, and in particular Jey Uso. Brilliant. Just brilliant.


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