The road to “WrestleMania 39” officially kicked off at the Royal Rumble, WWE’s first premium live event of 2023. Although the show may have been a little predictable, it was a very entertaining night and set up matches for the biggest show in all of wrestling, “WrestleMania.”
The show started with the much-anticipated men’s Royal Rumble match, with the winner getting a championship match at “WrestleMania.” Intercontinental Champion Gunther was the first entrant and ironman of the match, lasting a record-setting one hour and 11 minutes. Other notable entrants were Sheamus at No. 2, Drew McIntrye at No. 9, Brock Lesnar at No. 12, and Bobby Lashley at No. 13. Lashley eliminated Lesnar, continuing their heated rivalry. Fan favorite Seth “Freakin” Rollins entered at No. 15, only to be eliminated by Logan Paul later in the night. Rey Mysterio was supposed to be 17th, but it was later shown that his son Dominik Mysterio had taken him out backstage.
NXT commentator Booker T made a surprise return to a massive ovation before he was quickly eliminated by Gunther. WWE Hall of Famer Edge entered 24th, his first appearance since “Extreme Rules,” and hoped to get revenge on the Judgment Day for injuring him and his wife Beth Phoenix. Edge was able to eliminate Finn Balor and Damien Priest before they helped Dominik eliminate him from the outside. They continued to brawl up the entrance ramp, where fellow Judgment Day member Rhea Ripley attacked Edge from behind until Beth Phoenix returned and hit a spear on Ripley. U.S. Champion Austin Theory entered at No. 24. Logan Paul made his first appearance back when he entered at No. 29. Paul may have had the spot of the night when he and Ricochet collided mid-air after simultaneously spring-boarding from opposite sides of the ring. To close the participants out, Cody Rhodes made his triumphant return entering at No. 30, his first match since June.
The final four of the match were Gunther, Rollins, Paul and Rhodes. Rollins was of course eliminated by Paul, which many believe could lead to a match between the two at “WrestleMania.” Rhodes then tossed Paul and it was down to two, No. 1 and No. 30. After the two had a mini-match, Rhodes hit a “Cross Rhodes” and a clothesline on Gunther to win the match.
LA Knight faced Bray Wyatt in a “Mountain Dew Pitch Black” match. Knight put Wyatt through an announcer’s table on the outside of the ring early on, but despite this, the match was fairly one-sided. Wyatt hit a Sister Abigail on Knight in the ring to pick up the win. After the match, Wyatt chased Knight up the stage, where he hit Knight with a mandible claw. The mysterious Uncle Howdy appeared and hit Knight with a jumping elbow drop from a very high platform. It seems like the LA Knight/Bray Wyatt/Uncle Howdy storyline is not yet finished.
In the next match, Bianca Belair defended her RAW Women’s Championship against Alexa Bliss. In a competitive match, Bianca was able to continue her reign after hitting Bliss with a K.O.D. and earning the win. Uncle Howdy made another post-match appearance, this time in an eerie video package asking Bliss, “Do you feel in charge?” Belair’s opponent for “WrestleMania” has yet to be announced, but it is to be assumed that she will have a prominent spot on the card.
The “Women’s Royal Rumble” was up next, which saw Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan enter respectively at one and two. They were the Iron Women of the match, lasting the entire way through. Faction “Damage CTRL,” made up of Bayley, Dakota Kai, and IYO SKY, had a strong showing eliminating a combined six competitors during the match. Becky Lynch, entering at No. 15, was able to take out Kai and Sky before being eliminated by Bayley. Asuka made her return at No. 17 with a new look, which got a massive ovation from the Texas crowd. Piper Niven, no longer known as Doudrop, also entered the ring to a roaring crowd. Chelsea Green also returned at No. 20 but was tossed out almost immediately after entering the ring, making her the fastest woman ever eliminated in Women’s Rumble match history. The final three competitors left were Ripley, Morgan and Asuka. All three women were on the ring apron when Asuka hit Morgan with the blue mist, blinding her. Ripley then kicked out Asuka’s legs, eliminating her. Morgan almost eliminated Ripley by hitting her with a codebreaker, but she was able to hang on and throw Morgan to the floor with a head-scissor takedown, winning “Women’s Rumble.” With her guaranteed championship opportunity at “WrestleMania,” she challenged SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair, setting up the first ever one-on-one women’s rematch in “WrestleMania” history.
When it was announced that the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match between champion Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens was the main event, everyone knew that something massive would occur during or after the match. Reigns had said before the show that this would be Sami Zayn’s final test in order for him to fully join The Bloodline. KO put up a good fight against the Tribal Chief, but after three spears and a low blow, Reigns successfully defended his championship. After the match, the rest of the Bloodline came down to the ring and delivered a brutal beatdown to Owens, which included KO being superkicked by The Usos multiple times while handcuffed to the ropes and being crushed in the corner by Solo Sikoa. As Reigns was about to deliver the final blow, a chair shot to the head, Zayn stepped in and told Reigns that KO was beneath him. Reigns handed Zayn the chair, commanding him to hit Owens. Instead, Zayn hit Reigns in the back as the crowd erupted in cheers. All of the Bloodline then beat the former “Honorary Uce” down, other than Jey Uso who left the ring conflicted. This is one of the best storylines in all of wrestling, and the way it concludes at “WrestleMania” is somewhat of a mystery. Although Cody Rhodes is set to challenge for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, a Sami Zayn/Roman Reigns match would also be a good move, considering Zayn is the most popular wrestler in WWE. Another option is Zayn and Owens teaming up and facing The Usos for the WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championships. Either way, “WrestleMania” is shaping up to be an amazing show.