The annual Road to WrestleMania kicks off every year with the Royal Rumble spectacular. On Sunday night, WWE turned Orlando upside down with the Royal Rumble event. Here’s how things went down at the Amway Center.
The WWE Kickoff Show started an hour before the actual event. The featured match was a Fatal 4-Way tag team match, as The Dudley Boyz faced off against The Ascension, Jack Swagger and Mark Henry, and the duo of Darren Young and Damien Sandow. The winning team would secure two spots in the Royal Rumble match. The Dudleyz had the match won, after hitting the 3D on The Ascension. But Jack Swagger broke up the pin, allowing Mark Henry to splash Bubba Ray Dudley and pick up the victory with a pin on The Ascension. With the win, Henry and Swagger move on to compete in the Royal Rumble match.
The opening match of the Royal Rumble event was a Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Championship. Dean Ambrose brought the title to Orlando with nasty intentions of hurting Kevin Owens. These two battered each other nearly into oblivion, using chairs and kendo sticks to wear each other out. Owens nearly had the champion beat, connecting with his pop-up power bomb, but Ambrose would fight back and put Owens through two stacked tables. It would leave Owens unable to answer the 10-count, giving Ambrose the win and a successful title defense.
The WWE World Tag Team Championships were on the line next, as The New Day defended the titles against The Usos. Xavier Woods even re-introduced another trombone, after the last one was recently destroyed. This was a solid back-and-forth contest, but in the end it was another win for the tag champs. Jey Uso went for a dive off the top rope, but was caught by Big E and dropped with the Big Ending. The champs celebrated as their Road To WrestleMania begins with a big win.
A feud that has had a lot of recent action has been Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto, of the Lucha Dragons. Del Rio lost the United States Championship to Kalisto recently on Raw, only to win it back from him the same week on SmackDown. It set up for a huge confrontation at the Royal Rumble for the title. Del Rio threw everything in the book at Kalisto. Having Kalisto trapped upside down in the corner, Del Rio went to the top rope for the double foot stomp, but Kalisto moved. The challenger would go on to hit a Salida del Sol finisher for the win, giving him a second US Title reign this year.
The Divas Championship has resulted in the end of a friendship. After Charlotte ended Nikki Bella’s reign as champion, she turned her back on longtime friend Becky Lynch. The split caused for a match at the Rumble for the title, as Charlotte’s legendary father Ric Flair was at ringside for the match. These two had a very competitive match, going back and forth throughout the match. Lynch had her Disarmor submission locked in, when Ric jumped onto the apron. It caused the distraction that Charlotte needed, who was able to get to her feet and deliver a cheap shot. Charlotte retains the title, thanks to her dad. But she had no time to celebrate, as former NXT teammate Sasha Banks made her way to the ring. She made it look like she would align with Charlotte, but then attacked the champion and locked in the Bank Statement.
From there, it was time for the 2016 WWE Royal Rumble. As expected, Roman Reigns entered at the #1 position as the WWE Champion. He would be forced to defend the title against every superstar who came in. Fans erupted when the #3 entry turned out to be the hottest free agent in the industry, “The Phenomenal One” AJ Styles, hit the ring. The two worked together briefly to eliminate some of the early field. But midway through the match, the League of Nations stormed into the picture and assaulted the WWE Champion. They repeatedly rammed Reigns into the steel steps, the apron, and everything they could. Then Rusev splashed him through the Spanish announce table, virtually taking him out of the match.
Officials and EMT personnel tended to Reigns, who was never actually eliminated from the match. They put him on a stretcher, but he refused help and walked to the back on his own power. Meanwhile, the action continued in the ring. Braun Strowman entered the ring at #17 and immediately eliminated two of the biggest men in the ring, Kane and Big Show. It was an impressive performance, as was the 28-minute showing from Styles. He would be eliminated by Kevin Owens, who limped his way to the ring after a brutal Last Man Standing match that opened the night. His earlier opponent, Dean Ambrose, came in at #19 and they immediately started brawling.
Towards the end of the entries, The Wyatt Family started to get strength in numbers. Strowman, Harper, and Rowan were all in the ring eliminating the competition. But the #23 entry was Brock Lesnar. The former WWE Champion quickly eliminated Rowan, then took Harper to Suplex City. The Miz came in as the #25 entry but instead of going straight to the ring, he went to the announce table and started doing commentary. Lesnar eliminated Strowman, having tossed the Wyatt members by himself. Bray Wyat came in at 27, and directed his teammates to attack Lesnar. But Lesnar again dispatched them from the ring, and faced off with Bray. Harper came back into the ring and stopped an F-5 attempt. The Wyatts regrouped and eliminated Brock from the match.
Sheamus entered at the #29 spot, but was attacked by the returning Roman Reigns. He stormed the ring and went back to work, having re-entered the match. To the shock of everyone in Orlando, the #30 position belonged to none other than Triple H. Everyone looked on in stunned silence, as they started trading punches in the middle of the ring. After a spur of eliminations and traded finishers from the remaining superstars, the final four would be Reigns, Triple H, Sheamus, and Ambrose. Sheamus delivered a Brogue Kick to Ambrose, before beliminated by Reigns. But the shot heard around the WWE was when Triple H shockingly eliminated Reigns. It would leave Triple and Ambrose as the final two in the ring, guaranteeing a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Ambrose was within literal seconds of becoming the new champion, when Triple H cut him off and dumped him over the top to become a 14-time WWE Champion.
Everybody in the arena looked on in absolute disbelief, as the COO of the WWE did the unthinkable and not only eliminated Roman Reigns from the Royal Rumble, but he captured his 14th WWE Championship. The question now, is what happens next? Monday night’s live Raw broadcast will be full of all sorts of questions, as the Road to WrestleMania gets on track with absolute confusion. How will Roman Reigns react to practically being screwed out of the WWE Championship? What will the celebration be, as The Authority has reasserted their power within the company. The next few weeks will be absolutely incredible, as WrestleMania’s arrival in Dallas draws near.