It’s Stew’s time to shine!
Every year for the past… I dunno… many (?), I have watched the Royal Rumble match[es], reviewed the Royal Rumbles, and ranked them all in order of my own preference. And now it’s time for the 2023 editions. We’re going to be breaking down the matches, figuring out where the new editions fit in the all-time rankings, and then talking about the rest of the show as a whole.
The biggest question of the night is… how much of a factor will Sami Zayn play? And if his role isn’t as big as fans are expecting, are we looking at a repeat of a 2014 type aftermath? Hmmm.
Let’s get right into it!
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
- The Miz
- Kofi Kingston
- Johnny Gargano
- Xavier Woods
- Karrion Kross
- Chad Gable
- Drew McIntyre
- Santos Escobar
- Angelo Dawkins
- Brock Lesnar
- Bobby Lashley
- Happy Corbin
- Seth Rollins
- Rey Mysterio
- Dominik Mysterio
- Finn Balor
- Booker T
- Damien Priest
- Montez Ford
- Austin Theory
- Braun Strowman
- Logan Paul
- Cody Rhodes
-GUNTHER and Sheamus kick off the match because, for as sad as I am that this match jerked the curtain, they want us to have a great brawl to start.
-Not going to lie! As The Miz hits the ring at #3, I’m already kind of sour-faced. Cody is going to win, right? Which is fine, but… underwhelmingly predictable.
-Poor Johnny Gargano enters the Rumble to NO fanfare whatsoever. Poor Johnny is having a really hard time connecting with large stadium crowds for whatever reason after being a huge favorite of smaller arena crowds in NXT. He is just resonating for whatever reason.
-Miz is the first man out after Gargano and Sheamus double team him. Which means Sheamus beat the hell out of Miz and actually Brogue Kick’ed him out, and Gargano added one (1) kick in the middle of it.
-WAIT. I didn’t watch Smackdown last night. Rey Mysterio beat Karrion Kross?! Jesus. Is Vince back in charge after all?
-Drew is in at #9, and they showed him earlier pulling his number and being pissy about it. I mean… 9 isn’t great, but it’s not AWFUL. No reason to bellyache, Drew! [Scots]Man up!
-Karrion is out due to Drew after a few minutes, making him the second guy out. Damn. They really are already bored with Karrion again, huh?
-Kofi is chucked out of the ring and into one of the commentary chairs, thereby saving one of his feet from hitting. But before anything can matter, Brock Lesnar hits the ring.
-Brock immediately pitches Santos, Dawkins, and Chad Gable. A face-off with GUNTHER is teased for a few moments, but Lashley breaks it up and eliminates Brock to get some revenge for everything Brock has done to him. Brock out in less than 3 minutes!
-Kofi is still not back in the ring…
-Brock clobbers Corbin with an F5 to the floor, with a fan who looks like an underdeveloped Tom Savini screaming in the background “WHAT DID YOU DO, BROCK?!”, hahaha
-Pat McAfee calls Peacock “The Cock”. He just gives no effs.
-Rey Mysterio does not respond to his entrance music… Hmmm. But at the very next number, my newest favorite wrestler, Dom Mysterio, comes out wearing his mask. Dom has Herculean struggles ripping Rey’s mask, haha. I love this kid with my whole heart. I’ll lose my mind if he wins! Dom breaks the Royal Rumble tradition of “New Guy Enters The Ring And Hits All His Spots To Show Off”. He just pisses off Sheamus and gets bludgeoned.
-Claymore/Brogue combo to Elias, JESUS CHRIST. Just kill a guy, why don’t you?
-Corey Graves: “[Balor] looks like the most handsome dude in outer space”.
-Johnny Gargano’s surprisingly good run ends to Judgment Day.
-Booker T hits a Spinaroonie and then puts over GUNTHER. Good enough!
-Damien Priest enters with Dom and Finn still in the match. How badass would it be if Rhea enters while all three are still there?
-Edge at #24. HURRY, RHEA! They need you now! Ah well, Edge tosses Balor and Priest. Dom still needs you! Edge tries to take out Dom, but Priest and Finn save him and eliminate Edge. Edge then battles the two back up the entryway… oh HERE is Rhea. Beth shows up to stop her, and she is lookin JACKED. Jeez, Beth!
-26 and 27 give us Omos and Strowman. BIG MAN SHOWDOWN! Braun with the clothesline to get Omos out.
-RICOCHET gets the spot where there is a pause between the buzzer and his name. That’s a letdown.
-GUNTHER tosses Drew and Sheamus. That was a hell of run for those two. and GUNTHER is still in there!
-Logan Paul is #29. And that means Cody is 30th? Weird.
-Cody eliminates Dom and now I know I have a heart because it’s breaking.
-LOGAN PAUL AND RICOCHET WITH A DOUBLE SPRINGBOARD CROSSBODY FROM ACROSS THE RING TO EACH OTHER. Holy mother of god!
-Seth, now a good guy, comes face to face with Cody. GUNTHER breaks it up, though, before they can get into it. Consecutive Pedigrees to him, and at that point, GUNTHER breaks the record for NON-Greatest Royal Rumbles for duration.
FINAL FOUR: Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Logan Paul, and GUNTHER
-Rollins goes out to Paul.
-Paul goes out to Cody. Now we have #1 vs #30.
-Cody Hulks Up against GUNTHER. This final confrontation is great, by the way.
-If GUNTHER wins, I swear to god, I will give this Rumble a 9/10.
WINNER: Cody Rhodes
-So I guess Kofi WAS eliminated way back when? Aww, poor Kofi. I feel like that might be his second botched save in as many years.
-Cody wins, of course, and you know what? I’m not even mad. I felt THE ENTIRE MATCH like Cody winning was a foregone conclusion, but the final battle with GUNTHER had me BELIEVING. I really thought GUNTHER might do it! And as I mentioned above: the final segment between the two of them was outstanding. Arguably the best Final Two segment ever aside from Taker/HBK in 2007? It’s possible.
So here you had a phenomenal final two. The Logan Paul / Ricochet spot. Dom actually not being too much of a joke and having a good run. Edge and Judgment Day’s battle up the runway. Revenge for Bobby Lashley. The Rock wasn’t in it.
You know what? Predictability is this one’s only weakness. And maybe booking it first WAS the right call. If this went last, I might be dwelling on frustration over Sami not winning. Fair play, WWE.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
- Rhea Ripley
- Liv Morgan
- Dana Brooke
- Shayna Baszler
- Roxanne Perez
- Dakota Kai
- Iyo Sky
- Candace LeRae
- Zoey Stark
- Xia Li
- Becky Lynch
- Tegan Nox
- Piper Niven
- Chelsea Green
- Zelina Vega
- Raquel Rodriguez
- Mia Yim
- Lacey Evans
- Michelle McCool
- Indi Hartwell
- Sonya Deville
- Nikki Cross
- Nia Jax
-Rhea Ripley is #1 so we are either getting a RR repeat of earlier and #1 making it to the end… OR someone else is winning.
Oh god, Rousey is winning to take the belt from Bianca, isn’t she? Oh no. Oh no.
-Just a few minutes in (Shayna’s entrance), and Rhea has a bloody nose. I used to get bloody noses, Rhea! You can get that cauterized! It will stop happening!
-Bayley, Rhea, and Shayna are all in early, giving us a slew of relevant ladies right off the bat. Not that Bayley will win (Shayna either), but we got some stars here!
-New entrants hitting a match and getting in all of their spots is nothing new, but Roxanne Perez does it here and looks FANTASTIC. She’s a star. Pops the crowd, too.
-All three members of DMG CTRL are all in by the end of the first act of the match. They triple-team Roxanne out of the match. I wonder if they can pull a Legacy and own the whole affair. We could get Bayley vs Charlotte at WrestleMania… I could get behind that.
-I’m pretty sure Shayna hit the ground and should have been out, but it’s irrelevant because DMG CTRL eliminates her seconds later from the apron.
-A referee stops Xia Li from entering the ring with her staff. THERE ARE NO DISQUALIFICATIONS, REF. What are you doing? Go watch the 2001 Rumble, guy!
-DMG CTRL beat up Becky on the outside, but they are all still in the match. Becky gets a little break for now.
-I am absolutely in love with Tegan Nox’ hair. I simply must ask my wife if she can do that. Hot.
-Asuka has new music! Has she turned into KANA?! SHE HAS! NEW ASUKA! Bayley gets an “ASUKA’S GONNA KILL YOU” chant. This is easily the high point of the match so far. Asuka seems really happy in her old facade.
-Piper Niven has her name back. Everyone is reverting to older forms tonight!
-Pat McAfee thinks we have been dreaming of a match between Tamina and Piper Niven. Pat McAfee is wrong.
-Becky returns after Tamina’s debut and goes up a storm on DMG CTRL.
-Oh hey, Chelsea Green! That’s a surprise! …and she’s out while I typed that. So there you go.
-WHAT IS HAPPENING? Becky tosses Kai. Becky tosses Iyo. Bayley tosses Becky! LIV MORGAN TOSSES BAYLEY! Slow down, Royal Rumble! I don’t type that fast!
-Zelina Vega comes out in a cross promotion with Street Fighter 6, which causes commentary to spend two minutes making insufferably bad Street Fighter references. Blanka electrocuting people. Hundred Hand Slaps. Oy.
-Mia Yim at #23, and Ripley and Morgan are both still in this match. Why are you booking the Women’s Rumble the same way the Men’s Rumble was booked?
-Lacey Evans’ Identity #7C has entered the Royal Rumble. She uses a Cobra Clutch now? Okay, why not?
-Michelle McCool enters the match from the audience, haha. Okay, that’s something new!
-Sonya Deville comes out at #27, and I pause the show to count. I think I see 12 people in the ring. Although Sonya chucks Zoey Stark right out.
-This is how oblivious I am: Shotzi’s countdown at #28 is the first time I notice the countdown clock has an Applebee’s logo. Has that been there all night?!
-Nia Jax’ music hits before the Applebee’s Countdown even appears. Even her entrance theme botches spots!
-Okay, so no Ronda Rousey after all. Whew! I imagine out of everyone here that it will be Rhea after all, New Asuka, or Raquel, right? Hopefully they all make it to the final four. There’s a ways to go… eleven after Jax is gang-tossed.
-For the second time tonight, Pat McAfee has said “chomp-ionship”. The first time I thought it was a slip of the tongue, but… can he just not say that word? Is this a Benedict Cumberbatch “penguin” thing he has going on?
-Rhea eliminates Raquel, so she does NOT make the final four.
FINAL FOUR: Nikki Cross, Asuka, Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan
-Nikki is right out, so this is more of a final three. We get all three of them on the apron! Asuka mists Liv, then Rhea gets Asuka out. Liv almost gets Rhea out, but Rhea head scissors her off the apron in a really impressive spot!
WINNER: Rhea Ripley
-It feels weird to have debuted Kana-Asuka just for her to NOT win here. This should have been part of the story of her evolution to the clown form. She fails yet again here, posts more cryptic bullshit on social media tonight, and you can do her transformation tomorrow. Just… a strange decision here.
-Rhea wins, meaning both Rumbles went to the odds-on, easily predictable favorites. And while the women’s match was nowhere near as good as the men’s, it did get better as it went on. I feel like it was exciting in spurts, though. Overall, it was pretty enjoyable.
BEST OF THE BEST (10/10):
2001 (Austin III)
TRULY EPIC RUMBLES (9/10):
-2010 (Edge I)
THE GREAT RUMBLES (8/10):
-2007 (The Undertaker)
-1997 (Austin I)
-1998 (Austin II)
THE QUITE GOOD RUMBLES (7/10):
-2008 (Cena I)
-2002 (HHH I)
THE ABOVE AVERAGE RUMBLES (6/10):
-2005 (Batista I )
-2016 (HHH II)
-2017 (Orton II)
THE AVERAGE, HO-HUMBLES (5/10):
-2003 (Lesnar I)
-1996 (HBK II)
-2018 Greatest RR (Strowman)
-2011 (Del Rio)
TOO MANY BELOW AVERAGE RUMBLES (4/10):
-1990 (Hogan I)
-2022 (Lesnar II)
-2013 (Cena II)
-2009 (Orton I)
THE ACTIVELY BAD RUMBLES (3/10):
-1991 (Hogan II)
-2014 (Batista II)
-2000 (The Rock)
-2021 (Edge II)
THE TERRIBLE RUMBLES (2/10):
THE WORST OF THE WORST (1/10):
So that gives us an 8/10 and a 6/10. Not a bad night, and a HUGE upgrade over last year, where both matches were 4/10.
And as for the rest of the show in my usual fashion…
8:03pm: The show is starting off with some guy named Hardy telling me about fighting for glory or whatever. I don’t know who this guy is. Is that because I am old and out of touch, or is he not as relevant as WWE his trying to make him feel? I know a few Hardy’s. Matt. Jeff. Ed. The two detective boys. Is he any of them? Is he Ed? I think he’s Ed. I’ve never seen Ed Hardy. Maybe Vince McMahon took HIS first name away, too.
8:05pm: Pat McAfee is back, and we are kicking off with one of the Royal Rumble matches (I assume it will be the women’s match since that one has less drama). Michael Cole is adorable in his selling of not knowing McAfee was going to come back tonight and the excitement it create for him. It’s like somebody seeing their brother after ten years. McAfee almost falls on his face standing up for the crowd on a spinning chair, but a stagehand saves his butt.
8:08pm: Wait, it’s the MEN’S Rumble to start? Oh, that bodes poorly for any hope of Sami winning, doesn’t it? Hell, he isn’t even going to be in it.
9:31pm: My feelings are all over the map in the wake of the Men’s Rumble. That match’s ending was predictable from the moment it was booked first. But it was a great match. But it also shows some possibly frustrating dedication to pre-determined plans by WWE. If the Sami/Bloodline story really goes on to be Sami and maybe KO vs The Usos at WrestleMania… man, what a letdown that will be. It HAS to be Sami vs Roman at ‘Mania. One night or the other. Curious to see how they can get there now, though.
I will continue to stew on this during the Mountain Dew match.
9:39pm: Bray’s best entrance music was still The Fiend’s music. This isn’t bad, but… not on that level.
9:41pm: Oh, this match is a rave. Bray’s black light face paint is pretty rad, but once you get past that, this is silly nonsense.
9:44pm: Why is there neon confetti on commentary table? It looks super, but it makes no sense.
9:46pm: Worse night so far: LA Knight or Karrion Kross? They both looked like punks.
9:50pm: OH MY GOD, UNCLE HOWDY DID A FLYING ELBOW DROP TO A FOOT OR TWO NEXT TO WHERE LA KNIGHT WAS LYING! Showing replays of that are not your friend, WWE.
9:55pm: Raw Women’s Title match time. Watch out, Bianca Belair! Uncle Howdy will perform a move near where you are!
9:58pm: I get a kick out of the 5 mile long entryways WWE has for the big shows nowawdays.
10:01pm: The LED display with the Royal Rumble logo has flickered a bit. Am I imagining that? Or is this more spooky magic? Hey, remember when Alexa could telekinetically throw arena fixtures at Randy Orton? That could help her win tonight. She should do that.
10:06pm: OH HEY, whatever happened to the story they were starting with Asuka going darker and maybe bringing her Dark Clown identity to WWE? Have they dropped that?
EDIT @ 11:27pm after the Women’s Rumble: HA! I guess they didn’t, right?
10:07pm: That match was a thing that happened, with Bianca just whipping Alexa’s butt. Let’s see what happens in the aftermath.
Oh, just a vignette we have already seen. Okay. The story moves on! It’s fine; I am patient. Take your time and develop this stuff.
10:13pm: Women’s Rumble time, okay! You already read all that by the time you got here.
11:28pm: It’s 11:28pm, we have a main event still to go, and we are giving Fred Hardy here a concert? You know what? I’m happy. My headphones were getting uncomfortable, so I can take them off and start proofreading what I’ve written so far.
11:44pm: Thank god I did some proofreading, because this was a mess. I’m terrible at typing this stuff up while I watch. Also, my Mac’s instant auto-correct hates so many wrestlers’ names. Tegan Nox was Tegan Not, The Miz was The Mix. Iyo Sky was Iso Sky. You are my nemesis, autocorrect.
Time for the main event, though!
11:57pm: So far, this is a wrestling match. A good one! But… I have no notes.
11:58pm: Aw, Owens slipped on his moonsault spot. Which: no shame. I couldn’t do that move in a million years. I am only sad because I like the very rare occasions he busts it out. It’s a thing of beauty.
12:01am: Sami hesitates when ordered to give Roman a chair, allowing KO to get a near fall. Shortly thereafter, KO kicks out of The Spear for the SECOND time! Wow!
12:03am: KO with a SICK bump on the steel steps. Looks like his head smacked the top step. THEN ROMAN DOES IT AGAIN. God!
12:05am: Okay, Roman wins with a third Spear and after MurderDeathKilling Owens outside the ring.
Post-Match, The Bloodline just TORTURES Kevin Owens. 1-D. A hip check with a chair on his head. Superkicks and Superman Punches. This is legitimately unpleasant to watch. Great storytelling. SAMI INTERRUPTS A CHAIR SHOT. Here we go!
Roman gives the chair to Sami and tells him to hit KO. “THERE AIN’T NO GOING BACK NOW”. “I LOVE YOU”. “PULL THE TRIGGER”. Roman going full on Lucifer here.
SAMI HITS ROMAN! SAMI HITS ROMAN! Sami breaks Jey Uso’s heart! Jimmy attacks Sami! Solo attacks Sami! Jey does nothing! JEY LEAVES THE RING, CRYING AS HE WALKS AWAY.
THIS IS GRIPPING. THIS IS WHY I WATCH WRESTLING. The greatest ending to a match in years, and this story is just half over.
I’m clearly going to spend the next 24-48 hours collecting myself after that. So my brain is fried.
Now it’s on you: What did YOU think of the Rumbles? What would you YOU rank them? What were the hits and misses of both matches?
And–oh yeah–what did YOU think of that ending?
Until next time, by which point, MAYBE my chills will have subsided, take care!