0 of 5
WWE’s Royal Rumble pay-per-views have proved to be hit or miss over the years, especially depending on the outcome of the Rumble matches themselves. Thankfully, the 2021 installment was an overall success all things considered.
Edge and Bianca Belair winning their respective Rumble matches was the biggest news of the night, along with the returns of everyone from Seth Rollins and Naomi to Christian and Victoria. Both bouts delivered on the whole and seemingly set several storylines in motion en route to WrestleMania 37.
The two top titles were also up for grabs, first with Drew McIntyre defeating Goldberg in dominant fashion to retain his WWE Championship. Later on in the event, Roman Reigns bested Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing match to keep his Universal Championship reign intact.
Elsewhere on the card, Sasha Banks held on to her SmackDown Women’s Championship with a win over Carmella, while Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler regained the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship from Charlotte Flair and Asuka. The near-four-hour show breezed by and featured its fair share of memorable moments and matches.
Of course, not everything about Sunday’s star-studded show was perfect, and the fans were quick to voice their displeasure over what they didn’t enjoy. This list will look at the best, the worst and the ridiculous from Royal Rumble 2021.
1 of 5
There were plenty of theories among fans as to who could win the women’s and men’s Royal Rumble matches, and ultimately, WWE went with the right winners in both instances.
The women’s Rumble came down to Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair. Flair was a fantastic foil in that she could have believably won for the second straight year, and Ripley winning would have made for an excellent outcome as well.
Ripley can always find her way to WrestleMania despite her loss on Sunday. Belair has been busting her tail this last year on NXT, Raw and SmackDown and deserved that moment as she prepares for the biggest push of her career to date.
Edge coming out on top in the men’s Rumble was also expected yet satisfying. Him entering at number one and lasting the entire time to win the whole thing made for a logical and captivating story that is only just beginning.
Daniel Bryan was another odds-on favorite, but WWE clearly has other plans for him at WrestleMania, and that’s OK. If Bryan wasn’t going to finally win a Rumble, then Edge was the next best choice.
WWE got it right with the Rumble winners again this year. Now the key is in the follow-up.
2 of 5
The Royal Rumble pay-per-view has hosted a handful of Last Man Standing matches over the years, and all of them have been terrific. Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens kept that streak alive on Sunday night when they waged war and produced an outstanding outing as only they could.
The archrivals took their fight around the arena and battered each other with everything they could find. The finish was botched a bit because of Paul Heyman struggling to free Reigns from the handcuffs, but the end result was what it needed to be with The Tribal Chief retaining the title.
The match met (and potentially exceeded) the expectations of fans, but the purpose of the bout should have been to put their rivalry to rest. It’s safe to assume Reigns will now move on to other challengers to his championship, but he once again needed help in order to beat Owens.
Owens looked so strong in defeat that he could have afforded to endure the loss without being protected. Reigns doesn’t gain anything from continuing to win his matches thanks to Heyman and Jey Uso. This should have been the night that he went over in clean fashion.
Again, take nothing away from the matchup itself, which was nothing short of spectacular. That said, the final few minutes shouldn’t have overshadowed everything that came before it. That could have been easily solved by removing the handcuffs from the equation and letting Reigns win on his own.
3 of 5
The feud between Sasha Banks and Carmella over the SmackDown Women’s Championship since October has been better than anyone could have expected it to be, especially given that neither woman has come off as likable at any point during their program.
The ill-defined face vs. heel dynamic has hardly mattered as they’ve developed a great chemistry with each other, both inside and outside the ring. Carmella has stepped up her game in every respect and has held her own against Banks at every turn.
That was once again the case at Royal Rumble when the two contested another entertaining affair. Despite Carmella’s best efforts, it was Banks who reigned supreme with the SmackDown Women’s title still in her possession.
Carmella had a chance of capturing the gold, but Banks holding on to it was the only outcome that made sense. She should be walking into WrestleMania 37 as champion after not being given a proper title reign prior to this point.
Now having lost to The Boss on two separate occasions, Carmella’s time in the title picture is over. She’s turned a ton of heads since returning, so hopefully she can remain a fixture on Friday nights even though her feud with Banks has reached its conclusion.
4 of 5
Not only has WWE yet to deliver a less-than-stellar women’s Royal Rumble match, but this year’s may have been the best of the four they’ve done so far for everything it had to offer.
From Bianca Belair going the distance to the surprise returns to Rhea Ripley’s stellar showing, there was a lot to like about the bout. Most of the eliminations were well done and were logical, and the closing stretch was pure perfection.
The sole low point of the match came when R-Truth ran down to the ring and brought the rest of Raw’s undercard competitors with him. It was the obligatory spot involving the 24/7 Championship that saw Alicia Fox quickly pin Truth for the title before losing it back to him moments later on the outside.
It’s been over a decade since Fox’s last championship triumph in WWE, so while it was a well-deserved moment for a pioneer of the Divas division, the championship itself should be kept far away from Rumbles in the future. It has been a pointless prop for ages and only served to hurt the flow of the fantastic women’s Rumble.
Truth later lost the title to Peter Rosenberg, which should have been the only segment the 24/7 Championship was limited to on the show. Almost anything associated with the 24/7 title is bound to be dragged down, and the women’s Rumble wasn’t the proper place for it.
5 of 5
When Goldberg initially returned to Raw to challenge Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble, fans felt it didn’t make much sense. They never had an
y established issues prior to this point, and WWE did nothing in the lead-up to the event to change that.
Goldberg coming back and winning world title gold for a third time would have completely ridiculous. There was no reason for him to walk into WrestleMania 37 as champion again, and thankfully, WWE was smart to realize that as well.
McIntyre vs. Goldberg on Sunday night was exactly what it needed to be: a short and sweet sprint with McIntyre going over decisively. Goldberg hitting a few of his signature moves on McIntyre kept fans guessing what was going to happen, but the end result was the right one.
Goldberg’s post-match endorsement of McIntyre also made for a cool moment. McIntyre has been firing on all cylinders as WWE champion, and this latest victory cements him as even more of a star than he already was.
It was as hot of an opener as WWE could have had to the Rumble. Goldberg elevating younger talent is what he should be doing at this stage of his career, while McIntyre’s road to WrestleMania is already off to a strong start.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.