The men’s and women’s Royal Rumble matches are two of the most exciting matches on the calendar year. Not only do surprise entrants create unexpected situations, but WrestleMania implications are tied directly to it as its winner earns a spot in a championship match at WrestleMania.
This year’s men’s version featured a number of potential scenarios on the road to WrestleMania with top tier names, including Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and Randy Orton all vying for a title opportunity.
Elias kicked things off as entrant No. 1 and the first surprise came right right out of the gate at No. 2. WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett returned to the Royal Rumble match for the first time since 1999. The two teased singing a duet, but Elias caught him with a cheap shot, cracked a guitar over his back and tossed him over the top rope right before last year’s Rumble winner, Shinsuke Nakamura, entered at No. 3. Nakamura was followed by another Hall of Famer in Kurt Angle, who was eliminated by Nakamura five minutes later.
Another surprise came at number six when the new NXT North American champion Johnny Gargano entered the match. Gargano made quite an impact when he eliminated the number seven entrant and former WWE champion, Jinder Mahal.
Two favorites entered the match at Nos. 8 and 10 when Samoa Joe and Rollins made their entrances, respectively. Joe tossed out Big E in quick fashion while Rollins eliminated Elias.
Kofi Kingston arrived at No. 12 and it was only a matter of time before he added another athletic Royal Rumble achievement to his list. Dean Ambrose, who entered at No. 14, tossed Kingston over the top rope, but Kingston managed to keep his feet pressed against the ring apron. There was no replay, so it was possible both feet touched. Nevertheless, he proceeded to tumble himself toward the steel ring steps with his feet draped on the ring apron and re-enter the ring.
McIntyre entered at No. 16 and unleashed multiple Claymore kicks to quickly take control of the match. He then assisted with another Kingston moment as Xavier Woods made his way to the ring. McIntyre tossed Kingston onto Woods, who caught him in an odd sunset flip-type of position and carried him back to the ring. When they both re-entered, McIntyre instantly clotheslined them both out.
Three glimpses of the promising future of pro wrestling came at Nos. 18, 19 and 21 when WWE UK champion Pete Dunne, Andrade and Aleister Black arrived and all put together some nicely designed sequences with other members in the ring. Black made the biggest impact of the three when he eliminated Dean Ambrose.
Big names, including Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio and the Intercontinental champion Bobby Lashley, entered at Nos. 24, 25 and 26, respectively. Lashley was eliminated in mere seconds by Rollins and an angry Lashley pulled Rollins out of the ring under the bottom rope and slammed him through the announcers table. Rollins would lay in that spot for the next 15 minutes.
Braun Strowman entered at No. 27 and immediately eliminated of Baron Corbin and Shelton Benjamin, but it was the next entrant that made one of the biggest eliminations of the match. Dolph Ziggler entered at No. 28 and, with Strowman’s assistance, eliminated McIntyre.
Randy Orton arrived at No. 29 and squared up with Strowman. Strowman caught Orton with a power slam before assisting Andrade, Ali and Mysterio with a stacked version of an avalanche suplex from the top rope.
A big surprise came at No. 30 when R-Truth attempted to enter the match. He was attacked from behind by Nia Jax, who like Beth Phoenix, Chyna and Kharma before her, entered the men’s Royal Rumble match. She recorded an elimination on Mustafa Ali before being super kicked by Ziggler, hit with a 619 by Mysterio, RKO’d by Orton and then ultimately eliminated by Mysterio.
The final four featured Andrade, Ziggler, Strowman and Rollins. Andrade was tossed out first by Strowman, followed by Ziggler shortly after.
With Rollins playing the major underdog to Strowman, the two battled until both ended up over the top rope and standing on the ring apron. Rollins tossed Strowman into the ring post, then executed his curb stomp finisher to sent Strowman onto the floor.
Top Superstars from Raw, SmackDown and NXT — including Randy Orton, Braun Strowman, Kofi Kingston, Drew McIntyre and more — fight for a title opportunity at WrestleMania