A new era is beginning in WWE.
For the first time in his career, Drew McIntyre won the Royal Rumble. And for the first time since 1992, a Flair also won, as Charlotte Flair emerged victorious in the women’s Rumble.
The pay per view included a number of highlights, including Brock Lesnar eliminating 13 straight men before getting knocked over the top rope by McIntyre; Bianca Belair and Shayna Baszler shining in the women’s Rumble; Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan combining for a compelling Universal title match; and an incredible surprise return to the ring by Edge.
The closing sequence was a feel-good moment, as McIntyre claimed his place in wrestling history and now will likely challenge Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36 for the WWE title.
Here are the results from the show:
• Sheamus defeated Shorty G on the pre-show
• United States champion Andrade defeated Humberto Carrillo on the pre-show
• Roman Reigns defeated King Corbin in a Falls Count Anywhere match
• Charlotte Flair won the women’s Royal Rumble
• SmackDown champion Bayley defeated Lacey Evans
• “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt retained the Universal title against Daniel Bryan in a strap match
• Raw champion Becky Lynch defeated Asuka by submission
• Drew McIntyre won the men’s Royal Rumble
Here are my takeaways from WWE’s first pay per view in 2020:
• Cain Velasquez never appeared in the Rumble, and WWE instead chose to run with Drew McIntyre as the man to eliminate Brock Lesnar—and now attempt to dethrone him of his WWE title at WrestleMania.
There is history between Lesnar and McIntyre.
McIntyre’s first run in WWE began in 2007 amid extremely high expectations, but ultimately ended in a quiet release in June 2014. McIntyre frustrated the wrong people in WWE due to a perceived arrogance and stubbornness.
“In WWE, a lot of people took my passion as me thinking I was better or knew more,” McIntyre told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “I am very passionate about this business, and I always have been. I’m not a ‘Yes Man,’ and I’ve always preferred to go back-and-forth and find something we both agree on so I can do it to the best of my ability. That was taken in WWE as trying to do what was best for me. In reality, I was trying to be different.”
By 2012, McIntyre was mostly off television. But the one storyline presented to him was to join Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal in the comedic heel trio known as “Three Man Band,” which was a far cry from his debut as “The Chosen One.”
“I remember Brock Lesnar walked up and said to me, ‘Why are you doing this?’” McIntyre told SI.
Six years after his release from the company, McIntyre will have the chance to show Lesnar what he is capable of at WrestleMania.
• Charlotte Flair won the women’s Royal Rumble match, surprising those—myself included—who expected the finish to go in the favor of Shayna Baszler.
Ronda Rousey did not return, which was expected as soon as it was announced that the match would take place second on the card.
Flair has certainly had some high-profile matches for WWE since last April’s WrestleMania 36, including a one-on-one encounter with Trish Stratus at SummerSlam and a place in December’s TLC tag team main event, but she remained covered by Becky Lynch’s shadow for the majority of the year.
Will WWE run with a Flair-Lynch main event for WrestleMania 36? Or does the match need Rousey to return for a rematch of last year’s triple threat headliner?
• Brock Lesnar turned in a throwback performance in the Rumble.
Lesnar reminded the wrestling world that there is no one like him in all of the industry. He opened the Rumble with four straight eliminations, then had a compelling showdown with Kofi Kingston, whom he defeated for the WWE title this past October. Lesnar then bumped and sold for Kingston, Big E and Rey Mysterio, before eliminating all three men for his fifth, sixth and seventh eliminations.
The 42-year-old was energetic, engaged, and his presence added to the intrigue of the match. He seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself, especially when former collegiate wrestling teammate Shelton Benjamin came out as the 10th entry.
I wish WWE found some way to include the Rusev-Bobby Lashley feud into the Rumble, as that program is in a desperate need of a jumpstart—and both could have benefitted from moments in the ring with Lesnar.
Lesnar eliminated the first 11 competitors, then shared the ring with Keith Lee and Braun Strowman before eliminating both of those giants to tie Strowman’s elimination record from the 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble in 2018. The Lesnar-Lee interaction was phenomenal.
That marked the end of his dominance, as a Claymore Kick from McIntyre eliminated Lesnar.
A program with McIntyre is the perfect use of Lesnar, who should use his status to help elevate talents on the cusp of superstardom.
• Once again, Daniel Bryan brought out the best in Bray Wyatt.
The strap match was a smart concept, as the belt left red marks all across Bryan’s back, a visual that only enhanced the frightening nature of “The Fiend.”
Bryan is one of the best babyfaces in wrestling. He sells for his opponents, and he was effective in making Wyatt appear even more powerful than usual. The match, which was wisely fought in normal circumstances without red lighting, saw Bryan rally numerous times, kicking out of a Sister Abigail and maneuvering his way out of the Mandible Claw. Bryan was so electric that he had the audience buying into the idea that he was going to win, until the inevitable occurred and Wyatt used the Mandible Claw to finish the job.
Plus, the story saw Bryan so badly injured by Wyatt that he was never a consideration as an entry into the Rumble match, which was smart on WWE’s end since there were no plans to include Bryan in the Rumble.
• Becky Lynch and Asuka combined for a phenomenal match.
The finish was creative, with Lynch avoiding Asuka’s green mist and capitalizing to lock on the Disarmer for the submission win. With the victory, Lynch finally picks up a win against Asuka, which is an accomplishment she had been seeking since last year’s Royal Rumble.
The two battled for over 16 minutes, and the performance should quiet those who criticize Lynch’s in-ring abilities. Moving forward, hopefully the two re-engage their program later this year, perhaps by SummerSlam in August.
As for Lynch, she is seeking a second consecutive WrestleMania main event.
• The women’s Rumble served as a solid way to advance multiple storylines.
Lana and Liv Morgan continued their program by eliminating one another, Chelsea Green was provided a chance to showcase her new character to the WWE fan base, and it will be interesting to see if Beth Phoenix’s elimination on former tag partner Natalya Neidhart will lead to a match at WrestleMania 36. My only complaint is that Dakota Kai never shared the ring with Tegan Nox, which is a missed opportunity to further advance their feud before they meet in NXT on Wednesday.
• The most meaningful return in the women’s Rumble was made by Naomi, who should be immediately placed in a world title program, most likely with Bayley on SmackDown.
Bianca Belair also stood out with her undeniable charisma. She was highlighted throughout the match with eight eliminations and lasted for over 30 minutes.
The Otis spot, where Otis prevented Mandy Rose from being eliminated, will go down in Rumble lore.
• The Rumble set up a number of possibilities for WrestleMania, which is only 69 days away.
Edge’s return adds so much to the current WWE landscape. The next time he touches a microphone to give his return address should be remarkable. A matchup with Seth Rollins could headline any pay per view, as could one with Reigns, Orton, Bryan, Wyatt or AJ Styles. It will be such a great addition to have Edge back on television in an active role.
WrestleMania 36 should be a loaded card. Roman Reigns vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt is likely to take place for the Universal title, and all signs point to either a singles match pitting Charlotte Flair against Becky Lynch—or the possibility that Ronda Rousey returns for WrestleMania.
There were some gripes, but overall this was a very entertaining Royal Rumble pay per view that builds even more excitement for WrestleMania 36.