The 2022 Royal Rumble was filled with surprises as wrestling’s biggest stars returned to the ring.
60 entrants, two winners later, the road to WrestleMania is now underway.
Here is a look back at what happened at this year’s edition of Royal Rumble and what to watch for going forward.
1. Underwhelming Men’s Royal Rumble match overshadows rest of card
The annual 30-man Royal Rumble match was the main event of this year’s PPV, but in hindsight perhaps it shouldn’t have. And if we’re using hindsight, there are a few other things that WWE may have wanted to change.
The result of the Rumble makes all the sense in the world, with Brock Lesnar winning his second career Rumble match. Before covering the result, though, it’s worth examining the prelude to the crescendo.
On the undercard of the Rumble match, the duo domination of Baron Corbin and Madcap Moss was quite underwhelming. There’s a difference between legitimate heel heat and unfavoured apathy, and both Corbin and Moss have the latter.
Their elimination of AJ Styles, the No. 1 entrant, let the air of the match at a time when it felt like Styles had quite a bit of momentum behind him. That also meant there was no “marathon man”, which isn’t always a necessity, but when you have a wrestler that has the talent of Styles it would make quite a bit of sense to showcase his skills as long as possible.
The relatively early eliminations of Damian Priest, Austin Theory and Ricochet, among others, while keeping stagnant veterans such as Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio and Sheamus felt like it quieted any sort of momentum that the younger stars could have attained.
Later in the match, there was a quick positive reaction for No. 28 entry Shane McMahon. His theme song hit and the crowd momentarily popped for the “Here Comes the Money” tagline. But that was the extent of the excitement. McMahon went on to eliminate Kevin Owens, doing no favours to the match in terms of garnering excitement. The elimination of Owens felt extremely bland.
Lesnar entered the match at No. 30 but instead of having to eliminate legitimate wrestlers like Owens and Styles, Lesnar had to go through the likes of… Bad Bunny.
The majority of the Men’s Rumble match left much to be desired.
2. Having Lesnar win the Rumble was excellent storytelling
The way in which Lesnar arrived as the Rumble victor was an excellent piece of storytelling. Lesnar lost his WWE Championship earlier in the night by way of a swerve when Roman Reigns took advantage of an incapacitated official to deliver a spear and a championship belt to the face of Lesnar, with the belt being provided by Paul Heyman, Lesnar’s former advocate.
Heyman’s allegiance to Reigns is nothing short of excellent, smarmy manager work. With Heyman siding with Reigns and leaving Lesnar in the cold, it sets up the ultimate chase for the championship from Lesnar where he will undoubtedly go through a few hoops before arriving at a championship match at ‘Mania with Reigns.
It’s not often you can put Lesnar in a scenario where he’s a babyface chasing a championship, but that’s exactly how WWE has positioned the now two-time Royal Rumble winner.
3. Ronda Rousey is back and it’s great for WWE
Ronda Rousey’s return to wrestling is great for both WWE and for wrestling fans.
Rousey hadn’t been seen in a WWE ring since 2019 at Wrestlemania where she lost the Raw Women’s Championship to Becky Lynch in a triple threat match that also included Charlotte Flair. With Rousey eliminating Charlotte to secure her spot at ‘Mania, it makes sense that Rousey and Flair will headline one of the two nights of action.
Having a star the calibre of Rousey, someone who is committed to the craft of wrestling and has admired it for years, is a coup for WWE. Her presence immediately moves the needle for any fan interested in watching.
4. The Women’s Royal Rumble was strong
In a pretty stark contrast to the men’s match, the Women’s Royal Rumble had a decent mix of current talent, with the top end stars featured in a prominent role, and legends.
The final five consisted of Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair, Shayna Baszler, Charlotte Flair and eventual winner Ronda Rousey. It shone a bright light on how strong the top of the women’s division is in WWE.
Sasha Banks’ early elimination seemed as though it was a puzzler for those in attendance, and then the woman who eliminated her, Queen Zelina, was not featured as a prominent participant afterwards so there was a lack of storytelling, but outside of that the match was strong.
WWE Hall of Fame member Lita received a large ovation when she came out as the No. 26 entrant. The crowd was extremely happy to see Ivory, who at 60-years-old, was as entertaining as ever while playing her old Right to Censor character. She was tossed over the top rope by Ripley while chastising all the women competing in the Rumble in what will be one of the most memorable moments of the night.
There was a major eruption from the crowd for former WWE wrestler and current Impact women’s champ Mickie James, who represented the Impact brand very well. Fans were undoubtedly excited to see the top women’s champ from another wrestling organization in a WWE ring, something that rarely happens in WWE.
5. Plenty of controversy surrounding ending of Universal title match
The opening match of the Royal Rumble card was Roman Reigns defending his Universal Championship against Seth Rollins.
The match was really strong from the start when Rollins entered to the duo’s former Shield theme music, with the story that Rollins was attempting to throw the champion off his game.
Rollins was fantastic early and often in the match, playing a confident bordering on cocky babyface type wrestler, similar to a mid-90’s Shawn Michaels, both in terms of attitude and athleticism.
Reigns did eventually take over, though, and was able to lock Rollins in a guillotine choke. It looked as though Reigns had the win but when referee Charles Robinson picked up Rollins’ hand to check for wrestling-vitals, he dropped his hand on to the bottom rope, which then led to Reigns not breaking the hold and being disqualified, but still retaining the championship. It was a very, “WHAT??” type of moment.
This will lead to speculation that these two are not done with each other quite yet. Even though it looks like it’s going to be Lesnar vs Reigns at ‘Mania, there still could be to a triple threat WrestleMania match between Lesnar, Reigns and Rollins. That would be a flashback to WrestleMania 31 when Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract during the main event between Reigns and Lesnar.
The argument surrounding the conclusion of the match pertains to why Reigns couldn’t pick up a clean victory over his opponent, rather than a mirky finish which then left the opening bout of the night, on the second biggest event of the year, in question. There wasn’t much clean about it other than the first 95 percent of the match.
Overall the show was solid up until the Men’s Royal Rumble match, which is unfortunately what most fans will remember over everything else.