In wrestling, the office gives you the finish. But they can’t tell you how to get there.
Cody Rhodes was booked to win the men’s Royal Rumble match in his return. But it was up to him to make the moment special—and that is exactly what he did from the moment he stepped into the ring.
Rhodes eliminated Gunther to win the Rumble. They crafted a phenomenal, back-and-forth sequence, and the moment served as another illustration that Gunther is going to be a major player for quite some time. Yet the present belongs to Rhodes.
And the future belongs to Rhea Ripley.
Ripley entered the women’s Rumble first, then went the distance. She is slated to face Bianca Belair at WrestleMania 39, which has the potential to be outstanding. Her time is coming, and there is every reason to believe she is on the cusp of a long run as champion.
Here are the results:
- Cody Rhodes won the men’s Royal Rumble match
- Bray Wyatt defeated LA Knight in a Mountain Dew Pitch Black match
- Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair defeated Alexa Bliss
- Rhea Ripley won the women’s Royal Rumble match
- Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens
Noticeably absent from the Rumble match was Sami Zayn. So it was smart to have Rhodes enter last at No. 30, preventing the fan base from getting their hopes up to see Zayn in that spot.
Zayn played a critical role in the world title match. Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens, then Reigns watched as The Usos and Solo Sikoa took turns beating a defenseless Owens. As Reigns was about to hammer Owens with a chair, Zayn stepped in the way and pleaded for Reigns to stop. Reigns then demanded Zayn hit Owens, but he did not—instead hitting Reigns with the chair. The crowd exploded, but it changed quickly when Jimmy Uso hit Zayn with a superkick. Sikoa beat him down, and Reigns punished Zayn, too. But Jey Uso added a different layer, walking away without touching Zayn.
The moment was particularly effective. It turns the extremely popular Reigns into a full-fledged villain, adding another dimension to his character. This also sets up Zayn to challenge Reigns at Elimination Chamber in Montreal, and then Owens and Zayn against The Usos at WrestleMania. This was exceptional, and it continues the most compelling story in wrestling.
Overall, the men’s Rumble was excellent, and it laid the groundwork for WrestleMania 39. The Rumble advanced the story between Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley, Dom Mysterio’s feud with his father, Rey (who never entered the Rumble, presumably, due to an attack from his son), as well as Finn Bálor and a returning Edge. It also started a feud pitting Seth Rollins against Logan Paul.
There was a brief-but-fun return from Booker T, who delivered the requisite Bookend and Spinaroonie, and a return to the broadcast table for Pat McAfee (who played off Corey Graves perfectly). The match also featured a spectacular mid-air collision from Paul and Ricochet, which instantly becomes an all-time Rumble moment.
There are very few guarantees in pro wrestling. But one constant is that any match with a sponsor’s name in it is destined to be bad. That held true in the Mountain Dew Pitch Black match, where Bray Wyatt defeated LA Knight in a match held in a darkened Alamodome. This was quick, ending in five flat minutes.
Wyatt returned to a supernatural creature who is impervious to pain. As if that wasn’t enough, Uncle Howdy hurled himself off the top of a platform onto Knight, which somehow led to a fiery explosion. Wyatt was incredibly believable in his Wyatt Family character, but this current role continues to push realistic suspension of disbelief.
More of the Wyatt storyline peculiarities appeared after Belair defeated Alexa Bliss. Belair overpowered Bliss to retain the Raw women’s championship, and Bliss was then haunted by memories of her time beside Wyatt in the aftermath.
The women’s Rumble was largely centered around Damage CTRL’s Bayley, Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai dominating. Becky Lynch eliminated Kai and Sky, but Bayley eliminated Lynch–which is also building to a match at WrestleMania. Ronda Rousey, who had been rumored to work a match with Lynch at Mania, was not part of the Rumble.
For the first time in nearly two months, Asuka returned. Chelsea Green was another surprise entry, Piper Niven—no longer known as Doudrop—reintroduced herself, and Michelle McCool stepped out of the crowd to enter the match. Nia Jax came out last, her first WWE appearance since September 2021.
Watching Ripley and Liv Morgan start and finish the match added a lot, and opens the possibility of a program between the two in the future. In the waning moments, with Lynch and Bayley already eliminated, there was little doubt Ripley was winning—but that decision is the right call.
This year’s Rumble did not disappoint. Two outstanding Rumble matches and a fascinating world title match carried the card, with a dramatic scene—cementing Reigns as the top heel the company—closed out the show. The build to WrestleMania now begins, and the Rumble provided a clear direction of where WWE is headed.