When the dust had settled upon the first ever women's Royal Rumble match, Asuka had outlasted 29 other women and earned herself a right at either the Raw or SmackDown women's championship at WrestleMania.
Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair, who had been sitting ringside to watch the match play out, entered the ring and lifted their titles to offer Asuka her choice of prize to chase.
In that moment, the world of WWE changed in the most dramatic of ways. Before Asuka could choose her opponent, Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" blared through the speakers, Ronday Rousey's name flashed on the screen and, after a moment in which the entire Wells Fargo Center crowd rose to their feet, the biggest name in the history of women's combat sports walked through a black curtain to greet a WWE audience and begin the next step of her career.
She didn't speak a single word to the WWE audience, but she got up in the faces of all three other women in the ring and pointed at the WrestleMania sign -- an indication that she's going right for the top of the food chain in WWE. Rousey walked over to Stephanie McMahon, a woman she has history with inside of a WWE ring dating back to WrestleMania 31at Levi's Stadium, and shook her hand to seal her new status as a WWE performer.
Though Rousey's appearance overshadowed the moment, winning the first women's Royal Rumble match was another step forward in a long line of achievements for Asuka that continues to grow more impressive by the day. She has remained undefeated through two-plus years in NXT and WWE, and with her head down on the way to WrestleMania, she shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
While it looks, for all intents and purposes, as though Asuka versus Bliss and Rousey versus Flair makes the most sense, with no definitive answer the WWE made tomorrow night's edition of "Monday Night Raw" a must-see experience.
The Royal Rumble match itself was special for all parties involved. McMahon joined the commentary team, and Maria Menounos came in to kick off the festivities and serve as guest ring announcer.
A quiet energy filled the air in the Wells Fargo Arena, until Sasha Banks' music hit and cemented her as the first-ever entrant to a women's Royal Rumble match. She was followed by another presumptive favorite, Becky Lynch at No. 2, pitting two of NXT's Four Horsewomen against one another to kick the first women's Rumble off with a bang.
Lynch and Banks traded strikes and submission efforts back and forth, to an audience still trying to get their energy back up for a second Rumble match on the night. The Riott Squad's Sarah Logan came out at No. 3 to interrupt the battle between the two longtime friends, and quickly managed to get a gasp from the crowd as she hit a headbutt to Banks' chin and neutralized Lynch in the corner.
Absolution's Mandy Rose was out No. 4 and went to war with Banks -- a familiar foe in recent weeks on Raw -- while SmackDown superstars Lynch and Logan traded in the other corner. The first shocker of the night came in the form of WWE Hall of Famer Lita, one of the pioneers of women's wrestling in the WWE. She tangled with Lynch and Banks before Rose got a hold of her and they battled in the corner.
Rose became a trivia answer after a little bit of showboating, as Lita sent her flying from the apron to the ring barrier to make her the first woman ever eliminated from a women's Rumble. The second surprise of the night entered at No. 6 as Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane came in and cleaned house -- taking out all four other women with a variety of impressive offensive maneuvers and, to cap it all off, her In-sane elbow on Banks.
Tamina came out at No. 7 to a ring of largely fallen women, but Lita quickly neutralized her with a DDT, followed by a pair of Twist of Fates on Lynch and Banks, and a moonsault onto both women. "You still got it" chants filled the arena. Lita gave Tamina a short run, knocking her out of the ring, but Lynch didn't let her enjoy it as she tossed Lita out right behind Tamina to a massive chorus of boos.
Dana Brooke came out as the No. 8 entry, nailed a couple of front handsprings and then eliminated another of the crowd favorites, pushing Sane off the top to eliminate her.
The second legend of the evening came in at No. 9, as Torrie Wilson made her way into the fray. Logan and Banks took turns trying to attack Wilson, and while they got away from her soon after, Brooke was not so lucky. Wilson tossed her over the top rope and hit a low dropkick that caused Brooke to fall to the ground -- and she hit her head on the apron on the way down to throw salt in the wound.
The other half of Absolution, Sonya Deville, came in at No. 10 and quickly eliminated Wilson via a jumping kick to the midsection. Liv Morgan followed soon after at No. 11, joining fellow Riott Squad member Logan in the ring. As everyone retreated to various corners, Molly Holly added to the legends tally as the No. 12 entry into the match.
She quickly deposited Logan at ringside and hit a full somersault flip onto Banks that sent both women rolling out to the outside without eliminating either. Deville and Morgan got double-team offense in on Lynch, and as Lana entered 13th (to chants of "Rusev Day", no less), they turned their attention to her.
Lana floored Deville with a slap and then went ballistic on Morgan, but then it was time for No. 14 -- former women's champion Michelle McCool, adding yet another legend to the mix. McCool cleared the ring, eliminating Deville, then Morgan, and then Holly, who had rolled back into the ring. With Banks and Lynch down on the outside, having gone under the ropes, McCool added a fourth elimination by tossing Lana out of the ring for good measure.
Absent her Riott Squad compatriots, Ruby Riott had to go it alone at No. 15 to close out the first half of the women's Rumble. The greatest hits continued at No. 16 with a shrill "Excuse Me" or 12, as Vickie Guerrero entered the ring with a microphone in hand. All the screaming got the four remaining women to band together, as they snatched a fleeing Guerrero and tossed her over the top rope to eliminate her.
Carmella, Money in the Bank briefcase in hand, tried to enter the match at No. 17, but Guerrero grabbed the briefcase and smashed Carmella over the back with it. She lay on the outside of the ring while the other four women mixed it up, and Natalya stepped over her as she entered the match at 18. Carmella wasn't having any of it though, popping up and returning the favor to put Natalya out of commission outside the ring.
Kelly Kelly kept the legends train rolling at No. 19, and immediately got into it with a former rival in McCool. Natalya took advantage of the distraction and threw McCool out of the ring head-first, bringing it back down to six women in the ring as Naomi made her entrance at No. 20.
She cleared the ring, but it would be Riott picking up the next elimination. As Lynch tried to skin the cat and flip back in, Riott broke Lynch's grip and eliminated one of the pre-match frontrunners. Hall of Famer Jaqueline came in at No. 21 and quickly laid down the law, teaming up with Natalya and Riott to try to eliminate Kelly Kelly, but the mood changed in a hurry when Nia Jax made her entrance at 22.
Jacqueline was the first casualty, followed by Kelly Kelly, and the rest of the remaining participants rolled under the ropes while Jax press slammed Riott well above her head and into the top turnbuckle -- ultimately taking her out of the match. Naomi countered her with a flurry that led to a hurricanrana attempt, but that led Naomi to get tossed out of the ring onto a pile on the outside, which allowed to go without touching the ground with both feet, though it also left her stuck on the ring barrier.
Much like Andrade "Cien" Almas earlier in the night, NXT women's champion Ember Moon brought a taste of NXT to the Rumble when came in 23rd, one arm still bandaged from her match Saturday night against Shayna Baszler. While Moon took Jax head on, Naomi did a tightrope walk along the barrier, and in a similar spot to Kofi Kingston's effort in a Royal Rumble past, used a rolling chair and wheelbarrowed herself back into the ring. Much like Kingston, though, Jax quickly made that point moot, catching Naomi in mid-air and tossing her out.
The legends parade concluded with another WWE Hall of Famer and a woman who could stand eye-to-eye with Jax in Beth Phoenix at No. 24. After several attempts, Phoenix lifted Jax on her shoulders -- but she couldn't quite get her to the ropes. Enter an old friend and tag team partner, Natalya, who together helped send Jax tumbling out the middle rope. Phoenix embraced Natalya with a big hug but Natalya, ever the opportunist, slapped her old friend and then eliminated her.
The lights went out, and the crowd went berserk as another presumptive favorite, Asuka, entered the match at No. 25. She didn't wait long to get involved, laying out everyone and setting up a face to face with long-time NXT rival Moon. The NXT women's champions past and present went to war, and Moon landed her top rope stunner, The Eclipse, only for Asuka to hit an armbreaker over the top rope to send Moon out of the match.
Mickie James came out at No. 26, and the six-time women's champion in WWE set her focus on Natalya. The five women in the ring battled until Nikki Bella surprised the crowd again as entry No. 27. She leveled everyone in the ring, and for the time being, at least by the numbers, Bella had to be the favorite in entering the match at the point from which the most men's winners have ever come from in Rumble history.
Nikki Bella knocked out long-time rival Carmella, but as everyone else in the match and focused on Nikki, her sister Brie came into the ring to even the odds at No. 28. They worked together to double dropkick Jax, and then did the same with a double suplex to Natalya.
At No. 29, Bayley made her way in, leaving just one spot left to be determined. She hit a double bulldog over the middle rope to both Bella Twins, and then Bayley and Asuka cleaned house.
The crowd chanted "Ronda Rousey," but instead, at No. 30, one final Hall of Famer entered the match instead.
After the rest of the ring was cleared, Stratus and James -- two old rivals who had gone to war many times -- stood toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring. Stratus ultimately threw James out, and the attention of all the remaining women in the match turned to Jax, who quickly and impressively cleared the ring but couldn't keep up the pace with so many targets.
Between kicks from Asuka and Stratus, and then a group effort from everyone else, Jax was ultimately tossed over the top rope and neutralized. In what should ultimately be the most crucial moment of this match outside of Rousey and Asuka going forward, Banks turned on longtime friend Bayley and eliminated her from the match. If there's one rivalry above all others in the women's division that can carry water without a title, it is absolutely Banks versus Bayley.
Stratus eliminated Natalya with a high kick, reducing the field to five -- Asuka, the Bella Twins, Stratus and Banks. Stratus attempted to get cute with a kiss and a rebound bulldog off the top rope, but Banks used the opportunity to toss Stratus out of the ring.
Asuka and Banks went face-to-face, and while attempting to forge a partnership to knock out the Bella Twins, the attention was instead turned three-on-one against Asuka. Banks got in Asuka's face and set up for double knees in the corner on Asuka, only for the Bella Twins to turn on her and send the No. 1 entry out in fourth place.
The Bellas quickly tried to team up and get Asuka out, but each was destined to eat kick after kick to the chest, and then the head. Asuka nearly eliminated Brie, only for Nikki to interrupt the proceedings and nail a Rack Attack on Asuka. Brie became complacent, hanging out on the outside watching and laughing, and Nikki punished her sister for it by eliminating her in heartless fashion.
Asuka nailed a top rope dropkick, and both women struggled to get to their feet. Nikki responded with a springboard kick to the face, and set Asuka on her shoulders. She ultimately got Asuka draped on the wrong side of the ring and nearly knocked her over, only for Asuka to bring Nikki over the top rope onto the apron alongside her with a head scissors.