It was a tale of two Royal Rumbles. For the first 30 minutes, Brock Lesnar destroyed all that was in front of him, devastating 13 consecutive foes and tossing each one over the top rope to tie the all-time Rumble record for eliminations.
But then Drew McIntyre entered the picture at No. 16. With a small assist from Ricochet, McIntyre landed a Claymore squarely to Lesnar's jaw to eliminate the WWE champion. Then McIntyre fought to the bitter end to win the 2020 Men's Royal Rumble -- quite possibly setting up a WrestleMania 36 match with Lesnar in the process.
While McIntyre turned quite a few heads and Lesnar made major waves early on, the biggest shock of all came at No. 21, when Edge -- nine years removed from his last match and having retired from the ring due to concerns with his neck -- entered the match. Showing no signs of having slowed down and appearing to be in great shape, Edge didn't take it easy by any means, taking and absorbing as much damage as anyone on Sunday night at Houston's Minute Maid Park.
By the time Edge got into the match, Lesnar had already come and gone with his historic performance. Lesnar entered at No. 1 and had devastated all who came before him. He broke a guitar over Elias' back, threw John Morrison to scary, dizzying heights with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex out of the ring and then stifled any hopes of Kofi Kingston enacting any revenge, despite a brief charge with Big E and Rey Mysterio in tow. Erick Rowan, Cesaro and Robert Roode were each quickly dispatched along the way, as well.
Even Lesnar's old University of Minnesota running buddy Shelton Benjamin wasn't immune. Shinsuke Nakamura showed flashes. A returning MVP tried to take out Paul Heyman to change the conversation. And still, no one could budge Lesnar, until Keith Lee entered at No. 13. Lee, the newly crowned NXT North American champion, continued to build upon a surge that started at Survivor Series; and for an ever-brief moment, he and Lesnar were portrayed as equals as they bashed each other around the ring. Braun Strowman brought hope that teamwork with Lee could foil Lesnar's attack, but a brief scrap with each other allowed Lesnar a double elimination, pushing his tally to 13.
Ricochet got it as badly as anyone else, but he wasn't tossed over the top rope in time for McIntyre's entrance. Ricochet's low blow was a measure of revenge for an attack from Lesnar on Monday Night Raw, and McIntyre claimed the brief window of opportunity. The Miz came and went at McIntyre's hands, but over the next few minutes, Lesnar and McIntyre continued to lock eyes. It wasn't until AJ Styles entered the ring that McIntyre's focus fully returned to the action.
Dolph Ziggler and Karl Anderson entered the fray, but then it was Edge's turn, setting the arena and social media alike on fire. It was spears all around for those in the ring, and from there it was full speed ahead to the end of the match. Matt Riddle made his Royal Rumble debut, albeit too late to face off in the ring with Lesnar, as he has long begged for, but after a running knee to Edge, he made a quick exit at the hands of King Corbin.
Randy Orton entered the match at No. 25, prompting a Rated RKO reunion, and stereo attacks took out both Anderson and his OC compatriot Luke Gallows. Roman Reigns entered at No. 26 and quickly dispatched Ziggler, then Raw's primary storyline of the past couple of months took over the last few spots. Kevin Owens, Aleister Black, Samoa Joe and finally Seth Rollins rounded out the 30-entrant field, and Rollins' cronies were in tow. AOP and Buddy Murphy instigated the eliminations of all three of the aforementioned Raw stars, and AOP saved Rollins from an elimination, but the ensuing brawl left Rollins surrounded by four unfriendly faces.
A Superman punch, powerslam and Claymore later ... Rollins was out -- leaving McIntyre in the ring with three former Rumble winners in Edge, Orton and Reigns. After teaming up for a double RKO on McIntyre, Edge beat Orton to the punch and double crossed him before Orton could do the deed. Then despite winning a battle of spears with Reigns, Edge fell at Reigns' hands.
McIntyre ate a Superman punch but turned the tide with one final Claymore to Reigns, which allowed McIntyre to log a final elimination and win the match.
Eleven years removed from being tabbed as Vince McMahon's "chosen one" and a future world champion, 5½ years after being released and 2½ years out from returning to the WWE fold, McIntyre will finally receive his first televised WWE world title match.
Raw women's championship: Becky Lynch (c) def. Asuka
This was a solid match with a good finish that the crowd got into late. It probably wasn't as good of a match as the two had last year at the Rumble, but this one told a good story, and the booking made complete sense.
In the lead-up, Asuka had continuously sprayed her poison green mist in Lynch's face. Compound that with Lynch's previous inability to beat Asuka in a singles match and the build was strong. Lynch was able to find the win when she nullified the mist late in the bout.
Asuka pushed Lynch in the corner, where she nearly took out the ref. With the official distracted, Asuka readied to spit the green mist into Lynch's face. Lynch saw it coming and landed a spinning back fist that knocked the wind -- or in this case the green substance -- out of Asuka's mouth. With Asuka stunned, Lynch pounced and locked in the Dis-Arm-Her submission. After holding out for a few moments, Asuka tapped out.
The crowd was quiet at the start but got into it around the 10-minute mark. This one was hard-hitting with plenty of stiff shots. Asuka landed a pelvis buster out of a fisherman's suplex on Lynch. Lynch grounded Asuka with a Rock Bottom from the second rope. There was a cool spot when Asuka was blasting Lynch with kicks to the chest, but Lynch continued to egg Asuka on -- until Asuka landed a head kick to drop Lynch. That earned a two count, and the finish came a few minutes later.
What's next? Lynch seems destined to hold the Raw women's title until WrestleMania, where she won it last year. It could be Flair across the ring from her. That has been done before, but it is still a marquee matchup for WWE. Names such as Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler have been bandied about as potential title challenges at WrestleMania, but that doesn't seem likely after what happened at the Rumble. Perhaps WWE puts something together involving all Four Horsewomen, since Bayley is still the champion on SmackDown.
Strap match for the Universal championship: Bray Wyatt (c) def. Daniel Bryan
The rivalry between "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan has been ultra-compelling. The story has allowed Wyatt to dig deep in his bag of creepy tricks while successfully transitioning Bryan back into his beloved underdog babyface role. The Fiend and Bryan traded advantages on this week's WWE programming, with Bryan standing tall on Raw and the Fiend doing the same on SmackDown. Who would stand tall in Sunday's strap match -- a stipulation Bryan requested -- with the Universal championship held high?
The match began on a positive note, as it was wrestled under normal lighting as opposed to the red light we had unfortunately become accustomed to during the Fiend's matches. The Fiend controlled the early portion of the match by way of a spine-shattering power bomb and relentless whips with the leather strap. Wyatt demonically laughed under his menacing mask.
Bryan's back was red with welts, and the comeback story everyone expected began when Bryan dodged a Sister Abigail attempt. He connected with a running knee and followed it up with an impressive dive off the top rope to the outside of the ring. However, a vicious clothesline by the Fiend put the comeback on hold.
Bryan's next attempt to regain control occurred on top of the announcers' table, where he landed multiple low blows and a DDT. From there, it was Bryan's turn to utilize the leather strap, as he ferociously whipped the champion and combined it with his patented "Yes" kicks. The Fiend begged for more, and he got just that.
But a win for Bryan was just not to be. He kicked out of a Sister Abigail, turned a mandible claw into a Labell lock and hit multiple running knees. It wasn't enough, though. As a frustrated Bryan whipped an unfazed Fiend across the chest with the strap, the champion locked in another mandible claw and retained the title.
What's next? Despite the loss, Bryan's babyface character is adored. He should easily slide right into another entertaining rivalry, as the Fiend awaits a new challenger.
SmackDown women's championship: Bayley (c) def. Lacey Evans
How much can change in just a year. In January 2019, Lacey Evans was the first entrant in the Royal Rumble, her first real in-ring competition on the main roster. Bayley, on the other hand, found herself in the final four of that Rumble but had no real direction to her character.
One year later, Evans found herself as the top face on the SmackDown women's roster, and Bayley had shockingly become the division's heel champion. The two had a real story going into the Royal Rumble, as the title was on the line and Evans' 7-year-old daughter was brought into the narrative, creating an emotional promo two days before the match.
There is no doubting Evans' athletic gifts. She is strong and agile, capable of hitting slingshot moves and a very impressive double-jump moonsault. But those same risks led to some sloppy moments during the match, as she slipped on a springboard attempt.
Bayley worked heel offense during the middle part of the match, but a pair of rear chin locks made the match grind to a halt. It didn't help that the match followed a Rumble match that got the crowd amped with a number of surprise entrants and NXT favorites.
Near the end, the storyline nearly came full circle, with the two fighting in front of Evans' daughter on the outside, but it ended up being a blip on the radar and didn't really play into the finish.
The finish came as Evans ate a pair of knees on her moonsault attempt, and Bayley quickly rolled her up, grabbed the tights and got a three count to remain champion.
What's next? Charlotte Flair has her choice of title opportunity, but it seems more likely she'll stay on the Raw brand to have a rematch with Becky Lynch. Bayley's future will likely come via the Elimination Chamber in March. But wouldn't a Shayna Baszler win in Rumble have made the next three months intriguing?
Charlotte Flair wins Women's Royal Rumble match
"The Queen" achieved another career milestone, and she is once again going to WrestleMania for a title shot.
Flair eliminated Shayna Baszler to win the 2020 women's Royal Rumble. Baszler had control of Flair's legs as Flair hung onto the top rope, but Flair countered and took Baszler over the top rope with a head scissors. Flair came into the match at No. 17 and spent 27:19 in the ring. She has the option to challenge either the Raw or SmackDown champion at WrestleMania.
The match was a fun one, arguably better than last year's. There were some storylines advanced and others started -- including Flair vs. Baszler. The ending was a tad anticlimactic, with many in attendance audibly disappointed with Baszler's elimination. However, a Royal Rumble win makes sense for Flair and WWE.
Outside of Flair, Bianca Belair and Baszler -- both of NXT -- were featured the most. Each had eight eliminations, a total tied for fifth most in history in any Rumble, men or woman. Belair spent the longest time in the match. She came in at No. 2 (Alexa Bliss was No. 1) and spent 33:21 in the ring. The match was a conspicuous one due to the absence of Sasha Banks. Baszler was No. 30.
Some of the highlights of the match happened outside the ring. At one point, it looked as if Mandy Rose would be eliminated, but she was saved by Otis, who was laying down on the outside. Rose landed right on top of him -- face to face. Minutes later, Otis caught Rose again when Bianca Belair attempted to eliminate her. But Otis dropped Rose when Belair tossed Rose's tag partner, Sonya Deville, at Rose and Otis. That spot eliminated both Rose and Deville and could set up further dissension between them. There was a similar situation between tag partners Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross that could lead to a rift.
There were a few surprises, including the return of Naomi and retired veterans such as Beth Phoenix, Kelly Kelly and Mighty Molly. Naomi looked excellent and pulled off an amazing spot to keep herself from being eliminated, jumping from the stairs to the edge of the railing. Eventually, Naomi made her way back into the ring by using a piece of the announcers' table like a plank to keep her from touching the floor.
Phoenix, who came in at No. 19, was one of the final three despite seemingly getting bloodied in the back of her head. She and longtime friend and teammate Natalya worked together throughout the match. They confronted the returning "Santina" Marella, who was the No. 29 entrant. Marella decided to eliminate himself rather than face off with Phoenix and Natalya.
Phoenix, Natalya, Flair and Baszler were the final four. Phoenix turned on Natalya to eliminate her, then Baszler eliminated Phoenix to set up the final spot with Flair.
What's next: Flair gets another title shot at WrestleMania after headlining with Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey last year. The winner between Asuka and Lynch later for the Raw women's title will probably go a long way in deciding who Flair ends up facing in Tampa, Florida. Lynch seems to make the most sense, but who knows? A lot can happen between now and April.
Despite the in-ring chemistry that King Corbin and Roman Reigns have developed, theirs has become the rivalry that just won't end. The story's gas tank, which was filled with corny jokes and dog food, was running on fumes, but the result was an entertaining brawl to open the Royal Rumble main card, with Reigns picking up a definitive victory in the Falls Count Anywhere match atop a dugout.
Both executed some big power moves early -- a side slam by Reigns and a deep six by Corbin -- but it didn't take them long to make their way back to the outside of the ring, where Corbin smashed Reigns with the steel ring steps. They wandered through the crowd for a short stretch, but when they returned to ringside, Corbin delivered two chokeslams to Reigns -- one onto the top of an announcers' table that didn't break and another through an announcers' table that did break.
Next up -- you guessed it -- was another trip through the Houston crowd. As they made their way further away from the ring and approached the International announcers' table section, Reigns delivered two Samoan drops to Corbin through two different tables, but he couldn't put him away.
Corbin's cronies, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, emerged, but when they did, The Usos were there to make the save for Reigns. At that point, multiple brawls broke out, highlighted by Jimmy Uso leaping off an elevated section of seating onto Roode and Ziggler -- and just like that, we were back to Reigns vs. Corbin again, one-on-one.
Around center field, Reigns located a row of Port-O-Lets, and, naturally, he tossed Corbin inside of it and tipped it over. Shortly after that, as the match neared its conclusion, they made their way on top of one of the Houston Astros dugouts (still adorned by 2019 World Series logos), where Reigns connected with a superman punch and a spear, ending the match on top of the dugout.
What's next: Simply put, anything but this rivalry. With a definitive ending to this match, it is time for Reigns and Corbin to move on to something new heading toward WrestleMania 36.
With the crowd still rolling into their seats, Andrade and Humberto Carrillo resumed a monthslong rivalry after Carrillo returned last week on Raw to save Rey Mysterio, following Andrade's victory in a United States title ladder match.
The two showed what they could do early on, pulling from their lucha libre backgrounds as they let the pace fly early on and utilized every part of the ring -- particularly the ropes.
After a quick start, though, it was unrealistic to keep that pace up. But a mid-match drag was followed by another late flurry. Carrillo's offense was on full display as he hit a springboard moonsault to the outside and a hurricanrana on Andrade -- who was standing on the top rope -- but it was only good for a two-count.
The finish was sudden. Carrillo went for another hurricanrana after a pop-up from Andrade, but Andrade rolled through, hooked a leg and got a quick three count.
What's next: With the sudden finish and the chemistry these two have shown, another match might well be in the cards, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see a rematch Monday on Raw. With the WWE champion only occasionally making Raw appearances, Andrade's U.S. title becomes the top men's singles title on the brand, and there's no shortage of challengers. If things go in a different direction, Aleister Black makes a lot of sense as a fresh challenger.
After an extended absence, Sheamus returned to action during the Royal Rumble Kickoff Show and earned a victory over Shorty G.
Sheamus flaunted his power advantage early and often throughout the bout and zeroed in on the left arm and wrist of Shorty G to help eliminate Shorty G's amateur wrestling advantage. Shorty G, who sustained a bloody ear, battled back as Sheamus leaned hard into some trash talk.
Some of Shorty G's best opportunities at claiming victory came after landing a beautiful moonsault from the top rope and a roll-through German suplex, but Sheamus kicked out of both ensuing pinfall attempts. As the match neared its conclusion, Shorty G was able to lock in his patented ankle lock on two different occasions, but Sheamus broke free both times and eventually connected with a Brogue kick for the win.
What's next: Sheamus seems primed for a significant run as part of the SmackDown roster, and this was step one. As for Shorty G, it's back to the drawing board.