WWE Royal Rumble 2024 Review (28/01/2024)
By Mick Robson
Patreons got this review first, as well as all the content The Arena puts out. For early access and to support the work we put in here, check out patreon.com/thearenamedia
Note: To support and read everything early, you need to be at least on the "Nosebleed Section" tier- that's $3 USD (or $5 AUD). Less than a cup of coffee a month to help keep this thing going!
Like many wrestling fans, the Royal Rumble might well be my favourite day of the year. Sure, WrestleMania is the bigger show, with all the glitz and the grandeur, but the Rumble is just so FUN. The beginning of the Road to WrestleMania. The high stakes. The surprises. The mulititude of open story possibilities. Even the most jaded fan can't help but have their interest piqued by the Royal Rumble.
In case you've been living under a rock- the Royal Rumble match. 30 men- and now, in more recent year, 30 women- compete in a battle royal style match. Starting with two participants in the ring, a new entrant comes in every 90 seconds. Elimination occurs when you go over the top rope and both feet touch the floor. The winner of the Rumble gets the main event- or at least, a title match- at WrestleMania. You're welcome.
Other matches on the card- well, there's not many others. The man with a death grip on the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship, Roman Reigns, defends his crown against 3 worthy contenders, as he faces Randy Orton, AJ Styles and LA Knight in a Fatal 4 Way match. Then, Logan Paul defends his US Championship against Kevin Owens, bringing us to a full card of 4 matches. But each Rumble match should go at least an hour, and PPVs/PLEs under Triple H's regime have tended to run a bit shorter, so we'll see how it plays out, and what magic this year's Rumble can whip up.
Let's do this!
No matches on the pre-show. Triple H does a hype up promo with Kayla Braxton just before the main PLE card, complete with his DX "Are you ready?" bit.
As Michael Cole and Corey Graves welcome us to the show, "LET'S GOOOOOO!" blares over the speakers, and Pat McAfee joins us to serve as guest commentator for the night. It's not a surprise to Cole this year, but Graves is beside himself.
They show the four men involved in the Fatal 4 Way entering the arena earlier in the day while the set's being worked on. HIlariously, Randy Orton's video spoils the entrance of Roxanne Perez in the women's Rumble, as they test run her entrance graphic while Orton walks down to the ring.
Match 1: Bayley wins the Women's Royal Rumble (at 1:05:00)
Thoughts: Very strong start, weak middle portion, and an excellent finish.
When Nattie was the first entrant, I was expecting a big #2 to go against WWE's resident workhorse in the WWE women's division. I thought it would be Jade Cargill, but instead it was a returning Naomi, who I also thought we would see as a surprise entrant, but this was a great use of her. Nitpick- it was weird for the commentary team to completely lay out while Naomi's music and graphics were playing. I get what they were trying to do with it, but to me it took away from the television impact of the moment for them to sit in silence. Awesome to see her back in the fold, she looked emotional and it was an immediate jolt of energy to the match and the show.
A few spots later was the shocking surprise debut of current TNA Knockouts Champion Jordynne Grace. Stuff like this is why I make a point of staying offline as much as possible in the couple of days leading up to the Rumble, as this apparently leaked, but it was a complete shock to me. Commentary put her over massively, she wore her TNA Knockouts Championship belt out there, named as such by Michael Cole. She had a nice run in the match, before taking a huge elimination with an apron KOD by Bianca Belair. A little different to Mickie James appearing in the Rumble as Knockouts champion a couple of years ago- Grace isn't a former employee that WWE were trying to make good with, and apparently Mickie was on a per appearance basis with Impact at the time, while Jordynne is completely under TNA contract. A nice sign for a WWE/TNA working relationship in the future. Get Moose and Joe Hendry over here!
The middle of the match was fairly average and sloppy. Maxxine Dupri is a very attractive woman, but clearly not ready for prime time as she struggled to deliver a headscissors twice to Bayley, and generally seemed lost and awkward through the rest of her run in the match. You also had your midcarders in the division throughout that portion which seemed to lose the crowd a fair bit.
Things picked back up at #21 with the arrival of Becky Lynch. She did a great job in her interactions with Nia Jax, who she's been feuding for the past several weeks. Then the run of surprise entrants- starting with the aforementioned Roxanne, but that's only scratching the surface, as Jade Cargill, Tiffany Stratton and Liv Morgan are our final 3 entrants. Cargill looks every bit a mega star, and gets that reaction as she gets rid of Nia Jax by herself, then Becky Lynch and Naomi. Stratton immediately wipes out the field with a massive Swanton, then takes it to the major players in the match, looking every bit like she belongs. Bayley has the Ironwoman run, but scratches and claws her way to victory, quickly knocking Liv Morgan out after Liv disposes of Jade in an awesome spot.
Star Rating: ****. I thought they might have gone with Lynch winning to give someone the accolade of winning a women's Rumble twice, and also to re-establish Lynch after taking some losses this past year. But Bayley ticks "Rumble winner" off her career checklist, and seemingly has Damage CTRL stablemate in her sights. Interested to see how we get there in the coming weeks. Highly entertaining Rumble match overall.
Match 2: WWE Undisputed Universal Championship- Roman Reigns (c) def. AJ Styles, Randy Orton & LA Knight (at 19:30)
Thoughts: Nice start with an overconfident Roman assuming the challengers will just fight amongst themselves, only for them to all turn and put the boots to him. Unfortunately, they can't help but fight it out before long, with egos clearly coming into play as they take turns hitting Orton's patented back suplex on the announce table move.
We get a little finisher spam as each of the challengers seemingly having the match won at different times, only for the count to be interrupted. Orton hits RKOs on everyone and goes for the cover, but Solo Sikoa pulls the referee out. He's wearing a hoodie to try and hide his identity for a split second before pulling it off anyway. Why? There's no disqualifications! The "mysterious hooded figure", who always turns out to be a member of the Bloodline, is becoming a meme at this point.
They get a bit too cute with Solo stacking up LA and Orton, and the referee not counting because, according to Corey Graves, "both men's shoulders are down". Well, there's literally decades of finishes that disagree with that logic, Mr. Graves. Eventually, Styles flies in and hits Reigns with a Phenomenal Forearm, knocking the champ onto the pile. AJ covers them all, and they all kick out. Reigns' shoulders weren't even on the mat! Stupid.
The finish comes when Reigns pushes LA into an AJ springboard attempt. Superman punch on Knight, Spear on AJ, Roman pins the Phenomenal One. And still.
Star Rating: ***1/2. Certainly action-packed, and the crowd was largely into it. But like I said, they definitely got too cutesy for their own good with a couple of spots. And can someone- for the love of God- finish their story so we can put an end to all the Bloodline interference bullshit that's been happening for the last 3+ years?
Match 3: WWE United States Championship- Logan Paul def. Kevin Owens (via DQ) (at 14:00)
Thoughts: Logan Paul is getting far more comfortable in a WWE ring, both as a wrestler and a character. His trash talk towards the crowd, KO and even the commentators while he's executing the match are all top-notch. This match had a more natural flow, whereas some of his other matches, as awesome as they've been, have felt like a heavily rehearsed stunt show. This one had more of a story, with Logan continually targeting the hand, and Owens finding the heart to carry on.
Logan also cut off Owens on some high risk moves, getting the knees up at the right time while also looking to hit his own stuff, with a mixed success rate. In the end, because he's a despicable heel, he got one of his YouTube buddies to run interference, then his mates from Smackdown, Austin Theory and our own Grayson Waller.
Theory slipped Logan the knux, but Owens manages to grab them and smash Paul with them. He covers, and the ref goes down to make the count- but spies the knux on his hand! That's a DQ, brother.
We get a little extra-curricular activity as a frustrated KO powerbombs Logan through the announce table.
Star Rating: ***1/4. Another quality match that fell a little short of expectations. This one was by design given the finish. If I had to guess, the natural progression would see Kevin Owens face Logan Paul one more time at Elimination Chamber in Perth. Hopefully in some kind of no DQ/gimmick match- a ladder match would be all kinds of fun! (I'm assuming the Chamber match itself will be for some kind of major title or contendership)
Main Event: Cody Rhodes wins the Men's Royal Rumble (at 1:08:25)
Thoughts: In viewing this Rumble, one naturally compares it to the Rumble we had earlier in the night and in a lot of areas, it comes up lacking. For surprise entrants, the women had Naomi and Jordynne Grace. The men got Omos and Pat McAfee in a Drew Carey-esque comedy spot. The closing stretch of action in the women's Rumble was dynamic and outside the box, the men gave us the obvious final 2 in a "forced epic" situation. Cody vs. Punk wasn't quite Taker vs. HBK, to say the least.
That's not to say the whole thing was terrible. Bron Breakker was an explosive addition to the match and added to it tremendously. R-Truth and the "hot tag" spot with Dominik was brilliant. Great to see Andrade back. Carmelo Hayes had an excellent showing. Grayson Waller was fun in his brief run, coming out with a microphone to interrupt the Uso brothers fight.
Speaking of... Jey Uso was the Ironman of the match but seemed to spend the majority of his almost 51 minutes in the Rumble lying down or chilling in the corner. Sami Zayn came back and did a bit of nothing. Gunther and Drew, despite making the final 4, have had far better Rumble performances in the past. CM Punk- a major selling point of the match- seemed absolutely wrecked pretty quickly into his Rumble time. The final two saw the big stars playing to the crowd. They chose Cody seemingly, so Punk heeled it up, saying "I didn't come back after 10 years to lose to Dusty's kid!", only to... immediately lose to Dusty's kid.
Star Rating: ***1/2. So it looks like Cody is going to finish the story. I thought WWE wouldn't be able to resist the story of "Punk returns after 10 years to win the Rumble", but instead went with, "first back-to-back Rumble winner in a quarter of a century", which is also cool, I guess. But yeah, the action, especially the closing action, wasn't really up to par. Punk looked old and tired, and guys like Gunther and Drew seemed a bit uninspired compared to their usual selves. I should probably make clear, this Rumble wasn't the worst of all time or anything. It was just "okay", but "okay" doesn't really cut it for a main event Rumble match.
(Retracting some of the Punk criticism as this was written before news of his injury came out. Stand by the rest of it though.)
Post-match, Cody jaws with Roman Reigns, who's watching along with the Wise Man, Paul Heyman. They don't even bother showing Rollins as the commentary acknowledge that it's most likely Reigns that Cody will choose.
A video package airs of 2024 Rumble highlights to end the show.
The 2024 Royal Rumble was a solid, serviceable show overall. The results were what they needed to be, I just felt the way we got there could have been more unique or exciting. The show peaked quality-wise with the opening women's Royal Rumble and never really got back to that level of energy. Part of me wonders if the crowd was a factor- they didn't react massively for a lot of the quality stuff we did have, which hurts the atmosphere and perhaps even the output of the performers.
As much as I'm looking forward to seeing how these results shape WrestleMania (and before that, Elimination Chamber in Perth, which I'll be at ringside for), I do feel a slight sense of disappointment. Maybe it's because Alpha Academy were advertised for the men's Rumble and got scrapped. Anyway, give the women's Rumble a watch. And the rest if you want, but if you happen to skip it, it's not worth losing sleep over.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Until next time, take care.