WWE
ROYAL RUMBLE 2024
JANUARY 27, 2024
TROPICANA FIELD
ST. PETERSBURG, FL

Watch: Peacock

MEET YOUR REVIEWER

Suit Williams: On a weekend notable for many reasons involving Vince McMahon, this show marks the first major WWE event to ever occur without a McMahon in the company. From Jess McMahon being the matchmaker at Madison Square Garden, to Vince Sr. running the Capital Wrestling Corporation and the WWWF, to Vince Jr. running the company and taking it international, the name synonymous with professional wrestling in this country is now mired in disgrace. The company marches on, not wanting to be “bogged down” with negatives like a pervasive culture of sexual misconduct. It’s Royal Rumble time! 3! 2! 1! ERRRR! Follow Suit on social media @SuitWilliams, find his long-form work here at Voices of Wrestling, and follow his weekly coverage of AEW Collision at F4WOnline.com.

WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
BAYLEY WINS

Reviewing a Rumble is challenging due to the length of the match and the number of THINGS happening, so I’ll run through the notable things first. Naomi made her long-predicted return here, with commentary noting her recent run in TNA. TNA Knockouts Champion Jordynne Grace came out, with commentary noting that she recently beat Naomi to win that title. R-Truth ran out because he thought it was the Men’s Rumble. Ha ha, very funny.

Jade Cargill made her in-ring debut at #28, eliminating Nia Jax, who had been dominant in the match. Liv Morgan returned at #30 and made it to the final three with Cargill and Bayley, who had been in since #3. Morgan eliminated Cargill before Bayley dumped Morgan off the apron to win the Rumble.

The match was no good, but I’ll talk more about the Rumble as a whole in this day and age later on. Bayley wins here, and she will most likely end up facing Iyo Sky for the Smackdown Women’s Title. Her win here is to tease the idea of her challenging Rhea Ripley for the Raw Title with Damage Control holding all the gold. The story has been the rest of Damage Control slowly nudging her out, and I expect that to come to fruition before long and get the WrestleMania match set up. A solid story, but Bayley isn’t the worker she used to be, so my hopes for the match aren’t super high. **

UNDISPUTED WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP
ROMAN REIGNS (C) DEF. AJ STYLES, RANDY ORTON, LA KNIGHT

Every verse is the same as the first when it comes to a Roman Reigns title defense. He gets in trouble, an Uce in a hoodie shows up and slowly reveals himself before helping Roman retain. It’s as formulaic as a Jeff Jarrett World Title match in TNA. While the crowd was much larger for this match than it would have been in the Impact Zone, the crowd was ice-cold for the majority of it. That wasn’t exclusive to this match, as for most of this show, the announced 48,044 people in Tropicana Field sounded quieter than the 2,000 or so people in Bossier City, LA for AEW Collision on the same night. There was no fear of a title change here, as no one bought this historically significant title reign ending in this manner. Reigns took out Orton with a Spear, Knight with a Superman punch, and pinned Styles after a Spear. The Reigns of Terror rolls on. **1/2

WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
LOGAN PAUL (C) DEF. KEVIN OWENS BY DISQUALIFICATION

It’s been said before in this space, but Logan Paul is a good pro wrestler. He’s a great athlete, but he has physical instincts that get his charisma across without being too overbearing about it. It’s the difference between a big-time main eventer and an “indie guy wearing sunglasses and smacking gum.” He obviously doesn’t need to do it because he’s already got money, but if Logan Paul wrestled regularly, he could develop into something very special. Look up his CryptoZoo game, he’s a carny by nature.

This was a solid match, with Paul working over the injured hand of Owens. Paul had some really good offense here, locking on an Octopus Stretch at one point and wrenching on the hand. Owens kicked out of Paul’s big punch, leading to the overbooked finish. Paul’s unnamed friend – named by Pat McAfee simply as “Jeff”, one of the few things McAfee knew on this night – tried to interfere, but the referee got security to try and get him out from ringside. Austin Theory and Aussie Theory – Grayson Waller – came out, running distraction so they could get Paul his brass knuckles. Owens caught the punch, took the knuckles, and knocked Paul out. But the referee caught Owens with the knuckles on his hand during the pin and awarded Paul the win via disqualification. After the match, Owens put Paul through the announce table.

The feud looks like it will continue, and if it means Kevin Owens getting a big plunder match at Wrestlemania, I’m looking forward to it. ***1/4

MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE
CODY RHODES WINS

Same as the Women’s Rumble, I will go through the notable happenings before giving my thoughts. Yeet and No Yeet were #1 and #2, as Jey and Jimmy Uso got their hands on each other to start things. That went nowhere, as Jimmy was eliminated by Bron Breakker, who Dave Meltzer confirmed took the place of rumored surprise entrant Brock Lesnar. Andrade returned to WWE at #4, scoring zero eliminations in 23 minutes. Welcome home, geek.

Karrion Kross got the anti-pop of a lifetime for his entrance, not even getting a reaction when suplexing Dominik Mysterio. Lashley and Kross eliminated each other, leading to their teams – Street Profits and the Authors of Pain, respectively – getting into a brawl. Pat McAfee, who made it clear throughout the night that he had not watched a second of WWE since the last time he was around, entered the match and immediately eliminated himself. R-Truth came out thinking this was a tag team match, ha ha. So funny. The Rock did not appear, with #30 instead being the returning Sami Zayn.

The final six of Cody, Punk, McIntyre, Gunther, Zayn, and Damian Priest got a polite golf clap during their big staredown. Cody hit a Pedigree at one point to zero reaction. Zayn eliminated Priest, but McIntyre eliminated him, leaving the final four of McIntyre, Gunther, Punk, & Cody. It came down to Punk and Cody, who had a ten-minute match within a match. Punk hit a Pedigree of his own for zero reaction, but after saying he didn’t come back to lose to “Dusty’s kid,” Cody came back and eliminated Punk to win the Rumble. Afterward, he pointed at Roman Reigns in the skybox, indicating that he wants to Finish The Story™ in Philly at Wrestlemania.

Two Royal Rumbles in one night is a mistake, especially with a creatively bereft promotion like WWE. The Royal Rumbles aren’t structured well anymore, especially the further we get away from Pat Patterson’s involvement in putting them together. For a promotion whose fans fawn over their expert storytelling, these matches don’t feel full of stories and anticipation for the WrestleMania season. They just feel like an hour of people doing stuff. That ultimately comes down to star power. Nobody in this match felt like a big-time star, save for Cody Rhodes, R-Truth and his comedy, and maybe CM Punk. The best Rumbles are the ones with the most star power, and despite what people may tell you, WWE is severely lacking in it outside of the top three or four guys. *1/2

Speaking of Punk, we may need to have a conversation about him. I understand that he has not wrestled on TV since All In: Wembley at the end of August, so a little rust is understandable. But after a nine-month absence post-Brawl Out, he wrestled a 22-minute multi-man match on the first episode of AEW Collision and looked fine in the process. Toward the end of his 21 minutes in the ring for the Rumble, he looked like his gas tank was nearly empty.

The physical stuff is one thing, as Punk will probably start to get more ring time as time goes on and knock whatever rust he has off. What was more worrying was the fact that he and Cody had an extended back-and-forth at the end of this Rumble, and nobody seemed to care. We have to start considering the fact that this version of the WWE Universe may not hold CM Punk in that high of regard. They’re told he’s a big star, but so far, coasting off of the fact that he’s back in the fold doesn’t seem to be working for that audience. It’s one of many disconnects that I have with this fanbase.

I’m not saying Punk isn’t a big star either. He’s still big box-office-wise, as the ratings for his segments still consistently move. But could that be Punk fans of old, who would count as lapsed WWE fans, popping back in to see their favorite? Does the day-to-day, Tribal Chief-acknowledging, Samantha Irvin TikTok-following, modern WWE fan care about CM Punk being back? Or is he just a guy from an era of the company that they weren’t around for? Maybe I’m overreacting to what may have just been a tired crowd. But whenever two of the biggest stars in the company get as muted of a reaction as Rhodes and Punk got at the end of this match is cause for concern.

Or maybe it isn’t. As quiet as they were, there were still over 40,000 people in the building. WWE claimed an all-time gate record for any non-WrestleMania show. What they’re doing is energizing their fanbase to buy tickets and come to the shows. But I’ve never seen a promotion consistently do this big of business while having a product this uninspiring. It’s a great place to be if you’re WWE. Miss the peak with a new top star? It’s fine, just run it back next year. Does the big Tribal Combat match bomb to a spectacular degree? No problem, just get Board Member Dwayne on the line, he’ll get a viral moment. It’s WWE. They’re too big to fail. Netflix is about to pay them $500 million a year for this product. They’re an unstoppable machine, and it’ll just keep churning out content and succeeding despite itself.