The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest nights on the WWE calendar as the picture for WrestleMania starts to become clearer. A historic night was poised to take place in Philadelphia with the first women's Royal Rumble. With the Universal championship, WWE championship and both sets of tag team titles also on the line Sunday night, the appeal stretched well beyond the Rumble matches.
Tim Fiorvanti recapped the action as it happens, with match ratings and more from ESPN Stats & Information's Sean Coyle. This story was updated in real time.
(c) - Indicates defending champion
Asuka wins Women's Royal Rumble
A complete recap of this match, which includes the arrival of Ronda Rousey, can be found here.
Triple threat match for the Universal championship: Brock Lesnar (c) def. Braun Strowman and Kane
If a contingent of WWE fans came into the Royal Rumble dreading the possibility of a Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns WrestleMania Universal championship match, there wasn't much about the Rumble triple threat between Lesnar, Braun Strowman and Kane that would make that scenario less likely.
Sure, Lesnar ultimately picked up the victory by F-5ing and pinning Kane, not Strowman, who has mostly had his number, but unless Strowman or someone else has something to say about the scenario at Elimination Chamber, we seem closer to Reigns versus Lesnar today than we've ever been.
Strowman still managed to walk away from this match smelling like a rose, as in command of the WWE Universe as any active superstar on the roster. He was the first to enter, followed by Kane, who got a somewhat ... well, less hearty reaction. The crowd picked back up as Lesnar, sans any Paul Heyman pre-introduction, jogged out to the top of the ramp.
Heyman did his shtick, the crowd followed along and the action was underway. Lesnar attacked Kane, but then Strowman showed off another attribute, his speed, by battering both men, back and forth between corners. Lesnar got Strowman up, but Kane caught him and chokeslammed him, sending Lesnar rolling out of the ring and leaving the two rivals to clash with one another.
This was not a match of nuance, by any means, as weapons came into play and big move followed big move. Lesnar took advantage of there being no disqualification in a triple threat, introducing a chair. While it took Kane out, it only made Strowman mad. He tossed Lesnar down to the floor like he was a cruiserweight, dumped Kane out as well and then took the steel ring steps to batter both Kane and Lesnar before lifting the stairs over his head in triumph.
Strowman went under the ring to find some more toys, and the Philadelphia crowd roared as he introduced a pair of tables into the ring. As Kane started to get his bearings, Strowman set up a table in each corner to inflict further damage. Both men got a chokehold of each other, and despite it being Kane's signature move, Strowman got the best of the exchange by landing the chokeslam and a pin attempt that had to be broken up by Lesnar.
A series of German suplexes did little damage to Strowman's momentum, and the moment Lesnar turned his back, Strowman hit a powerslam that put Lesnar through one of the tables. Kane sent Strowman through the other table shoulder-first and then followed with a chokeslam in revenge on Strowman -- only for Lesnar to break up another pinfall.
Lesnar countered with an F-5 on Kane, but Strowman picked Lesnar up around the belly when he went for the pin and flung him with ease, using a release German suplex to send Lesnar tumbling under the bottom rope.
After several previous instances of putting Lesnar through commentary tables, Strowman readied Lesnar for yet another repeat visit. Lesnar flipped the script, though, getting Strowman up for an F-5 and putting the monster through the table in a taste of his own medicine. Lesnar then returned another favor by flipping a second commentary table onto Strowman, just as Strowman had previously done to Lesnar.
Lesnar broke the final commentary table by F-5ing Kane through it -- just in time for an undaunted Strowman to rise from beneath the table with revenge on his mind.
With Lesnar stumbling around, Strowman hit a powerslam but wouldn't settle for just one -- a second seemingly knocked Lesnar loopy but also gave Kane the chance to batter Strowman with a steel chair a half-dozen times.
Kane tried to set up a tombstone on a steel chair, but after a Strowman intervention, it got turned on its head as Lesnar F-5'd Kane onto said chair and walked away, title intact.
The Bar def. Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins to win the Raw tag team championship
The pairing of Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan is one of the oddest tag team championship combinations in recent memory. Rollins is beloved by the WWE audience, whereas Jordan has truly excelled at getting under their skin.
Funny enough, their opponents, Sheamus and Cesaro, started in similar fashion. They were heated rivals that didn't get along but turned into one of the most successful tag teams in the WWE throughout the past year. They headed into the evening's match looking for their fourth reign as RAW Tag Team Champions in a 13-month span.
The match began with Rollins and Cesaro battling it out, with Cesaro gaining the early advantage. Rollins hit a variation of arm drags, a back body drop, hurricanrana and a dropkick, which chased Cesaro out as he tagged in Sheamus. After some strikes, Rollins tried to tag in Jordan, but Jordan lost focus and was drawn away by a distraction from Cesaro.
The Bar took advantage and continued to wear down Rollins, but fighting back, Rollins hit Sheamus with an enziguri. He then tried to tag Jordan again, but Cesaro pulled him off the apron and tossed him into the ring post, which was the turning point in the match. Jordan never recovered from there.
Focusing on Rollins alone, Cesaro and Sheamus had their way. Rollins showed some signs of life when he had Sheamus over the top rope, but The Bar turned the tide quickly and began the beat down on Rollins again, highlighted by a double backbreaker.
Rollins tried to turn things around again and hit a slingblade onto Cesaro, followed up by a blockbuster, a suplex and a falcon arrow onto Cesaro. However, Sheamus stepped in and broke up the pin attempt and Rollins was back to a severe disadvantage. With the energy he had left, Rollins managed to slam both Sheamus and Cesaro and hit a frog splash on both of them.
After all of that, Jordan finally tagged himself in, but he looked woozy and tagged the exhausted and frustrated Rollins back in.
Rollins again made a valiant effort, and while attempting to hit Cesaro with the Blackout, Sheamus caught him with a Brogue kick. The Bar follow that up with a double-team white noise finisher for the win.
Four-time RAW Tag Team champions, The Bar celebrated as tensions between Rollins and Jordan rose to an all-time high.
Shinsuke Nakamura wins Men's Royal Rumble
A complete recap of this match can be found here.
SmackDown Live tag team championship: The Usos (c) def Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin in a two-out-of-three-falls match
The Usos have ruled the tag team landscape on SmackDown Live for the past year, holding the titles for more than 200 total days.
Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable, who have recently fully embraced their roles as the heels, looked to start a trend of dominance of their own in what was their fourth opportunity at the championships. But it wasn't just any match. It was a two-out-of-three-falls match, a stipulation that highlights a team's durability, a quality both of these teams feature.
The bout began with Jey Uso and Shelton Benjamin, who made a quick tag to Gable, but as they attempted a double-team move, Jey backed away. Gable and Jey grappled for a bit, but Jey made a blind tag to Jimmy, who prevented Gable from hitting one of his patented German suplexes. Gable responded by wrestling Jimmy to the ground and into the corner, but Jimmy had a response of his own: some stiff chops and a vicious right hand.
A blind tag was made to Benjamin this time, and while Jimmy was distracted, Gable hit a chop block onto Jimmy's left leg, which turned into the target as Benjamin followed it up by wrapping it around the steel ring post. Gable and Benjamin then traded tags, slowed things down and worked the left leg of Jimmy. Jimmy attempted to come back, but Gable nailed a dragon screw leg whip, damaging the leg even further.
Jimmy created some distance with an enziguri to Benjamin and made the tag to Jey, who attacked both opponents. In a highlight-reel moment, Jey then hit over the top rope dives onto both Benjamin and Gable consecutively on both sides of the ring. He followed it up with a cross body to Gable in the ring but only managed a two count. Gable followed it up with a nice-looking bridged tiger suplex but could not grab that all important first fall.
Benjamin made his way into the ring, picked up Jey in the powerbomb position and power bombed him into his partner, Jimmy. Benjamin followed it up with his pay dirt finisher, but once again only managed a two count.
On the outside of the ring, Gable nailed a perfectly executed moonsault onto both Usos. Back inside the ring, confused by who the legal man was, Gable ate a super kick by Jimmy, as does Benjamin, followed up by a top rope splash by Jey onto Gable, but again, just a two count.
Jey tagged in Jimmy and the duo hit Benjamin with simultaneous super kicks to earn them the first fall.
Gable and Benjamin angrily regained control and nailed their powerbomb/clothesline finisher onto Jimmy Uso on the outside of the ring. Back inside the ring, Gable ascended the top rope, but as he did so, Benjamin was quickly rolled up into a small package by Jey for the three count as the match came to an abrupt, two straight fall conclusion.
Given the decisive finish to this match, it would appear that it's time for the Usos to welcome another challenging team to try to end their recent streak of dominance within the division.
WWE championship: AJ Styles (c) def. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
The concept of a handicap world title match where co-champions could be crowned puts a strain on the likelihood of the challengers walking away successfully. But with three guys like AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, along with the built-in story they've been involved in in recent months, it should come as little surprise that the match far eclipsed any silliness that could've been involved.
There was no Daniel Bryan and no Shane McMahon ringside, and while this story carrying forward might frustrate some, there are plenty of ways for a lot of things to be cleared up once Tuesday rolls around.
Kevin Owens started the match but drew instant heat from the crowd by tagging in Sami Zayn before ever making contact with Styles. Zayn returned the favor and tagged Owens in, with neither man overly anxious to get the ball rolling once they were the legal man.
After half a clothesline, Owens had had enough and immediately tagged Zayn back in. Styles rolled Zayn up, which got him flustered, and Owens got back into the ring, which was when the match finally got going. Styles hit a hurricanrana on Owens and tried to play defense on the corner, but Owens rolled to the outside and worked his way around to get the tag.
Zayn and Styles worked back and forth a bit, but the second Zayn ate a dropkick to the face, he tagged out too. Zayn and Owens finally started taking advantage of the numbers game by backing Styles into their corner, and Zayn led the offensive charge with a back body drop. Owens ragdolled Styles into the turnbuckle and ring post inside the ring, then did further damage by repeating the effort on the ring barrier -- nearly sending Styles entirely into the crowd in the process.
Styles made a brief comeback, only to find himself on Owens' shoulders and flying toward the mat face-first on a reverse flapjack. Owens defaulted to his headlock and cannonball standbys, but Styles rolled out of the way. They continued to tag in and out to keep Styles from gaining control until Styles lined up and hit a Frankensteiner. By the time Owens came back in, Styles had a Pele kick in store for him, and Styles brought back his classic moonsault into reverse DDT spot that doesn't come out very often these days.
Owens and Zayn finally got into the ring together at the same time, but Owens' catapult of Styles led right into a headscissors that sent Zayn out of the ring. Styles rolled from the corner into a calf crusher on Owens and locked it in for almost 30 seconds; but just as Owens appeared poised to tap, Zayn came in to once again serve as Owens' guardian angel.
Styles kept moving at a crazy pace, landing a backfist and lariat combination, and an Owens roll-up attempt led to Owens charging at Styles and going shoulder-first into the post instead. Everyone was reeling, but Zayn, who owned two pinfall wins in recent weeks over the champ, set up for the Blue Thunder Bomb, only for Styles to slip out.
Though the first attempt was stifled, it distracted the referee long enough for Owens to land a superkick from the outside so that Zayn could successfully land the Blue Thunder Bomb. It was the second convincing potential ending, but Styles managed to kick out at the very last moment.
Zayn heeled off in a way he hadn't to that point in the ring, getting aggressive and frustrated with slaps and strikes in the corner; but as he set up for a superplex, Styles escaped again. Styles cleared out both of his opponents and landed a Phenomenal Forearm on Zayn, but Owens rolled in and did his part to return the favor in saving Zayn and their WWE title hopes.
Zayn and Styles slowly rose to their feet and battered each other back and forth in the middle of the ring as Owens could only look on. Zayn made a desperate dive and appeared, at least to the referee, to get a fingertip tag to Owens; as Styles sent Zayn to the outside over the top rope, Owens charged into the ring, hit a superkick and set Styles up for the pop-up powerbomb. Styles was able to slide underneath and got just enough leverage on a pinfall attempt to get the three-count and vanquish his opponents.
Though McMahon and Bryan didn't directly intervene, which was a surprise, the argument about whether or not the tag happened offers a hook for this story to carry forward for at least one more week, as we saw in their backstage moment with McMahon backstage. Something has to give soon, but it would not come on this night.
The Revival avenged their loss from Raw 25 by picking up a win over Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson in the second match of the Royal Rumble Kickoff.
In the opening match of the Royal Rumble Kickoff show, Kalisto, Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado defeated Drew Gulak, Jack Gallagher and TJP. We are officially underway at the Wells Fargo Center.