Under normal circumstances, the Royal Rumble is one of the marquee events of the WWE calendar. The countdowns, the mystery entrants, and the unpredictability of who could win the opportunity to be in the main event at WrestleMania all make for a tremendously exciting show. In fact, I would be willing to bet if you approached a member of the general public almost anywhere in the world and asked them, what the Royal Rumble is, they would give you a vaguely accurate description. Maybe not right down to the rules, but it’s certainly a concept that has permeated the consciousness of the mainstream general public. However, with Covid-19 and an inability to have fans in attendance the 2021 edition was always going to be a bit different. With WWE on a hot streak on PPV in terms of the in-ring product, would the Rumble work with the virtual audience in the Thunderdome? Largely, it was a successful, if not slightly underwhelming endeavour. Obviously, there are spoilers ahead.
The big selling point of any Rumble show is the marquee match the show was named after, and as has become the norm there were two matches of that type on this show - a men's and women's Rumble. The men’s match was very entertaining for the most part with a nice story of Edge and Orton renewing their rivalry that was interwoven from start to finish. Although Edge’s running the table here was a nice surprise, it did feel a little like WWE were trying to set the reset button on his emotional return from last year. Unfortunately, it lacked the authenticity of 2020 due to a lack of surprise value, but there were certainly worse stories WWE could have opted for. Christian’s return was a nice surprise (and especially noteworthy since he is now in AEW), while the other unexpected competitors were pretty run-of-the-mill. Still, a very creditable main event.
The women’s rumble was a far more entertaining affair. Billie Kay had a memorable run in the early going, while the addition of a number of NXT performers and a few surprises made this match flow really well. Bianca Belair was the obvious choice to win and I’m glad they opted to give her the victory, but this match also did plenty to elevate a number of women on the roster including Rhea Ripley and Ruby Riott. A really strong match and hopefully the starting point for a long headlining career for Belair.
The rest of the show ranged from good to excellent. Opening the event with Goldberg challenging Drew McIntyre was a smart move. The match didn’t outstay its welcome, got McIntyre further over and made Goldberg look like a star while protecting him. Roman Reigns vs Kevin Owens might have been my favourite match of the night. While the finish didn’t go exactly to plan, it was largely well thought out with some really creative spots and both men did everything they could to put the result in doubt. Both guys really busted a gut and put together a strong, spectacular bout. Finally, Sasha Banks and Carmella worked very hard to create an intriguing SmackDown women's title match and while it was perfectly enjoyable, there were a couple of scary spots that took me out of it when watching it back. It was far from bad, but it was also probably the weakest match on the card.
This was a very good show from top to bottom. It might not go down as the most memorable Rumble of all time but nothing dragged, all the matches held up nicely on a second watch and everything felt like it had a purpose and pointed towards WrestleMania season. The lack of a crowd hurt the show considerably, but given the circumstances this was about as good an event as WWE could have put together.
EXTRAS: As usual the pre-show is included in full, and that show features a fun women's tag team title match with Asuka and Charlotte defending against Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax, as well as all the usual panel and hype videos. Additionally, this release features the match between Natalya and Tamina from WWE Backstage the day before the show to determine who would get the number 30 position in the women's rumble. The segment from Smackdown with Roman Reigns signing a contract for his match, originally against Adam Pearce, as well as a cracking WWE Title match between Drew McIntyre and Keith Lee round out the extras on offer here.