A Star Is Born At The Royal Rumble
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
The 2021 Royal Rumble inside the WWE ThunderDome surpassed expectations from fans and set up big WrestleMania moments for two worthy Superstars.
Going into the event, the fear among fans was that the Rumble matches wouldn’t feel as authentically awesome without the surprise pop from the crowd for each entrant.
Thankfully, as the first Rumble match began, the excitement of the matches and the state-of-the-art ThunderDome made it clear this wouldn’t be a problem.
Viewers instead were able to be sucked into the in-ring action like usual and watch two well-booked Royal Rumble matches in peace (which, if you’re like me, means yelling a lot at the TV).
When it was all said and done, even if your favorite didn’t win, the 2021 Royal Rumble was one of those shows that forced you to acknowledge that WWE made an effort to give the audience what they wanted.
Everyone delivered in their roles, and it provided viewers with two exciting, hour-long matches, which isn’t an easy task when fans aren’t in the stadium reacting to all the biggest spots.
OK, no more speaking generally. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and unpack the four big takeaways from the show.
Bianca Belair and Edge are going to WrestleMania
Bianca Belair earning a spot in one of the main events of WrestleMania by winning the Royal Rumble just felt right.
It was like watching a wrestling version of "A Star Is Born," only without the super depressing ending. #RIPJacksonMaine.
The winner of the Women’s Rumble match was tough to predict this year. Would WWE take a chance on a new talent? Or would they give the WrestleMania main event to a more established star?
In my opinion, the right call was made by going with a new talent.
Drew McIntyre is proof over the past year that winning a Royal Rumble match can still catapult your career to the next level, as he hasn’t stopped riding the wave of momentum from his 2020 win, and someone else getting that treatment this year was best for business.
This victory gives Bianca Belair the springboard she needs to become a major player for WWE in the long term if they handle the next few months of her career with care.
WWE has to make a priority of protecting "The EST of WWE" at all costs in order to keep her as strong as possible heading into WrestleMania.
Personally, I think the money match for her there is against Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Bianca pulling a move like Charlotte last year and going back to NXT would most certainly be perceived as a step back and returning to the Raw brand for a title match doesn’t make much sense, so hopefully WWE gives us the match most fans wants to see for these two on "The Grandest Stage of Them All."
As for Edge, the guy was robbed of his big WrestleMania moment last year, following a major surprise return in the 2020 Royal Rumble.
"The Rated-R Superstar" deserved to have that match against Randy Orton a few months later in front of a jam-packed Raymond James Stadium, with fans excited about his return to singles action.
Hell, his entire program with Orton should’ve taken place in front of the WWE Universe so we could’ve all witnessed his miraculous comeback in person. That’s not what happened, though.
Now, as WWE prepares for their first show with fans in more than a year at WrestleMania 37, the time was right to pull the trigger on Edge getting another World title shot.
The guy earned every ounce of it.
Not only because he lasted from the No. 1 position all the way until the end but also for the tremendous work he put in last year, when there were no fans present, as well as the fact that he was able to return from a career-ending injury at all.
In my opinion, the best opponent for Edge at WrestleMania would be Drew McIntyre.
Yes, there’s potential in a match against Roman, but I don’t foresee Edge switching brands for the Spear vs. Spear encounter, and a face vs. face battle between Drew and Edge has a lot of potential.
Save Roman vs. Edge for the future.
Rumble match surprises
Without question, the Royal Rumble matches this year delivered in the surprise department.
Let me talk about my favorite one first: Christian.
I probably said, "Holy crap, I can’t believe Christian is wrestling right now" like 15 times while watching him compete in the men’s Rumble match on Sunday.
It was so cool seeing one of my favorites get a chance to do what he does best again — especially because Christian is one of those performers who didn’t get a sendoff. His retirement just sort of happened, and we were all left wanting ... one more match.
Will we get to watch him at WrestleMania this year? I hope so.
I also need to see Edge and Christian tag one last time against today’s teams such as The Street Profits, New Day and The Usos. The interactions between E&C in the Rumble gave me goosebumps.
Can we talk about Carlito as well?
The guy was in crazy good shape and looked like he hadn’t lost a step since his exit from the company in 2012.
With Superstars such as Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Bobby Lashley and others from his era doing great work on WWE TV these days, I’d love to see a full-time return from Carlito in 2021.
He could be a solid asset to the US or IC title scene on Raw or SmackDown with the right storyline.
It was also nice to finally see the return of Seth Rollins. I’m interested in where he fits into WrestleMania plans as the card begins to take shape in the coming weeks/months.
As much as I want to watch Daniel Bryan challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship in April, a program with Seth could also be possible, based on "The Savior of SmackDown" eliminating him from the Royal Rumble match. (Remember: They also had a brief encounter on SmackDown last year that people were hyped on.)
A program between Seth and Cesaro would be awesome, too.
There were also some enjoyable surprises in the Women's Rumble.
The most unexpected surprise in the match had to be Victoria, who hadn’t wrestled in WWE since 2009.
Her return was long overdue and added a necessary veteran presence to the over-the-top-rope affair.
Peyton Royce hitting a Widow’s Peak in front of her, only to receive one from the master of the move herself was a great moment. Victoria deserves props here for beating the buzzer and hitting the move like a pro right before the Rumble countdown ended.
Jillian Hall was a welcome addition to the match as well, seeing as she hadn’t wrestled in WWE since 2012. Explaining to my girlfriend how Boogeyman once chewed her mole off was quite the experience.
Jillian played well off Billie Kay, and it was entertaining to watch Billie try to maintain her various allegiances.
The inclusion of women from NXT is something I enjoy in the women’s Rumble, as it gives a glimpse of what’s to come for the Raw and SmackDown women’s divisions. This year’s match featuring Dakota Kai, Toni Storm and Shotzi Blackheart was a good example of that.
I would’ve liked to have seen Shotzi last longer in the match, though. Luckily, any non-NXT viewer will for sure remember her and her tank in the future.
My only real complaint in the women’s Rumble match was the use of Alexa Bliss. After a dominant showing on Raw, she felt like an afterthought in the Rumble match on Sunday.
Alexa pulling a Faces of Foley last week should’ve been saved for the Royal Rumble match in some fashion, in my opinion, as it would’ve at least provided her with something memorable to do.
Roman and Drew retain their titles
Did anyone else say "Hallelujah" out loud when Drew McIntyre defeated Goldberg to retain his title? Oh, that was just me? OK, cool. Thanks for making it weird.
Anyway, in keeping with the theme of the rest of the evening, the right person won between these two competitors.
I’ve gotta say, though, this match was fun.
In part, this was because Goldberg’s WWE World title match track record made you fear he could beat Drew, which allowed fans to get lost in the drama and believe each spear might be the finish.
I especially lost my you-know-what when Goldberg successfully landed a Jackhammer on McIntyre.
Being on the edge of your seat during a match is all you can ask for as a fan, and that was accomplished in spades by these two.
On the other end of the spectrum, Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens put on a match that took both performers to the limit for nearly 30 minutes with a ton of brutal spots.
Two, in particular, stood out:
Kevin Owens being hit by Roman Reigns with a golf cart …
… and Kevin Owens jumping off a forklift pallet from high in the air to land a senton on Roman Reigns through a table.
What’s unfortunate is that this killer match will be remembered by fans most for the messed-up finish involving handcuffs, even if the match as a whole was awesome.
Bad Bunny at WrestleMania?
One last question coming out of the Royal Rumble.
Is Bad Bunny going to be in a match at WrestleMania?
WWE introduced him to the audience Sunday by having him perform "Booker T" alongside the legend the song is named after. Then later in the show, he hit a sweet-looking crossbody on Miz and Morrison during the Royal Rumble match.
Could the company be setting up a tag match between Bad Bunny and Booker T against Miz and Morrison?
Die-hard fans might scoff at this, but the company would get major press if they made it happen (which shouldn’t be too difficult, considering how big of a wrestling fan the rapper is).
Did you enjoy this year's Royal Rumble? Hit me up on Twitter @RyanSatin and let me know.