WWE Royal Rumble: Ronda Rousey Makes WWE Debut, The Bella Twins Return to the Ring
The Road to WrestleMania began Sunday as WWE hosted live the 31st annual Royal Rumble event that featured the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble match.
The women's Royal Rumble match, which closed to show, featured the same rules as the traditional men's Royal Rumble match with 30 Superstars from Raw and Smackdown battling it out to decide who will earn a championship match at WrestleMania.
The bout was commented by Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon and was viewed by Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss and Smackdown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair at ringside.
A number of WWE legends and past Women's Champions entered the match including Lita, Torrie Wilson, Molly Holly, Michelle McCool, Vickie Guerrero, Kelly Kelly, Jacqueline, Beth Phoenix, Nikki and Brie Bella and Trish Stratus.
The final four contestants included Asuka, Sasha Banks and The Bella Twins until Banks was eliminated by The Total Divas stars followed by Nikki eliminating her sister in a surprise move. It was then between Nikki and Asuka with The Empress of Tomorrow winning the match after she kicked Nikki off from the apron.
Asuka then met with Bliss and Flair in the ring to decide which championship she was going to compete for at WrestleMania. Asuka never got her chance to decide, however, when former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey made a surprise entrance and crashed the party.
Rousey then pointed at the WrestleMania sign and shook hands with McMahon outside the ring, implying that she made a deal to join WWE.
In the men's Royal Rumble match, surprise entrants included a returning Rey Mysterio, NXT Champion Andrade 'Cien' Almas, NXT's Adam Cole and The Hurricane, who only enjoyed a brief moment in the ring before quickly being eliminated by John Cena.
Highlights from the match included Sami Zayn taking Tye Dillinger's No. 10 position; Kofi Kingston keeping himself from being eliminated by landing on his New Day partner Xavier Woods and a plate of pancakes; Woken Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt eliminating each other; and Heath Slater sending Sheamus over the top rope in mere seconds.
The final parts of the match featured a battle between WWE's old and new guard as Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor and Roman Reigns battled veterans Cena, Randy Orton and Mysterio. It was soon down to just Nakamura and Reigns with The Big Dog getting tossed out and eliminated after The Artist stopped a Spear attempt with a Kinshasa.
Nakamura then announced that he would be facing WWE Champion AJ Styles at WrestleMania.
The title bouts of the night featured Styles successfully retaining his WWE Championship against best friends Kevin Owens and Zayn; The Usos retaining their Smackdown Tag Team Championships against Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable; Sheamus and Cesaro becoming the new Raw Tag Team Champions after Jordan was unable to help his partner Seth Rollins due to injuring his head; and Brock Lesnar retaining his Universal Championship against Kane and Braun Strowman.
Lesnar won his match after a brutal contest with Kane and Strowman which featured multiple broken tables, the use of steel chairs and the use of steel steps. The Beast walked away the winner after he nailed Kane with a thunderous F-5 onto a chair after Strowman was knocked out of the ring.
By Wade Sheridan, UPI.com
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