Courtesy of WWE Home Video, Matthew Roberts takes a look at the latest DVD/Blu Ray release, Royal Rumble 2021.
I’m a big fan of the Royal Rumble. Indeed, for the past two years, I had made the trip to the States for the PPV. Not that there was any chance of that this year!
The show itself promised to be a strange one. With no crowd, would the whole dynamic of the Rumble suffer? After all, a big part of the annual 30 man/woman matches is the crowd interaction; counting down the 10 seconds, popping for the surprise entrants and cheering or booing the big eliminations. But whilst it would be clear to say that the atmosphere suffered a little, in the end, the production team and the wrestlers themselves managed to work around the limitations and still put on one hell of a show.
A Rumble lives or dies on the strength of the named featured match/matches and there was a high bar given the previous year’s men’s match, which for me was one of the best in the history of the gimmick. Whilst the women’s match in 2020 couldn’t live up to those lofty standards it was still another good match.
The Women’s Rumble was low on “surprises” in one sense, probably because the previous three rumbles have used up most of the one-off names returning that anyone actually cares about. We did get Jillian Hall (meh), Victoria (yay) and Alica Fox (who doesn’t love Foxy?) making appearances but other surprise names were largely left to the NXT crew. Torrie Wilson did turn up too, but it’s kind of the law of diminishing returns with her, especially as you could never describe her as even a decent worker.
Bayley and Naomi started things off before (spoiler alert) eventual winner Bianca Belair was the third woman in. Billie Kay was a lot of fun in the opening third or so of the match, commentating on the match, trying to push her résumé to new participants and eventually having a mini-reunion with Peyton Royce.
There were some odd moments, not least when Charlotte and Lacey Evans went at it with a fury that suited their then on-going personal grudge feud…but then they forgot all about it and co-existed in the match without ever really taking each other on.
The final four came down to Natalya (who had earned her 30th entry spot by defeating Tamina the previous day on WWE Backstage), Rhea Ripley, Charlotte Flair and Belair. After quickly getting rid of the one woman who had no chance of winning in Natalya, Ripley and Belair worked together to eliminate Charlotte (and let’s face it, not even the WWE would have had her winning for the second year in a row) before battling off against each other for the right for the ultimate prize. For me, Ripley winning would have been the better choice (the redemption storyline after losing to Charlotte at last year’s WrestleMania wrote itself really) but it was Belair who took the win. She was clearly emotional as she celebrated afterwards.
All in all a good Women’s Rumble that kept you entertained all the way through.
The men’s Rumble was kicked off by Randy Orton and Edge, a pre-announced setting that seemed to annoy a lot of people. But then again it seems like every year I have to argue with people on social media who long for the days when “all the Rumble was a complete surprise”. Days that never existed. (Indeed some early rumbles start with an introduction video of Vince counting down who is in the Rumble match).
Surprises in the match were Carlito (who looked in prime condition), Kane (less so), Hurricane Helms (who lasted all of 30 seconds) and Christian (who I’m now tempted to think was put in by Vince just to make sure AEW had to put an extra $50-75k a year on their contract offer to him. We also saw one NXT star in the form of Damien Priest enter (and this signified his “promotion” to the “main roster”).
A thread of Edge and Orton ran through the match, with Orton being injured and “unable to continue” despite never being officially eliminated. If this gave away what we could expect towards the end of the match you’ve been watching wrestling for as long as I. Again there always seemed to be things going on in the match and the likes of Big E, Daniel Bryan and Riddle had long stretches in the match (as did Dolph Ziggler and Shinsuke Nakamura).
The final four (wink, wink) came down to Edge, Christian, Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman (the latter two being the 29th and 30th entrants respectively). E & C combined to get rid of Braun, but Rollins sneaked up and eliminated Christian. Edge then was able to get rid of Rollins, only for Orton to return with an RKO out of nowhere (which was a cool visual and well captured by the production crew). Edge, however, was able to prevail and threw Orton over the top for the win.
It won’t go down as an all-time classic Men’s Rumble but it was an entertaining one that rolled along at a quick pace and rarely was boring. Again, I wasn’t totally convinced by the choice of winner, but that’s just me. You can’t deny the effort from Edge at the very least.
The undercard gave us three World Title matches. With the internet up in arms that Goldberg was challenging Drew McIntyre for the title and conspiracy theories running wild, the WWE Championship match was always going to be interesting. And for what it was, i.e. a quick sprint through some power moves, I thought it was entertaining enough. In a world where PPV’s are effectively “free” on the WWE Network and there were no tickets to sell, I have zero problems with this match being used as an attraction. No, I wouldn’t particularly be upset if we never saw Bill wrestle again, but I can understand all-around why he was here.
Again, there was some (a lot) of flak thrown around online when Carmella was chosen as the challenger to Sasha Banks’ Smackdown Women’s Title here. No-one, least of all me, would claim Carmella is the second coming of Manami Toyota but she is someone who has worked hard to improve in the ring and works had to provide us with a discernable character (and has worked well as both face and heel over the past few years). Banks may not get the plaudits the other Four Horsewomen do but once again she proved what a great wrestler she is, carrying the match to a certain extent but also making this a battle of equals to some extent. This was a perfectly acceptable match, which Banks won via the Bank Statement.
The Universal Title match didn’t end up being Roman Reigns against Adam Pierce, with instead shenanigans leading to Kevin Owens getting another shot at the Head of the Table, this time in a Last Man Standing match. Sadly this match is probably going to be remembered mostly for the “botch” that occurred when Owens had handcuffed Reigns to a lighting stand only for Heyman not being able to uncuff Reigns hastily enough as the referee made his ten counts. In the end, he had to stop at 8, disappear off-camera and all concerned hoped no-one would notice…Which is a shame because for the other fifteen minutes or so this tour of the backstage of the Thunderdome featured enough violence and danger (and no lack of effort from both men) to satisfy viewers. But that’s wrestling for you, folks.
The Kick-off show match for the Women’s Tag Team Titles between Asuka & Charlotte Flair and Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax is also included. Although it didn’t quite gel as a match it packed a lot into its ten minutes, even if some of that was chronic over-booking.
Extras also include the Tamina Vs Natalya match from WWE Backstage, the WWE Championship match from the January 4 Raw between McIntyre and Keith Lee and the Roman Reigns / Adam Pierce contract signing from Smackdown.
In the final analysis, the first Royal Rumble event without fans certainly delivered where it mattered. The two Rumble matches were very good and offered top-notch entertainment from start to finish. The Title matches on the undercard did what they had to do too and all were very watchable. All in all, an excellent show.
9 out of 10.
Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE. Thank you to WWE Home Video for our review copy of Royal Rumble 2021 which is out Monday 22 March on Bluray and DVD. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here.