The inaugural women's Royal Rumble. Ronda Rousey's debut. Shinsuke Nakamura wins the men's Royal Rumble.
What a night for WWE.
It would be an understatement to say that WWE generated buzz Sunday night. This was an historic night for the company. It wasn't long ago that you would have been crazy to think women would close out a WWE pay-per-view. Not tonight. Women owned the night, and they will shape the future of the WWE.
Here are the WWE Royal Rumble winners and losers:
Ronda Rousey. The rumors were true. Despite Rousey's best efforts to get the dirt sheets and fans off her trail, she made her debut at WWE Royal Rumble. She didn't wrestle. She didn't appear until after the conclusion of the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match. Her nickname is "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, a nod to the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Rousey, who made a name for herself in UFC, has long been a pro wrestling fan. From that standpoint, a transition to WWE shouldn't be too difficult. She knows the product. She knows what to expect.
The in-ring work is another story. But she seems committed to this. In an interview with ESPN, she says this is a full-time contract. She is with the company for the long haul. This isn't a part-time gig. We'll see if she works the house shows and if she's at every pay-per-view.
There are many questions. This much is clear: Rousey is still relevant. Even after losing twice in the UFC and stepping away from MMA, she is still a star. WWE is lucky to have her. She could make a huge difference for them, especially as their women's division continues to grow.
Women. Asuka was the winner of the first women's Royal Rumble match, but this was really about the "women's evolution," as WWE would call it. Whether you are Sasha Banks, Nia Jax, Bayley, Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, Natalya, Becky Lynch or Lita, this is what you have been waiting for. For some, it took a long time. But women are respected now as pro wrestlers, not just valets or managers. It was great to see the NXT talent mix it up with the WWE superstars of the past and present, too.
Think about how great it is that the women's Royal Rumble match closed out the show. Maybe they telegraphed the Rousey appearance, but it didn't matter. This was a huge moment. It makes you wonder: If the women can headline the Royal Rumble, why not WrestleMania? I wouldn't rule it out.
Shinsuke Nakamura. Winning the men's Royal Rumble match was a cool moment for Nakamura. It was a good closing sequence with Roman Reigns. The fans were clearly in Nakamura's corner. Not a lot of people in Philadelphia wanted to see Reigns win the Royal Rumble (again). Nakamura delivered.
After the match, Nakamura chose his opponent. He will challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. That should be a great match at WrestleMania 34.
Brock Lesnar. Lesnar won a vicious triple threat match in which he delivered an actual punch to Braun Strowman after Strowman hit him with a knee to the head. WWE could probably put these two in a match at every pay-per-view and it wouldn't get old.
Lesnar retained the WWE Universal Championship. The question is, who will he face at WrestleMania 34? Will it be Roman Reigns? Or will it be Braun Strowman, who has unfinished business with Lesnar?
AJ Styles. AJ Styles, like Lesnar, outlasted two other opponents to retain the WWE Championship. The difference was that Styles was going up against a team, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Owens and Zayn had a chance to become co-champions. Styles found a way to win.
The win should have been an indication of what was to come in the men's Royal Rumble match. The match between Nakamura and Styles should be excellent. These two should bring out the best in each other.
Finn Balor. Balor was in the men's Royal Rumble match for about an hour. He was one of the final four in the ring. It looked like he would have a great shot to win the Royal Rumble — until he was eliminated by John Cena.
The crowd didn't like that Balor was eliminated by Cena. Balor was one of the two fan favorites left in the ring. (Nakamura was the other.) It also didn't help that Balor had such a long run. He was the No. 2 entrant. Records show he had the eighth-longest Rumble run in WWE history. That's impressive, but he didn't win the match.
Seth Rollins. A rough night for Rollins, who lost the WWE Raw tag team championships and was eliminated from the Royal Rumble by Roman Reigns, a former member of The Shield.
Rollins is still one of WWE's top stars. He should be able to find his way back into the singles picture now that this tag team run is over. Hopefully they move forward with the rumored match against Jason Jordan at WrestleMania. That would be a good opportunity for both superstars.
Bayley. It's tough to call any woman superstar a "loser" after Sunday night, but here's why Bayley lands on this side of the list. She entered at No. 29 and didn't last long. Her only elimination came when she teamed up with every other woman in the ring to eliminate Nia Jax. Oh, and then she was eliminated by Sasha Banks, her longtime friend. (Could a match between those two be in the works? Let's hope so.)
If you look at how this match played out for Bayley, it shows where she stands in WWE right now. Sasha Banks is the workhorse. Nia Jax is the dominant force. Asuka is the top performer. Natalya is the veteran. Becky Lynch fits into the mix, too. And you can't forget the many newcomers.
Where does Bayley fit in? It seems she's lost right now. Hopefully they can put her on a good path again. Her character was great for the NXT crowd, but it clearly needs some work for the larger WWE fan base. She is still likable and a good worker in the ring. But a heel turn may help her a lot.
Sheamus. Sheamus turned 40 Sunday. Yes, he won the WWE Raw tag team titles. The bad news? He was eliminated from the Royal Rumble in one second. Who eliminated him? Not John Cena. Not Roman Reigns. Not Elias, The Miz or another star. Heath Slater eliminated Sheamus.
That was wacky. Sheamus deserved better.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The two heels couldn't get the job done against AJ Styles, so they beat up Tye Dillinger and prevented him from entering the Royal Rumble. Zayn took his spot and it wasn't long before Nakamura eliminated him.
Where do these two go from here? As singles competitors, you could take them in any sort of different directions. But together? Do you put them in the tag title conversation? Maybe that's the next step. Otherwise, nothing else makes sense.