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  • Tarrian Rodgers

Bayley and Cody Rhodes win star studded Royal Rumble matches

Wrestling fans, we are officially on the road to Wrestlemania! The first stop on that road is the Royal Rumble. Every year Royal Rumble is known for its predictable and shocking moments that leave fans and wrestling pundits on the edge of their seats. This year's rumble was no different with the return of Naomi and the debut of Jade Cargil in the women’s rumble and the return of Andrade and the exciting ending that gave fan favorite Cody Rhodes the chance to finish his story.

The night kicked off with the women’s Royal Rumble. The women’s Royal Rumble featured some great surprises off the first few entrances. Natalya and surprise entrant Naomi who returned to WWE for the first time since she and Sasha Banks walked out of the company in November 2022. They fought back and forth before Bayley (No. 3) joined the match. Naomi had an incredible match lasting nearly 1 hour before being eliminated. The next surprise came at number five where TNA Women’s champion Jordynne Grace appeared. Grace showed phenomenal power. Speaking of power, the heavy hitters of the match came in the 19-25 range. Nia Jax (No. 19) and. Becky Lynch's arrival at No. 21. Jax tallied the most eliminations by tossing out Xia Li, Carter, Shayna Baszler, Michin, Shotzi and Valhalla. The comedy portion of the match is when R-Truth who entered alongside Valhalla at No. 24 thinking it was the men's Rumble. 

Jade Cargill arrived to a massive reaction from the Florida crowd. It was Cargill's first WWE match since leaving All Elite Wrestling. Cargill squared off with Jax, while showing her strength by tossing her over the rope. Cargill also contributed to eliminating Lynch and Naomi. The final surprise of the night welcomed back Liv Morgan from her shoulder injury. The final five superstars were Bayley, Belair, Cargill, Tiffany Stratton (No. 29) and Morgan. Stratton clung onto Belair's braid like a rope to avoid elimination, allowing Bayley to eliminate Belair and Stratton simultaneously. The match concluded with the three remaining women fighting on the ring apron. Morgan ended Cargill's night with Oblivion on the apron. Bayley booted Morgan moments later. Bayley set the record for the longest stint in a women's Royal Rumble match while winning her first. The win was a huge accomplishment for Bayley, who has paid her dues and deserved this win.

Undisputed WWE universal championship -- Roman Reigns (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. LA Knight vs. AJ Styles:  The match was fought at a frantic pace with each man having significant moments in the match. Knight had the first moment in the match. As he took out Reigns, hit Styles with a superplex, countered Orton and hit the champ with a BFT for the night's first near fall. Styles broke up the pinfall and nearly secured the win by hitting Reigns with a Styles Clash. This time it was Knight who broke up the pinfall. Orton  then had a RKO party. Orton intercepted a Rheins spear with an RKO. This came after Orton hit Styles and Knight with RKOs. Solo Sikoa dragged the referee out of the ring before the last fall. Sikoa also dropped Orton with a Samoan Spike. Sikoa dragged Knight onto Orton's body after also hitting him with a Samoan Spike, abiding by Reigns' wish to stack his challengers. Reigns hit Styles with a spear to win the match.

United States championship -- Logan Paul (c) vs. Kevin Owens: Kevin Owens did an amazing job of helping legitimize Paul as an in ring competitor. The match was fought at a very strong back and forth pace. The story told here was the ultimate tale of the good guy and the bad guy. As Paul plays the bad guy. Paul tried to snatch brass knuckles from his entourage but the referee spotted him and called for security. Austin Theory and Grayson Waller ran interference, passing the knuckles to Paul. Owens blocked the cheap shot, pried the knuckles from the champ and clobbered him with it. Owens appeared to have the match won but the ref spotted the knuckles on his hand. Owens was disqualified. 

Men's Royal Rumble match: The match kicked off with an instant story. Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso drew No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, the first one-on-one interaction between them since Jimmy Uso cost his brother the undisputed WWE universal title at SummerSlam in August. The first surprise came when Andrade El Idolo (No. 4) returned to WWE three years after leaving and joining AEW. Santos Escobar entered at No. 7 and tried to align with Andrade but was quickly brushed off. Carlito drew No. 10 and tossed out his rival Escobar after spitting an apple in his face. 

An exciting spot in the match was when  Bobby Lashley (No. 11) hit the ring. Lashley speared everyone out of their boots before eliminating Carlito and rival Karrion Kross. Kross subsequently yanked Lashley out of the match, sparking a brawl between their respective factions, The Final Testament and The Pride. Former NXT champion Bronn Breaker (No. 20) hit the ring looking like a breakout star. Breaker eliminated Jimmy Uso off the cuff and Breaker had a spot where he eliminated the 7-foot-3, 400-plus pound Omos. Before Omos  was eliminated he and Breakker eliminated Bronson Reed and Ivar before facing off with each other. Pat McAfee entered at No. 22 and eliminated himself immediately after being confronted by Breakker and Omos. Breakker eliminated Omos.

Match favorite CM Punk entered at No. 27 to a warm reception. It marked Punk's first broadcasted WWE match in 10 years. The last time he performed in a televised WWE match was at the 2014 Rumble where he was the 27th superstar eliminated. The final six superstars Gunther, Punk, Rhodes, Drew McIntyre, Damian Priest and Sami Zayn (No. 30) stood off before brawling. Zayn eliminated Priest and was immediately tossed out by McIntyre to set the final four. McIntyre spent a little too much time smack-talking Punk and was dumped over the ropes. Rhodes eliminated Gunther, leaving favorites Punk and Rhodes as the final two.

Punk caught Rhodes with a  GTS. Punk shouted that he didn't wait 10 years to lose to Dusty Rhodes' kid. Punk propped up Rhodes for a second GTS. Rhodes caught the knee, took the angle and hurled Punk over the ropes. Rhodes became the fourth superstar to win consecutive Royal Rumble matches and the first to do it in 26 years. He joins Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. As Rhodes pointed to the Wrestlemania sign he also pointed at Roman Reigns suite symbolizing the epic Wrestlemania rematch.

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