Looking Back Reviews WWE

Women at Royal Rumble: Historic Yet Weak

In the first installment in this series, I took a look back at women’s matches at Survivor Series, whilst the second focused on women at TLC, now it’s the turn of the Royal Rumble, starting with the very first one back in 1988!

Royal Rumble 1988

So, the first ever Royal Rumble is something I’ve never actually watched nor did I ever think I would, but here we are. This match lasts just under sixteen minutes and made me really want women’s tag team titles for today’s division, both teams look unique and completely opposite from each other, particularly a big fan of Jimmy Hart managing the Glamour Girls and screaming at ringside whenever things weren’t going their way. Glamour Girls get the first fall with Judy Martin pinning Yamazaki after an alley-oop. The Jumping Bomb Angels pick up the second fall with Yamazaki pinning Judy Martin after a slightly messed up sunset flip. The Jumping Bomb Angels get the final fall and win the Women’s Tag Team Championship with Yamazaki pinning Judy Martin after a double missile dropkick. The action in this one is relatively quick which I loved and there’s a huge pop for the Jumping Bomb Angels when they get the win, something that surprised me since I’m pretty sure this team didn’t last long in the company. I really enjoyed this match, I feel it’s an important piece of women’s wrestling history in WWE that maybe people today don’t appreciate, nor is it ever mentioned by the company. The commentary pairing of McMahon and Jesse Ventura works extremely well with Ventura even comparing the women to the men at one point, something you often didn’t and still don’t really hear today. Anyway, I’m going to be somewhere campaigning for the women’s tag team titles to make a comeback, please join the cause.

WWE Women’s Championship: Rockin’ Robin (c) vs. Judy MartinRoyal Rumble 1989

I’m unfortunately very unfamiliar with anything related to Rockin’ Robin, something I will no doubt correct in the near future, however, due to my knowledge that Judy Martin was great, even at the previous installment of this PPV, I am excited to see this match go down. Before the match even begins Sensational Sherri snatches the microphone from Howard Finkel, she tells the two competitors that whoever wins this match will have to face her next as she’s more woman than both of them put together, she later joins the commentary team mocking both Martin and Robin throughout. For just over six minutes these two battle it out in a relatively quick paced match, Martin overpowers Robin in every sense and thus has the advantage during most of it, there’s also an absolute ton of near falls for some reason. Rockin’ Robin retains the Women’s Championship after a diving crossbody. This wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, however, it’s not bad either just underwhelming. I even expected some form of an attack after the match from Sherri, however, it never happened.  

Royal Rumble 1990 to 1998 did not feature a women’s match.

WWE Women’s Championship Strap Match: Sable (c) vs. Luna VachonRoyal Rumble 1999

Fun fact, this is the first strap match I have ever watched, I probably shouldn’t have admitted this now that I think about it. Anyway, I have no clue why this was made a strap match nor do I know why Shane McMahon is introducing Luna, but let’s get to it. Before this one goes down there’s a replay of what happened on Heat with Luna attacking Sable, this leads to Shane telling the crowd that Sable is gonna come out and forfeit the title due to a chronic back injury, she doesn’t and the match goes ahead as planned, Shane joins the commentary team to offer support for Luna. The match lasts under five minutes and is quite chaotic and quick. Like I said, I’ve never watched a strap match prior to this but I didn’t enjoy this at all, in fact, I found it quite stupid. Sable retains the Women’s Championship as she’s able to touch each of the four corners first. This match made me feel quite sad actually due to my knowledge of Luna’s dream to be Women’s Champion never coming true, despite plans for her to win the title on a few occasions being ruined for her. It also felt like one of those moments where someone backstage only did this because in their mind it’s women whipping each other. I can’t really find anything positive about this, unfortunately.

Chyna became the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble in 1999, entering at number 30, she would eliminate Mark Henry from the match and lasted thirty-five seconds, she was eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin. She would enter the match again in 2000, this time as entrant number 17, this time she would eliminate Chris Jericho and lasted thirty-seven seconds, she was eliminated by Big Boss Man.

Undisputed WWE Intercontinental Championship: Chyna (c) vs. Chris Jericho (c) vs. Hardcore HollyRoyal Rumble 2000

Remember when Jericho and Chyna were co-Intercontinental Champions? This was during that whole fiasco with Hardcore Holly added into the mix for reasons I don’t know. It’s weird watching this back now to listen to Jim Ross acknowledge the barriers that Chyna broke down for women in WWE, whereas today that fact is brushed under the rug and was only mentioned after her passing, unfortunately. The match lasts under eight minutes with most of the beginning of it being between Jericho and Holly as Chyna is sent to the outside of the ring, she eventually gets back into it breaking up an attempt at the Walls of Jericho. There’s a hilarious dive to the outside from Jericho, which Chyna moves completely out of the way of whilst commentary try to make it sound like she did it on purpose. The mix of three competitors continuously comes into play as pins and holds are broken up right before the three or tap. Chyna and Jericho both simultaneously dive onto Holly and go for the pin but he kicks out. The pace begins to slow slightly as Chyna takes control, hitting Holly with a pedigree which he kicks out of. Jericho later tries to go for a superplex, however, that idea is kiboshed with Chyna instead pulling it off. Ultimately, it’s Jericho who picks up the win pinning Chyna after a Lionsault. The pace changing so often kind of put me off this one, but it wasn’t bad per se, just not great either. 

WWE Women’s Championship: Ivory (c) vs. ChynaRoyal Rumble 2001

It’s crazy to think that this is the first time Chyna went after the Women’s Championship, when you look at all the amazing things she accomplished prior to this, none of them are linked to the actual women’s division. I still to this day hate the Right to Censor music, but my god, Ivory gave us some absolutely hilarious facial reactions during this time. She enters this one as champion and is first out to the ring alongside fellow RTC member, Steven Richards. Chyna’s pyro gun entrance is still the coolest thing ever, in case any of you have forgotten just how wonderful it was. The beginning of the match is best summed up as Ivory dies and Chyna makes her look like a rag doll, which honestly is perfect. The crowd got more into it than I expected them to for some reason, including a rather loud reaction when Chyna hits Ivory out of the ring from the top rope with one shot, truly delightful to see. The match ends up in the crowd as the assault on Ivory continues, whilst a small flurry of Chyna chants begin from the members of the crowd close to the action. Once they’re finally back in the ring, realizing that things aren’t going to plan, Steven Richards attempts to get involved, but he is quickly reminded that no one messes with Chyna, and he’s tossed straight back out of the ring. They only go at it for four minutes, yet they somehow make it seem like much longer, solely for how much Ivory is pretty much bullied, in fact, she didn’t even hit a single move throughout. The finish is rather odd, with Chyna hitting her signature handspring back elbow and immediately clutching her head, Ivory crawls to make the cover and retains the title. Chyna’s “injury” to her neck was heavily played up in the build to this feud, but this came at such a strange point in the match, they probably could have done with a few more minutes to at least make it seem semi-realistic. Regardless, if you’ve ever in your life wanted to know what beating the hell out of Ivory looks like, watch this match back.

WWE Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus (c) vs. JazzRoyal Rumble 2002

I’ve watched an absolute ton of women’s wrestling content over the years, yet I have never seen this match. Jacqueline is our special guest referee for this match, despite the fact that a week prior she was in the number one contenders match with Jazz, surely that’s a conflict of interest, but let’s just go with it. Once both competitors are in the ring, Trish doesn’t even have time to remove her jacket as Jazz immediately kicks off the action before the bell has even rung. You can tell there’s still some inexperience from Trish at moments during the early going, it’s almost like she’s pausing and waiting to be hit with a move, it’s off-putting slightly. Jacqueline plays the intimidating referee role perfectly, even squaring up with Jazz at one point and making a slow count due to her being pushed around. Jazz goes to work on the injured hand of Trish, commentary put it over as if this is a reason Trish may not be able to beat Jazz, not the fact that the woman is built like a house and could probably crush a face with her fist. Trish does manage to pull out Stratusfaction but her pin attempt is quickly countered and followed up with a DDT, it only gets a two count. Due to this being my first time watching this, for some reason I expected Jazz to win, but one bulldog and a three count later, Trish has retained the title. Because her hand injury was mentioned so often, I really thought this was going to go the complete opposite way. This match also lasted just four minutes, yet again it seemed like longer whilst watching it. This is only really worth watching back to see how early Trish fairs against 2005/6 Trish, or also because Jazz is a complete and utter tank.

Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn MarieRoyal Rumble 2003

Let me start off by saying this feud is one of my absolute favorite things to come out of WWE, ever. I’m not joking either. I hope to write more about this in the future so you’ll understand why soon enough. Anyway, Dawn Marie is out first sporting a black veil due to the tragic passing of her husband Al Wilson, Torrie’s father for those of you unaware, he also didn’t actually die, despite seven year old me believing he did once upon a time. Torrie makes her way to the ring and gets a great crowd reaction, truly believe she should have been champion around this time, biggest babyface in the women’s division, including the opposing brand (RAW). This is billed as the first ever Stepmother/Stepdaughter match, which I’m fairly certain some families would disagree with. Watching this back made me miss both of these women, they truly helped the huge run of great things from SmackDown in 2002/3. The referee tries to make sure Torrie wants to go through with this match, but Dawn Marie connects her elbow to her face instead and gives her no choice. The pair go at it over the death of Al for just under four minutes and trust me, it’s worth a watch. Dawn absolutely nails the bitchy heel persona, but particularly in this match, as she repeatedly screams “this is for your father” after every big move she hits. It is, however, Torrie who picks up the win after a swinging neck breaker. This isn’t some technical five-star masterpiece, but it is part of some great storytelling, if you’re going to watch this one, just go all out and watch the full feud back.

Victoria and Molly Holly were in the 2004 Royal Rumble prelim match, however, it aired on Heat and is thus not included here. 

Royal Rumble 2005 did not feature a women’s match.

Mickie James vs. AshleyRoyal Rumble 2006

Now, Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James was truly a legendary feud, in fact, it’s my favorite women’s feud in WWE of all time. Yet for some unknown reason, they thought it was a good idea to include the god awful Ashley. Trish is the special guest referee for this one and before the match, there’s a backstage segment between her and Mickie, where she confesses her love for the Stratusfying one. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s what made this storyline work. I don’t know how, but this lasted for under eight minutes, I honestly don’t understand how Mickie could possibly fill that amount of time with Ashley who barely knew how to do a monkey flip, but here we go. 2006 and there were still “we want puppies” chants, unreal. The pace is incredibly slow early on, which isn’t how most Mickie matches usually go, so one can only assume it was to help out Ashley who received little to no training whatsoever, even though commentary continuously try to put her over as some wrestling technician. The moves used are incredibly basic it actually hurts to watch it, there’s even a moment where Mickie uses a fisherman suplex with a bridging pin, that she has to stop herself because Ashley didn’t kick out, my head hurts. I started to fade in the dying minutes of this match, but Mickie gets the win after a hesitant count from Trish. Don’t bother with this one, truly the weakest match thus far from this PPV despite the time it was given, it was pretty bad.

Royal Rumble 2007 and 2008 do not feature a women’s match.

WWE Women’s Championship: Beth Phoenix (c) vs. MelinaRoyal Rumble 2009

Six minutes. That’s how long this match got, yet it is the best match from this PPV by far. People often down talk this era or maybe don’t appreciate it as much as they should, but the Divas/Women in the mid-naughties were doing some great stuff, you just have to search for it, there’s a ton of hidden gems and this is one of them. Is Beth Phoenix the only person who made a pairing with Santino work really well for them? It was such an odd thing, yet it somehow worked. Melina and Beth worked incredibly well together, whether they were facing off or teaming together, their chemistry together is undeniable. There’s some crazy flexibility on show from Melina when Beth basically folds her in half and uses her own leg to hit herself in the head. Phoenix pretty much dominates the entire match, as she should, but Melina does get some offense in, which leads to a very close near fall. Santino rallies the crowd to get into the match throughout, as they’re rather silent and even attempted a chant for him early on, which he signaled for them to stop. After an attempt at the inverted leg drop bulldog, Phoenix goes for the Glam Slam, however, Melina flips around her body incredibly fast and roll up the Glamazon for the win and to become Women’s Champion yet again. That finish was done beautifully, it was so aesthetically pleasing to watch. The match had moments of being slightly messy but I enjoyed it. I miss this era and the one from a couple of years before it, but both of these women have somehow become underrated, along with many who were around at this time. Go and watch this back.

Royal Rumble 2010 included an untelevised 10-Diva Tag Team Match with The Bella Twins, Eve Torres, Gail Kim and Kelly Kelly facing off against Maryse, Alicia Fox, Jillian Hall, Natalya and Katie Lea Burchill. Kelly Kelly picked up the victory for her team. 

WWE Women’s Championship: Michelle McCool (c) vs. Mickie JamesRoyal Rumble 2010

I have to include this, but I wish I didn’t have to since there’s not a great lot you can say about something that lasts twenty seconds. Sometimes when things like this happen, I wish they would just cut the entrances so they can have more time, but instead, we end up with messy situations like this one, they even gave Michelle a promo before the match, wasting valuable time on something that wasn’t needed, I already hate this. There are weight “jokes” about Mickie and Layla comes out dressed as the Piggy James persona that LayCool created, however, the real Mickie shows up, immediately gets rid of Layla, hits a DDT and wins the championship. Sigh. Yeah, this was rough to watch, even if it was incredibly brief. Don’t bother with it.

Beth Phoenix became the second woman to enter the Royal Rumble in 2010, entering at number six she eliminated the Great Khali and lasted one minute thirty-seven seconds, she was eliminated by CM Punk.

WWE Divas Championship: Natalya (c) vs. Michelle McCool vs. Eve Torres vs. LaylaRoyal Rumble 2011

This match started out billed as a two-on-one handicap match with LayCool invoking their rematch clause, however, before the bell rings, Michael Cole receives an email from the anonymous general manager, to say that Eve Torres will be involved and changes the match to a fatal four-way, again like previous matches from this PPV, it only lasts for five minutes, yet it feels like much longer due to how much goes on throughout. Michelle and Layla team together to take control of the match early on, but they do tease the pair splitting and facing off with each other, including Michelle accidentally kicking Layla’s head off later in the match. Natalya attempts to lock in a double sharpshooter on Eve and Layla, similar to what she did to LayCool at TLC 2010, but it doesn’t quite work out with Michelle breaking it up before it’s fully cinched in. Eve comes back into the match and hits her signature moonsault on Layla, again, very aesthetically pleasing to watch, however, when she goes for the pin, so does Michelle on Natalya, the referee doesn’t see this and gives the win and the championship to Eve, despite Michelle also getting a three count that went unnoticed. Controversy. There wasn’t really anything overly exciting about this match, but it was pretty good. LayCool split teases were done pretty good, Eve was out of it for most of the match, Natalya will forever be underappreciated so nothing is new here.

Beth Phoenix, Natalya & The Bella Twins vs. Alicia Fox, Eve Torres, Tamina Snuka & Kelly KellyRoyal Rumble 2012

Yet another match that I have not seen prior to writing this, I took somewhat of a sabbatical from wrestling all together around this time, and thus missed out on what I’m sure is this five-star classic match up. No clue what the background of this match is if there even is one, Phoenix is the Divas Champion which I’m certain comes into play somehow, I’m just not sure how. The teams get group entrances and still couldn’t get their match time over six minutes, which is a shame. It’s rather strange to see Tamina not only playing face and not playing bodyguard, a role she’s been lumbered with on way too many occasions for my liking. Anyone unaware, Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres had a hell of a match at Vengeance 2011 and clearly, in this one their chemistry has not faded, their portion together in this match stands out more than anything else that happened in it. Brie and Alicia have a nice little moment until Twin Magic comes into play, it’s weird to watch Nikki during this time because she really wasn’t good, but at least she wasn’t Kelly Kelly who tags into the match and suddenly I remember why I took that sabbatical. Everything was going okay until they decided to start fighting outside the ring, there’s a lot of throwing punches at air, it’s painful. Thank god for Beth Phoenix, she tags herself in by slapping Nikki’s back which looked and sounded like it hurt, she hits the Glam Slam on Kelly and that is game over. Six minutes of nothing really. I don’t enjoy multi-people tag matches, especially when they have no purpose. Alicia, Eve and Beth shined but it was too brief to be anything great.

Kharma became the third woman to enter the Royal Rumble in 2012, entering at number 21 she eliminated Hunico and lasted only one minute, she was eliminated by Dolph Ziggler.

Royal Rumble 2013 and 2014 did not feature a women’s match.

The Bella Twins vs. Paige & NatalyaRoyal Rumble 2015

Please give me props for having to listen to Eden’s god awful announcing before this one, I swear she got worse with every match she announced, I’m not joking. Also, remember when Paige was semi-normal? I miss it. Anyway, this was the year of the Bella Twins including part of the previous year, both of them became the biggest stars the division has seen since the Trish/Lita days, while Paige was incredibly popular in her own right, the looming AJ Lee return and eventual retirement means that Nattie actually got a chance to be used here, it just didn’t last very long. This match did get over eight minutes which is a positive and a little hint that the division was starting to change, just in very small doses. Paige can be heard calling spots throughout the match, which is very off-putting but since she does it during all of her matches, you do kind of get used to it. The crowd is pretty much non-existent especially early on, they do get some cheers at one point, although Paige was crawling up Brie’s body at the time so perhaps not the best reason for crowd participation. Speaking of Brie, not that this should surprise anyone but her selling is great throughout, she always looks like every move is literally killing her slowly, it’s amazing. An underrated quality she had during her time, yes, I miss Brie. The crowd becomes lively for a second time, but yet again it’s not for a good reason as all they chant is “Olé”. Natalya and Paige give this match a good go, but if you have a fully functioning brain, I’m pretty sure you’re aware of what the outcome was, Nikki hits Natalya with a forearm for the win, because you know, broken neck and all that. I enjoyed this during specific moments of the match, but there are too many sections of it being way too boring. All four are capable of great things when they want to, but this wasn’t one of them.

WWE Divas Championship: Charlotte(c) vs. Becky LynchRoyal Rumble 2016

I recall watching this PPV very clearly in my mind, yet I don’t remember watching this match at all for some reason, I didn’t even know who Charlotte faced, clearly I cared a lot about Charlotte’s Divas Championship reign. My first issue with this match is that Ric Flair is there, thank god they ended that. However, no one can deny that Charlotte looks like a champion and carries herself like one, even here during her first main roster title reign she has undeniable confidence that is easy to see. She wasn’t at her best in-ring wise at this point, but a great opponent such as Becky who I believe is the best of the horsewomen, really helps with hiding her flaws. Charlotte plays up the heel tactics whilst Becky puts her move-set on display for all of us to watch and appreciate. I’ve stated this previously during other match reviews, but I typically don’t like interference during matches except during specific circumstances where it’s needed, now, I do think Ric getting involved in this match was necessary due to the character Charlotte was trying to put herself across as, however, they really could have done absolutely anything other than Ric kissing Becky, and they went with that instead. It’s uncomfortable to watch. Luckily, it doesn’t take away from the fact that both of these women pulled out a great match, which Charlotte really needed to have because people were very down on her reign. Becky attempts to go for the dis-arm-her but Ric throws his jacket in her face, a rake of the eyes and spear later, Charlotte has retained the Divas Championship. I enjoyed this. Minus the Ric issues, it was a great match. Probably one of my favorite Charlotte matches because of what it created for her from a fans perspective, it’s also more than likely the start of her improvements that are currently on display now. This is maybe the second best match from this PPV behind Beth/Melina, watch it back it might change your mind on a few things.

Bayley vs. Charlotte will no doubt be a great match, but I don’t expect Bayley to win the title this early, they’ll more than likely save that for WrestleMania, but both should do well as there is no excuse for a bad match. As much as I would love to see the women compete in their own Royal Rumble, I don’t know if we will get it. It would be interesting if they incorporated a potential draft opportunity into it, where the winner could choose to go after the SmackDown Women’s Championship even if they’re from RAW. It would also be a great time to finally debut Emmalina or reveal who is behind La Luchadora *cough* Mickie James *cough*. We will have to wait and see!

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