The first-ever WWE women’s Royal Rumble match takes place on January 28 in Philadelphia. The rules for the match are the same as the men. There are 30 entrants starting with two people, then every 90 seconds or so we’ll see another person enter until all 30 women have been in the match. To be eliminated from the match, a woman must be tossed over the top rope and both feet must touch the floor.
The prize for the women is the same as it is for the men. The winner gets a major championship opportunity at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans on April 7. The assumption is if a Raw wrestler wins, then she will challenge Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss and if a Smackdown wrestler wins, she will challenge Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. However, WWE has changed that up in the past where they say the winner has the choice of competing on either show.
Stephanie McMahon, who is the storyline commissioner on Raw who doesn’t appear on television that often anymore, announced the match on the Dec. 18 Raw. That was smart to do it so early, allowing the company time to properly promote the match. Here’s the announcement from Stephanie, in case you missed it:
Here are the names of the 17 women announced for the match so far:
Raw – Asuka, Bayley, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, Nia Jax, Paige, Sasha Banks and Sonya Deville
Smackdown – Becky Lynch, Carmella, Lana, Liv Morgan, Naomi, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan and Tamina
For whatever reason, WWE.com doesn’t list Alicia Fox or Dana Brooke — even though they were in a video several weeks ago talking about being in the match. That would put the number at 19 women. Where do they find the other 11 women? Likely from NXT and some names from the past brought back for this historic event.
While there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the match, there are some concerns too. Here are five pros and cons to the match, beginning with the concerns.
5. There are only 21 women on WWE’s main roster
That’s the number of full-time women on the roster right now. Raw has 11 and Smackdown has 10. The two women currently holding titles are Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair (more on them shortly) will not be in the match because the prize for the winner is a future title shot. That’s why when this match was rumored for the past several years, the question was always about how women would be in it. Most of us assumed it would be around 20 women because of the lack of women on the roster, but WWE has made a point to say it’s going to be 30 women.
Also, keep in mind that five of the women in the match (Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan) have only been on the main roster for less than two months. I don’t think anybody watching believes any of them have a chance to win the match, which is why WWE could have planned this better by introducing these women earlier.
If WWE knew they were doing a women’s Rumble, then they should have called up these women several months earlier or perhaps brought up performers from NXT that appeared to be more ready than some of them. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay come to mind.
If you look at the women in the match, most of them are established names that have held a title before, so that helps. I just think some of the others could have been built up better.
4. Hurting in star power without Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair
Bliss is the Raw Women’s Champion and Charlotte is the Smackdown Women’s Champion, so neither woman will be in the Rumble match. I doubt either of them will lose their title before the show either, so they will merely be spectators on January 28.
I think their absence is going to hurt because ever since WWE did the brand split in July 2016, Bliss and Charlotte are the two women who have been pushed the most. Fans view them as the biggest stars in the women’s division. Without them, the match could be viewed as not as exciting because of the star power they would add to it.
Any time you have a Rumble match, you want to build it so that fans believe there are multiple people who can win. In this case, partly because there’s no Alexa or Charlotte, the number of possible winners is pretty short with only Asuka, Nia Jax and maybe a surprise name as the likely winners. That’s why the absence of Alexa and Charlotte will hurt the match.
3. Some of the eliminations may be difficult due to going over the top to the floor
This is a common-sense thing. There are some women in this Rumble match who are around five feet tall or maybe a few inches above that. The top rope is nearly five feet tall. This is why women’s battle royals in the past have had the rule where you can be thrown out of the ring and be eliminated. In this match, the women have to be thrown over the top to the floor to be eliminated.
Think about when you watch the men’s Royal Rumble. It feels as if one-third of the eliminations are guys taking a clothesline that sends them tumbling over the top rope to the floor. That’s because they are bigger and can do a bump like that. A woman who’s barely taller than the top rope can’t take a bump like that.
I just have this bad feeling that some of the women in this match are going to do a bad job of bumping over the top to the floor. Have you seen Liv Morgan in a match? If you only watch Smackdown, she has barely been in the ring because of how mediocre she is. She looks great, but once the bell rings she’s not at the level of some of the other women. There are others too, but I don’t think you need me to tell you which women are better in the ring than others.
With all of this said, every woman in the Rumble is either very experienced or spent months (and in some cases several years) training at WWE’s Performance Center where they should have learned how to take a bump over the top to the floor. Obviously, WWE must have believed that 29 of them could bump over the top to the floor the right way or they wouldn’t do this match.
2. Two Royal Rumble matches will tire the fans out
Two people start a Rumble match. Every 90 seconds or two minutes (whatever interval WWE wants to use), somebody new comes in after a buzzer sounds and their music plays. The match usually takes close to one hour depending on the interval time. That means the crowd in Philly will have to hear that buzzer 58 times in one night. I hope the fans in attendance don’t have trouble sleeping that night because of that damn buzzer.
The good news is that the women’s match will likely open the show. The Royal Rumble’s a four-hour show, so I assume the women’s match will lead off the main PPV broadcast and then the men’s Rumble will go last. Putting the Rumble’s back-to-back would be a huge mistake.
I’ve watched every Royal Rumble match and reviewed them all. I think a lot of the crowd bought their ticket for the men’s Rumble match (when tickets went on sale last year, there was no news of a women’s Royal Rumble) and to mark out for the big moments there that. Some of the fans may not be as into the women’s Rumble as much as WWE might think, but I sure hope they give it a try.
1. If the match is bad, it will hurt the prestige of being the first Women’s Royal Rumble
I know everybody’s excited about it, but what if the match is bad? It’s possible. The Royal Rumble match has been around for 30 years. If people want to pretend like the Rumble is great every year, that’s fine for them to live in a fantasy world. The reality is that there have been some bad ones and lot of repetitiveness from year to year.
Remember when they tried something different and did a 40-man Rumble in 2011? It was boring and a comedy guy like Santino finished second to Alberto Del Rio after he hid on the floor for much of the match. In 1999, Vince McMahon won the Rumble, even though he was out of the ring for most of it. That wasn’t good, but it was memorable.
There was the planned tie finish in 1994, and then in 2005 they had a tie finish again — even though it wasn’t planned — which led to Batista tossing out John Cena in “overtime” to really win the match. Having somebody enter at one or two to last the whole way and win the match has been done before as well. They’ve done the surprise winner multiple times too, like John Cena in 2008 and Edge in 2010.
What can they really do to wow us this time? I’m not sure. That’s just the realist in me. In 2016, AJ Styles debuting in WWE at #3 was an incredible moment. Last year, there really wasn’t anything that stood out. You can’t count on big moments every year.
I hope the match is good and I’m not saying it will be bad. I’m merely saying that there’s a possibility it could be disappointing. If it’s a bad match, that’s going to hurt the chances of doing it again.
5. Women from NXT could make a big impact
There are going to be several women from NXT in this match. It would be a surprise if there weren’t. As noted above, WWE needs to find 11 women who aren’t from the main roster to fill out the 30 entrants in the match. That’s where the likes of NXT Champion Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Kairi Sane and perhaps NXT newcomer Shayna Baszler as well.
There are others who could fit in the match too, but I think they should limit it to five or six at the most and then fill the rest of the spots with women from the past.
The question is if these NXT talents do appear in the Rumble, does that mean they are going to stay in NXT after the match? Most likely. You can’t call up several women at once because it would hurt the NXT roster too much and there are only so many spots for women on the main roster right now.
4. The return of women’s wrestlers from the past
There are several women who are rumored to fill some spots in the Rumble to help them get to 30 participants. A woman like Trish Stratus hasn’t been in a WWE ring in several years and she retired as a full-timer in 2006, but she’s always in shape and likely would love to be a part of this. The same goes for Lita. Both of them are in their early 40s now and as two WWE Hall of Famers, they make sense being a part of it. I think Trish and Lita are the two biggest names in WWE women’s wrestling in the last 20 years, so if they want to do it they should be in.
— Trish Stratus (@trishstratuscom) December 19, 2017
Another Hall of Famer who comes to mind is 2017 inductee Beth Phoenix, who is always in great shape. Since Beth is going to be announcing in the Mixed Match Challenge starting next week, it makes sense to involve her in the Rumble. Beth is also one of three women to be in a Rumble match, so if she’s willing and able she should be in it.
WOW!!! @WWE women continue to get much deserved opportunities to SHINE! The news of the 1st ever Women’s Royal Rumble match January 28th makes my heart happy! Just sayin’…..my birthday is Jan 25th-what a FLAWLESS gift that’d be! Congrats ladies! 💪🏼
— Michelle McCool (@McCoolMichelleL) December 19, 2017
A few other names from the past that are possibilities to be in the match: Kaitlyn, Michelle McCool (wife of The Undertaker), Kelly Kelly, Victoria, Melina (if she’s recovered from a knee surgery) and Eve Torres. We could all sit here rattling off names, but you get the point. Plenty of possibilities.
Another name that’s likely in the match is Serena Deeb, who was under a WWE deal in the late 2000s, got released in 2010 and then returned last summer in the Mae Young Classic women’s wrestling tournament. It was reported by PWInsider that she recently went through medical testing by WWE, so she’s probably going to return for this.
I’m sure some fans want AJ Lee to be in it too, but she seems to have moved on from pro wrestling along with her husband, CM Punk. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s probably not happening.
3. The perfect time for the Bella Twins to return
Nikki Bella hasn’t had a match since WrestleMania 33 last year when John Cena proposed to her after they beat The Miz and Maryse. She said yes and has been busy planning the couple’s wedding, along with working on her “Birdie Bee” business with sister Brie. That’s not all for Brie, though, because she gave birth to her daughter Birdie along with proud papa Daniel Bryan last May. Ever since the baby was born, Brie has talked about wanting to get back in the ring. It certainly makes sense for the Royal Rumble to be the perfect time to do so.
There is some concern with Nikki because a serious neck injury is the main reason why she stopped wrestling on a regular basis. If Nikki wasn’t dealing with that, she likely would be wrestling every week.
What a historic evening! The women just keep breaking barriers at @WWE January 28th 2018 the 1st ever Women’s Royal Rumble! I’m screaming! N
— Nikki & Brie (@BellaTwins) December 19, 2017
Whether you like the Bellas or find them annoying, they are big names in the history of women’s wrestling in WWE. There’s no question that their presence would help the match.
The Bella Twins are being advertised for the Raw 25 special on January 22. It’s possible that they will use that day to announce they are in the Rumble match. I think that’s a good idea because I think there will be other surprises and it would be smarter to announce the Bellas as being in the match.
2. It would be a great way to debut Ronda Rousey in WWE
The rumors of Rousey joining WWE have been heating up for months. Rousey, the former UFC Bantamweight Women’s Champion, appears to be done with her UFC career since her last fight (a loss) was on December 30, 2016 and there have been no indications that Rousey will fight again.
Last month, USA Today reported that Rousey to WWE was “imminent,” although it led to nothing. I think they were just aware of the rumors that have existed with Rousey and WWE. As I was putting this column together, TMZ posted an article about how Rousey and her agent met with WWE’s Triple H at a restaurant in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Triple H missed Smackdown to talk to some press about the Raw 25 show and also met with Rousey.
Rousey has been training to wrestle since last summer, mostly at a school in California that is partly run by WWE’s Brian Kendrick. Rousey has also spent time at WWE’s Performance Center. A deal isn’t official, but it will likely be made official very soon. In the Instagram video Rousey posted recently, you can see her at WWE’s Performance Center and also in the ring with WWE’s Natalya.
I think Rousey’s going be in the Rumble match and I think she’s going to win. That should set her up for a women’s title match against Alexa Bliss or Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania. I think of the two choices, Charlotte makes more sense as a better in-ring performer, a bigger name and somebody who would match up well with Rousey. That could leave Asuka to challenge Alexa Bliss.
Another possibility that may happen is WWE could change plans by having Asuka beat Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title on the January 22 Raw 25 show, and then Rousey can win the Rumble to set up the showdown with the undefeated Asuka at WrestleMania. It’s worth noting that Asuka has been beating women with the armbar submission that Rousey used in the UFC a lot, so that’s a sign that WWE may be headed toward that match.
If WWE wants to advertise Rousey for the match that’s their right, but I think they will keep it a surprise.
1. It’s another giant step for the women of WWE
This match is huge for women’s wrestling. It should be celebrated and I’m glad that WWE is making a big deal about it. I joke about how often WWE tells their talent to mention this is a “history-making” match because it’s very repetitive, but I don’t blame WWE for it. They should be proud of the fact that they have gotten to this point.
Whether WWE calls it the “Women’s Evolution” or “Women’s Revolution” is something people have joked about for years because it seems like they change their mind on that all the time. The point is, women’s wrestling is much more important in WWE in the last couple of years than it ever was in the company’s history.
There were different times where they did focus on women’s wrestling quite a bit, like when Lita main evented Raw with Trish Stratus in 2004 or when Beth Phoenix was wrestling Mickie James in great matches about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t consistent. While they were having some great matches, there were also periods when women were booked as eye candy while having bikini matches, bra & panties matches or wrestling in a gravy bowl for the enjoyment of the men in the crowd. To see the women’s division evolve to the point that they are having their own Royal Rumble match is great.
In 2016, we saw the first women’s Hell in a Cell match (Charlotte Flair over Sasha Banks) and 2017 had the first two women’s Money in the Bank matches (both won by Carmella), so I like that things are continuing to grow in 2018.
There’s a lot of pressure on these 30 women in the match and the people booking it. It’s not going to be easy to coordinate a match for 30 people who have never done this before, even though a lot of them have experience in the ring. Here’s hoping they deliver a classic match we will be talking about for years to come.
As for my pick to win, I’m going with Ronda Rousey. I think it’s going to happen. If she’s not in, then I’ll go with Asuka. I hope the match is great and that it’s a huge success all the way around. Do I have concerns? Of course, but that’s just being a fan of the product and wanting things to go well. My optimism for the match is pretty high.
You can watch the first ever WWE 30-Woman Royal Rumble on WWE Network on January 28. It’s a four-hour event starting at 7 p.m ET/4 p.m. PT with a likely two-hour Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. ET as well.