Royal Rumble 2021 Review: Bianca Belair Headed To wrESTlemania, Edge’s Win Opens Up Some Great Options
Photo Credit: WWE
WWE Royal Rumble is in the books. No, it wasn’t perfect. From the lack of the Rumble’s typically electric crowd to some major botches, this year’s show was somewhat lacking. But in many ways, it was hard not to smile once the screen faded to black after the main event. On the main card, the right people won every match. Bianca Belair needed to win the Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and she did. In the men’s battle royal, the field was comparatively open, and Edge’s victory was a storybook moment for the fan-favorite hero.
Otherwise, most of the WWE Universe breathed a collective sigh of relief when WWE Champion Drew McIntyre pinned Goldberg; heading into the match, many fans worried that Vince McMahon would put the title on the 54-year-old legend. Thankfully, he didn’t. Over on the SmackDown side of things, Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens yet again in a thrilling match that was somewhat ruined by a mishandled finish. Regardless, the win kept the title around Reigns’ waist, so it feels like the road to WrestleMania is somewhat paved. McIntyre, Reigns and Sasha Banks will all probably keep their respective titles heading into The Showcase of the Immortals. Two of these champions have fairly clear paths to their WrestleMania matches. If WWE delivers these bouts, fan should be in for a fantastic two-night show in April.
Belair’s win in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match was the best part of the night. In the few weeks leading up to the event, Belair was booked like a bright star. WWE somewhat mishandled “The EST” during her feud with Bayley. But a decisive win over the former champion on the go-home episode of SmackDown gave Belair an impressive victory just two days before the Rumble. On-screen, Belair looked like she deserved to win the battle royal. If you factor in the story and the real personality captured in her WWE Chronicle and various interviews, “The EST” was far and away the best choice to walk away with the victory. More than any competitor in recent memory, Belair oozes charisma. She has the “it” factor, and then some. Belair is a main eventer in the making, and WWE just has to set her up to succeed in order to get there.
— WWE (@WWE) February 1, 2021
Many fans are already clamoring for a WrestleMania showdown between Belair and Banks. That’s the most natural direction WWE can follow. The two stars have crossed paths on WWE SmackDown, as they have shared the ring recently. They even teamed together at Tribute to the Troops, so they have some history to lean on. When it comes to a WrestleMania program for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, Anything other than this potentially iconic match would be a let down. Just as Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey made history at WrestleMania 35, Banks and Belair could do the same thing by facing off at WWE’s biggest show of the year.
Up to this point, Sasha Banks’ run with the title has been adequate. Her feud with Bayley was incredible, but a drawn-out rivalry with Carmella hasn’t done “The Boss” any favors. Banks remains a world class talent, but she needs a buzzworthy rival to get back on track. Belair is that challenger. It’s important to note that Asuka is a wildcard here. The WWE RAW Women’s Champion and Charlotte Flair lost the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship on Sunday, so the company might be setting up a renewal of the rivalry between these two competitors. A match between Belair and Asuka could be great, but a storyline between “The Boss” and “The EST” is perfect for WrestleMania season.
— WWE WrestleMania (@WrestleMania) February 1, 2021
The aftermath of Edge’s victory in the Men’s Royal Rumble leaves WWE with some options. The return of “The Rated-R Superstar” didn’t come as a surprise, as he announced it on WWE RAW last week. In an emotional promo, he declared that he wants to main event WrestleMania and win back the title he never lost when he was forced into an early retirement. After this passionate speech, many fans expected Edge to win the Rumble, and he did. His triumphant victory could have been fantastic in an arena that was filled with fans. Even in the ThunderDome, it was a moment that was sure to make the fans’ eyes water. The celebration was even more incredible because it came on the heels of Edge’s tearful in-ring reunion with Christian, a surprise entrant in the match.
Some fans are dissatisfied with Edge’s win because he’s a part-time star, and he’s on the tail end of his career. But many of the same concerns apply to Daniel Bryan, the other presumed favorite in the match. Either way, these legends present WWE with intriguing storytelling possibilities for “The Showcase of the Immortals.” Some of these options overlap. Either one of them could be positioned as the fan-favorite babyface that aims to stop Reigns’ reign of terror on WWE SmackDown, or as the hero who has overcome career-threatening injuries and is determined to reclaim their rightful place at the top. Despite these similarities, Edge is the better choice this year. Whereas Bryan might have at least another year or two, it seems like Edge is working on borrowed time. This could be his final run, and WrestleMania 37, the first show with fans since the start of the pandemic, could be the perfect culmination of the journey.
To borrow a phrase…
— Drew McIntyre (@DMcIntyreWWE) February 1, 2021
As with Belair, it feels like Reigns vs. Edge is an organic direction from here. “The Tribal Chief” and Kevin Owens delivered a mostly great Last Man Standing Match that featured gold carts and forklifts. The ending disappointed many fans, as the referee awkwardly stopped counting when Reigns was handcuffed, and the champion choked out Owens to win in an anticlimactic manner. But it’s hard to be too upset with this solid bout. Hopefully, this win marks the end of Reigns’ lengthy feud with Owens, as the program had run its course, even before Sunday night arrived. A potential WrestleMania win over Edge could cement Reigns’ status as a despicable villain. He would crush the fans’ hopes and dreams by conquering the beloved hero. There’s also a chance that “The Rated-R Superstar” could emerge as the knight who slays the dragon in what could be a genuine storybook moment.
As for WWE RAW, WWE Champion Drew McIntyre faces an uncertain road to WrestleMania. For a brief moment on Sunday night, it looked like he would actually lose the title to Goldberg. This writer’s heart skipped a beat (or two) when Goldberg hit the Jackhammer because it felt like WWE was showing its true colors by putting the legend over its younger champion. Instead, McIntyre earned a clean victory, so the company showed the fans that it believes in “The Sexy Scotsman.” But because a program between McIntyre and Edge feels unnatural, the WWE Champion’s path forward is unclear. Coming out of WWE Royal Rumble, he doesn’t have a clear challenger at the moment. He has already beaten several of the brand’s top contenders. WWE will have to work quickly to build up a worthy opponent for McIntyre. Otherwise, the red brand’s world title program will pale in comparison to that of SmackDown’s at WWE WrestleMania 37.