- Video Highlights: Royal Rumble 2016 Match
ORLANDO, Fla. — The King of Kings has reclaimed his throne.
In a chaotic, wholly unpredictable Royal Rumble Match that saw the WWE debut of AJ Styles, an ugly attack on Roman Reigns by The League of Nations and The Wyatt Family screw Brock Lesnar, Triple H stood supreme. The Game unexpectedly entered the fray at No. 30, last eliminating Dean Ambrose to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for the 14th time.
Triple H’s shocking arrival as the bout’s final entrant spelled the end for WWE World Heavyweight Champion Reigns who was forced to defend his title from the No. 1 position. Fighting uphill the entire time in this “One Versus All” encounter, Reigns started off strong, dumping No. 2 entrant Rusev in less than two minutes, but he had no way to prepare for the man who entered third — AJ Styles.
The international star, whose status with WWE had been the talk of the sports-entertainment world for weeks, nearly broke the internet when he appeared. Walking to the ring at a deliberate pace with a hood pulled over his eyes, Styles soaked in the adulation of the WWE fans in Orlando’s Amway Center before entering into a thrilling exchange with Reigns.
When Tyler Breeze joined the match at No. 4 he became the first Superstar to feel the full brunt of Styles’ acclaimed offense en route to being dumped over the top rope. Curtis Axel — a man who claimed to have never been officially eliminated from last year’s Rumble — entered fifth with his Social Outcast cohorts in tow. All four Superstars attempted to get in on the action, but it wasn’t long before Axel was ejected by Styles.
The legendary Chris Jericho received a raucous reaction from the WWE Universe at No. 6. It was the beginning of a competitive stretch for the bout as the most dominant performer in Royal Rumble Match history, Kane, entered his record 17th Royal Rumble Match. He was followed by Goldust, Ryback, Kofi Kingston and Titus O’Neil, whose combined mass made the ring feel claustrophobic. O’Neil scored the first elimination after an extended struggled, dumping Goldust in impressive fashion.
Things got seriously strange from there as R-Truth entered at No. 12 and introduced a giant ladder into the ring. Every Superstar — everyone watching really — looked on while baffled as the oddball scaled the rungs, only to find nothing at the top. Apparently, Truth thought the Money in the Bank briefcase would be waiting for him. No matter. Seconds later he became Kane’s 43rd career elimination.
Kofi was nearly next, but just as he was about to hit the arena floor, he ended up on Big E’s shoulders. Someone needs to find out where that man keeps his rabbit’s foot.
Reigns, however, would not be so lucky. Seemingly out of nowhere, Mr. McMahon came to ringside along with Rusev, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio of The League of Nations, who dragged Reigns under the bottom rope and began to brutalize him in ghastly fashion. WWE’s Chairman barked orders like a mad dictator as Rusev splashed Reigns’ through an announce table. It was an ugly, underhanded move, which may have been the beginning of the end of the WWE World Heavyweight Champion’s run.
EMTs attempted to stretcher Reigns out of the ringside area, but he refused, choosing to walk to the back under his own power. Meanwhile, the Royal Rumble Match continued with Superstars desperate to become the new champion. Kingston was knocked from his perch atop Big E’s shoulders , while Luke Harper, Stardust, Big Show and Neville entered. Unsurprisingly, The World’s Largest Athlete made his presence known, dismissing O’Neil and Ryback in short order.
The Wyatt Family’s Black Sheep, Braun Strowman, was No. 17, and his impact was immediate. When Kane attempted to chokeslam the behemoth, Strowman shrugged The Devil’s Favorite Demon off with disdain and forced him out of the ring with scary power. He went right after Big Show from there, and muscled the giant over the top rope after rendering him lifeless . Suddenly, Strowman looked like the favorite.
Kevin Owens, still feeling the effects of his unbelievable Last Man Standing Match against Dean Ambrose, limped to the ring at 18. He may have been down, but he certainly wasn’t out as he traded fists with Styles immediately. “Welcome to WWE,” he yelled in the newcomer’s face before launching him out of the ring. Styles was gone from the match, but the impression he left was unmistakable as the crowd broke into an appreciative “AJ Styles” chant.
Ambrose was next. Looking just as banged up as Owens, The Lunatic Fringe picked up where he left off, going tooth-and-nail at his loathed rival. Things got worse for Owens from there as Sami Zayn made an unexpected Rumble arrival at No. 20. The former friends smashed each other like bar fighters before the NXT favorite threw Owens over.
At No. 21, Erick Rowan entered, meaning three Wyatts were in the ring at the same time. The trio operated as a unit and took control of the contest, dumping Neville and Stardust immediately. Mark Henry, who earned his spot in the Rumble by winning a Kickoff Match with Jack Swagger, came in at 22, but was immediately dismissed by the Wyatt mob. Zayn tried his best to overcome them, too, but he was gone soon after. If Bray Wyatt had a master plan, it was clearly falling into place.
And then Brock Lesnar arrived. The Beast Incarnate entered the Rumble like an uncaged lion . No one was safe from his unbridled aggression as he eliminated Rowan and took Strowman off his feet. Seeing the titan of The Wyatt Family and Lesnar go at it was like watching two tanks trading artillery on the battlefield.
Brock eliminated the 24th entrant, Jack Swagger, within 15 seconds of the former World Heavyweight Champion’s entrance. The Miz, either in a show of extreme cowardice or brilliant strategy, chose not to enter the ring when his number was called, preferring to go to the announce booth and disparage the competitors from a safe distance until he felt the time was right to enter the fray.
Lesnar was clearly the man to beat as he dismissed Harper like the monster was a cruiserweight, and then eliminated Strowman with a clothesline that could’ve been measured on the Richter scale. The Beast Incarnate had taken out the whole Wyatt Family just as Bray Wyatt joined at No. 27.
It was looking like Bray would be The Beast Incarnate’s dessert, but Rowan, Strowman and Harper crawled back into the ring and set their sights on Lesnar. Somehow, Brock fought the creatures off again, but when he went to F-5 Bray, they came right back. Wyatt managed to hit Lesnar with Sister Abigail before his followers pushed Brock over the top rope, cheating the odds-on favorite out of the WWE World Heavyweight Title.
That elimination changed the climate of the 2016 Royal Rumble Match. Wyatt, Jericho, Ambrose and Del Rio were in the ring. The Miz was on commentary. Reigns, who hadn’t officially been eliminated, was nowhere to be seen. Dolph Ziggler entered at No. 28, which finally brought The Awesome One into action. Say what you will about the snide Superstar, but his plan wasn’t a bad one.
Sheamus was No. 29, but before he could get halfway down the aisle he was upended by a Superman Punch from a fiery Reigns. In a show of unspeakable fortitude, the champion had returned, and he was angry. When he hit the ring, he dispatched The Miz and Del Rio in seconds. Reigns’ adrenaline didn’t take him far, though, as a clothesline from Wyatt cut the legs out from underneath him.
Then the final Superstar entered the ring. The opening crunch of Motorhead’s guitars was unmistakable, as was Lemmy’s chewed glass growl. It was time to play The Game.
Triple H hadn’t turned up on Raw since Reigns obliterated him at WWE TLC. There were other Superstars in the ring, sure, but the spotlight shone only on Triple H and Reigns. In fact, the two competitors were so concerned with beating the life out of one another that they were both almost eliminated. Still, The Game barely managed to weather an onslaught from Ziggler and ended up overpowering The Showoff.
From there, a faceoff between Wyatt and Triple H became the match you never knew you wanted to see. Sister Abigail almost stopped The Game, but Sheamus saved Triple H’s hide with a Brogue Kick. The two eliminated Wyatt together, while Jericho went next thanks to Ambrose. The ageless veteran made his mark either way, lasting for more than 50 minutes.
Reigns, Triple H, Sheamus and Ambrose were your final four, but it wasn’t long before Reigns dumped Sheamus. And then, in a split second, Reigns was gone. Roman had let his guard down for a mere moment after besting The Celtic Warrior, but that’s all it took for Triple H to throw him out. It was a testament to how quickly fates can change in WWE. Just like that, Reigns was no longer the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Sports-entertainment’s richest prize now hung in the balance between Ambrose and Triple H. Their plans of attack were sharply contrasted. The Lunatic Fringe wanted to gouge The Game’s eyes out, Triple H wanted to survive Ambrose’s frenzy and find the perfect moment to use his momentum against him. The Game’s plan worked.
The Lunatic Fringe had Triple H on the other side of the rope, hanging on for dear life, but a well-timed knee from The Game stopped Ambrose in his tracks. A few seconds later, Ambrose was on the arena floor and Triple H was the 14-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The Authority had once again seized control of their cherished prize, and Triple H had reclaimed his place atop WWE. The Game has become champion, but, with that, he has become a target. Let’s see how The Authority handles it when Roman Reigns is chasing them.