Edge Avoids Nostalgia Uproar and Juiciest Talking Points After WWE Royal Rumble
WWE is officially on the Road to WrestleMania following Sunday's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, a show that featured unforgettable moments and matches that perfectly laid the groundwork for the most significant stretch of the company's calendar year.
It also created several juicy talking points, some of which will need addressing by WWE and others that should be celebrated.
From Bianca Belair's statement victory to international pop star Bad Bunny making the most of his special appearance, the annual spectacular delivered.
Relive Sunday's extravaganza by diving deeper into these juicy topics from the first pay-per-view of 2021.
Women of Color Shine in Royal Rumble Match
Not only did Bianca Belair's momentous victory in Sunday's Women's Royal Rumble make her the first Black woman to win the contest, but women of color shone bright in this year's match.
Naomi started the match at No. 2, the first surprise of the night, and lasted 47:39 in a fantastic comeback for the former women's champion.
Alicia Fox, another surprise entrant, became the first woman to win the 24/7 Championship in the middle of a Rumble match. Ember Moon exploded into the contest with the raw energy that made her one of NXT's breakout stars not all that long ago.
Tamina and Nia Jax were the dominant badasses they have been throughout the course of their careers, and the latter contributed to one of the more memorable moments of the match, that being her elimination at the hands of Lana.
Throw in continued excellence from Sasha Banks in her successful SmackDown Women's Championship defense against Carmella from earlier in the night too.
Then there was Belair, the star of the night.
One year after sending notice to the rest of the women's division with a breakout performance in the same Rumble match, The EST entered at No. 3 and ascended to the top of that roster with a victory that saw her stave off elimination on numerous occasions and even work with Naomi at one point to preserve both their spots in the competition.
Her victory marks the first time a Black performer has won the Royal Rumble since The Rock in 2000.
The win was a milestone not just for a young Belair with a blindingly bright future ahead of her but also for a diverse roster of talented performers who, hopefully, will not have to wait two more decades to have their arms raised in victory at one of WWE's premier pay-per-view extravaganzas.
Rhea Ripley Exposes Flaw in Alexa Bliss Gimmick
The weeks leading into the 2021 Royal Rumble saw Alexa Bliss repeatedly transform mid-match from her Alexa's Playground persona to a dark, twisted alter ego who twice dominated Raw women's champion Asuka.
Sunday, as the lights dimmed and the arena became cloaked in purple lighting, it appeared as though we were about to witness Little Miss Bliss wreak havoc en route to winning the match.
Then Rhea Ripley just straight up threw her out of the ring and prevented said transformation.
And in doing so, she revealed a flaw with the Bliss character and, to a lesser extent, Bray Wyatt's Fiend persona. If both go through the theatricality and deception of transforming into a different persona, why the hell wouldn't their opponent just cut them off before they do it?
Ripley nonchalantly deposited Bliss to the ground mid-transformation, and there were no repercussions. The former women's champion didn't bounce back up and attack Ripley. There was no black lipstick or mandible claw dealt. She just calmly and peacefully retreated to the locker room.
So the next time she is in the process of changing into WWE's resident harlequin, make like Ripley and kick her in the face. Or if you're feuding with Wyatt and he starts playing tricks with the lights, maybe run away.
It is easy to suspend disbelief when WWE doesn't blow a giant logic gap right in the middle of it. Now that it has, it behooves the company to occasionally exploit it to keep things fresh and ensure not all of the Superstars are oblivious to what clearly worked for one of their peers.
Bad Bunny Provides WWE with Best Celeb Appearance in Years
You didn't have to know Bad Bunny or even know of him before tuning in to Sunday's pay-per-view. There were plenty of young music fans familiar with the Latin sensation to make up for your unfamiliarity. WWE bringing him in to play the show and, more importantly, perform his hit "Booker T" was a great get.
What it did with him the rest of the night was even better.
After a backstage confrontation with The Miz and John Morrison, he interrupted their brief run in the Rumble match, distracting them long enough for Damian Priest to send them packing with a double clothesline over the top rope. A top-rope crossbody from the pop sensation earned WWE the media moment it had hoped for when it recruited him to be at the show.
This wasn't a past-his-prime Bob Barker appearing as a guest host on Raw or Jeremy Piven butchering a pay-per-view name so badly that it was clear he was not a fan. This was an international star, whose song "Booker T" already established his fandom, taking part in one of the company's premier events.
It was culturally relevant and not past its sell-by date, as is sometimes the case with WWE's efforts to cross over into the mainstream.
The company hit Bad Bunny's appearance out of the proverbial ballpark, resulting in the best celebrity appearance in quite time, something it desperately needed after the disappointments that were Saturday Night Live's Colin Jost and Michael Che two years ago and Rob Gronkowski's brief debacle at last year's WrestleMania.
Edge Spared Criticism Reserved for Other Returning Legends After Rumble Win
Brock Lesnar, Goldberg and John Cena are Superstars who have faced incredible scrutiny for returning to WWE and taking away a spot from a full-time performer in time for WrestleMania.
They have been criticized for coming back for a payday, denounced for their involvement in WWE's reliance on nostalgia to make up for its inability to create new stars. Their presence, critics claim, provides the company a safety net and prevents them from realizing their creative potential.
Yet the mood after 47-year-old Hall of Famer Edge's Royal Rumble victory does not reflect that same sentiment. It is, instead, one of celebration.
Yes, Edge's comeback story is incredible. It is inspirational and emotional. One of wrestling's good guys has had the opportunity to return (and go out) on his own terms rather than the ones dictated to him by injury a decade ago.
He is probably going to win the world title he never lost at WrestleMania, an event he has main-evented in the past. There will be tears, and justifiably so. Fans who watched his rise from undercard obscurity to the top of the wrestling world will once again cheer joyously as he raises the title overhead, a triumphant comeback complete.
But should the fact that fans, this writer included, like and connect with him spare him the criticism others face?
Edge's return means someone is going to miss out on an opportunity that could have been a huge launching-off point for them. It means Keith Lee or Sheamus or Ricochet or someone else on the Raw brand who could have seen their credibility skyrocket by way of a Rumble win or WrestleMania title match with Drew McIntyre will watch as another opportunity passes them by.
The Rated R Superstar is an all-time-great. He helped revolutionize the industry and is partly responsible in the shift from larger-than-life muscle guys to the faster, more intense and athletic performers. His matches live on in the annals of wrestling history.
His contest with Mick Foley inspired 18-year-old me to go to Chicago all by my lonesome for WrestleMania 22.
He had his time as Rumble winner and world champion, though. Does he serve a purpose and fill a role? Is he valuable to WWE, and should he have his opportunity to one last time stand on the WrestleMania stage and soak in the admiration of his fans?
Absolutely, on all counts.
It just could have been accomplished another way, reserving the Royal Rumble victory for someone who could have used the last little push it brings with it to catapult them to new heights.