Picture: WWE

On a night where several records were broken and two superstars earned championship matches at WrestleMania 39, the Royal Rumble was all about Sami Zayn and his emotional exit from The Bloodline.

Up until the main event, the much-anticipated Premium Live Event was not delivering on expectations. Cody Rhodes and Rhea Ripley were the predicted winners for their respective Royal Rumble matches, as both battle royals posed their individual problems.

Bray Wyatt’s victory over LA Knight disappointingly did not feature the reveal of Uncle Howdy, while Bianca Belair prevailed over Alexa Bliss in a match that was not better than their last.

The decision for the men’s Royal Rumble match to not main event the show was strange at the time, but that reason became clearer after Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens. It proposed that something happening on a grander scale was on the cards, which turned out to be Sami Zayn’s “final test”.

The Bloodline delivered a torturous assault on the Prizefighter, all while the former Honorary Uce could not bear to watch. Owens was handcuffed to the ring ropes and as the Tribal Chief was ready to pounce with a steel chair, Zayn prevented the attack and it kickstarted the inevitable…

From that point, the rest is history that will live on for years to come.

It saved the Royal Rumble from being an underwhelming event, as all focus is now turned to the fallout of the final segment and how WWE creatively pave the path towards WrestleMania.

The Inner Sanctum will provide honest thoughts for each match at the Premium Live Event, giving a score out of five to every contest.

Cody Rhodes returns at #30 and punches ticket to WrestleMania 39

Picture: WWE

The men’s Royal Rumble match was driven by storylines that seem to have WrestleMania implications in place. It was disappointing to see most of the entrants announced prior to the show, as Edge, Logan Paul and Booker T were the only surprises.

There were no appearances from any superstars in NXT, while Alpha Academy and the Street Profits were features in the men’s Royal Rumble match. It is nothing against those four individuals, but tag team superstars will realistically never win the battle royal.

Gunther and Sheamus began proceedings as the first two entrants, revisiting their rivalry from last year which included arguably the best bout of 2022 at Clash at the Castle. It was a fiery way to start the battle royal and get the most out of the already-invested San Antonio crowd.

Brock Lesnar was vastly eliminated by Bobby Lashley, which sent the Beast into a furious frenzy. It all but confirmed that the two will lock horns at WrestleMania 39 for their final clash, as Rey Mysterio never entered the match due to a supposed attack from his son.

Edge was also eliminated in quick fashion by Finn Balor and Damien Priest, who were never even in the battle royal after the Rated-R Superstar threw the duo over the top rope prior. It is a loophole in the Royal Rumble matches, but the two parties could be involved in a program for WrestleMania.

Logan Paul entered the Rumble as the second-last entrant, being the one who eliminated Seth Rollins after the Visionary was a favourite to be in the final two. A match between these two for WrestleMania would be a good decision, as they both have similar in-ring styles and would propel Paul to become a heel again.

Cody Rhodes should have been in the match a lot sooner, as winning the Royal Rumble by entering at number 30 was generic and repetitive. The American Nightmare was always going to emerge as the victor, but it was the second consecutive year where the last entrant won.

Although it was the predicted outcome, nobody expected Gunther to be the first entrant and last until the death. The Intercontinental Champion won the respect of many admirers, bringing more importance back to the title and breaking the record for lasting the longest in a 30-man Royal Rumble match at over 71 minutes.

Gunther also had the equal-most eliminations in the battle royal at five, adding another impressive stat to his name and the contest. His performance indicates how valued he is by Triple H and how much of a top star he is.

Rating: 2.5/5

Bray Wyatt bests LA Knight in Mountain Dew Pitch Black match

Picture: WWE

In Bray Wyatt’s first televised bout since returning to WWE at Extreme Rules, it was unknown what the Mountain Dew Pitch Black match would entail. Fans also did not appreciate the red lighting in his matches from when he was The Fiend, so it was hoped the company would not follow a similar path.

The arena was lit in purple, as both Wyatt and Knight’s attires consisted of neon elements which made it watchable. The ropes were also neon green and while the latter gained some offence including driving his opponent through the announce table, Wyatt mostly dominated in his environment.

He won with a Sister Abigail and wore a different mask after his victory, which symbolised a more evil side and perhaps an alternate persona. It was a quick match with some unique spots, before Wyatt chased Knight into the crowd who kept delivering shots with a kendo stick to no effect.

Bray then applied a mandible claw, before Uncle Howdy launched from the top of a platform to Knight through a table. His identify was not revealed after months of anticipation and stagnancy, which was disappointing and is long overdue.

It was the biggest stage for Uncle Howdy to unveil his true self, as the storyline did not progress any further with puppets from the firefly funhouse appearing and looking on at the carnage post-match.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Bianca Belair retains Raw Women’s Championship against Alexa Bliss

Picture: WWE

Bianca Belair was successful in defending her Raw Women’s Championship against Alexa Bliss and nothing more can be said. It was also short like the previous match in the night and was hardly different to their first encounter at the beginning of the month, apart from the clean finish.

The E.S.T was always going to retain her title and secured the win with a K.O.D, before another Uncle Howdy vignette asking if Bliss is in charge played on the big screen.

There was no progression in this contest as well with Uncle Howdy, but a reunion with Wyatt and Bliss still seems imminent.

Rating: 1/5

Rhea Ripley goes the distance to win the women’s Royal Rumble match

Picture: WWE

The women’s Royal Rumble was a tale of two halves, as Damage CTRL had ultimate momentum during the first half of the match and wreaked havoc. It was a great showcase for the trio and followed the brutal assault they laid on Becky Lynch from Raw is XXX.

When Damage CTRL and the Man were no longer involved in the contest, it was a more balanced match with every woman competing for herself. This contest included NXT superstars unlike the men’s Rumble, such as Roxanne Perez who is the brand’s Women’s Champion.

Asuka made her return to WWE, wearing face paint that resembled her former gimmick from Japan. Piper Niven, previously known as Doudrop came back after battling health issues and was also impressive.

However, Chelsea Green re-debuted for the company but set an unenvied record. She now holds the statistic as the quickest elimination in a woman’s Royal Rumble, thrown over the top rope in only five seconds by Rhea Ripley.

It was not the ideal impression to give fans, as the women’s division on the main roster and more importantly Smackdown needs more depth with talent that need to be taken seriously.

The final three were the first two participants in Ripley and Morgan, joined by Asuka. There was no appearance from Naomi and the result was on a knife’s edge, when they were all caught on the apron with one slipup costing their opportunity at WrestleMania.

Asuka attempted to blow mist in the face of the Eradicator, but it caught Morgan instead before the Empress was eliminated by the number one entrant. Ripley was then in a situation where both her feet were millimeters from the floor, but she was able to spectacularly recover herself and eliminate Morgan with a headscissors.

She was the right woman to win her respective Royal Rumble and the perfect candidate to dethrone Bianca Belair for the Raw Women’s Championship. Ripley has revitalised her career under the creative leadership of Triple H, growing in confidence and continuously emerging as a force to be reckoned with.

Both Ripley and Morgan also broke the record for lasting the longest in a woman’s Royal Rumble match, although it is hard to see how the latter will use this momentum heading into WrestleMania season.

Rating: 3/5

Sami Zayn no longer the Honorary Uce in captivating conclusion

Picture: WWE

Although Sami Zayn wasn’t in the men’s Royal Rumble, he was guaranteed to be an integral part of the main event. Roman Reigns ordered for the former Honorary Uce to accompany him during the match, where he would deliver his “final test”.

The contest itself between the Tribal Chief and Kevin Owens did have areas of improvement, but it’s purpose was to culminate the biggest storyline of the company and it did that flourishingly.

It all began when Reigns pushed the Prizefighter into the referee, before he demanded a steel chair from Sami Zayn. The latter was hesitant in presenting the Tribal Chief with the weapon, but he eventually fulfilled the request.

Reigns then savagely threw the back of the Prizefighter’s head on the steel steps, as Zayn looked horrified and the commentary team pleaded for the match to be called off. The Tribal Chief successfully defended his championship after connecting with one more spear.

The Bloodline delivered a torturous assault on the Prizefighter, all while the former Honorary Uce could not bear to watch. Owens was handcuffed to the ring ropes and as the Tribal Chief was ready to pounce with a steel chair, Zayn prevented the attack and it kickstarted the inevitable.

Reigns was not mad at this point, but he commanded Zayn to continue the assault on his best friend. The former Intercontinental Champion could not bring himself to do so and the conflict finally got too intense, when he smashed the chair to the back of the Tribal Chief in shades of Seth Rollins in 2014.

51,338 let out an almighty roar and pure jubilation, as Zayn threw the chair down in defeat and knowing that he was about suffer the beatdown of a lifetime.

Reigns, Jimmy and Solo had their way with a lifeless Sami, but Jey walked away in disgust and empathy for Zayn. He was once in his position, receiving cold-blooded assaults from his cousin in betrayal and an abuse of power.

After nine months of unbelievable storytelling which became increasingly heart-wrenching, Zayn and Owens are destined to reunite as best friends as one of the last shots were the pair laying there in the ring with nothing left.

While Zayn’s departure from The Bloodline was always guaranteed, the question was how it would unfold and who would pull the trigger. It could not have been executed any better and everyone involved played their role perfectly, as the downfall of the group commences after an era of dominance.

Cody Rhodes’ win all but confirms that the former Honorary Uce and Prizefighter will meet The Usos at WrestleMania for the Undisputed Tag Team Championships, but the greater story is the connection between Sami and Jey.

Rating: 5/5

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