2017 Royal Rumble: Match recaps and ratings


Brian Campbell breaks down every match on Sunday's Royal Rumble card, taking place at the historic Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Senior stats analyst Sean Coyle offers ratings for each match on a sliding scale worth up to five points. Criteria for ratings is based on storytelling, in-ring execution, match psychology, timing and innovation -- worth up to one point each.

(c) - indicates defending champion

Randy Orton wins the Royal Rumble match

For a full recap of this match, click here.

WWE championship: John Cena def. AJ Styles (c) via pinfall (23:58)

For a full recap of this match, click here.

WWE cruiserweight championship: Neville def. Rich Swann (c) via submission (10:00)

Ever since his heel turn one month ago, Neville has been boasting on both Raw and 205 Live that he was the king of the WWE's cruiserweight division. After Sunday's title bout, the king finally earned his crown.

Neville, riding one of WWE's hottest runs since reinventing his character, proved he could match Rich Swann's aerial skills and physicality throughout their match. Neville firmly established himself as the cream crop in the division with this victory.

It took some time for their cruiserweight title match to heat up after a slow start in front of a suddenly quiet crowd. But while Swann hung tough, finding ways to survive following one physical move after another late in the match, he ultimately ran out of lives, as TJ Perkins might put it.

After Swann improbably kicked out of a superplex late in the match, Neville instantly applied his crossface/scissored armbar submission move, forcing the tap out to capture the championship.

The closing sequence capped a wild finish to the match, during which both superstars traded stiff superkicks. Neville leaped from the top rope, only to be met with a kick to the face on the way down. Shortly after, he ate another superkick, this one clean to the face, as Swann rolled him up but only got a two count.

Both superstars took flight early on and traded daring moves. Neville connected on a missile dropkick from the top rope and Swann landed a beautiful twisting, 450 splash from the second rope out down onto Neville on the floor.

Neville becomes the fourth cruiserweight champion since the WWE brought back the title in 2016. Swann's reign had been the longest of the first three at 61 days, ahead of Brian Kendrick (30) and inaugural champion TJ Perkins (46), who won the Cruiserweight Classic tournament last summer.

WWE Universal championship: Kevin Owens (c) def. Roman Reigns via pinfall (23:28)

For a full recap of this match, click here.

WWE Raw women's championship: Charlotte Flair (c) def. Bayley via pinfall (13:05)

Charlotte Flair may have been pushed to the limit by Bayley on Sunday in her first feud for the Raw women's champion since wrapping up an epic 2016 run against Sasha Banks. But in the end, her unbeaten streak in pay-per-view singles matches remained intact.

Bleeding from the mouth late in match, Flair came up empty on a moonsault attempt from the top rope and landed on Bayley's knees. But the follow-up pin attempt from Bayley could only draw a two-count, causing the crowd to audibly signal their devastation.

Having escaped what appeared to be a certain defeat, Flair found new life against a worn-down Bayley. Shortly thereafter, Flair recorded her Natural Selection finisher on the ring apron, which left Bayley out of commission and led to the pin.

Bayley was forced to come from behind throughout most of the match after Charlotte started hot, using bullying tactics to physically overpower Bayley. But Bayley had her moments of rallying, and built the crowd's affection and energy each time.

She dove through the second rope to land a hurricanrana onto the floor and followed it up with a flying cross body from the second rope to the outside. But each time Bayley appeared ready to completely take over, Flair would stop her stiffly in her tracks, including a running boot to the face that killed Bayley's momentum late.

Bayley nearly scored another pinfall after landing a "Macho Man" Randy Savage-esque elbow off the top rope, but a figure-four leg lock from Charlotte, which later became a bridged figure-eight (aided when she grabbed the ropes for extra leverage), did its part to wear Bayley down to the point where she was easy pickings in the match's final moments.

WWE Raw tag team championships: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson def. Sheamus and Cesaro (c) via pinfall (Anderson pinned Cesaro) (10:28)

Less than two months after The New Day set a new record as the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history at 484 days, their successors proved nothing more than transitional Sunday night during the Royal Rumble kick-off show.

Cesaro and Sheamus saw their run as Raw tag team champions come to an end at 41 days, as Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson elicited a chorus of boos inside the cavernous Alamodome after the heel tag team claimed the titles via a nefarious pinfall victory.

In response to a "Dusty finish" on Raw in recent weeks, during which Gallows and Anderson appeared to have won the titles, only for the decision to be reversed to a disqualification, two referees were assigned to Sunday's match. Only one finished the match on his feet.

After the in-ring referee was accidentally laid out on a Brogue kick from Sheamus, chaos quickly ensued.

A secondary official from outside the ring took over responsibility of the match, just as Cesaro locked in a Sharpshooter on Anderson in the center of the ring. But Gallows came running in to break it up by attacking Cesaro, leading to a melee involving all four participants.

With Cesaro still down inside the ring, Gallows and Anderson caught Sheamus in their Magic Killer finishing move. Despite Cesaro's best efforts to prevent a pin, eventually knocking Glalows outside of the ring, Anderson rolled him up from behind with a handful of tights to score the three-count.

Nia Jax def. Sasha Banks via pinfall (5:10)

There were questions coming into this match as to whether Nia Jax was ready, in terms of her character's development, to believably feud with Sasha Banks on this level. Jax not only crushed those doubts on Sunday, she just about did the same to Banks.

In the most important victory of her young career, Jax was booked in dominant fashion and responded accordingly. By feasting on the injured left knee of Banks, the same one she has constantly targeted for weeks during attack on Raw, Jax wore down the former Raw women's champion before setting her up for the finish.

Despite a handful of offense from Banks, the match was largely a showcase for Jax, who finished off Banks by catching her off the ropes into a Samoan drop for the three count.

Banks spent the majority of the match on the canvas in pain, as the referee constantly checked whether she was healthy enough to continue. Each check from the referee elicited a large amount of boos from the crowd.

Jax was deliberate and powerful, but most importantly, she was believable in victory.

Naomi, Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella def. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya via pinfall (Naomi pinned Bliss) (9:34)

In a fast-paced, 6-woman, tag-team match to open the Royal Rumble kickoff show, the babyface trio prevailed after Naomi pinned Alexa Bliss -- adding another intriguing element to the SmackDown women's championship scene.

The short match was able to tell the stories surrounding multiple feuds, including Natayla's current issues with Nikki Bella. Natalya opened the match by mocking the catchphrase of Bella's boyfriend, John Cena, by saying, "You can't see me," to which Bella responded with a slap to the face. The winning team produced the biggest pop of the match when they locked arms for a triple suplex of Bliss, Mickie James and Natayla, sending all three of their opponents to the mat simultaneously.