Sports

Men’s and Women’s Championship Contenders Set for Wrestlemania

Joel Zietcer/courtesy WWE
Brock Lesnar takes down Bobby Lashley at WWE's Royal Rumble in St. Louis.
Professional wrestling’s marquee event is just two months away in Arlington, and the card of matches became a little bit clearer after WWE’s Royal Rumble event in St. Louis on Saturday night.

The Royal Rumble is WWE’s first major event of the year and is the official “kickoff” to WrestleMania 38, which comes to AT&T Stadium this April 2-3. The concept of Royal Rumble is simple enough. Thirty wrestlers enter the ring one at a time at 90 second intervals with the purpose of eliminating their opponents by tossing them over the top rope onto the floor. The last man or woman standing is declared the victor and earns a championship match in the main event of WrestleMania. Since 1988, this event has been a favorite of wrestling fans, and despite last weekend's Royal Rumble being underwhelming, fans now have a better idea of what to expect at WrestleMania.

Saturday night, fans saw MMA legends rule supreme as UFC Hall-of-Famer Ronda Rousey was victorious in the Women’s Rumble while Brock Lesnar was the last man standing, winning his second Men’s Royal Rumble and his first since 2003. With WrestleMania being on two nights this year at AT&T Stadium, it stands to reason that Rousey will headline one night (presumably against Charlotte Flair or Becky Lynch) while Brock Lesnar will most likely appear in main event against his old rival Roman Reigns, whom he has previously matched up against in two other WrestleManias.

Wrestling fans were mostly upset with the results of the Rumble, feeling that WWE has once again prioritized part-time attractions versus wrestlers who are on their full-time roster. At a local Royal Rumble Watch Party hosted by Puerto Rican independent professional wrestler/valet Salina de la Renta, fans booed the results of both rumble matches. This Is Wrestling podcast host Roy Turner asked the crowd if anyone had ordered a snooze salad with a side of z’s.

2021 saw one of the biggest roster turnovers in WWE history with 85 wrestlers either being released or not having the contracts renewed. It was obvious the trimmed-down roster had a negative effect on both rumbles as WWE relied on filling the star power void with celebrity cameos from Bad Bunny (who competed in last year’s Wrestlemania) and Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville in the men’s match. The women's bout included 15 free agents.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the evening was when WWE’s giant WrestleMania sign hanging above the crowd briefly caught on fire because of a malfunction with fireworks after Rousey’s victory. Fans in the area were asked to temporarily leave their sets. The small fire didn’t interrupt any of the matches nor were any fans hurt.

WWE has a tall task ahead of them filling AT&T Stadium for two nights of Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania 32 set WWE attendance records with 101,763 seats sold in 2016. Now, fans will see whether banking on headlining matched from Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey can duplicate those numbers.