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The 18 Best 2023 Royal Rumble Moments
Image: WWE

Wrestling

The 18 Best 2023 Royal Rumble Moments

The Best of the Royal Rumble 2023

The 2023 Royal Rumble was a memorable, if slightly uneven, event. While the strange and seemingly pointless Mountain Dew Pitch Black match was entirely skippable, the men’s rumble, the finish of the women’s rumble, and especially the post-WWE title match beatdown were all showcases of some exceptional storytelling and in-ring performances. Good or bad, a lot can and does happen during an event that clocks in at over 4 hours and features dozens of superstars. So below is a list of the top 18 moments that occurred in this year’s Rumble to serve as a recap for those who missed out or as a reminder for those still soaking it all in.

The Best 2023 Royal Rumble Moments
Image WWE

18 – Asuka rumble entry 

Asuka’s entrance provoked a sizable pop and added some spark to a fading, dull women’s rumble match. The crazy face paint reminded everyone of the unstoppable Asuka of old and the crowd was entirely into it.

17 – Pat McAfee returns

Pat McAfee sauntered at the beginning of the Rumble to join Michael Cole and Corey Graves at the announcers’ table. While McAfee isn’t quite the commentator that Graves is (but then again, who is?), he nonetheless added some fun and levity to the broadcast.

Nia Jax returns
Image: WWE

16 – Nia Jax returns

This moment should’ve been more impressive than it was. Jax’s entrance was a bit botched (she came out before the clock landed on zero), and thus neither the crowd nor the announcers felt the full drama of her return. Jax was also eliminated pretty quickly, which made her return also feel underwhelming. Nonetheless, it’s great to see Nix back in action. Hopefully, her next in-ring appearance is a better one.

15 – Chelsea Green makes history

If you’re going to include a surprise rumble entrant and have them quickly eliminated, this is the way to do it. No rumble would be complete without the “showboater who gets immediately tossed out” shtick and it worked wonderfully for Chelsea Green. She now holds the record for the fastest elimination of any women’s rumble match participant in WWE history.

Image: WWE

14 – Pitch Black match lighting

Although the Mountain Dew Pitch Black match was a complete dud and the endless creepy Bray Wyatt vignettes are getting tiresome, let’s take a moment to appreciate the weird purple rave lighting that was created for this match. It looked insane and was the only interesting thing about this ill-conceived bout. 

13 – Edge returns 

If there’s one thing wrestling fans love, it’s Edge making a dramatic appearance. He received a huge pop when he entered the men’s rumble, his first appearance since Extreme Rules in early October. 

12 – Bobby Lashley eliminates Brock Lesnar  

Brock Lesnar was only in the rumble match for 3 minutes, getting dispatched by Bobby Lashley. Every good rumble should have its fair share of surprises and conflicts. Lashley tossing out Lesnar was a great way to boost Booby while potentially setting these two up for more matches down the road.

Gunther WWE
Image: WWE

11 – Gunther and Sheamus kick off the rumble

If you haven’t seen the Intercontinental title match from last year’s Clash at the Castle, do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP. It was great seeing Gunther and Sheamus kick off the men’s rumble as a reminder/acknowledgment of their classic bout last September.

10 – Roxanne Perez rumble entry 

NXT Women’s champion Roxane Perez was impressive and fun during her relatively short stint in the women’s rumble. She got a decent pop from the crowd and is destined for some great work on the main roster. The women’s rumble lagged quite a bit until the finish so Perez’s injection of energy was much appreciated.

9 – Roman Reigns retains

Roman is having one of the greatest title runs in wrestling history and his Bloodline stable has inspired some superb storytelling (more on that at the end of this list). Roman should have and did retain his title, setting up more drama amongst his crew that is sure to pay off on the road to Wrestlemania.

8 – Women’s rumble finish

Rhea Ripley winning the women’s rumble  was a great choice, and while most of the match felt pretty uninspired, the finish between her, Asuka, and Liv Morgan on the ring apron was awesome.

Sam Zayn
Image: WWE

7 – Sami Zayn hesitates to give Roman Reigns a chair

The Sami Zayn Bloodline drama has been a well-written and slow-percolating storyline that boiled over at the Rumble, while also setting up more for the future. The first hint that something big was likely to go down was when Roman demanded Sami fetch him a chair and Sami hesitated. It also made clear that the title bout was more about advancing a story than the in-ring performances. But as long as feuds are as dramatic and well-told as this one, WWE can feel free to keep emphasizing stories over grappling.

6 – Reigns smashes Kevin Owens’ head on the stairs 

It’s always great when professional wrestling looks real, as in when certain spots look painful as hell. In some cases, they probably are. Roman brutally smashing Kevin Owens’ head against the stairs while Sami looked on disturbed was one of those moments when you want to scream at your TV in a Jim Ross voice, “Stop the damn match!”

5 – Cody Rhodes returns at #30 

We all knew it was coming but it still rocked. Cody Rhodes returned in dramatic fashion as the final entrant in the men’s rumble match. The underdog story, the devotion to the sport, the familial legacy– everything about Cody Rhodes is working well right now and his Mania bout feels like it’s destined to be a classic. 

4 – Logan Paul and Ricochet’s cross-ring collision 

Logan Paul is a natural-born heel and a surprisingly good wrestler. Those who can’t stand the gimmicky nature of his appearances in WWE might hate to admit it, but this YouTuber is probably the best celebrity wrestler, if not ever, than at least in recent memory (although Action Bronson’s appearance in AEW was pretty sweet). At one especially great moment in the men’s rumble, he and Ricochet jumped off the top ropes on opposite sides of the ring and collided mid-air. It was impressive enough for Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy to wonder if it was the best WWE move he’d ever seen.

3 – Iron Man Gunther 

Gunther is one of the best heels working today and his IC title run has produced plenty of great bouts. In this year’s rumble, he lasted more than 70 minutes in the ring, even finishing off the match with Cody Rhodes. This is a pretty huge push for Gunther and a well-deserved one at that.

2 – Cody Rhodes wins the rumble 

Sure, most of us expected it but Cody’s rumble victory and his nearly full-on final bout with Gunther sealed the deal on a great men’s rumble match. It’ll be interesting to see how his story plays out over the coming months, but knowing he will have a prime spot on the Mania card should keep everyone watching. 

1 – Sami Zayn betrays Roman Reigns

Not to sound too hyperbolic, but the post-title match beatdown of Kevin Owens and subsequent splintering of the Bloodline is some of the most compelling work WWE has done in years. The assault on Owens felt genuinely horrifying to watch and Sami finally having enough and swinging the chair at Roman sent the crowd into a frenzy. Jey Uso walking away from his beloved stable with tears in his eyes was also a brilliantly executed moment. Not only did Sami finally snap (which was fairly predictable), but Jey abandoning the Bloodline also set up some interesting potential storylines in the build-up to Wrestlemania. Now the stage is set: people are fed up with Reigns and the Bloodline, and war are about to break out. This is professional wrestling at its most compelling and well-plotted. 

Written By

Jonathon Norcross is a freelance entertainment writer. He worked in post-production for over a decade on projects for Showtime, TLC, Netflix, ESPN, Vice, The New York Times, and PBS, among others. He’s a co-host of the “Scenes From” podcast and contributed to the book “Changeology,” published by Simon & Schuster. He lives in beautiful Saratoga Springs, New York and is an unrepentant Yankees fan.

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