Cody Rhodes and Rhea Ripley are WrestleMania bound after winning their respective matches at the 2023 WWE Royal Rumble. The show closed on an emotional high note as one of WWE's best storylines in recent memory took a major step forward with Sami Zayn and The Bloodline.
Rhodes and Ripley were the frontrunners to win their Royal Rumble matches and they did just that. Their bouts were short on legitimate surprises but featured record-setting performances and set up the winners for world title shots at WrestleMania 39.
Undisputed WWE universal champion Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens in a physically taxing main event. In the aftermath of the match, Reigns demanded that Zayn lay out his defenseless estranged best friend with a career-ending blow. Zayn ultimately turned his back on The Bloodline, refusing to submit to his cruel demands. The most compelling component of the closing segment may just be Jey Uso walking out on The Bloodline, a full circle moment dating back to the group's origins and Jey Uso's feud with Reigns in 2020.
CBS Sports was with you the whole way through the event, providing updates and highlights as the action goes down in the live blog below.
2023 WWE Royal Rumble results, grades
Men's Royal Rumble match: Intercontinental champion GUNTHER and Sheamus drew numbers one and two, respectively. The ring started to fill up with Kofi Kingston (No. 4) and Johnny Gargano (No. 5) joining the fray without any eliminations. Gargano and Sheamus teamed up to kick The Miz (No. 3) out of the ring.
Xavier Woods entered at No. 6, giving the New Day a serious edge against the field. The reigning NXT tag team champions laid out the competition before teasing a one-on-one fight. GUNTHER knocked Kingston over the ropes to set up what appeared to be set up for a classic Royal Rumble spot. Unfortunately, Kingston appeared to hit a commentator's chair too hard and hit the floor. This marks the second consecutive year that his planned spot went wrong.
Two-time Rumble winner Brock Lesnar made his entrance at No. 12 and cleaned house. He exceeded 30 career eliminations by tossing out Santos Escobar, Angelo Dawkins and Chad Gable. Bobby Lashley (No. 13) entered the fray next and floored Lesnar with a spear before eliminating him. An outraged Lesnar destroyed the announcer's table. Lesnar gave the furniture a break and took his remaining frustrations out on Baron Corbin (No. 14), delivering an F-5 to JBL's protege ringside. The former UFC champion tossed a referee over ringside before finally exiting the area.
Seth Rollins entered at the halfway mark. Rollins immediately eliminated Corbin, who had only just recovered from Lesnar's rampage and outmaneuvered Lashley for his second elimination of the night. Rey Mysterio's music hit at No. 17 but he never appeared. The cause of his absence was alluded to when his estranged son, Dominik Mysterio, entered at No. 18 wearing his father's mask. The evening's first surprise entrant was revealed at No. 21 when former world heavyweight and WCW champion Booker T arrived to a big cheer from the crowd. Booker dropped Finn Balor with a Bookend before hitting his trademark Spinaroonie. He was promptly tossed out of the ring by GUNTHER afterwards.
Damian Priest (No. 22) joined the mix, giving Judgement Day dominance over their opponents. All three members of Judgement Day – Mysterio, Balor and Priest – systematically laid out the remaining superstars: GUNTHER, McIntyre, Sheamus and Rollins. Edge's arrival at No. 24 sparked a huge reaction from the audience. Edge had not been seen since Judgement Day laid him out at Extreme Rules in September. He immediately went toe-to-toe with the trio, the faction he led before being usurped by Balor. Edge eliminated Balor and Priest before trying to do the same to Mysterio. Balor and Priest saved their Judgement Day teammate and dragged Edge over the ropes. A brawl broke out between Edge, Balor and Priest on the rampway. Edge was getting the better of the exchanges before Rhea Ripley blindsided him. Beth Phoenix, a former champion and Edge's wife, came to his rescue.
Logan Paul entered at No. 29, squashing rumors of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or Sami Zayn would appear in the match. A quartet of WWE superstars stomped on Paul in the center of the ring upon entry. Paul had a brief moment of success, hitting Ricochet with an impressive Buckshot Lariat. A unique moment saw Paul and Ricochet springboard from opposite sides of the ring and hit each other mid-air with clotheslines. The long-awaited return of Cody Rhodes came to fruition as he drew No. 30. It marked Rhodes' first appearance in eight months after wrestling Rollins in a Hell in a Cell match with a terribly torn pectoral muscle. Rhodes and Rollins faced off in the final four of the match. Paul, who had been sidelined ringside, snuck back in and eliminated Rollins. The social media star gave the ole' WrestleMania sign-point before eating a Cross Rhodes and getting tossed from the match.
The match came down to Rhodes and GUNTHER, the latter of whom set the record for the longest time in a traditional Royal Rumble match – surpassing Rey Mysterio who lasted 62 minutes in 2006. The two fought back and forth for an extended period of time with Rhodes finally hitting a Cross Rhodes and eliminating GUNTHER. Rhodes will now fight for the undisputed WWE universal championship at WrestleMania 39.
— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2023
A dream has become reality at #RoyalRumble.
Congratulations to the undeniable @CodyRhodes, you EARNED it. pic.twitter.com/v4YBiLYE2M
It was a middle of road Rumble. The right man won and it was a refreshing change to see the final two superstars afforded so much time. GUNTHER shined in setting a new record in his first Rumble. The surprises were lacking and there was a general lack of big spots, excluding Paul and Ricochet's dueling springboard clotheslines. The build to WrestleMania 39 should be fun and it's great to see Rhodes again. Cody Rhodes wins the Royal Rumble - Grade: B-
Kingston (GUNTHER 2)
Dawkins (Lesnar 2)
Gable (Lesnar 3)
Lashley (Rollins 2)
Otis (Sheamus 2)
Elias (McIntyre 2)
Gargano (Balor 1)
Booker T (GUNTHER 3)
Balor (Edge 2)
Sheamus (GUNTHER 4)
McIntyre (GUNTHER 5)
D. Mysterio (Rhodes)
Strowman (Rhodes 2)
Theory (Rhodes 3)
Paul (Rhodes 4)
GUNTHER (Rhodes 5)
Winner: Cody Rhodes
*Never entered: Rey Mysterio
Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight (Pitch Black match): Wyatt arrived for his first televised match in more than two years sporting a new look: black eye makeup and horror-movie eye contacts. The lights in the arena cut out, revealing a glow-in-the-dark theme to the match.
The action quickly spilled to the outside as Wyatt pursued and punished Knight. Wyatt attempted to suplex Knight over the barricade onto steel steps, but Knight escaped and drove Wyatt through the announcer's table with an elbow drop. Wyatt dusted himself off and pursued Knight inside the ring. Knight swung with a glow-in-the-dark kendo stick, but ran directly into Sister Abigail for the finish.
Wyatt, now sporting a mask, chased Knight around the arena post-match. Knight repeatedly clobbered Wyatt with kendo stick shots that registered no effect. Knight's attempts to flee were futile. Wyatt finally snatched him and choked him out with a mandible claw by the stage. The mysterious Uncle Howdy emerged on an elevated platform and launched himself down onto Knight. Fire erupted and the unusual segment ended with Wyatt's cast of characters watching on.
It was an odd, third-party-sponsored match that felt more comical than fearsome. It was nice to see Knight get offense in for as long as the match lasted. Seeing Uncle Howdy do something physical should progress this storyline. Wyatt def. Knight via pinfall - Grade: C-
As Bray Wyatt and @RealLAKnight met in the first-ever @MountainDew Pitch Black Match at #RoyalRumble, Uncle Howdy made a big splash! pic.twitter.com/TqYhpt1sAZ— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2023
Raw Women's championship -- Bianca Belair (c) vs. Alexa Bliss: Belair and Bliss fought a competitive, back-and-forth match for the entirety of the contest. The rivals had a good read on each other with Bliss countering Belair's flashy standing moonsault – a move Belair managed to land cleanly on a second attempt. The match came to an end when Belair blocked Bliss' Sister Abigail and used the momentum to plant the challenger with KOD. A cryptic Uncle Howdy promo taunted Bliss, who used to be aligned with "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt, post-match. Howdy repeatedly asked Bliss, "Do you feel in charge?"
The match was fine but there was a lack of intensity. There weren't many big spots or tense near falls to ever put the outcome in question. This was a standard defense for the champion against an opponent few believed would actually overcome the odds. Belair def. Bliss via pinfall to retain the Raw women's championship - Grade: C+
#WWERaw Women's Champion @BiancaBelairWWE defends against @AlexaBliss_WWE at #RoyalRumble! pic.twitter.com/eavVmRoHhR— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2023
Women's Royal Rumble match: Rhea Ripley, wearing her wounds after being speared by Beth Phoenix during the men's Rumble match, drew the No. 1 spot. Liv Morgan entered at No. 2 after demanding to start the Rumble.
Bayley entered at No. 6 after a rather pedestrian effort between the other participants. Women's tag team champions Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky entered the fray at No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, to give Damage CTRL a huge edge in the match. Natalya (No. 11) made her first appearance in months and bee-lined for Shayna Bazler. A vindictive Becky Lynch joined the match at No. 15. She immediately took out Kai and Sky ringside before stomping a mudhole in Bayley. Lynch was tossed out of the ring through the middle rope – avoiding elimination – and laid out ringside by Damage CTRL.
Asuka received one of the evening's loudest pops when she entered at No. 17. She sauntered to the ring wearing a mask that completely covered her face and slowly removed the mask to reveal intimidating, clown-like facepaint and contact lenses. The aesthetic is a nod to a dominant and imposing character she portrayed in Japan prior to joining WWE. Lynch made her way back into the match and tossed out both Kai and Sky. Bayley got revenge for her Damage CTRL teammates by eliminating Lynch, but Bayley was promptly tossed over the ropes by Morgan during the chaos.
Chelsea Green made her long-awaited WWE return at No. 20. It marked her first appearance with the promotion since being released in 2021 alongside several other superstars. Green was promptly eliminated by Ripley in a record-setting five seconds for a women's Rumble. Raquel Rodriguez arrived at No. 22 to loud cheers from her fellow Texans. The powerhouse went toe-to-toe with Rumble frontrunner Ripley, knocking her to the mat before taking on the rest of the field.
The clock struck zero for the 25th entrant and Michelle McCool's music played. McCool was sitting front row with her children watching the match. McCool tore off her civilian clothes to reveal wrestling gear underneath and hopped the barricade. The countdown to No. 30 culminated in the arrival of Nia Jax, who was released by the WWE in November 2021. Jax went through the motions of the typical monster heel spot but was eliminated after a brief encounter with Ripley.
The Rumble came down to Asuka, Morgan and Ripley. All three women found themselves fighting on the ring apron with the threat of elimination looming. Asuka blinded Morgan with mist and Ripley eliminated Asuka. Morgan was a sitting duck but managed to connect with Ripley. The Judgement Day member was dangling from the ropes for dear life. The closing sequence saw Ripley snatch Morgan's head and flip her onto the floor. Ripley and Morgan had beaten the record for longest time in a women's Royal Rumble match, but the record will officially go to Ripley following Morgan's elimination.
#RoyalRumble just became RHEA RUMBLE!@RheaRipley_WWE has won the Women's Royal Rumble Match from the number 1️⃣ spot and now ... MAMI IS GOING TO #WRESTLEMANIA!!! pic.twitter.com/5zWrk4QwKN— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2023
A handful of NXT superstars appeared in the match, including: NXT women's champion Roxanne Perez and Indi Hartwell, as well as Piper Niven (formerly Doudrop).
It was a meandering Rumble for the most part. The match lacked big name surprises, excluding McCool, and Jax entering at No. 30 might be the most abysmal return in Rumble history. There were a few highlights. Asuka's new look generated a massive reaction and the closing sequence between Asuka, Morgan and Ripley clicked very well. A middle of the road Rumble, much like the men's match preceding it. In both cases, the frontrunner emerged victorious. Rhea Ripley wins the women's Royal Rumble match - Grade: B-
Perez (Bayley 2)
Natalya (Kai 2)
LaRae (Kai 3)
Green (Ripley 2)
SKY (Lynch 2)
Lynch (Bayley 3)
Hartwell (Deville 2)
Jax (Ripley 3)
Deville (Asuka 2)
McCool (Ripley 4)
Niven (Rodriguez 2)
Rodriguez (Ripley 5)
Cross (Morgan 2)
Asuka (Ripley 6)
Morgan (Ripley 7)
Winner: Rhea Ripley
Undisputed WWE universal championship -- Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens: Owens and Reigns mirrored each other during the introductions, sitting atop opposite corners of the ring. Owens took an early lead after a feeling-out period. He crushed Reigns with a running senton and corner bomb. Owens then turned his attention to Zayn and Paul Heyman ringside, giving them the crotch chop.
The champion and challenger exchanged momentum inside and outside of the ring. Zayn's alliance with Reigns and estranged friendship with Owens played a role in the match much like it has throughout this feud. Zayn was seen celebrating a near fall for Reigns and lamenting a near fall for Owens. The commentator's debated if his enthusiasm was for Reigns' near victory or Owens' survival and vice versa.
Owens continued to benefit from his indomitable spirit, kicking out of both a superman punch and spear from the undisputed champion. Owens marked Reigns for a stunner, but Reigns shoved Owens into the referee. Owens followed up with a pop-up powerbomb that would have guaranteed him the victory had the referee not been incapacitated.
Reigns floored Owens with a low blow and urged Zayn to retrieve a steel chair. Zayn protested the request, reminding Reigns that he was ordered by the champion to not interfere. Reigns doubled down and Zayn ran to retrieve it. Zayn was hesitant before giving Reigns the chair. The delay was long enough for Owens to recover, land a stunner and come within an inch of becoming champion. Reigns bounced back with another spear that sent Owens to the outside.
Owens crawled over to his former best friend ringside. Zayn pleaded with Owens to stay down and take the loss. Reigns interrupted their moment, spearing Owens through the barricade. The champion continued to brutalize the challenger, repeatedly slamming Owens into the steel steps while staring daggers through Zayn. The vicious assault appeared to be a stern message to Zayn. Reigns launched through Owens with one last spear and scored the pinfall while glaring at Zayn.
Post-match, Jey Uso attempted to present Zayn with a lei -- a ceremonial induction into The Bloodline. Reigns interrupted the crowning and ordered The Usos to attack Owens. Reigns, with a wide smile, draped his arm around Zayn's shoulder as Owens was further punished by The Usos and Solo Sikoa. Zayn was visibly concerned for Owens as Heyman handed Reigns handcuffs. The Usos repeatedly struck a defenseless Owens with superkicks until he appeared unconscious.
AN HONORARY UCE NO MORE!@SamiZayn has just betrayed @WWERomanReigns and the entire Bloodline at #RoyalRumble! pic.twitter.com/ZtzAF1xGGD— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2023
Reigns attempted to finish the job with a chair to Owens' face, but Zayn intervened. Zayn insisted that enough was enough and further damage was unnecessary. Reigns handed the steel chair to Zayn and demanded that he deliver the final blow. Zayn's hesitancy drew the ire of Reigns, who repeatedly shoved Zayn in the face. Zayn ultimately made his choice and struck Reigns with the chair. Jey Uso -- The Bloodline member who formed the deepest bond with Zayn -- yelled at him. Jimmy Uso super kicked Zayn and Sikoa delivered a Samoan Spike to "The Honorary Uce." Jey Uso, conflicted by his family's actions, walked away in tears. Reigns accused Zayn of breaking up his family and laid into Zayn with nearly a dozen chair shots.
There was so much to dig into in that match. Zayn's allegiance to The Bloodline appeared to be genuine, but Reigns finally pushed Zayn too far. The brightest moment of the segment was certainly Jey Uso's walkout. Reigns and Uso had feuded for the world title early into Reigns' heel run and it established the pecking order in The Bloodline. In this very moment, Jey Uso walked out on The Bloodline after being reminded of Reigns' true nature. Reigns def. Owens to retain the undisputed WWE universal championship. Grade: A+