Royal Rumble results: Triple H wins WWE World Heavyweight title as Roman Reigns suffers
Triple H returned to confront Roman Reigns and claim his WWE World Heavyweight title after The Game entered the Royal Rumble as the last man of a hectic main event.
Reigns entered the Rumble first after the pre-match draw was rigged by Vince McMahon, a consequence of Reigns' recent attack on the chairman of the WWE. However, Triple H was nowhere to be seen in the weeks leading up to the first pay-per-view of 2016, and there were few signs in the build-up that he would even enter the Royal Rumble itself, let alone be the final man to walk down to the ring.
But it would prove a long night for Reigns before Triple H's music would hit. The Big Dog was attacked early in the main event by the League of Nations, as Vince mcMahon led Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and Rusev to assault Reigns, with the Bulgarian Brute delivering a Rusev Splash to Reigns through the Spanish announcers' table.
While Reigns was taken backstage, the Wyatt Family were wreaking havoc. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan and the unstoppable Braun Strowman were tearing the rest of the roster apart, and the WWE Universe was left stunned when he eliminated Kane and Big Show in quick succession.
However, the arrival of Brock Lesnar changed the equation, and Lesnar eliminated both Harper and Rowan before sending Strowman crashing out of the ring.
With Bray Wyatt making his entry immediately after, the Eater of the World was on his own, but he soon addressed that issue as the rest of his Family mounted the apron and attacked Lesnar as one. Lesnar fought back, but the barrage proved too much and he was sent over the top rope to his elimination.
As Sheamus made his way to the ring as the penultimate entrant, Reigns returned and levelled the Irishman with a Superman Punch. Reigns quickly eliminated Del Rio and The Miz, but he was left stunned when Triple H arrived. The two went at it before the likes of Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose joined the affray, but when the Celtic Warrior was left hung up on the top rope, Reigns seized the chance to eliminate his rival.
The decision proved to be costly though, as Triple H threw Reigns over the top rope and ended his brief reign at champion. With just two left, Ambrose looked to try and add the WWE World Heavyweight title to the Intercontinental Championship he retained earlier in the night, but despite being on the up he was flipped over The Game's head and eliminated, leaving Triple H to celebrate with a jubilant Vince and Stephanie McMahon.
Royal Rumble entrants:
1. Roman Reigns (28th)
2. Rusev (eliminated first)
3. AJ Styles (11th)
4. Tyler Breeze (second)
5. Curtis Axel (third)
6. Chris Jericho (26th)
7. Kane (ninth)
8. Goldust (fourth)
9. Ryback (seventh)
10. Kofi Kingston (eighth)
11. Titus O'Neil (sixth)
12. R-Truth (fifth)
13. Luke Harper (18th)
14. Stardust (14th)
15. Big Show (10th)
16. Neville (13th)
17. Braun Strowman (19th)
18. Kevin Owens (12th)
19. Dean Ambrose (29th)
20 Sami Zayn (15th)
21. Erick Rowan (16th)
22. Mark Henry (14th)
23. Brock Lesnar (19th)
24. Jack Swagger (17th)
25. The Miz (20th)
26. Alberto Del Rio (21st)
27. Bray Wyatt (23rd)
28. Dolph Ziggler (22nd)
29. Sheamus (27th)
30. Triple H - WINNER
Earlier in the night, Ambrose and Kevin Owens played out a Last Man Standing classic. In a match that featured numerous chair shots, kendo stick whips and moves that defied belief, it looked as though Owens was closing in on retaining the title he lost at TLC. However, Ambrose pushed Owens off the top turnbuckle and through two tables stacked atop of each other, and the former NXT champion coulod not answer the 10-count to leave Ambrose victorious.
The Tag Team titles remained in the hands of The New Day after Big E and Kofi Kingston defeated The Usos. In a match that came to life the more it wore on, the Usos looked to be closing in on victory against to odds, givent hat Xavier Woods was up to his usual mischieveous self at ringside. However, a tag by Big E that went unnoticed saw him become the legal man, and when he caught Jey Uso in mid-air to deliver the Big Ending, the match was settled and The New Day celebrated.
The only other title to change hands on the night saw Del Rio suffer defeat in his United States Championship defence against Kalisto. With his Lucha Dragons team-mate Sin Cara currently sidelined, Kalisto would have to do it on his own, and he took a number of heavy shots early on as Del Rio dominated.
However, the high-flyer began to grown in confidence, and when Del Rio's frustration at not being able to put his opponent away shone through, Kalisto delivered two Salida del Sols to claim the title.
A vicious and unpredictable Divas title battle saw Ric Flair interfere to help his daughter, Charlotte, defend her corwn against former friend-turned-rival Becky Lynch. The fighting Irishwoman took the battle to Charlotte, who delivered a number of telling blows herself. However, Becky's power began to shine through, and when she utlilised a brilliant counter up ont he top turnbuckle, she locked in the Dis-arm-her and looked to be heading for victory.
However, Flair - having already kissed Becky in a bid to distract her - threw his blazer over Becky's head to break up the submission lock, and Charlotte secured the win with her opponent distracted after hitting a second spear. Her celebrations would be short lived, though. Fellow NXT graduate Sasha Banks would make her way to the ring, and despite attacking Becky and offering her hand in friendship to Charlotte, The Boss turned and attacked the champion before holding her title aloft, signalling the start of what could be an enthralling feud.
In the Royal Rumble Kickoff match, Mark Henry and Jack Swagger teamed up to defeat The Dudley Boyz, The Ascension and Darren Young and Damian Sandow in order to qualify for the main event itself. However, it proved pointless as Henry was eliminated immediately by the Wyatt Family, while Swagger lasted just 15 seconds - enough time for Lesnar to deliver an F5 and throw him out of the ring.
But while the Rumble was short on standout returns from legends of the ring, a much bigger reaction was triggered when AJ Styles made his long-awaited WWE debut, entering the contest in the No 3 spot after Reigns had already elminated Rusev. Styles held his own for over 28 minutes before he was eliminated by Owens despite him showing the effects of his tussle with Ambrose earlier in the night. For Owens, his night would get even harder, as Ambrose immediately followed him out, before his former NXT rival Sami Zayn made his return felt as he eliminated Owens to start what could be one of the feuds of the year.
But looking forward, the prospect of a Triple H vs Roman Reigns main event at WrestleMania 32 is beginning to look a near-certainty. Lesnar looks set for a feud with the Wyatt's following their Rumble showdown, although the guaranteed presence of The Rock at the Grandest Stage of them All could yet throw a spanner in the works, given his attack on The Game at last year's event.