Royal Rumble 2021 was a professional wrestling pay-per-view and WWE Network event produced by WWE for their Raw and SmackDown brand divisions. It took place on January 31, 2021 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was the thirty-fourth event under the Royal Rumble chronology and feature WWE's virtual fan viewing experience called ThunderDome. It was the 34th event under the Royal Rumble chronology. It was also the first Royal Rumble since the death of Pat Patterson, who created the Royal Rumble match.
Six matches were contested at the event, including one on the Kickoff pre-show. In the main event, Edge won the men's Royal Rumble match for a second time, last winning it in 2010, thus becoming the eighth two-time winner, the third wrestler to win it as the number one entrant, and the first wrestler to win it after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The women's Royal Rumble match was won by Bianca Belair. In other prominent matches, Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing match to retain the Universal Championship and in the opening bout, Drew McIntyre defeated Goldberg to retain the WWE Championship.
Royal Rumble featured professional wrestling matches that involved different wrestlers from pre-existing feuds, plots, and storylines that played out on WWE's primary television programs. Wrestlers portrayed villains or heroes as they followed a series of events that built tension and culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, WWE presented the majority of its programming from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida since mid-March with no fans in attendance, although in late May, the promotion began using Performance Center trainees to serve as the live audience, which was further expanded to friends and family members of the wrestlers in mid-June. On August 17, WWE announced that all future shows and pay-per-views would be held at the Amway Center, a larger venue also located in Orlando, for the "foreseeable future", beginning with the August 21 episode of SmackDown. Furthermore, the shows now feature a new fan viewing experience called the "ThunderDome", which utilizes drones, lasers, pyro, smoke, and projections. Approximately 1,000 LED boards were installed in the Amway Center to allow fans to virtually attend the events for free and be seen on the rows and rows of LED boards. Arena audio is also mixed with that of the virtual fans so that chants from the fans can be heard. WWE's initial agreement with the Amway Center expired on October 31, but with the option to extend the contract with a two weeks notice. On October 12, PWInsider reported that the contract had been extended, with Fightful revealing the amended contract's expiration date as November 24. On November 19, WWE announced that they would relocate the ThunderDome to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, beginning with the December 11 episode of SmackDown. This move was also done due to the start of the 2020–21 ECHL and NBA seasons as the Amway Center is the shared home of the Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) and the Orlando Magic (NBA). TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs was the first WWE pay-per-view presented from the ThunderDome at Tropicana Field.
The card included matches that result from scripted storylines, where wrestlers portrayed heroes, villains, or less distinguishable characters in scripted events that built tension and culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches. Results are predetermined by WWE's writers on the Raw, SmackDown, and 205 Live brands, with storylines produced on WWE's weekly television shows, Monday Night Raw, SmackDown Live, and the cruiserweight-exclusive 205 Live.
On the January 8 episode of SmackDown, Universal Champion Roman Reigns took issue with the recent booking decisions made by WWE official Adam Pearce, including a gauntlet match that Pearce had scheduled for that night to determine Reigns' challenger for his title at the Royal Rumble. Reigns questioned if Pearce booked himself for the match, to which Pearce responded that would have been a conflict of interest. Later, Reigns' special counsel, Paul Heyman, confronted Pearce backstage and stated that he was able to pull some strings and that Pearce would also be competing in the gauntlet match along with Rey Mysterio, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, King Corbin, and Daniel Bryan. Nakamura survived the gauntlet to face final entrant Pearce; however, before the final round began, Jey Uso taunted Nakamura, which led to Reigns and Jey attacking both Nakamura and Pearce. Jey placed Pearce on top of Nakamura for the pinfall, thus Pearce won the match to become Reigns' opponent for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble.
Following Drew McIntyre's successful WWE Championship defense during the special "Legends Night" episode of Raw on January 4, WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg, in his first appearance since WrestleMania 36 in 2020, appeared to confront McIntyre. After Goldberg praised McIntyre's work and abilities, he stated that McIntyre did not have respect, claiming that McIntyre viewed the legends as being "washed up" and that McIntyre felt he was better than any of them when they were in their prime. Goldberg then formally challenged McIntyre for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. McIntyre responded that Goldberg was not the man he used to be and that facing him would be like facing his own dad. Goldberg then taunted and shoved McIntyre, who rose to his feet and stared down Goldberg. The following week, McIntyre refuted Goldberg's claim and said that he actually did have respect but that he was going to reject Goldberg's challenge until Goldberg pushed him, prompting him to accept the challenge and make the match official. McIntyre had accepted Goldberg's challenge via satellite as during that same episode, he announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19; following the standard 14-day quarantine procedure, McIntyre was cleared for the Royal Rumble, appearing live on Raw on the January 25 episode to have a final face-to-face meeting with Goldberg before their match.
At TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, Sasha Banks retained the SmackDown Women's Championship against Carmella. Over the next couple of weeks, Carmella continuously taunted Banks, yearning for a rematch. On the January 15 episode of SmackDown, Banks stated that she would give Carmella a rematch only if she faced Carmella's sommelier, Reginald, in a match first. The intergender match occurred the following week, in which Banks defeated Reginald. Banks kept her promise and a title rematch between the latter and Carmella was scheduled for the Royal Rumble event.
During the Royal Rumble Kickoff pre-show, Raw Women's Champion Asuka and Charlotte Flair defended the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship against Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. During the match, Ric Flair came out with Lacey Evans to distract his daughter—continuing an ongoing storyline from Raw. As Charlotte applied the Figure Eight Leglock on Baszler, Evans broke it up. The climax saw Evans perform the Women's Right on Charlotte, after which, Jax performed a leg drop on her to regain the title, thus Jax and Baszler became record-tying two-time champions, both as a team and individually.
The actual pay-per-view opened with Drew McIntyre defending the WWE Championship against Goldberg. Before the match could officially begin, McIntyre attacked Goldberg with a Glasgow Kiss and a Spear, knocking Goldberg out of the ring. Goldberg then retaliated by performing a Spear on McIntyre through the barricade. Goldberg returned to the ring, and after McIntyre also managed to return to the ring, the match officially began. McIntyre performed a Claymore Kick on Goldberg for a nearfall. Goldberg performed two Spears on McIntyre, also for a nearfall. Goldberg then performed a Jackhammer on McIntyre, but it was also a nearfall. As Goldberg attempted another Spear, McIntyre avoided Goldberg and performed a second Claymore Kick on Goldberg to retain the title. Following the match, Goldberg rose to his feet and endorsed McIntyre by shaking his hand, declaring that McIntyre passed the test, after which, McIntyre and Goldberg embraced.
Next, Sasha Banks defended the SmackDown Women's Championship against Carmella (accompanied by her sommelier, Reginald). During the match, as Banks threw Carmella out of the ring, Reginald caught Carmella. Banks then performed a head scissors takeover and a Forearm on Reginald. The referee ejected Reginald from ringside. In the end, Banks applied the Bank Statement on Carmella, forcing her to tap, thus retaining the title.
After that, the Women's Royal Rumble match was contested. Bayley and the returning Naomi entered the match as the first and second entrant respectively. Bianca Belair (the third entrant) and, due to their ongoing rivalry, Belair immediately attempted to eliminate Bayley, however, Bayley avoided elimination. Instead of participating in the match, Billie Kay (the fourth entrant) would join the ringside announcers for commentary. Kay would attempt to team up with NXT's Shotzi Blackheart (the fifth entrant), Shayna Baszler (the sixth entrant), NXT's Toni Storm (the seventh entrant), to take on the other participants in the match, however they all brushed her off. Kay eventually teamed up with Jillian Hall (the eighth entrant) and Kay officially entered in the match, however, later on in the match Kay eventually turned on Hall and eliminated her. Shortly thereafter, Kay was also eliminated. Mid-way through the match, Lacey Evans (the eighteenth entrant) entered the match accompanied by Ric Flair while wearing Flair's signature robe in an attempt to taunt Charlotte Flair (the fifteenth entrant). Immediately after Alicia Fox (the twenty-first entrant) entered the match, 24/7 Champion R-Truth entered the match thinking that the match is a 24/7 title defense. The 24/7 Title challengers appeared and ran after Truth, who then ran into the ring. As Truth fended them off, Fox pinned Truth to win the 24/7 title. Mandy Rose (the twenty-second entrant) eliminated Fox, after which, Truth pinned Fox outside the ring to regain the 24/7 title. As Carmella (the twenty fourth entrant and accompanied by Reginald) entered, Nikki Cross (the twentieth entrant) attempted to eliminate Carmella, however, Reginald caught Carmella thus saving her from elimination. After Carmella then eliminated Cross, Tamina (the twenty-fifth entrant) attacked Reginald, who bumped into Carmella, thus causing her elimination inadvertently. Alexa Bliss (the twenty-seventh entrant) entered the match and attempted to transform into her alter-ego controlled by "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt (due to her alignment with The Fiend), however, Rhea Ripley (the fourteenth entrant) eliminated Bliss. Ripley would also eliminate seven opponents. The final three were Flair, Ripley, and Belair.
Belair and Ripley teamed together and eliminated Flair. In the end, after a back-and-forth battle, Belair eliminated Ripley to win the match and earn herself a women's Championship match at WrestleMania 37. Belair would also become the second wrestler to win the match as the third entrant, after Ric Flair in 1992. Following the match, an elated Belair was interviewed where she stated that "she did it".
In the penultimate match, Roman Reigns (accompanied by Paul Heyman) defended the WWE Universal Championship against Kevin Owens in a last man standing match. At the start of the match, Reigns perfomed a Superman Punch on Owens only for Owens to rise to his feet. Owens countered a Spear from Reigns into a Pop-up Powerbomb, however, Reigns rose to his feet at 4. Mid-way, the two fought at ringside where Reigns viciously attacked Owens with steel steps. Reigns then threw Owens through an announce table from the LED boards of the Thunderdome arena. Owens and Reigns fought backstage where Reigns drove a golf cart into Owens. Owens then performed a Senton Bomb on Reigns off a forklift. In the end, Owens handcuffed Reigns to a lighting trellis. Unable to get to his feet and avoid losing, Reigns incapacitated the referee by shoving him into the trellis. Heyman then appeared and successfully freed Reigns. In the climax, Reigns then applied the guillotine choke on Owens, incapacitating him. Owens could not rise to his feet by the count of 10, thus Reigns retained the title.
In the main event, the 30-man Royal Rumble match was contested. Edge, returning from a triceps tear, and Randy Orton started the match as the first and second entrants, respectively. The two fought at ringside before the match officially began. They eventually fought into the ring and the match began. Orton along with Sami Zayn (#3) and Mustafa Ali (#4) began to triple team Edge, however, he fought them off and performed a Spear on Orton, who rolled out of the ring under the bottom rope. Edge followed Orton soon after and the two continued to brawl at ringside.
In his first appearance since 2010, free agent Carlito made a surprise return at #8, however, he was eliminated by Elias (#13). NXT's Damian Priest (#14) then eliminated Elias. It was then shown that medical personnel tended to Orton backstage and Edge returned to the match soon after. Due to Bad Bunny rejecting The Miz's offer in a backstage segment earlier, Miz (#15) proceeded to destroy Bad Bunny's DJ equipment on the stage and then celebrated with his tag team partner, John Morrison (#11). An irate Bad Bunny then came out, distracting Miz and Morrison, who were eliminated by Priest. Bad Bunny then performed a cross body on Miz and Morrison outside the ring. Kane (#18) made a surprise return only for Priest to eliminate him. Later in the match, and his first official match since 2014, Christian (#24) made his surprise return to in-ring action. After entering the ring and reuniting with Edge, the two embraced. Seth Rollins (#29) and Braun Strowman (#30) then returned after their respective hiatuses (though Strowman had returned at the end of the previous episode of SmackDown).
The final five were Edge, Christian, Rollins, Strowman, and Orton (unbeknownst to the rest at this time as he had not returned from his injury earlier). Rollins convinced Strowman to work together and eliminate Edge and Christian, however, Strowman turned on Rollins soon after. As Strowman tried to eliminate Edge, Christian tried to assist Edge to eliminate Strowman. Rollins would eliminate Christian, allowing Edge to simultaneously eliminate Strowman. Edge then eliminated Rollins soon after. Immediately following Rollins' elimination, Orton returned to the match and performed an RKO on Edge. Orton then attempted to eliminate Edge, however, he countered and eliminated Orton to win the match for a second time, last winning it in 2010, and earning himself a world championship match at WrestleMania 37. Edge became the eighth wrestler to win the Royal Rumble match twice, the third wrestler to win the match as the number one entrant (after Shawn Michaels in 1995 and Chris Benoit in 2004), and the first wrestler to win a Royal Rumble match after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Additionally, this was only the third time that the first and second entrants lasted the entire match and finished as the final two (last occurring in 1995 and 1999).
The following night on Raw, WWE Champion Drew McIntyre came out and stated that Goldberg had earned his respect and he had also earned Goldberg's respect. McIntyre was then interrupted by Royal Rumble winner Edge. McIntyre complimented Edge, however, Edge took issue as he thought that McIntyre would be more aggressive. After Edge teased that he would choose McIntyre as his opponent at WrestleMania 37, Sheamus, McIntyre's friend, came out to back up the champion, stating that he was not as nice as his friend. McIntyre then asked Edge about his decision and Edge stated he would reveal his choice in due time. After Edge left the ring, Sheamus turned on McIntyre and attacked him with a Brogue Kick, sending a direct message that he wanted the WWE Championship.
Unsatisfied with Edge's victory in the Royal Rumble and how he had defeated Edge in "The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever" back at Backlash, Randy Orton challenged Edge to one final match on Raw. In the main event, Edge defeated Orton thanks to a distraction by Alexa Bliss (continuing a storyline between Orton, Bliss, and "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt), putting an end to Edge and Orton's rivalry.
Also on the following night's episode of Raw, former WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Asuka & Charlotte Flair participated in a triple threat tag team match to earn an opportunity at a rematch for the titles against new champions Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler, which also involved the teams of Naomi & Lana and Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose. Thanks to another distraction by Ric Flair and Lacey Evans, however, the match was won by Naomi & Lana.
The following Wednesday on NXT, Edge made a special appearance. He talked about how seeing the passion, drive, and focus on wrestling in NXT helped motivate him to make his comeback, and told NXT Champion Finn Bálor and Bálor's TakeOver: Vengeance Day opponent Pete Dunne that he would be watching their match, and regardless of who won, it could influence his decision on which world championship he would challenge for at WrestleMania 37, teasing the possibility that Edge may choose the NXT Championship.
|30-woman Royal Rumble match||Preview|
|30-man Royal Rumble match||Preview|
|Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens||Preview|
|Drew McIntyre vs. Goldberg||Preview|
|Charlotte Flair & Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax||Preview|
|Sasha Banks vs. Carmella||Preview|
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Pre-show: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax defeated Charlotte Flair & Asuka (c) to win the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship (10:33)
- Drew McIntyre (c) defeated Goldberg to retain the WWE Championship (2:32)
- Sasha Banks (c) defeated Carmella (w/ Reginald) by submission to retain the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship (10:21)
- Bianca Belair won the Women's Royal Rumble match for a Women's Championship match at WrestleMania 37 (58:48)
- Roman Reigns (c) (w/ Paul Heyman & Jey Uso) defeated Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing Match to retain the WWE Universal Championship (24:54)
- Edge won the Men's Royal Rumble match for a World Championship match at WrestleMania 37(58:28)
Royal Rumble entrances and eliminations (Women)
|2||Naomi||Raw||22||Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler||47:39||0|
|4||Billie Kay||SmackDown||3||Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan||08:11||1|
|5||Shotzi Blackheart||NXT||1||Shayna Baszler||03:46||0|
|6||Shayna Baszler||Raw||24||Nia Jax||41:46||6|
|7||Toni Storm||NXT||4||Rhea Ripley||11:21||0|
|8||Jillian Hall||Free agent||2||Billie Kay||08:03||0|
|10||Victoria||Free agent||5||Shayna Baszler||07:15||0|
|11||Peyton Royce||Raw||10||Charlotte Flair||13:40||1|
|12||Santana Garrett||NXT||6||Rhea Ripley||04:32||0|
|13||Liv Morgan||SmackDown||8||Peyton Royce||06:37||1|
|14||Rhea Ripley||NXT||29||Bianca Belair||39:06||7|
|15||Charlotte Flair||Raw||28||Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair||33:47||1|
|16||Dana Brooke||Raw||9||Rhea Ripley||02:58||0|
|17||Torrie Wilson||HOF||11||Shayna Baszler||03:59||0|
|18||Lacey Evans||Raw||20||Shayna Baszler||19:21||1|
|19||Mickie James||Raw||14||Lacey Evans||07:20||0|
|21||Alicia Fox||Free agent||13||Mandy Rose||01:48||0|
|22||Mandy Rose||Raw||16||Rhea Ripley||03:49||1|
|23||Dakota Kai||NXT||15||Rhea Ripley||02:06||0|
|25||Tamina||SmackDown||23||Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler||08:31||1|
|27||Alexa Bliss||Raw||19||Rhea Ripley||01:02||0|
|28||Ember Moon||NXT||21||Nia Jax||01:51||0|
Royal Rumble entrances and eliminations (Men)
|3||Sami Zayn||SmackDown||2||Big E||13:04||0|
|4||Mustafa Ali||Raw||4||Big E||13:18||1|
|5||Jeff Hardy||Raw||1||Dolph Ziggler||03:25||0|
|7||Shinsuke Nakamura||SmackDown||12||King Corbin||22:01||0|
|9||Xavier Woods||Raw||3||Mustafa Ali||03:42||0|
|11||John Morrison||Raw||8||Damian Priest||08:14||0|
|14||Damian Priest||NXT||16||Bobby Lashley||15:34||4|
|15||The Miz||Raw||7||Damian Priest||01:02||0|
|17||Daniel Bryan||SmackDown||24||Seth Rollins||28:50||1|
|18||Kane||Free agent||11||Damian Priest||01:51||2|
|19||King Corbin||SmackDown||14||Dominik Mysterio||03:34||2|
|21||Dominik Mysterio||SmackDown||15||Bobby Lashley||02:00||1|
|22||Bobby Lashley||Raw||18||Big E, Christian, Daniel Bryan, and Riddle||04:03||3|
|23||Hurricane Helms||Free agent||17||Big E and Bobby Lashley||00:30||0|
|24||Christian||Free agent||27||Seth Rollins||18:12||2|
|25||AJ Styles||Raw||23||Braun Strowman||10:27||0|
|30||Braun Strowman||Raw||26||Seth Rollins, Christian, and Edge||07:24||3|
Other on-screen talent
- List of WWE pay-per-view events
- World Wrestling Entertainment/Event history
- Event gallery
- Royal Rumble
- Royal Rumble 2021 Official website
- Royal Rumble 2021 kickoff show on WWE Network
- Royal Rumble 2021 on WWE Network
- Royal Rumble 2021 Kickoff show at CAGEMATCH.net
- Royal Rumble 2021 at CAGEMATCH.net
|Royal Rumble 2021 previews|
|1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001|
|2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009 • 2010 • 2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015|
|2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020 • 2021 • 2022|
|2021 World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-views|
Royal Rumble • TakeOver: Vengeance Day • Elimination Chamber • Fastlane • TakeOver: Stand & Deliver • WrestleMania 37 • WrestleMania Backlash • NXT: In Your House • Hell in a Cell • Money in the Bank • SummerSlam • TakeOver 36 • Extreme Rules • Crown Jewel • Survivor Series • WarGames