The 30th anniversary of the WWE’s Royal Rumble is here, and for the first time since 1997 it’s headed for the Alamodome in Texas. It was there Shawn Michaels won the then-WWF Championship, and “Stone Cold” Austin outlasted 29 other men to in the show’s signature battle royale, ensuring him a championship match at WrestleMania.
Though the names and faces have changed, the importance of the Rumble certainly has not. In fact, in an era of professional wrestling where a revolution has transformed how viewers appreciate the female superstars of WWE, the annual show seems even more important. The 2017 “Royal Rumble” boasts three separate women’s matches — two from “Raw,” one from “Smackdown” — showing just how big the shift in WWE programming has been since ditching the term “divas” at WrestleMania 32.
Becky Lynch, the Irish “Lass Kicker” and one of the primary figures in the women’s revolution, spoke to Screener about the importance of the “Royal Rumble” in her life, her match on the show, which women she’s still dying to wrestle with and making sure the changes she and the other women have worked for never go away.
Screener: We’re heading into one of the biggest ‘Royal Rumbles’ of all time!
Becky Lynch: Yes, huge! It’s my favorite pay-per-view of the year.
Is it really?
It really is — and always has been. I remember staying up late watching the “Royal Rumble,” and going into school exhausted. Now, to be able to be in it, is amazing. It’s fascinating, incredible! It’s a novelty that still hasn’t really hit me.
And we didn’t even know we’d have a match at the “Royal Rumble,” up until it was made Tuesday at “Smackdown.” All these girls are getting out of hand! There’s a lot of rivalries building up on “Smackdown Live,” and it’s great to get in there. Team Fear-Lass-Glow is what we’re calling ourselves.
Well, looking back at the last year and a half — and how much the women’s revolution has changed what women’s wrestling is, and how the audience views it — how much pride is there for you having been a major part of it?
It’s amazing, it really is. We continue to do the work — because as much good as we’ve done, we’ve got to continue on and make sure it stays that way for generations to come. So far, we couldn’t ask for more. There’s three women’s matches on the “Royal Rumble,” which is incredible. A lot of years, if you look back, it’s been hard to even get one match, never mind three! So it really is incredible.
When you look at the last year, we’ve seen women in the main event of pay-per-views. You just main-evented “Smackdown Live” in a cage match for the Women’s Championship. How far are we from seeing a women’s “Royal Rumble” match?
I’ve been asked that a fair bit, and I don’t think we’re that far. The only thing is — when you look through the roster of “Smackdown,” and you look down the roster of “Raw” — we don’t have that many women. That is the only problem.
I think it’s not outside the realm of possibility, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next year or two — simply because we don’t have that many women. But I think that’s all going to change, because we have amazing women in NXT. We have such an incredible facility in NXT, that keeps bringing up more and more talent. So it’s not impossible: I just don’t think we have the bodies at the moment.
Speaking of NXT, obviously you made quite the name for yourself there. Who are the women down there now that you can’t wait to get in the ring with?
Asuka, for one, is incredible. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay are amazing as well. They’ve got a Fatal 4-Way with Nikki Cross at [“NXT: TakeOver”] before the Rumble. I’m looking forward to watching that, and seeing who comes out victorious.
You’re in a six-woman tag match at the Rumble, showcasing “Smackdown’s” women’s division. Outside of Alexa Bliss, who you’ve been feuding with, which women would you love the chance to work with?
I would be lying if I didn’t say everybody, because I think everybody there has so much incredible talent and potential. When you look at what Carmella is doing with James Ellsworth at the moment, it’s hilarious and very entertaining. Then you’ve got Naomi, who is just unreal. Nikki Bella came back from a neck injury, which is just unbelievable, and she’s killing it! I would love to get in the ring with her. Nattie I had a little feud with, but it ended quite quickly. I would love to wrestle with Nattie again!
There’s also the wild card of Mickie James, who just made her return to WWE…
Yes! An incredible talent — who’s gotten in the way of me and my championship! I’m getting ready to kick her “lass!” [laughs]
At last year’s WrestleMania you got your first experience wrestling in a stadium. Heading into the Royal Rumble, which is in the Alamodome, does a crowd that big change how you do your job in the ring?
It does a little bit, actually. Obviously I only have one experience of it, but what I remember about “WrestleMania” is not being nervous. It shocked me, because I thought I was going to be so unbelievably nervous. But when the day came, I was strangely calm. I think it’s because I was so nervous that my body wouldn’t let me realize it — which is pretty nice of my body to do for me, because if I realized, I don’t know how I would react.
I don’t know if this time is going to be the same, but it’s something I’m so glad I get to be a part of — and hopefully next year I’m going in to defend my Women’s Championship at the 2018 “Royal Rumble.”
WWE’s “Royal Rumble” airs live on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on WWE Network and pay per view.