The Men’s Royal Rumble match took a surprising turn last night when R-Truth’s entrance was interrupted by Nia Jax, who beat him up and took his spot, entering the men’s match herself only a couple of hours after Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch had eliminated her from the Women’s Royal Rumble.
Obviously Nia Jax wasn’t the first woman in a men’s Royal Rumble match. Chyna entered in 1999 and 2000, Beth Phoenix took part in 2010, and Kharma (aka Awesome Kong, aka Kia Stevens from GLOW) was a surprise entrant in 2012. Interestingly, every time a woman has taken part in a men’s Rumble, she’s eliminated exactly one guy before being eliminated herself. Chyna took out Mark Henry in 1999 and Chris Jericho in 2000, Beth Phoenix infamously eliminated the Great Khali with a kiss, and Kharma tossed out Hunico. Nia Jax continued this tradition by eliminating Mustafi Ali, who was quite reluctant to fight her.
The thing is, I never expected this to happen again. I even briefly considered writing a post for this site last week lamenting the death of the trope. Because once the women have their own Royal Rumble, I figured, there’s no way a woman would get to be in the men’s match. I didn’t even think I’d want to see that, because it would make the women’s match less prestigious if it seemed like a woman would rather be in the men’s. Then, to my surprise and everyone’s, it not only happened, it worked and didn’t even diminish the women’s match.
First, Nia didn’t choose one match over the other — she was in both. And when she chose to enter the men’s match, she’d already been eliminated second-from-last from the women’s. She’d delivered an injury (in storyline this time, thankfully) to that match’s winner and star, Becky Lynch, but when Becky helped Charlotte eliminate her, that seemed to be Nia’s exit from not just the Rumble, but from the ongoing saga of Lynch’s rise to the top of the WWE.
So for a heel like Nia, finding another way to be one of the stars of this PPV made perfect sense, and entering the men’s Royal Rumble accomplished that. Plus, maybe it’s just me, but when Nia was in that ring with Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio, grinning proudly, it never seemed like she was trying to be one of the guys. She was trying to be like Chyna, Beth Phoenix, and Kharma, and why wouldn’t she? With her size, fighting guys could be the perfect avenue for her continued stardom, especially when the women’s title scenes seem pretty locked up for the foreseeable future.
Does that mean there’s more intergender wrestling on the horizon for Nia Jax? It’s hard to say, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that the answer is no. WWE has a complicated history with intergender, and currently the company line is that it’s generally a no-go. However, something did change last night in that regard, whether it leads anywhere or not. The thing that has made WWE’s most recent attempts at intergender wrestling seem like jokes (aside from the mere presence of James Ellsworth) is that the men never get in any offense at all. Becky and Asuka both just steamrolled Ellsworth as he cowered or tried to escape. Even at WrestleMania last year, where Ronda Rousey’s face-off with Triple H felt pretty legit, she always managed to counter him before he landed an actual hit.
Last night, on the other hand, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, and Rey Mysterio all gave back to Nia as much as she gave to them. It’s interesting that those are three such WWE veterans — whereas Mustafa got a quick toss and Andrade was laying in the corner the whole time — which makes you wonder just how concerned people backstage were about this all going perfectly. It also probably makes a difference that Nia’s so much bigger than most of the women’s division, so the optics just aren’t the same as they would be with a smaller girl (although let’s be real, plenty of the women’s division is bigger than Rey). Nia may not be the best technical wrestler around, but when she takes a superkick or an RKO and stands back up, you can believe it.
I know that those of you who don’t like seeing men fight women will see this as an unfortunate occurrence, but for those of us who believe that intergender competition is an important element of gender equality in wrestling, seeing WWE allow men and women to actually (in a kayfabe sense) fight each other in a non-one-side way feels huge. And honestly, if WWE wants to keep pushing Nia Jax as a star while Becky, Ronda, Charlotte, and Asuka dominate the women’s title scene, I’d rather see her feud with a man or two than team with Tamina to compete for the Women’s Tag Championships.