It’s been almost a week since the Royal Rumble, but it was a fun show and I can’t pretend it’s not on my mind. As you probably know, I like to right about the fashion on display at the big PPVs, because everybody’s usually trying out new things and debuting new looks. This year, I decided to rank every look in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match from the least flattering to the most stunning. My opinions are purely my own, of course, but also I’m usually right.
If you’re asking yourself if it’s sexist to only talk about the women in visual/fashion terms and not the men, I get it. On the other hand, I’m doing it this way because the women’s match gives me so much more style to talk about, whereas if I start talking about the men’s gear, there’s only so many ways I can say “Look at those solid black trunks!” and “What the hell is Dolph Ziggler thinking?!” So without further ado, let’s talk about all the gear from the Women’s Rumble.
28. Lacey Evans
Lacey, Lacey… what are you even doing with that hat? I get the sailor pin-up idea, but making the brim of your hat wide enough to paint words on in it (in the sort script usually applied to homemade sweatshirts) makes you look more like a Russian sailor than an American one, and while I know American conservatives love Russia now, but I just don’t think that fits the “Keep ‘Em Flying” aesthetic. Things get a little a better when she takes off the skirt and hat to wrestle, but there are still problems. Her boots look like clown shoes, the “seams” on her stockings are just drawn-on carton stripes, and her hair is consistently a mess. This is one of the unfortunate consequences of being mean to queer people, Lacey: There’s nobody to help you look good.
I have nothing against Tamina as a person. She’s inherited a particularly problematic legacy, and she’s obviously dedicated to the WWE and has done whatever they’ve asked of her for a long time. That said, what exactly is her character? She’s Superfly Jimmy Snuka’s daughter and therefore she’s… very tough and wears black leather? I understand she’s not going to be an island princess, because the would seem pretty racist and wouldn’t suit her anyway, but there’s just not much to her to grab onto, and the way she dresses exemplifies that. Also this is just what she wears all the time, and it’s nice when superstars put in a little extra effort for the Royal Rumble. Last year she wore white, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but at least she got points for switching it up.
26. Mickie James
Mickie James is gorgeous, and she pretty much looks great in anything that’s not bell bottom tights. This particular outfit, however, is doing a lot, and not succeeding at much of it. She’s obviously visually referencing her Native American heritage, but like a lot of her attempts to do that, this outfit seems more like a nod to the idea of Native American aesthetics than to any particular heritage. The Easter egg colors don’t help matters either. Maybe I’m biased because I prefer when Mickie’s aesthetic is more “hot mom at a honky tonk bar,” but this look just doesn’t cut it for me.
Speaking of women whose aesthetic choices have always baffled me, here’s Natalya. She’s been dressing like a dominatrix for like five years now and her character that entire time has stayed somewhere between “concerned mom friend” and “unhinged cat lady.” As we saw in that old Total Divas episode where she first decided to adopt the dominatrix look, Natalya has no idea how to behave in a way that matches an outfit with this much black vinyl and this many metal studs. And that’s fine, don’t get me wrong, but maybe dress differently. Also is just me, or do those shoulder ruffles get steadily bigger? She’s not even really dressed like a dominatrix; she’s dressed like a Magical Girl anime villain.
24. Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox has been in WWE for a long, long time, and she’ll take whatever little thing they give her and make the most of it, as exemplified by the fact that she’s still running with “I’m the captain!” which is a storyline from Survivor Series 2017. And not only that, she keeps it entertaining, even when it’s not relevant to anything else going on. As far as her actual look, I think it’s fine but there’s nothing new to it. Also, the gold of her jacket and hat washes out the subtle pink of her ring gear. She pulls off that bananas cyclopean hat, though, and not many people could. It even becomes a part of the match, because again, Alicia Fox will absolutely get a hat gimmick over, even if she only has three minutes at a time to do it.
23. Alexa Bliss
I like Alexa Bliss’s gear, and I always have. Alexa has a real sense of style, and it comes through in her wrestling gear as well as her street clothes. This version that’s just black and silver without any of the blue or pink touches might even be my favorite of her looks. But here’s the thing: this is literally gear we’ve seen her wear before. And for Alexa it’s more than just the Royal Rumble — it’s her return to the ring after being out for months. If there was ever a time to bring something new to the table, this was is it. The fact that she didn’t get new gear for the Rumble actually makes me wonder if it was up in the air until the very last minute whether or not she’d be able to wrestle.
22. Nia Jax
I’m usually in favor of Nia Jax in gear that looks more glamorous and less like Klingon armor than the shoulder-pads-and-hip-pads aesthetic she so often wears. This look definitely achieves a higher level of glamour. However, I’m not certain sky blue is the best could for her. I’d love to see her in something similar to this but with purple in place of the blue. I’m not sure if it’s a plus or a minus that this is some of her most feminine gear, and as she wore it to compete in the Men’s Royal Rumble Match as well. In any case, while this wasn’t my favorite look for Nia (that’s probably still what she wore to Mania last year), I’d love to see her experiment with similar styles in other colors.
This is definitely the ring gear of someone who believed she would actually be competing in the Royal Rumble, although of course that didn’t happen. Lana is always doing the most, and this look is doing its best to keep up with her. It’s a bold combination of bright blue and yellow. It says “Crush” on each of her arms, in case she forgets that her arms are for crushing, and it says “Lana Day” on her torso, in a shape that looks like a rocket ship but probably unintentionally. That’s still enough to make me think of Danny’s sweater from The Shining, which was also blue and yellow. I’m not sure if Lana’s secretly implying that the moon landing is fake, but I wouldn’t put it past her.
20. Dana Brooke
View this post on Instagram
💪🏼2️⃣2️⃣💪🏼 In Numerology 22 is the most powerful of all numbers. It is often called the Master Builder. The 22 can turn the most ambitious of dreams into reality. It is potentially the most successful of all numbers💪🏼 Let 2019 be my year in all aspects! Unicorn of @wwe 1 in a million – try and break me, my patience can’t be broken! 🦄🦄 #WWE #22 #royalrumble #playtimeisover #flexcity #flexonem GEAR BY @terrysews2 Hair – @makemeblush_mua @bfabulous1 Makeup @mrs_lindysue
Dana Brook has so much potential and gets so little respect. Despite WWE’s ongoing reluctance to give her anything to do, she always makes strong gear choices and consistently looks great. This is the same basic style of gear she’s worn a lot of, but the purple and teal elements make it stand out. She may not know if she’s a heel or a face from week to week, but she knows what looks good on her and that’s worth a lot.
19. Ember Moon
Ember Moon’s gear manages to be both flattering and intimidating on her, despite being pretty scattered when you actually pay attention to it. There are still elements of the goddess Athena, who was her namesake on the indies, and then there’s the werewolf-ninja-Mortal-Kombat stuff, which has always seemed tied to a character concept that’s never been fleshed out in the slightest. She looks great, which is why she’s so high on this list, but hopefully when she returns from surgery they can figure out how to give her a character that feels like a consistent whole. I like this look a lot, but I’d like it a whole lot more if any part of it was justified or explained.
18. Maria Kanellis
My first thought about Maria’s gear was “Wow, that’s a lot of cut-outs.” Considering Maria’s character is about being hot and terrifying, I had to admit that that suits her. Once she was in the ring and camera was closer, it was obvious that the cut-outs were essentially an illusion, with flesh-colored lycra standing in for bare flesh. And that’s perfectly fine and an established practice for all sorts of women who have to move around a lot in sexy outfits without any parts of themselves falling out. On TV, however, with the camera right up in her face, that much flesh-colored lycra just makes the outfit look a little too circusy. I think there could have been a better balance struck, with more red and less fake flesh, that would have been a much better look. She still looked great, don’t get me wrong, but she’s always going to — she’s Maria Kanellis.
17. Kairi Sane
This is a completely standard Kairi Sane look, although it’s the version with the red elements, which might be my favorite. I like Kairi’s fantasy anime pirate look, although I’m not always sure how well it reads for WWE audiences. You can’t go wrong with that coat though, and her gear underneath it looks great on her, even if the pirate aspect is vague. Even though she’s still in NXT, this was Kairi’s second Royal Rumble, and I think she probably has many more still to come.
16. Io Shirai
Io subscribes to the common joshi practice of having as many fabrics and patterns in her gear as possible, but she manages to make her outfits look intentional and balanced despite that. The outer garment she enters in is lacy and ornate with gold and purple elements, suggesting royalty and prestige. Underneath it she’s wearing red and leopard print, suggesting fierceness and aggression. That’s the perfect mix for a wrestler with the power and prestige of Io Shirai.
15. Nikki Cross
I’m almost certainly ranking Nikki Cross too high on this list. She’s my favorite wrestler, and I was really excited to watch her first Royal Rumble, so it’s hard to be impartial. And yes, she’s wearing basically what she always wears, with the addition of her new WWE T-shirt. However, what Nikki Cross wears suits her perfectly, and since main roster audiences are just getting to know her, it does make sense to stick with that. The ripped gray pants suggest that she’s not so much a conventional wrestler as a visitor from an apocalyptic future as envisioned in a ’90s music video, which she pretty much is. Her top, whether the ripped-up T-shirt or her usual (presumably faux-) leather beneath it, continues the apocalyptic aesthetic, which the amount of cleavage she shows makes you feel weird about noticing that aspect of somebody who looks like she might chew your face off. It’s all part of the whole Nikki Cross thing.
14. Kacy Catanzaro
If you watched this match and didn’t come out of it ready to watch Kacy Catanzaro become a huge star (despite being tiny), then I don’t know what to tell you. Her speed and athleticism, combined with her size, make it easy to imagine her becoming the Rey Mysterio of the women’s division, and with all due respect to Rey, even that may be selling her abilities short. Her gear isn’t complicated, and it shouldn’t be. She’s an athlete, not a pirate or a werewolf or whatever. What she’s wearing isn’t pretending to be anything other than wrestling gear, and the bold red and black pattern is striking. And while her gear is skimpier than some, what’s it’s really showing off is how muscular she is, making her look all the more impressive.
13. Xia Li
My only reluctance about Xia’s gear is how “traditionally Chinese” it looks to my white American eyes. While that gives me some concerns about WWE’s habits when it comes to wrestlers from other countries, I don’t really feel like it’s my place to make that judgment and bump Xia down this list because of it. What I do know for sure is that Xia Li looks fantastic. The ornate pattern against the red on her torso and the short skirt give her a unique and unmistakable aesthetic, and her impressively muscular arms and legs are on display, which definitely defy stereotypes and make her look as intimidating as possible.
12. Candice LeRae
Candice’s NXT run has been really bogged down by the long-running saga of her husband Johnny Gargano, which is a shame because she’s at her best as an upbeat, smiling, self-motivated babyface. This gear does it’s best to convey all of that to viewers who don’t already know her, and it’s succeeding. Even if you’re unaware that a cupcake has been Candice’s symbol for a long time, the cupcake pattern here is cute and unlike anything another wrestler might wear. The yellow and pink manage to make her look adorable without crossing the line into babyish, although of course how tough she is in the ring helps with that too.
You can ignore Alexa in this photo, I just couldn’t find another one with Billie and Peyton together in their Rumble gear. See, when Billie first came out I liked her shade of purple, but it was pretty much just her usual look. Then Peyton came out in bright yellow, and I was taken aback. Once they were together, however, it became clear how perfectly they complement each other. Wearing purple and yellow instead of two shades of purple or whatever takes their coordination to a whole new higher level. The purple accents on Peyton’s gear that match Billie’s make it even stronger. Hopefully when they become stars in the women’t tag team division, this trend of next-level coordination continues.
10. Rhea Ripley
Rhea Ripley has really figured it out. She went from pretty generic in the 2017 Mae Young Classic to intimidating as hell in the 2018 MYC, and then carried that aggressive persona and aesthetic into NXT UK, where she was the inaugural Women’s Champion. There had to be a lot of people seeing her for the first time in the Rumble, and her look told everybody who she is the moment she showed up. She’s big, she’s muscular, and she’s an aggressive street punk heel. She’s far from the first wrestler to wear a leather vest and black gear with metal studs, but she wears it better than most.
9. Mandy Rose
Her portrayal on Smackdown isn’t always my favorite thing in 2019, but I have to admit that Mandy Rose accomplishes the wrestling glamour girl look better than just about anyone in WWE these days. The shimmering black and glittering gold looks flawless, and it matches her hair to create that unified “golden goddess” aesthetic.
Everybody knows I’m a Carmella partisan, and a big part of that is her sense of style. Orange is pretty new for her, and often a color that works out badly, but she pulls it off with panache. Does it look like Frazzle the muppet died to make that jacket? Yes, it kind of does. Was his sacrifice worth it for how good Carmella looked entering the Royal Rumble at #30? Also yes. Sorry Frazzle.
I feel better about Bayley than I have in a long time, possibly since she got called up from NXT. The women’s tag division should give her a place to shine, alongside Sasha, after she’s spent so much of the past couple of years not having a chance to come close to her potential. Already she’s showing more of the fire and righteous aggression she had in NXT, which was missing for far too long. Her gear lately has begun to reflect this shift. She dresses basically like she always has, but as you see here she’s doing less of the “purple on one side/orange on the other side” stuff and just wearing colors that are symmetrical and go well together. Violet is an especially good color for her, and the gray and black in the mix keep out from being too loud. I also like the switch from her old schoolgirl headbands to a more grownup version of a headband, which still works with her trademark ponytail.
6. Charlotte Flair
A lot of how good Charlotte has looked lately comes down to her makeup. The dark lip and dramatic eye really sells her Evil Queen heel character, and just makes her look gorgeous on top of that. The dark red gear goes perfectly with that aesthetic, although I admit I’m not entirely sure if it’s new. Even if it is, it’s pretty similar to her usual gear. What works really well here is the robe that’s not the same color as the gear, but compliments it and has sheer elements to display it. She looks like wrestling royalty, which she should, because that’s what she is.
5. Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch has more bad gear choices in her past than just about anyone, but since becoming The Man she’s shaken off the last of her steampunk accoutrements in favor of Black Canary realness. She’s not the sort of wrestling badass who should give up on wrestling gear, because part of what makes her a badass is her confidence in how good she is at pro wrestling, but she’s given up on all the cutesy elements in favor of neutral metallics and shiny studs, which her muscular arms (all the better to punch Charlotte in the face with) on display. Becky’s the biggest rising star in WWE, and she’s eliminating anything (like goggles for example) that would make somebody encountering her for the first time wonder what her deal is. Her entire deal is that she’s a badass wrestler, and now that’s what you see when you look at it.
4. Riott Squad
Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan all looked great in the Rumble, but I’m ranking them together because my favorite thing is how well they match. The Riott Squad are a close-knit and coordinated team in terms of their behavior, but visually they’ve always seemed kind of random. Ruby’s a street punk, Liv’s a spoiled party kid, and Sarah’s a little barbarian. Here they still each maintain those identities, but the color scheme and especially the use of that excellent gray plaid still makes them into a visually cohesive unit. The same material that makes a cool jacket for Ruby and clubbing pants for Liv is just worn over Sarah’s shoulder like a character from Braveheart. This look is a win for all of them, and as they move on to women’s tag team competition, I hope they maintain this level of unified aesthetic.
3. Zelina Vega
Zelina is the spiritual descend of Rey Mysterio not just because she’s a Latina and usually the smallest person in the ring, but because of how much she loves to cosplay. Here we see Vega dressed as a different Vega, and totally pulling it off. And let’s be real, if there’s anybody in the audience who doesn’t recognize Vega from Street Fighter, they’re just seeing a tiny athletic woman in a creepy mask and Wolverine claws, and Zelina could do a lot worse introducing herself than that.
2. Sonya Deville
For almost a year Sonya Deville has been torn between telling two different stories with her gear. She’s a tough, intimidating fighter, so it makes sense to wear dark-colored gear, but she’s also the only out queer wrestler in WWE (unless you count Charlie Morgan’s NXT UK appearances, but I don’t think she’s signed), so she’s constantly tempted by pride-inspired rainbows. Here I feel like she’s found the perfect balance, with predominantly black gear which incorporates colorful reflective elements that shimmer like rainbows without being so bright that they look out of place. I wish I had a fuller photo of the look, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing it on her again, considering how great she looked.
This is easily my favorite Naomi gear ever, I’m pretty sure. It has the dayglo/nightglo elements, but it also looks excellent with the lights turned on. The blue pattern on the bulk of the gear contrasts with the neon yellow without the combination being too loud and aggressive. The cut-outs in her midsection and translucent sleeve panels help to show off her athletic form, and the whole thing makes her look like a wrestler who dances, rather than a dancer who wrestles. Naomi’s been killing it pretty successfully since she adopted the Glow gimmick, but this evolution shows that the aesthetic has legs to evolve with her for as long as she’s around, which hopefully is a very long time (long enough for a few more title runs at least).