Royal Rumble 2021 put a lot of eggs in their first match-of-the-night-basket by having Goldberg do yet another notoriously short spearfest, but apparently, whatever test Drew McIntyre was taking ending up being more of a rough draft in preparation for the follow-up fight. Sasha "The Boss" Banks defends her SmackDown Women's Championship against Carmella, and the two women have been performing well in the preceding weeks of tonight's event.
Carmella, accompanied by her sommelier Reginald, entered the ThunderDome first. Only two weeks prior, Reginald was humiliated in the ring by Banks after tapping out to her devastating Banks Statement. Sasha Banks cut a quick promo and then joined her opponent in the ring, sporting an astute outfit decked out in designer Louis Vuitton fabric.
Both women exchanged blows early on, and Carmella attempted to go toe-to-toe in some psychological warfare, taunting Banks and attempting to distract her so Reginald could interfere ringside. She managed to get the night's first pin attempt, but Banks kicked out at the two count. Carmella played fast and loose with the rules, keeping Banks in the corner as long as possible, pulling her against the ropes, and even using a near five-count outside the ring to avoid any retaliation from the reigning champion.
The strategy seemed to work out for Carmella early on, as Banks eventually lost some steam mid-match as could only counter Carmella's attacks with the occasional chop. She threw a Meterora from the corner of the ring to her own detriment, and Banks held her knee in pain upon landing in the center of the ring. Carmella again capitalized on the mistake, stomping Sasha against the ropes while screaming, "I'm better than you. I'm smarter than you."
The exasperated official continuously warned Carmella for her shady wrestling, but she was smart to push everything to the limit, with the Royal Rumble crowd screaming "YOU SUCK" in frustration. Banks gained some momentum by taking advantage of Carmella amping up the round, very nearly landing a clean set of the Three Amigos. Carmella countered in kind and launched Banks out of the ring straight into the arms of Reginald, whose interference got him banned ringside and sent to the locker room.
Carmella threw herself in response with a hail Mary, but it looked like the move took more of a toll on her than Banks, as she landed hard enough that the champ broke kayfabe momentarily and checked on her opponent. The two women got right back into in the ring, where Banks got her Third Amigo on Carmella as she argued with the ref about Reginald's WORD HERE.
She managed to counter a Banks' Frog Splash attempt and very nearly ended the match, but Banks managed to separate herself from Carmella and catch her breath. Banks again climbed to the top rope but was once again countered by Carmella, who caught the Boss with a Superkick to the sternum and followed up with an immediate kick to the face. Just when it seemed like Carmella had this match in the bag, she got caught in a quick Banks Statement and tapped out just as quickly as Reginald did just two weeks prior.
Just as what we have seen in matches leading up to this Royal Rumble fight, Carmella could not capitalize on Banks' shortcomings or mistakes. An early knee injury by Banks' failed Frog Splash was never exploited, and Carmella was more interested in screaming in frustration than getting the job done. Banks played a smarter game, and she left the ring with her title in hand.