Last night WWE held their annual Royal Rumble, while many people believe WrestleMania should be the best show of the year, many people would argue that the Royal Rumble (if done right) is the best show of the year. Needless say they got it right this year. This year’s rumble didn’t only hold one 30-man over the top rope battle royal, but two as the women made history once again, having their first ever royal rumble. Before the rumble even got underway rumors were running wild as to who could be in the rumble for the men and women. From Daniel Bryan to Stephine McMahon to Ronda Rousey and everyone in between, this was one of the most unpredictable Royal Rumbles in recent memory and arguably the best.
Handicap WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
The night got off to a hot start right away as the WWE championship kicked off the show, which is a rarity, but something rarer than that is a handicap match for the most coveted prize in sports entertainment. If you would have told someone three years ago that the phenomenal AJ Styles would fight Kevin Steen and El Generico (Owens and Zayn’s indie wrestling names at the time) in a handicap match for the WWE title they would have told you that you were nuts, but as Vince McMahon says, “expect the unexpected”. Even though Styles was at a clear disadvantage, many experts and analysts believed Styles would retain the title and retain it all the way to mania, so all we were really looking for was a good storytelling match. That’s exactly what we got. The chemistry for the life-long best friends Zayn and Owens was amazing, as they clearly had a rhythm throughout the whole match that only they could perfect. Accompanied by the fact you have a generational talent like AJ Styles in the ring at the same time, this match was beautifully done.
The match would essentially end on a false finish which played great into the storyline. Zayn hadn’t tagged in Kevin Owens, but while AJ was tossing Zayn out of the ring Kevin decides to try and perform his patent Pop-up powerbomb on the phenomenal one, in which AJ reversed into a roll-up pinfall victory to retain the WWE Championship. After the controversial finish, Owens and Zayn went to complain to Smackdown commissioner, Shane McMahon, the person who has had a few run-ins with Owens and Zayn the past few months. When Kevin asked him if he saw the controversial ending McMahon responded with a sarcastic “yep!” in reference to the yep movement Owens and Zayn used to protest Shane and walked away. This should set up for a perfect WrestleMania match down the line.
2 Out of 3 Falls Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs Benjamin & Gable
Earlier this month one half of the Usos, Jey Uso, was arrested for a DUI. While usually, this can halt a push or maybe even result in a title loss, it just didn’t seem like it would be the case this time around. The Usos are easily the hottest team in wrestling right now, on their best run, and while Jey should be punished for the DUI, it just wouldn’t feel right if they dropped the belt. Especially to Benjamin and Gable, who WWE thought would be a team, the fans could get behind because it has the likable and almost pitiful Chad Gable teamed with the nostalgic Shelton Benjamin. It just hasn’t worked; the fans give them no reaction and they have no momentum really. So, this was basically a filler match and either way, it shook out was understandable. It took a while for the first fall to occur and after it did the next one almost came immediately as the Usos retain their tag team championship on a roll up.
The Men’s Royal Rumble
This was the first time the Men’s Royal Rumble took place in the middle of the card, as it’s usually the main event, but the women having a history-making match of course changed that. But, many people thought the Men’s would still go on last, however, that was not the case which made many people fear the worst. Roman Reigns would win the Royal Rumble to the displeasure of about 90% of wrestling fans and they didn’t want to close the show with a parade of boos, so the logic was there which had me anxious the whole match praying Roman Reigns wouldn’t win. I’ll get back to that later. The first two entrances I believe were picked well by WWE as they had Rusev slotted as entrant number one and Finn Balor at number two, both guys are over as hell with the fans, so it got the crowd hooked right away. Outside of that there were some good storytelling pieces in the first 15 entrances in the rumble as Baron Corbin threw his typical tantrum, Heath Slater just got wrecked by everyone on their way to the ring, Elias cut another great concert promo, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens beat up Tye Dillinger only to have Sami replace him, and Sheamus screwed himself by getting eliminated by Heath Slater immediately after throwing him into the match. The first 15 didn’t yield many surprises or big-name superstars other than Andrade Almas at seven Shinsuke Nakamura at 14 which was a good move by the WWE to have the big names in the latter part of the Rumble. But, some noticeable people remaining after the first 15 entrances were Finn Balor, Rusev, and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Now, the good part, the second half of the royal rumble. In the Final 15 entrants of the royal rumble we saw the likes of John Cena, Roman Reigns, the Miz, and Matt Hardy enter the Royal Rumble, but we also got a few surprises such as Hurricane at 21, Rey Mysterio who hasn’t been with company in a few years at 27, and ADAM COLE BAYBAY who had just performed an all-time classic match the night before at NXT takeover at 23. However, the 30 spot was still wide open, no one knew who it was going to be, it could’ve been Daniel Bryan, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, literally no one knew. It ended up being Dolph Ziggler making his return after a month’s long absence from WWE after forfeiting his United States Championship, rumors are he is getting a massive push very soon, so this was a fine last entrant. After his entrant he and Goldust would get eliminated to give us six remaining superstars, which gave us a cool different generation spot as it saw the 2000’s headliners such Rey Mysterio, John Cena, and Randy Orton form an alliance to face off against the new generation of headliners, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Roman Reigns.
The match would dwindle down to an epic final four, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, John Cena, and Roman Reigns. This may have been the best final four of all time, it pinned New Japan veterans such as Finn and Shin against WWE bred superstars John Cena and Roman Reigns. The narrative was perfect. The four would battle it out and after a lasting an impressive 57 minutes and 38 seconds, John Cena would eliminate Finn Balor. Three remain. In Kayfabe and reality, this put Shinsuke at insurmountable odds, a new Japan guy outlasting the last two faces of WWE is unheard of. Everyone’s worst nightmare was about to become true, Roman Reigns or John Cena was going to win the Royal Rumble once again. But wait, Roman Reigns has been knocked out, John Cena and Shinsuke are battling for their WrestleMania dreams on the ropes. Cena picks up Shinsuke, He reverses, Cena is now on the apron. Cena takes a desperate lunge at Shinsuke only to have Shinsuke dodge and Kinshasa John Cena out of the ring. Two remain.
The Philadelphia crowd was on pins and needles as the tense battle between one of the most beloved guys in wrestling and one of the most hated battled for a chance to headline WrestleMania and just when we thought Roman Reigns was about to win, Shinsuke hits him with a Kinshasa in the middle of the ring. The crowd is ecstatic, but still, Shinsuke needs to get roman over the ropes. To the crowd’s jubilation, Shinsuke picks up Roman and dumps him out of the ring. Shinsuke Nakamura has won the 2018 Royal Rumble.
— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2018
After the match, Shinsuke would announce he will face AJ Styles for the WWE championship in the main event of WrestleMania 34 in a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom nine in New Japan. This defines the term dream match.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan vs The Bar
After all that, yes, we still had three matches to go. This match though was just more of a bathroom break, catch your breath kind of match. The Bar would end up winning clean to reclaim the Raw Tag Team gold, but nothing too notable here.
Triple Threat for the Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Braun Strowman vs Kane
What’s a big four pay-per-view without a title match, right? At this point, most of the wrestling world know that Brock Lesnar is going to face Roman Reigns for the Universal championship at WrestleMania 34, it’s been set in stone since last years WrestleMania. Like I said they just had to have a championship match because it’s a big four and they wanted to make it believable to the casual viewer that Brock could lose so they put him up against two monsters. This match was basically a table breaking fest in which Brock would become triumphant, once again. Nothing too exciting.
The Inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble
The history-making match was basically booked perfect as Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch started out at one and two. This makes the most sense because Sasha has been at the forefront of every women’s history-making moment in this revolution. However, the question was what are they going to do with the other 28 entrants? You see, WWE confirmed only 17 women’s superstars and with a depleted main roster we expected a bunch of returns and NXT call-ups and we got them right from the start with Lita at number five. Some other returns included Molly Holly, Vickie Guerrero, Beth Phoenix, Kelly Kelly, Jacqueline, Torrie Wilson, and the Bella Twins. We also got few NXT superstars such as Kairi Sane and Ember Moon. The match would go on, and there were some notable spots here and there, but the best part really came when the 30th entrant came around. There were rumors running wild if Ronda Rousey was going to be in the rumble, so everyone was just waiting to explode when Ronda came running down that ramp. The clock ticked down…three…two…one… and Trish Stratus’s music hits. Not a huge let down because everyone loves Trish, but it was kind of like oh well no Ronda, it is what it is. Before I get to the final four, I would like to point out Sasha Banks used some pretty good heel tactics such as eliminating her best friend Bayley and having a few words with Trish in the middle of the ring. It’s only a matter of time at this point until she turns full heel to face Bayley at WrestleMania.
The Final four come down to Sasha, the undefeated Asuka, and the Bella Twins for a chance to go to WrestleMania. It started out as an alliance between Sasha and the Bellas to gang up on Asuka because she was the biggest threat, then Sasha started to turn into a cocky heel and that would be her downfall as the Bella twins teamed up to eliminate the Boss. Then before you know it, Nikki eliminates her sister Brie to cut it to between her and Asuka.The two would find themselves battling it out on the ring apron and then out of nowhere Asuka kicks Nikki Bella off the ring to remain undefeated and to become the first winner of the women’s royal rumble.
— ASUKA / ??? (@WWEAsuka) January 29, 2018
Alexa Bliss and Charlotte, WWE’s two women’s champions, join Asuka in the ring to share a special moment. Then… out of nowhere, Joan Jett’s bad reputation hits. Enter Ronda Rousey and Philadelphia erupts because WWE just pulled a double swerve and the whole fighting world was turned upside down. She had a stare down with the three women in the ring, shook Steph’s hand and walked back up to the ramp as the show faded to black. I’m excited for what’s in store with Ronda Rousey.
Everyone’s eyes are on #WrestleMania 34…
— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2018
Overall, this was the best show WWE has put on since WrestleMania 31 a few years back, and this was one of the best rumbles of all time. From having two people last from one to thirty, putting New Japan over, and of course the signing of Ronda Rousey. Well done, WWE. Now we are finally on the road to WrestleMania.