The Royal Rumble. Probably my favorite WWE event of the year, even better than the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania. There’s just something about the excitement of the match where you can see pretty much anyone participate and pull off a good show. There’s always a mixture of comedy, drama, action and unexpected twists. When they say anything can happen in the WWE, they mean the WWE. But this year’s Royal Rumble show was extra special as we were going to get the first ever women’s Royal Rumble event! So, color me excited!
But before we do get to the business of reviewing the actual Royal Rumbles and other miscellaneous matches, I decided to do something different starting with this review. I will be starting off each match summary and review with my prediction. I will be incredibly honest and not retroactively change my picks just so I can sound like an incredible soothsayer of the future. Because that would be ridiculous and dumb and dishonest.
Anyway, let’s get ready to… you know.
Match #1: AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Despite this being a handicap match stacked against AJ Styles as he needs to face off against two high caliber wrestlers, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, it would just be too weird for there to be co-winners for the WWE World Championship. Although having two guys hold one championship would be extremely fun, AJ Styles is going to win this.
The storytelling for the match was really good. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn did a lot of quick tags just to emphasize this is a handicap match. The duo eventually got the advantage over the Phenomenal One. Oddly enough, it wasn’t really due to any double teaming antics but just through individual attacks. AJ Styles managed to make a comeback and it looked like an even match but without making Owens and Zayn look weak. That’s a credit to the performers in the ring.
The finish of the match, while a screwjob finish for the most part, left all participants, especially Owens and Zayn, looking rather strong. Owens broke up the pinning attempt after Styles nailed Zayn with a Phenomenal Forearm. A slugfest in the middle of the ring ensues with Styles coming out on top. Zayn tries to go over Styles to tag to Owens but he’s unable to tag his partner. However, the referee mistakenly thinks Zayn did get the tag. Styles dumps Zayn over the top rope. Owens tries to take advantage and nails Styles with a superkick. KO tosses Styles to the ropes, setting him up for the pop-up powerbomb but The Phenomenal One rolls Owens up for the pinfall victory and to retain his championship.
This was a highly entertaining match. As mentioned before, everyone managed to come out looking strong because of the great in-ring action and storytelling. The controversial finish left it open for Owens and Zayn to complain about how they were screwed out of the victory, which is kind of annoying but overall smart so they can keep the feud going. There weren’t any truly memorable moments but it was entertaining as it happened.
Rating: 7.0 of 10.0 screwjob finishes
Match #2: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. The Uso for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships in a Best of Three Pinfalls match
Even though one of them was recently arrested for DUI, I still have to give the win to the Usos. No disrespect to Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable, but their time just ain’t now. I do predict this will go the distance with the Usos winning the first pinfall, Benjamin and Gable taking the second and the Usos getting the rubber pinfall.
The match was decent but took some time to pick up. Benjamin and Gable controlled the match early on, slowing things down to a methodical pace. They tried to isolate one of the Usos and focused on specific body parts and headlocks. Things picked up when the Usos got the hot tag and things only escalated from there. There were a few neat little two-counts to tease the first pinfall victory but, at a certain point, they just did it too often and got annoying.
To my surprise, the match was finished after two pinfalls by one team: The Usos. They got the first pinfall after a hectic sequence wherein Gable attempted his patented rollup into back suplex but was blocked. The Usos nailed a superkick party on Gable to get the first pinfall. Benjamin and Gable tried to take out one of the Usos with their assisted powerbomb move on the outside. They then tried to double team the remaining Uso but the latter rolled Benjamin up with a small package to get the second and concluding pinfall for the Usos to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Championship.
This match took some time to get good but the lead up to the first pinfall was excellent. I do feel let down by the second surprising pinfall as the stipulation of being two out of three decisions was wasted because of the quick rollup victory. Uneven and far from a classic but still entertaining for what it’s worth.
Rating: 6.5 of 10.0 quick rollups
Match #3: The 30-Man, Over-The-Top Rope Royal Rumble
This may be cheating but I have two picks for this year’s Royal Rumble. Conventional wisdom makes me say the WWE hasn’t learned their lesson and they’re going to have Roman Reigns win, which is why he lost the Intercontinental Championship during the RAW 25th anniversary. However, if the WWE wisened up and figured out that fans don’t want Roman Reigns shoved down our throats, they’ll have Shinusuke Nakamura win so that he can face off against AJ Styles in Wrestlemania, which would be a dream match.
This year’s Rumble opened up with two fan favorites, Rusev (Day) and Finn Balor, which was a brilliant move as it immediately got the audience hyped up for it. Chaos started very early with Baron Corbin’s quick elimination. He threw a tantrum and decimated Rusev (Day) and Balor on the outside but, since he dragged them under the bottom rope, they weren’t eliminated. Heath Slater, who was entering the ring, was blasted by Corbin as the latter left, leading to a running gag where the guy who has kids, kept getting knocked down by the guys going down the ramp. Eventually, Sheamus threw Slater into the ring, leading to a very surprising and quick elimination of the Celtic Warrior, getting an incredible pop from the crowd and myself.
There were a few more creative spots throughout this year’s Royal Rumble. This includes Elias taking advantage of everyone strewn out by Corbin to try to play a song, Sami Zayn wiping out Tye Dillinger to take his place in the Rumble and, of course, the annual fun save of Kofi Kingston to avoid getting eliminated. This year’s Kofi Kingston stunt wasn’t as enigmatic as previous years since he was essentially saved by Xavier Woods and a plate of pancakes but it was return into the ring, with Woods and Big E launching him over the top rope from the outside was impressive.
While this year’s Royal Rumble was better paced for the majority of its run, there were also a few weird booking choices. Matt Hardy’s brief team-up with Bray Wyatt to eliminate Rusev Day only to throw themselves over the top rope almost soon after was dumb. The massive beatdown on John Cena should’ve been epic but Elias shooing everyone away and then no one bothered with Cena afterwards looked weird. Dolph Ziggler’s startling return as entry number 30 fizzled out as he got eliminated very quickly. Also, the majority of the eliminations just weren’t all that memorable or shocking. I don’t expect them to all be highlights but I just wanted to see more times where the guy still clings on for survival only to get kicked off or something.
I was actually surprised by the lack of nostalgia acts this year as The Hurricane and Rey Mysterio Jr. were the only WWE Legends who participated this year and, honestly, I would’ve appreciated a few more shocking returns. I can appreciate the couple of NXT entrants that were included this year but the lack of surprise entrants did make this year’s Royal Rumble a less spectacular spectacle, especially after the nostalgia trip we got from the recent 25th anniversary Raw show. Still, I gotta say that Rey Mysterio’s still got it.
We didn’t get a final four this year. Rather, it was more of a final six, with Shinusuke Nakamura, Finn Balor and Roman Reigns representing this year’s generation and John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton for the older generation. The veterans took the early advantage but Randy Orton tried to backstab Cena, leading to the former’s elimination at the hands of Roman Reigns. Mysterio got taken by surprise by Balor, leading to him getting dumped over the top rope. Cena and Reigns teamed up and overpowered Nakamura and Balor. The Artist and The Demon fought back and took the other two down. Balor and Nakamura fought each other in a fantastic mini-match but they were taken down by Cena and Reigns. They then had a mini-match of their own. Balor got fired up and tried to take everyone else out but was stopped by Cena after The Demon stomped on Nakamura. Cena and Reigns went at it again but Nakamura interfered and knocked Cena out of the ring, eliminating him.
The final two had Nakamura vs. Reigns. The Big Dog got the early upper hand by overpowering The King of Strong Style. Reigns tried to go for spear but Nakamura blocked it with a knee. Nakamura went for Kinshasha but Reigns countered with a spear. Reigns then tried to dump Nakamura out of the ring but Nakamura blocked it. He slipped out of Reigns’ grasp and nailed a dropkick, stunning Reigns long enough to get him over the top rope. Nakamura wins this year’s Royal Rumble… and we all know who he’s going to pick to fight at Wrestlemania, don’t we?
This year’s all-male Royal Rumble was one of the better ones in recent years but I can’t say it was one of the better ones of all time. There were some really great moments, such as Heath Slater eliminating Sheamus and the final six was brilliant. There were just a few more slow spots than I would care for and just a lot of wasted moments. Still, it was better than I expected and the finish was excellent, making it hard to complain about.
Rating: 8.0 of 10.0 Heath Slater surprising eliminations
Match #4: Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan vs The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) for the RAW Tag Team Championship
I’m picking Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan for this one. While it makes much more sense for The Bar to win as they’re the “real” tag team, I just expect Seth Rollins to carry his team and win everything and Jason Jordan celebrating too hard, even though he hardly contributed to the win.
The Bar generally dominated the majority of the match, isolating Rollins by simply overpowering the Architect and distracting Jordan from making the tag. This was actually pretty much the story of the entire match. To make matters worse, Cesaro slammed Jordan face first into the ring post, incapacitating Kurt Angle’s son. Rollins did valiantly try to fight off the duo, even kicking out several times after some devastating moves done to him.
Eventually, Jordan getting knocked silly would factor in the end of the match. Rollins finally tags in Jordan but the latter, still feeling woozy (and pulling off a terrible acting performance), tags an exhausted Rollin back into the match, with Jordan walking out on his partner. The Architect tries to fight back, kneeing Cesaro in the face but he doesn’t see the Swiss Cyborg tag in the Celtic Warrior. Sheamus nails Rollins with a Brogue Kick and The Bar connect with a spiked White Noise. Cesaro gets the pinfall and The Bar are the NEW RAW Tag Team Champions once again.
In terms of in-ring storytelling, this match was okay. The problem was there just wasn’t any energy with the action in the ring. Sheamus, Cesaro and Rollins did try their darndest to make things seem exciting but the crowd just couldn’t get into it. I guess this is what happens when you put a match like this after a splendid Royal Rumble. I also have to put some of the blame on Jason Jordan as his acting was incredibly unbelievable and fake. I will give kudos for Sheamus, Cesaro and Rollins for trying their best but, this time, their best just wasn’t good enough.
Rating: 5.5 of 10.0 Jason Jordan’s terrible acting ability
Match #5: Braun Strowman vs Kane vs Brock Lesnar in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar for sure. ‘Nuff said.
This was just pure mayhem but not in a good way. This was just three big, powerful men smashing each other with blows and slams. Chairs and steel steps soon made their appearance as there is no disqualification in a triple threat match. A whole lot of muscular men being slammed through tables were also part of the match. Generally, there was a lot of carnage, which should’ve been grand. The problem is that the action was choppy as they had to set up for the spots frequently. This was to be expected for guys this gargantuan but the pace was just a bit too slow for my taste.
The finish was pretty much as expected. Braun powerslammed Lesnar a couple of times. The Monster among Men tried to go for a third powerslam on The Beast but The Big Red Machine interrupted it with a couple of chairshots to Braun. With Braun falling to the outside, Kane signaled for a Tombstone but Lesnar powers out of the hold. The Beast shoves Kane into Braun, knocking The Monster among Men back to the outside. Lesnar nails an F5 on Kane and gets the pinfall victory, retaining his WWE Universal Championship.
There was technically nothing wrong with this match. The carnage and action was better than I anticipated in all honesty. The issue is that you just knew Lesnar was going to retain, especially with Kane being inserted into this rivalry. There wasn’t anything in particular to write home about. At least Braun and Lesnar looked really strong.
Rating: 6.0 of 10.0 broken tables everywhere
Match #6: The first ever 30 Women Royal Rumble
This is the one I’ve been waiting for all night! This may be just my personal bias but I feel Becky Lynch should win because she deserves it. Besides, I would love to see Becky Lynch vs Charlotte one-on-one at Wrestlemania. I think that would be a fantastic match!
Upfront, I will say the biggest problem for the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble is the lack of main roster talent. So I fully expected there to be a lot of nostalgia acts to fill in a good chunk of the spots and I wasn’t disappointed. We got to see a lot of former WWE Divas return to the ring and it was fantastic! Lita did her Twist of Fate and moonsault splash on Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Molly Holly did an impressive flipping senton. Michelle McCool dominated when she came in, eliminating four competitors in quick succession. Vickie Guerrero screamed into the mic and wanted to get everyone’s attention. Kelly Kelly looked impressive and displayed some athletic ability. Jacqueline looked as powerful as ever but not as powerful as Beth Phoenix, who picked up Nia Jax on her shoulders. And, of course, Trish Stratus going through her plethora of signature moves.
The pacing and the placement of the entrants were also excellent as its spacing led to some really good moments. We got to see Kairi Sane to her elbow drop. The returning Divas had enough time to shine in the spotlight. Naomi did a Kofi Kingston and stayed in the Rumble despite getting tossed over the top rope as she stradled the barricade and hopped on a chair to get back in. Nia Jax was a force of nature, looking like an unstoppable monster which needed the remaining participants to band together to get her out. Beth Phoenix and Nattie reuniting only for the Queen of Harts to backstab her best friend. The Bella Twins coming in with subsequent numbers, allowing the duo to double team practically everyone. Sasha Banks betraying Bayley, throwing their friendship into suspect. Trish Stratus reigniting her feud with Mickie James. Lots of great stuff for longtime WWE fans!
Not everything was picture perfect though. I had a huge issue with the returning Divas doing most of the eliminations. I just didn’t like Michelle McCool, of all people, being the one to clean house the instant she got in the ring. Stephanie McMahon’s commentary got old real quick. There were even times when she would telegraph what was going to happen shortly, shattering the illusion that sports entertainment is “real” at times. I also hated that the Bella Twins were part of the final four. I get they’re popular but the final four of the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble should be populated with active performers and not part timers/retired wrestlers. And I would say the same thing for the Men’s Royal Rumble as well.
Speaking of the final four, it was Sasha Banks, The Bella Twins and Asuka. Sasha, Brie and Nikki teamed up against Asuka early. Banks tried to nail her twin knees to the gut on The Empress of Tomorrow but the Bella Twins used this opportunity to toss The Boss over the top rope. Askua took the fight to the Bellas and managed to drape Brie onto the ring apron but Nikki grabbed Asuka and slammed her into the mat with a Rack Attack 2.0. Nikki then struck her sister, sending her to the outside and eliminating Brie. Asuka took advantage and nailed Nikki Bella with a missile dropkick. Nikki recovered and smacked a charging Asuka with a spinning enziguri. The larger of the Bella Twins tossed The Empress of Tomorrow over the top rope but she lands on the ring apron. Asuka blocks a running strike with a huge kick and manages to drag Nikki to the apron as well. Nikki floors Asuka with an elbow but Asuka kicks the feet from under Nikki, sending her to the floor. Asuka is the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble winner!
As Asuka stands tall in the ring and joined by Charlotte and Alexa Bliss, making her pick who she’ll face at Wrestlemania, strange music hits and out comes Ronda Rousey! She enters the ring and points at the Wrestlemania sign… which I don’t really get. Does this mean Ronda Rousey want to fight Asuka? Does she want to compete for whose championship? Anyway, it’s a semi-cool but predictable moment. Still, it’s great that the WWE didn’t make Ronda Rousey compete in the Royal Rumble and instead allowed some actual WWE Divas to participate.
Overall, this was a great inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble. I do hope the WWE does decide to make this an annual thing but they will have to tweak it a bit in the future. Their Women’s roster is rather limited and filling in 30 participants with nostalgia acts will get tired, especially since even their nostalgia acts are limited as well. Maybe only have 20 women enter next time? Also, get Stephanie off the commentary team next year as she didn’t add anything useful and even harmed it a little bit. It was great but… wait. Where’s AJ Lee?
Rating: 8.5 of 10.0 unsurprising Ronda Rousey appearances
Overall Rating for WWE Royal Rumble 2018:
The Royal Rumbles, both the men and women’s one, were really good this year. The Women’s Royal Rumble was better but that was because of the returning Divas participating and the WWE can’t rely on this next year. However, it was a great way to launch it if they intend to have one every year. None of the matches were stinkers and even the worst match, the one that had the RAW Tag Team Championship up for grabs, still was slightly above average. This was a really great show but it was the women’s Royal Rumble that put the event over the top.
But, really… where’s AJ Lee?
Rating: 7.5 of 10.0 AJ Lee better get invited next years
What did you think of this year’s Royal Rumble event? Let me know in the comments section below!