Liam Hoofe reviews the 2018 Royal Rumble…
After weeks of build, the Royal Rumble is finally here. The event is arguably the most exciting on the WWE calendar and after several years of disappointment, fans had high hopes heading into this year’s event, which was headlined by the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble. Did it deliver? Let’s take a look at each of the matches and rate them from 1 to 5.
AJ Styles Defeated Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
Wow, the WWE title match opening the show. While things started off quite slowly here the match really got going in the final third and there were some nice spots. Sami and Owens played their roles well here and the match was an enjoyable opener. The screwy finish gives Sami and Owens plenty to complain about on this week’s SmackDown, and AJ getting the clean victory makes him look strong. Solid opening match, just think the WWE title should be on later in the night.
Match Rating: ***
The Usos Defeated Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin
Well, this match certainly didn’t follow the usual 2 out of 3 falls script. Not only did the first fall come very late in the match, but The Usos also won the match 2-0. As you’d expect, though, these two teams delivered a solid piece of in-ring action and the late first fall actually played really nicely into the bout. I’m really enjoying the in-ring work between these guys but the finishes are not great. While The Usos winning 2-0 was a surprise, it doesn’t do much for Gable and Benjamin. The feud looks as though it will continue though, which isn’t a bad thing.
Match Rating: *** 1/2
Shinsuke Nakamura Wins the 30 Man Royal Rumble Match
Wow, where to start with this one. The initial reaction on my Twitter feed to this being on so early in the night was interesting and it was a bold choice for them to go with the women last. It seemed initially like they were rushing this match, entrances seemed to come very quickly but damn, once this one got going, it turned into one of the finest Rumbles in recent memory, if not of all time.
The match had a nice amount of surprise entrants. Almas and Cole were really great surprises and were booked excellently, while Rey and Hurricane provided some nice nostalgic moments. Kofi’s spot was good fun as usual and the Heath Slater stuff was gold. There were a lot of great moments here, the best thing about this match, though, was the final four. The tension every time one of them went near the ropes was tangible and the four men put on a gripping performance. Reigns and Cena getting booed together showed the WWE what fans have thought of their booking for the last god knows how long. I’d rather have not had Cena throw Finn out but I guess he had to go and he was booked to look great here. Once things got down to Reigns and Nakamura though, I was about to fall off the edge of my seat. Reigns played his part perfectly here and I nearly jumped for joy when Shinsuke won. The announcement that he would be facing AJ after the match was awesome. The WWE finally got a Rumble right and I couldn’t be happier. This was awesome.
Match Rating: **** 1/2
The Bar Defeated Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan
I’m a bit mixed on this one. On one hand, I think this was a nice way of delaying Jordan’s full heel turn and taking the belts off the champs, on the other, a fake concussion angle felt ill-advised. The match was effectively a handicap match and to Rollins’ credit, he did a great job against the other two guys, the in-ring action was nothing spectacular but it served its purpose and Rollins impressed. The crowd did seem a little deflated but this had an unfortunate place on the card. This could have been handled a little better but providing the company don’t focus too much on the nature of the injury itself, this should move Jordan’s turn along quite nicely. This did what it had to do, basically.
Match Rating: ** 1/2
Brock Lesnar Defeated Kane and Braun Strowman
The most predictable match of the night and as a result, the least interesting. The three men here just tried to replicate the SummerSlam 2016 main event, by basically just smashing the place up and well, it just didn’t really work for me. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Brock’s big hoss matches over the last few years but this one didn’t connect – maybe it was a result of watching it at 4 O clock in the morning, who knows? Brock has been penciled in for a match with Reigns at Mania for the last 12 months and the fact we all know that removed any excitement from this bout. The finish saw Brock pin Kane after one F5. I do like the fact that they’ve protected the move but this just felt flat. Braun got to look good at the end, which was good, but that was about it.
Match Rating: ** 1/4
Asuka Wins the Women’s Royal Rumble
Well, credit where it’s due, the WWE did a great job here. Once Lita arrived at number 5, this whole thing felt like a celebration of all things women’s wrestling. So many of the old stars got a good outing and there was a great mix of the old and the new. The likes of Molly Holly, Michelle McCool, Torrie Wilson and Trish Stratus all looked like they could return to the ring tomorrow, hell, even Vickie Guerrero’s entrance brought a smile to my face. The NXT stars looked great as well, with Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane looking particularly impressive in the early goings.
The in-ring stuff was excellent as well and Naomi doing a combination of Kofi Kingston’s greatest hits could create a women’s rumble tradition. Nia Jax’s streak of dominance was also great, it’s a spot we’ve seen done a lot in the men’s rumble but Nia showed she was more than capable of living up to her male counterparts. Her showdown with Beth Phoenix was a particular highlight.
Asuka winning the match was great and to Nikki Bella’s credit, she did an excellent job here, she may not be the most popular choice for runner-up, but she played her part well.
Then, it finally happened – Ronda Rousey made her arrival in the WWE. They did a great job of swerving fans here by not having her enter the Rumble and her arrival was met with a huge pop. She signalled to Mania and this could go any number of ways, her post-match handshake with Stephanie even teased a feud between the two of them.
Damn, this was good. Hats off to all the women involved, I loved this. Sure, some of the eliminations looked a bit clunky but they did a lot right here, and that ending will create a real buzz for the company. After last year’s botched Money in the Bank, this truly felt like a massive step forward for the women in the WWE.
Match Rating: ****
Liam Hoofe – @liamhoofe