Well, WWE’s Saudi Arabia super show has come to a finish. A full five hours of wrestling on a respectably stacked, if unbalanced, card. It wasn’t a bad show by any means but there are certainly some talking points. Let’s go into them now.
It would be easy to see the first match, John Cena vs HHH and groan. Letting two of the older roster members start the show was a bold move. But since both can still go there was no issue, both put on the perfect match to start off. There was a clear face and heel, a good pace to warm up the crowd and just enough action to keep the crowd excited without taking away from the rest of the card. Cena got the win after a competitive match. All in all, a smart choice to start the show.
I’ll also lump the cruiserweights in here as they too had a great match. Cedric Alexander and Kalisto had a fun, fast match on the main show. This was easily the best Kalisto has looked in ages, moving fluidly and not botching. It was frenetic and competitive which is just what the cruiserweights needed to show off what they can do to this new live audience.
A Wonderful New Tag Team
Despite the result being ruined by the superstar shake-up, it was still fun to see the team of Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt win the RAW tag team titles. Since the Bar got moved to Smackdown it seemed like an inevitability the Deleter of Worlds would get the belts. This didn’t stop the match being fun and the victory feeling satisfying. The wheelbarrow twist of fate is a really good finishing move for the team. This will also lead to some interesting feuds for the belts on RAW. Any team in a feud with this team should be able to pull of something special.
An Exciting IC Match
A fatal four way ladder match with some of WWE’s best should have stolen the show. It was definitely one of the best of the night. Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and the Miz took the time they had and they put on a barn burner. Each wrestler brought their A game to the ring. Joe got to be a monster destroying everyone and incorporating the ladder to bully everyone. Miz was his usual sneaky but violent self, picking his moments to strike. Balor almost look set to win the whole thing, He got the best offense in and almost won if not for Seth Rollins who stole victory at the last second from Finn. The match was booked brilliantly and was definitely a highlight of the whole show.
A Much Better Rematch
AJ Styles Vs Shinsuke Nakamura 2 was much better than their Wrestlemania bout. The match had a much clearer story and benefitted from a heel Nakamura. This time the match felt it was actually for something, it felt personal. The belt was on the line the first time but it just felt like a flimsy excuse for the dream match to happen. This time it was for revenge. The match was faster, there was more move diversity and both felt more invested. It still had a weird place on the card to deal with but at least this time it felt closer to the match we wanted. This won’t be the last time we talk about this match however.
Casket Match Doesn’t Disappoint
Rusev rarely ever gets a chance to shine on TV anymore. This is a fact I have come to accept as time goes on. So to hear he was in a casket match was a mixed blessing. It did mean he would get to fight The Undertaker in a marquee match on a big stage. The downside, he would probably lose and given the style of Undertaker’s recent matches, lose fast. This wasn’t the case however as the match was surprisingly competitive. Rusev got some strong offense in. He lasted longer and put up way more of a fight than Cena did. It was a fun match. Aiden English provided some distractions and ultimately took the hardest bump in the match in the form of a tombstone. His head hit the mat as it was delivered so I hope he is alright.
The Greatest Royal Rumble
I don’t know if it quite lived up to its grandiose title but it was certainly fun to watch. A fifty man royal tumble could have dragged on horrendously if not paced properly. This however was not the case as it felt balanced. There were plenty of highlights as the match went on. There were comedic moments, like Mike Kanellis get eliminated in about a second and Kurt Hawkins being chased down and killed by Braun. Shocks like Elias eliminating three men at once. Some odd surprises like a sumo wrestler (Hiroki Sumi) and two very low-key NXT members showing up. The ultimate highlight though was Titus O’Neil flying under the ring after tripping up. There were also plenty of cool little stories taking place as the rumble continued. Kevin Owens continuously got assaulted by more and more of his old rivals. Shane McMahon got destroyed by Braun and the New Day got to show off more survival tactics.
Two Strong Characters
However there were two real MVPs from the Greatest Royal Rumble, those being Daniel Bryan and Braun Strowman. Daniel Bryan was the first to enter and the second last to go. He broke the record for the longest time spent in a rumble, continuously fighting off elimination and coming out looking horrifically worse for wear. His chest was a mess and his arms looked cut up. He literally fought through hell to fall at the last hurdle, being eliminated by big Cass much to the audience’s annoyance and hate.
Braun came in quite late at number 41 and then proceeded to dominate for much of the last part of the rumble. He broke the elimination record by eliminating 13 people and would go on to give one of the best eliminations in rumble history by hurling Shane McMahon from the top turnbuckle all the way through the announce table. After fighting off the rest of the remaining competitors he would avenge Daniel Bryan by eliminating Big Cass in brutal fashion to pick up the victory. The rumble had a strong and favourable winner the crowd were behind. Braun can look like even more of a monster with the greatest rumble belt (which we’ll probably never see again.)
The Obvious Flaws
This show felt weird. It was an odd one to watch. This can be split into three categories. The lack of women, the crowd and lastly the location. I will now break each one down in a bit more detail.
The Lack of Women: This was a massive sticking point for WWE fans. Due to the country this show took place in and the inequality rampant in it, no women were allowed to perform in this show. This was noticeable throughout. In the current progressive climate of the world, this is a big blemish on WWE’s record. It was unfortunate that WWE couldn’t break this rule but it would have been too risky for the superstars and would have probably killed off any future business. We know this was all about business and as such WWE couldn’t risk anything.
The Crowd: Any WWE crowd can be weird. This one stuck out for its constant changes of interest. During the first match it was clear on the hard cam that many in the front row didn’t care. The arena was still quite empty and a lot of the time the crowd were silent. It was difficult to get into some matches because there was no fanfare behind them. If the crowd didn’t recognise you they didn’t care. You could see a lot of kids having fun but I think a lot of people were there purely for the spectacle.
The Location: Saudi Arabia was an unusual place for a WWE event. The opening package showcased that this show was a part of the ongoing change in Saudi culture and the steps towards progress they are taking. This didn’t stop some elements of the show feeling odd. The commentary was kind of stilted as if unsure of what to say sometimes and there were certain things that were missing, one of the most obvious being Finn Balor’s rainbow trunks. There was also the odd advert for Saudi Arabia that played halfway through crying progress. If this was really the case why could no women perform?
Story over Satisfaction
One of the biggest problems of this event was its booking. Two of its key matches were ruined by an emphasis on story over providing a satisfying end. Both title matches fell victim to this with one ending in a double count-out and the other to a botched ending. Styles vs Nakamura was looking to be a good match until both men started fighting on the outside. They then got counted out and Styles kept beating up Nakamura. I get that this was meant to carry on the story between the two but this could easily have been done by Nakamura winning and Styles using his rematch clause. It would have felt a lot more satisfying if someone had won.
Brock v Reigns was the same old same old. It felt like a match from one of the old games where everyone has max finishers and battles to beat the pin mini-game. The only reason it was in a cage was the ending. Reigns speared Lesnar through the cage and both men hit the floor at almost the same time. This would have been fine had it not been botched. Brock was declared the winner despite the fact that neither of his feet touched the floor. He was caught up in the mesh of the cage wall. Reigns was the legitimate winner but the story had to go on. Again there was a big match hampered by story elements.
A Safe Show
The most egregious problem with the show was that it was too safe. WWE took no risks with booking. There was only one title change with the RAW tag titles. With it being a big event WWE could have at least had some things change. Every match felt fine but nothing truly stood out. It was a tad disappointing that in a match with seven title matches, only one changed hands. The rest of the booking was just the same. The fan favourites won every match. It was almost as if WWE was too scared to draw any heat from the crowd. There was even a segment dedicated to showing off the Saudi recruits who then got to beat up the Daivari brothers. This could have come across as more pandering to its new business partners but it was entertaining enough.
So Many Botches
This was a very botch heavy show, well compared to regular WWE TV. There was Titus’ amazing entrance, Jinder Mahal missing a Whisper in the Wind but still trying to sell it and the previously mentioned tombstone head hit. There were a few more dotted about throughout the show too that just furthered the hilarity. The weird thing is though, what could have caused it? Was it nerves? Was there something up with the ring? We’ll probably never know but it is fun to speculate (and watch that Titus O’Neil gif multiple times on repeat.)
The Greatest Royal Rumble, ignoring all the problems surrounding its location was a fun enough show. It was an entertaining watch and despite its five-hour run time provided enough content and a rapid enough pace that it never really dragged. That being said it will likely be remembered more as a cash grab unless it has women perform there too. For what it was, it was enjoyable. The royal rumble was incredibly fun and a worthy main event. The ending left a good taste and despite the annoying booking, the wrestling was enjoyable to watch too. A good effort WWE.
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