It’s the most fun time to be a WWE fan. We’re on the road to Wrestlemania and now know who will be in the main event. The Royal Rumble has gained a reputation for being an incredible show and this year’s was no different. We got two stellar Rumbles and a mixture of other fun title matches to fill out a somewhat long show. Seriously it went seven hours when you add the pre-show so it’s a brutal watch. It came from a new venue that offered a fresh look and a massive crowd. With all that being said, let’s get into breaking down this behemoth of a PPV.
Another Cruiserweight Classic
The highlight of the mostly bland pre-show was the Fatal Four way match for the Cruiserweight Title. Buddy Murphy, Akira Tozawa, Hideo Itami and Kalisto all put on a fast paced clinic off a match that sold the level of desperation they all had to win or retain the title. Everyone put in solid performances that saw them work together or play off each other to punish the other competitors. We even saw some new moves bust out by these guys that would be quite familiar in other promotions. This includes a Poison Rana and the Kamigoye. Even Kalisto put on a good show without botching. In the end we saw Buddy Murphy retain by going over Itami with Murphy’s Law. It was the ultimate match to end the pre-show and built the crowd up heading into the main show. It’s a shame they were on the pre-show as this was one exciting bout.
The Empress Still Reigns
Match one of the main show was the highly anticipated bout between Asuka and Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Title. Both women had something to prove so this match was almost all guns blazing from the get go. The two traded strikes, submissions and grapples as the match went on continuously shifting momentum and destroying one another. There was a particularly vicious spot where it seemed certain that Asuka just wanted to kill Lynch by hitting a Fisherman style move from the apron to the floor. Asuka would end up locking in the Disarm-her and Lynch ended up using the Asuka Lock on its creator. The finish saw Asuka trap Becky in the Cattle Mutilation forcing Becky to tap out. It was a solid defeat but it did leave Becky healthy enough to perform later in the night. People will probably be annoyed at the finish as Becky lost clean but this made her more of an underdog later in the night. Losses don’t have to be the end to a superstar’s night and Becky solidly proved this.
The Best Team in the World
If it weren’t for the fact that this match had me in stitches for most of its runtime and Shane McMahon’s impressive Shooting Star Press then this would have been in the bad section. Smackdown’s tag division has been the only reputable tag division on the main roster and to see a joke team take those belts is not pleasant. Miz and Shane have an odd team dynamic that while endearing is often cringe worthy to watch. This match offered everything it needed to as the Bar got to be bullies until Shane jumped off something, hit more of his awful punches and had an extended Triangle sequence. Miz would be the decision maker as he pushed Cesaro into a Brogue Kick saving Shane and allowing the BEST WRESTLER IN THE WORLD to hit a Shooting Star Press for the big finish. Miz and Shane are now the Smackdown Tag Champs which means it will only be a matter of times before one of them turns.
The Battle of the Submissions
This was probably Ronda’s best match in WWE to date. She was forced to adapt and prove herself as Sasha not only questioned her wrestling ability but also forced her to bust out new moves. Sasha was also at her best as she trapped Rousey in a number of submissions with the level of proficiency attributed to someone like Zack Sabre Junior. She was beating Ronda at the submission game and since she injured Ronda early on she had the perfect target to attack. Rousey on the other hand still offered a strong submission game but employed more actual moves when the situation called for it. At the start of the match she even taunted Sasha with some trash talk and hitting her with two out of the three Amigos.
In the end, Ronda got angry and when the Arm Bar was unattainable used the Piper’s Pit to get a pin fall victory. This is monumental as it means she did not get a submission victory over Sasha. The Boss also didn’t take defeat too well as she flashed the Horsewomen gesture at Rousey on her way out of the arena.
The Man Comes Around
The first Rumble of the night was the women’s. It was a slow burn start but ramped up both the chaos and the intensity as the match progressed. This year the focus was more on showcasing the NXT talent instead of bringing back legends. We saw Xia Li, Candice LeRae, Kacy Catanzaro and Rhea Ripley make an appearance in the Rumble and stomp some ground to make a name for themselves. Rhea came across as a total badass and Kacey had an elimination escape that would make Kofi Kingston happy.
There was also chaos from Nikki Cross, shenanigans with the Riott Squad and some feats of athleticism from both Kairi Sane and Io Shirai. The stars of the Rumble however were Charlotte, who survived from 13 to the last two, Nia who made it in at 29 and left her impact on leaving the match and “The Man,” Becky Lynch who took an injured Lana’s spot in the match. She would take the spot and won the match by eliminating Charlotte. Lynch didn’t have it easy though as she had to recover from a hard-hitting match with Asuka and then receiving a knee injury from a salty Nia. Lynch won the Rumble and is now set to take on whoever she wants (preferably Rousey) at Wrestlemania. Also it would be rude not to mention a surprise appearance from Hornswoggle who was hiding under the ring. He came out to chase away Zelina Vega who was trying to hide from the action.
Brock Fears Balor
Brock can do amazing things when he cares. Hearing that he had handpicked Finn Balor to be his Rumble opponent caused a sigh of relief amongst many fans as they knew they’d get an amazing match. A motivated Brock can sell like a champ and ensures we don’t get a boring Suplex-fest where the opponent is buried harder than the occupants of a grave. Balor got to look like a monster as he took it to Lesnar and never let up. He attacked the second the bell rung and kept going. He crippled the Beast by ramming him ribs and gut first into the corner of the Announcer’s table. This slowed Brock and took away a lot of his power game. Finn managed to fight through strikes and Suplexes to hit the Coup De Grace but unfortunately Brock kicked out at two and trapped Finn in a Kimura Lock. Balor had to tap out but he had wounded the Beast, something we haven’t seen in a long time now.
This was further emphasised by Brock attacking Finn after the match. He hit his fallen foe with a barrage of Suplexes and sealed the deal by finishing with an F-5. Brock had added insult to injury whilst also showing that he had suffered at the hands of Balor.
The Rollins Rumble
The main event was the chaotic men’s Rumble. This started with a performance from Elias who drew the number one spot but before he could perform a song, he was interrupted by a very familiar face. The one and only Jeff Jarrett was the number two competitor and he teased a duet with Elias. This would have happened if not for Elias snapping and eliminated Jarrett with a guitar shot. From there we saw a mix of familiar faces, jobbers and some surprise NXT entrants.
Much like the women’s Rumble, there was a focus on NXT faces rather than legends. This time we got Johnny Gargano, Aleister Black and Pete Dunne thrown into the mix alongside the announced names. There were also exciting spots between Rey Mysterio and Andrade, Mustafa Ali and Samoa Joe and Lashley and Rollins. There were some comedy spots too featuring Titus O Neil, Curt Hawkins and the Singh Brothers. We also saw Seth and Drew be badass, Braun destroy a bunch of people and the piece de resistance was the appearance of Nia Jax who took R Truth’s number 30 spot to enter the fray herself. She eliminated Mustafa Ali and took a series of finishers from Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio. She was eliminated from the match but definitely left an impact.
In the end, we got a showdown between Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman which resulted the in the two fighting on the apron and Seth winning with the Stomp. He may have been the obvious choice for the Rumble but that shouldn’t detract from how much he deserves it. He came in early, survived a Lashley attack and managed to beat Braun to stamp his ticket to Mania where he will probably fight Brock and hopefully get rid of the Beast.
Just let the Revival go WWE. You have driven them so far into the ground they could spit out dirt and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. This time we saw a Frankenstein team of Rezar and Scott Dawson drafted to take on the RAW tag champs because, reason. There was very little reason for this match other than the fact that the RAW Tag titles weren’t gonna be on the show otherwise. It was a dull match that saw the obvious miscommunication between the two heel team members and a Revival member eating a finisher. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t received by what little crowd was in the arena and it was not enjoyable in the slightest to watch as a Revival fan. All it did was once again prove that WWE don’t care about the RAW tag division or the teams within it.
Great Match, Bad Placement
This negative is not down to the match. The match itself was perfectly fine. It was a fun bout between Styles and Bryan that focused on pacing, strikes and submissions rather than racing into madness. It even offered the surprise return of Eric Rowan who helped Bryan win and dispatch of Styles after the bell. It was a nice little return that offers some new threads in the Daniel Bryan eco warrior story whilst also linking back to his time with the Wyatt family.
Now that being said, the match placement was awful. The crowd were exhausted by the women’s rumble and couldn’t get invested in the feud they were watching. Not even Rowan’s return or the variety of moves on display could pop this audience. It made the match slow and lifeless despite my own personal interest. It was not a match all people would enjoy but it was definitely more deserving of crowd response than it actually got. As you can see this was a very good show so the negatives are kind of minor but it is worth noting. Bryan and AJ are top talents so they deserved much better than this. They left it all in the ring but their position on the card meant the audience could only give a tenth of the response it normally would have gotten elsewhere on the card.
The State of the US Title
Shinsuke Nakamura is now a two-time US Champion. He was able to reclaim his lost title after hitting Rusev with a Kinshasa to the back of the head following a distraction. Lana once again took a bump at the hands of her husband that would cost him the title and her spot in the Rumble. The match itself was once again fine. It was a fun back and forth between two talented athletes who deserved a bigger spot. That being said can we just take a second to question what happened to the US Title.
On RAW, the IC title is often the go to belt. It is treated with respect and will often be defended on the main show of a PPV. The US Title appears to be an afterthought that gets given to top-tier talent but is never defended in high place bouts. Neither man’s reign really saw them meaningfully defend the title at all. It’s never been that bigger deal but still doesn’t it and the people who hold it, deserve better than this?
The last point of this breakdown has to go to the booking of Shane McMahon. He’s gone from being labelled the Best Wrestler in the World to now being one half of the Smackdown Tag Team Champions. The man is booked as superhuman despite the fact he can barely pull a worked punch. This isn’t me hating on him, I find him entertaining enough but I can’t understand how he’s still booked this strong in this day and age. He also puts himself in ridiculous spots that often leave him hurting so is it really a good idea to keep going? The man can do a nice Shooting Star Press though so that was nice to see. Shane is an enigma of WWE booking so it’ll be a case of waiting and seeing what he does next.
So there you have it, another amazing Royal Rumble that was only marred by awkward match placements and a slight overrun. It was definitely a long PPV and could definitely drag at times but that didn’t stop it being fun for the most part. We got to see some NXT stars make it big, we got to see Nia Jax mix it up with the men and we got to see the Man overcome the odds to punch her ticket to Wrestlemania. The right people won their matches and the crowd was (mostly) into it. It was an excellent starter PPV for WWE and hopefully this momentum keeps on going as the year progresses. It’s definitely going to be interesting how RAW and Smackdown are following this.
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