The Royal Rumble used to my favourite WWE event. However, recent years have seen it drop down my rankings. A few listless efforts have led to worries that they’ve lost their magic. As you settle into this show, you better hope not because we’re getting two of the buggers. Let’s dish out some stars.
Pre-Show: Kalisto, Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado defeated Jack Gallagher, TJP and Drew Gulak
Can we take a second to imagine what this would have been like if it had taken place in PWG? The out of control car crash that would have been? I know not everyone loves PWG’s style, but it would have been better than this. Jack Gallagher would have got to wear wrestling gear for one thing.
Nothing here was awful. While the triple moonsault from the top by the masked team was great. However, I wanted the whole match to be like that, not just the one spot.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Pre-Show: The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) defeated The Club (Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows)
WWE booking 101. Embarrass one of your best tag-teams then give them the win back at a time when they’ll be watched by significantly fewer people. Logic.
I’m confident that these teams could have a fantastic match. However, they didn’t do that here. It was on the pre-show and we all know what that means. It followed WWE’s tag-team formula to a tee with neither team getting a chance to impress.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Pre-Show: Bobby Roode defeated Mojo Rawley to retain the US Title
A timely reminder that while Rawley might have done some excellent character work recently. He still isn’t a great wrestler. In there with someone like Roode (whose WWE run can be summed up with the word underwhelming) he becomes what he is. Mediocre. He botched the finish for fuck sake.
You didn’t have to check out the first two matches, but you have to watch this one even less.
Verdict: Two Stars
AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a Handicap Match to retain the WWE Championship
Do you know what’s stupid? Putting your two best heels in a handicap match that they can’t win. There aren’t many more straightforward ways to tell the world they aren’t good enough.
What makes it more frustrating is that this was decent. How could it not be? You have three supremely talented wrestlers in the ring. They even managed to create a couple of moments of suspense. Sami hitting the Blue Thunder Bomb after winning with it on SmackDown was a great two-count and a rare example of planning from WWE.
However, the nature of this meant there was one story to tell. Styles being significantly better than Owen and Sami. The only way they could get on top was the numbers game, and anytime AJ was able to isolate one of them, he dominated. I don’t care if Owens wasn’t the legal man, it neutered two wrestlers who have been doing excellent work as heels.
Verdict: Three And A Half Star match, Two Star storytelling
The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) defeated Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin in a Two out of Three Falls match to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Titles
What made this so fantastic is that it took all the tropes we’ve come to expect from Two out of Three fall matches in WWE and subverted them. The first fall went a proper length, and yet it had all those little moments that made you think one team would pick up a three. Multiple roll-ups, a Pay Dirt and the Superkick/Splash combo. They knew what the fans were expecting and caught them off-guard every time.
Then, when The Usos went one-up and everyone, their dog and their granny thought Benjamin and Gable were about to level the score, they didn’t. It ended with one of those roll-ups that had failed to work earlier. Damn, that’s good pro-wrestling.
I love The Bucks, I love War Machine and there are plenty of other great tag teams out there, but The Usos are on a different level. Their PPV matches never fail to deliver, and it should no longer be a surprise that they raise the bar.
Verdict: Four Stars
Shinsuke Nakamura won the Royal Rumble
Jerry Lawler on commentary is not a pleasant surprise.
It’s hard to review a Rumble so I’ll just pick out a few bits and pieces.
The opening moments were a lot of fun. Corbin’s rampage created an element of chaos, and it was an excellent way to set up both Elias and Almas’s entrances.
I also enjoyed Slater’s little arc. Heath gets the crap beat out of him for this company. Sure, this story also involved him getting the crap beaten out of him, but there was a story there at the same time. In saying that, I’d have preferred it if it hadn’t been Sheamus that he embarrassed.
Kofi’s escape spot made me laugh. The New Day’s desire for Kingston to get a big WrestleMania moment is pure. The Hurricane didn’t make me laugh, although Mysterio was good and looked better than he did at the end of his last WWE run.
Zayn’s run in and subsequent elimination was a bit underwhelming. Having him hang around like the sneaky heel he is would have made more sense.
Matt and Bray’s teaming up was fine right up until they botched the double elimination. One of the reasons the Broken stuff worked so well was that it hid the fact Matt Hardy’s body is the thing which is broken. The Woken stuff has him laugh a lot.
The best thing about the whole affair was that we got to a final six where five of the men could realistically have won. That was then whittled down to two men (Reigns and Nakamura) who we know are potential opponents for Brock and Styles at ‘Mania. It made that section exciting, and it gave the men involved so much to work with.
And I think that’s why this was easily the best Rumble in years. It felt like they’d sat down and booked this, working it out from start to finish and building a narrative. That’s been missing in the last couple of years, and it was refreshing to have it back. Having an incredible 30 man match is hard. It’s not hard to stop it being a mess.
Verdict: Three Stars
The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) defeated Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan to win the Raw Tag Titles
Was Booker T drunk? Fuck me is he awful.
The match wasn’t the important part of this; it was all about the angle with Jordon. Usually, I’d complain about that, particularly on PPV. However, coming out of a Rumble it probably made sense. The fans needed a break.
Besides, it meant the belts went back to The Bar, and The Bar are cool so let’s not moan too much.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Brock Lesnar defeated Braun Strowman and Kane to retain the Universal Title
Smash you big ugly bastards. Smash everything in sight.
There was only one way for this to work and that was if it was a car crash. Well fuck me was it a car crash.
And not always in a good way. It was sloppy as hell with men stumbling all over the place and seemingly making it up as they went along. I’m pretty sure Braun kneed Brock in the head, so Brock punched him in return. It was a damn mess.
On top of that, Kane was purely there to take the fall. No-one in the crowd cared about him, and you got the impression Brock and Braun didn’t either. I know they wanted to protect super Strowman (seriously that man should be dead) but Kane had no right to be there.
And yet, despite all those problems. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. It was three big beefy men beating the crap out of each other. Great wrestling it was not. Great entertainment it was.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Asuka won the Royal Rumble
Did Cole seriously claim that Stephanie wouldn’t tell you about how important her role in the Women’s Revolution was? That’s a top ten comedy moment.
Digs aside, Steph was roughly a billion times better than Booker.
I couldn’t think of a better pairing to kick off this huge moment than Becky and Sasha. They are the workhorses of the women’s division and have consistently had the best matches.
There was a shitload of ‘legends’ involved, so I’m going to do a quick rundown of their performances.
Lita: didn’t she retire with a serious neck injury? That moonsault was scary. She’s lost a step, but it was nice to see her. Fantastic gear too.
Torrie: she never had a step. Unlike Lita, I was more worried about her injuring someone else.
Molly Holly: one of wrestling’s good ones. Lovely to see her get a moment.
Michelle McCool: there have been rumours of her making a comeback. If that’s true having her eliminate the scrubs was smart. If she isn’t, it was awful short-termism from WWE.
Vickie Guerrero: it was more amusing than The Hurricane stuff.
Kelly Kelly: remember when we all tried to convince ourselves Kelly was alright? We have come a long way.
Jacqueline: it felt like they shortchanged her a bit. She didn’t get much time.
Beth Phoenix: she could walk into that company tomorrow and retake her spot on the roster. They might appreciate her now.
Nikki Bella: is she retired? I’m putting her in this category anyway. If she is, they gave her far too much. If she’s coming back, I have no problem with it.
Brie Bella: I know she’s retired. She’s also half the wrestler her sister is and did not need this much of a rub.
Trish Stratus: again, I’m not sure why you give someone who isn’t an active wrestler this much time. Trish was good; she didn’t need all that to remind people.
As for the non-legends, Sasha was fantastic. She was the glue that held everything together. Nia Jax also continues to be incredible. WWE keeps teasing a big push for her, and they need to do it. She’s different from everything else they have and is also a great wrestler.
Naomi got the Kofi Kingston spot. She’s now guaranteed to be in every Rumble for the rest of her career. It also highlighted the fact that a lot of people were rolling under the bottom rope. While I know that’s always been in the rules, it’s not great for the viewers. Makes it hard to keep up with who is in and who isn’t.
Every fan who chanted a husband’s name in place of the women themselves is a twat. Every writer who has helped diminish the magic of Bayley is also a twat. She should be so much more.
Someone who isn’t a twat is Asuka. Asuka is one of the best wrestlers on the planet and a worthy winner of the first Women’s Rumble. She should never lose. She can kick that geek in the Piper t-shirt in the head too. (Please don’t tell Rousey I called her a geek).
I had a lot of issues with this. It relied on legend appearances far too much, and a lot of the actual in-ring action was unmemorable at best. It felt like WWE was more interested in giving those returning stars moments than they were their roster.
Despite that, I enjoyed it, and I am aware how much it means to people. I can’t honestly understand that stuff. I’m a middle-class white guy who spends a lot of his life writing about wrestling. It wasn’t for me, it was for everyone who saw people like them being degraded on WWE TV for years.
Verdict: Three Stars
I’ve kept the Rousey stuff separate because quite frankly I’d written enough about the Rumble already. I know a lot of folks were angry at her taking Asuka’s moment by closing the show. However, the fact is that without Rousey it doesn’t close the show. Whether that’s right or wrong is up for debate. That’s how WWE works. The second the men’s Rumble showed up in the middle of the card it telegraphed this moment. The only question was whether she’d be in the Rumble or not.
As for the moment itself? It was the most WWE thing I’ve ever seen. I’m glad she came out to ‘Bad Reputation’ but they’ve got Ronda Rousey in and what did they have her do? Walk her down the ring with a smile on her face to point at a sign? Fuck off.
I think Rousey will be a success in WWE. She’s an incredible athlete, and she likes the graps. Someone like Asuka will easily be able to put on a great match with her. Still, this wasn’t the hot start I anticipated.
I have no idea whether the Royal Rumble was good or not. The SmackDown tag match was fantastic, but nothing else was. However, both Rumbles were entertaining in their way and Brock got to smash some shit. So, on the whole, I think it was good? I can probably say it wasn’t shit. It was far too fucking long. Then again, that’s just the norm with this company. Ah, fuck it. It was alright.