The 31st edition of the WWE Royal Rumble was a historic event. After 30 years of Royal Rumble shows where there was only one Royal Rumble match on the show featuring mostly male wrestlers, WWE decided it was time to have the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match. There was a lot of excitement about it because WWE’s “Women’s Evolution” (sometimes called a “revolution”) was going really well and it made sense for there to be a Women’s Royal Rumble match. Not only that, but the ladies got to main event the show as well. Part of that is because it was the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match and also because of who arrived in WWE at the end of the night.
This review was originally written on the night it happened in 2018. I am adding some 2021 thoughts in blue font because there’s always more to say. I’m not going to point out the face/heel designations this time.
WWE Royal Rumble
January 28, 2018
Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The opening video package focused on history being made and the tagline “more Rumble than ever” that WWE has been pushing. The video also focused on the matches that are taking place on the card. Very good video package as usual. I wish the creative team was as good as the video package team.
The WrestleMania sign is in the building and the crowd was loud as the camera panned around to show the packed house in Philly.
Sami Zayn made his entrance for the opener with the crowd humming along with his song. Sami’s partner Kevin Owens was up next. I like that they got individual entrances rather than going out together. The Smackdown announce team of Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves were shown on camera welcoming us to the show. Owens kissed his best friend Zayn on the cheek and they were fired up.
AJ Styles, the WWE Champion, got a huge reaction for his entrance. That’s usual for him. Best wrestler in the company. The Spanish announcers were shown at ringside as well as the German announce team with all of them telling you to visit TJRWrestling.net daily. Thanks guys.
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
It’s a 2 on 1 Handicap match where Owens and Zayn must tag eachother in, so there’s one legal man. It’s not two guys in the ring against Styles at the same time.
Owens looked like he was going to start the match, but then he tagged in Zayn. When it looked like Zayn would wrestle Styles, he tagged Owens back in. Zayn back in, Styles with a rollup and Zayn tagged out. Owens tripped up Styles and then Styles with a headscissors that took down Owens. With Styles blocking a tag, Owens ran to the floor and slid back in to tag in Zayn. Saxton and Graves got into one of their arguments as Styles hit a dropkick on Zayn leading to Owens tagging back in. Owens took control by stomping on Styles in the corner and Zayn tagged in with some stomps of his own. Zayn with a back body drop on Styles. Owens tagged in leading to a hard whip into the turnbuckle with Styles bumping sternum first. They went outside the ring where Owens sent Styles into the barricade. Back in the ring, Owens with a double stomp to the chest of Styles. Styles fought his way out of the corner with punches on both guys. Styles with a kick on Owens, they went towards the turnbuckle and Owens dropped Styles with a face first sitout slam for a two count. Owens slammed Styles down by the head. Owens missed the cannonball in the corner when Styles moved and Owens was favoring his left leg (hurt on Smackdown in the storyline) when he hit the turnbuckle. Zayn tagged in and Styles nailed a top rope hurricanrana to bring Zayn down off the top rope. Owens tagged back in right into a Pele Kick from Styles. Zayn tagged back in, Styles nailed a boot to the face and a moonsault into a reverse DDT by Styles.
Owens went back in there with Styles hitting him with a back elbow. Owens did a monkey flip to Styles leading to Styles taking down Zayn with a headscissors takedown. Styles slapped on the Calf Crusher submission on Owens just like on Smackdown. Zayn went into the ring to break it up with a punch. Styles sent Zayn out of the ring and Owens got a rollup for two. Owens charged, Styles moved and Owens went crashing into the ring post. Zayn tagged in as the fresh man, Styles with a back elbow and Owens nailed a superkick. Styles hit the Blue Thunder Bomb for the two as Styles got his shoulder up at about 2.9 out of 3. That was timed really well by Styles. Fans were chanting “this is awesome” for them. Zayn set up Styles on the top rope for a superplex, but Styles slipped out and sent Zayn face first into the middle turnbuckle. Back body drop by Zayn put Styles on the apron. Styles decked Owens. Styles with a Phenomenal Forearm for a two count as Owens broke up the pin. That drew a good reaction from the crowd. Styles and Zayn exchanged strikes and Zayn tried to tag in Owens, but it didn’t look like he did it. Styles dumped Zayn out of the ring. Owens with a superkick and he went for the Popup Powerbomb, but Styles countered into a pinning predicament and Styles beat Owens with it. It went 15:55. The key point is that it looks like Zayn didn’t tag in Owens even though the ref allowed it.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a very good match that was fun to watch with a slow start due to all the quick tags from the challengers. Styles was great all match long as he sold the beating for a lot of it and they planned the spots for AJ’s comebacks really well. Owens and Zayn should have cheated more to get some more nearfalls, but they still did some interesting spots in there. I’m not a fan of handicap matches in general. These guys did about as well as you can in that situation. I expected Styles to retain, so the result was no surprise.
(The champion retaining was the expected and obvious outcome. I thought the match was really fun and they had a creative finish. The crowd was into it.)
The replays aired post match showing that Zayn and Owens didn’t make the tag, so it’s a controversial finish. Styles’ shoulders may have been down on the pin as well.
Analysis: They did the instant replay thing on Smackdown a few weeks back in a tag match, but it didn’t happen here. More controversy surrounding these guys.
There was a commercial about WrestleMania in New Orleans in 70 days. I thought I was going to go, but plans changed. It’s unlikely now.
There was a shot of Owens and Zayn talking to Shane McMahon again. They whined about how they didn’t make the legal tag. Owens told Shane he has to make this right. They asked Shane if he saw it. Shane just said “yep” and left.
(This would eventually lead to Owens and Zayn against Shane and a returning Daniel Bryan, who was cleared to wrestle again. We had no idea that would happen at this time, so it was a wonderful bit of news soon after the Rumble.)
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin made their entrance to challenge for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. The Usos did a pre-match promo to hype up the crowd welcoming the challengers to the Uso Penitentiary.
Analysis: I assume they’re doing two Smackdown matches back to back because of Graves announcing for both brands.
Smackdown Tag Team Championships 2/3 Falls: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Jimmy worked over Gable with some chops followed by an uppercut punch. Benjamin made a blind tag and Gable took advantage with a chop block to the back of the left leg of Jimmy. Benjamin worked on the left leg by sending it into the ring post as well as the side of the ring apron. Benjamin and Gable made some quick tags as they worked on the left knee of Jimmy for a few minutes. Jimmy was trying to break free, but Gable broke it up with a forearm to the back. Gable with a dragon screw leg whip followed a knee drop to work on the knee some more. Double knee attack by the heels on Jimmy and they punched Jey off the apron. Jimmy nailed an enziguri kick with his right foot to knock down Benjamin and Jey got the tag against Gable. Jey nailed Benjamin with a kick to the gut, Gable tagged in and Jey sent Gable over the top to the floor. Jey nailed a dive over the top to take out Benjamin on the floor. Jey nailed a dive over the top to take out Gable on the other side of the ring. Jey nailed a cross body block on Gable in the ring followed by the running butt splash in the corner. Jey got a rollup for two. Benjamin knee to the face into a Gable pin for two. Gable with a bridging Tiger Suplex for a two count. Benjamin tagged in and hit Paydirt for a two count. Good nearfall there. Jey was on the apron and Benjamin nailed a spin kick to knock him down. Gable up top and he hit a moonsault onto both Usos on the floor. Gable was told Jimmy wasn’t the legal Uso, so Jey hit Gable with a superkick. Jimmy with a superkick on Benjamin. Jey with a Superfly Splash off the top rope on Gable for a two count. That’s an even better nearfall than the other one. Jimmy got the tag, both Usos went up top and Benjamin kicked Jey off the top. Jimmy with a superkick on Benjamin. Jey tagged in, Jimmy hit a superkick, Jey hit a superkick and double superkick by the Usos got the first fall after 12 minutes.
The Usos lead 1-0
Benjamin back in and he sent Jey into the ring post shoulder first. Gable and Benjamin did their double team finisher on the floor with Benjamin holding up Jimmy leading to Gable hitting the clothesline into the Powerbomb on the floor. Gable nailed a running kick to the head on Jey. Benjamin went after Jey and Jey did an inside cradle for the pinfall win at 13:55 with Gable unable to break up the pin in time.
Winners by pinfall: The Usos 2-0
Analysis: **3/4 It was just an average match, which is a bit disappointing considering the quality of the teams involved. They have had better matches too. I thought they were going to have a longer match with some more cool spots and nearfalls, but that didn’t happen. Ending the match on two falls in a row instead of the usual three falls was a surprising finish. It also hurt the finish because the crowd was dead for it thinking that there was no way it was going to end the match. I wouldn’t have booked it like that. I think WWE wanted to try something different to fool the fans that think every 2/3 Falls match is going to three falls. It’s happened a few times like this, but it’s rare. I picked Gable & Benjamin to win, so I got that one wrong.
(This match just didn’t click. You would think it would be better based on the wrestlers involved. It was just average, though. Having a 2/3 Falls match ending 2-0 is rare also, so it shows how WWE wanted to go for something different here.)
There was a commercial for WWE 24 about WrestleMania last year. It’s on WWE Network after the Royal Rumble. It’s such a good documentary that you forget how average last year’s WrestleMania was.
The announce team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton took over at ringside.
The men’s Royal Rumble match is up next. The “By the Numbers” video aired.
Analysis: I’m not that surprised that the women’s Rumble is likely going on last. WWE is pushing the “making history” thing so hard, so they might as well put the women on last.
The rules of the match were displayed on the screen with announcer Greg Hamilton going over it. The key thing also is that the winner gets to choose what champion they will face at WrestleMania.
Jerry Lawler was announced as a guest commentator for this match, so he’s calling it with Cole, Graves and Saxton.
Aiden English appeared first to let us know it’s Rusev Day and then we found out Rusev is #1 in the Royal Rumble and fans chanted “Rusev Day” for him. Finn Balor is in at #2. He’s a pick to win for some people, so he would have to go the distance.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Rusev and Balor battled early with Rusev trying to slam Balor over the top, but Balor held on. Rusev with a splash, but Balor came back with a running dropkick. The fans were loud as they counted down to see #3 man in the match is Rhyno. Rhyno nailed Rusev with a splash followed by a belly to belly suplex. Rhyno with a belly to belly suplex on Balor followed by a clothesline. Rusev with a forearm to Rhyno’s back. Rusev ran the ropes and hit a spinning heel kick on Rhyno as the clock counted down again. It’s Baron Corbin at #4, who entered to boos. Corbin nailed a splash on Balor in the corner and tossed him across the ring. Clothesline by Corbin on Rhyno. Corbin did his slide under the ropes and go back in spot leading to a clothesline on Rusev. Rhyno with a belly to belly suplex on Corbin. Deep Six by Corbin on Rhyno and Corbin tossed Rhyno out of the ring. Balor dumped Corbin out easily. After the elimination, Corbin was furious and he attacked Balor on the floor. Rusev was also attacked by Corbin outside the ring. Heath Slater was #5 and Corbin decked him with a clothesline as he was walking to the back. Balor was favoring his shoulder. Slater was still down in the aisle.
Elias is #6 and he had a guitar in his hands. Elias kicked Slater on his way down to the ring. Elias went into the ring with the guitar to say that the clock will stop until he’s done his performance. There was nobody else in the ring since Rusev, Balor and Slater were down. Elias said he spit in the face of the Rocky statue. It’s NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas with Zelina Vega at #7. Good ovation for him because he had an incredible match against Johnny Gargano on Saturday at NXT Takeover. Almas nailed a running double knee attack on Elias against the turnbuckle. Elias with a running clothesline that decked Almas. Bray Wyatt is #8 with his lamp as he walked down to the ring, blew out the light and he whipped Slater into the barricade. Wyatt went into the ring with a uranage slam on Elias. Balor finally got back in the ring, but Wyatt decked him with a clothesline and Wyatt punched Almas. Rusev was on the floor while Slater was also on the floor because he hasn’t entered the ring yet. Fans chanted “Rusev Day” as Wyatt punched Rusev down a few times. Big E of the New Day is #9 and he helped Slater back to his feet on his way to the ring. Big E put some pancakes in Slater’s mouth. At least he didn’t punch him. Big E with a belly to belly slam on Wyatt and Rusev with a kick to the head of Big E. The six guys in the ring paired off in three of the corners of the ring. Tye Dillinger is #10 for the second year in a row, but he didn’t make his way out there. Dillinger was attacked by Owens and Zayn backstage. They sent Dillinger into a case backstage. Zayn went to the ring, so he’s the new #10 in the match. Zayn entered the match and joined the action even though he wasn’t legally in the match. Nobody stopped him from it.
Sheamus of The Bar is #11 and he’s got a match later in the night. Sheamus tossed Slater in the ring and Slater hit a clothesline that sent Sheamus over the top to eliminate him on Sheamus’ birthday. Fans were going wild for it. Slater celebrated the elimination and then Wyatt eliminated Slater. That was funny. Xavier Woods of the New Day is #12 in the match as he went after Wyatt with punches. Big E and Woods hit a double team move on Zayn and then Big E picked Woods to slam on him onto Elias. There were some near eliminations, but then everybody paired off in corners again as the clock counted down. Apollo Crews is #13 as he entered the ring with a leaping kick to Wyatt. There was not much of a reaction for Crews’ entrance. Saxton complained about Zayn illegally entering the Rumble match with Graves saying he liked it. Me too. Balor with a double foot stomp to Wyatt. Shinsuke Nakamura is #14 and he’s my pick to win. The fans chanted Nakamura’s song as he cleaned house with kicks for everybody including a sweet jumping kick to Zayn. Fans were going wild for Nakamura with “Nakamura” chants. Nakamura with a running knee lift on Zayn that eliminated him. Cesaro was #15 and he tried to dump Balor out of the ring, but Almas kicked Cesaro in the back to stop the elimination attempt. Fans were chanting “Rusev Day” again. Rusev and Cesaro exchanged punches as the clock went down again.
Kofi Kingston is #16 in the match, so all three New Day guys are in the match. Cesaro decked Kingston early on. Crews tried to toss Cesaro out with a slam, but Cesaro fought out of it and nailed a forearm to eliminate Crews. Jinder Mahal is #17 in the match with Cole noting that it is Mahal’s first Rumble match. Mahal with a suplex on Woods with Lawler saying he picked Mahal to win. Mahal hit a back body drop on Woods to eliminate him. Big E and Mahal battled on the apron with Mahal nailing a kick on Big E to eliminate him after Big E went over the top during their battle. Seth Rollins is #18 with some flames on his tights since he’s got that “burn it down” song. Rollins with a Slingblade on Elias and a Slingblade on Balor as well. Cesaro tried to eliminate Rollins, but Rollins countered him with a monkey flip that eliminated Cesaro from the match. Cool spot by two of the best guys out there. Mahal tossed Kingston out, but Kingston’s right foot landed on Woods to save Kingston. Big E put a plate of pancakes under Kingston’s foot to save him. That was a crafty save for Kingston as the New Day guys launched Kingston into the match for the annual “Kofi’s incredible save” spot of the match we get every year. Kingston hit the Trouble in Paradise to Mahal, who bumped over the top to the floor, which eliminated Mahal. Almas hit a Hammerlock DDT on Kingston and Almas tossed Kingston out of the ring. That was a fun spot with Kingston. It’s “Woken” Matt Hardy at 19 with “delete” chants and Hardy went after Elias by sending him into the turnbuckle. Hardy and Wyatt had a staredown, but Rusev broke it up with punches. Double clothesline by Wyatt and Hardy eliminated Rusev, which drew boos. Cole noted that Rusev lasted over 30 minutes. Wyatt tossed Almas into Hardy, who hit a Side Effect. Hardy and Wyatt punched eachother and then they both tumbled over the top to the floor so they were both eliminated. John Cena is #20 with Lawler saying that’s his pick. The fans sang “John Cena sucks” as he entered. The others in the match are Balor, Nakamura, Elias, Rollins and Almas. Cena dumped out Elias pretty easily as I expected, but there wasn’t much of a battle.
There was a surprise at #21 as The Hurricane entered to a big applause. Good to see him back in WWE at least for one night. Hurricane tried to hit Cena with a Chokeslam, but Cena powered out of that attempt and dumped Hurricane easily. Comedy and nostalgia in one moment. Aiden English was #22. There wasn’t a lot happening as the six guys paired off in the three corners with the fans doing their “Let’s Go Cena/Cena sucks” chant. Adam Cole from NXT is #23 with the crowd chanting “Adam Cole bay-bay” for him on his entrance. Cole had his ribs taped after a crazy Extreme Rules match at Takeover on Saturday. English stood on the middle turnbuckle doing a song and Balor nailed a leaping kick to eliminate English. Randy Orton is #24 and he’s the winner from last year. Orton with a powerslam on Cole. Almas tried a leaping attack on Orton, but Orton nailed an RKO. Orton dumped Almas over the top to eliminate him. Titus O’Neil is #25 to no reaction. The seven in the match right now are Cena, Orton, Rollins, Nakamura, Balor, Titus O’Neil and Adam Cole. There wasn’t a lot happening as the guys paired off in corners.
The Miz, the current Intercontinental Champion, is #26 and he held up his title in the air. Miz gave the title to his buddies Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. Miz was on fire with moves on Rollins, Balor and a DDT on Cena. Miz nailed Miz kicks on Rollins and Cena and fans used to boo that, but they chant “yes” because they like heels. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale on Cena and Rollins hit a superkick on Miz. Rollins tried to toss Miz out, but Miz held on. It’s Rey Mysterio at #27 to a huge ovation. Surprise! The crowd was going wild for him. Mysterio with a hurricanrana to eliminate Cole and Mysterio hit a 619 on Miz. Roman Reigns is #28 with the majority of the arena booing him. It was similar to three years earlier when Reigns won the Royal Rumble in the same building and they booed him. Reigns decked everybody with punches and a few clotheslines for Miz. Corner clotheslines by Reigns on Miz, O’Neil splash attempt, Reigns moved and Reigns eliminated O’Neil. Reigns tried to toss out Miz, but Axel and Dallas were there to save Miz. Rollins nailed Miz with a kick followed by the Blackout (former Curb Stomp) on Miz. Rollins picked up Miz and Reigns with a Powerbomb on Miz onto Dallas and Axel on the floor. Reigns tossed Rollins out as the crowd booed loudly. Reigns and Rollins smirked. Goldust is #29 to not much of a reaction. Goldust nearly eliminated Orton, but he wasn’t able to do it. Goldust hit the atomic drop on Cena followed by an uppercut. Dolph Ziggler is #30, so it’s his return after missing over a month of action after leaving the US Title behind.
Names that are left: Cena, Mysterio, Orton, Reigns, Balor, Nakamura, Ziggler and Goldust.
Ziggler and Goldust battled with Ziggler eliminating Goldust with a superkick. Nakamura blocked a Ziggler superkick and nearly suplexed him out. Balor ended up jumping over Nakamura to eliminate Ziggler. I figured Ziggler would do more after sitting out for over a month. Nope. That was it.
The six men left had a staredown: Orton, Cena, Mysterio, Balor, Nakamura and Reigns. Mysterio tripped up Reigns while Cena hit the AA on Balor. Mysterio hit the 619 on Reigns. Nakamura went for kicks on Orton, but Orton hit an RKO and Lawler was yelling at Orton to cover him because he was too excited. Reigns with a Superman Punch on Orton and Reigns dumped Orton out. Mysterio dropkick and Mysterio hit a double 619 on Cena and Orton. Mysterio leaping attack on Cena and Balor eliminated Mysterio.
The final four are: Cena, Reigns, Nakamura and Balor, who has been in for 52 minutes after entering at #2. There was a really long delay as all four guys were down on the mat for a bit and then they slowly stood up in their respective corners. Fans were chanting for “Nakamura” over the others as they all continued to stare. Cena went after Nakamura with punches and Reigns took down Balor with punches. Nakamura got back to his feet to knock down Cena and Nakamura with punches. Nakamura with a knee lift nearly eliminated Balor, but Balor came back with a kick and a forearm. Nakamura with a kick to the head. Balor with a basement dropkick with Cole noting that Balor was at 55 minutes and Nakamura was at 35 minutes. Cena and Reigns back up with clotheslines on Nakamura and Balor. Cole said in his estimation, Cena is the greatest of all time. Cena with a running shoulder tackle on Reigns and Reigns came back with a Samoan Drop. Reigns was the only man standing as the crowd booed him. You could tell Cena was telling Balor something about a spot coming up, but I couldn’t hear it. Cena with his back suplex on Reigns. Cena ran the ropes and Balor hit the Slingblade on Cena followed by the corner dropkick. Balor with Slingblade to Reigns and the dropkick to him. Balor with a Slingblade to Nakamura, but Nakamura nailed him with a kick. Balor with a double stomp to take down Nakamura. With Balor looking like he was on roll, Cena eliminated Balor after 57 minutes of in-ring time for Balor.
It’s down to Cena, Reigns and Nakamura. Cena with a spinning suplex on Reigns, but Reigns got back to his feet with a Superman Punch. Reigns moved Nakamura out of the way as Reigns set up for a Spear, but Cena caught him and hit the Attitude Adjustment on Reigns. Nakamura tried a slam on Cena, but Cena elbowed out of it. Nakamura picked up Cena, put him on the apron and Nakamura with a Kinshasa knee on Cena to eliminate him.
Nakamura and Reigns were the final two with Nakamura telling Reigns to “come on” to big cheers. They exchanged punches and Reigns nailed a Superman Punch. Reigns tried to toss Nakamura, but Nakamura held on. Nakamura slapped on an armbar on Reigns against the ropes, but Reigns powered out of it and Reigns hit a Powerbomb in the ring. Fans chanted “Nakamura” as both guys were down in the ring. Reigns went for the Spear, Nakamura kneed him in the head and Nakamura jumped off the middle ropes with a flying knee. Nakamura set up in the corner again and Reigns hit a Spear. Reigns picked up Nakamura to eliminate him, but Nakamura held onto the ropes. Nakamura ran the ropes with a Kinshasa knee to the face. Nakamura picked up Reigns and eliminated Reigns to win the match. It went 65:27. The crowd went wild for Nakamura’s win.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Analysis: ****1/4 That was an awesome match. It’s one of the best Rumbles this decade for sure and one of the best ever. It had a lot of cool moments. I think maybe there weren’t enough surprises for some people, but bringing back Rey Mysterio for it is pretty cool. A lot of us expected a name like Bobby Lashley to be there, but he wasn’t. I hope he’s back in WWE soon, though. I thought the Rumble was booked very well. The final six especially was awesome. Having Nakamura beat Cena & Reigns to win is awesome. It elevates Nakamura a lot by having him beat former winners like that. Don’t see how people can complain about that one. There were some cool surprises with Mysterio and Hurricane as well as the NXT guys Cole and Almas. I think that match was very well done and definitely could have been the main event of the show. Everything just worked well in terms of who they chose to end the match, the comedy spots were good for a few laughs and the crowd was into the whole thing, especially with Rusev in there. Some years the Rumble is boring because of how predictable it was. This one featured the right guy winning and WWE should be applauded for that. Nakamura was my pick to win. I’m glad I was right about this one.
ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Finn Balor at 57:38.
Most Eliminations: Finn Balor and Roman Reigns with 4.
Best Performers (3): Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor and John Cena.
(I thought this was an excellent Royal Rumble match. The biggest names in the match were Cena and Reigns, so having Nakamura eliminate both of them in the final four was a good way to end it because it showed that Nakamura earned it. Finn Balor was very impressive throughout the match as the ironman in the Rumble match and also some of the key spots he was involved in. I also liked the comedy bits, the surprises and the pacing of the match. It didn’t feel too long or too short. It felt just right.)
Nakamura celebrated in the ring with the crowd going wild for him. Nakamura was interviewed in the ring by Renee Young after the match. She asked him if he has decided what champion he would like to face at WrestleMania. Nakamura said: “AJ STYLES!” And the crowd went wild.
Analysis: To borrow a phrase from the great Steve Austin: “OH HELL YEAH!” That was expected and I’m glad it’s happening. I expect Reigns to win Elimination Chamber and face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, which might be the actual main event, but I am very excited about Styles vs. Nakamura.
— AJ Styles (@AJStylesOrg) January 29, 2018
(The Styles/Nakamura WrestleMania match was sadly not some wrestling classic. They had good matches in WWE, but it wasn’t as good as their classic in Japan in 2016.)
Next year’s Royal Rumble is in Phoenix.
The powers that be met in the office with Smackdown’s Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan celebrating the Nakamura Rumble win. Raw’s Stephanie McMahon and Kurt Angle were there. Steph said it’s about making history and Steph said we will be “pleasantly surprised.”
Analysis: That’s an interesting tease.
There was a clip of some KFC Royal Rumble with Ric Flair winning a Rumble dressed as the colonel.
Booker T joined Cole and Graves on commentary for the two Raw matches up next.
Seth Rollins made his entrance first and then his partner Jason Jordan entered. Jordan was booed.
Analysis: Jordan has dealt with a back injury for a few weeks and not worked a lot because of it, so it will be interesting to see how they book him.
The challenger duo of birthday boy Sheamus & Cesaro were up next.
The international announcers were shown: Portuguese, Russian, Japanese (hey Funaki), Hindi, French and Mandarin.
Raw Tag Team Championships: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan vs. The Bar – Sheamus & Cesaro
Rollins was on fire early with a dropkick on Cesaro. Sheamus tagged into the match and took control against Rollins. Leaping kick to the head by Rollins to Sheamus as Booker complained about Jordan like he usually does. Rollins kicked Sheamus away and Cesaro pulled Jordan off the apron. Cesaro sent Jordan face first into the ring post. Sheamus missed a kick and Rollins hit a suicide dive to take out Sheamus and Cesaro. Sheamus whipped Rollins into the barricade. Sheamus sent Rollins back into the ring. The crowd was dead as a doctor and ref checked on Jordan outside the ring. Cesaro and Sheamus with a double clothesline on Rollins followed by Sheamus with a knee drop. Rollins fought back with an attack off the top, but Sheamus and Rollins collided with Cesaro hitting a clothesline to knock down Rollins. Cesaro with an elbow drop off the middle turnbuckle for a two count. Jordan was still out of the ring. Rollins finally broke free by sending Sheamus into the ring post and sent Cesaro out of the ring. Rollins could have tagged out, but Jordan was still out on the floor. Rollins took down Cesaro with the Slingblade and then Rollins to the middle rope with a Blockbuster. Rollins with a forearm on Cesaro in the corner, then a suplex and Cesaro countered a suplex. Rollins with a Falcon Arrow slam for two. Rollins with a standing side kick to Cesaro for two as Sheamus broke up the pin with stomps. The crowd was dead quiet for everything in this match so far. Rollins tried to fight off both guys on the turnbuckle and had some success with it as he slammed them both into the ring. Rollins played to the crowd, who was pretty quiet. Rollins nailed a Frog Splash off the top onto both guys. Jordan finally stumbled his way to the apron.
Jordan stumbled into the ring and was selling like he was knocked out. Jordan tagged back out. The crowd booed him a bit, but they were still quiet. Rollins told him to get back in there to fight. Jordan sat down on the steps. Rollins tried to fight off both guys, but Cesaro nailed him with an uppercut. Rising knee lift by Rollins, Sheamus blind tag and Sheamus with a Brogue Kick on Rollins. Sheamus picked up Rollins and Cesaro jumped off the ropes for a double team White Noise. Sheamus pinned Rollins to win the match at 12:50.
Winners by pinfall AND NEW Raw Tag Team Champions: Sheamus & Cesaro
Sheamus & Cesaro are Raw Tag Team Champions for the fourth time.
Analysis: **1/4 It was just a decent tag team match with the crowd not interested at all because of how excited they were after the men’s Rumble match. As I noted above, Jordan had an injury going into this, so he was protected by not being a part of the match due to selling the head injury. Rollins put up a good fight and it would have been nice if the crowd got into it more, but they didn’t get into it. The story should lead to Jordan fully turning heel as he blames Rollins for the loss. I’m fine with Sheamus & Cesaro as champs again, but they need to build up some face teams on Raw for them to face. I’m also ready for Rollins to go back to being a singles wrestler. It’s been enough tag team wrestling for him.
(It was average for a tag team match. Rollins and Jordan were not a long term team, so Sheamus and Cesaro winning made sense.)
There was a commercial for WWE Network.
The Universal Championship match is up next. A video package aired to set it up.
Braun Strowman entered first to cheers from the crowd since he’s a face that the people love.
Kane didn’t get much of a reaction as the announcers tried to talk him up due to his history in WWE.
Brock Lesnar, the Universal Champion, made his entrance with his advocate Paul Heyman by his side. When Jojo Offerman did the introductions with all three guys in the ring, Heyman took the night and did the introduction for Lesnar.
Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane
There are no countouts or disqualifications in a triple threat match.
Strowman destroyed Lesnar with a stiff knee. Lesnar said something to him that was muted on the broadcast, so perhaps some unkind language. (A reader tweeted me saying Lesnar said “slow the fuck down” so that’s why there was the mute.) Lesnar was was happy about it. Lesnar nailed Strowman with two very hard punches to the face. Kane hit a Chokeslam on Lesnar. Strowman and Kane battled in the ring. Lesnar brought a chair into the ring and hit Kane in the back with it. Strowman punched the chair when Lesnar had it. Strowman whipped Lesnar into the barricade. Strowman brought two tables into the ring. They replayed the Strowman knee and Lesnar punch two times. Both of those shots looked very stiff. Ouch. Strowman set up a table on one side of the ring and set up the other table vertically against the turnbuckle. Kane and Strowman grabbed eachother by the throat and Strowman hit a Chokeslam on Kane with Lesnar showing up to break up the pin. Lesnar hit Strowman with three straight German Suplexes. Strowman got back to his feet quickly and hit a Powerslam on Lesnar through the table. Strowman covered for a two count as Kane broke up the pin attempt. Strowman tried a Powerslam on Kane, but Kane slipped out of it and Kane shoved Strowman through the table. That was a bit sloppy, but they did the spot as planned. Kane with a Chokeslam on Strowman for two as Lesnar broke it up. Lesnar picked up Kane and hit a F5. Strowman broke that up by picking up Lesnar and tossing him across the ring German Suplex styles to send Lesnar out of the ring. Strowman cleared off the announce table, Lesnar picked up Strowman and Lesnar hit a F5 on Strowman that broke the German announce table. Lesnar picked up the German announce table and tossed it onto Strowman, so Strowman was buried under the table. Kane got back to his feet and wanted a Chokeslam, but Lesnar hit a F5 that put Kane through the announce table.
Strowman shoved the table off of him and he was back to his feet. Strowman decked Lesnar. Strowman tossed Lesnar back into the ring. Strowman hit Lesnar with a Running Powerslam. Strowman went to cover, but then he got back up and he hit a second Powerslam on Lesnar. Kane back in the ring with a steel chair that he used to hit Strowman three times and knocked Strowman out of the ring. Lesnar got back up, Lesnar shoved Kane into Strowman, who was on the apron. Lesnar hit the F5 on Kane and pinned him to win the match at 10:55.
Winner by pinfall: Brock Lesnar
Analysis: **3/4 It was a very physical match that I thought would go around 10 minutes with Lesnar pinning Kane, so I was right about that. They want to protect Strowman in a match like that by not pinning him. The spot with Lesnar putting Strowman through the table with the F5 and then tossing the table on him was really cool. I thought it would lead to the finish, but Strowman kept coming back. The crowd definitely wanted Strowman to win although I think they knew what was going to happen because it was pretty obvious. Kane was there to get beat and that’s what happened. Lesnar holding the title until WrestleMania where he will probably face Roman Reigns (who will win Elimination Chamber next month) has been the plan since last year and it’s still the plan as far as we know.
(A good triple threat where Kane was in the match to take the pin so that they could keep Strowman strong. That’s what we figured going into the match and then that’s what they did.)
Lesnar had the Universal Championship on his shoulder with Heyman going up the ramp with him. Strowman was back on his feet saying that Lesnar didn’t beat him. Lesnar had a cocky smile on his face
A commercial aired for WWE 24 about last year’s WrestleMania that will be on WWE Network after the Rumble.
The trailer aired for the Andre the Giant documentary that is on HBO in April. It looks great.
The announcing duo of Michael Cole and Corey Graves plugged the next PPV, Raw’s Elimination Chamber in four weeks on February 25. Spoiler: Reigns wins.
The video aired to set up the women’s Royal Rumble in the main event spot.
Maria Menounos was introduced as the special ring announcer for the match.
Stephanie “Main Event” McMahon, who is the Raw Commissioner, is on commentary for this match with Cole and Graves. If you’re wondering, Stephanie is not in the kind of attire that may lead to her being in the match.
The Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss and Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair made their entrances to watch the match at ringside. They were seated in chairs near the announce table, which was put back together.
Sasha Banks made her entrance as the first woman in the match. Becky Lynch is #2. Both good choices as two of the better workers in the match.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
The bell rang at 10:09pmET so if they go an hour then this show is going over four hours long.
Banks tried to eliminate Lynch, but she couldn’t do it and Lynch avoided the Backstabber attempt as well. Lynch with an armdrag followed by an armbar. Stephanie said this is history right now. Get used to her saying that. Both women tried a move and got knocked down. Sarah Logan is #3 to no reaction from the crowd. Logan stomped away on Lynch. Lefty clothesline by Logan and she tried to eliminate Lynch, but Banks stopped that. Logan nailed Banks with a headbutt. Logan stomped away on Lynch in the corner. Mandy Rose is #4 and she’s a favorite of mine. Not a favorite to win. Just a favorite because look at her. Rose nailed Banks with an arm drag and Graves picked Rose to eliminate this as Steph added that Rose can squat over 300 pounds. Rose nailed a running knee strike on Banks to knock her down. There was a surprise at #5 as WWE Hall of Famer Lita made her entrance to a huge ovation. Lita with a double clothesline on Lynch and Banks. Rose attacked Lita from behind. Rose tried to eliminate Lita, but she couldn’t do it. The announcers talked about women from the past and Steph mentioned Chyna, which is interesting considering Stephanie married Triple H, who dated Chyna before her. Lita managed to eliminate Rose.
Kairi Sane from NXT is #6 and she nailed Lita with a running forearm smash with Lita up against the turnbuckle. Sane jumped off the top with a punch on Logan and a neckbreaker to Banks. Good reaction for Sane. Sane went up top and hit her incredible elbow drop off the top rope. Sane kicked Lynch. Sane hit her flying elbow drop off the top on Lynch. Tamina is #7 in the match with a superkick for Sane, Banks and Lynch. Forearm by Tamina on Logan. Lita hit a DDT on Tamina. Lita hit the Twist of Fate on Banks and a Twist of Fate on Lynch as well. Lita went up top and hit a moonsault onto Lynch and Banks. Fans chanted “you still got it” for Lita. Tamina tried to go after Lita, Lita ducked and Tamina was eliminated. Lynch dumped Lita out to eliminate her, which the crowd didn’t like. Dana Brooke is #8 to no reaction from the crowd, but she did a nice cartwheel. Brooke nailed Lynch with a clothesline, she took down Banks a dropkick on Logan. Brooke set up Sane on the top rope and Brooke shoved her down to eliminate her. Torrie Wilson is #9 as another surprise entrant with Cole saying she’s a fitness instructor and a blogger. Torrie with a face first slam on Brooke and a dropkick on Lynch. Logan knocked down Torrie and the fans chanted “Torrie Wilson” because they missed her. I did too. Brooke nailed Wilson with a forearm. Wilson back body drop on Brooke onto the apron and a dropkick to the feet knocked Brooke out. Sonya Deville is #10 with four others in the ring: Banks, Wilson, Logan and Lynch. Deville tried to eliminate Lynch, but Lynch held on. Wilson tried to fight against Deville, but Deville put her on the apron and Deville eliminated Wilson with a kick.
It’s Liv Morgan of the Riott Squad at #11, so she’s an ally of Logan. Morgan sent Banks down face first with a foot to the back. Morgan and Logan tried to eliminate Banks, but Banks managed to hold on with Lynch working over Logan. Molly Holly is #12 even though she commented recently that she wasn’t in it. People in wrestling lie. Shocking. Molly eliminated Sarah Logan. Holly went up top and hit the Molly Go Round flipping dive onto Banks. Lynch hit a Bexploder on Deville. The ravishing Lana is #13 with fans chanting “Rusev Day” for her in support of her husband. Deville and Morgan kicked Lana as soon as she got in the ring. Fans chanted “Rusev Day” again. Lana fought back with a hard slap to Deville and Lana tackled Morgan. Michelle McCool is #14 in the match, so that’s another name from the past. McCool nailed kicks on the women followed by running knee strikes. Fans chanted “Undertaker” at McCool since she’s married to the Undertaker and I call her McTaker sometimes because of that. McCool eliminated Deville, Morgan and Lana. It’s Ruby Riott at #15 at the midway point of the match. Riott took down Lynch with a STO.
“EXCUSE ME!” It’s Vickie Guerrero at #16 to a nice pop and some boos too. Vickie yelled “EXCUSE ME” loudly. Guerrero told them to listen to her. The women stopped, tried to crawl out, but they picked her up and gently tossed Vickie out of the match. Carmella is #17 with her Money in the Bank briefcase. Carmella got in Vickie’s face, so Vickie grabbed the briefcase and hit Carmella in the back with it. That was a sloppy spot, but it’s the thought that counts. Carmella was out on the floor while the four women were still in the match: Banks, Riott, McCool and Lynch. It’s Natalya at #18, who is one of my favorite women in the match. Natalya tossed her jacket onto Carmella, so Carmella pulled her off the apron and Carmella got in the match. There was some miscommunication spot between Lynch and Carmella where they didn’t do what they look like they were trying to do. Lynch finally hit a suplex on Carmella. It’s Kelly Kelly at #19. Natalya tried to eliminate Kelly, but Kelly held on. McCool and Kelly did a spot where Kelly spun around and took down McCool. Natalya dumped out McCool aka McTaker, who had a good showing in the match. Naomi is #20 and she didn’t do her full entrance because it takes too long. Naomi with a headscissors on Natalya and she hit the Rear View on three women in a row. Naomi nailed Banks with a hard kick and then Lynch slammed Naomi off the turnbuckles. Lynch with a missile dropkick on Naomi. Lynch saved Kelly from elimination and Lynch nailed two Bexploders. Riott dumped out Lynch and Lynch tried to hang on, but she couldn’t do it.
There’s another name from the past because it’s Jacqueline at #21, who is in the WWE Hall of Fame. Jacqueline with a shoulder tackle on Carmella and she cleaned house by going after the others. Natalya and Jacqueline tried to eliminate Kelly together, but Kelly hold on. Nia Jax is #22 with Cole saying that’s his pick. Jax with double clotheslines and she dumped Jacqueline. Jax dumped Kelly out of the ring to eliminate her too. Jax clothesline on Natalya led to Natalya rolling out of the ring. Jax press slammed Riott above her head, sent her onto the turnbuckle and dumped her out. Naomi worked over Jax with some kicks. Jax caught Naomi and hit Naomi with a punch with Naomi landing on top of the other girls. Naomi is still in the match as she sat on the barricade. It’s NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon at #23 with a taped up left arm after her match at Takeover. Moon with kicks to Jax followed by a springboard kick. The other women in the match are outside the ring. Jax tossed Moon across the ring. Naomi walked across the barricade. Naomi went onto a chair that Menounos was sitting in and used her hands to move across the floor. Similar to Kofi Kingston years ago. Naomi climbed up the steps, she jumped into Jax’s arms and Jax tossed Naomi over the top to the floor. Beth Phoenix is #24 in the match and she’s another WWE Hall of Famer. Phoenix got in Jax’s face with Jax hitting a forearm and fans chanting “this is awesome” for them. Jax missed a corner attack and Phoenix tried to lift her up, but she couldn’t do it. Phoenix picked up Jax and tried to dump her, but Jax stopped it. Natalya went back in there and they hit a double shoulder tackle to knock Jax out of the ring under the top rope. Phoenix hugged Natalya and Natalya nailed her with a punch. Natalya eliminated Phoenix by tossing her over the top to the floor. It’s Asuka at #25 and she’s the favorite in the match. Big reaction for her. Asuka cleaned house early on. Asuka confronted Moon leading to cheers from the crowd because they had a great rivalry in NXT. Moon with a sweet headscissors. Moon nailed her Eclipse on Asuka. Love that move. Moon tried an attack, but Asuka sent her on the apron and Asuka pulled on the arm to eliminate Moon.
Mickie James is #26 and she’s definitely a favorite of mine. James nailed Asuka with a neckbreaker. Natalya drove James in the corner with shoulder tackles. James fought back with a neckbreaker. Banks and Carmella battled eachother in the corner. It’s Nikki Bella at #27. Welcome back to her. Neckbreaker by Nikki on Carmella and Banks went after her, but Nikki nailed a kick off the middle ropes. Nikki nailed Natalya with a Spear. Nikki stared at Charlotte as fans chanted “John Cena Sucks” for Nikki in the ring. Carmella worked over Nikki in the corner. Nikki put Carmella on her shoulders and Carmella screamed about it. Nikki sent her throat first into the ropes to eliminate Carmella. Brie Bella is #28 and I hate that Brie Mode song. This is Brie’s first match in a long time after having her baby girl last May. Women in the match: Sasha Banks, Nikki Bella, Asuka, Natalya, Mickie James and Nia Jax. This is Brie’s first match since he had her baby last May. The crowd was on fire with “yes” chants for Brie. The Bellas hit a dropkick on Jax who was on the apron, but she did not go over the top. Double suplex by the Bellas on Natalya. It’s Bayley at 29. Bayley nailed an elbow smash on Natalya off the middle ropes. Bayley nailed a belly to back suplex on James. Asuka with a spin kick on Bayley. Asuka tried to eliminate Bayley. Trish Stratus is #30 in the match as the last woman to join the party. She looks fantastic like usual.
Stratus went after Natalya at first and hit Banks with forearms. Stratus nailed a double Stratusfaction on the Bella Twins at the same time. Bayley kicked Trish, but Trish nailed a headscissors. There was a staredown between Mickie and Trish, which drew a big reaction from the crowd due to their famous feud from 2006 that I absolutely loved. Great to see the fans show them that respect and even start a “yes” chant. Trish went for her headscissors off the ropes, but Mickie blocked it. With Mickie on the top rope, Trish kicked Mickie to eliminate Mickie. That makes me sad. Jax got back in the ring and she destroyed everybody in her path. The Bellas worked together to try to eliminate Jax and then the other women teamed up to eliminate Jax. Banks eliminated her best friend Bayley, which drew some boos. I think I called that spot in my preview. Stratus tried to go after Natalya, but Natalya slapped on the Sharpshooter. Stratus powered out of it. Trish sent Natalya onto the apron and Stratus nailed a kick to eliminate Natalya. Banks got in Stratus’ face and Banks eliminated Status. The crowd was sad about that. I am sad about it too.
The final four women left in the match are Sasha Banks, Nikki Bella, Brie Bella and Asuka. Banks and Asuka had a staredown with Banks knocking down Asuka. The women worked together against Asuka with Nikki hitting a facebuster, Brie clothesline and Banks with a knee attack. Banks nailed Asuka with a hard slap to the face while saying she was ready for Asuka. Banks tried to hit her knee attack in the corner, but the Bellas eliminated Banks, who was in there for 54 minutes.
Jax nailed both Bella Twins with hard kicks to the head. Asuka tried to eliminate Brie, but Brie held on. Nikki nailed Asuka with a clothesline. Nikki put Asuka on her shoulders and slammed her off face first. Brie was on the apron after being sent over the top and Nikki nailed a forearm that knocked Brie out of the match.
Final two are Asuka and Nikki Bella. Asuka nailed Nikki with a shoulder to the ribs. Asuka went up top with a missile dropkick. Nikki went to the middle ropes and nailed a kick to the head. Nikki tried to eliminate her, but Asuka held on. Nikki with a forearm and Asuka continued to hold on. Asuka with a kick to Nikki. Asuka tried to flip Nikki out by using her foot to send Nikki over the top. Both women were on the apron. Nikki hit a forearm and Asuka kicked her in the knee to knock Nikki down. Asuka wins the match at 58:57.
Analysis: ***1/2 The match was good with the right woman getting the win and I predicted the Asuka win like most people did. I don’t know if I would have had the Bella Twins as the final two because I think it would have been smarter to have Jax until the end with Asuka, but the Bellas are big stars too. It’s just that if it was Jax at the end then people may have believed she was going to win the match. There were a lot of fun surprises in the match with women we haven’t seen in a long time like Trish Stratus, Lita and Michelle McCool to name a few, but those three really stood out among the women from the past. I don’t think there were any moments that were that bad. A few sloppy things maybe, but nothing that stood out as bad. The crowd got into it more as the match went on too.
ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Sasha Banks at 54:46.
Most Eliminations: Michelle McCool with 5.
Best Performers (3): Asuka, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.
(They did a really good job here. Nice way of utilizing current women stars in WWE and also some names from the past.)
Asuka celebrated the victory. Asuka was joined in the ring by Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair and Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss with each woman holding up their titles.
Ronda Rousey walked out wearing a leather jacket and had a white t-shirt with lettering like Roddy Piper’s classic shirt since she’s got the “Rowdy” nickname as well. Huge ovation for Rousey. The announcers had no idea what was going on and Maria Menounos introduced Rousey. Stephanie said she had no idea what Rousey was doing there.
Rousey got in the ring and pointed at the WrestleMania sign while in front of Asuka, Flair and Bliss. Rousey extended her hand to try to shake Asuka’s hand, but Asuka slapped her hand away. Rousey pointed at the WrestleMania sign. Rousey left the ring.
Rousey walked over to Stephanie McMahon at ringside and Rousey extended her hand. Stephanie shook her hand. They had a bit of a staredown while shaking it, but also a nodding their heads. Rousey went up the ramp and left as the show ended.
This event had a runtime of 4:09:26 on WWE Network.
Analysis: That was pretty interesting. I figured Rousey would be there and in the Rumble, but I’m fine with how they did it. That’s why they ended with the women’s Rumble too because Rousey is a big deal and she’s going to get them a lot of attention. I’m just glad she’s committed to it and hope she enjoys it. I thought maybe Rousey would be in the Rumble, but saving her first match for WrestleMania (I assume) is the right call. The update on the Rousey plans for WrestleMania is WWE wants to do Triple H & Stephanie McMahon vs. The Rock & Ronda Rousey, but it’s not a lock that Rock will be able to do it. It comes from the Wrestling Observer.
(They did not get The Rock, so Kurt Angle teamed with Rousey at WrestleMania and it was a lot of fun.)
It gets a 7.75 out of 10 from me. The Rumble matches were both really good and fun to watch. They are not easy matches to book, but WWE pulled it off nicely. The right talent went over with Nakamura and Asuka winning. Plus, the nice surprise at the end with Ronda Rousey appearing. It will get people talking, which is always a good thing.
I went 5-1 in my predictions including getting both Rumble winners right. The only match I got wrong was the Smackdown Tag Team Title match. A predictable show doesn’t make it bad, though. It was a fun night.
(The original rating was 8, but I went a bit lower now because the undercard could have been better. Still a very good show overall.)
Best Match: Men’s Royal Rumble (****1/4 out of 5)
Worst Match: The Bar – Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (**1/4)
Five Stars of the Show
1. Shinsuke Nakamura
3. Finn Balor
4. Sasha Banks
5. AJ Styles
Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.
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