The Road to WrestleMania officially began last night when Philadelphia hosted the 2018 Royal Rumble. On paper, the Royal Rumble lacked matches that would generate into a success. However, as the card continued to move forward, the feelings among the audience and viewers were mostly favorable thanks to two strong Rumble matches and a solid mid-card. What was successful? What fell flat? Here is Pittsburgh Sports Castle’s Royal Rumble 2018 review.
The Pre-Show matches were not glorious
Kalisto, Gran Metalik, and Lince Dorado def. TJP, Jack Gallagher, and Drew Gulak
The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Bobby Roode def. Mojo Rawley to retain the WWE United States Championship
How the 205 Live crew have fallen. It was a hodgepodge of a match lacked any moveset that would be remembered. Hopefully, the 205 brand can get a boost when they hit the reset button.
The Revival got their revenge on Gallows and Anderson after being humiliated on Raw’s 25th Anniversary. I felt The Revival was the best of the NXT tag teams to be brought up. The only problem with them was durability. Here’s hoping the feud is about over so The Revival can focus on the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship.
Bobby Roode retains the title in a dull match with Rawley. I think the WWE really wants to do something with Rawley after he broke free from Zack Ryder. But in this moment, I just can’t see Rawley as a believable mid-card champion. It was booked right but totally forgettable.
The WWE’s Best Tag Teams are champions
The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) def. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin 2 falls to 0 to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) def. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan to win the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
Gable and Benjamin showed impressive technical wrestling by addressing Jimmy Uso’s leg. Though it seems like this generation of WWE goes at a high rate of speed, it was refreshing to just watch wrestlers wear down a body part to limit the opponent’s attack.
When the Usos took advantage, it was face paced and well worth the time. The way The Usos realized it had to take multiple Superkicks to finish Gable in the first fall the challengers went back to the aggressive role until Benjamin was rolled up for the defeat. The match overall had moments fans of any generation would enjoy.
From a wrestling standpoint, the Raw match lacked wrestling. Seth Rollins was the MVP of the match, as he had to basically wrestle a handicap match with two of WWE’s strongest superstars.
Jordan ran head-first to a ring post and never wrestled in the match. The ending of the match was predictable from the moment Rollins had to act like he was a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. If you are ready to see turmoil and a possible mini-feud that will continue to bury Jason Jordan’s character, then I believe fans will be in for a treat in the next few days.
Grades: Raw Tag Match was a C+. Smackdown was a B- with the potential of a B had the second fall would have gone longer.
The World Title Matches were booked strong
AJ Styles def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to retain the WWE Championship
Brock Lesnar def. Brawn Strowman and Kane to retain the WWE Universal Championship
I’ll make one thing abundantly clear and this is because I’ve seen Styles wrestle in many promotions and independents. He will give 100% no matter what the circumstances. The WWE did a great job keeping his character strong and genuinely making him phenomenal. I felt that Zayn and Owens brought the lumber thanks to Zayn’s quickness and Owen’s ability to brawl. Styles cut them down to size when he would be in-peril and escape most of The Yep movement’s double teams. To conclude, my entertainment of seeing AJ Styles hone his craft, how awesome was the Backflip Reverse DDT on Zayn?
The ending was booked strong. Despite a “no tag,” Owens entered anyway and was pinned by Styles. Owens reaction was priceless and the backstage protest to Shane McMahon showed tremendous storytelling. Knowing that the Philadelphia crowd remembers their work in ROH, there was respect and admiration for all three superstars. It was the best way to open the Royal Rumble.
The Universal Match was brawling at its finest with the power element. Strowman is going to be a big star for the company and the WWE knows this by booking him strong before the match and not letting him take the pinfall. There was a moment where I thought Strowman went stiff on a strike to Lesnar and received an elbow to the head as a receipt for his mistake.
The match left a lot of carnage. Chairs hit bodies with a thunderous noise. I think at least five tables were destroyed (including commentary tables). Lesnar finished off Kane to squeeze out the victory and now he is off to another challenge. The spots were fantastic and viewers can sense that Strowman will have his moment. Be patient, WWE Universe.
Grades: Both the WWE Championship and WWE Universal Championship matches earn a solid B in my grade book.
The Best Royal Rumbles in Years
Shinsuke Nakamura won the 30-Man Royal Rumble. Nakamura will challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania.
Asuka won the 30-Woman Royal Rumble
Let’s be honest. The matches above were the side salads and pallet cleansers. The Royal Rumble is that 32 oz. Porterhouse that you hope you can devour in one sitting. In my years reviewing Royal Rumbles I was expecting the men’s to be average and women’s to be subpar.
Asuka winning the women’s side was expected. Shinsuke Nakamura was favored to win the event but still had a surprise element.
The 30-Man Royal Rumble lacked surprises. NXT superstars Andrade Almas and Adam Cole made their WWE Royal Rumble debuts with some success. Almas, the NXT Champion, lasted over 28 minutes and earned one elimination. The Hurricane made a return and quick exit (look at previous Hurricane Rumble experiences) but got the crowd excited to see him. The biggest out-of-the-box surprise was the return of Rey Mysterio Jr. It was refreshing to see Mysterio with all that quickness and air attacks. He looked ten years younger out there and if he is on the roster for more than a cup of coffee, he could help any division.
As for the WWE Superstars Royal Rumble experiences, I think it was paced nicely. Finn Balor entered the Rumble at No. 2 and lasted almost an hour. Heath Slater entered at No. 5 and was beat up by every WWE superstar until Sheamus dumped him in the ring. Elias, at No. 6, was brilliant as he sang his way to the hearts of the WWE Universe. Sami Zayn took Tye Dillinger’s No. 10 spot but was tossed out with little fanfare. Sheamus had the quickest run in this year’s Royal Rumble, being eliminated by Slater after only being in the ring for about two seconds.
Kofi Kingston entered at No. 16 and had his escape spot. This year, The New Day faction sprung him up over his opponents, only to be tossed out by Almas seconds later. Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy had their moments before eliminating each other at the same time. Roman Reigns was drawn at No. 28 and Dolph Ziggler got his smile back and ended the Royal Rumble at No. 30.
When the bodies flew over the top rope, the final four consisted of Balor, John Cena, Reigns, and Nakamura. It showed the old guard vs. the new guard early. After Balor was eliminated by Cena, Nakamura eliminated the 16-time World Champion to have the showdown with Reigns.
After some escape moments, it was Nakamura that avoided Reigns’ attacks just enough to win his first Royal Rumble. After the match, Nakamura immediately demanded his opponent be AJ Styles. This starts the long buildup for what many will consider a “dream match” at Wrestlemania.
My only gripe with the Women’s Royal Rumble Match was Sasha Banks. I know many are fans of Banks, but she spent a lot of time outside the ring to spend over 54 minutes in the Rumble match. I still credit the WWE for giving Banks that much-needed heel tease by eliminating Bailey with a smile on her face, then trying to eliminate others.
The surprise wrestlers come from various generations. Lita, Torrie Wilson, Molly Holly, Michelle McCool, Vickie Guerrero, Kelly Kelly, Jacqueline, Beth Phoenix, The Bella Twins, and Trish Stratus returned to some tremendous reactions. I think the surprise was Molly Holly executing a Molly-Go-Round at 40 years old after years of being inactive. In my opinion, Molly is a Hall of Fame wrestler. McCool eliminated the most wrestlers in the match at five. Trish Stratus wrestled better in this match and actually brought back memories wrestling Mickie James later near the end of the Rumble.
The current product represented the WWE women’s division well for this generation and beyond. The legends that returned for this match I hope brought some closure to their illustrious careers. We saw it all. We saw the high flying of Kairi Sane and James. We saw some brawling and power by Phoenix and Nia Jax. We saw charisma in Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley And The Bellas.
Overall, this was a Royal Rumble that I enjoyed. I know a few other writers complained about The Bellas in the final four with Banks and Asuka, but I felt again this was a passing of the torch moment. Auska winning makes the most sense.
Auska did not make her decision and celebrated briefly as Ronda Rousey made her well-anticipated debut as a full-time WWE superstar. She did not utter one word, only pointed at the Wrestlemania sign and appeared happy to be at this stage in her career.
Grade: Men’s Rumble was a B+. The Women’s Inaugural Royal Rumble is an A-. Yes, I went there. The women had the main event spot and shined. The WWE Women’s Revolution is legit!