Whoa. Just whoa. There’s no other word to describe the 2018 Royal Rumble PPV. After a couple of years of very, very predictable outcomes with very predictable and lazy finishes, this year not one but BOTH Rumble matches got great climaxes.
But, let’s go with order. And by that, I mean analyzing the card match per match.
AJ Styles def. Sami Zayn & Kevin Qwens to retain the WWE Championship
Did I have any hope for this match to be any good? Hell yeah. Despite the extremely weird stipulation, we are talking about three world class wrestlers. Obviously, I expected no masterpiece, but a good, fun bout was required.
Luckily my expectations were met, as all three players took advantage of the aforementioned weird stipulation, to deliver fun and warm-up crowd match. Good spots, sort-of comedic moments but mostly sense-making booking.
Obviously, AJ picked up the win.
The Usos def. Benjamin & Gable to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Ok, I didn’t get this, creatively speaking. Unless you bring in the time-constraints, which then I might get it. But then I think why the hell you made this match a 2-out-of-3 falls if you made The Usos go over 2-0?
Do I sound disappointed? Yes. That’s what I am. Because on SDLive these two teams showed they can be amazing and put up more than just solid matches. It was frustrating. Why not just make this a normal Tag Bout?
Don’t get me wrong, storyline-wise makes sense since the Usos are clearly the team with more chemistry (brothers vs two guys forced to work together). And the match by itself wasn’t that bad either. But why book it so poorly? doesn’t make too much sense. But, hey, hopefully, this paves the way for another tag team title ladder match!
Shinsuke Nakamura wins the Men Royal Rumble Match
Now, on the analysis of this match, you’ll find a two-faced opinion, despite the overall judgment of the thing is good.
Let’s start by saying that the fact it wasn’t the main event, you knew that there were no big surprises. So no Undertaker popping up, no other significant legend popping up, and, most importantly, no Daniel Bryan dream return. So, it was helpful to keep our expectations onto a realistic level.
That said, the match was really fun and arguably one of the best ever.
First, the match itself was really fun: Rusev and Bàlor were respectively number 1 and 2, the surprise entrants were the NXT Champion Andrade Almas and Adam Cole ‘BAYBAY!’ from (obviously) NXT, and the only two legends returning were The Hurricane (I really marked out hard) and Rey Mysterio, who’s in an extremely incredible shape after over 30 years in the business. I seriously hope he came back with a regular contract (despite reports are saying it was a one-off).
Anyways, the final four segment was pure gold. We had John Cena and Roman Reigns – the WWE corporate guys who both sucks – on one side, with Finn Bàlor and Shinsuke Nakamura – the New Japan darlings – on the other. First to go out was obviously, Finn, so that they could make Shinsuke win even sweeter. The ending part with Roman and Shinsuke was incredible, as they kept teasing Roman going over, and when finally Nakamura eliminates him the pop was incredible.
The only issue I had with this is actually how they treated Ziggler. Honestly, him winning the match made way more sense, storyline-wise, than Nakamura, and it could have set up Ziggler vs AJ vs Shinsuke. Instead, they just confirmed his status of the most under-recognized guy in WWE history.
Upside: we actually get AJ Styles vs Nakamura, and I bet Vince is yelling them ‘TOP YOUR WRESTLEKINGDOM MATCH GODDAMMIT!!’. We’ll see.
The Bar def. Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan to become the new Raw Tag Team Champions
If you consider Jason Jordan was legit injured prior coming to the match, you realize that the match was extremely well booked, so kudos to the writers and the performers, even Jordan.
Why? He perfectly sold the concussion and keeps selling his overconfident daddy’s boy personality.
Despite this does foreshadow for a Seth/Jordan showdown in the future, the match itself was… ok. Some good spots, but nothing memorable. The perfect chill out the match to set up the two star-studded matches.
Brock Lesnar def. Kane and Braun Strowman to retain the Universal Championship
The whole thing was really predictable, but for once that it’s not a bad thing at all.
Granted: it’s about damn time Braun Strowman becomes the champion, but I think that won’t happen anytime soon as Roman must win the title from Brock. So basically they are booking him every time as an ‘almost’ winner. For now, it’s working, but there will be a time where it will become annoying AF.
Anyways, back to match: it was brutal. Chairs, tables, steel steps, commentary tables. Everything you could think of was used to make this bout as entertaining as possible.
Of course, Braun was the MVP of the match but Brock predictably pinned Kane to pick up the win.
The highlight of the fight? Braun stiff knee to Brock’s head and Brock retaliating by punching Braun in the head for real. That was an awesome moment.
Asuka wins the Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Japanese night in Philadelphia.
This was more predictable than Shinsuke’s win given the way she has been booked (unbeatable force).
However, it was fantastic.
They started it off right, with Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch (who is the most under-achieving of the four Horsewomen). Then it was a continuous pattern of active wrestler entrance, legend entrance, legend gets an elimination and then the legend gets eliminated.
Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me at all. We had Lita, Torrie Wilson, Molly Holly, Kelly Kelly, Michelle McCool, Jacqueline, Beth Phoenix and Trish Stratus among the legends returning. Some of them were really impressive (Lita, Molly Holly, Torrie Wilson, Michelle McCool, Beth Phoenix and Trish Stratus could come back regularly if they wished), while others were as poor as we remembered. Mostly Kelly Kelly can define the worse, but man it was so cool to see all of them back into the ring one more time! I market the F out when Lita’s song started! And Michelle McCool made the most eliminations!
Also, and deservingly so, Vickie Guerrero was part of the Rumble! Of course, it was only for a comedic moment, but hell it was so nice to see her!
The other surprise entrants were Kairi Sane and NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon, and the Bellas.
The final four was, again, perfectly booked: Sasha, Nikki, Brie, and Asuka. Sasha started an alliance with the Twins to get rid of Asuka, only to be eliminated by the sisters – a great moment since she was acting as a heel the whole time and genuinely made me hate her (yes, I marked when she got eliminated).
Down to the three, Nikki once again screws Brie over (couldn’t be the other way around just once?).
Finally, there was only Asuka and Nikki and, despite not for one second Asuka’s win was in doubt, it was a really entertaining and thrilling final moment.
Kudos to the WWE, it actually deserved to be the main event, despite Ronda didn’t show up.
That’s all folks………….
Right when we thought the show was about to end, Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation started playing, with Ronda Rousey entering the arena, staredown Charlotte, Asuka, and Alexa, pointing at the WrestleMania sign.
No words, just decently executed acting (she was clearly overwhelmed by the ovation and to be there, honestly having Roddy Piper’s son giving her his dad’s jacket before the segment might not have helped her to stay in character).
Anyways, the segment ends with Ronda shaking hands with Stephanie, who kept saying ‘I have no idea’.
Swerve Score: 9/10
Not much to add honestly: great PPV and a great start on the Road to WrestleMania. We’ll see how it goes!