WWE Royal Rumble 2018 (Review)

History is made, as the women of WWE compete in their first ever Royal Rumble match. Thirty men battle for their own attempt to headline Wrestlemania, whilst the WWE Universal Championship and WWE Championship’s are defended, as the Road to Wrestlemania begins…


AJ Styles (C)
vs.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
WWE Championship
3star
(Winner via pinfall: AJ Styles)

Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso (“The Uso’s”) (C)
vs.
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
2 Out Of 3 Falls Match for the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship
3half_star
(Winners via pinfall: The Uso’s)

2018 Men’s Royal Rumble Match
4star
(Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura)

Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (C)
vs.
Cesaro & Sheamus (“The Bar”)
WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
3star
(Winners via pinfall, and new champions: The Bar)

Brock Lesnar (C) (with Paul Heyman)
vs.
Kane
vs.
Braun Strowman
WWE Universal Championship
2half_star
(Winner via pinfall: Brock Lesnar)

2018 Women’s Royal Rumble Match
4half_star
(Winner: Asuka)


Review

If you looked back at many of the Royal Rumble shows over the past 10 years, you’d likely accept that in most instances, you ended the show feeling disillusioned and disappointed. Not so in 2018. This year, you left the show with a gigantic smile on your face, and all sorts of thoughts and theories running through your head as to where WWE programming is going.

The story of this years event had been built around the female competitors having their first ever Rumble match. As a fan of women’s wrestling, I was excited about this contest, and the possibilities were endless given there were countless spots still vacant headed into the show. There was no question that we’d have the chance to see some legends face off with the superstars of today, and that was exciting.

Thirty entrants, and over the top rope eliminations. The women’s match was being treated exactly like the men’s, and whilst that is how it should always be, I won’t pretend that I wasn’t concerned about there being some botched attempts to throw talent over the top rope. My fears were misplaced through, and the female competitors did a great job with their eliminations.

The match itself was brilliant. We saw some pairing that we don’t often get due to the brand split, and there were numerous legend returns that worked perfectly. And credit where it’s due, those women can still go in the ring. Seeing the likes of Trish Stratus face off with one of todays biggest stars, Sasha Banks, was exactly what Royal Rumble matches are about, and it worked perfectly.

Speaking of Trish, hands up if you thought that Ronda Rousey was coming out at number 30? Yes, my hand is up too. But how perfect that it was Trish, one of the greatest female performers in the history of the company. I’d previously been angered that Mickie James had entered after all the women from her era had already been eliminated, but when we had the opportunity to see her and Trish face off in the ring again, it all made sense and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

The match was notable for numerous moments that it would take a long time to write about, and I won’t cover it here now, but special mention must go to Sasha Banks’ seeming heel turn, which started with her elimination of Bayley (sold perfectly by Charlotte at ringside) and continued with her treatment of Asuka in the final four. Whether the turn sticks, or was just for this one match, it was fantastic to see Banks back doing what she does best: being the Boss.

The last two was disappointing, with a returning Nikki Bella going head-to-head with Asuka. I would have preferred it be Banks versus Asuka to keep the outcome less predictable, but I get why it was Bella, and it does make sense from a legacy perspective. Longest reigning WWE Divas Champion against the longest reigning NXT Women’s Champion, for the first time ever? It worked.

Asuka took the win, much to the delight of the fans, and the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match was over. It had exceeded all expectations, and had thoroughly deserved its main event position on the show.

But that wasn’t it over yet. Before Asuka had a chance to name her opponent, music began blasting out around the arena, and Ronda Rousey made her much anticipated arrival. The crowd were going crazy, having thought the Rousey appearance wasn’t happening after she didn’t enter the Rumble at 30. It was electric, and it was a moment where you will always remember what you were doing, and who you were watching with, when you look back at it years later.

There was some confusion about who she might have been setting her sights on to target first, but maybe she was putting them all on watch? Either way, it was brilliant and this Rousey fan couldn’t have been happier (read our article about her arrival here).

It wasn’t just the women who put on a brilliant Rumble match, either. The thirty men who entered the Men’s Royal Rumble Match were part of one of the best men’s rumbles in years, perhaps ever, even with zero surprise entrants or massive shocks. In fact, the biggest shock of the entire match was perhaps that the win finally went to a new star again, with Nakamura eliminating Roman Reigns to be crowned the 2018 winner of the historic contest. Nakamura quickly set his sights on AJ Styles, and whilst the match seemed to be confirmed on the show afterwards, a part of me does think the rug might be pulled out from under the fans, and that we won’t be given the Wrestle Kingdom 10 rematch we are all craving so much. The best Rumble match the men have delivered for years, unchallenged, and it was one that was so simply booked.

Beyond the two main events, the rest of the card was underwhelming. I won’t spend too much time focusing on the other matches, as they were what they were, and the Rumble matches more than made up for them. That said, the RAW matches were incredibly disappointing, and their placement on the card (immediately after the Men’s Rumble) threatened to completely silence the crowd ahead of the Women’s Rumble main event. Thank the Lord, that didn’t happen!

All in all, WWE booked the important moments perfectly, and they deserve credit for that. It would have been easy to put another Rumble win on Reigns, and it would have been even easier to have Rousey enter the Rumble and steal a deserved victory from WWE‘s hardworking women’s roster. They didn’t do either of these things, and they treated the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble with incredible respect. The whole thing worked, and I couldn’t claim to be disappointed with the PPV at all. When is the last time you could say that about a WWE show?

We are officially on the Road to Wrestlemania and, for the first time in years, I’ve no idea where we are headed. I can’t predict 75% of the Wrestlemania card, as is usually the case at this point, and I dare say I can’t even predict 10% of the biggest show of the year, in all honesty. That’s how it should be.

Take a bow, WWE, you did good.

Match of the Night

2018 Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Rating

3half_star

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS EVENT ON THE WWE NETWORK
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