There are times when you watch a sporting event and end up witnessing history. There are times when you expect to see something historical but wind up walking away disappointed. Last night, WWE fans got the best of both scenarios. Everyone knew that the 2018 Royal Rumble was going to be historic due to the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble. Little did we know, or expect, to see one of the greatest Royal Rumble pay-per-views of all-time. Sports Al Dente serves up our 2018 Royal Rumble Review.
The Philadelphia crowd was absolutely rocking from the get-go. Even during the Kick-Off show, their chants were echoing through the halls of the Wells Fargo Center. My personal favorite was when they took part in the traditional Royal Rumble ten count during every minute of the countdown clock. The best part, however, was when the audience made the buzzer sound themselves. Absolute electricity was in the air.
AJ Styles Def. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
WWE started the night with the WWE Championship match that featured AJ Styles defending his championship against both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a one on two handicap match. If Owens and Zayn were to be victorious, they would be Co-Champions ala LayCool back in the day as Women’s Champions.
The psychology throughout the match was spectacular. AJ was able to retain the title while also keeping Kevin and Sami from losing too much credibility. The finishing spot could have been executed a tad better as you could see Kevin intentionally not tagging Sami but he did a decent job of adjusting to the spacing miscalculation. I am eager to see where the storyline goes from here on the Road To WrestleMania.
The Usos Def. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin
Next on the card was the SmackDown Tag Team Championship contest between the defending champions, The Usos, and Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin who is a very entertaining tag team in their own right. The two-out-of-three falls concept was a fresh change.
My favorite part was the how they booked the finish. Instead of the traditional idea of splitting the first two falls, The Usos took the first two and ended the match before the third fall even took place. It was great booking. The two teams do have a good in-ring chemistry and hopefully, this rivalry will last into WrestleMania.
Shinsuke Nakamura Won Men’s Royal Rumble
The Men’s Royal Rumble kicked off with Rusev as the first entrant and Finn Balor as the second. Two superstars who the fans would love to see get a big push. As the match went on, there were more and greater moments. The first one that received a big pop was Baron Corbin’s elimination. Corbin entered at four. He had just eliminated Philadelphia favorite Rhyno when Balor ducked Corbin’s clothesline and then sent Corbin out of the ring.
After being eliminated, Corbin attacked Finn and Rusev and then on his way up the ramp he delivered a huge clothesline to Heath Slater who had just entered. This would lead to another great spot. Slater would be attacked in some way, shape, or form by the next five entrants until finally getting into the ring by way of Sheamus who tossed Slater into the ring only to be clotheslined out by Heath immediately. This was so entertaining.
The entire Royal Rumble match was great but let’s get down to the final four. Finn Balor, John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Shinsuke Nakamura were the last ones remaining and all four were legitimate contenders to win the match except for perhaps Finn. John Cena would toss Finn out thus leaving the three most logical winners to duke it out.
Everyone knows the plan for Roman is to face Brock at WrestleMania for the Universal Championship and John Cena was looking to tie Stone Cold’s record of three Rumble victories but did either one winning really need to happen to further their careers or stories? Of course not.
Shinsuke Nakamura would first eliminate Cena and then Roman to win the match in his first attempt. It was a fantastic moment and the perfect way to end the perfect Royal Rumble match.
The Bar Def. Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan
Next was the Raw Tag Team Championship match between champions Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan and The Bar. Very early on in the match Jason Jordan suffered from a ‘concussion’ and was unable to make his way back into the ring leaving Rollins to fend off both Sheamus and Cesaro.
Eventually, the numbers game proved too much and The Bar would pin Seth to win their fourth tag championships. This seems to be leading to a Seth versus Jason somewhere down line, perhaps at WrestleMania.
Brock Lesnar Def. Kane & Braun Strowman
Lesnar continued his 300 plus day reign as Universal Champion when he pinned Kane after delivering an F5 to the Big Red Monster. This outcome was expected as it allows Brock to keep the title but doesn’t hurt Braun as he wasn’t the one to be pinned. Brock versus Roman at Mania is going to happen and perhaps Kane’s retirement match comes versus Braun Strowman. Imagine WWE really pushing Braun as a monster by having him defeat both Kane and Undertaker at Wrestlemania? Now there is a thought.
Asuka Won Women’s Royal Rumble
The night’s biggest match, the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble was the final match on the card. Could the women outdo the men? How could they possibly deliver anything close to a near perfect men’s Rumble? Well, they did it with a combination of future stars from NXT, current stars from the main roster, and past legends.
Legends like Molly Holly, Lita, and Trish Stratus all showed up for the historic event. The most impressive legend was perhaps Michelle McCool who eliminated five women in the match. Two NXT women entered the event in NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon and the winner of the May Young Classic Kairi Sane.
It came down to Nikki Bella and Asuka to see who would go on to WrestleMania for a shot at whichever Women’s Championship they chose. Asuka would eventually get Nikki eliminated after both battled on the apron in the final seconds.
Both Charlotte and Alexa Bliss entered the ring to pose with Asuka but all three were interrupted by the debuting Ronda Rousey. This was an amazing night that saw the growth of WWE as a worldwide product.
With the rumors of NJPW looking for ways to grow an American fanbase, WWE found a way to reach a larger Japanese fanbase. Shinsuke and Asuka are both Japanese born and they are both undeniably worthy of winning their respective Royal Rumbles.