Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the home of WWE Royal Rumble 2018. As crowds of fans filled up the Wells Fargo Center, Philly was electrified with “Rusev Day” chants echoing throughout the arena. This year’s Rumble saw highs and lows; history was made with the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match and the road to Wrestlemania was paved for two spectacular Superstars.
The night kicked off with the WWE Championship, where the champion AJ Styles took on Kevin Owens and Samy Zayn in a 2 on 1 handicapped match. The match displayed all three competitors’ talents, with AJ Styles turning a monkey flip into a Hurricanrana. The odds were stack against the champion and the numbers game was seemingly taking its toll on Styles. However in a controversial decision, Styles rolled up the illegal man, Kevin Owens, for the win. The match itself felt flat for the most coveted prize in sports entertainment. Kicking off the show with WWE Championship almost takes away the importance of the belt, but it did flame the fire to an already ignited crowd.
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin took on the USOs (C) for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships in a 2 out of 3 falls match. Gable and Jimmy kicked off the match. Jimmy Uso took a beating from Gable and Benjamin as the two displayed their tag team abilities. Jey Uso made the tag and a big splash with two Suicide Dives over the top ropes. Chad Gable showed off his incredible athleticism with a perfect Moon Sault onto the outside. Both teams struggled to get the first pin fall, but it was the Usos who got the upper hand with 2 Super Kicks and one Double Super Kick to Gable for the first fall. Benjamin and Gable punished Jimmy with their Bulldog-Powerbomb finisher onto the outside; the two attempted the same maneuverer inside the ring on Jey, but whilst Gable was perched on the tope rope ready to hit the Bulldog, Jey reversed Benjamin’s Powerbomb into a roll up for the 3. The Usos get a clean sweep over their challengers and retain their Smackdown Tag Team Championships, and all four men put on a great match that displayed their in-ring talents.
Next up was the Men’s Royal Rumble Match. To the delight of the Philly fans, Rusev started the match up after a very poetic introduction from Aiden English. The second entry was Finn Balor. The two went straight at it until Rhyno (3) entered the ring. Baron Corbin entered at number 4 and eliminated Rhyno; Finn then eliminated Corbin, which didn’t sit well with the lone wolf. Corbin attacked Finn and Rusev whilst Heath Slater made his way to the ring; unfortunately he was taken out by Corbin before he could reach it. So began the comic relief of the Rumble, as Slater took kicks from Elias Samson (6) and our first surprise entry of the night, NXT Champion Andrade Cien Almas (7). Bray Wyatt (8) choose to throw Slater into the barricade before entering the ring, and in the spirit of good competition Big E (9) helped the beaten one-man band to his feet and proceeded to force feed him a big stack of pancakes. Tye Dillinger was scheduled to enter as a perfect 10 but was attacked backstage by Kevin Owens and Samy Zayn. It was Zayn who took Dillinger’s spot and joined in on the Heath Slater band wagon. Slater, who entered at number four, had yet to even make it into the ring until the night’s birthday boy, Sheamus (11), showed up. The former tag champion threw Slater into the ring but, in a turn of events, Slater eliminated Sheamus. As everyone in the ring looked stunned, Bray Wyatt hit a Sister Abigail to Slater and eliminated the Royal Rumble punching bag.
As the match continued, more superstars entered, including Xavier Woods (12), Apollo Crews (13) and the rock star of WWE, Shinsuke Nakumura (14). Nakamura took out half the ring with kicks before eliminating Samy Zayn. Ceasro and Kofi Kingston entered at 15 and 16, and Cesaro leveled Kofi with a clothesline before eliminating Apollo Crews. Jinder Mahal (17) entered his first Rumble match by eliminating Xavier Wood and Big E. Seth Rollins (18) threw himself into the match by taking out Bray Wyatt and eliminating Cesaro. Kofi Kingston’s annual Royal Rumber moment came when he was thrown onto the outside, but one of his feet was caught by a laid out Woods. Big E would then place a plate of pancakes under Kofi’s foot, thereby keeping him in the rumble match. This was followed up by Xavier Woods and Big E giving a helping hand to their fellow team member by launching Kofi over a surprised Jinder’s head and into the ring. Kofi would go on to eliminate Jinder, who was attacked with pancakes by the rest of the New Day. Kofi was then eliminated by Cien Almas.
Matt Hardy (19) went face to face with Bray Wyatt, and they exchanged blows before Rusev interrupted. The two would focus their attention on the Bulgarian brute to take out Rusev; they continued their battle and ended up eliminating each other. John Cena (20) came face to face with surprise entry the Hurricane (21), and the two had a superhero stand-off that was more enjoyable than Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in Batman v. Superman. But it was Hurricane that was hurled over the top rope to the floor. Aiden English (22) and surprise entry from NXT, Adam Cole (23) entered the match, and English was quickly eliminated by Finn Balor. Randy Orton (24) made his presence felt with an RKO to Cien Almas; the viper then eliminated the NXT Champion. The Intercontinental Champion, the Miz (26), delivered yes kicks to Cena and Seth, followed by a Skull Crushing Finale to John Cena. Former WWE Champion Rey Mysterio (27) made a shocking return, eliminating Adam Cole before giving a 619 to Miz.
The Miz bounced back to take out Titus O’neil, but was eliminated himself after a Power Bomb from Reigns and Rollins. The big dog took advantage and immediately eliminated his SHIELD ally Seth Rollins. The last two entries, at 29 and 30, were Goldust and a returning Dolph Ziggler. Dolph eliminated Goldust and gave a Zig Zag to Shinsuke; the pace really picked up at this point, turning an already enjoyable watch into a thrilling contest. Balor eliminated Ziggler; Cena gave Finn a AA; Reigns took a 619 from Mysterio; Orton dropped an RKO on Shinsuke but got eliminated by Roman Reigns. Then Balor eliminated Mysterio and made it to the final four with John Cena, Roman Reigns and Shinsuke Nakamura. Balor, who entered at number 2, put on a valiant effort but was eliminated by Cena. Fans in attendance expressed their feelings about Finn being knocked out of the match by chanting “Bullshit,” but quickly rejoiced when Shinsuke eliminated Cena. The Philly crowd, clearly behind Nakamura, watched as Shinsuke and Reigns went head to head. As Reigns failed to impress the crowd with a spear that hit Nakamura’s face rather than his abdomen, it wasn’t too long before they were on their feet, watching as Shinsuke eliminated Reigns to win his very first Royal Rumble match. Shinsuke quickly decided who he would face at Wrestlemania; the king of strong style will take on AJ Styles for the WWE Championship in a match that will no doubt be phenomenal.
Seth Rollins, Sheamus and Cesaro were back in action as the Bar took on Rollins and Jason Jordan (C) for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The match itself had a lot to follow after a fantastic Rumble match and, truthfully, it didn’t. In a predictable match, Sheamus and Cesaro took back their Raw Tag Team Championships.
The Univeral Championship followed, with a triple threat match between Brock Lesnar (C), Braun Strowman and Kane. This was a hard-hitting affair; Lesnar took a knee to the head from Stowman, which genuinely angered the former UFC Champion, who followed up with a straight punch to Stowman’s head. This is not the first time we’ve seen Lesnar lose his temper in the ring, and it’s about time he got it in check. This kind of behaviour is completely parallel to the time Nakamura hit John Cena with an awkwardly delivered Suplex, to which Cena responded professionally, as many other superstars would and should do in that situation. As the match continued, tables and chairs entered the ring. Lesnar was put through a table by Braun, who then took a chokeslam from Kane. The action continued on the outside of the ring, where Lesnar delivered an F5 to Strowman through a table,. The assault would continue on Kane, who also took an F5 through a table. The match ended with Kane taking another F5 from Lesnar, and the beast retains his Universal Championship. This match was all about power and aggression; it was far from match of the year material, but it was entertaining.
WWE continued their women’s revolution with the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match. Stephanie McMahon joined the commentating team, and Maria Menounos featured as a guest ring announcer. The match kicked off with Sasha Banks (1) and fan favourite Becky Lynch (2); the two quickly tried to eliminate each other, but couldn’t get an elimination before Sarah Logan (3) entered the match. Mandy Rose (4) took to the ring, followed by a surprise entry from Lita (5). The crowd, which had gone a little flat, suddenly sprung to life for the former Women’s Champion and WWE Hall of Famer. Lita made quick work of Rose and we had our first elimination. Winner of the Mae Young Classic, Kari Sane (6) made a big impact on entering the ring. Lita gave a Twist of Fate to Sasha and Becky, followed up by a Lita-Sault to the former champions. Lita would then eliminate Tamina, who had just entered the match at number 7. Becky Lynch eliminated Lita, to the displeasure of the Wells Fargo Center. Dana Brooke (8) eliminated Kari Sane, and Torrie Wilson (9) made a surprise appearance and eliminated Brooke. Sonya Deville (10) made her presence felt by eliminating Torrie Wilson.
Liv Mogan (11), the legendary Molly Holly (12), and the ravishing Lana (13) entered the match, followed by a surprise appearance from Michelle McCool (14). McCool made it clear she still has it when she eliminated Liv Morgan, Sonya Deville, Molly Holly and Lana. Ruby Riot (15) entered the fray and Hall of Famer Vicki Guerrrero screamed her way into the ring and at the other competitors; she was eliminated by everyone. Vickie took her anger out on Money in the Bank winner Carmella, using the MITB brief case to hit Carmella in the back. Nataylia (18) and another surprise appearance, Kelly Kelly (19), took to the ring. Nataylia was attacked by Carmella but bounced back to eliminate Michelle McCool. Naomi entered at number 20. Ruby Riot eliminated Becky Lynch, to the fan’s dismay. Hall of Famer Jacqueline entered at 21, and then the Rumble was put on notice when Nia Jax (22) took to the ring. Jax didn’t waste any time eliminating Kelly Kelly, Jacqueline and Ruby Riot. She attempted to eliminate Naomi by kicking her to the outside, but Naomi was caught by her fellow competitors and placed on the barricade. This was the start of Naomi’s Royal Rumble moment; she walked on the barricade to the announcer’s spot, took Maria Menounos’ chair and, placing her legs on the chair whilst using her hands to navigate, wheeled herself to the steel steps to make her return into the ring. NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon (23) made a surprise appearance after her brutal run-in with Shayna Baszler at NXT Takeover.
Despite her best efforts, Namoi was eliminated by Nia Jax. The next entry would give Nia some competition when the glamazon Beth Pheonix (24) entered the match. The two women of past and present went toe to toe; Pheonix was given a helping hand by her best friend Nataylia. Working together, they knocked Nia through the second rope. As the two embraced in the ring, Nataylia eliminated Beth, proving there are no friends in the Royal Rumble. Fan favorite Asuka entered at 25; she squared off with Ember Moon, reigniting their feud from NXT. It was Ember Moon who would get the upper hand and deliver an Eclipse to the emperors of tomorrow; however, signs of Ember’s battle with Baszler would soon show, as Asuka took her opportunity to eliminate the wounded Ember Moon.
Next, Mickie James (26), a returning Nikki Bella (27), and Brie Bella (28) all entered the Rumble. They were followed by Bayley (29) and Hall of Famer Trish Stratus, who took the coveted number 30 spot. The Bellas tried their luck against Trish but received a double Stratisfaction. Another rivalry was renewed when Trish and Mickie squared off; Stratus had the final word as she sent Mickie to the outside. Nia Jax made her way back into the ring and levelled Trish with a Clothesline. Elminating Jax was no easy task; the remaining competitors worked together to send Jax over the top rope and onto the floor. Sasha Eliminated her best friend Bayley whilst Nataylia locked up with Trish; it looked like Trish would be eliminated after taking the Sharpshooter from Nataylia, but it was Trish who pulled it back to eliminate Nataylia. Sasha Banks was the next woman to step to Trish; she reversed a Stratisfaction to eliminate the former Women’s Champion, leaving Sasha Banks, Asuka and the Bella twins fighting for Royal Rumble glory and a championship at Wrestlemania.
Sasha and the Bellas targeted the undefeated Asuka; the three delivered an onslaught of attacks to Asuka and looked to be the final 3 standing, but as Sasha went for the Double Knees in the corner, the Bellas pushed Banks to the outside, eliminating her from the match. It was looking like we would see the Bellas fight it out for the Wrestlemania spot between themselves, but Nikki took the initiative by tossing her sister over the ropes. Asuka and Nikki battled in the ring and onto the apron, but it was Asuka with a swift kick to the legs that would see Nikki fall to the floor. Asuka was crowned the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble and will go on to Wrestlemania 34.
As Asuka celebrated her historic victory, Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair and Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss entered the ring. Asuka was eyeing up both women and their champions until “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett started to play and, in red and yellow on the titantron, the name Ronda Rousey appeared. The former UFC champion made her way to the ring; she extended a handshake to Asuka, which was met with a slap by the 2018 Royal Rumble winner. Rousey looked at Bliss and Flair before pointing to the Wrestlemania sign hanging within the Wells Fargo Center.
The Royal Rumble PPV delivered. There were some matches that didn’t quite hit the spot, but the Royal Rumble matches themselves were highly entertaining. The road to Wrestlemania 34 is truly underway, with one explosive main event guaranteed. Overall, I’d give WWE Royal Rumble a solid 7/10.
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