Every January for 30 years there has been one thing that unites all professional wrestling fans together, even the most cynical of them too, and that is the Royal Rumble!
The start of WWE’s road to WrestleMania begins with 30 of the top men in the company fighting for their opportunity headline the biggest show of the whole year and be etched in the minds of fans forever!
This year the Rumble has brought me and fellow Don’t Hate the Geek writer, Jude Kasekamp together to talk about the whole event.
Ring the bell!
Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Nikki Bella defeated Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya
Despite the amount of stories clashing up against each other in this match, it was actually a rather good start to the whole event. I honestly think this was better served for the main card of the show rather than the pre-show given how much Naomi progressed as the next challenger for Alex Bliss’ SmackDown Women’s Championship.
The match as a whole had a familiar feel to it, as most multi-person tag team matches now a days do, but the competitors on display really help to make it worth watching, especially when the faces all got together and suplexed the heels. That particularly picked things up.
No mistake, with Mickie James’ first match on WWE since NXT TakeOver: Toronto, Nikki and Natalya’s up and down feud, and more great work from Becky, it was Naomi’s match. Her performance here really went a long way to solidify her as a challenger to Bliss and her title. Given their own segment in the match, it’ll show this feud will be one to watch as they worked off each other very well and let it simply plant the seeds for their story. The show has kicked off nicely! -Jordan
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson defeated Cesaro and Sheamus (c)
After a rather screwy finish on Raw weeks ago, we have Cesaro and Sheamus defending their tag team belts against Gallows and Anderson yet again, but with two referees this time to make sure everything is alright. Rather than be hindering, the gimmick was used rather effective and gave the heel challengers a little change in their dastardly ways to try and win the belts.
The teamwork of Gallows and Anderson against the uneasiness of Cesaro and Sheamus always makes for really good matches, even though things here did feel a bit similar to how they went on Raw in all honesty. While there was plenty of great action between all four men, Cesaro yet again stole the show with his blistering amount of uppercuts and his incredible mobility around the ring. He’s like a big Swiss cat when he moves.
The main ref taking a bump could be seen a mile away, but it was still really good and helped make the stakes of the match even bigger towards the end as it descended into chaos with each man trying to desperately trying to get it under control. It was very impressive and shocking that Gallows and Anderson won, but to have it on the pre-show I felt was a waste since its one the bigger stories on Raw at the moment and ever growing tension between Cesaro and Sheamus just got bigger since they lost the belts and will be playing the blame game among themselves. -Jordan
Nia Jax defeated Sasha Banks
This is an odd rivalry (can we call it a rivalry?). Nia Jax has been presented as a dominant monster of a woman, so it’s important to keep her looking strong. Beating Sasha with a weak finish after a weak match doesn’t accomplish that in a convincing way. Also, it doesn’t do any favors for the Boss either. They could have used this Kickoff Show match to generate some nice heat for Nia. Instead, it was over before it started, and I was left scratching my head at squashing Sasha Banks. -Jude
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte (c) defeated Bayley
This Raw Women’s Championship match has felt like a long time coming. We all knew that these 2 of the 4 Horsewomen would meet eventually, and the build-up was done right. Charlotte played the entitled champ perfectly yet again while there is no question that Bayley is the little girl living her dream.
These two women are great storytellers in the ring. They had a great back and forth, with a very nice pace. Charlotte is one of the best in the business – man or woman – at generating real heel heat during a match. Despite a botched moonsault, we ended up with the right outcome. Bayley’s time hasn’t come yet, and placing the title on the underdog at this point would have been premature. Charlotte retained, and rightfully so.
A good match with a good build did fizzle though, as Charlotte’s Natural Selection on the apron was anti-climactic. It’s good to try new things and give fans an unexpected finish. Nevertheless, it needed more drama and suspense leading up to it. I think back to the disappointing final sequence at Hell in a Cell 2016, and am looking for a common denominator. -Jude
No Disqualification Match for the WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) defeated Roman Reigns
Team Chris and Kevin/Kevin and Chris is one of the best things going for Raw at the moment. Their chemistry is gold, and Jericho proves week after week why he’s one of the greatest of all time. Also, Owens proves why he’s one of the best heels in the business, while keeping his indie fan base strong. It speaks to their wonders to their work how they have gotten an absolutely ridiculous premise legitimized. Who else could convincingly be placed in a shark cage, like a sexy piñata? Not Paul Ellering, unfortunately.
The match itself started out great, with a proper 2-on-1 beatdown. The no DQ stipulation is a necessity for any important Roman Reigns match, to give the Big Dog something to do outside of his 5 move set. Reigns and Owens both took advantage of that, and used props throughout. KO should be an engineer, considering his chair stacking skills. That chair pyramid spot was great, as well as the frog splash through the table on the outside. Kudos to both performers for that.
Another highlight was Jericho dropping brass knuckles to Owens, which while predictable was the right way to go in him interfering. Owens mocking Roman by punching the mat in the corner, as well as eventually hitting the Superman Punch was fantastic. I hope that doesn’t become too common, because it would eventually delegitimize Roman’s limited move set even further.
This was a good match on the card; a nice brawl between two main event superstars. Owens made Reigns look good, and Strowman’s intervention was fantastic. Ultimately, they broke enough furniture and involved Jericho properly, but there just wasn’t enough in-between those few spots to elevate this match to the next level. -Jude
WWE Crusierweight Championship: Neville defeated Rich Swann (c)
I so much wanted this match to succeed, but it just didn’t. The separation of the cruiserweights from the rest of the WWE roster is still not fully bringing me into them despite the plethora of talent in there. They are a very alien part of Raw every Monday and they were tonight and that sucks because Rich Swann and Neville are nothing to really sniff at, they are great. Its just that the crowd was coming off the Universal Title match and sounded like they were a bit spent as it were.
Pacing was also a big problem in regards to the match. This should have been a fast-paced rollercoaster of a match, but WWE clipped their wings. Not taking anything away from both men, they did still put on a really good show in the ring, especially Swann with the Phoenix splash from the middle rope to the outside, despite feeling hindered by the way WWE likes to approach their matches. The company just hasn’t let them really grow too much since the Cruiserweight Classic tournament last summer and even their own show in 205 Live, there just isn’t much there since its more than likely gonna repeat several matches and rivalries with them just battling each other and not branching out to say have TJ Perkins vs. Seth Rollins.
Neville winning the match with a smooth superplex into a crossface was a great sequence to end it and now Neville is truly king of the cruiserweights, but its a failing kingdom. Hopefully with the belt on him, WWE can finally have an avenue to fully integrate the cruiserweight division into the full roster. -Jordan
WWE Championship: John Cena defeated AJ Styles (c)
Match of the night, its just that simply put, match of the night. While maybe not as dynamic as their last bout at SummerSlam, there was more than enough to really bring the crowd alive.
What really makes this match between John Cena and AJ Styles here was the fantastic storytelling with AJ still feeling like he needs to prove himself as the top man in WWE while Cena is trying to further cement his legacy in tying Ric Flair’s World Championship record.
Both men really put a lot of effort into selling it and I bought into it. The action went full throttle as both men just really wanted to punch each other. The buildup for this more than lived up. Cena look especially good, letting a little bit of aggression out at times to really put AJ down and that makes sense with how AJ has be talking about Cena on SmackDown Live. Cena here went over 100% to try and prove AJ wrong and AJ himself did the same to hold on to the belt and prove why he’s regarded as Phenomenal.
The first half was really good featuring great offense from both men, including a particularly well done torture rack powerbomb, but its the second of this match that really unglued everyone. Suddenly the match just exploded and everything went mental. Both of them used any move in the world to get the pin but then each of them being kicked out of. The submission sequence where it went from trading STFs then into a figure four then an armbar was the most exciting part of the night. I really don’t know how anyone could still not say Cena isn’t that good after seeing that. In addition to all that it was Mauro Ranallo’s commentary that helped give this match a big fight feel.
The last moments kept up the frantic pacing from Styles kicking out of an Attitude Adjustment from the top freaking rope and then after a fourth and exciting AA, John Cena tied Ric Flair and became a 16-time World Champion. Man alive, what a match. -Jordan
Jude’s Royal Rumble Match Thoughts:
The Rumble match itself was a little confusing and fairly inconsistent. It seemed like there wasn’t much creative thought put into it, especially considering some of the best Rumbles of the past. Even so, here are my highlights and lowlights.
The Enzo and Cass promo to kick things off was perfect, and properly carried the momentum from the Styles and Cena match. Unfortunately, we did not get a story until Strowman and Zayn went at each other either. Despite the unreal momentum behind Strowman, it was odd that Baron Corbin eliminated him. I feel like Corbin’s time as the unstoppable force is over.
There weren’t any “surprise” entrances per se, as Tye Dillinger’s entry at #10 was predictable. We didn’t see Kurt Angle, a secret TNA acquisition, or even Big Sexy Kevin Nash. Nevertheless, the Perfect 10 deserves his call up to the main roster, and I am excited to see what the future holds for him.
The New Day had some good team spots, and Kofi is a madman for his move on the turnbuckle. He didn’t hop around on a chair or crowd surf, so maybe our expectations have been set too high for him. He usually stands out more during the Rumble.
Lesnar cleaned house, as he should. Despite that dominance, Bill Goldberg squashed the Beast yet again, which is beyond frustrating. You can’t keep making Brock look so weak after the ridiculous couple of years he’s had. I am all for Goldberg being Goldberg, but we need to see these two top guys on an even plane sooner rather than later.
Roman Reigns’ entry at #30 was just odd, and not believable. Let’s play this out. What would have happened if Roman had won his Universal Title match earlier in the night? He would have entered the Rumble at #30 for a chance at facing himself at Wrestlemania? That makes no sense. It also doesn’t make sense to continue shoving him down our throats every time the Rumble rolls around. I just don’t buy what they’re selling anymore, and the Alamodome seemed to agree with me. The prospect of Reigns facing Undertaker doesn’t excite me as a wrestling fan – even when I put my mark shoes on.
Randy Orton’s win at the Rumble match was unexpected. Perhaps it will make more sense once his story with Bray Wyatt plays out. We shall see what happens at Elimination Chamber in 2 weeks.
Jordan’s Royal Rumble Match Thoughts:
Honestly I’m with Jude on a lot of this. WWE really did play it safe when it came to this year’s event and seems its still not learning from past mistakes. The match as a whole was good the more I thought about it from Cesaro’s swing party, Luke Harper seemingly turning face, James Ellsworth being hesitant, and Goldberg dominating Lesnar, which I actually liked since its going to make Brock Lesnar even more unstable and dangerous than before going to their obvious WrestleMania match. Also Undertaker and Goldberg in the Rumble, yeah I marked out. Hard.
The second half I felt was far stronger and exciting, but Randy Orton winning was a surprise, yet safe. I do wanna see how the Wyatt family tension keeps going, but really I think Bray winning would be a little bit better, but I wanna see where that does go. Also boy the Internet is going to be fun to read if they truly are building to Roman vs. Undertaker at Mania.
Pretty fun Rumble match, but for all the buildup to it, little upset by it.
Jude’s Overall Thoughts:
This isn’t a Royal Rumble that I will go back to watch years from now. AJ Styles vs. John Cena was easily the match of the night, and a bright star in an otherwise murky sky. Taking out my red marker, I would grade this event a B-. Not the best, not the worst, but yeah, worth the $9.99 I paid this month to watch it.
Jordan’s Overall Thoughts:
A really good start to WWE’s year despite what I might call some story errors. Plenty was setup here to get along to WrestleMania and lots of great stuff was teased, but with the still poor treatment of the cruiserweights, a slightly letdown of a Royal Rumble match, and being way too long, I’d say this get a solid B because yeah, I’m still buzzing about AJ vs. Cena.
What were your thoughts geeks? Best match of the night? Who did you have to win the Rumble match? Let us know in the comments below!