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WWE Royal Rumble 2018 results, recap, reactions: Bad reputation

You’re going to have to bear with me on my women’s Rumble thoughts; I have several points I’d like to make here.

Firstly, the match itself. It was pretty good! Before the match, I wondered frankly if WWE had the star power necessary to get heat from the crowd the whole way through the match. And I feel I was right to worry in part; about 10 of the entrants were completely forgettable. It was the same feeling you get when tag team partners enter the men’s Rumble, so it’s not a completely unique issue.

But needless to say, those 10 aren’t winning.

And yet despite all that, there was a lot to like about this match. We had a ton of surprise appearances: LITA, Molly Holly, Ember Moon, Kari Sane, Michelle McCool, Vickie Guerrero, TRISH STRATUS, and more. The NXT stars got fantastic ovations and former stars added some welcome gravitas to the match. The Bella Twins returning was fantastic as well.

Sasha Banks going full Boss mode at the end of the Rumble was probably my favorite thing. She reverted to NXT Boss by brutally eliminating both Bayley and Stratus and attempting to organize a coup to eliminate Asuka as well. Hopefully it’s a taste of where Banks will go in her path to beat the Empress.

In the end, Nikki Bella betrayed her sister to go one on one with Asuka. Not exactly the smartest decision. Asuka would eventually take advantage and win the division’s first ever Rumble. All of that’s great; really happy with a lot of this.

My second point is more complicated. Bluntly, a lot of the promotion for this match was weird. It hurt the match, in my opinion. I thought Stephanie McMahon was horrendous on commentary; she really screwed up the chemistry between Corey Graves and Michael Cole at times.

Any time you have to lean so heavily on that sort of promotion, I think you’re setting a handicap on the event. The amount of times they said “it’s historic” or whatever…it’s almost like they’re trying to guilt you into cheering. Which is ridiculous, right? There are some insanely good female wrestlers in the company!

I think the best way I can sum up my feelings about that center around Kelly Kelly and Ember Moon. Kelly Kelly – and several other former stars – all appeared rusty at times. They were mistiming stuff and the match bogged down. But when Ember Moon was announced and immediately stared down Asuka, the crowd was electric in a way none of the former stars (save Stratus) came even close to matching. Moon and Asuka had a sensation back and forth, as well.

Succinctly, the women are so much better now than they’ve ever been before. The cream of the women’s division can hang with literally anyone. And while this is still a work in progress, I feel as though we’re reaching the point where we don’t have to give special pomp and circumstance to the women and have McMahon jabbering on about how “historic” this match is. The most talented wrestlers certainly don’t need it.

So, yeah. Tell me how weird that take is in the comments.

And finally…Ronda Rousey.

Keeping her out of the Rumble was extremely smart, in my opinion. I think WWE might be learning their lesson about what the crowd wants in a Rumble winner. And isn’t it so much better to keep her in your pocket for WrestleMania?

With that said, I’ve got mixed feelings here as well. Her first WWE appearance was woefully mismanaged. They showed the video board with her name on it way too early, commentary was garbage, there was no clarity to her intentions…ugh.

Let’s start at the beginning. I’m honestly a huge Rousey fan but I can understand how that’s not a universally popular opinion. I have taken Judo instruction and I have such huge respect for her as an athlete; I’m excited to see she’s on full-time now with WWE. I thought she looked like a star in this appearance and loved the tribute to Roddy Piper.

But they clearly didn’t practice any of this. Cole was losing his mind on commentary, asking Stephanie questions. McMahon’s deadpan response? “I’m speechless, Cole.”

Terrible.

Rousey hopped into the ring, pointed at the WrestleMania sign, and got all serious. She tried to shake Asuka’s hand before having it slapped away. Rousey shrugged and went to the commentary table to offer the same to Stephanie; McMahon accepted the handshake.

Another sign point was given to end the show. I’m imagining the handshakes were Rousey offering a match at WrestleMania, but who knows, really? I really hope they don’t do a Rousey vs. McMahon match at WrestleMania, but that’s precisely the sort of thing WWE would do.

So with all that said, this was a fun first Rumble match for the women’s division, even if they didn’t completely knock it out of the park. I’m still worried about the depth of this division. They need to make a concerted effort to build new stars in the next year. They won’t be able to lean so heavily on returning stars in the future.

And speaking of the future…how does an all-women’s PPV sound? I think that should be the next step.


How to get the Rumble Right

As for the men’s Rumble, the winner in recent years has left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths. So how sweet was this Shinsuke Nakamura victory?

I honestly think this might be the best-booked match I’ve seen in a long time. The beginning of Royal Rumbles are always fun and this was no exception. Our first two entrants were Rusev and Finn Balor. They both earned raucous cheers from a rowdy crowd and what followed was equally exciting: Baron Corbin got eliminated by Balor and threw a fit, Heath Slater got destroyed by Corbin on the way out and made a fool of by subsequent entrants, and Andrade “Cien” Almas was our first surprise entrant at #7 (How COOL was that?!)

And then Slater eliminated Sheamus! That was super fun!

The middle of the Rumble centered upon two main stories in my eyes. The first was Woken Matt Hardy going straight after Bray Wyatt and eliminating them both. The second was New Day utilizing a tray of pancakes to prevent Kofi Kingston getting eliminated. They were able to get payback on Jinder Mahal as well.

We neared the 20s and I started to feel a sense of dread; John Cena, Randy Orton, and Roman Reigns were all yet to be announced. It almost felt inevitable that the old guys – and how weird is it that Reigns feels like one of those guys now? – were going to find a way to win the match.

The thing that lifted my spirits was how Cena entered the match. At number 20, Cena charged down to the ring and found himself swarmed by the future; Balor, Almas, Elias, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Seth Rollins all turned on the vet and put the boots to him. It felt symbolic of what was to come.

The 20s brought out the big, older guns and two more surprises. Adam Cole (BAY BAY!!!) entered the match with heavily taped ribs. The flippin’ Hurricane came out of nowhere for a short stint in the match. REY MYSTERIO was entrant #27; he looked fantastic and I sincerely hope he’s back with WWE moving forward.

The final six and final four were symbolic as well. Balor, Nakamura, and Reigns stood toe to toe with Cena, Orton, and Mysterio. Balor eliminated Mysterio and Reigns eliminated Orton. The youth movement won again.

The final four of Cena, Reigns, Balor, and Nakamura traded time. The established main eventers fought for a bit before Balor and Nakamura would take over. Balor was running on fumes and fought off elimination for seemingly the millionth time before Cena snuck up and threw him over the top. The crowd booed heavily as the ironman of the match was finally eliminated.

Nakamura was alone against the two “faces” of the past decade in WWE. He was our only guy left. And somehow, he found a way to get it done.

The booking at the end was particularly satisfying. WWE has a blessing in the way we all feel about Roman Reigns. We’re scarred from past experiences with him. He ruins – and wins – everything. The fact that we’re all so scared of him is hilarious; he’s heat in a bottle every single time. And in rare fashion, a rising star got the Royal Rumble win.

Nakamura announced after the match that he’s going after the WWE Champion at WrestleMania: AJ Styles. I loved this Rumble to bits.


All the Rest

Styles Defeats Kami, Retains WWE Championship – This PPV opened with AJ Styles defending his WWE Championship in a handicap match. I really enjoyed the incessant tags that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn made to start the match. They seemed to be rubbing their advantage in AJ’s face.

Owens injured his leg on an attempted Cannonball and was limited from there on. There was more controversy involved in a tag at the end that allowed Owens to be pinned, so expect more on that Tuesday. Zayn carried the majority of the match and Owens was the one to take the pin fall. I found that very interesting, especially when the duo took out Tye Dillinger during the men’s Rumble match. Zayn insisted that he be the one to steal Dillinger’s spot. Very intriguing to see where they go with that.

A Universal Championship Match Happened – The best parts of this match all involved Braun Strowman in some way. Actually, I take that back. Corey Graves had several amazing lines during this match. Brock Lesnar won.

Honestly, this match was even more mediocre than the majority of the build to it; that’s saying something. The crowd was also booing Lesnar a bit – something to keep an eye on if they’re actually doing Lesnar vs. Reigns at WrestleMania again.

Back to Back - So…perhaps Chad Gable needs to find an Olympic father to dote on him.

This match was a bit underwhelming in terms of wrestling quality, but I did enjoy the story work within the match. Gable and Benjamin were aggressive and physical for the majority of this match. They were in control, one of the Usos was injured…and they STILL got swept in this 2 out of 3 falls match.

We saw disappointment bordering on devastation on their faces afterwards. This match felt like the catalyst for some sort of change moving forward, but goodness knows what that could be after this match. Honestly, I thought this was good, but I’m still disappointed; I felt it could have been even better.

A Massive Letdown – This match was pretty decent in terms of storytelling, but my goodness the placement was terrible on the card. Right after Nakamura wins the Rumble? How did you expect any heat at all?

Jordan got hurt and took the easy way out. It cost his team the titles and the crowd booed him mildly. I feel like this match should have been earlier in the night.


All in all, a Royal Rumble PPV is going to be about precisely one thing: the Rumble itself. And for this show, I thought the women’s one was good and the men’s was truly exceptional. Still, the undercard of this PPV was pretty bad. Both tag team matches underwhelmed and the Universal Championship match was a debacle.

Thank goodness for AJ Styles. And thank goodness for the Royal Rumbles.

Grade: B

I’m eager to see what you thought of the event, Cageside. Elimination Chamber is four weeks away! Where do we go from here?

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