It’s funny. Going into this Royal Rumble, I was extremely hyped. All of the main title matches for each brand looked stellar and the actual Rumble matches are always a treat.
And despite all of that...I’m exhausted. I’m doing my best to muster the willpower to actually write this review.
Perhaps two hour-long matches in one night is just too much. Perhaps their existence requires the rest of the card to be booked a certain way. Despite some great wrestling tonight, this show wasn’t the best viewing experience, and I think you’ll see that color this review.
Seth Rollins wins the men’s Royal Rumble
The men’s Rumble main evented the show this year and after Finn Balor’s defeat earlier in the show to Brock Lesnar, we were due a new challenger for the Universal Championship.
Seth Rollins, come on down!
However, I wasn’t a huge fan of this Rumble match. There were some excellent moments. Mustafa Ali eliminating Samoa Joe was fantastic and we were treated to Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano from NXT. Pete Dunne had an excellent showing as well, Kofi Kingston had two fun saves, and there was some fantastic wrestling. Andrade countering Pete Dunne’s finisher still stands out to me.
However...a lot of this felt contrived. Rollins being put through a table felt like a rip off of the time where Roman Reigns got carted out in Philadelphia. From that point on, I expected him to win.
Nia Jax’s entrance in the match soured me as well. It’s not really a fun surprise, is it? She assaulted R-Truth at 30, took his spot in the match, and took advantage of the initial fact that no man wanted to attack her. The fact that Ziggler, Mysterio, and Orton all hit Jax with finishers is interesting, but this is one hell of a precedent to set, you know? If you want to join the Rumble, all you have to do is attack an entrant.
In all, I’d call this a decent Rumble. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t blow me away.
Becky Lynch wins the women’s Royal Rumble
The women’s rumble however? Much better.
There were better Rumble saves from Ember Moon and Kacy Catanzaro. There was more drama at the end when Lana couldn’t wrestle. They paid off more feuds down the card than the men’s Rumble as well. There was even a better comedy (read that as creepy?) spot with Zelina Vega and Hornswoggle.
Charlotte and Lynch were able to team up to get rid of Jax in the end, but Jax retaliated by throwing Lynch off the steps and injuring her knee. The Man was able to fight through, however, and picked up yet another win over Charlotte on the way to WrestleMania.
Like I said I thought this was the better Rumble, but there were still issues. Firstly, why was this match in the middle of the card if Lynch was supposed to recover from her earlier loss and win the thing? Secondly, why did she tap out earlier at all? Asuka had her in a blood choke, man; those things will make you pass out so quickly in real life. Eh whatever, I’ll elaborate in that portion of the review.
Fairytales aren’t Real
Love’s a lie and we’re all gonna die. Happiness is an illusion. Lesnar beat Balor.
...Okay I’m being melodramatic. To be honest, this was my favorite match of the card because it’s the only one that did what this show needed. Every match on this show was long, drawn-out, and featured a slow build.
Balor vs. Lesnar? This was 100 miles a second right off the bat. Balor attacked Lesnar early and often and was aided by slipping away from the Beast and shoving him into the corner of an announcer’s table. The injury handicapped the Beast, and Balor was pretty much in control the entire way through.
Balor’s DDT counter of the F-5 is a gentle reminder of how slick this dude is in the ring. That was pulled straight from Eddie Gurrero vs. Lesnar back in the day. Both guys did a fantastic job to make the crowd buy into a possible title change, but Lesnar caught Balor in a Kimura to end it.
The post-match beatdown is curious as well. Can Balor walk away from Lesnar after that? Was that supposed to set up a rematch? Guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Rousey escapes Banks
When Sasha Banks is fully enconsed in her Boss role, she has this presence that’s insanely palpable. She was at her best for the Rumble.
This was a long match and one that could have easily dragged, but it was also insanely violent. Where Asuka vs. Lynch was fast and featured a lot of counters, this match was all about causing damage. Both women targeted each other’s arm and both were selling their asses off for all the submission moves.
I really enjoyed the call back to the NXT Ironwoman Match where Banks took a page out of Bayley’s book and stomped on Rousey’s hand during a Bank Statement attempt. Rousey ended up escaping with her title, but Banks came back for a cheeky handshake and the opportunity to flash the Four Horsewomen’s sign in Rousey’s face.
This was a fun opener and a much-needed win for Asuka. However, the story in the end irked me. Asuka hit a RIDICULOUS upgraded version of her Asuka Lock, right? It was essentially a bridging rear naked choke that looked very similar to a Cattle Mutilation. So yeah, getting a tap out for an upgraded submission finisher makes sense, but it just didn’t seem like the best option.
In a properly applied rear naked choke, you either escape or you pass out. There’s really not a threat of injury unless someone’s crushing your windpipe or cranking your jaw or something. So maybe that’s the reason why Lynch tapped out, but it just felt like passing out would have been so in character for her. I think that as well as having the women’s Rumble in the middle of the show took away from her eventual win a bit.
Bryan’s got a follower
This match happened right after the women’s Rumble and it suffered for it.
The crowd couldn’t get into it and it dragged for about twenty minutes. Both men worked body parts, but that had also already been done during the night. It just didn’t feel unique in any way as a part of this show until Erik Rowan showed up.
Clad in a flannel shirt, Rowan meandered down to the ring and just stood there for a bit until the referee took a bump. Then, Rowan made his loyalties known by attacking AJ Styles and securing the victory for Bryan.
It was disappointing, really, but at least the Rowan bit is interesting.
Miz/Shane vs. The Bar – This match was pretty dang fun, all things considered. The Bar played spoiler to every high spot that Shane McMahon had planned until a Shooting Star Press to end the match. I thought it was hilarious when Miz clamored into the ring and started shaking a red-faced and clearly delirious Shane in celebration.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable def. Rezar and Scott Dawson – This was a fairly interesting, spur-of-the-moment match. With Akam hurt, the concept here was that if the mish-mash team of Rezar and Dawson could pull off a victory from the Raw Tag Team Champions, both teams would be owed title shots in the future.
That uh...that didn’t happen.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev – Nakamura has been under Rusev’s skin for weeks now, ever since Lana first got involved in an altercation between the two men. History repeated itself at the Rumble.
I thought this was a very fun match for a preshow, but you have to wonder where Rusev goes from here.
Buddy Murphy def. Hideo Itami, Kalisto, Akira Tozawa – This match should have been on the main card. It was short, it featured some awesome moments and had tons of energy. But, you know. Crusierweights.
I think WWE needs to figure out a better way to hold the Rumble next year. Including the preshow, this show was like 7 hours long. So despite some fun wrestling and two fan favorites winning the Rumbles...
And now I’ve got three more hours in less than a day. Geez.