The Rope Break #30: Royal Rumble 2018 Review!!

By Curtis Suthard  – 1/30/2018

 

Credit: WWE.com

Alright, I may be a few days late, but let’s take a moment or two (if you’ll indulge me) to share some thoughts on what was a fairly decent to somewhat good Royal Rumble. After the “Not-So-Good” RAW 25th Anniversary show, the previous Monday, I was really hoping that this event would at least make an attempt to live up to all of the hype that bubbled up around it. And…it sort of did. There were plenty of things to gripe about, but an equal or greater amount of things to crow over. So, let’s dive right in…

 

First things, first: There was a hell of a long Pre-Show! I came into it at the halfway mark, not realizing that it was 2 hours long. Is that really necessary? Nothing really pivotal happened here, which isn’t uncommon for almost every Pre-Show, so let’s take these few early matches in a rapid fire fashion.

Credit: WWE.com

Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik & Kalisto VS. TJP, Drew Gulak & Jack Gallagher: So, 205 Live got a little bit of love right off the bat and the thrill, I’m sure, of entertaining about a tenth of the crowd. It’s a shame that the Cruiserweights get nothing in the form of a decent storyline and the talents of some of these extremely talented performers just seems to be going to waste. Why couldn’t this match have been a Fatal Fourway, or something, that would give the winner a spot in the Rumble? Just like that, this match would have some meaning! See how easy that would have been? I honestly don’t really remember who won and I’m so depressed by the state of 205 Live, I’m not looking it up.

Credit: WWE.com

The Club VS. The Revival: Speaking of things that depress me: two teams from the RAW Tag Team Division did a decent job entertaining about half of the crowd, but the Club still lost. At some point, you’d think with the formation of The Balor Club, which seems to be a real thing now, that Gallows and Anderson would start to get a bit of love. These guys are great. On the other hand, The Revival did get the win though, so maybe that’s a good sign that they have not been fully “Ascensioned”.

Credit: WWE.com

Bobby Roode VS. Mojo Rawley (United States Championship): So, Bobby Roode held a U.S. Open Challenge and Evil Mojo answered the call. Roode won…that is all.

 

The high point of the Pre-Show truly came in the form of Hall of Famer, Alundra Blayze (Medusa, if you’re nasty) getting flustered and busting JBL’s cajones as he gave her non-stop crap for seemingly not remembering some of the current Women’s Division roster and who she was picking to win the Women’s Rumble. Maybe he is a bully?. And then finally, mercifully it came to an end, with Ric Flair rambling right up to the last second and the real show started…

Credit: WWE.com

A.J. Styles VS. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens (WWE Championship Handicap Match): Everything officially kicks off with a really fun, fast-paced match, that easily set the pace for the show, while showcasing three of the top athletes in the pro-wrestling industry. Styles was in top form, which isn’t rare, quite frankly, as he managed to hold off both Zayn & Owens and retain his WWE Championship on the road to WrestleMania. Not a whole lot to really throw out here, as it was a really good match, but nothing super special. I’m not sure where I see the whole “Zayn & Owens VS. the World”-storyline, besides the obvious falling out between both guys, with Sami possibly coming out as the heel. But, even then, I’m not sure of that, because Kevin Owens is the far superior bad guy. Hopefully, this whole thing really helps to elevate both men, which it has already done, in Sami’s case.

Credit: WWE.com

Winner: A.J. Styles

Credit: WWE.com

The Usos VS. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable (Smackdown Tag Team Championship 2-Out-Of-3 Falls Match): Going from a match that was solidly good and satisfying, we move on to one that kinda’ made me scratch my head a bit. I had no doubt that the Usos could easily produce a great match, as they have proven over and over recently, but with the 2-Out-Of-3 Falls stipulation added in, you are almost guaranteed to get 3 falls before the match ends. The only times you end up with a straight sweep is usually on a random RAW or Smackdown and often when a wrestler or team are being buried. So the question seems to be: What the HECK did Gable & Benjamin do wrong?

Credit: WWE.com

The Usos swept the match, which was pretty good, with Jey Uso really being the workhorse, as Gable & Shelton did a good job keeping the twin brothers separated and unable to tag out frequently. Shelton & Chad were doing great and displaying just how good of a team they have become. But, not long after the first Uso pin, as Gable climbed to the top of the turnbuckle and Shelton had grabbed an Uso in an attempt to finish them off with a double-team maneuver, Jey (I think it was Jey) rolled Benjamin up in a Small Package and that was that. Gable, who has shown off his athleticism over and over, seemed to be able, or unwilling, to leap to about the halfway point of the ring and break up the pin. He sort of just flopped to the mat, just short and about a half-hour late. It was a weird ending to this feud, if that was the end of it.

Credit: WWE.com

Winners: The Usos

Credit: WWE.com

 Men’s 30-Man Royal Rumble Match: So, the usual Main Event of the Royal Rumble show has been bumped down to the Mid-Event for this little shindig, since the first ever Women’s Rumble is deservedly getting the spotlight. Now, the Royal Rumble has for decades been my personal favorite match. I have loved the fun, excitement and chaos of most Rumbles. The last few have been, as the French say, “S#!%” and pretty damn depressing. Mostly due to the highly predictable winners. But, also due to the lack of real fun and surprises being included in the mix. Now, going into this one, it seemed that there were so many possible surprise outcomes and rumored entrants, that you almost couldn’t help but be a little hopeful that SOMETHING big could happen. Well, we got a pretty obvious winner, though not a bad one, but man-o-man, did we get some real fun and excitement, with only a few misfires.

Credit: WWE.com

Let’s start with the good. Finn Balor was the second entrant and hung around for the majority of the entire match. Which was great, because it seemed to be hinting at the fact that Finn hasn’t been written off by the “Powers That Be” and may have been getting back on track after getting squashed quite a bit lately. Of course, since I’m writing this after the fact, I know that the possible “push” it seemed that Balor may have been getting, seems like it ended after the Rumble and he’s back to losing to everyone else.

Credit: WWE.com

Another nice touch were the amount of surprise entrants, as well as just who they were. Rey Mysterio popped back up again, not wearing a top and flaunting the fact that he’s been looking great lately. Rey got a good amount of play in the match as well.

Credit: WWE.com

We all had to stand back as a Hurricane came through, as Shane/Gregory Helms reappeared as the superhero, The Hurricane. He, of course, failed to chokeslam Cena, which was fun, and didn’t last more than just a few minutes, but it was great while it lasted and good to see the guy back in WWE.

Credit: WWE.com

Another nice touch, was that we got not one, but two NXT entrants in the form of Adam Cole (Bay Bay!) and the NXT Champion, Andrade Cien Almas. Both men were coming off of two fantastic matches from Saturday night’s NXT Takeover. I was honestly truly surprised to see Cole, as I was fairly certain that he took a heck of a shellacking the night before and shouldn’t be able to walk steadily, let alone participate in the Rumble. Fortunately, he did and had a really nice showing, along with Almas. My only issue was that it would have been nice had the two eliminated each other or even just have Cole eliminate Almas, hinting at something bigger coming over in NXT.

Credit: WWE.com

Rusev, just like Balor, was in the match from the start, coming in first. And, though he didn’t last nearly as long as Finn, it should be truly hard to ignore just how hard the crowd was cheering for the Bulgarian Brute throughout the match and that’s a good thing. Hopefully, the higher ups were paying attention. Though, probably not.

Credit: WWE.com

Now, with all of that goodness out of the way, let’s talk the disappointments. Ziggler returned to a collective “Yawn” at number thirty. No fanfare, nothing really made of it. To make things worse, it seemed like just as quick as he showed up, he was gone. Why have the guy “Quit” and do the whole schtick of dropping the US title and walking away. Only to have him pop back up a few weeks later, at the tail end of an exhausting Rumble match, when no one cares. Just such a waste.

Credit: WWE.com

And, then came the guys pulling double-duty and possibly taking someone’s spot. I’m not talking about Sami Zayn, who took Tye Dillinger’s spot, after he and Owens beat the guy down. That made sense and actually played into some story stuff. It made sense. There was Seth Rollins, who had an upcoming match, defending his Tag Team Championships. Now, I’ll give Seth a pass as well, since it seemed, at the time, to be leading to something and only made a little sense that a former Champ should be given an opportunity to head to WrestleMania for a title shot. But, even after Reigns eliminated Rollins, which the two just laughed off, it seemed like it could have a deeper meaning and work it’s way into a future storyline.

Credit: WWE.com

The guys I’m mostly fixated on were Cesaro and Sheamus. Now, normally I’d never, ever, not want Cesaro involved in a match, but he had a title shot coming up. Shouldn’t that be more important? And, don’t even get me started on Sheamus. Cesaro actually stuck around for a bit. Whereas Sheamus got eliminated in seconds. And for what? Anyone else could have taken these two spots. Y’know, maybe say two guys who weren’t already scheduled to appear anywhere else on the card? Breezango? Luke Harper? Any Cruiserweight? The UK Champ, Pete Dunne? It just seemed like a waste.

Credit: WWE.com

Now, onto the ending, which was pretty decent. We got a few really cool moments. One where Reigns, Balor and Nakamura were in a stare down with vets Orton, Cena and Mysterio. Little things like this is what makes the Rumble fun. Then we got pure chaos with some small match-ups like Balor VS. Nakamura and the less thrilling Cena VS. Reigns. Then we got yet another stare down, as east met west, with Balor and Nakamura squaring off with Reigns and Cena. Which, again, was pretty cool and well done.

Credit: WWE.com

In the end, things wore down to just Reigns and Nakamura going toe-to-toe. Things looked grim a few times, as Reigns reversed a few things and seemed to gain the upper hand. But, thankfully, we all breathed an exhausted sigh of relief, as Nakamura threw Reigns over the top rope and scored a win. Meaning that he is on the path to face off with A.J. Styles in what could be an incredible match at WrestleMania.

Credit: WWE.com

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

Credit: WWE.com

The Bar VS. Jason Jordan & Seth Rollins (RAW Tag Team Championships): To be honest, I was burned out from the Rumble match. Which made this possibly the perfect match to follow it, as I honestly couldn’t care less about it. Now, I like all four guys involved and have been a big cheerleader for The Bar, but this whole Jason Jordan thing kinda’ stinks. If the guy is going to go full heel, just pull that trigger already. There have been more than a few times that it would have not only made sense, but could have been handled well.

Credit: WWE.com

What we got instead, was a sub-par match, with a highly predictable outcome. Jordan left Rollins hanging, more than once, which led to Cesaro and Sheamus running roughshod on Seth and taking the titles back. Will this lead to something? Anything? I’m losing more and more faith everyday. Time will tell.

Credit: WWE.com

Winners: The Bar

Credit: WWE.com

Braun Strowman VS. Kane VS. Brock Lesnar (WWE Universal Championship): On to another seemingly pointless match. I had high hopes that Kane had been added to this match to act as the sacrificial lamb for Braun to possibly pin and get the win, all the while protecting Lesnar who could claim that he was never beaten. This could lead to a WrestleMania match, possibly between Strowman, Lesnar and Reigns which, at least for me, would be more desirable than to just have the Reigns VS. Lesnar re-match it seems we are bound to get.

Credit: WWE.com

The only real highlight from this match, for me at least, came in the form of two resoundingly stiff-looking shots. Braun, at one point early on, managed to deliver a very solid, legit knee shot to Lesnar’s noggin. If there was any question about the reality of this hit being a little too “real”, then the retaliation should help assuage that. Brock responded by shaking it off, standing and throwing two punches at Braun’s own dome. The first didn’t really seem to connect, but the second one staggered Strowman and clearly rattled the guy.

Credit: WWE.com

All in all, though, this match was okay, but nothing we haven’t really seen already. Announce tables were destroyed and flipped over on people, a planned trip was taken to Suplex City and Kane used what seemed like long-dormant psychic powers to push Braun into a table, that was leaning in the ring corner, by barely touching the guy. This was really just a chaotic street fight, using weapons and tables to make up for the fact that two of these guys move at snail’s paces and the other, much younger guy, can’t just fight himself. No fire, no Undertaker, no real excitement and no title change as the future seems to be written in stone and Lesnar heads to ‘Mania as Champ.

Credit: WWE.com

Winner: Brock Lesnar

Credit: WWE.com

Women’s Royal Rumble Match: And, finally, we get to the real Main Event and the First Ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match. WWE’s Women’s Division has improved in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades and have proven that the ladies can be just as exciting or, as has been the case plenty of times, more than most of the regular Men’s matches. So, it only seems fair that they get to hold some of the same style of matches. Hell in a Cell’s, TLC’s, Iron Man and even the upcoming Elimination Chamber all sound good, but a Rumble is really something special. And, just like the Men’s Rumble, from earlier in the night, this one had plenty of “ups” with only a few real “downs”.

Credit: WWE.com

Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch kicked the match off. Which was nice to see, since Becky does not nearly get enough spotlight, lately. Sasha, on the other hand, has sort of fallen off the top tier of RAW’s Women’s Championship scene in the recent months. So, to have these to start the match was good, especially giving Sasha the spot as the longest lasting entrant for this first-time match. Though, I really thought that Bayley would get this spot. But, as the bigger Banks fan, I’ve got no complaints.

Credit: WWE.com

Now, the Women’s Division on both shows couldn’t fill up the 30 slots needed for this match, so…Cue the surprise returns! And, boy-howdy, were there a ton! Kelly Kelly, Michelle McCool, Beth Phoenix, Jacqueline and even Torrie Wilson all showed up to participate in a little history. Molly Holly popped up and looked like she could easily return to the ring. Lita showed up and proved that it might not be a bad idea to stay away, as she went for a really sloppy Moonsault, that was inches away from another neck injury. Heck, even Vickie Guerrero was a fun addition to the match as she used her signature shrieking to bring the match to a screeching halt for a few seconds. Though, it was the returning Bella Twins, And Nikki in particular

Credit: WWE.com

But, the real star from the Nostalgia Faction of the entrants, came in the form of Trish Stratus. Now, I am admittedly not a big fan of Trish, but she looked great out there. From the moment she had with one-time rival, Mickie James, who she would go on to eliminate, to her giving some attitude back to the “Boss”, she looked great.

Credit: WWE.com

We also got not one, but two appearances from NXT alum, in the form of Kairi Sane and NXT Women’s Champ, Ember Moon. Kairi got a little bit of time to show off her stuff to a much larger audience and hopefully impressed. Ember, on the other hand, got a nice ovation and though she was playing up the whole injury angle, from her confrontation the previous night with Shayna Baszler. Ember burned bright, but ultimately burned pretty quick, though she did last long enough to have a nice little face-off with Asuka.

Credit: WWE.com

Speaking of the “Empress of Tomorrow”: Was there any real doubt that this match was already in the bag for her? The only way I saw this thing going another way, would have been if Ronda Rousey made her in-ring debut. But, that never happened and so things came down to Asuka and Nikki Bella in what was admittedly a few heart-stopping moments in which it seemed Nikki might shock the world. Alas, all is indeed right in the world and Asuka ended up eliminating Nikki with a kind of crappy kick to the knee and tumble off of the apron. Asuka would then be asked just who it was that she would challenge at WrestleMania, while being flanked by both Women’s Champs, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte. Just as it seemed an answer was imminent, Ronda Rousey’s music hit and she made her way to the ring, awkwardly pointed at the WrestleMania sign twice, shook Stephanie McMahon’s hand and then walked back up the ramp and weirdly point at the sign again. So…yay?

Credit: WWE.com

Winner: Asuka

Credit: WWE.com

Anyway, this was a pretty fun show, with the two Rumbles really holding the whole thing together. Sure the other matches were…uh…there, but they weren’t great and even, kind of, bordered on crappy. The outcomes for almost every match were all pretty predictable, but not unfavorable. So, that’s a good thing. For those reasons WWE Royal Rumble 2018 gets a 3 out of 5 on the Official Nerd Nation Radio Pocket Protector Scale!

I will be back here in just a few weeks with my predictions and then my follow up review of RAW’s Elimination Chamber show in a much more timely fashion. Promise! Until then, please check out our podcast on Blogtalkradio.com, which you could get to from the links on the front page of this site. Also, please check us out on Facebook on both the Nerd Nation and Nerd Nation Radio pages. Give us a Like or Follow, if you’d like.

You can also always feel free to drop me a line at Curt@nerdnationradio.com! Ask me questions, praise me or tell me what you don’t like and bet how long it takes before I stop reading it. Until next…

Credit: WWE.com