Kickoff Show: Bobby Roode & Chad Gable vs. Rezar & Scott Dawson [Raw Tag Team Championship]
It was weird seeing Rezar and Dawson teaming up together. Normally we would be miffed with the title holders being put on the pre-show but we did not mind here for two reasons. Chad Gable and Bobby Roode haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire as the champions and we have two Rumble matches tonight.
The match was still rather short and lacked the sort of punch needed to revive the dying tag division on RAW. The ending was ludicrous too as Dawson dropkicked Rezar which was the most in your face storytelling tactic proving once again that WWE forgot the subtle side of storytelling.
We were expecting something major to happen to revive the tag division but this wasn’t it at all.
Winners: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
Kickoff Show: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev [More disappointment in the form of US Title Match]
When Rusev finally won the US title we were elated but we were also apprehensive as it felt like a good dream that we did not want to be woken up from but that is exactly what happened today.
Rusev isn’t someone who deserve such an uneventful run and what is even worse is that the championship is won by someone who had plenty of opportunity to do something about the title but didn’t – Nakamura. Weirdly enough, the match was pretty good and both these men were on fire. Even Lana’s involvement was done in a great manner.
All this does is confirm that the problem isn’t with the wrestlers involved here. It is the way the title and these men have been booked and title changes like this are not going to do the US title any favors.
The match was good but from a larger perspective was an utter waste of time and talent. When will Rusev get the push he deserves?
Winner and New United States Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura
Kickoff Show: Buddy Murphy vs. Kalisto vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Hideo Itami [WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Some high-flying action from the Cruiserweight Division]
One part of WWE that has been improving and working quite well over the past year has been the 205 division and this match was proof of that.
Buddy Murphy, Kalisto, Hideo Itami and Akira Tozawa put on a wonderful show of athleticism and wrestling prowess. This was so impressive that on any other night we would have wanted this match on the main card. Also WWE is allowing Buddy Murphy to really sink his teeth as the champion, something which did not happen with the match preceding this one.
This was also a showcase of why the men on 205 deserve a lot better than a single match on the pre-show. There is not much that can be done on PPVs like Royal Rumble but that should not be the case at every PPV.
Winner and still Cruiserweight champion: Buddy Murphy
Main Card: Asuka vs. Becky Lynch [SmackDown Women’s Championship – Asuka somehow holds on]
This match was never expected to take place at Royal Rumble as Lynch and Flair were expected to be the main women involved in the title picture but in hindsight the decision to put the title on Asuka has been a great one.
WWE has the habit of putting on great matches to open PPVs and tonight was no different. It should come as no surprise at this point that the women can put on a great show and once again proves that if performers are let loose, they can actually do great things.
This was a match that had it all including the multiple near falls where Becky Lynch almost dethroned the empress but Asuka managed to retain her title with a nice submissive manoeuvre. This was a great way to open the main card of the Royal Rumble and also opens up Becky Lynch for the Rumble match later on.
Winner and still the SmackDown Women’s champion: Asuka
Shane McMahon & The Miz vs. The Bar [SmackDown Tag Team Championship – The co-besties are the tag champs!]
Who would have imagined that one day there would be a tag team known as the co-besties and that they would go on to win the tag championship but that should not take anything away from this great partnership.
The best thing this does is take the Bar off as the champions which had run stale a long time back mostly due to the lack of other frontline tag teams who themselves weren’t stale. This partnership between the Miz and Shane McMahon should of course not be expected to last long and at some point these two will turn on each other but they make for a fun team and that was on display here.
It was a given that these two were going to win tonight but that did not diminish the match or the victory in any form. The big question is if this will take the tag division on the long road of recovery or if it will be just a flash in the pan and that is something only time will answer. For now this is a great start and it is up to WWE to capitalize.
Winners and the new SmackDown Tag team champions: The Co-besties
Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks [Raw Women’s Championship – Rousey faces the toughest challenge to her title run yet]
Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks was another match that was put together rather hurriedly and it ended up being Rousey’s toughest challenge yet. Rousey was going to come out of this match still as the champion but that did not stop Sasha Banks from appearing to almost dethrone Rousey on more than one occasion in this match.
This was a great match and further reaffirms that Rousey is as good an in-ring performer as she appeared to be and is a testament to how well she has gelled into her role as a frontline performer in WWE in such a short time.
There was also the nice post-match tease of a 4 Horsewoman vs. 4 Horsewoman match in the future and that should be something. This match wasn’t supposed to be exciting mostly because the outcome was predetermined [duh!] but it still ended up being a good match.
Winner and still Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey
The Women’s Royal Rumble Stays Off The Flashy Stuff
The inaugural women’s Royal Rumble was plagued with a lot of issues, the biggest of which was the over reliance on past performers who all came across as huge duds. Thankfully, WWE seem to have learnt from that mistake and kept the performers down to active wrestlers which was the smart thing to do.
That of course meant that we got our first taste of many of the NXT wrestlers on the main stage. It also lacked flashy gimmicky stuff and featured good old brawling. There was a nice spot from Naomi but the way Becky Lynch was incorporated into the match was a bit questionable but then gain she is supposed to be a heel.
This wasn’t the most exciting Royal Rumble match but it was way better than the first edition. What is even more important and exciting is that Becky Lynch now has the opportunity to face the champion of her choosing and it all points to the Rousey vs. Lynch showdown that we never got.
Things could have been better with the way this match played out but it could also have been worse and in that regards this was a rather decent edition of the women’s Royal Rumble with ending done especially nicely.
Winner: Becky Lynch
“The New” Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles [Things get weird in the WWE Championship Match]
WWE identified that keeping Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles going against each other indefinitely would turn sour eventually and WWE tried to switch things tonight with the return of Eric Rowan who ended up costing Styles the match.
The popular opinion was that the Bludgeon Brothers would return to take on the newly crowned Co-besties but it seems like WWE has other plans. This was unexpected and surprising and definitely made the title match a lot more noteworthy that it was going to be on its own but it comes with its own host of problems.
Eric Rowan is one of the least technically gifted big men around and if he were to enter into a feud with Styles or Bryan, it would only highlight his flaws and show him in a much worse light. This does bring a bit of “what-if” to the title equation but chances of this succeeding is very low. It just comes across as WWE being brave for the sake of being brave. Apart from that the match was great as you would expect from Bryan and Styles.
Another weird theory is this could be beginning of The Wyatts’ reunion. Bryan was once a part of The Wyatt Family and may be they are forming a stable yet again with Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt being rumored to return soon.
Winner and still WWE Champion: The New Daniel Bryan
Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor [WWE Universal Championship – Another Brock Lesnar disappointment]
We have come to really hate Brock Lesnar because of his innate ability to bury really good talent and negotiate deals with the WWE where he can hold on to titles indefinitely beating even the unbeatable along the way. Today was another infamous chapter in that when one of the most exciting challengers to Lesnar’s reign in recent times was put down like a rabid dog.
As we expected, this was just a glorified manner to keep the incredibly talented and deserving Finn Balor off of the Royal Rumble. What is even more anger-inducing is that for most of the match it looked like Finn Balor had the upper hand and the beast would finally be dethroned.
This also means that the next time we see Lesnar wrestle will probably be at WrestleMania which is unforgivable considering the high level of talent WWE has at its disposal. Even the Undertaker did not have this much sway with the upper management which begs the question once more “What does Brock Lesnar have on Vince McMahon?”. Our guess is a leaked tape 😉
Winner and still Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar
The Men’s Royal Rumble Becomes Exciting Because Of A Woman
Again, WWE kept the nostalgia act to a minimum by having just Jeff Jarett as the only surprise entrant with the rest being active wrestlers from WWE and NXT. WWE did have one surprise that no one would have guessed in a million years and that was to have Nia Jax come out towards the end and give us some of the best moments of the night.
You know how there are things in life we never knew we wanted until we actually got them. This was one of those things. We never knew that we wanted to see Nia Jax being hit with an RKO out of nowhere but boy did we really love it when it happened.
WWE set it up nicely too with Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler all playing their parts perfectly. WWE also did the right thing by following this up with some nice wrestling action to allow the eventual winner Seth Rollins not to appear like the second act here.
This bodes well for the overall championship picture as Rollins would invariably go against the Beast and we really hope that he is the one who finally dethrones this persistent parasite that Brock Lesnar has become.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Overall Review: The Royal Rumble PPV is one of the most exciting PPVs of the year and this is also where the Road to WrestleMania officially begins. Tonight’s edition was fun too but not in the traditional manner.
The nostalgia acts were almost next to none which was a good thing as we already have had an overdose of these wrestlers from the past. Instead the spotlight was on a lot of NXT stars and pretty much all of them gave a great account of themselves.
Barring the kickoff-show and the Universal title match, this was a good PPV. The big takeaways are the fact that Rollins and Lynch are the #1 contenders and that could mean some really wonderful matches on the biggest stage of them all.
WWE still needs to iron out the issues in the RAW tag division and the US title picture. The jury is still out on Rowan being involved in the WWE title scene but we will reserve judgement on that for later.
The show started strong and stayed strong for the most part and capped off to a nice ending. This was another good PPV to mark what will hopefully be a better year for wrestling in general.
Moment of the Night: Nia Jax being hit with an RKO out of nowhere
Overall Rating: 3.7/5