Ronda Rousey debuts to cap off a classic Royal Rumble 2018
WWE Championship - AJ Styles(c) d. Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn
Chris Novak: Handicap matches are hard to make good. With that said, this was about as good as this could’ve been, so bless AJ Styles for making it happen. Credit to Owens and Zayn, as well, who had some creative tag-ins and ways of circumventing the system. The ending was about as perfect as it could’ve been. Styles retains, and we move on from this. To… whatever it is that Owens and Zayn will be doing. I don’t have a clue.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship - The Usos(c) d. American Beta
Robert O'Neill: This should have been an absolute banger. It makes sense, because The Usos are the best tag team on the planet at the moment, so it makes sense. Having The Usos win two falls to none is kind of dumb. Especially since it took about 15 minutes to get the first fall, in a pretty cool sequence no less. The second fall took about 90 seconds, and it’s kind of crazy to do that after investing so much in Gable and Benjamin. Maybe Authors of Pain will be on Smackdown Tuesday?
Chris: I can’t help but feel like they blew it here. Maybe it was just a fluke second fall, but it feels weird that they’ve invested in Gable and Benjamin and had them get Dusty Finished and then swept in a 2/3 Falls Match. Hopefully that’s not the case, because it’s clear that Shelton can still go and that Gable is a future superstar. We’ll see what happens going forward. For now, that left a sour taste in my mouth.
Shinsuke Nakamura wins men’s Royal Rumble; challenges AJ Styles at Wrestlemania
Robert: What a match. Without overreacting, this may very well have been the all-time best Royal Rumble match. From Rusev and Finn Balor coming out #1 and #2 and making their impact felt all night long, to everyone beating Heath Slater up on their way to the ring, only for Slater to make it in the ring and eliminate Sheamus in record time, to the entire New Day being in the ring at the same time and leading to Kofi Kingston’s annual cool elimination save, to the four “surprises” of Cien Almas, Hurricane Helms, Adam Cole, and REY MYSTERIO, to the incredible final four of Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, John Cena, and Roman Reigns. Literally everything they did worked perfectly, and Nakamura was made into a bonafide star in his win. His match with AJ Styles at Wrestlemania is going to be off the charts good.
Chris: This was a Top 3 Rumble of all time and there’s no hyperbole to that. Everyone was used properly and effectively, even in the comedy roles. Heath Slater getting his ass beaten in so many different ways was HILARIOUS, as was his elimination of Sheamus. Finn looked like a superstar, staying in for nearly an hour. The usage of Almas and Adam Cole (BAY BAY) was terrific as well. Almas was in there for a LONG time, which is a ringing endorsement for him. When he and Zelina (my MVP of the weekend) come up, he’s going to be a Supernova. The surprises were fun, and not spoiled at all this weekend! Hurricane coming out was a blast, and it was great to see Rey Mysterio, who looked like he was in awesome shape. AND he was one of the final six! Kofi’s way of avoiding elimination was hilariously great as well. The conclusion of the match was so well done, and Reigns helped Nak look like a freaking killer. The right guy won, the crowd was HOT, and now we get Nakamura-Styles at WM34.
Raw World Tag Team Championship - The Bar d. Diet Shield(c)
Robert: Sheamus and Cesaro are Raw Tag Team Champions once again, and Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan continue to have a rift in between them. It was always going to be tough to follow the Men’s Rumble, and these three did the best they could. Bonus points to Cesaro and Rollins, both of whom were in the Rumble for a very long time, for going back out and working this match right away. Points off for Rollins wearing tights with racing flames on them. Anyways, Jordan is clearly going to end up being a smarmy little heel, and it’ll be interesting to see what that means for Kurt Angle’s allegiance. This feud will probably continue for a few more weeks.
Chris: Sheamus and Cesaro were bound to win this. I’m going to guess that Jason Jordan’s “concussion” wasn’t actually a concussion, but just a means to turn him heel. He’ll probably say he felt unappreciated, and thus, a big ol’ FU to Rollins. Not much to say. This match, unfortunately, died a slow death because of the previous match.
WWE Universal Championship - Brock Lesnar(c) d. Kane and Braun Strowman
Robert: This was pretty much exactly what you expect from a Brock Lesnar match in 2018: quick, physical, and punishing. Lesnar put Strowman through a table and then put another table on top of him, there were other cool weapon spots, Kane ate the pin and Strowman is protected. There’s actually at least a bit of doubt in my mind at this point that Roman Reigns is going to face Lesnar at Wrestlemania. It may very well end up being Strowman.
Chris Novak: This match was fun and chaotic and crazy. So, pretty much what everyone expected it to be going forward. The right guy won, the right guy took the fall, Braun lost no heat, and everything went well. Not much else to say at this point.
Asuka wins women’s Royal Rumble; Ronda Rousey signs full-time with WWE
Robert: Everything you see on mainstream sports sites tomorrow will be about the end of this match. We’ll get to that, but let’s break it down first.
The decision to make this the main event was evident early in the show. Some people were a bit concerned, but if you’re gonna do it, you might as well lean all the way into it. Leading the match off with Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch was a nice touch, as was Lita coming in early on (aside: Lita hit a moonsault! She can still go).
There were always going to be way more legends in this match than the men’s version, because the women’s roster is smaller. It was nice to see Lita, Torrie Wilson, Trish Stratus, Molly Holly, Michelle McCool, and Kelly Kelly show up and get their due for trying to make the most of a shitty situation when they were all with the company.
Sasha eliminating Bayley was also a stunner, and it makes you wonder if we’re gonna get a match between those two at some point. Kairi Sane and Ember Moon representing NXT was great. Naomi doing a Kofi Kingston style save of herself was great, and Vickie Guerrero’s EXCUSE ME bit added some much-needed comedy. Asuka getting the win was hardly unexpected, but I was a bit surprised by Nikki Bella being the other final participant. And probably even more surprised by Brie being the third to last person.
Obviously, the huge story is Ronda Rousey making her WWE debut after Asuka’s win, coming out and pointing at the Wrestlemania sign. Nothing was really established with regards to Rousey, so it gets people to watch Raw and Smackdown and kickstarts the Road to Wrestlemania.
Chris Novak: Could WWE book two Rumbles effectively in the same night?!?!
Yes, actually, they could. They always could. But would they? They did!
I thought the usage of the legends was great. Although, it was interesting to see a lot of them rack up a lot of eliminations. It almost felt like this match served as an apology to all those who came before this era of women’s wrestling, which, hey, that’s totally fine to be honest. The match itself felt like you were watching the natural progression of the women’s division into what it is today, which was some Grade-A storytelling.
Sasha Banks may not have won, but good lord, did she have a great showing or what? Her actions towards the end gave fans a look at THE BO$$, which has been absent for nearly three years now. Curse her for eliminating Bayley, but as they say, there’s no friends in this dojo. Hopefully that isn’t just A Thing That Happened™ and they play it up on RAW on Monday and going forward.
So, yeah, Asuka was the only choice to win the match, and she was the right choice to win the match, and she in fact did win the match. Lord knows why The Bellas were part of the final three (I know the answer to that question, actually, and I’m choosing to not delve into it) but they got their shit kicked in by The Empress of Tomorrow. It’s pretty rad to see Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura as the two Rumble winners for a lot of reasons.
And… welp, there’s Ronda Rousey from outta nowhere! I thought the final bit was weird, but I understand why they did it then. Of COURSE you bring in a huge star to show up at the end of a Big Four PPV in which the women headlined it (Think about that for a second, by the way. THE WOMEN MAIN EVENTED A BIG FOUR PAY PER VIEW!). Now there’s a lot of intrigue as far as what comes next for Rousey. I’d imagine she faces Charlotte, so we’ll be seeing her on Tuesday nights. But, we’ll see.