The 2018 WWE Royal Rumble was an absolutely fantastic event, with the two matches carrying the events name coming through in just about every single way. I’m of the mindset that they have never booked a smarter more electric and better Royal Rumble than the men’s version. They played against past errors that got positioned to scare the daylights out of fans, used a legend in Rey Mysterio to correct the error of 2014 when he was sent out at #30, and exercised the demons of the 2015 Royal Rumble once and for all IN THE SAME BUILDING. We saw the future on display (Andrade Cien Almas, Elias, & Adam Cole) a full display of current stars (Balor, Rusev, Zayn, Wyatt, The New Day, Nakamura, Corbin, & Jinder) and future hall of famers (Sheamus, Rollins, Matt Hardy, Cena, Orton, The Miz, Rey Mysterio, Ziggler, Reigns, & Goldust) with Nakamura and Balor soon to join that group the way they are headed.
Not only was the building sent into a euphoric state with Nakamura’s win and subsequence declaration that he wanted AJ Styles (not a soul wanted him to challenge Lesnar) but it was all done so well. The 3 on 3 faceoff between John Cena, Randy Orton & Rey Mysterio vs Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and Roman Reigns was the stuff of legend, then it gave way to essentially an unbooked Fatal 4 Way of Nakamura, Reigns, Cena and Balor, with that turning into Shinsuke Nakamura with the entire building behind him, against Roman Reigns, back in the place where his hate took full form 3 years earlier. This entire thing was a booking masterpiece. The Road to Wrestlemania hasn’t been set off in such an overwhelmingly positive nature since at least 2012.
The Women’s Royal Rumble was the main event of the night and came just short of matching the excellence of the men’s match, and that is not a slight at all. The returns were special, and it was a love letter to fans of Women’s Wrestling in WWE for the last 20 years. The men’s match was so incredible, that this may get overlooked and written off as a Rousey appearance, but I believe this is easily the third best rumble of this decade, following Men’s 2018, and 2016. I’ll get to her later but this was Sasha Banks fully showing that she is ready to be unleashed as the most compelling star in the Women’s Division. The standouts among returning legends (Beth Phoenix, Molly Holly, Trish Stratus, & Michelle McCool) all looked like they were ready for extended returns to WWE, and I think WWE should look at utilizing them going forward. As Mark Henry once said, “there is plenty left in the tank.” Asuka’s victory was the perfect achievement for her as most of the other grand accomplishments have been reserved for others while she was in NXT.
AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn ***1/4 (Hamstrung by an odd stipulation)
The Usos vs American Alpha 2.0 ***1/2 (Creative break from the norm of 2/3 fall matches)
Men’s Rumble ****1/2 (Come Off It 1992)
Rollins/Jordan vs The Bar **3/4 (The Rumble did a number on this match)
Brock Lesnar vs Kane vs Strowman **3/4 (Car Crash, and another Strowman loss)
Women’s Rumble **** (Love Letter to Women’s Wrestling Fans)
AOP vs Fish & O’Reilly ***1/2 (Violent, strategic match)
Velveteen Dream vs Kassius Ohno ***1/4 (Miscommunications held this back)
Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler ***3/4 (Basic, but effective.)
Aleister Black vs Adam Cole ***3/4 (Tried really hard to be a war.)
Andrade Cien Almas vs Johnny Gargano ****3/4 (With ***** potential when I rewatch it)
Others Receiving Votes
Finn Balor – The Ironman of the Men’s Royal Rumble entered at #2 and was a constant presence in the match, lasting an impressive (57:30) and eliminating Aiden English, Baron Corbin, Rey Mysterio, and Dolph Ziggler. Dolph should quit WWE by the way. Every great Royal Rumble has an ironman, and Balor was the perfect choice for it. He got his WWE career back on track with that performance.
Ember Moon – Moon strung together a basic but engaging match with the impressive Shayna Baszler and was back 24 hours later with the NXT Championship in hand still injured from her battle, but determined to show she wouldn’t be stopped. With some questioning her ability outside the ring going into this weekend, she left no questions about her performance in it.
Roman Reigns – Roman Reigns added another chapter to his fast-growing legacy as one of the Royal Rumble’s greatest performers as he added another top 2 finish to his resume, (runner-up ‘14, winner ‘15, 3rd 2016, runner-up ‘16 & ’17.) He is dangled as bait every year now as a potential winner at the very end and will continue to get whoever is left in the finals with him over until he wins it again one of these years. Maybe by then, folks will ease up off the guy, but those boos didn’t sound like they were going away anytime soon. Nevertheless, Reigns was an integral part of making this rumble amazing. He posed as both a new generation star and a member of the establishment simultaneously. Incredible.
MVP Candidates Of The Weekend
Spending 19:41 in the match, the winner of the Women’s Rumble was not a shock to many, but she exuded star power, and seized control of the match from the moment she spun around and removed her mask all in one swift motion. She was stuck in NXT for far too long, but this match had her name written all over it. Coming in at #25, she dominated in incredible fashion, facing off with old rivals like Ember Moon, and new ones like Sasha Banks.
“But she didn’t take a bump!” “Who Cares!” “She ruined the match!”
You care. If not, you will soon. I’m not here at all for the “Ronda Rousey ruined the Royal Rumble” hot takes. Ronda’s presence alone vaulted the Women’s Rumble to main event status, and had ESPN flocking to cover The Royal Rumble within minutes on all of their outlets, as they coupled news of her appearance with the breaking news that Ronda had signed a fulltime WWE contract. She loves the business, and I’m excited to see her put in a position to not only raise the profile of the Women’s Division, but WWE in general. Don’t look now, but she might get us a main event without Roman Reigns in it for the first time since 2014, which I’m sure will delight some folks out there.
Although Sasha Banks didn’t win, her 54:46 showed exactly why she’s unquestionably the most compelling woman in WWE & one of the most magnetic performers in the world. Entering at #1 in the first women’s rumble like Bret Hart in 1988 while decked out in Wonder Woman gear, Sasha was used to cross generations, got the nod of eliminating TRISH STRATUS after that press tour where she called herself “The Greatest Women’s Wrestler Ever,” eliminated Bayley, and flashed signs of the heel she was born to be. I can’t wait to see where The Boss goes next. She’s got the juice and their edges.
Johnny Gargano grabbed the title of “best babyface in wrestling” with both hands Saturday night, as he was 1 half of an instant classic, and what some are calling the greatest match in NXT History against Andrade Cien Almas. Why stop there? This is one of the best matches ever under a WWE banner. Gargano flashed his ability to make you feel sorry for him, yet amazed at the same time. Star-making performance? Understatement. Johnny Wrestling may never even need to actually wear the title because he’s already the champion when it comes to pulling on the audience’s heartstrings. He expressed himself in a desperate, emotional match that was akin to the recent Kyrie Irving/Steph Curry duel last Saturday during Warriors-Celtics which was going on at the exact same time in the NBA. Then Tomasso Ciampa showed up, and we saw Johnny’s future. He’s got to settle something deeper than the championship, and he’s going to have to do It, himself.
Andrade Cien Almas
Naysayers have called him a transitional champion, but Andrade Cien Almas was the second-best performer of the weekend. He won the classic against Johnny Gargano, and he needed that win and performance as proof of his brilliance. Donning his mask during his entrance, Almas walked in a Philadelphia a proud man from Mexico and announced his arrival as the next big Latino star in WWE. While he got off to a rocky start in NXT, due to being programmed opposite of hotter heels who people actually cheered, Andrade’s evolution allowed him to shed the suspenders he showed up in, and claim the NXT Championship with a revamped act, as he and Zelina Vega pulled double duty, going nearly 30 minutes in the Royal Rumble; bookending a breakout weekend. El Idolo has arrived y’all.
The 2018 Royal Rumble was the resurrection of the King Of Strong Style. Going (44:38) Nakamura brought the most joy to a Royal Rumble match and outcome I’ve seen in ages. I joked that his victory was a thank you for laying down for Jinder Mahal multiple times last summer and fall. On the other side of his win, stands AJ Styles, and WWE Championship match fresh out of hardcore fans dreams. Nakamura returned to his New Japan form in this match as he worked dramatic and violent sequences with Cena, and especially Roman Reigns. He’s the first Japanese star (sorry Yokozuna) to ever win the Royal Rumble, and he was the man fans were begging for the entire time. WWE opened their ears and listened to who the crowd was asking their hero to be. Following the match, he immediately challenged AJ Styles, and everything fell into place for an exciting night, and Wrestlemania Season.
Where would you rank the men’s and women’s Royal Rumbles among the best ever?
Did they get the winners right?
Rich Latta is a writer for LordsofPain.net & host of the One Nation Radio Podcast on www.SocialSuplex.com He appears monthly on Chad Matthews’ podcast The Doc Says after Raw PPVs. GFX by @SirMikeFergus Give him a follow on Twitter, @RichLatta32 or drop him a comment below. If you like hip-hop, check out his music here. www.Soundcloud.com/RichLatta Look Him Up On Youtube As Well.
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