There are only two times in life that you need a countdown. One is to ring in the new year while drinking yourself silly. The other, and the most important, is to signify the next superstar coming out at a Royal Rumble match. The feeling of expectation and excitement before the claxon sounds is uncontrollable. Will it be someone from the old days? Someone upcoming from NXT? A total game-changing surprise? Thankfully, we got all of these and more in this year’s Royal Rumble. While the PPV didn’t deliver 5 star matches like the NXT Takeover show did the previous night, it did deliver some nostalgic moments and indeed a night of history with the first ever Women’s Rumble. Who were the winners and losers? Who made history? Who is going to Wrestlemania?
AJ STYLES (C) V KAMI FOR THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP
There’s the old saying that if you’re not out last, you want to be first. AJ has been in this position before where he battles first and lays down the benchmark for the rest of the night. His previous Wrestlemania match with Shane-O-Mac still a highlight. No wonder then that they gave him the responsibility again to get the ball rolling and to get the crowd going. Sadly, while it wasn’t the best mach these 3 have been in, you couldn’t pick better superstars to get the crowd buzzing. Telling a story of trying to grind the champion AJ down, Zayn and Owens were tagging back and forth to regain their stamina and have the numbers game work in their favour. They were however up against the Phenomenal One, and Styles, digging deep, eventually picking up the victory and retaining his title. With some fun spots, one particular move involving AJ Styles performing a moonsault and then going right into a reverse DDT was… well, Phenomenal. A hokey finish with Styles pinning the illegal man in Kevin Owens leaves this open again to another fight. Take nothing away from the effort of these guys though to set the tempo.
USOS (C) V BENJAMIN AND GABLE 2 OUT OF 3 FALLS FOR THE TAG TEAM TITLES
This match was… meh. A calm before the storm. I have absolutely loved The Usos the last year or so. Changing their characters has worked wonders for them, and have enjoyed watching the brothers locking teams up in their penitentiary. Same goes for Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable, they work well as a tag team, so it’s a shame the match didn’t bring any real excitement. A botch finish to the match? Gable took too long to come off the top rope to stop the pin, was he supposed to prevent the three count? Or was it a case of he wasn’t paying attention when the cover was made for The Usos to win the match 2-0. On second viewing, it looks like it’s the latter. Either way, the hottest tag team continue to dominate, and rightfully so. Dropping the belts now would stop their momentum, and keeps them looking strong going into Wrestlemania.
30 MAN ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
This is on an hour into the show?!! Something huge must be happening in the main event… ANYWAYS!! This was a fun match. A lot less frustrating than last year’s, plus it also had a winner that everyone can agree on. Plus no riots to start in Philly with the outcome, though it was nail bitingly close at the end. Finn Balor, who kicked off the match, did incredibly well to stay in as long as he did. A testament to the young kid’s talent and heart, it seems the man in the high chair is listening to the WWE Universe. A staggering 57 minutes in the Rumble, Balor Club members should be hopeful he’s rewarded with a big match at Mania. A few surprise entrants too. A fun little moment with the return of The Hurricane, reminding us of how funny, and in truth, pathetic he was. NXT stars also deciding to crash the party with Adam Cole (baby!!) taped up after his brutal encounter the night before, and the NXT champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, who did well after both giving instant classics at Takeover respectively. Of course, we can’t have a Royal Rumble without a heroic fight of survival from Kofi Kingston to keep himself in the game, courtesy of Xavier Woods’s chest and a tray of flapjacks. As fun as this all was, this Rumble needed a huge injection of adrenaline to give this a memorable moment: so in comes The Biggest Little Man at number 27. WELCOME BACK REY MYSTERIO!! Looking incredible since his departure from WWE, zipping around the squared circle, and performing irresistable high-flying moves like it was 2002 again. Seeing the 619 finishing move again? man, awesome! And the jaw dropping moments didn’t stop there. A stand-off with the last 6 competitors gave a spine tingling encounter. On one side was the old veterans of Orton, Cena and Mysterio. Opposite the legends are the three younger generations already making a statement of their own in Balor, Nakamura and Reigns. It could not have been set up more perfectly. Never have I watched a Rumble match and felt the tension cranked up to breaking point. Who was going to be left?!! Orton thrown out first!! Then Mysterio!! Now a fatal 4 way which could main event any PPV in the form of Nakamura, Balor, Reigns and Cena. Even more tension!! All with valid reasons to main event in April. With every spot near the ropes, you couldn’t help but have your hand over your mouth, gasping for breath hoping your pick wasn’t thrown over the top rope. 29 superstars tried and failed to stand tall, but it was the King Of strong Style who prevailed over The Roman Empire. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that since Shinsuke Nakamura’s arrival to the WWE, his matches and feuds have been rather dull. Hopefully this will be the start of the Strong Style era. And with Styles and Nakamura on the horizon for the Championship, it’s looking ever more likely. A fantastic end to a great Rumble.
Side note: I want justice for Tye Dillinger!! The Perfect 10 deserved better!!
JORDAN AND ROLLINS (C) V THE BAR FOR THE TAG TEAM TITLES
Phew!! We needed a comedown and a bathroom break after that epicness, which we certainly got in the form of this dire tag team match. Jason Jordan continuing to play the weasel, hardly being in the match and leaving his partner Seth Rollins for dead. This boded well for the Celtic Warrior Sheamus and the Swiss Superman Cesaro, who reclaimed the tag team titles. Seth, who was in the Rumble match not half an hour ago, did put up a fight, but it was too much for him alone. While Jason Jordan is actually suffering with a back injury in real life, one wonders why this match was still going ahead. However, it plays well for the storyline and could sever ties with Seth Rollins who has been frustrated with Jason Jordan’s behaviour since the unfortunate absence of Dean Ambrose. A heel turn should be coming soon from Jordan, as he’s not going over well in this current state.
STROWMAN V KANE V LESNAR FOR THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP
A clunky and messy affair, this didn’t really deliver from the build up leading into this match, nor the levels of extreme that Philadelphia is accustomed to over the years. All monsters getting in their hard-hitting moves, with tables and chairs playing a big part. One spot in particular came from Strowman putting too much force in his knee strike to the side of Lesnar’s face, resulting in The Beast laying a deadly punch to The Monster Among Men’s head for real, reportedly saying to him “slow the fuck down”. In the current climate though, it’s obvious who the winner is when it comes to matches involving Lesnar. Not going to drop the belt until Mania with his inevitable return to the octagon soon after, but it would be interesting to see him having to chase the title before he leaves. I would like to have seen Strowman win and keep the belt for a month or so. Since his departure from the Wyatt family, he’s gone from strength to strength, leaving bodies and trucks on their sides. To give a big man such a push like this, a championship belt makes him more credible and deadly. A messy F-5 ends this match though, and Brock Lesnar will see (most likely) Roman at Mania.
30 WOMAN ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
There’s another old saying: save the best till last. And boy, was this the best. All the boxes were ticked. Everything you could hope for in a Rumble match was laid before our eyes. Boasting more surprises and shocks than the Men’s Rumble, this was undoubtedly the match of the night. And it went at a breakneck speed too. Acting like they had more to prove, all the Women showed the desire and intensity that got them this match in the first place. With a limited amount of superstars for this match and only 17 confirmed, it was a no brainer that we would have some veterans thrown into the pile. Lita, Torrie Wilson, Molly Holly, Michelle McCool and Kelly Kelly being a number of surprises, not missing a step with their signature moves. Even newly inducted Hall Of Famer Jaqueline reminded us how tough she could be. NXT stars Ember Moon and Kairi Sane also showing up to let the girl’s know they’ll be seeing them very soon on the main roster. Rumble doesn’t come though without some mini stories in between the chaos. A heel turn maybe for Sasha Banks as she threw her best friend over the top rope. The Boss certainly looked like she has her cocky swagger back, lasting longer than any other woman, and starting the match too. Also the delightful return of the Bella Twins, only for Nikki to cast aside her twin Brie. A delicious feud indeed if that continues on to Mania. Keeping with tradition with the number 30 spot, a huge name should emerge after the final claxon. You certainly can’t pick any other name bigger than Trish Stratus. It wouldn’t be a Royal Rumble without the greatest Women’s performer of all time, now would it? Not missing a beat delivering stratusfaction aplenty, reminding every one that’s why she’s a seven time champion. After all the twists and turns, it’s Asuka that claims victory and remains undefeated. My pick for the whole thing, there’s no stopping the Empress of Tomorrow. Now having the opportunity to face a champion of her choice, is there anyone ready for Asuka?…
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Maybe there is!! The rumours surrounding Rowdy Ronda Rousey’s future have now been made clear. In what could be one of the hugest moment in WWE, the baddest woman on the planet sets her sights on Wrestlemania glory. Saying this is now her full-time job, the possibilities and contenders are endless for the ex MMA fighter: Asuka, Charlotte, Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, even her close friend Shayna Baszler. Feel a little sorry for Asuka though, as it stole her thunder winning the match. She slapped away Rousey’s hand though so at least she got some dignity back. But make no mistake, Rousey will look to be the next undefeated superstar.
History has been made.
What did you think of the winners of both Rumble matches?
Who did you predict to win?
How happy are you that Rousey has arrived in the WWE?
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By George Millard