The road to Wrestlemania begins at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, as the WWE presents the annual Royal Rumble. Following the success of last year, there will once again be two Royal Rumble matches, one for the men and another for the women. With the winners of each battle royale being given a shot against any top champion of their division, this is where the road to a Wrestlemania main event begins for everybody entered in the match. The WWE Championship will be on the line as the new Daniel Bryan defends once again against AJ Styles, while on Raw, Brock Lesnar defends the Universal Championship against Finn Balor in a true ‘David vs Goliath’ battle. Both Raw and SmackDown Live‘s Women’s Championships will be defended, as Ronda Rousey faces Sasha Banks and Asuka defends against Becky Lynch, respectively.
+ Brock Lesnar (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) vs Finn Balor (Universal Championship): despite my love for big boi battles, Lesnar works so well against these smaller guys (Styles, Bryan and now Finn). This was fantastic from start to finish, but that finish came so quickly there was almost no time to digest what happened. Nonetheless, this was a good match
+ Asuka (c) vs Becky Lynch (SmackDown Live Women’s Championship): dang, this was good. The crowd was hot for everything Becky did, and both women played to the audience in every way. There was a lot more grappling than you might expect, and this was in many ways a real “wrestling” match, which is not to say that Asuka didn’t bust out those monstrous kicks every now and then. Whatever you want to call it, you have to call it a great match between two of the top women in the company
+ Buddy Murphy (c) vs Kalisto vs Akira Tozawa vs Hideo Itami (Cruiserweight Championship): I don’t know of a better match in recent history that got such a small reaction from the crowd. Eventually the audience started reacting to the big movies, before a flurry of near finishes finally got the reaction I think all the 205 Live guys have wanted for so long. This was a good match, and once agian showed that the Cruiserweight title needs to be defended later in the show
+ Rusev (c) (w/ Lana) vs Shinsuke Nakamura (United States Championship): it’s hard to believe that only last year Nakamura was winning the Royal Rumble. This match started off a bit slow and “pre-show standard”, but it soon turned into a really good match. The crowd slowly got into things, before the ending had everybody on their feet. I was pleasantly surprised by this
– 30 Man Royal Rumble Match: the winner is all most people really care about, but there was so much wrong with this match, including nearly half a dozen people who were in the match for under 10 seconds. There were a few good sequences, mostly centered around new match-ups, but the final surprise of the match was the stupidest fucking thing you will ever see. I am sorely tempted to put this as a double negative, because I hated it that much
– Daniel Bryan (c) vs AJ Styles (WWE Championship): this was not bad, by any means, but so late in the show, and after the women’s Royal Rumble was not the right place for it to be. AJ Styles is one of the best wrestlers in the world, but he needs to have a spell in the mid-card, because his last few months have been poor. A late match game-changer was fresh and interesting, but it is too soon to judge on whether it was good or not. This was fine for a title match, but as a match between Styles and Bryan, it would have to be considered underwhelming
– 30 Woman Royal Rumble Match: I don’t know what happened between last year and this year, but this was horrendous. This was so sloppy, and even worse was that there were so many eliminations not caught on camera, or during the countdown clock when, clearly, nobody was focusing on the ring. This was incredibly predictable, and the few surprises were treated mostly as an after thought, leaving people that should have had a moment to shine to be mere bodies to hit the floor. This was disappointing
– Ronda Rousey (c) vs Sasha Banks (Raw Women’s Championship): from a technical standpoint, this was fine, but the story behind it is just so preposterous that I couldn’t help but be annoyed. Banks has been a joke for months now, and the idea that Banks would pose a bigger threat to Rousey than someone like Nia Jax or Charlotte is just mind-boggling. If you’re a fan of Sasha you might get more of this than I, because I can’t stand a single thing about her
– The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro) (c) vs The Miz & Shane McMahon (SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships): everything about the idea of Shane wrestling makes me so mad; his punches are horrible, his submissions are horrendous and he looks on the verge of death after just 12 minutes. The Bar deserve better than to have to entertain this stupid story – but I’ll be honest and say at least they have made me care about the Miz, which is something I never thought would happen
– Bobby Roode & Chad Gable vs Rezar & Scott Dawson (/ Drake Maverick): despite looking like a Frankenstein match on paper, this actually made a bit of sense, at least from a booking standpoint. The match was nothing special, though, but it did make me really want to see Rezar get more of a spotlight
> The WWE seems incapable of delivering on personal grudges; Rollins/Ambrose was just a regular match at TLC, and Styles/Joe was a sloppy grapple match. Styles/Bryan, here, was more of the same, and it has just proven my point
Should you watch this event: This was a long show, almost to the point where the WWE needs to do a two-night Rumble show, so each Rumble match can be the headline of a show in itself. Taking into account all the positives and negatives above, this was one of the worst “big match” shows in recent wrestling history. To say I hated the men’s Royal Rumble would be an understatement, and Bryan/Styles was such a disappointment. This show was all about the results, so do yourself a favour and just read the names online.