The SmarK Rant for WWE Royal Rumble 2018 – 01.28.18
Live from Philly
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves, Tom Phillips, and special guest Stephanie McMahon!
Mojo Rawley, huh? That’s the sound of 15,000 people groaning in unison.
Man, even the opening video package for this show is boring. It’s seriously been one of the laziest builds for a major show I can remember. Trying to follow one of the greatest matches in history the night before probably isn’t gonna help, either.
WWE title: AJ Styles v. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Byron is offended that Zayn & Owens want to be champion not to honor the legacy of the championship, but to “further their narrative”. WHO TALKS LIKE THIS?!? Zayn & Owens do some tags to mess with AJ right away and stall. Finally after 2:00 of that, AJ takes Owens down with a headscissors, so he runs away and tags Zayn back in again. AJ with the dropkick while Saxton bickers with Graves, but Team Yep double-teams AJ in the corner and stomps him down. Sami backdrops AJ for two and KO whips him into the corner for two. Zayn with a chinlock while we get the Twitter feed on the screen, where a bunch of people say “Let’s get ready to rumble!” and show how witty they are. I mean, hey, if you want to put that on your Twitter, more power to you. But do we really need that as a featured Tweet? Owens with an electric chair into a faceplant for two and we go to Chinlock City, but the cannonball misses. Back to Zayn, but he goes up and AJ brings him down with a top rope rana. Back to Owens, but AJ hits him with a Pele kick, and then gets the moonsault DDT on Sami. Owens tries a monkey flip on AJ, but AJ turns it into a short rana on Sami in mid-air in a cool move, then rolls KO into the calf crusher until Sami makes the save. AJ puts him down with the strike combo, then sends KO into the post, but walks into the Blue Thunder bomb from Sami. That gets two. Sami beats on him in the corner, but AJ fights back with the flying forearm for two. They slug it out with forearms and AJ dumps Sami, then rolls up Owens to reverse the powerbomb and gets the pin to retain at 15:57. Kinda boring, but a good match for the most part thanks to AJ. ***
Meanwhile, Zayn & Owens bitch at Shane about Owens not actually being the legal man in the match. He doesn’t seem particularly sympathetic.
Smackdown tag team titles: The Usos v. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable
Gable tries the german suplex on Jey, but Jimmy comes in for a double superkick attempt and Gable escapes to the floor. Back in, Jimmy chops him in the corner, but Gable clips the knee and Benjamin wraps it around the post. The challengers go to work on the knee and the crowd seems unsure of who they’re cheering for. I can’t really figure it out, either. Gable with a legwhip for two and they put Jimmy down with a double kneelift, but Jimmy comes back with an enzuigiri and makes a hot (ish) tag to Jey. Jey clears the ring and hits Shelton with a dive, then heads to the other side of the ring and dives onto Gable as well. Back in, crossbody gets two. Jey misses the splash and Gable rolls him up for two. Tiger suplex gets two. Shelton powerbombs Jey into Jimmy and hits the Paydirt on Jey for two. The Usos are dumped and Gable hits them both with a moonsault to the floor. Back in, they go after the wrong Uso and the ref is very concerned who is legal, which allows Jey to hit the flying splash on Gable for two. The Usos both go up, but they get distracted and Gable tries the german suplex, only to be superkicked and pinned at 12:08 to give the Usos the first fall.
Second fall and Shelton sends Jey into the post and they beat on Jimmy outside and give him the double team powerbomb on the floor. Back in, Gable hits Jey with a rolling kick, but Jey gets a rollup for the pin on Shelton at 14:00 to retain in straight falls. What? Zero heat for this entire match and that was a stupid finish. The 2/3 falls stip was also a complete waste of time. **
Are they seriously closing with the women’s Rumble? Rusev Day is #1, and Philly LOVES him. Finn Balor is #2 and he’ll probably get a long run tonight. Rusev wisely tries to push Finn out of the ring immediately, and gets him to the apron before Finn fights back in. What a great strategy! Don’t mess around, just try to wrestle the dude out of the ring. That’s why Rusev has his own day. Finn comes back with a dropkick and Rhyno is #3 at 1:37. He hits Rusev and Balor with suplexes while the crowd chants for WWE’s long-dead ECW brand, which ran from 2006-2011. Baron Corbin is #4 at 3:07 and he runs wild on everyone. Rhyno tries to Goar him, but walks into the Deep Six and he’s out at 4:07. Finn dumps Corbin at 4:15 and good riddance there. Corbin is butt-hurt over this and takes out both Balor and Rusev on the floor before getting dragged away by the agents. Heath Slater is #5 at 5:00, but Corbin kills him on the way to the ring and the crowd doesn’t like that. He’s got kids! So everyone is laying around selling for the entire 90 seconds, and Elias is #6 at 6:30. He boots poor Heath on the way to the ring and we get another 90 second interval with literally nothing happening, as Elias sings a song until Andrade Cien Almas is #7 at 8:55, representing NXT. It would be kind of a cool tradition if the NXT champion gets an automatic spot in the Rumble the next night. He goes wild on Elias and hits the double knees, but Elias puts him down with a clothesline. Bray Wyatt is #8 at 10:30 as Michael Cole accidentally says “Broken” Matt Hardy. Poor Slater gets beat up again and Bray gets into a slugfest with Balor and puts everyone down as Big E is #9 at 12:30. Is there an actual match happening at some point?
Everyone pairs off in the corners and Tye Dillinger is #10 for the second year in a row at 14:30, but Owens and Zayn beat him up backstage and Sami steals his spot. Sheamus is #11 at 16:07 and finally Slater gets put into the ring, and immediately throws out Sheamus at 16:15! And then Bray kills Slater and tosses him at 16:59. Xavier Woods is #12 at 18:00 and the New Day teams up on some midcarders and everyone punches each other. Apollo Crews is #13 as the parade of geeks continues and there’s nothing going on. Shinsuke Nakamura is #14 to finally give us some star power at 21:00 and the crowd finishes his theme song for him. Nakamura kicks a bunch of people down and boots Sami out at 22:09. Cesaro is #15 at 22:30 and Rusev tries to toss him, but Cesaro hangs on and they slug it out. Kofi Kingston is #16 at 24:00 as the bodies pile up and Crews tries to slam Cesaro out of the ring, but he hangs onto the ropes and forearms Apollo out at 24:46. Jinder Mahal is #17 at 25:30 and Lawler is picking Jinder as the winner. And Jinder immediately dumps Xavier at 26:18, so that’s a solid start for him. He also boots Big E out at 26:34. Seth Rollins is #18 at 27:00, and he throws out Cesaro at 27:30. Jinder puts out Kofi, but he lands on Xavier and Big E puts a plate of pancakes under his foot, so he’s still legal. So Kofi has to hop around until the New Day can launch him back in over Jinder, and he kicks out Jinder at 29:04 to get revenge for his team. Almas lays out Kofi with the DDT and puts him out at 29:30. Matt Hardy is #19 at 29:55 and he has his showdown with Bray, which would be interesting if Wyatt hadn’t squashed him on RAW 25. Wyatt and Matt team up to get rid of Rusev at 30:30 to a huge heel reaction, and then they eliminate each other at 31:00.
John Cena is #20 and everyone gangs up on him immediately, but then Cena dumps Elias at 32:30. The Hurricane is #21 at 33:00 for our surprise of the match and he’s out thanks to Cena at 33:35. Well that was a waste of a spot. Aiden English is #22 for more filler at 34:30, and ADAM COLE BAY-BAY is #23 for a nice shock (to the system) and Balor puts English out with a kick in the corner at 36:45. Randy Orton is #24 at 37:20 and hits Almas with the RKO and tosses him at 38:04. Good showing for Cien. Titus is #25 at 38:50 in another wasted spot and he does nothing. The Miz is #26 at 40:20. He actually gets to run wild with DDTs on some guys and the Skull Crushing Finale on Cena. Rollins hits him with a superkick, but can’t put him out. REY MYSTERIO is #27! Now that’s a surprise entrant! He puts out Cole with a headscissors at 42:44 and hits the 619 on Miz, but Roman Reigns is #28 to harsh the crowd’s buzz at 43:50. Roman beats on everyone and takes out his issues on Miz with clotheslines in the corner, then tosses Titus at 44:54. Miz’s goofs save him from getting tossed, but Rollins hits Miz with the curb stomp and the Shield reunites to powerbomb Miz out at 45:43. And then Roman tosses out Seth at 45:49. Just business. Goldust is #29 with another loser spot but at least it’s mostly big stars left otherwise. And finally, Dolph Ziggler returns at #30 in a huge anti-climax. Sorry internet nerds, no Daniel Bryan. Dolph escapes an AA from Cena, but can’t put him out. He superkicks Goldust out at 48:56. Zig Zag on Nakamura, but Balor forearms him out of the ring at 49:41. Wow, what a “comeback” for Dolph.
So we pair off with Balor/Nakamura/Reigns on one side, and Cena/Orton/Rey on the other as they pair off the generations and Rey hits a 619 on Reigns. RKO for Nakamura, but Reigns hits the superman punch and tosses Orton at 51:18. Rey hits Reigns and Cena with a double 619, but Balor tosses Rey at 51:30.
Final Four: Roman Reigns, John Cena, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor
Realistically it was going to be one of these four winning, so this is no big surprise. So we get a very long staredown and everyone attacks and the crowd tells Reigns and Cena that they both suck. Balor and Nakamura lay them out and face off as the internet explodes. Nakamura puts him on the apron with a knee, but Balor fights back in and rolls through into a low dropkick. And then the Suck Brothers take them out again, but Reigns hits Cena with a Samoan drop. Cena comes back with the five knuckle shuffle, but walks into the Sling Blade from Balor as he runs wild on everyone. Nakamura dropkicks him , but Balor catches him with a double stomp, only for Cena to throw him out at 57:40 and rob him of the longevity record. Cena has Pointed to Sign about 16 times already. Crowd does not appreciate that one. Reigns and Cena double-team Nakamura, but Cena turns on him again and gets the shuffle this time, only to have Reigns put him down with a superman punch. Cena blocks the spear with the AA, but Nakamura suplexes him onto the apron and puts him out with the Kinshasa at 60:36. So Nak tells Reigns to bring it on and they slug it out, only to have Roman put him down with a superman punch. Reigns sends him to the apron, but Nakamura hooks him in the triangle in the corner, which Roman escapes via powerbomb. Roman tries the spear, but Nakamura blocks it with a kick and hits a knee off the middle rope, setting up the Kinshasa, but Roman counters that with the spear. Roman tries to power him out, but Nakamura hits the Kinshasa and tosses him out to win at 65:30. Holy cow, we’re getting Nakamura v. Styles at Wrestlemania after all.
So overall, it felt like they really rushed through the early parts of the Rumble and really nothing happened of note until #20 or so. Going 15 minutes after everyone was in then felt it was stretched out way too long, but I’d call it pretty good overall and least it wasn’t a giant troll job like that last few have been. I’ll take what I can get. ***
Meanwhile, the Smackdown managers gloat about their side winning the Rumble.
Meanwhile, we got the first ever KFC Colonel Rumble last night, with surprise Colonel Ric Flair reenacting Rumble 92 to win the title.
RAW tag team titles: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan v. Cesaro & Sheamus
I feel like we’ve had three pre-show matches, two title matches on the main show, and a full hour-long Royal Rumble, and that’s enough. But there’s still two more title matches and another Rumble to come and I’ve kind of had enough of the show tonight. And apparently so has the crowd. Rollins quickly takes Cesaro down with a headscissors, and pounds away on Sheamus, but Jordan accidentally distracts the ref and the Bar double-teams Rollins in their corner. Seth fights them off and goes for the tag, but Cesaro takes out Jordan and sends him into the post. They work over Seth some more and Sheamus gets a top rope clothesline for two as the crowd is super dead for this. Cesaro with a chinlock while the doctors check on Jordan. Booker and Graves are bored and Graves amuses himself by correcting Booker’s ridiculous analogies (“He’s stranded without a partner out there, like on Gilligan’s Island.” “There were a bunch of people on Gilligan’s Island, Book.”) and Sheamus gets a backbreaker for two as everyone dozes and/or buys Roman Reigns t-shirts or whatever. Rollins finally fights out of the corner while Jordan continues selling the post shot after 5:00 on the floor already, so Seth makes his own comeback. Blockbuster on Cesaro and Falcon Arrow gets two. They fight to the top and Rollins manages to hit them both with a frog splash, and Jordan tags himself in while selling a head injury. So he tags himself back out and walks away, allowing Sheamus to hit the Brogue Kick. White Noise finishes and gives the tag titles back to the Bar at 12:50. The crowd was scary dead, completely silent for the entire boring match. *
Universal title: Brock Lesnar v. Kane v. Braun Strowman
Hopefully Heyman booked this one. Braun bowls everyone over to start and punches a chair out of Brock’s hand, then tosses him and then Kane. To the floor, and Braun continues beating people up and throws some tables into the ring. Braun does some interior decoration in the ring and chokeslams Kane for two. Brock saves and throws suplexes on Braun, but Braun powerslams him through a table for two. Kane kind of shoves Braun through a table in a lame spot and chokeslams him for two. Brock with the F5 on Kane for two. Braun suplexes Brock out of the ring and throws him around on the floor, but Brock comes back with an F5 on Braun through the German table. He dumps another table on top of Braun for good measure, but Kane pops up and Brock gives him an F5 through the Spanish table. I think they were expecting this to get over huge but it all just kind of came off clumsy and dull. Braun no-sells everything and comes back in the ring with a powerslam on Brock, but he declines to pin Brock and Kane comes back in with a chair to save. And then it’s F5 for Kane and thankfully this disaster is over at 10:55. Gee, Brock pins Kane to retain, no one called that at all. Another one where the crowd was completely dead for it. DUD
Women’s Royal Rumble:
Since we’re closing with this, I guess that means Ronda Rousey wasn’t in Columbia after all. The announcers have to put over what a “trailblazer” that Stephanie is, and how she won’t tell you herself because she’s so humble. Sasha Banks is #1 and Becky Lynch is #2. Sasha quickly tries the backstabber and Becky blocks it and goes after the arm, which is kind of pointless in this match. Sarah Logan is #3 at 1:38 and Cole mentions how the Riott Squad have been “putting the locker room on notice”. Probably building momentum as well. Logan runs wild and stomps Becky in the corner. Mandy Rose is #4 at 3:30 as we hear “Women’s Evolution” 100 times in the first 5 minutes. Mandy tries to get Sasha out while Graves is pretty much cyber-stalking her live on TV. Lita is #5 at 5:00 as our first surprise and she goes after Becky and Sasha until Becky cuts her off. They have a weird conversation about Lita’s forearm tattoo that insinuates that Wendi Richter is dead, as Mandy gets thrown out by Lita at 7:10. Kairi Sane is #6 at 7:40 and she hits Lita with the corner elbow and goes up with the flying elbow on Sasha and then another one on Becky. Tamina is #7 at 9:20 and she throws superkicks until walking into a DDT from Lita. Lita gets a Twist of Fate on Sasha and Becky and goes up with a moonsault onto both of them, then ducks Tamina to put her out at 10:55. Becky throws out Lita at 10:56 to end her comeback. She looked better than most of the women on the roster. Dana Brooke is #8 at 11:15 and she gets to run wild for some reason, tossing Kairi at 12:22. But at least she’s fun to watch, according to Cole. Torrie Wilson is #9 at 12:50, looking nothing like herself. Logan cuts her off and works her over in the corner and Corey rightly questions why Sasha is stopping eliminations. Torrie dropkicks Dana out at 14:22, thankfully.
Sonya DeVille is #10 and she throws knees on everyone and boots Torrie at 15:46. Liv Morgan is #11, looking like a cheap knockoff of Alexa Bliss. Morgan and Logan team up on Sasha, but can’t get her out. Molly Holly is #12, still looking great. She tosses Logan at 18:02 and hits Sasha with the Molly Go Round, but DeVille cuts her off. Lana is #13, earning babyface heat from Rusev by proxy. I guess Molly was thrown out somewhere along the way but we never saw it. So Lana puts her hair up and squares up with Sonya, and Michelle McCool is #14 at 20:30. She powers Sonya and Liv out at 21:20, but Molly returns from the floor, and McCool dumps her as well at 21:40. And she tosses Lana out at 21:55. Ruby Riott is #15 as we’re halfway through and flying through this thing very pleasantly. No deadwood thus far, great surprises, fun spots. Ruby fights off Becky, and Vickie Guerrero is #16. She cuts a promo on the four left in the ring, and gets thrown out at 25:01 before she can complete her comeback. Oh well. Carmella is #17 at 25:30, and Vickie hits her with the briefcase on the way out. Natalya is #18 at 26:47 as Carmella finally gets into the ring. Kelly Kelly is #19 at 28:13 and Nattie tries to throw her out immediately, but she hangs on. Nattie tosses Michelle McCool at 29:02, and Naomi is #20 at 29:30.
Everyone gets She Calls It The Rear View, but Becky hits her with a missile dropkick and suplexes everyone. Ruby tosses her out at 30:55, however. Jacqueline is #21 at 31:10, but she can’t get Kelly out. Nia Jax is #22 at 32:40 and now it’s time to clear the deadwood. Jackie is out at 33:03. Kelly is gone at 33:05. Ruby goes flying out via press slam at 33:40. Naomi tries a rana on her, so Nia dumps her to the apron and onto the pile of girls on the floor. So Naomi is on the railing and still alive. Ember Moon is #23 at 34:40, still selling the arm thankfully. She goes flying at Nia and tries to power her out in the corner, but Jax tosses her right on the bad arm while Naomi walks the railing and then uses Maria Menounos’ chair to make it back into the ring again. She dives at Nia and gets dumped at 36:20, sadly. Beth Phoenix is #24 and they do a fun slugfest, with Beth unable to lift Nia out of the ring. So Natalya joins in and they shoulderblock Nia through the ropes, have a reunion, and then turn on each other. Nattie tosses Beth at 38:59. Asuka is #25 at 39:19 and Carmella runs away screaming in a funny bit. Asuka sees Ember Moon’s arm injury and laughs at her, but Ember hits the Eclipse, and then ends up on the apron and gets tossed by Asuka at 40:55. Mickie James is #26 and she gets to run wild for a bit. Nikki Bella is #27 at 42:37, but she gets distracted by Charlotte and Carmella gives her the broncobuster after mocking Cena. Sadly she stupidly tries a headscissors and gets dumped at 44:18. Brie Bella is #28 and everyone gets to do the Daniel Bryan chants while she gets her shit in. The Bellas team up and Bayley is #29 at 45:58. She necks both of the Bellas on the way in and hits everyone with suplexes and everyone in the crowd thinks Ronda is next. But no, Trish Stratus is #30 at 47:30. Double bulldog for the Bellas and corner headscissors for Bayley. Trish and Mickie have their showdown and the crowd is into it. They slug it out and Mickie blocks the headscissors, but Trish kicks her out at 49:30. Nia Jax returns from the dead and lays out Trish, but everyone gangs up on Nia and she has to fight them all off. Asuka and Trish team up with high kicks on Nia and the Bellas team up to pull Nia out at 50:33. Sasha turns on Bayley and dumps her at 50:56. Nattie goes after Trish with a Sharpshooter, but Trish powers out and kicks her to the floor at 52:20. Sasha gives Trish some ATTITUDE, so Trish tries the bulldog and Sasha dumps Trish at 52:54.
Final Four: Sasha Banks, Asuka, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella
Sasha and Asuka have a moment and then decide to go after the Bellas, but then Sasha turns on Asuka anyway and the three of them go after the biggest threat. Sasha beats on Asuka in the corner, but tries the double knees and gets bumped by the Bellas at 54:50. So that leaves Asuka alone with the Bellas, but she fights them off and throws kicks. She tries to throw out Brie, but can’t get her to the floor, and Nikki saves with the TKO. And then Nikki turns on her sister and she’s gone at 56:32. You’d think Brie would have learned by now. Asuka hits Nikki with a missile dropkick, but Nikki comes back with a springboard kick. Nikki dumps her to the apron, but then charges and gets kicked in the face by Asuka, then choked down and kicked out at 58:58 to give us two Japanese winners in the same night. This one did everything that the men’s Rumble was trying to do, and did it far better. It was better paced, with no deadwood, lots of big surprises, and it was a lot of fun. ****1/4
And then before Asuka can choose, Ronda Rousey shows up and points to the sign and shakes Steph’s hand, in an odd way to introduce her.
The entire undercard was completely worthless, but the men’s Rumble was decent and the women’s Rumble was excellent, plus the big debut of Ronda at the end to set up a Wrestlemania program with Stephanie (well, at least Ronda/Angle v. Stephanie/HHH is a better way to go than HHH v. Angle). I’d say make sure to check out the Rumbles and fast forward through the rest.