The SmarK Rant for the GREATEST Royal Rumble – 04.27.18
Live from the glorious and enlightened kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the beautiful city of Jeddah, brought to you by the Great King.
But no chicks allowed.
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves & Byron Saxton. Renee Young is probably at home making breakfast for her husband, AM I RIGHT FELLAS? Up here!
HHH v. John Cena
This show is so big that HHH is jerking the curtain! Cole notes that this is a “fantasy dream match”, even though they’ve already headlined Wrestlemania against each other and worked together a bunch of other times. One positive about the setting: Stephanie McMahon is guaranteed not to be emasculating any talent. Cena brings out a bunch of kids as part of his entrance, perhaps because he’s still upset about all the kids he won’t be having with Nikki now. The crowd is 100% behind Cena, so I’m assuming HHH will be going heel right away. Which is fine, he’s turning into Ole Anderson before our eyes anyway. Cole notes that they did meet at WM22, where Cena won the WWE title from HHH. Yeah, that’s not a thing that happened. Cena overpowers him and the crowd is 110% Cena tonight, so Vince must be salivating at his chance to finally get Roman over as a babyface. They do a test of strength and HHH loudly asks “Do you wanna stay in it or just keep going?” TURN DOWN THE VOLUME there, Shamrock. Cena indeed escapes from that, so I guess we got our answer, but he misses a charge and HHH slugs him down to take over. Cena rolls him up for two, but HHH clotheslines him for two. HHH whips him around the ring and catches him in a sleeper. Cena makes the comeback, but walks into a clothesline. They slug it out, but HHH puts him down with a facebuster for two. Cena comes back again with the usual and tries the flying guillotine, but HHH sorta catches him with a spinebuster for two. They slug it out again and Cena takes him down into the STF, but HHH fights out and gets the spinebuster for two. HHH slugs on him in the corner, but Cena gets the five knuckle shuffle and AA, but that gets two. Cena pumps up his pecs and tries again, but KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gets two. Another try is reversed by Cena, but HHH switches to a rollup for two, and Cena reverses that into the STF. HHH reverses THAT into the crossface, but Cena powers him up into the AA, then slingshots him into the corner and finishes with another AA at 15:41. This was good and basic and well-worked, but that whole extra finishing sequence after the first AA was completely unneeded for the crowd that was there to cheer babyface Cena. Still, a really good opener that I enjoyed a lot. ***1/2
Cruiserweight title: Cedric Alexander v. Kalisto
Kalisto works a wristlock and flips around a bit, and they trade gymnastics until Kalisto sends him to the floor and follows with a springboard somersault senton. Back in, Kalisto misses a double stomp and Cedric sends him out and follows with a dive. Back in, that gets two. Cedric with a dropkick for two. Cedric goes to a bearhug on the mat and that goes on FOREVER. Kalisto fights out and gets a tornado DDT for two. Cedric catches him with a Michinoku Driver for two and goes up, but Kalisto kicks him down and they slug it out on top. Kalisto brings him down with some kind of Spanish Fly thing that looked botched, and that gets two. They slug it out and Kalisto escapes the Lumbar Check, but a second try finishes at 10:10. Just a 205 Live match, the usual dead 205 Live crowd and all. **1/2
RAW tag team titles: The Bar v. Bray Wyatt & Matt Hardy
Even by wrestling standards, the storyline for this match makes absolutely no sense. Why even put the Bar in the match if they’re going to Smackdown anyway? Matt and Bray do some wacky double-teaming on Cesaro and then on Sheamus, and Matt gets a neckbreaker on Sheamus for two. Sheamus escapes the Twist of Fate and Matt is your broken face in peril. Cesaro with a gut wrench suplex for two. Double team elbow gets two. Matt fights back with a Side Effect and makes the hot tag to Wyatt. I bet Bray is thrilled to have gone from WWE champion to Matt Hardy’s wacky sidekick. The Bar breaks up Sister Abigail while the announcers have a typically inane argument over the naming of the move, but Sheamus goes for the Brogue Kick, only to get distracted by Matt Hardy’s idiocy. Matt and Bray finish him with a double team DDT to win the titles at 8:52. Complete nothing of a match. *
US title: Jeff Hardy v. Jinder Mahal
Jeff takes out Jinder on the floor right away, but he gets distracted by Sunil Singh and Jinder stomps on him to take over. He goes to the chinlock, but Jeff fights out and they clothesline each other. Jinder with the double knees, but Jeff escapes and gets the low dropkick for two. Jinder misses a charge and Jeff goes up, misses the Whisper in the Wind, and then Jinder does a phantom sell anyway and that gets two. PAGING MAFFEW! That was an all-time botch. Jeff with the mule kick in the corner and he goes after Sunil, which allows Jinder to get a rollup for two. Twist of Fate and swanton finish at 6:03 to retain. NOT GOOD. ½*
PRAYER TIME. Let us enjoy this propaganda for the glorious kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where all are welcome. Unless you’re a female wrestler. Or gay. Or you’re from Israel. Or you’ve been to Israel at some point. Byron Saxton and the pre-show panel emphasize how wonderful the experience has been, sounding like an oil baron is standing behind them pointing a gun at them.
Meanwhile, Chris Jericho lets us know how excited he is to be competing in the Greatest Royal Rumble. MOJO RAWLEY! Everyone makes the List for annoying Jericho, including my buddy Ed Koskey! Poor guy.
Smackdown tag team titles: The Bludgeon Brothers v. The Usos
Rowan and Harper now have their first names again for no adequately explored reason, and they work an Uso over in the corner. Rowan with a backbreaker and splash for two. He uses a double noogie of DOOM, which Cole attributes to the “late, great Sgt. Slaughter”. SAY WHAT? Jey escapes this predicament and the Usos double-team Harper and hit double superkicks on him. Jey with the flying splash for two. They try again and Rowan breaks it up, and they finish Jimmy with a double powerbomb at 5:10 to retain. Another nothing match with a dead crowd. *
Intercontinental title: Seth Rollins v. Samoa Joe v. Finn Balor v. The Miz
Hopefully this wakes up the crowd. Finn’s rainbow attire is decidedly missing tonight, because the Balor Club is all about inclusion and standing up for your beliefs, unless your employer gets $25 million from the Saudi royalty to put on a show. I wonder if they’re funding the ABBA reunion as well? Apparently they’re the only ones with enough money to make it happen. Everyone brawls to start and Rollins hits Miz and Balor with dives, running Finn into the Arabic announce table in the process. The ladder gets introduced and Joe gains control of it and runs Seth’s face into it. He tries a piledriver on Finn, but Balor backdrops him onto the ladder and makes the first climb. Miz saves, but Seth tosses him and slugs it out with Finn on top of the ladder. Miz and Joe push them over to save and my Network feed goes wonky, picking up again with Joe doing a Tower of Doom powerbomb on Seth and Finn. Joe grabs the ladder and Miz takes him down and hits the Skull Crushing Finale onto it. He climbs and grabs the title, but Seth stops him and they slug it out on top. Balor pulls him down and grabs the belt as well, but Miz stops him and then pushes the ladder over to keep Rollins from climbing. Short DDT for Rollins and he nails everyone with the ladder, but Balor kicks him down and goes up with the Coup de Grace onto the ladder. Finn climbs and Joe cuts him off, but Finn hits a Pele kick and climbs again. Joe cuts him off again with the Coquina clutch, but Finn rolls out and double-stomps him. Back up the ladder, fighting his way to the top like the Crown Prince fighting intolerance while trying to make a better Saudi Arabia, but Joe cuts him off again and climbs. Finn pushes him off and climbs again, but Rollins springs in out of nowhere and sprints up the ladder to steal the title at 14:54. Ha, hilarious finish, actually! Match was pretty paint-by-numbers as far as ladder matches go, but they had the big finish at least. ***1/2
And now we slow it down again and meet the prospective Saudi wrestlers, which brings out Ariya & Shawn Daivari, waving the Iran flag. That seems…questionable. IRAN #1! USA #1! SAUDI ARABIA, HOCK-PHOOEY! So the prospects do some basic moves on Shawn and chase them off. Man, people from Iran getting BOOED? This is truly Bizarroworld. Also, this was screaming for an Iron Sheik cameo.
WWE Title: AJ Styles v. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura works the arm to start, but gets reversed and runs away. Back in, AJ throws chops and gets a low kick for two. Nakamura works him over in the corner and the crowd gets weirdly distracted by something, perhaps reading Meltzer having a meltdown on Twitter, and AJ makes the comeback with a seated dropkick and neckbreaker for two. The crowd is HAVING FUN and completely ignoring the match, but Nakamura puts AJ down with a knee strike and a front suplex. AJ rolls him up for two and rolls into the calf crusher, but Nakamura escapes and then drops AJ on the top rope, setting up a knee to the gut for two. They slug it out and thankfully the crowd is back into it, as Nakamura misses a pair of kicks, but suckers AJ into swinging and landing into an armbar. AJ fights out of that and puts him down with the Pele kick, but Nakamura distracts the ref and DICK PUNCH OF DEATH for two. “Instead of the King of Strong Style, they should call him the King of Low Blows!” notes Cole. Did he need to have someone write that line for him? They fight to the floor and the Arab team gets chased off and it’s a double countout at 14:27. Man, anyone expecting this show to be anything of note given the buildup is being proven more wrong with each match. ***
Casket Match: Undertaker v. Rusev
Rusev wisely runs away to start, and then stomps away in the corner while the director cuts like a true believer beheading infidels. Taker comes back and throws Rusev gently onto the casket, and they slug it out on the floor, which goes badly for Rusev as expected. Aiden provides some distraction and keeps Rusev from going in the casket, and he takes over in the ring with Generic Foreign Heel Offense. RUSEV CRUSH with the Accolade, but Taker fights out, chokeslams him and throws him into the casket. Aiden gets involved, so he gets tombstoned and the lid is shut on both of them at 9:40. This indeed was a match that happened. *1/2
Universal title, cage match: Brock Lesnar v. Roman Reigns
At least if Brock busts him open this time, there’s lots of white towels at ringside. LIKE YOU’RE ANY BETTER THAN ME. Brock quickly takes him to suplex city and hits an F5. Another one, but Roman escapes and hits a pair of superman punches. He charges and quickly climbs off Brock’s shoulders, but gets caught on the way out and dragged down. And then Brock climbs, but Roman powerbombs him. He runs Brock into the cage and follows with the TRIFECTA OF SPEARS, not once, not twice, but thrice, but it only gets two. Paul slams the door on his head, however, and Brock gets another F5 for two. The gloves are off, and then Brock just gets a chair anyway, but Roman spears him for two. He unleashes SAMOAN FURY with the chair on Brock and then spears him through the cage, so Brock hits the floor first and retains the title at 8:56. They just keep Lugering this poor bastard. ENOUGH ALREADY with this feud, I’m done with it. Cop-out finish, decent house show match. Easily better than Wrestlemania, at least. **1/2 Maybe they can do another rematch in an Iron Man stip so Brock can do 98 F5s and Roman can do 112 spears.
THE GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE
Daniel Bryan draws #1, Dolph Ziggler is #2. They fight on the ropes and Sin Cara is #3. He actually gets some offense on both guys, but Dolph superkicks him and clotheslines him out at 2:41. Curtis Axel is #4 and he beats on Dolph in the corner. Mark Henry is #5 as the intervals get shorter, and he immediately puts Axel on the apron and out at 5:26. Dolph and Daniel team up on Henry as Mike Kanellis is #6. Henry clotheslines him out immediately at 6:26. Hiroki Sumi is #7, a guy doing a sumo gimmick. And he gets tossed out by Henry as well at 8:35. And then Bryan and Ziggler toss him out at 8:46. This is truly the greatest Royal Rumble. That I’ve seen today. Viktor is #8 and he laughably runs wild on Bryan and Ziggler, but Bryan grabs his arm and pulls him out to the floor like a complete geek at 10:00. So we’re back to Bryan and Ziggler, and Kofi Kingston is #9. He runs wild for 10 seconds and gets nowhere and Tony Nese is #10. Really, no Dillinger? Nese gets his shit in for 15 seconds and then Dash Wilder is #11. By the end they’re just gonna be coming out every 2 seconds, I think.
Geek-a-mania continues with Hornswoggle at #12, as he pulls Dash out at 14:16. Then he turns on Kofi and gives him a samoan drop and Tadpole Splash attempt, but Dolph superkicks him down and out at 15:19. Primo Colon is #13, and Xavier Woods is #14. Primo backdrops Kofi onto the apron, but he lands on Xavier’s back and hangs on. I guess that counts as his wacky elimination tease this year. The New Day heads up and Kofi dives onto everyone back into the ring, which prompts Tony Nese to dance with them and then get thrown out at 18:58. Bo Dallas is #15, and that’s a thing that happens. Kurt Angle is #16 and he suplexes everyone and tosses Bo at 20:59, then Primo at 21:00, but walks into a superkick from Dolph. But then he suplexes Dolph out at 21:23 to get revenge. Scott Dawson is #17. Yep.
Goldust is #18 and he tries to get Bryan off the apron, but Daniel pulls himself in. Konnor is #19 to recharge the star power as Woods tries to take Angle down with a double-leg takedown. Graves just buries him for that one. Elias is #20, and he immediately dumps Konnor and the New Day at 27:00. Luke Gallows is #21 as these intervals are just ridiculously all over the place. Finally we get Bryan v. Angle, as Kurt counters the Yes Kicks into the anklelock and follows with an Angle Slam, but Elias throws out Angle at 28:43. Rhyno is #22, let’s move on. Drew Gulak is #23. Tucker Knight is #24 out of NXT, and he powers Gulak out at 32:13. Bobby Roode is #25 and he runs wild with a blockbuster on Elias and dropkicks Goldust out at 33:34. He slingshots Dawson out at 34:00. Fandango is #26 as everyone teams up on Elias, to no avail. Chad Gable is #27, moving on. Rey Mysterio is #28 to wake up the crowd a bit, and he takes Gallows to the floor with a rana at 37:05. Fandango cuts off a 619, so Rey starts hitting people and we move on. Mojo Rawley is #29 and he clotheslines Fandango out at 38:10. Tyler Breeze is #30, hoping to avenge his partner, but Mojo throws him out at 39:39.
Big E is #31 and he stops to present his pancakes at Tucker Knight before hitting the Big Ending and tossing him at 41:47. Karl Anderson is #32 and manages to hit Roode with a spinebuster. Apollo Cruz is #33 and he gets to run wild and toss Gable at 43:50. Roderick Strong is #34 for another random entrant and he runs wild with backbreakers and knees Rhyno out at 45:40. Randy Orton is #35 to finally give us some star power, and he hits Apollo with an RKO and tosses Anderson at 46:50. Mojo go at 46:50. Cruz cruises over the top at 47:05. Heath Slater is #36, Babatunde from NXT is #37, and Baron Corbin is #38 and he runs wild, and I think Roode gets tossed somewhere in there. But this all gets overshadowed by Titus O’Neil at #39, as he tries to slide into the ring and trips, landing under the apron as the announcers laugh their ass off. That poor guy is gonna get buried even harder now. Dan Matha is #40 as we continue the parade of guys I’ve never heard of. The announcers are like “NEVER MIND THE MATCH, LET’S WATCH TITUS AGAIN!” They’re not wrong. Braun Strowman is #41 and he tosses Baba and Matha out at 54:55. Big E is gone at 55:10. Slater gets those hands at 55:23. Ty Dillinger is #42, but Braun keeps throwing guys out. Titus is out at 56:28. Ty lasts about 10 seconds, and he’s out at 56:36. Rey finally hits Bryan with a 619, into an RKO, but Corbin slugs Rey out at 57:14. And then Orton tosses Corbin at 57:21, and Elias throws out Orton at 57:29. Curt Hawkins is #43 and he chooses to run back to the dressing room in terror rather than face Braun, so Strowman chases him down, throws him in, and then puts him out again at 58:51. Elias finally slows Strowman down by sending him into the post.
Bobby Lashley is #44, which I think is his age in fact, and he runs wild on Elias and fucks up a sideslam before tossing him at 61:08. Daniel Bryan reappears and hits both Braun and Lashley with kicks in the corner, and Great Khali is #45. Khali looked pained just walking out there, but he gets to chop people before Lashley and Strowman team up to put him out at 63:30. Everyone is down and Kevin Owens is #46 and he hits everyone with cannonballs, but Bryan puts him on the apron before walking into a pop-up powerbomb. This actually allows Bryan to set the longevity record for the Royal Rumble, although with 60 second intervals and 50 people, there’s a large asterisk. Shane McMahon is #47 and he goes after KO with his terrible punches and flailing DDT. This sets up the showdown with Bryan, but then they decide to team up and double-team Owens with kicks. Shelton Benjamin is #48 and Kevin rallies the troops and directs everyone to go after Strowman. Big Cass is #49 and he beats on Bryan for a bit, nearly blowing out his knee again on the way into the ring. Shane hits Strowman with the coast to coast dropkick, and the last guy is Chris Jericho at #50.
Chris goes after KO with a Lionsault and puts out Shelton with a codebreaker at 72:12. Walls of Jericho on Kevin, but Cass breaks it up with a big boot. Lashley hits him with a terrifying brainbuster. Shane goes up again, but this time Braun slams him off the top, through the announce table. So…is he out? Braun hurls out Lashley at 74:50. Jericho at 74:55. Owens at 75:00. Bryan breaks it up and slugs away on Braun, but Cass boots him down and out at 75:41 in a huge “fuck you” to the fans. Vince gonna Vince. And then Braun thankfully gets the win at 76:54. Just put the damn title on this guy already. The last 15 minutes or so were pretty damn good, but the first hour was a tedious bore, overstuffed with job guys and with rushed intervals. ***
After all the crazy hype and controversy and WhatCulture doing rumor articles where they were like “OMG GUYS WHAT IF HULK HOGAN COMES BACK?” it was…just a show. Basically a house show with house show matches and house show finishes that in no way needed to be FIVE DAMN HOURS LONG. Too long, too much propaganda, thumbs solidly in the middle here.