This Week in Wrestling

ThisWeekInWrestling

 Royal Rumble

Winners: Lince Dorado, Kalisto, and Gran Metalik, The Revival, Bobby Roode, AJ Styles, The Usos, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sheamus and Cesaro, Brock Lesnar, and Asuka.

The pre-show gets a whole bunch of matches for this one, taking the total event time up to four hours,,,which is just crazy, to be honest. Continuing to sell the introduction of a Trios Tag Team Championship, Kalisto teams up with Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik to form quite the promising lucha trio taking on, and out, TJP, jack Gallagher, and Drew Gulak. Some great spots here, like the three luchas hitting triple top-rope Moonsaults on their opponents and Gallagher completely failing a Body Splash and landing right on his belly. Honestly, this was a pretty fast-paced and exciting match but, again, what is the point of all these three-way cruiserweight matches when nothing ever comes from it?

Following on from last week’s Raw, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson took on the Revival in what was, thankfully, a far more competitive match. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder work a very old school-inspired, methodical style that really sets them apart not just from other wrestlers but also from other tag teams, targeting Anderson’s knee throughout and really sticking out through brains and talent. Then end came when Dash hit a Chop Block on the back of Anderson’s previously-damaged knee and pinned him. Honestly, I have to say that finish was kind of crap; who gets pinned after a Chop Block, seriously? It’s like being pinned after a simple elbow strike. As much as I hate to see the Club losing, the Revival desperately needed this win after their treatment on Raw.

A welcome addition to the card, Bobby Roode defended the United States Championship in the Open Challenge against Mojo Rawley. Interesting that this match got on the card as they apparently bumped the United States Championship finals to SmackDown! Live and I can’t imagine that they couldn’t have just put it here instead. Good to see Mojo getting some exposure, given his recent hell turn, but he didn’t exactly shine in this match. The finish came when Roode landed a really sloppy-looking Glorious DDT; hopefully he can move on to more inspiring challengers. Mojo just reminds me of Apollo Crews at this point in that he’s just expected to be taken seriously because of his build, strength, and charisma when that latter attribute is seriously lacking.

The pay-per-view officially starts with the WWE Championship match. Gotta say I don’t think I’ll ever agree with putting one of the company’s top singles belts on the line as the opening match; it’s like winning the Royal Rumble and opening at WrestleMania instead of main eventing the show. Anyway, this went pretty much as you’d expect; Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn kept tagging in and out and using the numbers game to their advantage. In a nice change of pace, neither Shane McMahon or Daniel Bryan got involved at any point so there were not external shenanigans to worry about and it finally got to be about AJ defending the belt. However, it’s an AJ Styles championship match involved Kevin Owens so, of course, when AJ had Sami in a precarious position, Sami just missed tagging out but Owens came in and was treated as the legal man anyway. He went for the Pop-Up Powerbomb but AJ rolled him up and successfully defended the championship in what was, honestly, a pretty decent match except for that weird tag moment. Kevin and Sami predictably cried about it to Shane backstage afterwards, only for him to blow them off.

Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin tried to carry their momentum over towards a championship win against the Usos and the entire first half of the match was a tension-filled, mounting race to capture that first fall. So much so that, once the Usos landed the Double Superkick on Gable for the first fall, the second one came comparatively soon after; Gable and Benjamin took out Jimmy with the Doomsday Powerbomb and looked to have it one, only for Jey to roll up Gable out of nowhere and retain the belts. The double turn didn’t seem to happen and Gable and Benjamin failed to win the belts which, on top of losing pretty decisively to the Usos before, kind of seems to have taken the wind out of their sails and I have to ask what is next for the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions.

As much as I disagree with a World Championship as the opening match, sticking the men’s Royal Rumble match in the middle of the show is even stranger. I guess it makes sense, though; it’s more “historic” for the women’s Royal Rumble to close the show and it’d be draining to do them both back to back, I guess. So Rusev and Finn Balor are number one and two and start laying in to each other as Rhyno comes out (to a big reaction, fitting for the Philadelphia crowd), quickly followed by Baron Corbin. Corbin tossed Rhyno but then got eliminated by Balor; Corbin snapped and pulled Balor under the ropes and slammed him into the barricade, then hit the End of Days on Rusev, and took out Heath Slater with a Clothesline on his way out.

With everyone down, Elias came out, singing a song (and booting Slater in the head on his way); the NXT Champion, Andrade Cien Almas, came out next (also attaching Slater on his way down), followed by Bray Wyatt…who also attacked Slater! Everyone went at each other in the ring, which started to fill up as Big E came out (he force-fed Slater some pancakes!). Tye Dillinger was supposed to be next but Owens and Zayn beat him up and Zayn stole his spot before Sheamus came out. Sheamus chucked Slater in the ring and then got immediately eliminated by Slater, who was then tossed by Wyatt. Great little side-story there for Slater.

Xavier Woods joined the fray, quickly followed by Apollo Crews, and Shinsuke Nakamura and the ring really started to burst at the seams here. Nakamura tosses knee strikes around and gets rid of Zayn before Cesaro comes out and throws uppercuts at everyone while they’re fatigued around the ring. Kofi Kingston joined the fight, meaning all three members of the New Day were in the ring at the same time. Cesaro eliminated Apollo before Jinder Mahal came out (Jerry “The King” Lawler picks Mahal to win, which was hilarious initially greeted with scepticism); Mahal gets rid of Woods and Big E but Seth Rollins comes out next, taking down Wyatt before eliminating Cesaro (the crowd did not like that!). Mahal threw Kofi out but one of his feet landed on Xavier, so Big E and Xavier helped keep him alive before launching him back up into the ring in a great spot (all for nothing, though, as Almas took him out shortly after).

Matt Hardy came out next and shared a laugh with Wyatt before they teamed up to take out Rusev (the crowd definitely did not like that; they love a bit of Rusev Day!) and then they took each other out in a brawl. I guess that means we still haven’t seen the last of their feud. John Cena came out next and was instantly set upon by everyone in a great spot; Cena fought back and then quickly eliminated the Hurricane once he entered the ring (Hurricane posed all around the ringside area on his way back to a great pop). Aiden English came out next…to virtual silence…followed by Adam Cole.

Balor got rid of Aiden, then Randy Orton came out; Almas dived for him right into an RKO! and got eliminated. Titus O’Neil was next, getting into it with Cena, before Cena and Orton went at it. The Miz ran the ring and attacked Cena and Rollins before Rey Mysterio came out, eliminating Cole, and going through his trademarks spots. Roman Reigns was next, hitting everyone so that he could target the Miz; he tosses Titus but the Miz-tourage saved Miz from being eliminated. Reigns took them out and then teamed up with Rollins to powerbomb Miz out of the Rumble. Reigns then chucked Rollins out, like a dick, before Goldust came out and, finally, Dolph Ziggler; both get eliminated shortly afterwards.

There’s a cool moment where Reigns, Nakamura, and Balor stand opposite Cena, Orton, and Mysterio, like a new guard vs. old guard stare down, then all six just go at it. Reigns tosses Orton, Balor tosses Rey, making the final four the scary prospect of either Reigns or Cena or the welcome outcome of either Balor or Nakamura. Cena and Reigns incite the crowd by working together, before Balor and Nakamura even the odds with their signature offense. Cena pisses off everyone by throwing out Balor, who clocked in at a massively-impressive fifty-seven minutes, but Nakamura soon gets rid of Cena and end sup one-on-one with Reigns. Reigns throws everything he can and even looked to have the match one but, at the last minute, Nakamura shocked the world by kicking Reigns out of the ring and winning the Royal Rumble! Fantastically unexpected outcome there, and a really good, energetic Rumble match for the first time in, like, years, it seems.

The crowd is kind of winded after all that, which is the risk of doing two Rumble matches in one night, so the following matches suffered a bit. Rollins, Cesaro, and Sheamus pulled double duty for the Raw Tag Team Championship match, which was going pretty well despite the dead crowd until Jordan tags himself out to sell a head injury. Rollins was pissed and tried to carry the remainder of the match but fell to the Brogue Kick and lost the belts to Cesaro and Sheamus.

Following this, the human demolition derby came next, with Kane, Brock Lesnar, and Braun Strowman all getting right into the thick of it. Strowman got a little over excited and hit a stiff-looking knee into Lesnar’s face so Lesnar, pissed, leapt up and walloped him right in the head! Kane slowed things down a bit, taking things to the outside for some barricade action. After Powerslamming Lesnar through a table in the ring, Lesnar F5’s Strowman through an announce table and then buries him under another! He lands a weak-F5 to Kane through the other table and Strowman launches himself back to his feet, Powerslamming Lesnar back in the ring and, oddly, not covering him; he hits another and then Kane starts whacking him with chair shots until he falls from the ring. Lesnar than anti-climatically hit the F5 on Kane to retain. This was a really fun, big-man match with lots of power moves and table breaks; I don’t like how Lesnar wins these matches, though. Like, he gets beaten up and looks to be on the verge of defeat, and then pops up with the F5 and wins, like there’s a five minute comeback sequence missing from every match.

So that means that the historic main event is the historic first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match, with Stephanie McMahon on guest commentary for this historic moment. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks (garbed as Wonder Woman) start things off, trading submission moves until Sarah Logan comes out and attacks them both. Mandy Rose followed and went for Sasha before Lita made a risky appearance, eliminating Mandy before Kari Sane came out.

Kari went after everyone, taking out Logan, and landing the elbow on Sasha and Becky before Tamina entered the match. Lita laid her out with a DDT, hit both Sasha and Becky with a Twist of Fate and her trademark sloppy-looking Moonsault, tossed Tamina, and was then eliminated by Becky. Dana Brooke came next, attacking Becky and eliminating Kari, before Torrie Wilson (of all people) came out and eliminated her.

Sonya Deville was next and got rid of Torrie, followed by Liv Morgan and Molly Holly! Molly unleashes on everyone before Lana came out, taking it to Morgan and Deville, before Michelle McCool entered the match. A lot of the women have rolled out to the floor, for some reason, rather than selling in the corners or under the ropes like we usually see.

Anyway, McCool took out Liv, Sonya, and Molly before Ruby Riott came out and eliminates her. Fucking Vickie Guerrero then came out, screeching her stupid catchphrase all the way to the ring, and was thankfully eliminated immediately by everyone. Carmella, still holding the briefcase, came out next, followed by Natalyas, and then Kelly-fucking-Kelly! Natalya gets rid of McCool before Naomi comes out; n the chaos, Ruby finally eliminated Becky and Miss Jackie entered the fray.

Nia Jax came out and got rid of Jackie and Naomi but the women on the outside caught her and she used the barricade and chairs to get back in the ring. The NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon was next, going for Nia but it wasn’t enough to stop Nia from eliminating Naomi. Beth Phoenix was next and went toe-to-toe with Nia. Natalya saved Beth from being eliminated and they hugged (why not just lez it up while you’re there!) before Natalya chucked her ass out.

Asuka finally came out, eliminating Ember. Mickie James, Nikki, and Brie Bella all came next, with Nikki eliminating Carmella (imagine if she’d won; I’ve always wanted to see a Money in the Bank holder also win the Royal Rumble, get the WrestleMania title shot, lose the match, and instantly cash in to then win!). Bayley was next before, finally, Trish Stratus at number thirty. Stephanie made out like all the women are in awe of Trish…but they still went after her so whatever.

Trish hit the Double Stratusfaction on the Bellas and then revisited her old rivalry with Mickie James (even miming the infamous vag-lick!), eventually eliminating her.. All the women team up and heave Nia out (glad to have seen Nia actually look like a threat for a change, though), before Sasha (fucking smarky cow) channeled Reigns and chucked out poor little Bayley and then Trish! Sasha and the Bellas then beat up Asuka before the Bellas finally got Sasha’s bitch-ass out of there; Nikki then shockingly elbowed brie out of the ring and, just as it looked as though she was going to win, Asuka kicked her off the apron and won the Royal Rumble.

Afterwards, Asuka teases challenging both Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair before Ronda Rousey comes out. Right, get this: she came out and stared at all three women, pointed at the WrestleMania sign, was denied a handshake, pointed again, tentatively shook Stephanie’s hand, and then wandered off still pointing at the sign. I mean, what the fuck was that? She wasn’t in the match; if she really wanted to face a female champion at WrestleMania she should have been in the match. Instead, she saunters out and apparently seems to think she’ll be challenging at WrestleMania when she’s done nothing to earn it. As much as this pissed on Asuka’s moment it would’ve made more sense for Rousey to attack Bliss and Charlotte and then stare down Asuka as the WrestleMania sign looms in the background not just come out and act like she deserves to be in contention when she doesn’t (also…surely her gimmick is being done to perfect down in NXT by Shayna Baszler?)

Raw

Stephanie McMahon opened the show to remind us how historic the women’s Royal Rumble match was; she brought out Asuka and announced that Alexa will defend the Raw Women’s Championship at Elimination Chamber. Sasha Banks then comes out to steal the spotlight and end sup being booked into a match with Asuka for later in the night. I am so bloody sick of Sasha Banks!

Anyway, we got some Elimination Chamber qualifying matches this week; the first was a Last Man Standing match between Braun Strowman and Kane. This was a blink-and-miss it effort, which oddly worked really well; they fought into the crowd and then Strowman toppled the entire commentary stand onto Kane and won. Kane then got stretchered out, which is a rare sight. I imagine this has written Kane out until WrestleMania; they’ve had better matches but it got Strowman over as an unstoppable, remorseless monster (in case people forgot that he was).

This was followed by another qualifying match between Matt Hardy and Elias. Apparently, Elias is taking the spot that was meant for Samoa Joe (have I mentioned this?) which seems really random and out of nowhere as he hasn’t exactly been doing anything of note up until this point. Anyway, it’s happened and had secured Elias his first title shot and pay-per-view main event as Bray Wyatt’s shtick distracted Matt enough for Elias to land the Drift Away and win the match.

Roman Reigns got his Intercontinental Championship rematch against the Miz next, with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel at ringside for shenanigans. Reigns was in control in the early going before Miz smacked him into the ring post and took over; every time Miz tried to get something going, though, Reigns would answer back with his usual lame power moves and Superman Punches. The Miz-tourage factored into the finish, as you’d expect, distracting Reigns enough for Miz to roll him up and retain the belt. Okay, fine, if Miz must be the Intercontinental Champion, keep him away from Reigns going forward as I really feel like Miz got lucky here to not somehow lose or look like a bitch. I still think that Reigns should have carried the belt into WrestleMania, though.

The Revival continued to rebuild momentum by making short work of Heath Slater and Rhyno. Asuka and Sasha fought next, with Asuka targeting the arm throughout. Sasha nearly did Asuka’s job for her when she went for a Suicide Dive through the ropes, caught her feet, and damn near landed right on her stupid head! She dodged major injury once more and was able to finish the match, which saw her tapping out to the Asuka Lock. It seems like Sasha was used correctly here, with her unwarranted but very vocal popularity being used to sell Asuka as a legitimate threat.

Remember how Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews randomly got wins over Cesaro and Sheamus the last few weeks? Well we actually got some pay off to that as they got a title shot against Sheamus and Cesaro that well and truly sucked the life out of the crowd and any sense of fun that might’ve been building. I used to like Titus; there was also a time when he seemed to be on a roll and building some momentum. Then he had that infamous incident with Vince McMahon and, ever since returning, he’s just bee so dire. Apollo Crews hasn’t improved at all, either, as he continues to act like the fourth New Day member. Anyway, they lost, so who gives a shit? Maybe trade them out for the Revival and stick Titus and Apollo in a feud with Slater and Rhyno.

A third Elimination Chamber qualifying match ends Raw, pitting Finn Balor against John Cena, obviously spiralling out of the fact that Cena dumped Balor at Royal Rumble. The match started slow, as Cena matches often do these days (it’s almost as if he’s not a full-timer and needs to test the water with these new guys), before Balor uses his speed and superior technique to take the fight to Cena. Cena does his Superman comeback, hitting the Diving Shoulder Blocks, missing the Five-Knuckles Shuffle, but landing the Attitude Adjustment. Obviously Balor kicks out, because everyone does after the first one, but he then proceeds to kick out of a second AA. Balor hits the Shotgun Dropkick but misses the Coup de Grâce and starts selling the knee, so Cena locks him up in the STF. Balor fights out of it but falls to the Super AA, meaning that John-fucking-Cena is going to the Elimination Chamber! Okay, so…explain this to me: Finn gets the iron man treatment in the Royal Rumble, looking like a true conquering hero and magnificent in defeat, and his reward is losing to John Cena the next night!? Come on! This match shouldn’t have happened; Cena should have defeated Elias, to play into their issues, and Finn should have beaten Matt Hardy. I guess Finn will end up on the pre-show or something, though.

SmackDownLive

The Blue Brand kicks off with the unexpected winner of the 2018 Royal Rumble, Shinsuke Nakamura, popping out to hype his dream match against AJ Styles at WrestleMania. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn crash the party, though, to continue their complaints about management. All it earns them is a tag team match against Nakamura and AJ for the main event.

Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder, Rusev, and Jinder Mahal have a bit of a fatal four-way to determine the number one contender for the United States Championship. Where is Mike Kanellis, again? I know he recently became a father but, come on. Anyway, this was mostly a bunch of brawling to start with before the match really started kicking in and the guys started tossing their signature moves at each other. Mahal brought the aggression with his usual dull offense, breaking up the Accolade, before Rusev takes it up a notch and gets Kofi to tap. I’m glad to see the WWE putting some effort behind Rusev, given he’s getting decent reactions lately, but it kind of reminds me of what’s happening the Miz lately; if in doubt, chuck him into the secondary title mix and/or chuck said belt on him. Rusev should be making moves towards the main event, really…maybe after WrestleMania.

The Usos came out to brag about how they’re the undisputed SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions; I guess that face turn took a few steps back. But just as they finish running down the poor effort that is the SmackDown! Live tag team division before Harper and Rowan came out for a bit of a stare down and then to destroys some jobbers. It could be interesting to see something actually being done with the Bludgeon Brothers for a change and be a dominating monster tag team; maybe the WWE will even build up the Ascension to be the ones to take them down but, somehow, I doubt it.

Hey, look, it’s Tye Dillinger…losing to Baron Corbin. Although Tye brought a scrappy kind of fire, this was all Corbin, who planted him with the End of Days. Both of these guys should really be doing more but it seems like everyone on SmackDown! Live is just spinning their wheels except for the main event guys.

Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin tried to regain some ground after their massive loss at Royal Rumble by defeating Tyler Breeze and Fandango. That’s all well and good but the match was barely four minutes long, which just served to continue the burial of Breezango. They’re not exactly my favourite team but their backstage skits were really popular and got them over without them even being in the ring but, since those ended, it’s been nothing but humiliating loss after humiliating loss. Knowing the WWE, they’ll probably split them up so they can have a shit match at WrestleMania.

So the main event was the tag match between Owens and Zayn and Nakamura and Styles. The story here was that Owens and Zayn couldn’t get along; Owens kept yelling abuse at Zayn, as is his style, and caused him to walk out halfway through the match. Styles got control of the match, so Sami jumped back into the fray and ended up almost coming to blows with Owens. The finish came when, due to all their bickering, Owens was felled by the Kinshasa. The squabbling between Owens and Zayn really dragged down what should have been a top quality match; I guess they really going to split up and end up fighting, again, at WrestleMania. It remains to be seen, though, if one of them will turn face and I can’t help but think this heel turn has done more harm than good for Sami.

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