Matthew Roberts looks back at the historic Royal Rumble 2018 event, new to WWE Home Video.
If the WWE’s January PPV lives or dies on the basis of the Royal Rumble match itself then at least this year there was the historic opportunity to witness two in one night. For the first time ever the Women of the WWE (or in some cases the women who used to be in the WWE) got their opportunity for a Rumble match. Some feared overkill but by booking two very different styles of Rumble matches the WWE managed to make both stand out in a good way.
The women got the chance to “main event” the show. How much this was truly down to “equality” is open to question; good publicity no doubt, but it’s likely that the surprise post-match appearance of UFC star Ronda Rousey was the main driving point behind the match’s positioning.
With one third of the women’s match being “surprise” entrants, nostalgia was a firm driving point (which was ironic given the way the WWE drove down everyone’s throats the “first time” and “historic” nature of the match) though we kicked things off with Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch – the WWE wisely ensuring two women who can work would have mega stints to help hold the match together – and it was entrant number 5, in the form of Lita, before a name from yesteryear popped up. Kairi Sane made a welcome main roster appearance and much later in the match Ember Moon made an appearance too. The likes of Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly, Molly Holly and Michelle McCool made returns but the biggest ovation was reserved for Trish Stratus who, along with Lita, were probably the only real bona fide “legends” (in the true sense of the word) who returned for the match. And no, I don’t count the Bellas as legends.
The layout of the match in this sense is not a trick that could be repeated; if the Women’s Rumble is to be a thing they will need much closer to 30 genuine main rosters names in future years, not least because the pool of “not seen for years” ladies dictates the law of diminishing returns applying. In the context of the historic first ever Women’s Rumble it worked though and made for an entertaining hour.
My only real problem was the way that for a lot of the match the “old” names were booked more dominantly than the current roster. Why Michelle McCool turfed so many people out is beyond me. Well, no. It’s not. I just don’t think that being the Undertaker’s wife should translate into quite such a dominant showing.
Still we got the right winner in Asuka, despite the illogical way Nikki Bella eliminated her Twin Sister. Turning on her after they’d got rid of Asuka might have been a better plan!
The Men’s match was a much more balanced match and probably just shaded the honours from the Women’s match as the better of the two. The surprises, with the likes of Andrande Almas, Rey Misterio and Adam Cole were well received and “The Hurricane” Gregory Helms provided some light relief too as a special guest. Things were well paced, with few down spots, and the names were spread out enough to mean that a boost was always just around the corner.
The final four was superbly handled too as crowd favourites Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor squared off against, well, a different crowd’s favourites of John Cena and Roman Reigns. Say what you will about who the WWE chooses to “push” and who they don ‘t but someone had clearly been paying attention to the crowds when they fashioned the ending to the match that they did. With a well balanced match, plenty of possible winners to ruminate over and, as importantly, a very popular winner this was one of the best Rumble matches of all time, if falling just a little tiny bit short of being the best ever.
The “undercard” was a mixed bag. Things opened with an entertaining handicap match as AJ Styles successfully defended his WWE Title match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Whilst not the classic that either pair of one-on-one matches for Styles may have had the chance to be it was an fun back and forth match which continued current storylines and added a few more layers of intrigue as well. The Triple Threat for the WWE Universal title was less successful, arguably only being memorable for the moment when Braun Strowman potatoed Brock Lesnar with a knee which earned him a very stiff receipt from the Champion. All in all it was a plodding brawl with little tension or drama. Those lamenting that it was because it was so “predictable” that Lesnar won to keep him strong for Roman Reigns should at least go back to Survivor Series and see that predictable doesn’t have to mediocre. It’s just that this match was.
The same Smackdown good/Raw not so good balance could be found in the tag team title matches. Despite the fact that the Best out of Three Falls match between The Uso’s and Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin was won by the champs in two straight it was a good match full of action and entertainment. Some will argue the “surprise” element of not getting the third fall was at least something different but it ended things on a flat note and begged the question of whether or not a one fall match might have been a better option. The Raw match between Sheamus & Cesaro and Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan suffered from having to follow the Men’s Rumble match and playing out in front of a near silent crowd for the most part. The story of Rollins having to fight against the odds due to JJ’s injury would probably have worked more if the crowd weren’t coming down from the high of the Rumble. Despite Rollins’ best efforts, the fans simply weren’t biting at this point.
The blu-ray adds THREE kick off matches, none of which are exactly “essential” viewing but none of which are less than watchable. A Six-man 205Live tag is exactly what you’d expect, the Revival and the Good Brothers had a decent if unspectacular match and if you can get over the damp squib that was Mojo Rawley answering Robert Roode’s US Open Challenge their match was passable too.
With the two Rumble matches delivering the goods, this is an easy event to recommend. And whilst the undercard matches are entertaining at best, rather than essential, you can’t really complain too much about a show built around two matches that last an hour each delivering the goods in those two encounters.
Format reviewed: BluRay
Pictures courtesy of WWE and Fetch.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy. Royal Rumble 2018 is out on DVD and BluRay 19 March 2018. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here