WWE hosted their annual yearly curtain-raiser as they kick off on the road to ‘The Grand Daddy Of Them All’. A David vs Goliath battle for the Universal Title, another potential mat classic for the WWE Title and the small matter of two Royal Rumble matches; will it be full speed ahead or a false start towards MetLife?
Rezar and Scott Dawson vs Gable and Roode – If Rezar and Scott win, both AOP and Revival get a future Tag Championship Oppourtunity
Result: Gable and Roode win via pinfall
Thoughts: I have almost nothing to say about this really. A really, really weird matchup; would Revival and AOP get the same oppourtunity? Would it be different? If one of them would have won their opportunity; would it mean the other team didn’t get theirs? We don’t need to worry about it though as Gable and Roode just won clean. Cool.
Rusev (c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura – United States Championship Match
Result: Nakamura wins via pinfall – New Champion Crowned
Thoughts: I can, almost, guarantee that no-one would have predicted the result of this match. Due to how recently Rusev won the title and how terrible Nakamura was when he had it in the first place; everyone expected Rusev to retain. But no- Nakamura won, relatively, clean. Rusev accidentally knocked Lana off the ramp so Nakamura used this distraction to pick up the title. The actual match itself was pretty decent but…Lana is a wrestler. Lana is literally a wrestler but apparently can’t bump. Why. Really stupid.
Buddy Murphy (c) vs Kalisto vs Hideo Itami vsAkira Tozawa- WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Result: Murphy retains via pinfall
Thoughts: To the absolute surprise of no-one, the Cruiserweights absolutely delivered. All four men are absolutely amazing and every single one brought something different to the match. Kalisto with his speed, Tozawa with his intensity, Murphy with his power and Itami with his stiffness. Murphy is absolutely the right decision to retain; he’s completely untouchable right now and a fantastic talent that deserves to be at the top of that division. It was a great decision to put this match on last in terms of the Kick-Off as it meant that they got to perform in front of essentially a full house. Very, very good end to the Kick-Off.
Asuka (c) vs Becky Lynch – WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Result: Asuka retains via submission
Thoughts: This was probably the best match on the card that wasn’t a Royal Rumble in my eyes. The crowd were absolutely molten for ‘The Man’ as she came to the ring but Asuka also received a great reaction as well. From the first bell to the last; the action was crisp and everything worked. Becky sold her desperation in trying to win the title back and Asuka looked like a machine; finding a way to get out of everything Lynch threw at her. The ending was…interesting- I think everyone was surprised to see Becky tap clean but it helped make the eventual ‘moment’ later on even better. Asuka has been incredible the past few months and it’s going to be great to see where she goes from here.
The Bar (c) vs Shane McMahon and The Miz- WWE Smackdown Live Tag Team Championship Match
Result: Shane McMahon and Miz win via pinfall- New Champions Crowned
Thoughts: This was absolutely ridiculous and I loved it so much. Shane McMahon…SHANE MCMAHON is a champion in WWE in 2019 after absolutely battering Sheamus and Cesaro; two of the best and most underappreciated wrestlers in the company. Basically, everyone predicted it and I have nothing else to say. I hate that I loved this but…I did. What have The Bar done to Vince by the way; losing to a 10 year old and Shane McMahon within 10 months. Cesaro should be in the main-event. Mental.
Ronda Rousey (c) vs Sasha Banks- WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Result: Rousey retains via pinfall
Thoughts: The woman of the WWE are going to main-event Wrestlemania this year and it’s matches like this and the opener that absolutely proves why they should be. The action was almost as great as Asuka/Lynch; Sasha playing a character almost reminiscent of her style in NXT whereas Ronda made Sasha feel like her biggest challenger to date. The choice to have Rousey win via pinfall instead of submission ensures Sasha still looks strong which is great. Banks throwing up the ‘4 Horsewoman’ symbol furthers the story between the two factions and I can’t wait to see where this goes.
Women’s Royal Rumble
Result: Becky Lynch wins from No.28
Thoughts: When looking at the grade; you’d expect that this match was incredible from start to finish. But it really wasn’t. The first half of the Rumble, in general, was actually quite poor. Not a WHOLE lot of star power with a few exceptions (Charlotte, Natalya, Moon etc) and a generally sloppy portion with a lot of slip-ups. BUT…there are times in wrestling where the ending can fix absolutely anything. And this was, for my opinion, one of the best Rumble finishes of all time. Due to the pre-show injury Lana sustained; she was unable to compete in her position. And down the ramp came…The Man, Becky Lynch. And she actually won. She ACTUALLY won. I can’t remember reacting like that to a finish of a match in so long and I feel like the crowd reacted the exact same way. Becky is ACTUALLY going to Wrestlemania by winning the Royal Rumble. And THAT’S why the grade is so high. But why didn’t this main event? Surely that’s the better decision?
Daniel Bryan (c) vs AJ Styles- WWE Championship Match
Result: Bryan retains via pinfall
Thoughts: This was a huge shame as Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles put on debatably their best match to date in front of a crowd that was, justifiably, absolutely exhausted after the Becky Lynch Royal Rumble win. The intricacies of the bout was lost on a large portion of the crowd BUT…the reason you’re reading this bit is because you know the finish. A few minutes before the end of the match; Erik Rowan, a flannel shirt walked down the to the ring and when the ref was down helped Daniel Bryan retain the WWE Championship…I have several questions.
1. Why is Rowan the man of 1000 gimmicks?
2. Why did he come out in normal clothes?
3. Why is he helping Bryan?…
However I love this. Yes, I know, it’s weird. It’s random. It’s sudden but I’m really excited to see where this goes. EXCITING REVELATIONS.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs Finn Balor – WWE Universal Championship Match
Result: Lesnar retains via submission
Thoughts: When Brock Lesnar cares; he’s is one of the best wrestlers within WWE. His decision to work with smaller guys has done wonders for his past 18 months in the company (yes, it’s mental to say that Lesnar can just dictate who he works with but still). Finn looked like an absolute star here; jumping Lesnar before the bell and targeting all his offence around the mid-section. Lesnar looked fantastic with his selling and Finn looked like a machine. The moment Finn hit that Coup De Grace; nearly everyone believed, even for just half a second. Brock having to change the finish up and utilise his submissions also felt different. Just a lot of fun and I definitely want to see more of these two together.
Men’s Royal Rumble
Result: Rollins wins from No.10
Thoughts: Whilst the men’s never reached the extreme lows of the women’s rumble, it also never reached the extreme highs that the previous bout produced. The debuts of Gargano, Dunne and Black were all brilliant and created a buzz around new talent exactly how it should. The opening with Elias and Jeff Jarrett was a nice surprise and a lot of fun. Little stories of Ali eliminating Joe and Nakamura were incredible and Rollins coming back after being put through the table by Lashley made him look great. BUT. The biggest talking point is, undoubtedly, that for the first time in recent memory; there was a couple of minutes of ACTUAL intergender wrestling and it was amazing. Nia Jax stole R-Truth’s 30 spot when she attacked him during his entrance. The story was great- Jax was furious Becky had upstaged her moment earlier so wanted to do something even bigger so no-one would care about Lynch’s victory. Obviously; it didn’t pan out for her but she did eliminate Mustafa Ali AND eat a Superkick, 619 and an RKO before eventually being eliminated. Amazing stuff and so surprising to see. Rollins winning is 100% the right choice and I can’t wait to see Seth vs Brock at Mania. However, the one slight negative is that the crowd reaction was quite muted to the Architect’s victory, purely down to it being quite predictable. I still feel they should have had the Woman’s Rumble on last so The Man could have closed the show.
Overall Thoughts: For my money, this was the best WWE PPV since Money in the Bank 2011. Literally everything delivered on the main show and ranged from either good to incredible. For the first time in what has felt like years; I feel like WWE’s main roster show has finally eclipsed the NXT Takeover preceding it- only just, however. If this is the precedent WWE are setting for their PPV’s ahead of 2019; we’re going to have an incredible year.
Overall Grade: A