Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 284 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 2
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 19 2018
(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)
This year’s Royal Rumble was a strange one. The announcement of the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match suggested it would be one of the biggest yet (it was built up by WWE with the tagline “More Rumble Than Ever”). But the men’s match received a shockingly low amount of hype, to the point where it almost felt like it WASN’T happening. That the 25th anniversary episode of Raw was held six days earlier, and dominated much of WWE’s attention in January, also suggested that an unmemorable Rumble PPV was on the horizon. Oh, and recent Rumble outcomes have received emotions ranging from apathy to outright fury, which also didn’t make the likely Roman Reigns triumph (and again in Philadelphia, no less) a pleasing prospect, despite him having vastly improved since 2015.
But as it turned out, Royal Rumble 2018 greatly exceeded expectations, as we discover again when reliving the show on DVD. The opening Handicap match for the WWE Title (AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn) is a strong start, and a rare instance where a Handicap match with a singles championship at stake works. Next up is a Two Out Of Three Falls bout for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles between The Usos and the team of Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable. It’s well-worked, but it’s inferior to other Usos PPV bouts from 2017, and the multiple falls format was a bit unnecessary as well.
Then comes a major highlight of the card, as we unexpectedly get the best men’s Rumble match in many years. There are so many moments to recall, not least the surprise returns (which I won’t spoil here), and some of the high spots amongst the competitors themselves are memorable too. This match demonstrates the range of entertainment that the Rumble can provide, from brutal attacks to hilarious speeches to jaw-dropping eliminations. And for those dreading another Roman Reigns win, those fears are alleviated by Shinsuke Nakamura’s surprising triumph, setting up a WrestleMania 34 encounter with AJ Styles. All in all, a top ten Rumble match.
It’s unusual that the men’s Rumble would go on so early (I had predicted this several days beforehand, based on how the two Rumbles were being hyped up), but this was an unusual card. Next, we get a Raw Tag Team Title match between Seth Rollins/Jason Jordan and Sheamus/Cesaro. At first glance, it appears to be a replication of Bret Hart/Owen Hart vs. The Quebecers, where an injury to one performer instigated the result and a subsequent feud between the partners. Unfortunately, though, Jordan really was working with an injury, and was soon taken off television to recover; a shame, given that his self-absorbed daddy’s boy character was really gathering steam. Therefore, the match is entirely forgettable, as is a three-way between Brock Lesnar, Kane and Braun Strowman for the Universal crown. It’s not bad by any means, but the result was blindingly obvious, and the only thing that really stands out upon second viewing is the brief moment when Lesnar whacks Strowman full-on with a punch, as a receipt for a stiff knee seconds earlier.
The show closes with the first-ever women’s Rumble match, and far from watering down the concept, it’s another really enjoyable match., partly due to the historic novelty of the match, and partly because almost every key woman of note who is still capable of wrestling makes an appearance. I could have done without Stephanie McMahon on commentary, or The Bellas making it to the end, but it’s still a really fun match, and Asuka’s victory is logical, based on her undefeated streak. Then comes the real major moment of the night, though (which WWE decided to splash on the box art, so it’s not a spoiler if I say it): Ronda Rousey of UFC fame officially debuts in WWE (her past WrestleMania 31 appearance came while she was still fighting for UFC), and though her cameo is somewhat unrelated to the women’s Rumble that we had just seen, it is still very newsworthy, and was ultimately the biggest talking point amongst fans when Rumble 2018 went off the air.
The extras from the Kick-Off Show are nothing to shout about. The Cruiserweight six-man tag team match is no different to any other such bout (admittedly, WWE ere in a bind after Enzo Amore’s firing from WWE days earlier after some unpleasant allegations about him away from the ring), Luke Gallows/Karl Anderson vs. The Revival is a filler doubles match, and Bobby Roode’s Open Challenge for the United States Championship against Mojo Rawley would probably have been better to scrap altogether, instead allowing for Roode to enter the Rumble (men’s, obviously), even in defeat.
Looking back, the two Rumble matches and the Handicap match are the main reasons to see this DVD, though it’s Ronda Rousey’s show-closing appearance that will stand as the reason to most remember Royal Rumble 2018. The rest of the content ranges from harmless filler to totally pointless. But it’s Royal Rumble, a show which primarily exists to set up WrestleMania while creating excitement via the format of the 30-man and 30-woman matches. To that end, Royal Rumble 2018 was a big success, and you’ll have a lot of fun reliving this year’s Rumble matches on DVD.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good