WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Review feat. Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

Logo for WWE Royal Rumble 2018
Image Source: WWE
EventRoyal Rumble 2018
SeriesRoyal Rumble
DateSunday January 28 2018
VenueWells Fargo Center
LocationPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

WWE Royal Rumble 2018

WWE Royal Rumble 2018 is a card for WWE fans to always remember. The first ever (well, the first official) 30-woman Rumble match was a big success. Meanwhile, the traditional men’s Rumble greatly exceeded expectations. But most of all, we would have a landmark debut which could change WWE forever in multiple ways. Let’s take a closer look at the card as a whole, beginning with the pre-show bouts.


Kick-Off Show

Kalisto, Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik vs. Jack Gallagher, TJP & Drew Gulak

We have to start on a bit of a sour note, unfortunately. Originally, we were supposed to see Enzo Amore defend the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Cedric Alexander. But some disturbing real-life allegations led to Amore being fired prior to the milestone Raw 25 episode. So, we would instead see this six-person match to essentially fill a gap for the cruiserweight division. Putting Enzo aside, I have to ask: why didn’t Cedric perform here? Anyway, this was a decent bout, and while it had no reason to exist, at least the 205 Live crew got some exposure in place of the planned title match. The announcers would also discuss the announcement of a General Manager for 205 Live this Tuesday. Who will it be? We shall soon see. Kalisto scored the pin over TJP with a Salida Del Sol.

The Revival vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Our second of three pre-show matches (you read that right) was an extension of the angle from Raw 25 which saw Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder pummelled by DX, the nWo and Balor Club. I don’t see the point for the outrage concerning that segment. Let’s face it, The Revival wouldn’t have had a memorable moment on that particular show by having a regular match. So why not participate in a segment that stands out in people’s minds? It’s not like Gallows and Anderson’s win over Dash and Dawson was the striking aspect anyway. Either way, The Revival did achieve some revenge here when Wilder pinned Anderson. This could lead to a feud, though with two matches inside a week, WWE may think otherwise.

WWE United States Championship Match
Bobby Roode (C) vs. Mojo Rawley

Roode recently pinned Jinder Mahal to win the vacant US Title in a tournament which was supposed to culminate here at Royal Rumble 2018. Instead, Bobby’s only appearance of the night was not so much Glorious as it was laborious. Well, maybe that’s harsh of me. Roode issued an open challenge which was answered by Mojo Rawley. Mojo’s recent heel turn on Zack Ryder suggests a singles career which may or may not be successful. On this night, he would come up short after a Glorious DDT. I’m not sure where this leaves Rawley. And despite being US Champ, Roode’s prospects don’t seem great either by being an omission from the Rumble match.

Main Show

WWE Championship Handicap Match
AJ Styles (C) vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

Opening the main card, we would have a true rarity. The WWE Title being defended in a handicap match is something we expect from Raw and SmackDown, but not a major PPV. Nevertheless, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s alliance is so strong that AJ Styles facing just one of those men likely would have felt like a 2-on-1 situation anyway. And had this been a triple threat bout, KO and Zayn would have teamed up anyway. So, for the Phenomenal One, his previous sarcastic suggestion of a handicap match, approved by SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan, might have actually been for the best. That way, he could keep his eye on both men because, well, he would have no choice.

And Styles still ended up retaining his WWE crown in what was a strong opening contest. To be fair, whenever a champion (especially a heavyweight champion) is placed against such odds, they almost always succeeding in overcoming the challenge. That’s what AJ did here, albeit under a somewhat controversial cloud. That’s because this handicap match required both challengers to tag in and out. But when AJ pinned Owens to win the bout, Zayn was actually the legal man for his team. Cue further complaints from Owens and Zayn backstage to their mortal enemy, SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon. The heels asked Shane O Mac if he had seen what went down. Shane: “Yep.” Cue Shane walking off, somewhat pleased at the failure of Owens and Zayn, who were left furious.


WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship Two Out Of Three Falls Match
The Usos (C) vs. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable

Next up, we would have another modern-day rarity: a two out of three falls tag bout. The Usos had feuded with the heel-turning Gable and Benjamin for a number of months now, with the recent tease of a title change. Here, for Chad and Shelton to win the belts, they needed to beat Jimmy and Jey Uso not once, but twice. At the same time, it also meant that The Usos needed to prove their superiority more than once to the challengers. I like two out of three falls bouts because they feel more akin to a real sports event. Do you sacrifice one fall to save yourself for the presumed third and final fall? Or do you go for broke early on, potentially leaving yourself vulnerable for the final section?

As it turned out, WWE went in a different direction here. The Usos were able to beat Benjamin and Gable in two straight falls, removing the need for that decisive third fall. A double superkick to Gable sealed the first fall, with a basic cradle by Jey to Benjamin securing the victory overall. I can’t see Gable and Benjamin receiving another crack at the belts after losing so easily here. In fact, it’s possible that they won’t be long together as a tag team. As for The Usos, it seems like they need new challengers, but with their rivalry against The New Day having been done to death in late 2017, that may be easier said than done.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

It was now time for the men’s Royal Rumble match. That’s because the first ever women’s Rumble would headline, essentially making the 30-man match the starter. WWE hadn’t done a particularly good job of promoting the men’s Rumble, so much so that it was almost easy to overlook. Nevertheless, the match still had some strong star power to make for a potentially intriguing match. John Cena and Roman Reigns led the way, with Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton amongst other possible contenders. If I had to pick beforehand, I would have said Reigns to set up the seemingly-inevitable Universal Title match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34. A second Roman Rumble victory, and for a second time in Philadelphia no less, could have led to another fan revolt. But WWE would ultimately take a different route.

Aiden English serenaded us to inform the fans that Rusev had drawn #1, and on Rusev Day no less! Finn Balor drew #2 in his very first Rumble, making this an interesting way to start off the match. Rhyno as #3 elicited a nice pop in the hometown of ECW. But he would be the first to go courtesy of #4, Baron Corbin. Corbin himself wouldn’t last very long, though, as he was dumped to the floor by Balor. An angry Lone Wolf levelled fifth entrant Heath Slater in a fit of rage, seemingly ruling Slater out from making it in the ring. We would have a twist, though.


Baron had also attacked Balor and Rusev, which left the ring clear for Elias to perform a song when coming down as #6. Given how over Elias is, his appearance was eagerly-anticipated. But fans reacted more strongly to the surprise appearance of Andrade “Cien” Almas, the reigning ECW Champion, as #7. I can’t see Andrade sticking around with him being the face of NXT, but his cameo here was cool nonetheless.

Bray Wyatt was next at #8 (I was watching this PPV live from the Bierkeller in Liverpool, and there was a guy dressed up as Wyatt, complete with a lamp, so when the real Bray walked to the ring, the impersonator did an entrance of his own in a hilarious scene). Big E was #9, before Tye Dillinger was scheduled to be #10 once again. However, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had pummelled Dillinger backstage, though Zayn overruling KO to enter the Rumble in his place was a shock. Maybe there’ll be further friction between the two men ahead of WrestleMania?

I should note that Heath Slater still hadn’t made it to the ring, with him taking further strikes at ringside. When Sheamus came out as #11, the Celtic Warrior finally tossed Slater in the ring. But as soon as Sheamus got into the ring himself, Heath immediately clotheslined him straight out in a big surprise. Moments like this are what makes the Royal Rumble fun. It gives Slater a notable contribution. And though Sheamus won the 2012 Rumble bout, he was highly unlikely to triumph again this time. So, WWE may as well allow both men to create a fun spot that fans will always remember. If I was a wrestler and I wasn’t winning the Rumble, I would strive to be part of something like this that will always be replayed.

Although Slater got a big moment, he was immediately dumped out by Bray Wyatt. The match slowed down a little with Xavier Woods as #12 and Apollo Crews as #13, before Shinsuke Nakamura’s arrival as #14. The King Of Strong Style made an immediate impact in his first Rumble by eliminating Zayn. Cesaro was #15 to mark the halfway point, with him getting rid of Apollo. Then, Kofi Kingston would round off The New Day by coming in at #16. All three members of the faction were now present, with fans wondering how Kofi would survive elimination this year. We wouldn’t have to wait too long to find out.

After Jinder Mahal entered as #17, with the Modern-Day Maharaja eliminating both Woods and Big E. Seth Rollins marked his entrance at #18 by eliminating Cesaro ahead of their Raw Tag Team Title match later on (more on that shortly). Then, Jinder thought he had eliminated Kofi, but his feet didn’t hit the ringside floor. Xavier and Big E hilariously used plates of pancakes to help Kofi avoid the mats, before hoisting him back into the ring. Kofi rounded off his latest fantastic Rumble elimination escape by getting rid of Mahal, only for Andrade to dump him out for good as fans booed.


Woken Matt Hardy was #19, and he had a confrontation with his current rival Wyatt. They surprisingly joined forces to eliminate Rusev, only for Matt to then dispatch of Bray whilst eliminating himself in the process. John Cena was #20, and it felt like we were beginning to hit the most significant chapter of the match. Though I didn’t think Cena would win, he remains a massive star and a virtual lock to reach the final stages. Cena would establish himself by getting rid of Elias to seemingly end their recent mini-feud on Raw.

We would then be in for a treat. The Hurricane made a totally unexpected return as #21 to a big pop, and he immediately tried to chokeslam Cena. This provoked memories of Hurricane unsuccessfully trying to chokeslam both Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H at Royal Rumble 2002 in an amusing fashion. And he would unfortunately fail again here. Cena was able to scoop him up and out within seconds. I loved this return, partly because of how Hurricane had thrown fans off the scent. A few days earlier, Gregory Helms provided a list on Twitter of those who he hoped to see in the Rumble. So, the fact that Hurricane himself would participate in the Rumble was fantastic. Good stuff.

Aiden English was #22, though he wouldn’t last very long as he succumbed to Balor. Adam Cole (Bay Bay!) was another NXT entrant as #23, with the Philly fans reacting very strongly to the leader of the Undisputed Era. He was wearing rib tape, which I assume was loaned to him by Diamond Dallas Page, due to his brutal No DQ clash with Aleister Black at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia the night before. Randy Orton was #24, with him securing his first elimination by getting rid of Andrade. Titus O’Neil as #25 lasted longer than you may expect, while The Miz as #26 was a dark horse to go all the way.

Rey Mysterio then made a major return as #27. His previous Rumble appearance in 2014 was the stuff of nightmares, with him being booed out of the building for simply not being Daniel Bryan. Here, making a surprising comeback, Mysterio received a huge reaction that he was fully deserving of. And he eliminated Adam Cole to prove that he wasn’t here to simply make up the numbers. Indeed, Rey (a Rumble winner back in 2006) would make it to a late stage, suggesting a potential permanent return in the future.

Roman Reigns came out as #28 to the usual boos, with him eliminating Titus and joining Rollins to eliminate Miz. Roman then surprisingly eliminated Seth to maintain the “every man for himself” aspect of the match. Goldust was #29, and finally we had Dolph Ziggler as #30. Ziggler had vacated the United States Title and seemingly left WWE on December 22, just days after winning the belt at Clash Of Champions. This return here could have set him up for a landmark comeback … or maybe not. He did eliminate Goldust, but he was then tossed out by Balor. Poor Dolph.

This left us with six men. Cena, Orton and Mysterio seemed to form an alliance based off their Ruthless Aggression contributions. Roman, Balor and Nakamura also formed a mini-alliance for this showdown, seemingly a battle of two eras. Orton would be eliminated by Reigns, before Balor eliminated Mysterio to round off the latter’s first night back. Finn’s exceptional stretch then came to an end courtesy of Cena. This would leave the rather popular Nakamura to battle the largely unpopular (with smarks) Cena and Reigns. Could Shinsuke pull off the unthinkable, or would we see an established name triumph?

Cena was surprisingly eliminated next by Nakamura himself, which left Shin all along with Roman. The Big Dog still seemed poised to win, especially when he blocked a Kinshasa with a Spear. But just as Reigns attempted to seal the deal, Nakamura finally connected with the Kinshasa. He then threw Roman to the floor as fans popped big-time. In something of a welcome surprise, Shinsuke Nakamura had won the 2018 men’s Royal Rumble match! Post-match, he officially challenged AJ Styles for the WWE Title at WrestleMania 34. Cue excitement for the renewal of their past rivalry in New Japan Pro Wrestling on the grand stage of WrestleMania.

As for the Rumble match, this was awesome. There hasn’t been a Rumble bout as good as this for at least eight years, if not longer. The two legend returns were brilliant, and the NXT appearances were wise choices. We also had plenty of memorable moments, from Slater getting the best of Sheamus to Kofi’s latest elimination escape. Then, you have a good amount of star power to keep fans guessing about the outcome. And you have a star-making victory to round things off. Considering the low expectations going into the match, this was a complete success. After some topsy-turvy years, we finally have another classic Royal Rumble match for the history books. As for whether Shinsuke Nakamura will win the WWE Title at WrestleMania? Time will tell, but right now I’m putting my money on Nakamura to get the job done in New Orleans.

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match
Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (C) vs. The Bar

After the high of the men’s Rumble, we then had a bit of a comedown with this match. Rollins and Jordan had captured the Raw Tag Team Titles from Sheamus and Cesaro on the Christmas night edition of Raw. So, this was an opportunity for the Celtic Warrior and the Swiss Superman to regain their belts. It’s worth noting that we had just seen Rollins, Sheamus and Cesaro compete in the Rumble match (Sheamus for mere seconds admittedly). Plus, there have been rumours about Jordan dealing with an injury, hence his lack of Rumble match involvement.

Therefore, this was a forgettable bout which could have easily been saved for Raw instead. Only a truly awesome doubles match could have succeeded here, but the crowd was understandably spent after the previous hour. Perhaps realising that this would merely fill a spot, WWE would use this to stage an angle. Jordan would suffer a head injury during the match, which left him seemingly unable to compete. That left Rollins all alone, with a combo version of White Noise finishing off the outnumbered Rollins. So, Sheamus and Cesaro are champs again, with Rollins upset at Jordan afterwards. Are we leading to Seth vs. Jason at WrestleMania 34? Or will Jordan face his storyline father (and Raw General Manager) Kurt Angle? Let’s wait and see.


WWE Universal Championship Triple Threat Match
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

The final non-Rumble match at Royal Rumble 2018 would be a stern test on paper for Brock Lesnar. Facing not one but two giants, The Beast would have to overcome both The Monster Among Men and The Big Red Machine. The thing is, though, Brock had already pinned Strowman back at No Mercy. And I like Kane, but him having a WWE Title opportunity in 2018 is tantamount to a miracle. Therefore, far from an underdog, Brock not retaining the red-strapped belt would have been a real shocker. Still, that doesn’t mean that this couldn’t be a fun brawl. And it’s wise for WWE to utilise title contenders that are realistically unlikely to win the Rumble itself. That allows WWE to stack up the 30-man match while still providing a worthy WWE Championship contest.

So, yeah, this was enjoyable. It’s hardly something that you need to go out of your way to see, but it was entertaining nonetheless. The highlight would be something more subtle than a massive Chokeslam or an eye-catching Powerslam. At one point, Strowman seemed to catch Lesnar with a stiff blow, so Brock legitimately punched him hard. They call it a receipt in the wrestling business; a hint to ease up on the physicality. Had Braun not done this, the match likely would have degenerated into a real shoot fight. In hindsight, maybe we should have wanted that to take place! Anyway, Lesnar inevitably won with an F5 to virtually guarantee that Brock defends his Universal Title at WrestleMania 34. No prizes for guessing who his likely opponent is. As for Strowman and Kane, it’s always possible that WWE could drag their feud out towards Mania.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Finally, we had the first proper 30-woman Royal Rumble match. This was the latest step of the Women’s Evolution, and probably the biggest one yet. It was also a match where the outcome wasn’t entirely obvious, even if Asuka seemed like a reliable contender to place one’s money upon. The key to this Rumble was more about the occasion, and the historical significance of the moment. Adding to the stakes, Stephanie McMahon would join Michael Cole and Corey Graves on commentary, mostly playing it straight as a babyface. Meanwhile, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair, the reigning Women’s Champions of Raw and SmackDown, would also sit at ringside.

Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch would receive the honour of opening this inaugural women’s Rumble bout. Banks was dressed as Wonder Woman, continuing the occasional tradition of wrestlers sporting costumes inspired by superheroes. Sarah Logan of The Riott Squad was #3, with Michael Cole making a comment that sounds appalling out of context. Cole: “Sarah Logan, she likes to be called a ‘backwards girl'”. Damn. Anyway, we then had Mandy Rose of Absolution coming in at #4. I should note that Paige, the group leader, would miss this Rumble due to injury, which must have been heartwrenching for her. Alicia Fox was another performer who had to miss out to injury, which again must have been upsetting.


Then, things picked up early with Lita as #5. The Hall Of Famer was absent from Raw 25, with some even wondering if Lita was in the bad books. Nope. Her surprise return here (a sign of things to come) drew huge cheers, and she secured the first elimination by getting rid of Mandy. This was Lita’s first proper match since 2006 (unless you count that quick win over Heath Slater at Raw 1000), and she looked very respectable. NXT’s Pirate Princess Kairi Sane was in at #6, which also drew a strong response. Tamina was #7 to a somewhat lesser reaction, though she went out fairly quickly courtesy of Lita.

Dana Brooke was in at #8, around which time Becky eliminated Lita; Dana also earned an elimination by getting rid of Kairi. Torrie Wilson was another blast from the past as #9, and she got rid of Dana before being sent flying by tenth entrant, and Absolution member, Sonya Deville. Liv Morgan of The Riott Squad was #11, before our next surprise, Molly Holly as #12. Molly is an underrated part of the Divas era, a rare spotlight on in-ring action over T&A. So, her contribution here was more than welcome. She was also able to get rid of Deville prior to Lana being a participant as #13.

Michelle McCool of the final Divas era before the current era was #14, and she looked very impressive. Of the older performers, she looked by far the strongest, and she could easily slot into today’s WWE on a full-time basis. And she quickly racked up eliminations by getting rid of Deville, Morgan, Molly and Lana. Damn. Ruby Riott rounded off her faction as #15, and then we would have a big surprise.


Yes, Vickie Guerrero was here as #16! The fondly-remembered, if not fondly-hated, former General Manager came out and screeched as only she could. But she would be in for a rude awakening, as Becky, Sasha, Michelle and Ruby all teamed up to eliminate her. Sure, she had no chance, but this was great to see. Fans beforehand likely expected certain female performers from the past to return, but I can’t imagine that many were expecting Vickie. So, this was awesome. Carmella was next as #17, sporting her Money In The Bank briefcase to reduce the pressure on her to win here at Royal Rumble 2018.

Natalya added credibility as #18, and she would be the one to get rid of McCool. Kelly Kelly then made a well-received appearance as #19, before Naomi brought the Glow as #20. Around this time, we also saw Ruby eliminate Becky which angered the crowd, giving their love of The Irish Lass-Kicker. Jacqueline was another name from the past as #21, but she wouldn’t last long. Nia Jax came in to establish herself as a real threat as #22. And she took charge by eliminating Jackie, Kelly, Ruby and Naomi.


Ember Moon of NXT drew a big reaction at #23, followed by a returning Beth Phoenix as #24. The Glamazon briefly reformed the Divas Of Doom with Natalya, before she was dumped out by Nattie. Then came Asuka as #25, with the likely favourite renewing her previous NXT feud with Ember before The Empress eliminated Moon. Mickie James was in as #26, before Nikki Bella made a return as #27. Nikki looked good in her first match since WrestleMania 33, and she started strong by eliminating her old foe Carmella.

Brie Bella as #28 formed the inevitable alliance with her twin sister, before Bayley came in as #29. Last but not least, we had Trish Stratus, probably the most famous female wrestler of them all, as #30. Stratus renewed her old rivalry with Mickie James before eliminating her. Then, Trish was one of six women who teamed up to get rid of Nia to a big response. Sasha and Bayley then seemed set to team up, only for Banks to cruelly send The Hugger to the floor. Will this finally lead to the much-anticipated main roster feud between Sasha and Bayley? We shall see.

Trish eliminated Natalya before having a minor dream match with Sasha. After making the mistake of mocking Banks, though, Trish was thrown out by The Boss, leaving us with four remaining participants. Banks then levelled Asuka, further teasing a possible heel turn, but she was then eliminated by The Bellas. Tough odds for Asuka to overcome, then, but it helped her that Nikki chose to eliminate Brie rather than have the twin sisters team up long enough to decide the match between them. Odd behaviour, but hardly a Rumble first. That left us with Asuka and Nikki, and they both ended up in jeopardy on the ring apron. With some drama concerning a possible Nikki win, Asuka managed to level Bella tumbling with a kick that would eliminate her.

Asuka had achieved a milestone by winning the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match! But we weren’t done yet. Far from it. Post-match, she was asked who she wanted to pick: Alexa and her Raw Women’s Title or Charlotte and her SmackDown Women’s Title. As The Empress pondered, the speakers played a rock song that belonged to … RONDA ROUSEY! Oh, yes! Ronda had been rumoured for a WWE run for months, and many thought she might participate in the Rumble match itself. When Trish came out as #30, though fans were glad to see her, you knew some were disappointed. So, saving Ronda until after the match was a stroke of genius, with her appearance blowing the roof off the arena.

Rousey didn’t do too much, but what she did was enough. With a startled Stephanie looking on, Ronda joined Asuka, Charlotte and Alexa in the ring and pointed to the WrestleMania sign. She also tried to shake Asuka’s hand, but her generosity was batted away, teasing a future match. Ronda also shook hands with a still-perturbed Stephanie at ringside before heading up the ramp. Rousey pointed at the sign one final time to close the show.

So much to unpack here: after her WrestleMania 31 segment and many rumours over several years, Ronda Rousey is finally an official member of WWE’s roster. Her cameo guarantees a WrestleMania 34 match, but against whom? Asuka has just won a Rumble, which means they may save that clash for SummerSlam or even WrestleMania 35. The reaction of Stephanie suggests that she is most likely to face her in some form or fashion. Will it be one-on-one, or could there be other participants involved? If so, Triple H is a shoo-in, but who would Ronda join forces with? Kurt Angle? The Rock? I can’t wait to find out.

Rousey’s WWE debut/return capped off a landmark night for the women. Over the course of their Rumble match, we had what was essentially a celebration of the history of WWE women’s wrestling. There were loads of surprises, with some legends looking better than others. We had callbacks to past feuds, along with teases for potential upcoming rivalries. Asuka winning made the most sense, and I assume she faces Alexa at WrestleMania, unless WWE has other plans. (That WWE didn’t have Asuka reveal her opponent keeps the door open for her to potentially take on Charlotte.) Overall, this match and the momentous appearance of Ronda afterwards elevates women’s wrestling to a new height. And I dare say that with Rousey now on board, the dream for women to finally main event WrestleMania is now totally feasible. It could even happen as soon as April 8 of this year at WrestleMania 34.


With a massive debut coming after one historic Rumble match, and the men’s 30-man battle greatly exceeding expectations, WWE Royal Rumble 2018 was a truly awesome PPV event. The WWE Title match is worth checking out, while the rest of the undercard ranges in quality. But the two Rumble matches definitely make this a must-see card, along with Ronda Rousey’s pivotal arrival. It’s crazy how WWE had struggled to give us a truly enjoyable Rumble for a good while. And then they gave us two in one night here. Plus, we know that Shinsuke Nakamura will face AJ Styles at WrestleMania, with Brock vs. Roman almost certain to co-headline. And of course we know that Ronda is highly likely to wrestle in New Orleans as well. When it comes to kicking off the Road To WrestleMania with a bang, WWE hit a home run with Royal Rumble 2018.