Sports Entertainment Review: WWE Greatest Royal Rumble (2018)
My main curiosity was threefold here:
- What does the first ever televised PPV from Saudi Arabia look like exactly?
- How does a 50-man Royal Rumble compare to the usual 30-man?
- Will the Michael Jordan of wrestling, The Undertaker, still look as presentable as he did at 'Mania?
The answers to those questions, in short order, are:
- Unique. The crowd was hot for the really big names, i.e. John Cena, Triple H, Undertaker, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, etc. The accoustics in that massive building were (much like AT&T Stadium) tricky. You can see the hot crowd, but it sounds dead. Also, there were NO WOMEN'S MATCHES and a group of cats (in full headgear, wrap, etc.) that were going around the ringside area and seemingly bossing folks around...but they weren't security. To say there was a cultural difference would be a bit of an understatement. Women's wrestling is the hottest thing going today; sexism is blatantly silly nowadays. Get with the times.
- The entrances come more quickly and you see more of the "mid-carders", but otherwise it's pretty much the same. Rumble matches are very formulaic by the their nature. This one was on par at the very worst.
- The Undertaker does indeed seem to have better conditioning than we've seen in a few years, but he is still visibly aging. There's only so much that he can do physically now. He still tells a great story, & his psychology hasn't lost a step. He's pretty much ageless, although he should hang it up and go out on top. Sorry to say that, but it is the best way to go.
Now for the show breakdown:
- Triple H vs. John Cena (aka The Legends Match), 6/10 rating: Both entrances were classic in structure (with the exception of Cena having all the kids in Cenation gear during his) and the crowd popped damn loud for both men. It was what you would expect from a match of first-ballot Hall of Famers with nothing to prove- all of the usual spots were hit with a hefty number of false finishes. The crowd play was solid and it benefited greatly from Cena & Triple H's familiarity with each other. Nice "PR" speech by the face of the company thanking the Saudi Kingdom and the fans for their hospitality at the end. Winner: John Cena
- Kalisto (Challenger) vs. Cedric Alexander (Champion), WWE Crusierweight Championship Match, 7.5/10 rating: It's a shame that the crowd wasn't into this one all that much. It was a very solid match from the action-centric Cruiserweight division. Kalisto is one of WWE's most underrated performers, a guy who truly can go like Mysterio but will never get the push. Sad but true. Cedric Alexander is a freak of an athlete who lacks dynamic charisma. His finisher, The Lumbar Check, is fucking legit nasty and he can hit it from anywhere. Winner and still champ: Cedric Alexander
- Sheamus & Cesaro aka "The Bar" vs. Woken Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt aka "Deletor of Worlds", Raw Tag Team Championship Match, 8/10 rating: The vacant Raw Tag Titles were put up in a tourney, & the end result was a pretty damn good tag match. The "odd couple" pairings are the hot thing in wrestling right now, & WWE gave us 2 great examples of "good enemies make better partners". The Bar are at the top of their game, but their move to Smackdown Live kind of gave the ending to this one away. Hardy & Wyatt make weird so much damn fun. Winners and NEW Raw Tag Champs: Woken Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt
- Jinder Mahal (Challenger) vs. Jeff Hardy (Champion), US Championship Match, 5/10 rating: Pretty standard stuff here- Jeff jumps out early, Jinder cheats to come back, gets outside help for more pull-ahead, the good guy wins anyways. The surprise for me was the winner, as I really though they'd let Jinder get over in a Muslim country. I guess I'm the racist, huh? Whitey for the win ha ha!! Typical. Winner and STILL US Champion: Jeff Hardy
- The Usos (Challengers) vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (Champions), Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match, 7/10 rating: This one honestly got an extra point or so on the old ratings for the sheer physicality of it. There were no surprises here, nor were there any big spots. However, the brutality of the Bludgeon Brothers style is refreshing. Pro Wrestling needs a physically dominant, bad attitude, ugly as fuck tag team to run the division. Harper & Rowan fit the bill beautifully. Winners and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Bludgeon Brothers.
- The Miz (Challenger) vs. Samoa Joe (Challenger) vs. Finn Balor (Challenger) vs. Seth Rollins (Champion), 4-Way Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship, 9/10 rating: The expected show stealer was so damn good that it stole it even when you were expecting it. I really don't think there are 4 guys more at the pinnacle of their game right now than the participants here, but the one who stepped fully into spotlight was Samoa Joe. I've known for years that he's a freak, but it's nice to see the world awestruck at his blend of speed, agility, technical skill, physical nastiness, & bad attitude. It's almost unfair to have these 4 in one match for the rest of the guys on the card. I unabashedly LOVED the finish, too. Winner and STILL Intercontinental Champion: Seth Rollins
- Shinsuke Nakamura (Challenger) vs. "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles (Champion), WWE Championship Match, 8.5/10 rating: The WWE Championship is still THE #1 prize in the business, and the AJ / Shinsuke feud is proving that. I don't have the words to express how good AJ Styles really is, & I really don't have the words to express how much better I like Nakamura as a heel. He's so damn sleazy. He was born for that role like Edge or Triple H were born for it. These 2 will be feuding for a damn decade (if God loves us at all LOL). Every time they get together they up the bar a little in the name of building a true, old-school feud. No beef with the finish, either. The classic "double count-out and the champion snaps" is one of the things that makes wrestling so great. Winner and STILL WWE Champion: "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles
- Rusev vs. The Undertaker, Casket Match, 7/10 rating: While I would have preferred to see Chris Jericho do battle with The Deadman for storytelling purposes, I still get it. Jericho is massively over as maybe the top legitimately free agent legend in the biz (thank you, NJPW & Vince McMahon). Conversely, if you go against The Deadman you're going to get booed. No one is more beloved than The Undertaker...he's MJ. He's Babe Ruth. He's Joe Montana. Period. So Rusev is a good choice; a freakish athlete who can stretch the match and take the punishment. The Undertaker looks damn good for 53 years old! What's that country song say? He may not be as good as he once was, but he's as good once as he ever was. I'm sure Rusev was honored to be closed in a casket. Winner: The Undertaker (of course)
- Roman Reigns (Challenger) vs. Brock Lesnar (Champion), Steel Cage Match for the WWE Universal Championship, 5/10 rating: Here's the thing, y'all- we don't need to see these two go at it anymore. The best feuds Lesnar had last year were against Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe. Brock is an attraction and you put him against attractions. Reigns is a fantastic performer, but you just feel like this feud needs to be over. However, I did like the Lesnar dominance at the start that led to Reigns almost pulling the shocker before the spear through the cage. Good storytelling, that was. Winner and STILL WWE Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar
- 50-Man Royal Rumble Match, 7/10 rating: This match did what a Rumble match is supposed to do- introduce new faces, obtain deserved pops for surprise legends, & show who the big badasses are. Mission accomplished. I feel like 50 is a bit much for the yearly Royal Rumble where the Wrestlemania title shot is at stake, but it's perfect for this venue. It was cool to see Mark Henry and The Great Khali, & bringing out THE MAN aka Y2J aka The Ayatollah of Rock N' Rollah aka Chris Jericho at #50 was a great call. His spot with Kevin Owens was fantastic. The push for Big Cass was pretty damn big as well. Amazing debut for Roderick Strong & a solid debut for Tucker Knight of NXT tag team Heavy Machinery. The story of the match was Daniel Bryan, though. He's a top-3 performer in this game, going 1 hour and 16 minutes with a chest that looked like stepped on steak. I want to see he & Bryan go at it in an Iron Man, no bullshit. Still, the winner was what you would expect. You don't push a true monster for no reason. He's a straight-up bad motherfucker. Winner: Braun Strowman
Overall, I think the first-ever PPV from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will be remembered as a fine show and had built-in history. It served the purpose of the old Insurection PPV's in England from back in the Attitude Era. It furthered the post-Wrestlemania storylines while giving you something new and different. Overall rating: 7/10