Wrestling fans, as a rule, can be a little cranky. It’s like any other television series where viewers theorize and predict only to be disappointed when things don’t quite break their way, but it’s happening for hundreds of hours a year so there is quite a bit to critique if you’re up for it. Sunday night’s Royal Rumble event was by no means perfect, but it had enough fun things to recommend it that we’re going to spend this review being positive. Few things beat a nice night of pro wrestling.
1. The Right Winner, Part One. If you want to make the crowd really get behind a Rumble winner, put them in the final two with Roman Reigns. But Philadelphia and those watching at home were already behind Shinsuke Nakamura from the moment he entered the ring, singing his entrance music as he kicked ass. Sure, that support increased when he was left in the ring with just Reigns and John Cena, but it was there from the moment the strings hit.
— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2018
2. The Right Winner, Part Two. Once it was down to Asuka against the Bella Twins, there was little doubt who the winner was going to be — but honestly, there was minimal doubt once Ronda Rousey didn’t appear at No. 30. Asuka is the best, and her continuing to win is a-okay.
— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2018
3. Asuka slapping away Rousey’s hand. There were complaints that Rousey stepped on Asuka’s moment, but considering she, Alexa Bliss, and Charlotte Flair will be all over mainstream coverage in the coming days because of Rousey’s presence, it was most likely elevated by the former MMA star’s presence.
4. Nakamura eliminating Cena and Reigns to win the Rumble. That’s something you can dine out on for a while.
5. The trend of everyone abusing poor Heath Slater on their way to the ring, only for Slater to get a bit of revenge by eliminating Sheamus.
6. The Hurricane showed up!
7. Rey Mysterio Jr. not only showed but was in excellent shape, got in all of his moves multiple times (double 619!), and made the final six, including trading blows with Reigns. That is not something anyone predicted for 2018.
8. The annual Kofi Kingston save, this time aided by a plate of pancakes and a cheerleading-style basket toss.
— Brandon Stroud (@MrBrandonStroud) January 29, 2018
9. Naomi getting creative with the executive chair, only to be quickly dumped by Nia Jax for her troubles.
10. Jax squaring off against Beth Phoenix.
11. That it took every woman in the ring to eliminate Jax, an honor she deserved after four straight eliminations and general beast-mode booking.
12. Pretty much every one of the female legends who showed up. There were signature moves, callbacks to old feuds, and most of them seem to have avoided the aging process.
13. Sasha Banks nearly going the distance, becoming more and more a heel as the match wore on despite wearing awesome Wonder Woman gear. We are being positive here, so let’s just add it would have been nice if Becky Lynch could have been her counterweight a little longer.
14. Trish Stratus at No. 30. Her standoffs with both Mickie James and Banks were really fun. Could Trish maybe come back full-time for a bit? Please? She didn’t look like she had lost a step.
15. The Ember Moon and Asuka standoff. They had a long history in NXT, and it was fitting that Moon was able to hit the Clipse but still get eliminated at the hands of the Empress of Tomorrow. Perhaps someday, Ember.
16. The women’s match in general. Considering how much they had to lean on legends and NXT to fill out the 30 participants and how little experience most of the ladies had in a match like this, there was a lot of good stuff even if it was rough around the edges at times. The WWE won’t be able to lean on the same plethora of veterans again in 2019, but they’ve got a year to get the roster further stocked.
17. The crowd chanting, “You both suck!” to Reigns and Cena. You stay you, Philly.
18. The run given to NXT champion Andrade Cien Almas. He didn’t necessarily do a whole lot, but he hung around for a while and was eliminated by Randy Orton after an RKO, a perfectly noble way of exiting a Rumble. If you haven’t watched Almas’s match against Johnny Gargano from Saturday night at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, please rectify that as soon as you can.
19. Adam Cole’s cameo, the Philly crowd shouting along with him, and having the honor of getting eliminated by Mysterio. If you have not watched Cole’s match with Aleister Black from NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, again, you should attempt to rectify that as quickly as possible.
20. This is a small thing, but near the end of the Rumble, Balor was standing on the apron facing the camera. As Nakamura considered charging at him, a number of audience members were attempting to wave him off, wise to the fact that one of the worst moves you can do in a Rumble is run full speed at the ropes and allow someone to use your own momentum against you. Nakamura was rewarded for his patience.
21. Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane getting to hit not one but two of her perfect top-rope elbow drops.
@KairiSaneWWE ⚓️The Pirate Princess⚓️
— Kairi Sane ⚓ Fans (@KairiSaneFans) January 29, 2018
22. Lita hitting a moonsault on both Lynch and Banks.
23. Brock Lesnar and Braun Stroman tossing around each other and also Kane.
24. Finn Balor’s performance. Coming in at No. 2, Balor made the final four and was actively in the mix the entire time with four eliminations. I don’t think you can have a “star-making turn” if you were the first Universal champion, but between this match and the Club reuniting, 2018 could be looking up for the Irishman.
25. Both Aiden English and Elias getting to sing.
26. Seth Rollins’s pants, which we can assume were a tribute to Guy Fieri.
27. The Miz getting to look good. The intercontinental champion hit all his signature moves and was only eliminated following a double team by Reigns and Rollins.
28. The Usos vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable subverting the usual pacing of a 2-out-of-3 falls match. There was a long wait for the first fall, with the second fall coming shortly thereafter and the clean sweep that negated the need for a third fall. That is not usually how it works, and that’s fun.
29. A.J. Styles doing A.J. Styles things to retain in a fun handicap match, and Nakamura not messing around with declaring he’d be coming for his old rival’s title. That match is going to rule so, so much.
30. Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Rousey wore a jacket that belonged to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. It had been given to her by Piper’s son prior to the match. Piper and Rousey were close, as they shared a trainer and he had given her permission to use “Rowdy” as her nickname.
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