What an utterly bizarre show, and I’m not even talking about the results and what happened, I just mean this event/pay-per-view/glorified house show in general. I’m still struggling to get my head around the idea.
Unless I’m very much mistaken, and I’ve suddenly developed onset amnesia; I’m pretty sure I was at Wrestlemania only a couple of weeks ago? Yet, it’s happened again? Only this time in Saudi Arabia, y’know, because the WWE are always hosting massive events there.
Now, it’s clear that Saudi Arabia are literally feeding Vince all the greasy, oil money they can with sparkly, diamond-encrusted spoons. This is so that WWE will hold this prestigious event in their homeland. The rumour mill suggests that WWE can expect to net anywhere between $100-200 million. Whether you agree with this show or not, you have to applaud the shrewd business that Vince has done here.
If you did actually think that this would be a glorified house show, then just take a look at the card for this event and rub your eyes in wonderment. Absolutely stacked to the rafters and beyond. It’s arguably, on paper, a more dominating card than Wrestlemania 34; at the very least it’s ‘Big Four’ worthy. But it’s still a house show.
The stage could easily be mistaken for a Mania set and it’s in the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, hosting 60, 000 people. It’s got all the same vibes of the biggest event of the year; just with a much different start time, in a much different country on a much different day; a Friday. Just why?!
Either way, with the ongoing controversy surrounding the exclusion of female wrestlers (due to strict Saudi laws) and the fact that WWE has simultaneously been building to two different PPV shows; the Greatest Royal Rumble has a lot of expectation to say the least. On one hand, it feels like a big deal, on the other, it doesn’t, and the only reason it is, is because the WWE would have you believe it is.
Regardless, a potential last-ever meeting between John Cena and HHH, an Undertaker Casket Match, the first-ever 50-man Royal Rumble match, an AJ/Nakamura rematch and an undeserved shot at redemption for Roman Reigns.
Did the Greatest Royal Rumble deliver? Let’s break it down.
HHH vs John Cena
What a way to kick-off the show. Two of the WWE’s biggest names going one-on-one for the first time in eight years. A 16-time world champion versus a 14-time world champion. No build. No story. Feels suspiciously like a live event-type match; a term that may crop up more throughout the night.
But anyway, a classic old-school feel to start things off. They went very traditional with this one, feeling each other out before a good old test of strength to assert dominance.
It built slowly and methodically with HHH staying on top for the first-half of the match. They didn’t really push the boat out with this one as and it was just a case of both future Hall of Famers getting their signature stuff in.
It culminated in a traditional WWE-style ending with both men hitting finishers, before big-match John turned on his legendary superpowers to hit two more AA’s and take the win. It was standard stuff. Although, HHH imitating Cena’s signature taunts was entertaining and Cena winning popped the crowd; it served its purpose.
I feel it was a strange match to open and as you normally expect a high-octane match to get the mood going. Nevertheless, the live crowd ate up everything they did, and it was a serviceable match.
Match Rating: **1/2
Cena then cut a patriotic promo to appeal to the nature of the crowd.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Cedric Alexander (c) vs Kalisto
Now this was fun. Lots of action. Kalisto’s seated Spanish flea, the springboard over the rope to the bottom rope etc. These two really pulled out a great match with lots of great offense. Although I wasn’t a fan of the mid-match, grounded bearhugs from Alexander. In a five-hour show, this is the match that I want to deliver constant action, not rest holds.
I also feel the match was hurt by time constraints, which is a shame as another few minutes more and they could’ve had something special.
I struggled to really get behind the story here too. Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander’s Wrestlemania match was one of the best of the ‘205 Live’ era as it had a clear story and you really felt the emotion during that match, not so much here. But Cedric’s facial expressions and overall demeanour in his matches has facilitated some much-needed growth in his character and it was prevalent here too.
Match Rating: ***1/2
WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
Sheamus and Cesaro vs Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt
If the ‘Greatest Royal Rumble’ ring curtain had been replaced with a ‘RAW’ one for this, then it wouldn’t have been a surprise. It was average. Just a by-the-numbers tag team match that ended with the right result.
Matt got worked over for most of the match with Bray getting the hot tag and eventually leading to the win. God, if you’d have told me two months ago that I’d be excited for Bray Wyatt, I’d have probably gone for a voluntary cat scan to check if I was ok. He’s been a revelation alongside Woken Matt. They should have a bright future going forward as tag champions.
Match Rating: ** 1/2
WWE United States Championship
Jeff Hardy(c) vs Jinder
Well it’s official, not even the effervescent Jeff Hardy can get a decent match out of Jinder. The whisper in the wind botch hurt this match BIG time, especially with the commentators trying their hardest to cover for it. Sorry guys, you just can’t cover for Jinder. Apart from that, not much else happened. It wasn’t a long match, and it was your usual boring Jinder offense of strikes and the occasional rest hold.
The home straight was your usual Jinder Mahal match: Sunil Singh interference and Jinder going for the Khalass. But Jeff countered, hit the twist of fate and a Swanton Bomb. 1-2-3. Yawn. Can we PLEASE STOP with Jinder Mahal. I was all for his push a year ago, but he hasn’t progressed, not even one iota. He can’t cut a decent promo and his wrestling ability is still unevolved.
Chris Jericho then cut an amusing promo backstage where he put all-manner of people on the list. Jericho is a timeless classic and we need him back asap.
WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The Bludgeon Brothers(c) vs The Usos
WWE has at least made a half-hearted attempt at building this match up in the last couple of weeks. But without any Naomi interference here, it just ended up as an extended squash match.
Straight from the get-go, The Bludgeon Brothers were on the offensive; a staple of their matches. Just powerful, hard-hitting offense with you wondering how long the Usos could survive. It turns out not long. The Usos retain some credibility here and The Bludgeon Brothers are just an unstoppable wrecking force with no foreseeable challengers capable of toppling them…except maybe Sanity?
WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor vs The Miz vs Samoa Joe
The show hasn’t been great so far. It’s in need of some serious pepping up, and this was the match to do it. You had four superb athletes in this match: Samoa Joe with his raw power and animalistic tendencies, The Miz with his technical abilities and desire to reclaim his intercontinental title, and Finn and Seth with their all-around game.
There was plenty of big, hard-hitting moves here; although I don’t think ladders were used nearly as much as they could’ve been. The ladders ended up feeling like more of a gimmick by the time Rollins pulled down the belt, there wasn’t even that many instances of superstars attempting to pull down the belt.
Nevertheless, there was solid in-ring action here with Finn taking some nasty bumps; especially a slam from Joe onto a prone ladder. The Miz had a nice portion of the match too where he ran wild and took out everybody, reminding everyone that he’s more than just ‘Miz TV’.
Considering the people involved here, and the unfortunate expectation of a ladder match being sky-high, thanks to Takeover: New Orleans, I think this could’ve been better.
Following this, we got a cooldown segment where a promo package showed all the Saudi hopefuls who had undergone WWE try-outs. Four of the hopefuls were interviewed in the ring, before being interrupted by Daivari, from 205 Live, and the older Daivari (formerly with Muhammad Hassan), to put down and disrespect the aspiring WWE superstars, they were promptly beaten down. It was a small segment to pop the crowd.
AJ Styles(c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura
After their hotly anticipated Wrestlemania match didn’t live up to the hype; this was a chance to make amends. Their first effort was way too slow, and never really kicked in to that second gear to push it towards the upper echelons of Wrestlemania classics.
Thankfully things have changed since. The face vs face dynamic just didn’t click at Mania, whereas a clearly defined heel vs face scenario worked much better here. Michael Cole’s best friend here ‘Shin’ had been punching below the belt for the better part of three weeks. There was a meaningful story with Nakamura willing to do anything he could to win the title, leaving his honourable attitude in the dust.
Both men went at each other early on, they took bigger risks and Nakamura really played up to his heelish antics well e.g rolling out the ring to regroup. The pace was quicker and there was a real sense of urgency here.
I was having a great time with this one, but the ending was quite sudden as I’d anticipated a clear-cut winner; instead, we got a double count out with AJ retaining. It was an interesting twist that I don’t think many people saw coming, but it reeked of WWE’s unwillingness to pull a major trigger at this event. It also made the event feel more like a house show sadly, as this just wouldn’t happen at Wrestlemania.
We’ll obviously get the rubber match at Backlash, possibly with a stipulation involved, and this will conclude a mixed-bag of a rivalry. This was better than their Wrestlemania encounter, but it begged for more.
The Undertaker vs Rusev
Another monumental match with absolutely no story and no prior, with the sole purpose to sell-out a stadium. With the casket match stipulation, it begged the question, could Rusev pull off the ultimate upset? A way to make Undertaker still look strong, whilst giving a massive push to one of the most over men n the company.
Bluntly, no he couldn’t. In fairness, the match was about 10 minutes, and Rusev got so much more offense in then any of us could’ve dreamed of. But one chokeslam was enough and that was that.
WWE Universal Championship Cage Match
Brock Lesnar(c) vs Roman Reigns
The rematch that nobody wanted. The rematch that Roman Reigns didn’t deserve. They had a simply stunning match at Wrestlemania 31 that was abruptly ended by Seth Rollins. What followed was a 3-year journey that culminated in Brock vs Roman part II, an absolute s***fest at Wrestlemania 34.
To be honest, I really didn’t think they could produce something worse than they did at Wrestlemania 34. They did. This was absolutely dreadful. Abysmal. A WWE Universal Title Match, reduced to nothing more than a few german suplexes, the odd Superman Punch, spears here and there and a sprinkling of F-5’s.
This worked for Goldberg and Lesnar because they did all that in half the time and they were two superheroes. This just felt forced, contrived and was just insulting. I think the only positive was that it didn’t last as long as their Wrestlemania match.
But the abusing of signatures and finishers is just getting old and it’s insulting to the business. Lesnar’s reign has long since overstayed its welcome and everyone is sick of it now.
But the ending…since I was a kid, I was taught that you had to escape with both feet hitting the floor. The spear through the cage was cool, but Reign’s feet clearly hit the floor first. Lesnar hit back first, STILL on top of the cage panel.
Go figure. I hated this so much.
50-Man Greatest Royal Rumble Match
I assumed that we would have a big name to start of with, but Daniel Bryan!? That was a shock as he was a favourite to win. He had the perfect starting partner in Dolph Ziggler. Two guys that knew how to go.
Overall, I was bored for the most-part. By having 50 men, that meant you had to have lots of mid-card, lower-card talent to act as filler. For every Braun, you had a Curt Hawkins, Curtis Axel, Goldust and Mojo Rawley.
There wasn’t much excitement, not much happened and even the surprise appearances were a little underwhelming; partly due to WWE’s marketing. I completely understand that they wanted to publicise Jericho and Mysterio’s entries, but it would’ve been cool to keep them as secrets.
We had Hiroki Sumi (a veteran Sumo wrestler), Hornswoggle, Tucker Night, Roderick Strong, Babatunde and Dan Matha as unexpected arrivals. So, we did get a few NXT appearances, but not exciting ones.
There were also a couple of notable botches from Primo botching a jump to the middle rope, to of course, the funniest moment in the history of professional wrestling.
Titus will forever be remembered for “that” slip. I honestly must’ve re-watched that about 6, 242 times.
On the plus, the match really made Elias and Braun look terrific here. Braun also broke Roman’s record for most elimination with 13. Not forgetting Daniel Bryan setting a new record for longest time spent in a Royal Rumble.
Braun winning was the right call and now he owns a trophy bigger than himself, and a hideous green belt that will never be seen again.
Match Rating: **
This wasn’t the special show it was made out to be. Not to sound like a broken record, but this was just a glorified house show with some unique matches and rare appearances. Nothing of any significance happened here and very little has changed in the grand scheme of things.
The cruiserweight match and AJ/Nakamura are worth checking out, apart from that, you should probably go on YouTube and search for the Titus O’ Neil slip, then keep that on repeat for the 5 hours that you’d have to spend watching this show.
Show rating: **