Friday, April 27, 2018
It’s not your typical WWE event. This network special featured a loaded ten match card, the biggest Royal Rumble ever, and took place in a huge stadium. With no women on the show (a controversy I’m not going to get into) the Kickoff show was hosted by Byron Saxton, Jerry Lawler, and Booker T.
The stage and entire setup for the show looked fantastic.
What is it, 2008? Both guys got some cool entrances. Triple H looks like Kratos. I just wanted to point that out. The fans popped for every little thing they did, making for a wild atmosphere. They worked this like two big stars who didn’t need to do a ton, which is fine. It gave it an old school feel for the first half. HHH had Cena’s FIVE MOVES OF DOOM well scouted. He even stole the Five Knuckle Shuffle, complete with a crotch chop. He also caught Cena’s diving Fameasser into a powerbomb, which was how Cena broke his neck in 2008. When Cena finally hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle, it felt earned and he slightly altered it because of HHH’s scouting. They both kicked out of each other’s finisher, with the second being too obvious to bite on. After a series of submission counters, Cena hit an AA, a slingshot into the corner, and added another AA to win in 15:44. That was a great old school match. They started slow and built to something bigger, investing the crowd perfectly. They didn’t overdo anything, which you want from an opener. It was a smartly worked match by two great veterans in front of the right crowd.
Post-match, Cena cut a promo about being thankful for the opportunity to be on this show.
Kalisto earned this shot in a Gauntlet Match on Tuesday. It’s Alexander’s first defense. Both guys barely got a reaction. They opened with a much faster pace than the opener, but the crowd just didn’t react to any of their high spots. They brought the big spots and had some great exchanges throughout. Kalisto hit a sick tornado DDT at one point, while Alexander delivered his snap Michinoku Driver. There was a great C4 off the top rope by Kalisto. He avoided the Lumbar Check, but had Salida Del Sol countered into a huge Lumbar Check and that was all at 10:13. Despite almost no crowd reaction, these two worked hard to have a very good match. Great counters, non-stop action and a strong closing finish.
Like the cruiserweights, these guys didn’t get much of a reaction. The weird tandem of Bray and Matt did manage to get a pop after some double team offense. However, none of it looked particularly good. Matt got isolated by the Bar, who are just so good at what they do. Bray’s hot tag was alright. He eventually got worked over but did his creepy crab spot and tagged Matt. They proceeded to win with their shitty tandem Twist of Fate in 8:50. Yea, that was a big step down. Rough match. The Bar’s heat segment was fine, but most of what the new champions did just didn’t work.
Nothing about this has made any sense. Angle got Jinder, then set him up to lose the US Title to a guy he sent to Smackdown. Anyway, Jeff had promo like it was 2008. This was a mess at points. Jinder completely missed a spot and Jeff crashed on Whisper in the Winds. It was hilarious. I also couldn’t help but laugh when Jeff took off his shirt to no reaction from all the men in the crowd. Jinder nearly won after a Sunil distraction. Jeff escaped and won with a Swanton Bomb in 6:10. It was better than the last match, but nowhere near as good as their solid bout on Raw.
They killed time, most likely so the crowd could pray, with video packages, the panel, and interviews with Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho. Jericho’s was great, as he put Mojo Rawley on the list like four times.
As they’ve been doing for a while, the Bludgeon Brothers dominated. They hit Jey with everything they had. He made the tag to Jimmy and the Usos got going. They used a series of superkicks and a big splash from Jimmy to come close to victory. The champions survived and got back in control. Rowan hit a particularly nice spot to the outside. They hit their finish and retained in 5:09. Like Mania, this felt rushed. It was a well-executed match, it just felt like they tried to pack a 10 minute match into five.
What a loaded lineup. Miz’s entrance had a TON of pyro. There were some great moments throughout this, as expected from four talents like this. Joe and Miz nearly formed a team, only for Joe to take him out. Finn and Seth got to showcase their athleticism. There were several spots of guys being thrown or slammed onto ladders and they all came off looking great. The Skull Crushing Finale on Joe onto the edge of a ladder was particularly great. Seth took an RVD style bump on a Miz DDT. It’s hard to mention all the really good moments sprinkled in throughout this match. The finish was really cool, as Finn was inches away from winning. Then, Seth springboarded onto the ladder and beat him to the top to pull it down in 14:34. This wasn’t a blow away Ladder Match, but it was still great. It was the first thing to get the crowd invested since Cena and HHH. Lots of good, hard hitting spots and a cool, inventive finish.
Four dudes who got signed after a tryout in Saudi Arabia were interviewed and cut short promos in the ring. In a surprising moment, Ariya Daivari’s theme hit and he came out, with his brother! That’s right, Shawn Daivari. They badmouthed the new guys and got beat up for it. This was a way better segment than you’d expect.
We got some of their greatest hits in the early stages. The knees from Nakamura and his “COME ON” spot, as well as AJ’s big dropkick. The heel/face dynamics allowed this match to work better than the Mania one. There was more aggression from both and it was paced better than the slow Mania match. They began building to something bigger down the stretch and I totally bit on a near fall when Nakamura used a low blow behind the referee’s back. AJ got his hand on the rope at the last second to save his title. AJ cut off the Kinshasa attempt, remaining one step ahead of Nakamura. They fought to the outside and AJ tackled Nakamura over the announce table. From there, they brawled until the double countout finish in 14:26. Again, they didn’t have something that touched their WK match, but I enjoyed this more than Mania. The alignments are working for both guys. While the finish may seem cheap, it continues the feud and sets up another match at Backlash.
Bury me softly, brother. The fans actually sang along with English on “RUSEV DAY.” I half expected this to be a squash even shorter than what Undertaker did to John Cena at WrestleMania. Luckily, it wasn’t. Taker continued to look great in 2018 and even took a bump or two. Rusev got in much more offense than expected. Aiden English also took a Tombstone where he legit landed on his head. Both guys were placed in the casket and it was shut at 9:38. Solid little match, Taker looked good, Rusev wasn’t made to look like a joke, and I had fun.
WWE doesn’t have the best track record with cage matches and these two totally shit the bed at Mania. There wasn’t a lot going for this coming in. And again, they didn’t do very well. I appreciated Brock choosing to just beat up Roman because he’s so confident against him to this point. Then, it went into finisher overkill. A fair amount of Spears and F5s. Roman also used a chair, but we mostly just saw a bunch of bad camera cuts because WWE cameramen do some weird things. Roman hit another Spear, sending himself and Brock crashing through the cage. Though Brock laid on the steel and Roman rolled off onto the ground, Brock was declared the winner after 9:14. Why aren’t they just pulling the trigger on Roman? Either make him the guy or cut the bullshit with these matches. I don’t care anymore. Put us out of our misery.
This was one of those matches that probably makes no sense or won’t hold up that well, but it was a blast to watch live. Daniel Bryan came in at #1 and began a record setting run during the match. I’m not going to try and mention everything that happened. Bryan lasted a record 76 minutes, while Braun Strowman eliminated a record 13 competitors. Some of the other highlights included a surprise appearance by Roderick Strong, as well as some hilarious cameos from guys like Tucker Knight, Dan Matha, and an E Honda looking dude nobody had ever heard of. Elias got a ton of shine and eliminated Kurt Angle and Saudi crowd favorite Randy Orton. Babatunde is massive, even bigger than Braun, and got a small showcase. Hornswoggle had a fun appearance, while Titus O’Neil tripped and stumbled on his way to the ring in an incredibly funny moment. Cass eliminated Bryan to end his run, then got tossed by Braun to end it in 77:19. A wacky match that was a blast with the right winner.
Overall: All in all, I thought this was a good show. It had the spectacle of a WrestleMania and featured some strong matches. Though the Raw Tag Titles, US Title and Universal Title matches weren’t any good, five of the ten matches clocked in at ***½+. That’s impressive. AJ and Nakamura improved on Mania, the Rumble was fun, the cruiserweights delivered, HHH and Cena had one of their better matches ever, and the Ladder Match was great. A success.