Royal Rumble 2018 kicked off live from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, January 28 at 5 p.m. ET.
Kalisto, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik def. TJP, Jack Gallagher, and Drew Gulak
In what could be considered a random “force the cruiserweights onto the card” match, this six-man tag proved to be entertaining, even if you had more people in your living room than Wells Fargo had in its stands when the bout began.
Unfortunately, for the first five minutes of the match, not much happened outside of meaningless chain wrestling and the face team mocking TJP with his lame “dab” gimmick.
Things then began to pickup prior to a WWE Network special break, with Kalisto, Dorado and Metalik hitting a triple moonsault in stereo.
There was a nice comedy spot shortly after this that saw Gallagher being scolded by Gulak right before the former talent was about to attempt a high-flying move. This, of course, is part of Gulak’s “no fly zone” gimmick. Gallagher, naturally, would miss.
Kalisto would help his team earn a victory by hitting his finishing maneuver.
A typical cruiserweight match to the open kickoff show, but it worked given the fact there were roughly nine humans in the arena at the time.
The Revival def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
A rematch from the Monday Night Raw 25th anniversary show. During that version of this match, The Revival was used as fodder for a “too sweet off” between DX and Balor Club.
Considering both teams have a very NWA-ish feel to them (in the best way possible), the match started in a more plodding pace than some more current tag matches. Early on, with Gallows and Anderson playing the role of the good guys, Balor Club dominated heading into a WWE Network break.
Coming out of the break, The Revival had most of the control, focusing heavy on rest-holds and some heel tomfoolery to keep their advantage.
Gallows received a hot-tag that appeared to have Balor Club ready for the win, but The Revival were able to steal a return match victory following some sneaky chop blocking.
United States Championship Open Challenge: Bobby Roode (c) def. TBD (Mojo Rawley)
Roode opens with a promo talking about the United States Championship’s history and having a US Open Challenge. After a slight dramatic pause, Mojo Rawley’s music hits with mostly indifference being heard from the audience — though, to be fair, the arena was still not yet full. Still, in comparison to Roode’s reaction, it wasn’t good.
Also not good? The “Mojo sucks” chants to start the final match of the kickoff show.
While the crowd never really gave Mojo a fair shake, booing him regularly, he performed relatively well.
Overall, the match was an “eh” on a scale of bluh to hooray. For those unaware, eh falls somewhere above below-average but below ho-hum.
Roode would retain after some standard back-and-forth action.
Handicap match for the WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
My goodness, the crowd was scorching hot for this one. Considering all three wrestlers carry that non-WWE made appeal Philadelphia fans adore, it isn’t too shocking.
As expected, the early portion of this match featured plenty of shenanigans from Owens and Zayn. Despite that, at least to start, Styles was in control.
Eventually, because of the famed numbers game, Owens and Zayn would gain control of the match with plenty of grinding and few solid bumps. The fans in Philly, to their credit, allowed the story to be told during a slow-to-formulate match.
When things started to get going, though, it really got going. With Styles often appearing ready to go for the win, the two-on-one advantage would keep preventing the WWE Champion from retaining. It was terrific match booking by the trio.
The finish of the match was strange. In a moment that appeared to be scripted, Owens, who wasn’t legally tagged into the match, was pinned by Styles.
The Phenomenal One retained, obviously.
Following the match, Owens and Zayn complained about the finish to Shane McMahon. After asking what Shane saw in that non-tag finish, the duo’s rival simply replied “yup!”
2-out-of-3-falls match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) def. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin
Two out of three ain’t bad!
Or however that song goes. Anyway, this was a stellar match, even if it didn’t go the typical all three falls route.
Considering The Usos have reached the sort of status that makes them a lock for the WWE Hall of Fame, yet with Gable and Benjamin somehow still booked strong despite the sweep, it was a win-win for everyone involved.
The match didn’t get as much time on the card as most presumed, let us not forget that two Royal Rumble matches remained.
Heading into the Men’s Royal Rumble, this WWE Network Special has gone chalk in its bookmaking.
2018 Men’s Royal Rumble match: Winner- Shinsuke Nakamura
For the sake of cleanliness, Rusev was the first entrant. It was his fifth appearance in a Royal Rumble match. As for number two, that honor went to Finn Balor.
From here on out, we won’t bog you down with all the entrance orders, unless crazy, and just highlight the awesomeness. That being said, to appease a Philly crowd steep in hardcore tradition, former ECW Champion Rhyno came out in the three spot. Because of course, ECW chants followed.
After Baron Corbin came in at four, he eliminated Rhyno, and was then tossed over the top rope by Balor. Corbin then, after being eliminated, destroyed both Rusev and Balor.
Unfortunately, through five entrances (Heath Slater was five), Corbin beating up people was the high spot up until that point. Corbin left after beating up Slater before the latter could even enter the ring.
With every still legal participant in the match down, the WWE used this time to showcase an emerging and legit future superstar…
Elias was fantastic in cutting a promo prior to the next entrant. Thankfully, we had our first surprise of the night, with NXT Champion Andrade Cien Almas joining the fold and being given solid spots.
For those worried about numerical fits, for the second year in a row, Ty Dillenger appeared ready at the perfect 10 spot, but was jumped by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who lost their handicap match night to AJ Styles earlier in the night. Sami would insert himself in the match.
Worth noting, heavy favorite to win the Royal Rumble, Shinsuke Nakamura, entered the match at 14. He would eliminate the illegally entered Zayn.
Funny enough, Owens tweeted this out as his buddy was eliminated.
Random aside: Rusev, still in the match halfway through it, was massively over and receiving chants from the Philly crowd.
Notable entrance: Seth Rollins came in at 18.
Kofi Kingston would then stay in the match via pancakes (this is a highlight of the Royal Rumble).
Rusev would shortly be eliminated after that sport, lasting roughly 30 minutes and 18 other entrances.
Philadelphia’s favorite son, who isn’t their son at all because he is from the Massachusetts area, John Cena entered at 20. He was booed.
At 21, we have our first legit surprise appearance, with Hurricane Helms entering the fold. He lasted seconds, but did receive a nice ovation from the crowd.
At 23, we got a huge shock to the system (get it?), with The Undisputed Era’s Adam Cole. The crowd went bonkers for his entrance. For a match, at least up until this point, lacking major fun moments, the riddled with potential Cole getting showcased was a nice touch.
Another notable entrance (a recurring theme late in the Rumble): The Miz came in at 26.
27 was — wait for it — Rey Mysterio. The other shocker was Dolph Ziggler returning, after work-shoot retiring, at the 30 spot. Ziggler did not last long. After a slow start, the Rumble got incredibly Royal at the end.
The final six men in the match were Randy Orton, John Cena, Balor, Reigns, Mysterio and Nakamura.
Final four? Reigns, Cena, Nakamura and Balor. At that point, Balor was in the match for 52 minutes.
Cena would eliminate Balor, which made people sad. It also made the Philly crowd root for Nakamura with all their collective cold hearts.
Nakamura would then boot Cena out of the ring and overcome Reigns to win the 2018 Royal Rumble. As importantly, after the match, the Rumble winner announced who he wants to main event Wrestlemania with.
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship match: Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) vs. Cesaro and Sheamus
This was a continuation of a fantastic feud. The Bar was going for a fourth tag team tile run, with Rollins and Jordan entering the contest navigating the latter’s heel tendencies.
As you would expect, this was a fantastic match for the majority of it. One of the best in-ring moments was Rollins hitting a frog splash on both Cesaro and Sheamus.
Jordan began playing as if he was too injured to be tagged back in the match. This not only setup for the finish, but for a potential story-arc to begin between Jordan and Rollins. It left Rollins out to dry, as Jordan played the cowardly heel. Although, to be fair, announcer Corey Graves did a great job backing Jordan as a talent “protecting himself for the long run.”
With Rollins being without help, The Bar won its fourth tag team championship.
Triple threat match for the WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane
This match was more fast and furious than Vin Diesel driving a car on a nuclear submarine. Yes, that is serious. And you are welcome, Fast & Furious die-hard fans!
Honestly, a brutally violent match from the jump, each giant humanoid got their spots in. Between chairs being bent over backs, choke slams being handed out like candy on Halloween, as well as the pure and unadulterated violence that is Strowman, you couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining match featuring three men that size.
One of the more fun moments of this bout was Lesnar giving Kane the F-5, covering him, with Strowman breaking it up by giving him a German suplex from Lesnar’s pinning-an-opponent position.
Lesnar would get revenge via hurling the announce table on top of the cranium of a prone Strowman. The Beast Incarnate followed that up by putting Kane through the other announce table.
Brock would hit yet another F-5 to Kane to retain his title. However, as a story to keep an eye on, Strowman stood in the ring and screamed about Lesnar not beating him.
2018 Women’s Royal Rumble match
In what was already a historic night, the WWE made more history, having the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble main event the promotion’s second biggest Network Special.
The first ever Women’s Royal Rumble entry was “The Boss” Sasha Banks. As for the second, Becky Lynch entered the contest.
In fairness, the Philadelphia crowd appeared a little burnt out at this point, but that didn’t last too long as the performers began to put on a spectacle following a methodical start to the match.
Not to mention, at the five spot, WWE Hall of Famer Lita made her return.
At this point in the match, it was, as the cool kids say, lit.
At nine, another surprise from yesteryear, as Torrie Wilson returned.
In all honestly, through the first 10 participants, it was an absolutely stellar start to the historic first ever Women’s Royal Rumble. It had the chance, not even a dozen minutes in, to steal the entire show.
Molly Holly still got it!
The WWE didn’t slow down with returning superstars. Michelle McCool showed up halfway through the Rumble.
Vickie Guerrero also returned, carrying with her the same gimmick she had when she left. While a bit unceremonious, it was nice to see her involved in the event, with the Philly crowd even giving her some love.
Nia Jax came in at 22 and destroyed house, but with the highlight of it being Naomi being saved from eliminated competitors. As Naomi was hanging on for dear life outside the ring, she began to scale the guardrail and make her way back to the ring by crawling with a chair.
She would then be eliminated by Jax.
However, four-time Women’s Champion Beth Phoenix entered to face Jax. The crowd lost its collective mind. “This is awesome” chants broke out.
Notable entrance at 25: Heavy favorite Asuka.
Nikki Bella showed up at 27 and garnered some offense. Naturally, Brie Bella showed up at 28 to “Yes!” chants from the crowd. Bayley entered at 29. The stage was nearly set for a historic finish.
At 30, yet another WWE Hall of Fame member made her return to the squared-circle.
With no more wrestlers left to join the fold, the remaining women teamed up to eliminate Nia Jax. Also, Banks eliminated (former) best friend Bayley.
Final four: Bella twins, Sasha Banks and Asuka.
Banks was the first of the finalists to go. A great performance by The Boss, having started the entire event.
With only the Bellas left, Asuka overcame all odds to win the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble. It was a match that not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded all expectations.
Following the match, Charlotte Flair and Alexis Bliss entered the ring, holding their respective titles. Asuka having a choice to make, but one not being allowed to happen.
Shocking a pro wrestling loving planet, Ronda Rousey debuted in the WWE.
Nothing happened other than her appearing with Charlotte Flair, Asuka, and Alexis Bliss being in the ring.
She walked off after shaking Stephanie McMahon’s hand with her music playing.