The SmarK Rant for WWE Royal Rumble 2018 – 01.27.19
Live from Phoenix, AZ. Really interesting that they couldn’t get a stage in there, so everyone just kind of comes out without the usual gaga.
Your hosts are literally everyone under contract to the company EXCEPT Jim Ross.
Smackdown Women’s title: Asuka v. Becky Lynch
Becky goes for the arm early, but Asuka puts her down with kicks for two, so Becky returns fire and gets a shoulderblock to put her on the floor. Asuka suckers her in for a hip attack off the apron, but Becky boots her off the apron in return. They brawl on the floor and Asuka runs her into the apron, which is THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING. Actually it was the LED board, which would really suck for Becky, granted. Becky suplexes her into the railing, however, and that gets two. Becky puts the boots to her and follows with a suplex for two, but pounds away on the ropes and suddenly gets caught with an AsukaLock in the ropes. Becky goes back to the arm and gets her own armbar in the ropes, but comes off the middle rope and lands on Asuka’s knee. Asuka comes back with a dropkick and hip attack while selling the arm, and a german suplex follows. Another hip attack gets two. Asuka goes up and misses the missile dropkick, and Becky slams her for two. And then she goes in for something else and Asuka traps her in an armbar and then turns it into the Asuka-Lock, and Becky has to make the ropes. They slug it out on the apron and Asuka teases the german suplex, but then gives her a fisherman’s neckbreaker off the apron instead. Becky beats the count at 9, so Asuka puts her down with a kick for two. They slug it out and Asuka LEVELS her with a spinkick for two. To the top, and Becky manages a superplex Bexploder for two. And then they do a cool submission attempt battle as they each go for each other’s finishers, and Becky finally gets the Disarmer, which Asuka reverses for two. Becky rollup for two, but Asuka rolls her into the Asuka-Lock and then turns it into an unbelievable bridging guillotine choke for the tapout at 17:00 to retain. What an opener! ****1/4
Hmm, hopefully Becky somehow gets another shot. If only there were such a match happening tonight!
Smackdown tag team titles: Sheamus & Cesaro v. The Miz & Shane McMahon
Miz and Shane are now apparently best friends for some reason, and babyfaces, and serious contenders to the tag team titles for some other reason. So the promised focus on the tag team division appears to be starting in earnest. Shane hits Sheamus with a spear right away and poor Sheamus has to sell this like it’s Goldberg doing it, running out of the ring in terror. Over to Miz, who hits Cesaro with some armdrags while the announcers declare that the challengers are THE REAL DEAL. And then Miz gets caught in the Bar corner and double-teamed until Shane makes the save for him. Miz pounds away on Sheamus with kicks in the corner, and they fight at ringside, which quickly leads to Cesaro getting put on the table for Shane’s big elbow. Sadly, Sheamus cock-blocks him, so Shane hits a dive onto Sheamus instead. Cesaro hurls Shane into the railing to get rid of him, and the Bar double-team Miz with a slam for two. Sheamus drops a knee off the middle rope for two and goes to an armbar, then rips off Miz’s delightful custom-made Miz & Mac shirt and pounds him with the forearms. Cesaro goes to work with a chinlock as Shane stands on the apron looking like he’s about to have a heart attack already, and the Bar gets another double-team for two. Finally Miz fights out and it’s HOT TAG Grampa Shane, and the hurricane DDT gets two. Shane sets up for the coast to coast, but Cesaro tags himself in, so Shane takes him out as well because why not? Thankfully, Cesaro catches him in mid-air for the Giant Swing, as if Shane needed any more blood rushing to his face, but he uses his sick MMA skills, obviously trained by 1-0 Bellator star Jake Hager, to catch Cesaro helplessly in a triangle. Sheamus thankfully rescues before Cesaro’s career is put in further jeopardy due to oxygen deprivation, and the Bar hits Shane with the double White Noise for two. Apropos since white noise is going to be what they find on Shane’s MRI in a few years at the rate he’s going. Miz reappears to save with the Skull crushing finale on Sheamus, and Shane recovers with the shooting star press on Cesaro to win the tag titles at 13:21. Good lord. Is Shane Mcmahon as a legitimate tag team champion and smiling Miz as his partner really a thing that’s happening? The Bar tried hard, god bless them, but Shane gets more embarrassing with every match. *3/4 for the shooting star press finish, which was pretty good.
Michael Cole informs us that they’ve somehow sold enough tickets in the past two days to fit 48,000 people into the stadium. I’m a tad dubious about that claim, given they were at about 25,000 before the weekend. Maybe they had a 20,000 walkup! It happened for the first Wrestlemania! Maybe for the sake of convenience they’re counting both the people in the stadium, and the seats they’re sitting in.
RAW Women’s title: Ronda Rousey v. Sasha Banks
Sasha goes after the arm to start, but Ronda counters her flying armdrag and the crowd boos her out of the building. Ronda goes for the Three Amigos to troll the crowd, but Sasha counters out. Ronda kicks her RIGHT IN THE BABYMAKER to put her on the floor and then accidentally punches the post, which allows Sasha to hit a dive. OK, Ronda punching the post and the LED going out as a result of the force was a nice touch. Back in, Sasha goes to a chinlock and hits the knees in the corner for two. Back to the chinlock, but Ronda fights out and gets an elbow for two. Sasha goes back to the arm and gets a knee strike for two. Sasha with a Nash choke in the corner, but Ronda rolls her into the slam, which Sasha turns into an armbar, complete with SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION. Ronda comes back with the judo slam and goes for Sasha’s arm now, but she goes up and gets brought down by Sasha. They fight on the top and Sasha gets a superplex for two, and then goes for the arm until Ronda slams out of it again. So then Ronda works the arm, but Sasha boots her out of the ring. Ronda gets the armbar on the floor, which means nothing, and they head back in and slug it out. Ronda with a high knee for two, but Sasha runs her into the corner and goes back to the arm. Ronda counters the backstabber into the slam, but Sasha falls on top for two and gets the Banks Statement out of that. Sasha decides to choke her out with an armband for good measure, but Ronda makes the ropes, so Sasha rolls her over for two and switches to a Fujiwara armbar. Ronda switches out of that and gets a gutwrench slam to escape, then hits the judo slam to retain at 13:45. Kind of sloppy, but the reversals and armbars were pretty cool and Sasha worked hard here. I can dig it. ***1/2
Meanwhile, Shinsuke Nakamura goes from winning the Rumble last year to working the pre-game show this year. At least he won the US title back.
Women’s Royal Rumble:
Lacey Evans is #1 and I still have no idea what exactly her gimmick is supposed to be. She’s a marine! A pinup model from the 40s! An angry southern belle! Natalya is #2 and they do some token wrestling stuff to start before Nattie puts her on the apron and Lacey fights back in. Nattie with a rana and Mandy Rose is #3 at 1:30. She runs wild on Nattie for a bit, but gets hit with a discus lariat and Nattie puts both heels into the Sharpshooter. “Why is Lacey holding onto Mandy?” asks Corey. Liv Morgan is #4 at 3:20, and she gets Bushwackered out at 4:10. On the bright side, it takes so long to get to the ring that she can’t really break the 8 second record. Lacey beats on Mandy and Nattie in the corner and Mickie James is #5 at 5:10. She runs wild for a bit and nearly puts Rose out with a kick off the apron. Ember Moon is #6 at 7:00 as they reel off all her nicknames that haven’t gotten over. So Ember runs wild for a bit as this match is strictly midcard geek material thus far with nothing going on and everyone piles up in the corners. Billie Kay is #7 at 9:00 and she decides not to get into the match until Peyton comes out. “Is there a rule that says you have to get into the ring right away?” the announcers ask. Yes. Yes there is. In fact people have been eliminated for not getting into the ring. Morons. So there’s still fuck all happening and Nikki Cross is #8 at 11:00. So she hits everyone with a flying bodypress and she’s all crazy and stuff and bulldogs Mickie, but Mandy goes after her and that goes badly for her. So then Billie Kay decides to get into the ring after all as they abandon that running joke, and Peyton Royce is #9 anyway at 13:00. And Peyton, say it with me, runs wild for a bit, and then it’s back to everyone standing around in the corners. Tamina is #10 at 14:40, and she’s now “The Sultress of Savagery” according to Renee. Her dad was pretty savage. And she runs wild for a bit and lays out some people, then slugs it out with Nikki Cross. She goes to the top, always a bad idea in a Rumble, and hits Nikki with a flying splash. Xia Li is #11 at 17:00 as Mickie gets thrown out by Tamina, and she runs wild for a bit with kicks and looks pretty good. Sarah Logan is #12 at 19:00 as the bodies continue piling up and this match fucking sucks thus far. Nikki Cross gets bullied out by the Iconics at 20:11, and finally Charlotte is #13 at 20:50 to hopefully clear this goddamn ring of the geeks.
Everyone gangs up on her and she starts suplexing people as Lacey manages to put out both Iconics at 22:00. She tosses Xia Li, but Li hangs on and then Charlotte boots her out at 22:28. Kairi Sane is #14 as Charlotte puts Tamina out at 23:29. Charlotte asks for Kairi to bring it and then returns fire with her own chops, but Kairi regroups with the flying elbow on Logan. Nattie throws out Logan at 25:00 as a result. Maria Kanellis is #15 so I guess her release didn’t go through. She hits Charlotte with a bulldog and runs wild for a bit, but Charlotte spears her. Naomi is #16 at 27:00 and she goes after Mandy as they fight on the apron and Mandy goes out at 27:53 and then pulls Naomi out with her. However, Naomi walks on her hands to the railing and then manages an impressive leap to the stairs, but Mandy pulls her to the floor at 28:55 anyway. That was pretty funny. Charlotte finally boots Lacey out at 29:23. Candice LaRae is #17 at 30:00 and she comes in with a missile dropkick on Ember Moon and that’s about it. Alicia Fox is #18 at 31:20 and she runs wild for a bit and then it dies off again. And then we get a weird bit where Maria stomps on her hat and that makes her really angry and even the announcers are burying how stupid this is. OK then. Maria thankfully gets thrown out at 34:00. Kacy Catanzaro is #19 and this is really really early to bring her up. She does her crazy gymnastics and almost puts Fox out, but then doesn’t.
Zelina Vega is #20, cosplaying as Vega from Street Fighter, and she wants Candice. Nice callback! More nothing happening. Ruby Riott is #21 at 37:38 along with her team and they all attack Charlotte on the floor while Vega hides under the ring. Riott throws out Fox at 38:50 and then the Riott Squad hauls out Candice and powerbombs her into the railing so that Riott can throw her out at 39:26. What is the point of the referees on the floor if you can just do that? Dana Brooke is #22 at 40:00 and the Riott Squad drags her out and beats her up as well. Kairi gets tossed out by Riott at 40:30 while Vega continues to hide under the ring but pops out for the camera to remind us that she’s there. Io Shirai is #23 at 41:00 and she goes after the Riott Squad with a moonsault, but can’t throw Riott out. Rhea Ripley is #24 at 43:00 as they’re leaning pretty heavily on the Mae Young entrants this year. Kacy gets thrown out and she too walks on her hands, then climbs up the ringpost and comes back in before Rhea throws her out at 45:00. Sonya Deville is #25 as we’re running out of people to challenge Charlotte at this point. Dana gets her shit in on Rhea Ripley, but goes to the apron and gets dropkicked out at 47:00. Vega is still under the ring, but then Hornswoggle also pops out to really send this match into ***** territory. And then Vega runs into the ring and Rhea throws her out at 47:50 for the payoff. TWENTY NINE WRITERS.
Alexa Bliss returns as #26 at 48:00 and she runs wild until Charlotte cuts her off, but she manages to put Sonya out at 50:00. Bayley is #27 at 50:26 and she runs wild for a bit and boots Riott out at 51:20, then backdrops Rhea out at 51:25. Lana Rusev is #28 at 52:00 despite a broken ankle and she can’t make it to the ring before medical people stop her. Nia Jax is #29 at 54:00 and she beats up Lana for good measure, which would leave an open slot, you’d assume. So Nia beats up everyone and catches Shirai on a moonsault before throwing her out at 55:45. Natalya is gone at 55:59. And Carmella is #30 as they completely waste the chance to have R-Truth come out for that slot. She manages a rana on Nia and now Becky Lynch comes out and demands Lana’s spot, so she’s #28a at 57:24 with the monster pop. Charlotte quickly goes after her, but Becky survives that and hangs on from Nia as well. She goes up with a missile dropkick on Nia and Bliss pulls Ember out by the hair and guillotines her on the apron, then sweeps the leg to put Ember out at 60:00. Carmella gets her superkick on Bliss and Bayley gives Bliss the buckle bomb and throws her out at 61:37. Nia goes after Becky again, but Charlotte saves and suplexes everyone. Carmella goes up with a bodypress and Charlotte rolls through and then goes up and blocks Carmella’s headscissors in the corner as this ending sequence is going way too long. Charlotte thankfully boots Mella out at 64:00.
Final Four: Charlotte, Becky, Nia Jax & Bayley
Nia tries to put Bayley out, but Charlotte boots them and Bayley goes out at 65:00. Nia attacks both of the other girls and tries to put Charlotte out, but Charlotte fights back in the corner and gets a fireman’s carry before dropping her. So they try it again and Nia goes to the apron, and Becky pulls Nia out at 67:00. So we’re down to Becky and Charlotte, but Nia lays out Becky outside and injures her knee. Oh great, she’s the kneebreaker now. Becky decides to keep fighting, so Charlotte clips the knee and goes to work on it, but Becky throws her to the apron and Charlotte takes out the knee again to escape. And then she charges, Becky backdrops her over the top, and wins the Royal Rumble at 71:53. CALLED IT.
They took way too long to get where they were going, but the ending sequence ended up pretty decent and was about the only thing of value. Still, tons of wasted opportunities, like the expected Truth as #30 gag or Carmella’s dance break. **1/4 overall because most of the first ¾ of the match was complete trash and a slog to sit through, and the ending was stretched out way beyond all sanity. We still have TWO World title matches and another men’s Rumble to come and we’re already at 3 hours into the main show! But yeah, this was pretty much exactly what we all feared the original concept was going to be last year before they added all the cougars and wacky booking tricks that elevated it so much.
WWE title: The New Daniel Bryan v. AJ Styles
Bryan needs Howard Finkel to announce him as the NEEWWWWWWWWWWW Daniel Bryan! They fight over a wristlock to start and Bryan slugs him into the corner, but AJ quickly takes him down for a chinlock. AJ charges and Bryan drops him onto the ringpost to hurt the shoulder and goes to work on it. And works on it. Apparently everyone is working the arm tonight because there’s no other body parts. AJ fights back and the crowd is pretty dead for this, and he gets a pumphandle backbreaker into a neckbreaker for two despite what appears to be a bloody nose that happened somewhere in there. Bryan counters a powerbomb into a rollup and they do the reversals off that, but AJ goes after the knee now and Bryan drops him into the middle turnbuckle to escape. Bryan with the running dropkick in the corner, which sets up a dragon suplex for two. They fight to the floor and AJ gets the moonsault DDT off the railing and they still can’t wake up the crowd here in the death slot. Look, AJ apparently has a broken nose, just call an audible and go home because some of us have to work tomorrow morning. AJ comes back in with the 450, but Bryan catches him in the LeBell Lock and then AJ reverses to the calf crusher. “Remember the injured left knee of Daniel Bryan!” declares Tom Phillips. What, the one that AJ worked on for like 30 seconds? That one? Crowd is just scary dead as Bryan gets an enzuigiri and seated head kick for two. They’re just out there killing each other with stiff shots for a crowd that is basically on their phones or napping. But the script says they’re going however long, so they just keep going. They fight to the top and Bryan brings him down with a superplex, but AJ lands on his feet and rolls Bryan into the calf crusher. They fight for a backslide and AJ turns it into a brainbuster for two. I think Daniel’s brain is busted enough for one lifetime. And then they’re both out after a Pele Kick, and Erick Rowan randomly comes out to watch. Time to repackage him again, I guess? Ref bump and Styles Clash, but Rowan chokeslams AJ and Bryan retains at 24:34. What the FUCK was that whole deal? Twenty five minutes of boredom for that shitty finish they could have done on TV? So I guess Rowan is now playing Diesel, although Daniel doesn’t believe in fossil fuels so maybe he’s Renewable Energy Source? **1/4
Next week: Halftime Heat returns with an NXT six-man that should be pretty awesome.
Universal title: Brock Lesnar v. Finn Balor
OK, look, I love Finn, but this show is insanely long and he needs to take one for the team and get squashed in 20 seconds so we can move on. So Balor comes out smiling like a moron as usual and clapping hands for this supposed most important match of his career. Finn attacks in the corner after all the video packages and entrances and introductions, but Brock suplexes him to the floor and hurls him into the apron like a ragdoll. Another suplex on the floor, but Finn sends him into the announce table’s corner, right in the diverticulitis. Well that’s a unique way to get the heat on him. Back in, Brock continues beating on Finn while grimacing like he’s badly constipated, and he follows with another suplex. Finn fights back with the sling blade, but walks into a clothesline. Finn hits him in the gut a couple of times, and you know if it was Ken Shamrock he’d be biting on a condom of fake blood by now to really bring it home. Finn with the double stomp and Brock heads to the floor again, allowing Finn to follow with a series of dives like someone spamming their special move against a video game boss. Back in, Finn goes up with the Coup De Grace for two and Brock turns it into the kimura and Balor taps at 8:37. Good for what it was but it didn’t need to be on the show at all. And of course, in Vince McMahon’s world, David v. Goliath ends with Goliath going over. ***1/2
Jesus, I feel sorry for everyone in the building who had to sit through a 2-hour preshow and then a five hour main PPV. Elias is #1 and even Corey is bitching about how long the show is! Jeff Jarrett is #2, back in the old gear. Guess they couldn’t get Honky Tonk Man for this spot against Elias. So Elias offers him a duet because that’s what this show needs. So Jeff spells his name again and Elias turns on him and we’re underway. Jarrett actually fights back on him for a bit, but Elias gives him the El Kabong and tosses him at 1:20. Shinsuke Nakamura is #3 at 1:45 and Elias ropewalks with Elias in a cute spot, but can’t put Nak out. Kurt Angle is #4 at 3:30 and throws suplexes on both guys but can’t put Elias out. I’m actually surprised Kurt never won a Rumble. It’s one of the few things he didn’t accomplish. Big E is #5 at 5:30 and he too throws suplexes and hits Nakamura with the big splash. Nakamura bails to the apron to escape the Big Ending, allowing Angle to hit the Angle Slam on E, but Nakamura boots him to the floor at 7:05. That’s about right for Angle these days. Johnny Gargano is #8 at 7:30 and I bet he’s going long. Elias tries to throw him out but he hangs on and hits the slingshot spear. Jinder Mahal is #7 at 9:00 and he gets to run wild for god knows what reason. And then Gargano kicks him out at 9:50, thankfully. The Singhs decide to get involved anyway and the babyfaces all team up and humiliate them. Samoa Joe is #8 at 10:50, and shockingly this is his Rumble debut. So Joe wrecks some people and get the hilarious spot where he walks away from Gargano’s dive, and then he tosses E at 11:45. Curt Hawkins is #9 at 12:20 so you know they’re hurting for bodies. Curt tries hitting a couple of people and then running away, but Joe quickly puts his lights out and he lands on the floor and decides to hide under the ring. WE ALREADY GOT THAT JOKE.
Seth Rollins is #10 at 14:00 so it’s a long night for him if he’s winning. Falcon Arrow for Johnny and he puts Elias out at 15:30. Titus is #11 at 15:50 and wisely walks to the ring this time, but then heads under the ring deliberately to hang out with Hawkins. And then he heads into the ring, charges at Hawkins, and flies out at 16:30. And then Joe throws poor Curt out at 16:45. Kofi Kingston is #12 at 17:15 and apparently everyone emailing me thinks THIS IS HIS YEAR. Joe quickly cuts him off and throw him out, but Kofi hangs on. Mustafa Ali is #13 at 18:50 so he’ll probably get some shine. X-Factor for Joe and he dropkicks Nakamura out at 19:52 to end his night early. And then Joe just suplexes him into the corner. Ouch. Dean Ambrose is #14 at 20:20 and we get the obvious showdown with Rollins before he tosses Kofi out, and Kofi’s wacky save this year is rolling with his legs on the apron and getting to the steps. Dean DDTs Johnny Wrestling and tosses him at 21:45 for a disappointing exit. No Way Jose is #15 at 22:15. He’s still employed? And Joe puts him out again at 22:45. But he doesn’t care and parties to the back regardless. Drew McIntyre is #16 at 23:40 and he beats up the entire conga line on the way to the ring. Good for him. Claymore Kicks for everyone! Xavier Woods is #17 as we get more deadwood, but he saves Kofi from hitting the floor to serve his purpose for the night, and then Drew just clotheslines them both out anyway at 26:36. Good riddance. SORRY, BLOG! Not this year!
Pete Dunne is #18 at 27:04 as we seem to be using compressed intervals this year, which is fine. Pete gets his shit in as we get the glorious moment of Michael Cole talking about SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION. Hey, I popped. Andrade, who lost his last name at some point, is #19 at 28:46. Dunne tries the Bitter End on him, but Andrade reverses to a DDT. Apollo Crews is #20 at 30:00 and we’re definitely down to 60 second intervals now. SPEED THIS SHIT UP. Aleister Black is #21 for his Rumble debut, and they should probably just move him up. Black throws kicks and runs wild, but Ambrose cuts him off and then walks into BLACK MASS and bumps out of the ring at 33:22. Shelton Benjamin is #22 for another nothing entrant. And yet they had to take Cena out of the match to make way for Strowman? Dunne tosses him out but he hangs on and skins the cat, then teams up with Ali to put out Joe at 34:55. Baron Corbin is #23 to really step up the excitement, and he gets the sliding clothesline on Rollins and Deep Six on Ali, but can’t get him out. He punches Apollo out at 36:16 as Cole mixes Apollo up with Benjamin. Who is he, Hulk Hogan? Jeff Hardy is #24 at 37:00 as the parade of midcarders continues. Jeff gets his shit in while Dunne and Black have an awesome little slugfest that concludes with Black popping his own finger back in the socket before Corbin tosses him out at 38:21. Drew throws Dunne out at 38:44. Rey Mysterio is #25 and Corbin immediately cuts him off to continue his role as internet troll.
Bobby Lashley is #26 at 40:20, and he charges Rollins and gets put out at 41:15. So he freaks out and destroys Rollins at ringside, chokeslamming him through the announce table. Braun Strowman is lucky #27 at 42:20 and thank god he rids us of Corbin at 43:00. Benjamin is out at 43:20. Sadly that’s the end of his rampage for now, as Dolph Ziggler is #28 at 44:10. Jeff Hardy is out at the same time, and Dolph superkicks Drew out at 44:28. Randy Orton is #29 at 45:22 and we know who 30 is. So it’s pretty much Rollins as the only choice to win this thing. Braun blocks an RKO and then we get a goofy Tower of Doom spot with Braun hitting Rey and Andrade and Ali with a suplex at the same time. Braun charges and hits the post to land on the floor, and R-Truth is #30 at 47:22. And then Nia Jax takes him out and takes his spot in the match. She gets to clean house for a bit and dumps Ali out at 49:09, but Dolph superkicks her into a 619, and an RKO from Orton. “This show is going to be a hundred hours long at this rate” notes Corey. Rey and Orton put her out at 51:39, but RKO ends Rey’s night at 51:56. Andrade dumps Orton at 52:00.
Final Four: Andrade, Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins & Braun Strowman
So the announcers act like Andrade and Ziggler are the last two, acting like we all forgot about the other two on the floor sleeping. So then Braun comes in and wipes them both out with corner splashes, and then heads out and takes out Rollins before throwing him back in for good measure. So everyone teams up on Strowman and hits their finishes on him, but Braun throws Andrade out at 55:35. He backdrops Rollins and Ziggler to the apron and clotheslines Ziggler out at 55:59, but he lands on the apron and chokeslams Rollins from there. The announcers declare the match OVER, a foregone conclusion, but Rollins uses the Benoit guillotine to put him on the apron and then superkicks him into the apron and stomps him on the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, to win the Rumble at 57:34 and we get the first POINT TO SIGN of the season. Finally, after five fucking hours. Now I can go to bed. Match was kind of fun but mostly an average affair, with not much star power and an incredibly predictable winner. ***1/4
FIVE GODDAMN HOURS. Just way too long and I just can’t give it anything other than a thumbs down because there’s just nothing here to justify that kind of time investment. The men’s Rumble was OK and will probably be OK in retrospect as a standalone deal, but there’s no chance I’m ever sitting through this again.
Tags: Becky Lynch, seth rollins, SmarK Rants, WWE Royal Rumble