The road to WrestleMania 34 began with a bang in Philadelphia when WWE hosted a history-making two Royal Rumble matches on Sunday. On top of that, the event of the same name closed with the shocking arrival of former UFC megastar Ronda Rousey.
Here are five takeaways from the 2018 Royal Rumble:
Rumble Gets Rousey
Ronda Rousey left the WWE Universe with their jaws on the floor, showing up after Asuka won the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble. She walked out in attire paying tribute to the late Hall of Famer and inspiration Rowdy Roddy Piper. Rousey swerved everyone by posting photos on social media from the set of a movie in Colombia and denying that she signed with WWE. Rousey pointed to the WrestleMania sign coming face to face with the likes of champions Alexa Bliss, Charlotte, Asuka and Stephanie McMahon, who was ringside for Rumble commentary. Minutes later ESPN reported Rousey signed a full-time contract with WWE. The interactions with the company’s top females opens the door to a wealth of possibilities and a potential blockbuster women’s match at the “Biggest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment.”
Women Make HERstory
The female talent was under immense pressure to deliver in the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, and they certainly did. WWE went out of their way to make sure the match came off special. Stephanie McMahon sat ringside to help call the main event. Charlotte and Alexa Bliss sat to watch a potential challenger emerge. Maria Menounos served as the guest ring announcer.
Along with the current roster of women, others like Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly, Michelle McCool, Molly Holly, Jacqueline, Vickie Guerrero, Beth Phoenix, Lita and Trish Stratus walked the aisle one more time. Brie Bella came out of retirement for the festivities as did Nikki Bella, who was the last eliminated by Asuka. Sasha Banks lived up to her Wonder Woman specialty-made ring attire, lasting more than 54 minutes. In the end, the match brought the past, the present and the future (NXT Champion Ember Moon and Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane) together for what turned out to be a love letter to women’s wrestling.
Shinsuke Nakamura Wins First Rumble
Japanese superstar Shinsuke Nakamura made history by winning the 2018 Royal Rumble after entering at number 14. The “King of Strong Style” overcame John Cena and Roman Reigns, lasting 44 minutes and four seconds in the 30-man over-the-top-rope battle royal. Immediately following the milestone victory, Nakamura let it be known he wanted to face WWE Champion AJ Styles at WrestleMania 34 in April. And just like that, we have our first main event and a sure show-stealer in New Orleans.
Men’s Rumble Surprises
The Royal Rumble is always good for entrants who are blasts from the past, and this edition didn’t disappoint. Not only did Hurricane Helms make an appearance, but so did Rey Mysterio. The legendary luchador hasn’t appeared in a WWE ring since 2015, moving on to working the independent scene and Lucha Underground on El Rey Network. Mysterio looked in tremendous shape with an impressive showing for himself by lasting until the final six.
NXT stars Adam Cole and the brand’s champ Andrade “Cien” Almas made their first main roster appearances with respectable showings. Kofi Kingston was saved by Xavier Woods and pancakes. Yes, he survived a bit longer in the match thanks to pancake power. The 10-year plus WWE mainstay always finds innovative ways to avoid elimination.
Heath Slater got beat up most of the time in the Rumble, but managed to pull off an upset elimination over birthday boy Sheamus in seconds time. Sami Zayn forced his way into the field of 30 by beating up “Perfect Ten” Tye Dillinger because apparently you can do that as proven by others in years prior. Alas, he was sent over the top rope by Nakamura.
Brock Lesnar Survives
No table was left unturned in the Universal championship battle that saw Brock Lesnar successfully defend against Kane and Braun Strowman. The veteran Kane and Strowman were part of the carnage with the “Beast Incarnate,” destroying the ringside area. With Lesnar still holding the title, it begs the question who he faces at WrestleMania. Reigns' name has been thrown around for the past year to fill the slot. However, Raw has its Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View in February, which could essentially clear up any doubt.
Then there is Strowman, who once again came up short in a big title match. WWE has done a great job building up the “Monster Among Men” to the extent fans can’t get enough of the imposing figure. Surely, the company plans to keep Strowman a strong focal point on TV and WrestleMania. The next few weeks will tell the story.
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