Tension, nervousness, and excitement permeated the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia for 2018 Royal Rumble. Fans awaited the exciting action of the night, focusing their thoughts on who would emerge victorious in the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble Matches. Before delving into the main events, the undercard also needs attention.

The first match pitted A.J. Styles against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn for the WWE World title. Despite the odds against him, Styles found a way to emerge as the victor, keeping the title, though it was a controversial one. The end came when A.J. pinned Owens. However, Sami was the legal man, and the referee thought Kevin made the tag. So, one can imagine how upset the challengers were with the final outcome. After the match, Kevin and Sami bumped into Smackdown “commissioner” Shane McMahon, and vented. Shane calmly said he saw what transpired….and that was the extent of the conversation. Nothing was done about the problem, until two days later. On that Tuesday’s edition of Smackdown, Daniel Bryan made a match – Kevin Owens against Sami Zayn, for the following show. The winner will face A.J. at WWE Fastlane on March 11. We will see what transpires over the next few weeks.

In a two out of three falls match, filled with breathtaking speed, The Uso’s retained the Smackdown Tag titles against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin. The first victory came when the champions executed multiple superkicks on Gable. The next fall came almost immediately after, when Jimmy Uso rolled up Shelton for the win. It will be interesting to see if the challengers get a rematch in the coming weeks, or if the champions will move on to other worthy and deserving challengers.

Sheamus and Cesaro (also known as “The Bar”) captured the Raw tag titles from Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan. Early in the match, Cesaro tossed Jordan into a ringpost, and was knocked out for most of the contest. When he recovered, and re-entered the match, fans could tell he was not himself. Eventually, after a struggle, he tagged Rollins. Sheamus performed his signature Brogue Kick/White Noise combination for the win. The crowd was not as enthused about this match. The wrestlers performed as well as they could. I think the Philly crowd was still in “recovery mode” from the Men’s Rumble match.

The Universal title was at stake. Brock Lesnar retained the title, in a hard fought and brutal affair against Kane and Braun Stroman. The fans always support Stroman because of his ungodly strength. He powerslammed Brock with ease – bear in mind, the champion weighs almost 300 pounds. Brock displayed his impressive power throughout the match. At one point, he F’5ed Braun through one of the tables, then flipped another table on top of Stroman – it was very impressive and a sight to behold. Brock later pinned Kane. The result was rather predictable – the company wants Brock to go to Mania as champion. Despite the predictability, fans saw these three athletes display amazing strength and were invested in every moment.

The Men’s Royal Rumble Match occurred between the two tag team title matches. The first two entrants were Rusev and Finn Balor. The fourth participant, Baron Corbin, was eliminated quickly, but not before throwing out Rhyno. The quickest elimination occurred when Sheamus entered at number 11, and was ousted by a Heath Slater clothesline. Matt Hardy, the number 19 wrestler, and Bray Wyatt, are currently feuding on Raw, but worked together for a bit in this match. They eliminated the first entrant – Rusev. Eventually, they became rivals again, so much so, that they eliminated each other. But, as fans know, the Rumble is about surprises, and there was no shortage of them here.

The first surprise entrant was at number 7. It was the NXT Champion, Andrade Cien Almas. He had a very lengthy run, but was eliminated by Randy Orton. Hurricane Helms entered at 21, and the crowd loved this, but he was eliminated in short order by John Cena. Two entrants later, fans erupted as Adam Cole from NXT surprised the crowd. He did well, only to be ousted by a man who entered at 27 – Rey Mysterio. Rey performed really well and looked like he can perform again with the WWE – but that will be up to him.

The final four were Roman Reigns, John Cena, Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura. Fans chose sides quickly. Every move made by Cena and Reigns was booed. Finn was the first to go, eliminated by Cena. The crowd became really hostile as it seemed like either Reigns or Cena would emerge victorious, but Nakamura eliminated Cena. The crowd was completely behind Shinsuke. After some intense action, Nakamura eliminated Reigns with a Kinshasa superkick. The Philly crowd was euphoric. Now, the question is who would he face at Wrestlemania? He wants to face the WWE Champion, A.J. Styles. The crowd went insane – it’s a dream match for the fans. I really hope the two will be matched up. It will be a tremendous match – possibly the match of the night. But, as much as we want to see it, there are still a couple of months before Mania, so anything could happen.

The final match of the night, was the first ever thirty women Royal Rumble Match. Both rosters have a total of 18 female wrestlers combined. With two of the wrestlers injured, there was room for a lot of surprise entrants. The first two in were Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Lita entered at number 5, and received an amazing reaction. Her in-ring abilities have not diminished since she left the company. She battled for a while, eliminating Mandy Rose and Tamina, before being ousted by Becky Lynch.

Number 14 was Michelle McCool. She enjoyed a good run during her time in the company years ago. People were shocked that she lasted as long as she did in this match. She eliminated Sonya Deville, Sarah Logan, and another surprise entrant, Molly Holly, in rapid succession. She even participated in eliminating Vickie Guerrero. Unfortunately, Michelle was ousted by Natalya.

Asuka entered at number 25, and there was a moment where she and the NXT Women’s Champion, Ember Moon, went face-to-face, and the crowd chanted “NXT, NXT,” as the two battled for a while. Maybe when Ember gets called up to Raw, this rivalry that was born in NXT will continue – and I am sure fans would not have any issue with that. Another moment occurred between Beth Phoenix and Nia Jax. That brief interaction was broken up by Natalya. I would love a match between Beth and Nia, but, again, that is up to Beth. The last entrant, was Trish Stratus. Fans were really excited to see her, and they went crazy when Trish and Mickie James had a brief tussle. Those watching could tell they really enjoyed rehashing their “rivalry” from previous years. Trish eliminated Mickie and Natalya. Sadly, Trish was eliminated by Sasha. You have to do whatever you can to win a match like this, even if it means throwing out someone you idolize. I am sure Sasha felt bad doing that, but she wanted to win.

The final four were Sasha, Asuka, and the Bella Twins. The Bellas eliminated Sasha. Nikki eliminated Brie, and the fans got solidly behind Asuka. After an Asuka Kick, she eliminated Nikki Bella to win the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble. It was now time for the winner to make a decision as to who to face at Wrestlemania – Smackdown Women’s Champ, Charlotte Flair or Raw Women’s Champ, Alexa Bliss.

It seemed like Asuka was about to make her choice, when a piece of unfamiliar music played. Fans were shocked at the arrival of a former UFC Champion, Ronda Rousey. There were rumours about her appearance percolating for a while. But, nobody was expecting her to show at the Rumble. She walked down the ramp and got inside the ring, looking at all three women. She then pointed to the Wrestlemania sign. It looks like she will participate in a match at Wrestlemania. Who will it be against, and will she be able to adapt to the WWE style of wrestling? Only time will tell.

The 2018 Royal Rumble event was a phenomenal show, and a great way to begin the year in the WWE. The element of surprise is always utilized well in the Rumble Matches, and it helped that the Philly crowd was passionate about every one who appeared, and what they witnessed. I hope the WWE sticks by the dream match of A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura for Wrestlemania. The only thing which could derail that, is if Styles loses the title at Fastlane.

As crowd pleasing as the Ronda Rousey surprise was, it took away from Asuka’s history making victory. I also think it minimized the hard work the other women put forth in the match. The fact that the final image the fans were left with, was Rousey walking back to the locker room while starting at the Mania sign was a little disappointing. The last image for the fans, should have been Asuka in the ring pondering her Wrestlemania decision. But, Rousey is a “big name” away from the WWE, and she will draw extra eyes to the product, and in the end, that is what the WWE wants.

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