Friday, February 23, 2018

Royal Ramble: 2018

Yeah, this is going up a bit late and to be fair, that's sort of the plan here.

I didn't have a whole lot to say about the Rumble. The most I did was a brief results write-up and mentioned a more complete musings will be posted the following year. Well, it turns out you only needed to wait a month or so, but better late than never, I suppose.

Anyway, on with the late show...

WWE Champion AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match to retain the title, even though the ending is a bit screwing since Styles pinned the wrong guy. There's no tag made towards the end and thus Styles ended up pinning the wrong guy and I don't care. Up until the messy ending, what we have here is a nice little match that kept me awake if nothing else and seeing three top-tier guys go at it is always entertaining. Unfortunately, while this was a good place to end this feud, the screwy finish meant this thing was going to continue in some form or fashion, most likely leading to another Shane McMahon match that I'm not going to care about in the slightest.

Smackdown tag champs The Usos defeated Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in two straight falls to retain the titles in a perfectly acceptable tag team match. I'm not going to say a whole lot about this one; the Usos were on fire and the team of Benjamin and Gable gave it a good effort before falling to the Day One-ish finishing finish thing or something. All in all, went by perhaps a bit too quickly and the whole best-of-three falls thing feels like a waste, but this was okay.

Third match and it's already the Royal Rumble... which means they're putting the Women last because it might involve Ronda Rousey... who WWE and the media wants to believe is a big surprise, but really isn't. But I'm jumping ahead here.

Shinsuke Nakamura wins the 2018 Royal Rumble and challenges AJ Styles to a title match, thus giving Wrestlemania its arguably first true dream match of the modern age... that is, unless we get that Cena/Taker match. On a whole, this was a fairly satisfying Rumble with a couple nice bits here and there. I liked the little running gag where Heath Slater got beat up by every subsequent entrant and never got to the ring until Sheamus too pity on him and threw him in... and THAT turned out to be a mistake. The Hurricane was a nice surprise. Rey Mysterio was a pleasant surprise and I'm glad to see the crowd react to him positively this time around as opposed to his last Rumble appearance. The two Quebecois beating up Tye Dillinger so that Sami could go in instead was a nice bit that's perhaps hampered by the lack of Owens stealing a spot for himself.

The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) defeated Raw tag team champions Seth Rollins and that other guy to win the titles. Crowd was deflated after this one and that's both a good sign (in that it means no inane "This Is Awesome" chants) as well as not a good sign (a dead crowd kills my lack of enthusiasm for a match that did nothing to inspire said enthusiasm or lack thereof.) This was a complete waste of time as a match, as it exists just to further the very intriguing saga of Jason Jordan who would eventually be removed from television, thus freeing up a spot for someone I can actually care about.

Red Belt champion Brock Lesnar defeated two big guys who don't matter to retain the title... My quick results had this match described as; "Brock Lesnar showed up, tossed a bunch of suplexes, and won whatever match he was in because he needs to drop the belt to Roman at some point in Orlando or wherever Mania is taking place this year." Unfortunately, Brock made the resolution to stop pretending he gives a shit and I continue my resolution about not caring about the endgame. It's a case where I'd like to be emotionally invested, but I can't because the journey means nothing and is not that interesting.

So Stephanie shows up to do commentary, which is normally my cue to tune out and stop the show because having to listen to her for an hour isn't worth the headaches. However, to my relief, this is "normal interview" Stephanie who doesn't screech, but still sounds forced and disingenious that I end up tuning her out. And for an added bit of flavor, they brought in that Maria Memomomo or whatever her name is to do ring announcing... and she sounds AWFUL. I honestly don't know what WWE sees in this woman, but it clearly doesn't translate to screen because she's almost as bad as Stephanie. Don't they already have a lady announcer on staff who could do this (and better)? Or couldn't they just bring back Lillian Garcia or even MIKE McGUIRK for fuck's sake?

This Woman's Rumble is already off to a bad start from the get-go and unfortunately, there are glitches. Most notably, every time one of the women needs to do a big move, all the rest will roll out of the ring as to not take the spotlight away from whoever's doing the spot. It happens all too often and it not only comes off as disenchanting because you never know who's in or out since they keep doing that one bit, but it gets to a point where your brain is on auto-pilot until the final four, which is exactly what happens here. Unlike the mens' Rumble, nothing really interesting happens that keeps you invested, which was something you really need for a match that is a near-hour-long clusterfuck.

So long story short, Asuka wins the first Women's Rumble in a bit of a nice surprise, because I all but expected that other person to win (which would've been the most obvious idea and also a pretty bad one), but seeing Asuka win the thing makes a good lick of sense (for once) and I just sit back and marvel at the true bit of history made here; that we've had two Royal Rumble matches and they're both won by Japanese wrestlers. So we have Asuka in the ring with the two Women's champions and we hang on the moment to see which title Asuka will challenge for...

And then to the surprise of absolutely nobody, former UFC Diva and vapid charisma vaccuum Ronda Rousey shows up, points at a sign, and does nothing of note. Not quite a "grand" debut for a big star, but then I honestly don't care for Rousey or her former explotis, so I'm left with this great moment with Asuka on the cusp of making her decision being overshadowed by Cold Ronda.

Look, I am not going to ride the train and say that this Woman's Rumble was entertaining. If nothing else, the only time I "popped" during the match was whenever I saw an old face from years past (seeing Molly Holly back in there was nice, as was Trish Stratus who decided to dye her hair and do the finger licking thing with Mickie.) The rest of the time I was just ambivalent at all the old faces I didn't recognize - it took me a while to register that Michelle McCool, who's perhaps best known as Mrs. Undertaker these days, used to be in WWE... that's how forgettable most of the Divas from that era were - and again, aforementioned glitches mentioned before meant I was on auto-pilot until the very end... and even then, my interest never went too far up until Asuka won it all.

Also, hammering in the "historic" bits also got tiresome and gets buried in the fact that just because it's a historic first doesn't mean it's any good or memorable. Does anyone even remember that one Hell In A Cell match between Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks from a couple years ago? I had all but forgotten about that one until Cyrus brought it up on his podcast.

All that having been said, this is the first Women's Rumble - so there's your historical footnote that's going to be overblown into a big thing for a good few months - and while I haven't enjoyed this one as much as others, I can at least give it a slight pass because it is the first. The first time going rarely hits it out of the park, but if they work out the kinks, they can make the Rumble a worthwhile event. And for what it's worth, the fact that they had Asuka win the whole thing was a nice ending and a cool moment to close the show on... only for them to ruin it with Cold Ronda.

And that was the 2018 Royal Rumble show. Two Rumbles on one show - one was historic, while the other was actually enjoyable to watch and that means more than any historical footnote WWE likes to inflate into a big deal. The rest of the matches were so-so and at the very least, kept me awake, so on a whole, the show was passable fare leaning upwards... and that's a good thing.

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