KELLER’S WWE ROYAL RUMBLE REPORT
JANUARY 28, 2018
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
Panel: Renee Young, Jerry Lawler, David Otunga, Peter Rosenberg
-Sam Roberts interviewed fans outside the arena.
-A video package hyped the Women’s Royal Rumble.
-Alexa Bliss chatted with the pane. Renee said the winner of the Rumble can challenge the champion of their choosing at WrestleMania. Interesting. Bliss picked Nia Jax to win. She said whoever wins, she’ll take pleasure in beating them at the Rumble.
-Jason Jordan talked to Seth Rollins about how Kurt Angle’s idea to team them together was a great idea. Jordan’s former partner Chad Gable entered the room with Shelton Benjamin. Gable called Jordan a “daddy’s boy.” Then they laughed and hugged. Rollins left. Jordan irritated Shelton a little. Gable and Jordan compared notes on their post-NXT paths, with Jordan pointing at his tag team title belt.
-They showed Jim Duggan winning the first Royal Rumble.
-A selfie-promo aired with Bayley and thanking the fans for their support of the women leading to the women’s rumble.
(A) KALISO & LINCE DORADO & GRAN METALIK vs. DREW GULAK & TJP & JACK GALLAGHER
TJP rolled up Kalisto with a pull of the tights for a two count. Kalisto came back with his finisher Salida del Sol fro the win. There was an argument between TJP and his two partners afterwards that led to shoving, likely to be addressed this week on 205 Live.
WINNERS: Kalisto & Dorado & Metalik in 13:00.
-After the match, Charlotte joined the panel. She said she’ll be ringside to watch the Women’s Rumble. She said if she was the first entrant, she’d win the match like her dad. She said she wants to end Asuka’s streak. Rosenberg noted that could happen since Asuka could choose to face her if she wins because the winner can face either champion.
-They showed Ric Flair winning the 1993 Royal Rumble.
-The Royal Rumble “by the numbers” video aired.
-Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn sat in the locker room and made fun of fans and Peter Rosenberg and predicted they’ll become co-champions tonight.
-Highlights aired of Shawn Michaels winning the 1995 Rumble.
(B) THE REVIVAL (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) vs. LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON.
WINNERS: The Revival in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The Balor Club reunion would have more juice if Gallows & Anderson got a win here, but The Revival benefited from a win after how they were used at Raw 25.)
-JBL replaced Jerry Lawler on the panel. They noted that Elimination Chamber next month will be a Raw-exclusive show.
(Keller’s Analysis: If you’re hoping Roman Reigns doesn’t win the Rumble, but are resigned him facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, this Elimination Chamber PPV can be the place where he “earns” that shot against Brock without winning the Rumble. The fact that the winner of the Rumble can choose to face either champion opens up both John Cena (well, he was a “free agent” anyway) or Finn Balor to win and challenge A.J. Styles, rather than having a Smackdown-only wrestler necessarily win.)
-A video package aired on NXT Takeover Philadelphia.
-Aiden English said it’s Rusev Rumble as Rusev warmed up in the background.
-Alundra Blaze (Madusa) joined the panel. JBL tried to get Alundra to pick a winner. She didn’t predict anyone and talked circles around it. JBL said she’s stalling and filibustering and re-asking the question. “Where’s Booker when you need him?” she asked. It came across as if she didn’t know one single woman in the match. She was prompted to maybe suggest Jax. Alunda said she might ruin everything and show up at WrestleMania “and say I’m back.” JBL said they bring experts on to predict something, just like on NFL pregame shows. Renee said she’s known JBL a long time. Alunda sighed and said too long. Alunda said she is a big fan of Nia. That didn’t prove she knew one other women’s name in the Rumble. She said that wasn’t a prediction, though. JBL said that was the worst answer he’s heard.
(Keller’s Analysis: I can’t imagine they were “produced” to have that banter. Why not produce Alundra to have a pick in mind? If she knew one other name, she should have said one other name just to prove she wasn’t just avoiding admitting she doesn’t watch WWE TV or prep for it. It made no sense for her not to make a pick and it made for a bad segment. I like her standing up to JBL and she’s a good personality overall, but this was just a clustermess.)
-Footage aired of Steve Austin winning the 1988 Royal Rumble. They showed Mike Tyson watching from a luxury suite.
(C) BOBBY ROODE vs. MOJO RAWLEY – U.S. Title match
Roode cut a promo before the match and issued an open challenge for the U.S. Title. Out came the unannounced Mojo.
WINNER: Roode via Glorious DDT in 8:00 to retain the U.S. Title.
-Footage aired of John Cena winning the 2008 Royal Rumble.
-Ric Flair joined the panel and talked about his 1993 win. He picked Lesnar to retain his title and also complimented A.J. Styles and compared him to Shawn Michaels. He also talked about how Philadelphia brings so much energy to pro wrestling.
-The panel gave a final pitch for the Rumble.
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
(1) A.J. STYLES vs. KEVIN OWENS & SAMI ZAYN – WWE Title match
After ring introductions, the fans chanted “A.J. Styles!” Owens opened against Styles. Phillips explained that Sami and KO will have to tag in and out. KO tagged in Sami immediately. Sami teased locking up with Styles, but then turned and tagged in KO again. Sami eventually locked on a side headlock as Graves and Byron bickered over whether KO and Sami are playing too many mind games early. Byron told Graves to shut his mouth and listen to him (sound like Bruce Mitchell and me recording the Bruce Mitchell Mailbag Podcast earlier today!).
When Owens tagged in, he distracted Styles by yapping at the ref, but then kicked Styles in a surprise sudden move to take over. He threw Styles head-first into the turnbuckle in his corner. A minute later he threw Styles into the (larger than ever, like giant Pringles cans) corner ringposts wraps (which are large enough to annoyingly obstructing the view of fans watching the matches in the arena at that angle, so keep that in mind when choosing where to sit). Sami tagged in and settled into a chinlock.
Styles eventually teased a comeback with Pelé kick on KO. Sami tagged in and went for a Helluva kick, but Styles ducked and countered with a reverse DDT. Owens entered and catapulted Styles into Sami, but Styles turned it into a head scissors. He then rolled over and locked KO in a Calf Crusher, working over KO’s injured knee. KO teased tapping like he did on Tuesday on Smackdown, but Sami interfered first. The pace picked up. Styles avoided a charging KO, who went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Sami tagged in. KO superkicked Styles as Sami distracted the ref. Sami tagged in and hit a Blue Thunder bomb for a believable near fall that popped the crowd. The “A.J. Styles” chant got louder.
Sami reached for a tag with KO, but didn’t appear to to make the tag. Styles pulled Sami away and dumped him over the top rope, but then ate a superkick from KO. Styles countered a Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt into a roll-up for the win. The announcers said Styles pulled off the impossible and silenced the doubters. The announcers initially said it looked like the tag missed, and on slo-mo it looked like it missed for sure. Graves wanted to see another angle. I suspect this will be played up by KO and Sami and involve Daniel Bryan.
WINNER: Styles in 16:00 to retain the WWE Title.
-A WrestleMania 34 commercial aired.
-Sami and KO yelled at Shane McMahon backstage. KO said they can’t let another bad referee call screw him out of a title. They annoyingly and relentlessly asked him if he saw it. Shane said “Yep,” smiled, and walked away. Phillips said a referee’s decision is final.
(2) THE USOS vs. CHAD GABLE & SHELTON BENJAMAN – WWE Tag Team Championship match – Two-out-of-Three Falls
FIRST FALL: The Usos came out second and did some mic work at ringside and welcomed their opponents to the Uso penitentiary. Gable and Benjamin isolated Jimmy and worked over his left leg early. Jimmy eventually landed an enzuigiri as Jey encouraged him to tag him. The crowd clapped encouragement. Jey got the hot-tag and knocked Shelton over the top rope and then clotheslined an interfering Gable over the top rope on the opposite side of the ring. He leaped onto both Shelton and Gable seconds apart. He hit a crossbody on Gable for a two count back inside the ring. A half hearted “Sweet!” chant after the kickout. After more back-and-forth, the announcers wondered what it’d take to score a first fall. Gable landed a moonsault off the top rope onto both Usos at ringside. The chaos led to confusion over which Uso was legal. Jey surprised Gable with a superkick, then fended off Shelton. Jey then landed a top rope splash for a believable near fall on Gable. “Are you kidding me?” asked Graves. Phillips couldn’t believe they still didn’t have one fall in this match. Gable ended up eating two individual super kicks from both Usos and then a stereo superkick leading to the first fall at 13:00. The crowd was oddly flat for the Usos getting the first fall win.
SECOND FALL: Gable and Benjamin double-teamed Jey in the ring and then went after Jimmy at ringside. They gave Jimmy their double-team move on the floor. Meanwhile, Jey recovered in the ring. Gable charged at Jey with an overhead ick. Shelton then set up Jey for a double-team move, but Jey small packaged Shelton for a shocking second fall that came quickly to end the match.
WINNERS: The Usos in 16:00 to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships.
(Keller’s Analysis: I wouldn’t say this was a great match with a great finish or anything, but I liked how unexpectedly long the first fall and how unexpectedly suddenly the Usos also took the second round. It takes away the sense that every best of three falls match goes a certain way with a certain formula, and you need to break from the go-to formula now and then to keep things from being ridiculously predictable.)
-A commercial aired for a look behind the scenes at WrestleMania 33. Nikki insisted the John Cena proposal was as real as it gets and she never thought she’d hear those words. Even some out-of-character words from Undertaker. The documentary airs immediately after the Royal Rumble tonight.
Announcers: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves. No Booker T on the Raw team tonight. Lawler then came out to join the announce team.
(3) MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
This is earlier than anyone likely predicted it’d be. A new entrance takes place every 90 seconds. Aiden English stepped onto the stage to introduce Rusev. The fans chanted “Rusev Day.” He asked what day it is. The crowd loudly yelled, “Rusev Day!” He sang Rusev Day and held the last note a long time. Rusev marched out and acted fired up. He tore off his Rusev Day shirt Hulk Hogan style. Rusev led the crowd in their “Rusev Day” chant. Then Finn Balor’s music played.
(1) Rusev… (2) Finn Balor: This could mean Balor is going 60 minutes to win. Tough choice for many fans on whom to cheer here. Rusev dumped Balor over the top rope seconds in, but Balor landed on the ring apron and returned to the ring. Rusev landed a quick elbow drop.
(3) Rhyno: Lawler said he was just at the ECW bingo hall yesterday. Balor shoulder tackled Rusev in the corner early, then tossed him across the ring. He delivered a belly-to-belly to Balor, too. A loud “ECW!” chant broke out. Rusev landed a spinning wheel kick on Rhyno.
(4) Baron Corbin: Corbin ran into the ring quickly and went after all three wrestlers aggressively. Cole said Corbin lasted over 33 minutes and eliminated Braun Strowman last year. Corbin ELIMINATED RHYNO (1) to a chorus of boos. Balor then ELIMINATED CORBIN (2) who threw his signature fit at ringside. He yanked Balor out of the ring and threw him into the ringside barrier. Referees angrily ordered Corbin to return to the back, but instead he gave RUsev his End of Days at ringside. Corbin gave Balor a backbreaker. Officials came out including Adam Pearce and Fit Finlay to yell at Corbin and force him to the back.
(5) Heath Slater: Corbin clotheslined Slater on the ramp as he was enthusiastically making his way to the ring. Corbin lost in memorable fashion. They showed Slater, Rusev, and Balor all knocked out at ringside. Balor was holding his left shoulder and wrist in pain.
(6) Elias: The crowd popped for Elias’s guitar strum. He strolled onto the stage and played for the fans as his opponents recovered from the Corbin beatdown. He gave a kick to poor Slater on the ramp as he walked by. Cole said he’s quite sure this is the first time anyone has played guitar on his way to the ring. He insisted the clock wouldn’t start until he was done performing. He did a Philadelphia song including vowing to spit in the race of the Rocky statue. The clock didn’t stop, though.
(7) Andrade Cien Almas (w/Zelina Vega): Almas hilariously got a shot in on Slater on his way to the ring. Cole said Almas is a flashy high-flyer, but also really cocky. He talked about him being NXT Champion and complimented his match last night. He said he is a third generation wrestler. He took it to Elias at first. Elias knocked him down, though, with a hard clothesline.
(8) Bray Wyatt: Wyatt threw Slater into the ringpost on his way into the ring. He set up a Sister Abigail on Elias, but Balor broke that up. Bray clotheslined Balor. A loud “Rusev Day!” chant broke out as Rusev tried to re-enter the ring. Bray knocked him off the ring apron three times in a row.
(9) Big E: Big E looked like he was going to help Slater into the ring, but instead he pulled pancakes out of his armpit and shoved him into Slater’s mouth. In the ring, Bray beat up Big E, but Big E fired back with a belly-to-belly. Elias and Rusev took Big E down as he celebrated with his tongue out. More “Rusev Day!” chants.
(ROLL CALL: Elias, Big E. Balor, Bray, Rusev, Almas, Slater)
(10) Tye Dillinger: Tye’s music played, but he didn’t come out. This was “too cute” having him at no. 10 again. They cut backstage where he was being attacked by KO and Sami. Sami said, “I’ve got this.” The announcers wondered what Sami meant. Sami came out. He attacked Slater at ringside on his way to the ring. He entered and stomped away at Balor. Graves defended this as Sami trying to right a wrong. Byron asked: “How is this okay?”
(11) Sheamus: Sheamus threw Slater into the ring, but Slater immediately clotheslined Sheamus and ELIMINATED SHEMAUS (3). Cole said this was Sheamus’s birthday and he was eliminated by Slater. Graves said, “Wait, Sheamus’s birhtday is on Rusev Day?” Bray then ELIMINATED SLATER (4) to a chorus of boos.
(12) Xavier Woods: Big E and Xavier worked together.
(13) Apollo Crews: Cole said “only four winners” have come from entrants in the teens. Lawler said 13 is an unlikely number, too.
(14) Shinsuke Nakamura: Cole called him “WWE’s rock star.’ he said it’s his first-ever rumble. He took it to Sami early. The crowd sang his song after the music stopped. Then he knee dropped Elias. A “Nak-a-mura!” chant broke out. Nakamura ELIMINATED SAMI (5?). Does that count as Tye being eliminated?
(15) Cesaro: Cesaro came out to zero pop.
(16) Kofi Kingston: All three New Day members are in the match legally. Cesaro ELIMINATED CREWS (6), messing up absolutely no one’s predictions. Cole said Kofi is tied for fourth all time in Royal Rumble appearances.
(17) Jinder Mahal (w/a Singh Brother): Lawler said he poured over all the statistics the last three days (biggest lie of the night) and is pick is Jinder. Jinder ELIMINATED XAVIER (7). Jinder then ELIMINATED BIG E (8).
(18) Seth Rollins: Seth wore Harlem Heat’s tights. He entered with a top rope clothesline of Bray. He flew at Elias and then countered Balor’s attack. Cesaro tried to toss Seth over the top, but Seth catapulted and ELIMINATED CESARO (9) Jinder almost eliminated Kofi, but Kofi’s right boot landed on Xavier’s chest. Big E put a plate of pancakes under Kofi’s foot so he stayed legal as he pivoted back into the ring. He hopped on one foot as Jinder stopped him from getting back in. Xavier and Big E gave him a boost and he flew over Jinder into the ring. The crowd laughed and clapped. Kofi then kicked and ELIMINATED JINDER (10). Almas planted Kofi and then ELIMINATED KOFI (11).
(19) Woken Matt: Lawler said Matt is “nuttier than squirrel poop.” A delete chant broke out. Matt and Bray stared at each other. Rusev attacked them. Matt and Bray clotheslined him and ELIMINATED RUSEV (12). Boos. They worked together to attack Almas. Then they turned to each other and fought and both went over the top to ELIMINATE MATT HARDY AND BRAY WYATT (13 & 14).
(20) John Cena: The crowd sang “John Cena sucks!” Everyone left in the ring attacked Cena which caused the crowd to erupt in cheers. Cena lifted Elias, though, and dumped him over the top to ELIMINATE ELIAS (15).
(21) Hurricane Helms: Cole said Helms’s “superhero persona was a hit with kids” back in the day. Cena dumped him a few seconds later to ELIMINATE HURRICANE (16). Boos. He slipped on pancakes at ringside, but then posed.
(22) Aiden English: Another “Rusev Day” chant started. Cole said nearly 65 percent of all Rumble winners come from entering at no. 22 or later. A Cena battle-chant broke out.
(23) Adam Cole. He ran out with his ribs taped as the fans yelled along with him “Adam Cole Bay-bay!” Graves said Cole made a name for himself in the Philadelphia area. Balor ELIMINATED ENGLISH (17).
(ROLL CALL: Balor, Rollins, Cena, Nakamura, Cole, Almas).
(24) Randy Orton. Cole noted Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin have won back-to-back Rumbles. Lawler said Orton could tie Austin as the only person to win three. Orton didn’t have his vest off when he gave an RKO to Almas and ELIMINATED ALMAS (18). Cole said Almas lasted 29 minutes and has nothing to be ashamed of.
(25) Titus O’Neal: Titus threw Cole onto the ring apron. Nakamura broke that up.
(26) The Miz. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas joined him. Miz gave his It Kicks to Cena and Seth as the crowd chanted “Yes!” Cena went for an AA on Miz, but he turned it into a Skull Crushing Finale on Cena. Seth then superkicked Miz. Lawler pointed out how weird it was the entire crowd in Philadelphia loved The Miz.
(27) Rey Mysterio. He got a better reception this time than when he came in at no. 30. He went at Miz, then Cole. “Holy shi–!” chant the fans. Graves said he looked to be in great shape. Rey ELIMINATED COLE (18) with a leg scissors. He gave Miz a 619.
(28) Roman Reigns: Loud boos. He marched to the ring with a snarl. he slid into the ring and went after Cena. he threw more punches at each wrestlers as they charged him one at a time. Reigns ELIMINATED TITUS (19). Miztourage stopped Reigns from eliminating Miz. Reigns knocked them off the ring apron. Seth gave Miz the Blackout. Set and Reigns stayed at each other, but then teamed up to ELIMINATE MIZ (22). Reigns then ELIMINATED SETH (23). The announcers quickly said Seth understood and would have done the same thing.
(29) Goldust: Cole said Goldust is tied with Big Show and Michaels for 12 times in the Rumble, behind only Kane. Goldust almost eliminated Orton.
(ROLL CALL: Rey, Cena, Reigns, Orton, Nakamura, Goldust, Balor)
(30) Dolph Ziggler: Cole: “I thought he retired or something.” Ziggler tackled Cena and pounded away at him and then fired up. He went for a superkick, but Cena blocked it and gave Ziggler an AA attempt. Ziggler escaped and superkicked Cena and tried to eliminate him. Orton stuck up, but Ziggler superkicked him. Goldust snap powerslammed Ziggler. Ziggler came back with a Zig Zag on Nakamura. ELIMINATE GOLDUST (23). He stomped the mat to signal for a superkick on Nakamura. Nakamura caught his leg and then overhead suplexed him onto the ring apron. Balor knocked Ziggler off the ring apron to ELIMINATE ZIGGLER (24).
Rey gave Reigns a 619.Reigns ELIMINATED ORTON (25). Rey gave Cena and Reigns a double 619. Balor then ELIMINATED MYSTERIO (26).
(ROLL CALL: Reigns, Cena, Nakamura, Balor)
They all stood in the ring and faced off apprehensively. Tension built. A “Nakamura” chant broke out. Reigns stomped away at Balor as Cena knocked Nakamura into the corner. Cena pointed at the WrestleMania sign. A “You both suck!” chant broke out. Balor and Nakamura popped up and attacked them. After they knocked them down, they faced off. Cole said they’re two of the greatest stars from Japan. Nakamura kicked Balor in the head after a minute of back-and-forth action. Balor landed a basement dropkick as Cena and Reigns watched. Then popped up and clotheslined both of them. More boos. Cena and Reigns faced off again. Another “You both suck!” chant. Reigns gave Cena a Samoan drop. Reigns stood alone in the ring and the crowd boos as he surveyed three opponents on the mat. Cole called him polarizing and said he’s taken that title from Cena. Cena ducked a Superman Punch and then set up his Five Knuckle Shuffle. Balor cut it off with a Slingblade. He gave one to Reigns next. Cole called this a career-making performance for Balor, which would portend his elimination within a minute. Nakamura popped up and went for his knee strike, but Balor ducked and double-stomped him. Cena then ELIMINATED BALOR (27). The crowd chanted “bullsh–!”
The “Nak-a-mura!” chant got louder. Lawler said Cena didn’t have to be here tonight with his success in Hollywood. Graves said he loves this more than anything. Reigns and Cena battled Nakamura together, then each other. Cena played up another Five Knuckle and pointed at the WrestleMania sign and said he wants this. He lifted Reigns for an AA, but Reigns escapade and landed a Superman Punch. Lawler said he didn’t hit all of it. Reigns kicked Nakamura out of his way with a kick, then set up a spear. He let out his yell and charged, but Cena lifted and AA’d Reigns. Nakamura came up behind Cena, but Cena countered and tried to suplex him out. Nakamura knocked Cena onto the ring apron, but then Nakamura kneed him to the floor to ELIMINATE CENA (28).
It was down to Nakamura and Reigns. The top two likely winners faced off at the end for maximum drama. A thunderous “Nak-a-mura!” chant rang out. Byron said Nakamura was expected to do something special when he arrived in WWE. Reigns punched Nakamura, but Nakamura struck back. The crowd cheered every Nakamura strike and booed every Reigns strike. Reigns took Nakamura down with a Superman Punch “that may end the dream,” said Cole. Reigns tossed Nakamura over the top onto the ring apron. Nakamura held on and kicked Reigns in the head. Nakamura then wrapped Reigns into a hanging triangle over the top rope. Graves said it’s extremely dangerous. Reigns lifted Nakamura into the ring and gave him a running powerbomb. Both were down and slow to get up. Another “Nakamura!” chant.
Reigns stood first. Boos. He set up a spear and let out a yell. Nakamura kicked him. Then he delivered a knee to the face off the second rope. He fired up and charged with a knee, but Reigns speared him out of mid-air. Both went down. Reigns sat up and looked at the WrestleMania sign. Reigns lifted Nakamura on his shoulders. Nakamura held onto the top rope and wouldn’t let him toss him out. Instead, he delivered a knee to Reigns’s face and eliminated him to win. Big pop.
WINNER: Nakamura in 65:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The actual action for the first 45 minutes was nothing special, but all the drama was in the entrances, eliminations, and little side stories. The final 15-20 minutes was well booked and well executed, with a crowd-pleasing finish.)
-Renee Young asked Nakamura if he has made his decision on whom he will face at WrestleMania. The crowd chanted for “A.J. Styles.” Nakamura said “A.J. Styles.” Cole said the match the WWE Universe has wanted is going to happen. Nakamura celebrated with the crowd.
-A commercial announced the Royal Rumble next year coming to Phoenix, Ariz.
-Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon engaged in a loud synchronized “Yes!” chant. Stephanie McMahon and Kurt Angle watched as Bryan and Shane gloated. Angle said there is plenty left for Raw tonight including the Universal Championship match. Stephanie brought up the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match and she predicted a Raw woman will win. She said either way “we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.” Hmmm.
-Cole threw to footage of the first-ever Colonel’s Rumble starring Ric Flair dressed up as Col. Sanders winning a Rumble with Rusev, Miz, Goldust, Fandango and Tyler Breeze.
(4) SETH ROLLINS & JASON JORDAN vs. SHEAMUS & CESARO – WWE Raw Tag Team Title match
During ring entrances, they went to various announce teams. Booker T joined the announce team with Cole and Graves. Seth and Cesaro opened the match. They isolated Seth for a while and Jordan was out of position for a tag several minutes in. Booker was critical of Jordan. A minute later ringside Cesaro shoved Jordan into the ringpost. Seth dove through the ropes onto Cesaro and Sheamus. Seth then checked on Jordan, who didn’t see what happened to him. Shemaus and Cesaro threw Seth into the ringside barrier twice. Booker: “There are no time outs in tag team wrestling.” Graves: “There are no time outs.” Booker: “I said time outs.” Graves: “I said time outs, Book.” Huh?
Jordan eventually made his way onto the ring apron and tagged himself in. He was groggy and stumbling around, holding his head. Graves said he speaks from experience in saying Jordan doesn’t belong in the ring right now. Jordan tagged Seth again. Seth didn’t seem pleased. Jordan walked down the steps and sat down at ringside. Seth yelled at him to get back in the match. Sheamus and Cesaro double-teamed Seth. Cesaro landed a top rope move on Seth for the win.
WINNERS: Cesaro & Sheamus in 13:00 to capture the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles.
-Cole threw to a video package on the Road to WrestleMania with Elimination Chamber and Fast Lane before WM34 in New Orleans on April 8.
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(5) BROCK LESNAR (w/Paul Heyman) vs. KANE vs. BRAUN STROWMAN – WWE Universal Title match
Lesnar went after Kane at the bell with shoulder drives in the corner. Braun attacked both. Strowman kneed Lesnar in the jaw. Lesnar punched him back and lifted him. Kane grabbed Lesnar’s throat and choke slammed him. Strowman headbutted Kane in the corner as Lesnar recovered at ringside. He ducked under the ring apron, which fans noticed. Lesnar came into the ring with a chair. Strowman punched the chair out of Lesnar’s hands, then tossed him over the top rope. The slo-mo of the knee was brutal, but the slo-mo of Lesnar’s return fire with a punch absolutely shook Strowman’s skull. Strowman then grabbed a chair. “Just what this guy needs,” said Cole. Graves: “Yeah, let’s give Godzilla a machine gun.” Strowman brought tables into the ring. They replayed the knee and punch exchanges again in slo-mo. They were proud of those stiff blows. Cole said if he was hit by that right hand, he’d never move again.
Strowman set up the tables. One regular and another leaning in the corner. Kane began to rise. The fans began to clap. Strowman nodded along. Kane and Strowman tried to chokeslam each other. Strowman got the better of that battle and went for the pin. Lesnar broke it up and suplexed Strowman three times. Strowman stood, but barely. Strowman then slammed Lesnar through the table. Kane broke up the pin. Booker wondered if Brock would have kicked out had Kane not made the save.
At ringside Strowman threw Brock hard into the ringside barricade. Cole said they are nervous at the announce desk with those battling so close. Strowman cleared the German announce desk. Lesnar countered Strowman and gave him an F5 onto the table, which collapsed. Lesnar then picked up the English announce desk and tipped over onto Strowman. Cole signaled for something to the production crew afterward. Lesnar then countered Kane and gave him an F5 onto the Spanish announce table with everything still on it. The table collapsed. Graves said Strowman hasn’t moved. Strowman then rose and Lesnar looked on with disbelief. Strowman kicked Lesnar in the face and the back of Lesnar’s head hit the ring stairs.
Back in the ring Strowman landed a powerslam, but instead of going for the cover, he lifted Lesnar and gave him a second powerslam mid-ring. Kane then hit Strowman across the back with a chair. He bashed Strowman from all angles a few more times. No real crowd reaction for Kane from the crowd. He did the throat slice gesture as Heyman yelled, “No!” Lesnar shoved Kane into Strowman, knocking him off the ring apron. Lesnar then gave Kane an awkward F5 onto a chair and got the three count. There didn’t seem to be any reaction to the finish.
WINNER: Lesnar pinned Kane to retain the Universal Championship in 11:00.
-A commercial aired for the HBO documentary on Andre the Giant. Great trailer.
-They went back to ringside where Graves said Booker went missing as a crew tried to reassembled their announce table. Cole plugged the Elimination Chamber in Las Vegas in four weeks. Graves then plugged Little Mix for “Power,” a theme song of the Rumble.
(6) WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE
(Keller’s Analysis: Can this end with anything but Ronda Rousey winning if the match is on last?)
Jo Jo introduced the match and the rules. Then Maria Menounos. She said no one has worked harder for this moment than these ladies. She got some boos. Maria shrugged and laughed and said, “I get it.” She introduced Stephanie McMahon as the guest commentator. Boos. Cole said Stephanie is one of the trailblazers in the Women’s Evolution, although “she won’t tell you.” Huh? She made the announcement. She’s inserted herself as guest commentator. She’s all over the Revolution/Evolution. Alexa Bliss walked out to watch at ringside. Then Charlotte came out next.
(1) Sasha Banks… (2) Becky Lynch: Nice starting two to make history once the bell rings. Stephanie said she’s nervous and excited.
(3) Sarah Logan: Cole said Logan is from Kentucky “and considers herself a backwoods girl.” Cole said she was once a member of the boys wrestling team. Logan gave Banks a lift-and-drop headbutt.
(4) Mandy Rose: Graves said Mandy is his pick because she’s “God’s greatest creation.”
(5) Lita: The crowd was happy to see her. Cole said she’s the only women to be involved in a TLC match. Lita landed a double-clothesline, but then Mandy attacked her. Stephanie noted that Lita has names written on her forearm of women who couldn’t be there tonight. Cole listed: Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Sensational Sherri, Alunda Blaze, Miss Elizabeth, Wendy Richter. Stephanie added Chyna. Rose delivered a knee to the side of Lita’s face. As Mandy celebrated, Lita ELIMINATED MANDY ROSE (1). Stephanie said that was either inexperience or arrogance on display.
(6) Kairi Sane: Kairi got in a flurry of offense. She delivered a shot to Lita in the corner, then leaped off the top rope onto Sarah Logan. She then landed a top rope elbow onto Sasha which Cole said would make Macho Man proud. She landed another top rope elbow on Becky.
(7) Tamina: Tamina gave shots to several women. Lita delivered a DDT to stop her momentum. She gave Babks a Twist of Fate. Then Becky, too. Lita then landed a scary moonsuit onto Becky and Sasha. Tamina kicked at Lita, but Lita ducked. Fans chanted “You still got it!” She ducked a charging Tamina, to ELIMINATE TAMINA (2). Becky then ELIMINATED LITA (3). Boos. Graves said fans weren’t pleased, but Becky did what she should be doing to try to win.
(8) Dana Brooke: Brooke ELIMINATED SANE (4) by knocking her off the top rope.
(9) Torrie Wilson: Cole talked about her being part of the Attitude Era. He said she’s a web-based fitness instructor and blogger now. Graves complimented her immaculate condition. Logan kicked Wilson. Fans chanted “Torrie Wilson.” Sasha attacked Logan which stopped Logan from eliminating Wilson. Graves said he doesn’t get Sasha’s strategy. Cole said none of the women have been in a Rumble before. Graves and Stephanie said they could watch them, though. Torrie ELIMINATED DANA (5)
(10) Sonya Deville: Deville ELIMINATED TORRIE (6). Torrie landed at the floor right by Charlotte and Bliss.
(11) Liv Morgan: Cole said she thought Lita was the coolest thing ever growing up.
(12) Molly Holly. Holly ELIMINATED LOGAN (7). Molly delivered a top rope flip double legdrop onto Sasha. Graves said that earned a “You still got it” chant.
(13) Lana: Of course that prompted another “Rusev Day!” chant. Morgan and Deville attacked Lana.
(14) Michelle McCool: Fans chanted “Un-der-taker!” McCool ELIMINATED DEVILLE (8) and ELIMINATED MORGAN (9). Molly attacked McCool from behind. McCool then ELIMINATED MOLLY (10). Lana mouthed off to McCool, who then ELIMINATED LANA (11).
(15) Ruby Riott: Sasha tried to toss Riott right away, but Riott landed on the ring apron. McCool almost eliminated Banks. Banks then yanked McCool over the top rope onto the ring apron. Neither went to the floor.
(16) Vickie Guerrero: Loud “Excuse me!” utterances. She marched to the ring with a wireless mic in hand. They all ELIMINATED VICKIE (12).
(17) Carmella: Vickie attacked Carmella at ringside with her own briefcase.
(18) Natalya: Stephanie gave credit to Natalya. “If anyone is responsible for blazing this path, it’s Natalya,” she said.
(19) Kelly Kelly: Natalya tried to eliminate Kelly at the start, but Kelly hung on. Kelly leg scissored McCool as she tried to spin her around. Natalya then ELIMINATED MCCOO (13).
(20) Naomi: Riott ELIMINATED LYNCH (14). Boos.
(21) Miss Jacqueline: Cole noted that Jackie once beat Chavo Guerrero for the Cruiserweight Title. Riot, Natalya, and Jackie tried to eliminate Kelly, but Kelly held on to the ropes.
(22) Nia Jax: Jax ELIMINATED JACQUELINE (15) and ELIMINATED KELLY (16). She knocked Natalya down, so Natalya rolled to ringside. Jax pressed Riott and tossed her onto a top turnbuckle and then ELIMINATED RIOTT (17). Naomi kicked Jax rapid-fire, but Jax soon knocked her off the ring apron. Naomi landed in the arms of a crowd at ringside. She climbed onto the barricade. Steph asked how she’d get back to the ring from there, though.
(23) Ember Moon: Ember came out selling her left arm. It was heavily wrapped. Naomi watched from the barrier. Moon attacked Jax with a barrage of punches. She threw a running elbow. Jax came back and tossed her hard across the ring. Moon rolled to the floor. Naomi walked the edge of the barrier and then asked Maria to move. Naomi sat on her chair and rolled herself to the ring using her hands. She sprung her feet to the steps and climbed to the top rope and surprised Jax. Jax caught her, though, and dumbed her over the top to ELIMINATE MOON (18). “After all of that,” said Stephanie.
(24) Beth Phoenix: Cole said she competed in a Royal Rumble match before and eliminated Great Khali. She faced off with Jax. They exchanged blows. Fans chanted “This is awesome!” Beth lifted Jax onto her shoulders and couldn’t get her to the top rope, though. Jax elbowed free. Natalya re-entered and kicked Jax. Beth and Natalya attacked Jax. Cole said they’re long-time friends. They shoulder tackled Jax through the ropes. Natalya and Beth hugged. Stephanie said, “Let’s see how long that lasts.” Natalya punched Beth and tossed her over the top rope to ELIMINATE BETH (19). Stephanie, the smartest one in the room calling that one.
(25) Asuka: Graves said: “Game over.” Cole: “How about Game On.” Asuka threw a barrage of strikes. “Asuka’s going to kill you” sang the crowd. Asuka faced off with Moon again. Cole referenced their fierce NXT rivalry. Asuka laughed at Moon’s arm and ducked a punch. Moon head scissored her to the mat. Moon hit her Eclipse with one arm. Asuka yanked on her Moon’s bad arm over the top rope and ELIMINATED MOON (20).
(26) Mickie James.
(27) Nikki Bella: Graves said he was changing his pick to Bella. Fans sang “John Cena sucks!” Nikki shot Charlotte a look at ringside. Carmella did a moon walk and then charged at Bella in the corner. Bella put Carmella on her shoulders. Carmella screamed out. Bella set her on the top rope and tried to shove her down. Nikki ELIMINATED CARMELLA (21). Asuka and Sasha went after Nikki.
(28) Brie Bella: Stephanie said, “She’s out of retirement.” The crowd did loud “Yes!” chants. Brie went after Natalya and Mickie. Cole noted Sasha has been in the match for 45 minutes now. Nia crawled back onto the ring apron. The Bellas knocked her back to the floor. The Bellas double-suplexed Natalya.
(29) Bayley: The Bellas charged at her, but she dropped them over the ropes. She kicked Natalya next. The fans began chanting “Ronda Rousey!” Stephanie asked: “Who’s it gonna be?”
(ROLL CALL: Nia, Bayley, Natalya, Mickie, Nikki. Brie, Sasha, Asuka.)
(30) Trish Stratus: No Rousey. But if you’re going to not have it be Rousey, Trish is the best option to come out last. The crowd popped as Mickie and Trish squared off. Stephanie called it one of the all-time great rivalries. Trish knocked Mickie off the top rope with a round kick to ELIMINATE MICKIE (22). Jax re-entered and attacked Trish. All remaining women attacked Jax. Jax shoved them all off and out out a big yell. Graves said, “This could very well Nia’s night.” That is the signal she’ll be gone soon. Trish superkicked Trish. The Bellas then tried to suplex Jax over the top rope. Other women joined in and helped ELIMINATE JAX (23). Sasha ELIMINATED BAYLEY (24).
Stephanie wondered what it would mean if it came down to the Bella Twins. Natalya put Trish in the sharpshooter mid-ring as she stared at the WrestleMania sign. Trish ELIMINATED NATALYA (25). Cole wondered if Trish returned to WWE and won the Royal Rumble. Cue the elimination of Trish within a minute. Just seconds later Sasha dumped Trish over the top to ELIMINATE TRISH (26).
Asuka came up behind Sasha. Fans sang “Asuka’s going to kill you.” They faced off and then turned to look at the Bellas. They decided to go after the Bellas, but instead Sasha gave Asuka a cheap shot. Graves said, “That’s what they say. If you’ve got a back, Sasha’s got a knife.” Stephanie said, “Is that what they say, Corey?” The Bellas and Sasha triple teamed Asuka. Stephanie said she can’t believe Sasha is still in it. Cue Sasha being eliminated seconds later. The Bellas ELIMINATED SASHA (27). Could WWE be more obvious in telegraphing these eliminations? Nope.
Asuka fought against the Bellas with success, kicking them both as they kneeled in mid-ring. Asuka tossed Brie over the top rope, but Brie held on. Nikki attacked Asuka from behind and then lifted her and gave her a face plant. Nikki then turned on Brie and knocked her off the top rope to ELIMINATE BRIE (28). Nikki charged at Asuka, but Asuka blocked her. Then Asuka landed a top rope missile dropkick. Nikki came back with a kick. Both went down. Nikki got up first. Nikki dropped Asuka over the top rope. She gave Asuka a forearm to the face. Asuka dropped to the edge of the ring. She Nikki charged, Asuka kicked her and then used her leg to leverage Nikki backwards over the top rope onto the ring apron. They both landed on the ring apron. Nikki hit Asuka, but Asuka kicked Nikki’s ankle and sent her to the floor to ELIMINATE NIKKI (29). Graves wondered which champion Asuka would challenge for WrestleMania.
WINNER: Asuka in 59:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was very good. I think it was a suitable PPV main event with a good mix of nostalgia and star power, in the end, the right wrestler won.)
-After the match, Bliss and Charlotte entered the ring and stood next to Asuka. Charlotte, totally needlessly, had the highest heels. Asuka looked at both of them. Charlotte raised her belt. Bliss raised her belt.
Suddenly Ronda Rousey’s music played and she came out with Roddy Piper’s “Hot Rod” lettering. The three women in the ring looked over at the stage. Graves said, “The rumors are true.” Cole: “Ronda Rousey is here!” Stephanie said she is speechless. Rousey walked out with a big smile on her face. Maria introduced her. She stepped into the ring. Rousey pointed at the WrestleMania sign. The fans chanted “Holy sh–!” She stayed at Charlotte, then offered a handshake to Asuka. Asuka slapped her hand. Rousey smiled, pointed at the sign again, and her music played. Cole said Stephanie has no idea what Rousey is doing here other than pointing at the WrestleMania sign. Rousey left the ring.
Rousey circled the ring and then offered a handshake to Stephanie. Stephanie accepted it apprehensively. Rousey smiled and walked away, slapping hands with fans at ringside. Cole said news was breaking on social media regarding Rousey. The news on social media was that Rousey agreed to join WWE “as a full time superstar,” according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
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