Previously on the Best and Worst of Greatest Royal Rumble: Hacksaw Jim Duggan won Saudi Arabia’s first Greatest Royal Rumble back in 1988, outlasting 49 other Superstars including Cowboy Ron Bass, Cowboy Scott Casey, Cowboy Sam Houston and … basically Jim Duggan beat up 50 cowboys, that’s all you need to know. Also, please visit beautiful Saudi Arabia®!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Greatest Royal Rumble for April 27, 2018.
Worst: Jet Lag The Match
Up first on the Second Best Royal Rumble This Year™ we have a “fantasy match” — specifically not a “dream match,” possibly because we’ve already had this dream fifty times — between “icons” Triple H and John Cena. I’m not sure either guy has truly become an “icon” yet, at least not with the weight that usually gets thrown around, but there’s only so much you can do to hype a match between two guys who have no reason to be fighting besides “they’re both popular” and “they’ve been around for a long time.” It’s the kind of
dream fantasy match you expect when the, say, king of a nation gives you tens of millions of dollars to fantasy book his own WrestleMania.
Triple H vs. Cena isn’t “bad,” in the way that it’s almost never outright “bad.” It’s just … Triple H vs. John Cena. It’s a match these two can (and have, and are currently having) have in their sleep. Seriously, if you told Triple H and John Cena to have a match in the middle of an airport while they wait for their connecting flight, they could have this match. Attitude Adjustment! Oh man how did he kick out of that? NOBODY kicks out of the first Attitude Adjustment! Pedigree! Oh man how did he kick out of that? Second Pedigree countered! And then the actual finish, and a Fine Speech about how Saudi Arabia is very warm™ and welcoming™ and gracious®.
If you tuned into Greatest Royal Rumble expecting something other than a six-hour house show aired live on WWE Network, this match was a tutorial on what you should actually expect. It’s two stars going through the motions because those motions work, and everyone in the crowd who isn’t [checks notes] standing up with their back to the ring seems into it. So [shrug]
Best: The Cruiserweights Do Their Best
My favorite match on the show (by a mile, really) was Cedric Alexander defending the Cruiserweight Championship against Kalisto, as it felt like the only match wrestled with any urgency or anything to prove. The big star matches were about seeing the stars. Here’s Triple H, doing Triple H stuff. Here’s John Cena, doing his thing. The Undertaker is here, look at him! The Royal Rumble match was 1% wrestling and 99% “getting to see wrestlers in person.” It’s designed to be that way. Cedric and Kalisto went out after the two big stars burned out the already not really burning crowd with less time and no interest and I believe they pulled out something special.
The finishing stretch is especially great, with the champ and the challenger not really “trading holds,” but desperately trying to throw bombs at the other while countering all the rapid-fire incoming bombs. It had a quick time event vibe to it. They weren’t letting the other guy do a move and then finishing the animation to counter it, they were countering moves mid-move and changing the trajectory completely. I dug that. It felt exciting, and like it could really be happening on … you know, a real show. I’m not sure how else to phrase it.
Worst: Jinder Mahal Phantom Bumping
Worst match of the night (also by a mile) (somehow) goes to Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder Mahal, which wasn’t going to be a barn-burner if you literally made them wrestle in a barn and set it on fire. The “Jeff Hardy Singles Match” formula isn’t getting any better as he gets older, and God bless Jinder Mahal’s dedication to reinventing himself and plying his craft but I think he might be truly incapable of being a top level guy. Like, jokes aside. It’s just not happening.
I think the highlight for everyone was this Whisper In Nothing But The Wind, and the announce team desperately scrambling to explain why Jinder would bump for a move that completely missed him:
Awful. Not House of Horrors awful, but a house of horrors for regular wrestling.
Hardy of course won and retained the championship with a Swanton Bomb, reiterating the fact that we aren’t watching a “pay-per-view,” we’re watching a house show they were nice enough to air live on the Network. Which … man, I don’t hate it. I wish they’d show every lousy house show on the Network. Just give us something to watch in the background while we’re working. This shit’s like special features on a more important show’s DVD.
Almost Nothing: The Tag Team Championship Matches
Both Tag Team Championship matches on the card — one obvious, one inevitable — underwhelmed, but were exactly what we were expecting. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt defeated The Bar to win the vacant Raw Tag Team Championship, because one of those teams is on Smackdown all of a sudden and lost a WrestleMania match to a fucking 10-year old. The Bludgeon Brothers also got to squash the Usos again, because the angle is that the Bludgies are either attracted or sympathetic to Naomi, and since she’s not legally allowed to participate in this show, the Usos are boned.
I don’t want to seem like I’m not writing a passionate defense of the matches or whatever, but if you’d stuck these two matches in the middle of a random hour two on Raw, it wouldn’t have felt any different. That’s the same in doing seven championship matches on a thrown-together post-WrestleMania show like this. Five or six of them aren’t going to feel important, and you didn’t have time to come up with anything new or creative, so they just do what we’ve already seen. It’s fine.
Best-Ish: The Ladder Match
I thought this was going to be the show stealer, but I forgot that there are WWE Pay-per-view Ladder Matches and then the safer versions they do at live shows, so they can make crowds feel like they got something special without really going all in with it. It’s why so many house shows have cage matches on them. You just put a thing around the ring and people think it’s more important, even if you only touch the cage twice.
The finish here is memorable, with Finn Bálor slowpoking it up a ladder and having to stand there like an idiot while Seth Rollins springboards in and yanks the title down in his face, but that might’ve been the only memorable moment. Not to say there weren’t dangerous things happening, but in a world where we just had the NXT TakeOver New Orleans ladder match, this felt like Baby’s First. Seth retains, which makes sense, and also because everybody retained. Everybody. Because you could completely wipe this show from existence and jump from WrestleMania to Backlash with the only talking point being how arrogant Samoa Joe is about Roman Reigns losing a lot.
Worst: Those Title Match Finishes
I’m just going to lump these together.
The first and easiest match finish to talk about is Shinsuke Nakmaura vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship in a WrestleMania rematch, which we can officially call Not A Dream Match. I think heel Nakamura works a lot better with WWE AJ Styles (who is a babyface pretty much by default, even when he’s being a jerk), and that the match they were putting together was building to be better than the Mania version, but … shit, it does the same thing the WrestleMania match did. It gives you the first 15-20 minutes of a good match, then skips straight to a finish without any drama, story, or reason.
Here, they just roll to the outside and fight until there’s a double count-out. As a kid who grew up going to NWA shows, NOTHING says “house show” like a double count-out finish. I can’t tell you how many Road Warriors matches I got hype for, enjoyed about three minutes of, and then had to sit there watching both teams “fight to the back” and get counted out. It’s brutal from a fan perspective, especially if you don’t have your back to the ring while you wrangle a bunch of extremely rich children.
They’ll fight again at Backlash, and we’ll hope that one’s finally the good one. If not … we shat, now let’s get off the pot.
Then we have the hot-ass garbage fire that is Another Goddamn Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lensar Match,” this time within the confines of a cage so house show it could’ve aired on HGTV. That GIF is the finish, which is supposed to be Roman spearing Brock through the wall and Brock’s feet hitting first, giving him the win. Instead, Lesnar falls on the cage wall with his feet propped up in the air and Roman Reigns rolls over onto the floor, winning the match. But that’s not what the script says, so the announcers have to quickly go from “Lesnar’s feet hit first, watch the replay” to “I guess they just decided Lesnar won, sorry, ref’s call.”
If you’re doing this finish and you’re Brock Lesnar, your first goal when the cage wall breaks is to roll the hell onto the floor. If you’re Roman, your first and only goal is to go through the cage and STAY ON THE CAGE. Otherwise all you’re left with is a dumb thing you have to address in a bad promo on Monday. “I was CHEATED at Greatest Royal Rumble!” “Roman, you CRY CRY CRY but at BACKLASH etc.”
Worst: Bury Them Softly, Brother
Rusev had a snowball’s chance in religiously nonspecific Hell of winning the casket match against the Undertaker here, so it was no surprise to see him not only lose, but get “buried” in the casket alongside his tag team partner as well. Might as well put them both in there to complete the message. Also, way to absolutely murder poor Aiden English on that Tombstone.
This is one of those match results we could get bugged by if it was happening for a reason, or happened to set something up, or was really anything other than “get the Undertaker on the card and protect his weaknesses.” I’m ready for the Undertaker to actually retire and bow out for good, or to maybe realize his current situation and not be the strongest and most powerful and most unbeatable guy ever for a while. Or I guess I’m ready for another decade of him showing up to pin whoever we like now in two minutes at the Greatest Survivor Series, or whatever.
Worst: I’M NOT FROM HERE! I’VE GOT MY OWN CUSTOMS!
If you were worried the Greatest Royal Rumble wouldn’t be filled to the brim with propaganda, brother, this is the section for you.
Somewhere in the middle of the show (during the prayer break, which I’d also have to take after watching Jeff Hardy wrestle Jinder Mahal) we get a full-on SAUDI ARABIA AND IT’S LEADERS ARE GREAT, PLEASE VISIT THE LIBERAL UTOPIA OF SAUDI ARABIA video with guys on skateboards to show how chill and down to earth everyone is. Which would probably work better if women could be on the show, being gay wasn’t illegal and the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority wasn’t tweeting out apologies for the indecent image of WWE including female employees in a video package. But the skateboards seem cool!
After that we got the four best prospects from the Saudi tryouts who were supposed to be in the Royal Rumble match but for some reason got downgraded to waving at the crowd and Believing In Dreams. That brought out Ariya Daviari and Daivari Classic, who hasn’t been in the company for a hot minute, to wave around the Iranian flag and say Iran is actually better than Saudi Arabia. The Saudi guys take offense to this and beat them up, and everyone claps and cheers.
As a member of the United States, the world leader in “they aren’t from here!” wrestling heat, all I can say is that it sheds a little light on how bad those segments are for everyone when your home team isn’t one of the variables. Especially when you’re an American company on a weird American diplomatic mission picking sides in regional conflicts to get a pop. I can only shade it so much, though, because I know if WWE had been around during the Civil War, they would’ve had a Confederate soldier as United States Champion before the second show.
Worst: The Lamest Royal Rumble
That GIF is all you need to know.
A lesson we apparently didn’t learn from WCW’s World War 3 battle royals is that more =/= better. The Royal Rumble has 30 men in it because that’s the sweet spot. You can feasibly fill a 30-man battle royal without having to include, say, trainees or visiting sumo guys or people you found on the street. World War 3 had 60 men in it, and was never, ever interesting or worth watching until it got down to the final 10 or so. This Royal Rumble didn’t feel like there were any stakes attached to it until the final three. At BEST.
- Braun Strowman got those hands™ and won the match, receiving a trophy everyone seemed afraid to try to lift and a custom green Saudi Arabian WWE Championship. That’s pretty cool, even if I’ve reached my quota of seeing trophies awarded at WWE events. I just wish they’d thrown in Nicholas for an international (but probably not domestic) pop.
- Rey Mysterio Jr. showed up again and once again looked great, begging the question, “when the hell can we get Rey Mysterio on 205 Live instead of just showing up biannually at battle royals?”
- Daniel Bryan set a record, lasting 74 damn minutes and lasting from number one to number 48. He didn’t win, which is always a bummer, but shit, that’s impressive.
- Titus O’Neil was safe at home
- Aside from Rey Mysterio the guest entrants were The Great Khali and Hornswoggle — the John Cena and Randy Orton of surprise LOL guests — and a sumo wrestler none of us have ever heard of and will probably never see again. Also, Dan Matha and Babatunde from the very, very bottom of NXT. Like when they let Kavita Devi into the WrestleMania women’s battle royal.
- Mike Kanellis flew all the way to Saudi Arabia to get clotheslined over a rope in less than one second. This is almost as bad as the folks like Tyler Breeze who showed up to get a courtesy handshake more than that.
- Scott Dawson eliminating himself, made worse by commentary immediately noticing it instead of just explaining away some bad timing:
It is what it is. It’s too long by at LEAST 20 guys, happening for no real reason in the context of the WWE Universe, with no prize other than a replica belt, for the final two hours of a six hour customs house show. It’s brutally bad, but also watchably bad, as all Royal Rumbles are. I can’t imagine revisiting this one out of anything but morbid curiosity, or a desire to see probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to Daniel Bryan vs. Kurt Angle.
STRONGEST RECOMMENDATION TO AVOID. Wait, do I do that? TWO AND NO QUARTERS STAR.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The … Day?
Pretty sad when the most memorable moment of the 6 hours was given to us by Titus World Slide.
As if we needed proof that Saudi Arabia is behind the times, Randy Orton just got the night’s biggest pop
Son of Tony Zane
I’ve never been so tired at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Rest (holds) In Peace
Aiden, proving that the English still have a foothold in the Middle East
Disclaimer on Taker video: Actual moves not shown. Undertaker may appear older and slower than video.
Miz: “I’ll pick my spots and use my wits to make opportunities to go for the title!”
Finn and Seth: “I’ll use my speed, agility and recklessness to grab the belt!”
Samoa Joe: “They can’t climb a ladder if I fucking cripple them.”
Welcome my friend, Vanguard 1! *700 armed guards open fire*
GRAVES: Saudi Arabia is absolutely woken!
WWE WOMEN’S DIVISION: uh
That’s it for the show. As a final note, Sgt. Slaughter is still alive, whether Michael Cole calls him “late” and “great” or not.
Thanks for reading. It’s a tough week for us here at UPROXX, so thanks for still checking us out and commenting and sharing the column. Be back here tomorrow for the Best and Worst of Raw, as Braun Strowman debuts his new rich guy gimmick, the Cheddah from Jeddah.