JOHN CENA vs. TRIPLE H - 7.75/10
Cena got a WrestleMania entrance with a bunch of kids dressed up like him. Michael Cole insisted on calling them "young men and women," but they appeared to range in age from about 7 to 12. Some of them were very into it, and some of them seemed to have no idea what was going on.
Right there in front of the hard-cam in the middle of the fourth row is a guy with a sign that says "Jeddah is toooooo sweet." I can only imagine the thoughts going through Vince's mind "OH COME ON! Even over here we have to deal with this crap!"
They worked a very basic match early on and then went into full main-event style finisher teases and kickouts. The crowd seemed extremely into it, and it will be interesting to see how much of that is because of prior knowledge of the product and how much of that was because they worked a simple, psychology-based match.
WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Cedric Alexander(c) vs. Kalisto - 8/10
An outstanding display of athleticism, with one hell of a finisher sequence.
MATCH FOR THE VACANT WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLES:
Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs. Sheamus & Cesaro - 5.75/10
Bray Wyatt and "Woken" Matt Hardy were met with the exact reaction they should always receive: bored silence. The first inter-brand title match is now going on in the ring... and we STILL haven't gotten an answer about what will happen if the Smackdown team wins the Raw Tag Team Titles. And speaking of things that they haven't thought of yet, Michael Cole asked Corey Graves what Bray Wyatt now calls his finisher now that he has been rid of Sister Abigail, and Graves admitted he had no idea. I wonder if this was Cole's way of trying to hint to the powers that be that in order for him to do his job well, they need to come up with a name.
About a minute later, Wyatt hit that same move, and Cole just called it "Sister Abigail." Then Bray let Matt get the pin and the total goofballs won the tag titles. They tried, but the crowd wasn't into this match at all, and the match itself really wasn't much.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Hardy(c) vs. Jinder Mahal (w/Sunil Singh) - 4.5/10
Sunil interfered but Jeff overcame it. Also, botches. Not too much else to say here other than we still haven't gotten a straight answer on what would have happened in Jinder had won the belt back. So basically, WWE built up this possibility as a huge deal by constantly asking "what would happen if Other Brand Wrestler X wins Title Y?!" but didn't even come up with an answer because they knew they wouldn't have do. This really annoys me.
SAUDI ARABIA PROPAGANDA VIDEO - "Everyone is welcome in Saudi Arabia" (... unless you're a woman under thirty who wants to travel alone, or if you're a citizen of Israel or Qatar. Or if you're a non-Muslim who wants to practice your own religion while you're there. Or LGBT and don't want to be put to death).
I just did a quick check, and it turns out Michael Cole was incorrect when he said that Sgt. Slaughter was deceased.
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bludgeon Brothers(c) vs. The Usos - 3.5/10
Basically a squash. The Usos feel pretty much dead in this feud.
LADDER MATCH FOR THE WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Seth Rollins(c) vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe - 7.5/10
Corey Graves explained that Rollins was using his "champion's discretion to enter first." That makes sense, and would fit in perfectly with the fact that the champion will often cut a promo between his/her entrance and the challenger. The real question is why has no one ever given this explanation before?
Now answer me this question: Why is Seth wearing the belt? Shouldn't it be hanging from the ring?
I couldn't help but notice that Finn Balor's LGBT inclusiveness gear that WWE was so proud of at WrestleMania has suddenly disappeared now that we're in a country where such activities are punishable by torture and/or death.
This was a Ladder Match. We've all seen many that were a lot more exciting. Think "standard Ladder Match stuff" then throw on an exciting finish to build up to a Rollins vs. Balor singles match for the title and that's what this match was.
VIDEO & SEGMENT WITH SAUDI TRAINEES- fine for what it was. Well I'll be damned. They did bring a Jew. ALBERT!
Some of the trainees were allowed to talk. The one who looked like Mustafa Ali but with longer hair actually cut a pretty darn good promo. Then the Daivari brothers came out waving an Iranian flag. Ariyah cut a promo on the Saudis in English and Shawn cut one in Farsi. They shoved the Mustafa Ali lookalike so he shoved Ariyah back. I remember reading that of these guys actually had something of a pro wrestling background, and I'd be willing to guess that it was this guy. They should probably sign him.
The other three got to pinball Shawn around and hit him with some basic stuff... but I'd bet anything that that first boot legit potatoed poor Shawn. If it didn't then that one sell-job should be enough to get him hired. I laughed when Cole realized that Shawn Daivari had never been given a kayfabe first name and he had already referred to the younger brother as "Daivari" so Shawn had to be referred to as "Daivari's brother."
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles(c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - 7.25/10
They had what seemed like it was on its way to being an excellent match that ended via double count-out. I know that sounds like a criticism, but I actually really liked this finish for this spot in the feud. The important factor was that this wasn't a "we're both too injured to make it back to the ring in time" count-out; it was a "we just want to hurt each other and thus don't care about your silly little rules" count-out, which they got over by the way they just kept brawling afterwards. The only thing I would have changed would be to have security separate them rather than to have AJ win the brawl and then stop.
The Undertaker vs. Rusev (w/Aiden English) - 5/10
Taker is clearly limited, but unlike the Cena match they actually tried to work around his limitations.
WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesanr(c) (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Roman Reigns - 6.75/10
Roman got a response that seemed to be about 85-15 positive. Michael Cole told us that Brock Lesnar has never lost a cage match. That seems like the kind of thing they should have used to build up this match rather than just telling us right beforehand.
They had a very good, brutal match, with a terrible finish. Said finish was Roman spearing Brock through the cage, with Brock being declared the winner. On its own this is problematic because, as we were told at the beginning of the match, the winner is "the first competitor whose feet hit the floor first," and yet even though Roman's feet hit the floor first, (Brock's were on the cage panel the whole time), the referee awarded Brock the match in a "judgment call." That's total bullsh*t. The rules are the rules. You don't get to make a "judgment call" in a scenario where the rules are clear.
Within the context of everything else, however, this gets much worse. First of all, we have now had completely non-decisive finishes in BOTH world title matches. That is bad enough on its own, but even worse when you're running your first show in a new market.
And then there's the whole Roman situation. Look... either put the f*cking belt on the guy or don't. It's been OVER THREE YEARS NOW. Just accept that YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GET THE REACTION YOU WANT FROM THE FANS NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, SO EITHER PUT YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR EARS AND PUT THE BELT ON HIM ANYWAY, OR GIVE UP AND GO WITH SOMEONE ELSE. I don't care which one you pick anymore. I just want this sh*t to be over with.
GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH - 7/10
The winner of this match will get... a trophy, and a green alternate attire of the WWE World Heavyweight/Universal Title, both of which will almost certainly disappear from everyone's consciousness within three weeks. Here are my stream of consciousness thoughts, edited together to hopefully make them easier to read:
Daniel Bryan is #1... but I realized I don't actually care if he wins or not because there is nothing on the line here.
Cole notes that only four people have ever won a Royal Rumble from the first two positions, "among them Rey Mysterio, Mr. McMahon, and Shawn Michaels." Can someone please tell WWE that it makes it a lot more awkward if you say there are four guys and then only name three of them than if you just left it at saying that only four men have accomplished the feat and didn't name anyone?
Kalisto is in at #3, and then is out before #4 (Curtis Axel) even comes out. Mark Henry is in at #5 and got a big pop. Mike Kanellis (#6) was the guy in the Santino "quickest elimination ever" loser spot. The seventh entrant was a sumo wrestler named Hiroki Sumi. He faced off with Mark Henry, and was almost immediately eliminated, but at least this served to allow Henry to be both distracted and near the ropes so that Bryan and Ziggler could team up to eliminated him as well.
Hornswoggle was in and never actually went over the top rope, so he should still be in.
Angle belly-to-bellied Dolph over the top rope, which looked pretty awesome.
The Drifter lulled everyone into a false sense of security with his song, then snuck in and eliminated Xavier, Kofi, and Konnor all at the same time. I popped huge for that.
OMFG GUYS KURT ANGLE VS. BRYAN DANIELSON!
Tucker Knight of Heavy Machinery is in at #24. He eliminates Drew Gulak. That made me unhappy.
Rey Mysterio was #28 and got a HUGE pop. Michael Cole asked "Are we in the 619?!" to which Corey Graves responded by shouting "No. We're in Saudi Arabia." I was very happy to hear Cole buried for saying something so forced and stupid.
Big E. came in and threw pancakes at Tucker Knight. He came off like a total asshole. He eliminated Knight, though, so at least we don't have a random NXT midcarder in the match anymore. Speaking of NXT...
Roderick Strong was in at #34. He got to get a bunch of his big stuff in and even eliminate Rhyno. Rey took a great bump for the Half-Nelson Backbreaker. Randy Orton was in next. He got a pop that rivaled Rey's and started to clean house of most of the jobbers.
Heath Slater win next, followed by Babatudne. If you're wondering who that is, Michael Cole told us he is from NXT, but I don't think we've even seen him on NXT TV before. If you're wondering why he's in this match, it's because he's large and tall. Next in was Baron Corbin and he got to eliminate some actual names like Roode and Roddy.
Then Titus O'Neil made his way to the ring... and all I'll say is that he inadvertently became the Gif of the Year.
Braun Strowman was in next and dumped a few guys, including Babatudne. Everyone ganged up on him but he roared out, then went on jobber patrol and eliminated Titus and Dillinger. We got some big-man face-offs with Corbin and Braun. Orton eliminated Corbin, then got snuck up on from behind and eliminated by The Drfiter, who had been down on the outside ever since Corbin pulled him out of the ring and slammed him into the steps.
Lashley at 44, Khali at 45. Bryan is alone in the land of the giants.
Kevin Owens comes in next. Owens has Bryan in trouble but then Shane enters. Shane gets to beat Owens up even though Shane is a forty-seven year-old part-timer and Owens is a top singles star. Again. Shelton Benjamin is in at #48. He immediately double-legs Shane and starts to pound the sh*t out of him. I popped huge for that.
Owens rallies everyone against Braun but Braun still survives. 49 is Big Cass, so that's bad news for Bryan. Everyone hit moves on Braun, ending in Shane's Coast-To-Coast dropkick, which Shane hurt himself while doing. #50 is Chris Jericho... so neither of WWE's two non-jobber Muslim wrestlers are going to appear on this show in Saudi Arabia. I just don't get it.
Lashley hit Cass with a Brainbuster that probably wasn't intended to be one. Shane went up for his move again but Braun goozled and threw him through the announcer's table. This looked BRUTAL. It also started a run of Braun eliminating people, leaving up to an excellent tease of Bryan almost eliminating Braun before Cass took Bryan out with a boot and eliminated him, leaving us with Cass and Strowman as the final two. Braun eliminated Cass to win... but if you're to these two at this point, I would have gone with Cass because I think he would get more out of the win here than Braun does.
This was just a random Royal Rumble on a random show. There were a few little stories (Bryan lasting the whole way, Drifter being sneaky, Braun overcoming people teaming up against him) and some decent moments playing off of past storylines (Shane and Bryan helping each other against Owens, Owens and Jericho, and despite what I said at the beginning, I did actually start to really get into the idea of Bryan lasting the whole time and winning, but at the end of the day, I know that this all meant next to nothing. It was a generic Royal Rumble gimmick for what really was just a nothing of a show in disguise, which I think was the biggest problem with all of this creatively.
Despite all of their teasing, all of the titles remained on their current brands, the two world title matches has non-decisive finishes, and the two title matches with stipulations added had stipulations that feel like the sort of thing they randomly throw on house shows to boost attendance. The Greatest Royal Rumble wasn't for a title shot or anything of any relevance, and they brought a few random NXT guys with them to give them a taste of the road. Yes, there were big returns, but we know Rey is only for one night and Jericho probably will be, too, and even Daivari will probably be a one-night thing as well. This was a sold house show that some very rich people paid WWE to broadcast and treat as if it were a PPV and to play their propaganda video. Maybe I was being too much of a mark, but with the huge deal WWE made this whole thing out to be, I figured we were going to get something bigger, and thus I was quite disappointed with this show, despite the great start.