Alex has been an online sports and pop culture writer for five years. When he's not writing about sports, Alex is an aspiring screenwriter.
Saudi Arabia partnered with WWE to bring their product to the country. However, with a huge payday, World Wrestling Entertainment isn't just bringing any show overseas, they're boasting "The GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE." What at first was promoted as a house show was later treated like a PPV with big names and several matches receiving top billing.
This show has sparked controversy. Because of Saudi Arabia's treatment of women, none of them were featured on the show (excluding video packages). I won't pretend to know more about the situation than I do know. What I do know is that Saudi Arabia is taking steps to be more progressive. Women recently gained the right to drive. If WWE said no to their money, that probably wouldn't expedite the process.
One thing I can say is that the WWE did not cheap out. It was refreshing to see an arena that wasn't just another pallet swap. On the flip side, the commentators seemed a little off. Since the wrestlers are a little more used to crazy travel schedules, I wonder if the commentators got enough sleep because they fumbled over their words, got facts wrong, and bickered between each other far more than normal.
John Cena vs. Triple H
For as much as WWE is trying to hype this as a dream match, we all know these two have battled several times before. Still, like them or not, these guys carry name value. The commentators made a point that Cena and Triple H wanted to open the show to be the first to perform. While this was hardly a groundbreaking match, it did set the standard for what an opener should be: exciting enough to get the fans' blood pumped for the rest of the show. John Cena won FWIW.
Match Rating: 3.5 stars
Cedric Alexander vs. Kalisto - Cruiserweight Title Match
Another solid showing from two talented workers. Though with the way this show played out, maybe this should have happened just a little later. Alexander and Kalisto put on a fairly fast-paced match as expected from these two. The most noteworthy spot saw Kalisto perform a top rope Spanish Fly on Cedric. It was a little scary, but Will Ospereay set the bar for scary versions of that against Marty Scurll. The finish saw Cedric Alexander retain his title after countering a Salida del Sol into a Lumbar Check.
Match Rating: 3.75 stars
Matt Hardy/Bray Wyatt vs. The Bar - Raw Tag Team Titles
With the titles vacated after Nicholas had to abdicate the title for school, this was the only guaranteed title change on the show. It was also a fairly standard match. Both teams are entertaining in their own ways: Sheamus and Cesaro are good workers while Matt and Bray are entertaining characters. But neither brought their A-game. Still, the match was watchable. It was pretty obvious Matt and Bray were going to take home the straps. WWE tried to add some suspense by saying The Bar would return to Raw if they won, but nobody was buying that.
Match rating: 2.5 stars
Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder Mahal
This was another match that sure happened. Hardy and Mahal re-matched from Raw in a fairly uneventful match. Actually, that's not fair: There was one noteworthy botch where Hardy missed Whisper in the Wind by a mile and Mahal had a bit of a delayed reaction. Hey, it kept this match from being completely unmemorable. Hardy retained.
Match rating: 2.25 stars
The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The Usos - Smackdown Tag Team Titles
This match is noteworthy for having an actual build in the aftermath of Mania. This was the third in what felt like a trifecta of TV/house show worthy matches. And it was easily the best of the bunch. At just a shade over five minutes, these guys didn't really have the time to shine that they could have. But they made the most of their brief time on stage. Bludgeon Brothers retained their titles. Hmmm, noticing a pattern...
Match rating: 2.75 stars
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz vs. Samoa Joe - Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
Alright, now we're talking! With those four men in a ladder match, it should be no surprise that this match delivered. It wasn't as wild of a ladder match as WWE fans may be used to, but this was still a solid showing. Highlights included Seth and Miz slamming Joe into ringside with ladder, only to be dive-bombed by Balor for their troubles. Joe ate a loss but looked like a beast, refusing an alliance with Miz and slamming Balor into the ladder. Samoa Joe also bombed Balor and Rollins during a superplex attempt. He took as well as he gave, eating a Skull-Crushing Finale on the ladder at one spot.
The ending was one of the more exciting of the night. Balor appeared to have the title well in hand when Rollins jumped in, last minute and snatched his title back for the win.
Match rating: 4 stars
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - WWE Championship
In between the IC and World Title Match was a promo that introduced Saudi talents trained at the performance center. They were interrupted by the Daivari Brothers. This was an average promo, but it clearly meant a lot to the audience, so it was a smart move.
Styles and Nakamura sadly underperformed at Mania. However, they brought it this time around. There was a little more suspense in this battle. It seems a shame that what could have been the superior match ended in double countout. Still, this was an exciting match with a wild brawl afterward. Besides, it was a necessary evil, being sandwiched between two other PPV matches.
Match rating: 3.75 stars
Undertaker vs. Rusev - Casket Match
Need proof Saudi Arabia is becoming more progressive? They finally celebrate Rusev Day! After playing trading places with Jericho, Rusev and the Undertaker squared off. This was a surprisingly fun match. Rusev and Aiden English tried to play diabolical heels double teaming the Undertaker. But the Dead Man fought them off valiantly. Gotta say, for "post-retirement," Undertaker looked really good here, like he still belongs. Taker won when he stuffed both Rusev and English into the casket.
Match rating: 3.5 stars
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns - Steel Cage Match for the Universal Championship
Speaking of Wrestlemania rematches, this actually WAS an improvement over the Mania bout. Yeah, it still played like two guys gave themselves infinite finishers in Here Comes the Pain. Finishers happened too early and too often. However, it was a faster paced, more concise match. The cage gave these two a few more tools to play with. The ending was fresh with Roman accidentally spearing Lesnar out of the cage. Though it was also nerve-wracking seeing Roman land right on his head. I'm glad Greatest Royal Rumble didn't become Greatest Over the Edge. Also, with Roman landing out of the cage first, it seriously looked like Roman should have won, but Lesnar retained.
Match Rating: 3.5 stars
The Greatest Royal Rumble
All night, WWE pushed the hashtag GRR, short for Greatest Royal Rumble. Fans were also pondering what kind of reward would be given out for winning not just any Rumble, but the Greatest Royal Rumble. A 50 man Royal Rumble. Turns out it's just another trophy and championship belt that I"m not sure can be defended. GRR indeed.
Still, there was some curiosity as to how the first 50-man Royal Rumble would play out. A blow-by-blow recap of a 30-man Rumble would be daunting, and this is nearly twice that so I'll only discuss highlights. Daniel Bryan was the first man in the match, and even though he lost, he still went coast-to-coast, looking like a hero even in defeat. Plus his chest was a tomato red after taking several hits. Can't deny the guy's toughness.
One problem with this match was an unbalance in talent. To WWE's credit, they filled all 50 men without having anyone do double duty. Not to mention heavy hitters Sami Zayn, Drew McIntyre, Big Show, and Kane missed this for various reasons. Unfortunately, the first half of this match was filled with mooks like Primo Colon, Konnor and the barely appearing Mike Kanellis. There were some heavy hitters in the first half such as 2/3 of New Day and Elias in the first half. Kurt Angle was in the first half, and we saw a sample of a dream match between him and Daniel Bryan.
Elias looked like a star by eliminating three people at once and later eliminating Angle. Pretty much anything that happened in this match was overshadowed by Titus O'Neil's entrance. Just as he was approaching the ring, he tripped and slid all the way under the apron. The commentary team lost it, and replayed the incident several times. (That's for the best since the cameraman didn't get the best angle the first time.)
The second half was more exciting, boy this feels like an allegory for the show overall. The second half saw biggies like Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley and Big Cass enter. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens reignited their feud. You can always count on those two to be entertaining. Shane McMahon took the bump of the night when Braun chucked him all the way to the Saudi announce table. After Big Cass came back from injury, Lashley almost put him back on the shelf with a botched brainbuster. Cass eliminated Daniel Bryan, looking like a bigger heel and fueling their feud. Strowman eliminated Cass for the duke.
Even if the stakes were tragically low, Strowman was the right man, and it was refreshing to see the man score a big win.
Match rating: 3.75 stars
So was this the Greatest Royal Rumble? Far from it, but I don't think Solid Royal Rumble would have been as marketable. This show was a mixed bag. For a televised house show, it was pretty good. But WWE presented this as a much bigger deal, so the amount of average matches is slightly harder to forgive. Greatest Royal Rumble is a rare example of a PPV with no pre-show, and maybe some of these matches should have been relegated to that. No joke, the show ran five hours. In WWE's defense, this was necessary as there was an intermission so the audience could attend religious practices. However, I came dangerously close to falling asleep during this show. They also played things a little too safe with all-male titles on the line and the only change being a mandatory one. Maybe at least one title swap could've spiced things up.
It may sound like I'm knocking this one, but it was still a fun watch overall. The ladder match and the Rumble itself were enough that I'm glad WWE decided to broadcast this one.
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© 2018 Alex deCourville