Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over ten years now and have reviewed over 5,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net, starting today. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
Greatest Royal Rumble
Date: April 27, 2018
Location: King Abdullah International Stadium, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Commentators: Corey Graves, Michael Cole, Byron Saxton
It’s finally time for a show that feels like the build has been going on for months. This is one of the biggest cards the WWE has ever produced and it’s hard to say where a lot of the matches are going to go. We’ve got seven title matches, two big time singles matches and the fifty man Royal Rumble, meaning this show could run longer than Wrestlemania. Let’s get to it.
We open with the National Anthems of Saudi Arabia and the USA.
The stadium looks mostly full, though there are some very visible pockets of empty seats.
The opening video is a countdown with the other big matches shown in between the numbers. We switch to the regular opening video looking at the rest of the matches.
The announcers welcome us and say this is a step in the country’s progression. Oh I’m sure that’s going to go over well.
HHH vs. John Cena
The crowd is WAY into things to start, at least for HHH’s entrance. Cena has a tunnel of kids to run though, which is one of the universally good ideas. HHH shoves him down to start so Cena does the same for a staredown. We hit the test of strength until HHH kicks him in the ribs. They’re at a very slow pace to start until Cena gets two off a rollup. HHH grabs a sleeper but Cena fights back, only to get clotheslined down.
The facebuster gets two so Cena grabs the ProtoBomb but gets caught in a belly to back suplex. HHH does his own You Can’t See Me (plus a crotch chop) to set up the Pedigree, which is reversed into a whip over the corner. Back in and the spinebuster gets two on Cena, who slugs away and grabs the STF. HHH is in the rope in a hurry and hits another spinebuster (you don’t seen him repeat that too often) for two more.
Cena is right back with another ProtoBomb into the Shuffle, followed by the AA for a close two. Another AA is countered into the Pedigree for two in the most obvious sequence ever. The STF goes on but HHH reverses into a Crossface which is reversed into another AA. A catapult into the corner sets up the third AA to put HHH away at 15:52.
Rating: B+. Well you knew these two would have a good match. It took some time to get going but once they hit their stride it got better in a hurry. Cena winning is fine as the fans are going to love him, just for the charisma alone. If nothing else he probably has to get on the first place out of the country and back to Hollywood. Good match and a smart choice for an opener.
You can tell it was serious:
Cruiserweight Title: Kalisto vs. Cedric Alexander
Cedric is defending. They fight over the wristlocks to start and then trade headscissors into safe landings. Kalisto sends him outside for a springboard flip dive but Cedric is right back in with a flip dive of his own. Back in and we hit the waistlock to keep Kalisto down, with Alexander muscling him down.
Kalisto fights up and scores with an enziguri, followed by a springboard crossbody for no cover. A wicked Michinoku Driver gets two on Kalisto but he kicks Cedric in the head again. Kalisto puts him on top and, after a slugout on the ropes, hits a springboard C4 for two. The Lumbar Check is countered into a sloppy hurricanrana but the Salida Del Sol is countered into the Lumbar Check to retain Cedric’s title at 10:08.
Rating: B-. That waistlock was a bit of a match killer but the rest of the stuff after that was solid. They were really getting going there near the end and it was a better match. The lack of a story didn’t help things though and they needed a little something else to make it work. Cedric can move on to Buddy Murphy, but that’s still not exactly going to ignite 205 Live.
Raw Tag Team Titles: The Bar vs. Matt Hardy/Bray Wyatt
The titles are vacant coming in due to Braun Strowman and a ten year old (who carried the team) vacating the titles after Wrestlemania. Hardy wants to delete the Bar but settles for elbowing Cesaro down. Wyatt comes in and runs Cesaro over and it’s time for the applause. A neckbreaker gives Matt two but Sheamus shoves the Twist of Fate away. Matt gets shoved outside for no logical reason before Sheamus takes him back inside for a front facelock. It’s off to Cesaro for a chinlock as Cole points out that the fans here might not get Matt. To be fair, most Americans don’t either.
Cesaro gets two off a gutwrench suplex and there’s a double backbreaker to keep Matt in trouble. Matt rolls away though and the hot tag brings in Wyatt to clean house. With Matt down though, the double White Noise gets two and Wyatt is down as well. Sheamus loads up the Brogue Kick but Wyatt spiders up for Sister Abigail. The elevated Twist of Fate gives Matt the pin at 8:52.
Rating: C. This just kind of happened and there’s nothing wrong with that. The ending was never in doubt and Matt and Bray are fine as champions. I’m not sure who going to take the titles from them as the division has some teams to it, but most of the aren’t exactly the kind of teams that would take the titles.
We recap the US Title match, which was Jeff Hardy winning a quick title match over Jinder Mahal, who was fresh on Raw. Hardy then moved to Smackdown so Mahal is trying to get the title back in a Raw vs. Smackdown match.
US Title: Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder Mahal
Hardy is defending and has a bad knee coming in. Mahal runs him over to start but gets sent outside for a dive off the steps. Sunil Singh offers a quick grab of the leg though and Mahal gets in a shot to take over. We hit the chinlock for a good while until Jeff pops up for a Twist of Fate. Back up and Mahal tries a gutbuster but gets hit with the legdrop between the legs for two instead.
The Whisper in the Wind misses but Mahal goes down anyway (I thought he dropped a quick elbow) in a horrible looking botch. Jeff hits the corner dropkick and another Twist of Fate, setting up the Swanton to retain at 6:19. Hardy’s knee injury from Smackdown was never a factor.
Rating: D. I’m surprised by the ending but anything that involves Mahal losing and his stock value being lowered is a good thing. This also changes the likely outcome of the Intercontinental Title match but Hardy winning is a smart idea. He could be a major player on Smackdown and taking the title from him so soon would have been ridiculous.
It’s time for the national prayer so we go to the Kickoff Show panel.
Video on the changes in Saudi Arabia, including how women are being treated better. I’ll be moving on.
Chris Jericho is ready to win the Greatest Royal Rumble over stars like Kurt Angle, Mark Henry, Rey Mysterio and MOJO RAWLEY. Jericho doesn’t know the interviewer’s name so Mike Rome JUST MADE THE LIST.
We run down the remaining card.
Daniel Bryan wants to win as well because he needs to be back in the ring.
Smackdown Tag Team Titles: Usos vs. Bludgeon Brothers
The Usos are challenging with Rowan dropkicking Jey down early on. A pumphandle backbreaker gets two and we hit the fists crushing Jey’s head. Cole says this was made famous by the “late great” Sgt. Slaughter. In case this has you confused, Slaughter is very much alive. Harper misses a big boot in the corner and the hot tag brings in Jimmy to speed things up.
The running Umaga Attack hits Harper in the corner and Rowan gets knocked to the floor. There’s a double superkick to Harper and the Superfly Splash gets two. Harper runs Jey over and slaps Rowan to fire him up. The double powerbomb finishes Jimmy and retains the titles at 5:11.
Rating: D+. The Usos’ flurry was nice but this was only a few steps above a squash. That’s what the match needed to be too as the Brothers can be established as monsters for a long time to come. Since the show is so long by definition, it’s good to have something go fast like this one and this was their best option.
We recap the Intercontinental Title match, which is just a video about ladder matches.
Intercontinental Title: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe
Rollins is defending in a ladder match. It’s a free for all (later known as a Kickoff) to start with Rollins hitting a double Blockbuster and some suicide dives, including one to knock out the Arabic announce team. The first ladder is grabbed but it’s Balor hitting a big flip dive to take everyone out. Joe can’t get a ladder in so Balor does it instead and goes up, only to have Miz make a save.
This time it’s Joe going up with Miz making another save, meaning he’s ticked off Joe. It’s a shame that Maryse will have to raise the new baby on her own. Joe starts wrecking people with the ladder until Balor hits a Sling Blade and the running dropkick to knock Joe into the ladder. Rollins breaks up a Coup de Grace onto the ladder onto Joe but gets planted on the worst part of a Tower of Doom. Miz hits Joe in the face with the ladder and goes up, only to be caught by Rollins.
Balor makes a save and takes a neckbreaker, followed by Miz shoving Rollins of the ladder. More ladder shots take out Rollins and Balor again but Finn is back up with a kick to the head. The Coup de Grace onto Miz on the ladder but Joe comes back in. The Koquina Clutch goes on for a few seconds with Balor slipping out and stomping on Joe again. Another ladder shot allows Balor to climb but Rollins springboards in and pulls the title down in a flash to retain at 14:29.
Rating: B. That ending was sweet with Rollins barely being involved for a few moments and then literally jumping in to retain. Rollins looks like an even bigger star than usual and that’s the way they should have gone. They’ve got something with him right now and it makes sense to push the heck out of him. It’s even better that no one had to job here with Balor, who was close to the win, not looking bad in defeat. Good match, though the NXT ladder match is going to outshine any ladder match for a LONG time.
Video on the Saudi Arabia tryouts.
Four people who did well in the tryouts are presented to the crowd and talk about what it was like. Cue the Daivari brothers with Iranian flags (Saudi Arabia and Iran DO NOT get along) to say this is how real athletes look. The trainees clean house before a war breaks out.
This could have been a lot worse:
Smackdown World Title: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Styles is defending. They fight over a wristlock to start and I’m not exactly feeling the anger and hatred so far. A quick trip to the floor leads to a hard lockup back inside and a COME ON from Nakamura. What might be the Wave breaks out as Nakamura kicks him down and grabs a long chinlock.
AJ fights up with a facebuster and a shot to the face to rock Nakamura. The fireman’s carry backbreaker gets two but Nakamura hits a facebuster. The Calf Crusher goes on for a bit until Nakamura rolls away for the break. Nakamura hits the running knees in the corner as the fans are trying to get back into this. AJ sends him head first into the buckle to slow Nakamura down but still gets pulled into the cross armbreaker.
Styles stacks him up for two and scores with the Pele for another double knockdown. The referee nearly gets knocked down so Nakamura gets ANOTHER low blow but AJ grabs the rope. Kinshasa is broken up with a forearm and they fight to the floor with a tackle taking Nakamura over the announcers’ table for a double countout at 14:28.
Rating: B. This was getting really good but I get why they went this way. The big rematch at Backlash can see Nakamura win the title for good, possibly with the help of a turning Anderson and Gallows. I liked it better than the Wrestlemania match, at least somewhat due to the lower standards. There’s chemistry there, and the emotion stemming from the low blow helped.
Post match AJ beats the heck out of Nakamura, including a slingshot forearm to the floor.
Cole: “Next up, the return of the Dead Man!” As in the guy who wrestled earlier this month.
Video on Undertaker. His opponent is never mentioned.
Rusev vs. Undertaker
Casket match. Undertaker, with a streak of red across his forehead (it looks like faded lipstick), follows Rusev to the floor and slugs away. More right hands in the ring follow, one of which puts Rusev onto the closed casket. Rusev’s right hands have little effect so Undertaker hits the apron legdrop.
Aiden English won’t let the casket be closed so Rusev hammers away and even gets the Accolade on. Undertaker powers out and the slugout is on with Undertaker hitting the chokeslam. Rusev gets tossed into the casket, followed by a chokeslam and Tombstone to English. He’s thrown in next to Rusev and Undertaker slams the lid shut to win at 9:14.
Rating: D. This was a house show casket match and that’s not the most thrilling thing in the world. Undertaker was just doing the greatest hits here and that’s not exactly thrilling stuff. He’s old and banged up but can still chokeslam people, which is about all you can expect. Nothing to see here, other than Rusev losing all over again.
We recap the Universal Title match. Brock Lesnar beat Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania in a surprise and tonight is the rematch inside a cage, possibly due to WWE knowing the American fans aren’t going to cheer him no matter what.
Universal Title: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
Brock is defending inside a cage. Forty five seconds in and Lesnar is at three German suplexes. Number four is followed by the first F5 less than two minutes in. Reigns slips out of a second and hits back to back Superman Punches. The third rocks Lesnar but Reigns goes up. Lesnar makes a save and pulls Reigns back in, only to get powerbombed out of the corner. Reigns sends him into the cage and hits a spear that looked like it was in slow motion.
Two more spears drop Lesnar for two and Reigns goes for the door, which Heyman slams onto his head. Another F5 gets two and Heyman throws in a chair. The gloves come off but Reigns hits the fourth spear for two. Reigns chairs him down and hits another Superman Punch. A big spear drives Lesnar THROUGH THE CAGE with Reigns following and rolling to the side, putting his feet on the floor. This means LESNAR wins at 9:15 though, because “his body hit the floor first”. Even though it didn’t as it was laying on the broken cage wall. They completely botched that finish.
Rating: F. I had to pause for a second from laughing so much. I have no idea what they’re going to do with Reigns now but my goodness they couldn’t have screwed that finish up worse if they tried. On top of that it was a terrible match with nothing but finishers over about nine minutes with the fans reacting to absolutely nothing. Terrible match as Wrestlemania XXXI looks more and more like a fluke every time.
This didn’t go so well (shockingly enough):
90 second intervals with Daniel Bryan in at #1 and Dolph Ziggler is in at #2. They waste no time in going for the eliminations but of course neither can go anywhere. Bryan can’t suplex him over the top and they grapple in the corner a bit with no one getting much of an advantage. It’s Sin Cara in at #3 for some rapid fire kicks. The Swanton hits Bryan but Cara can’t get him out. Instead it’s Ziggler kicking Cara out but not being able to do anything with Bryan.
Curtis Axel is in at #4 and goes after Ziggler in the corner, pulling him back in for some reason. Mark Henry is in at #5 and headbutts Axel out but Ziggler and Bryan can’t get him out. Mike Kanellis is in at #6 with Cole talking about how famous Mike’s wife is. He’s out in about three seconds thanks to a Henry clothesline, leaving Bryan to try and choke Henry. Hiroki Sumi (looks like a sumo wrestler) is in at #7 for the big showdown with Henry.
This goes badly for Sumi, who is put out in short order, followed by Ziggler and Bryan getting together to dump Henry. Viktor is in at #8 and knees Bryan down but can’t slam him out. Instead Bryan armbars him over the top and we’re down to two again. Kofi Kingston is in at #9 and gets a nice reaction from the crowd. Things speed up a bit until Kofi is sent into the post, allowing Ziggler and Henry to pound away. Tony Nese from 205 Live is in at #10 to really crank things up. Some high flying drops a few people to little avail until Dash Wilder is in at #11.
There’s still nothing going on here so Hornswoggle is in at #12 to help pull Wilder out, followed by a Samoan drop to Kofi. Ziggler superkicks Hornswoggle to break up the Tadpole Splash and Nese’s running knee is good for the elimination. Primo Colon is in at #13 and promptly botches a springboard attempt. More nothing goes on so it’s Xavier Woods in at #14 to give the fans something to cheer for. Woods gets sent to the apron and Kofi is sent over, landing on Woods’ back.
They climb up together with Kofi diving off both of them, meaning it’s time to dance. Tony tries to join in and gets dumped as the intervals are all over the place. Bo Dallas is in at #15 to do nothing either so here’s Kurt Angle in at #16 to get rid of Primo and Dallas. Angle dumps Ziggler as well before shrugging off New Day. Scott Dawson is in at #17 to go after Angle, leaving New Day to double team Bryan. The short clock strikes again with Goldust in at #18.
Bryan is put on the apron but slides through the legs for a sunset flip out of instinct. Konnor is in at #19 and goes after Kofi as Woods tries to amateur wrestle Angle. Corey: “You can call that the stupidest move in the history of wrestling. Elias is in at #20, giving us Bryan, Dawson, Woods, Kingston, Angle, Goldust, Elias and Konnor. After a quick concert, Elias dumps Kofi, Woods and Konnor at the same time. Luke Gallows is in at #21 as Angle locks up Bryan’s ankle. There’s the Angle Slam but Elias dumps Angle. Dang that’s quite the rub.
Rhyno is in at #22 and hits some forearms until it’s Drew Gulak in at #23. Everyone keeps brawling and it’s Tucker Knight in at #24. Drew’s sleeper is reversed into a flip over the top for an elimination and it’s Bobby Roode in at #25. The Blockbuster drops Elias and a dropkick gets rid of Goldust. Dawson gets catapulted out and lands on the corner of the steps in a painful looking landing. Fandango is in at #26, sending Cole and Graves into one of their patented stupid arguments about how Cole knew it was him.
Some near eliminations go nowhere so it’s Chad Gable in at #27. The ring is starting to fill up and it’s Rey Mysterio in at #28 to wake things up a bit. A hurricanrana gets rid of Gallows but Fandango breaks up the 619 to Roode. Mojo Rawley is in at #29 to get rid of Fandango and it’s Tyler Breeze in at #30, giving us Breeze, Bryan, Rhyno, Roode, Rawley, Elias, Knight, Mysterio and Gable. Breeze is out at Rawley’s hands in just a few seconds and Big E. is in at #31. He throws pancakes at Knight and grabs an abdominal stretch before throwing him out.
Karl Anderson is in at #32 for a spinebuster to Roode but Big E. throws him to the apron. Rey hits the 619 on Roode and it’s Apollo Crews in at #33. Gable gets tossed and lands on his face. Nothing else goes on until Roderick Strong is in at #34. Backbreakers abound and a jumping knee gets rid of Rhyno after a long run. Randy Orton is in at #35 to the biggest pop of the match. He catches a diving Apollo in an RKO for the elimination and eliminations for Anderson, Rawley and Apollo in short order. Orton and Mysterio go at it until Heath Slater is in at #36.
That goes nowhere and it’s NXT’s Babatunde (never been on the show but stands about 6’10 and weighs over 300lbs) in at #37. Kicks and choking ensue until Baron Corbin is in at #38. Corbin pulls Elias to the floor and sends him into the steps before hitting Deep Six on Mysterio. A clothesline knocks Strong out of the air and Corbin dumps Roode. Strong is out as well and Titus O’Neil is in at #39….and slips on the way to the ring, falling flat on his face.le
Oh come on like we can’t see this over and over:
Tye Dillinger is in at #42 and Titus is tossed. A parade of finishers drops Strowman but he’s not tossed. Mysterio is out, followed by Dillinger and Orton at Elias’ hands. Strowman is back up and knocks Elias to the down but not out. Curt Hawkins is in at #42 and tries to run back to the entrance, only to have Strowman run to the floor and bring him back. Strowman throws Hawkins inside and runs over Bryan, who was down at ringside and not eliminated. Elias sends Strowman into the post twice in a row but here’s Bobby Lashley in at #44.
The power game begins and Elias is eliminated, leaving us with Lashley vs. Strowman. That brawl doesn’t get very far as Bryan comes back in and hits the running dropkicks from corner to corner. Great Khali is in at #45 and looking even slower than ever. He chops everyone in sight but Strowman and Lashley get rid of him in just a few seconds, much to everyone’s benefit. A double clothesline put Strowman and Lashley down and MY GOODNESS Bryan’s chest is a complete mess. Kevin Owens is in at #46 and the big guys get Cannonballs. Bryan takes a Pop Up Powerbomb and it’s Shane McMahon in at #47.
Shane elbows Owens down and does the bad punching, followed by the tornado DDT. Bryan and Shane have the big staredown before kicking at Owens. Shelton Benjamin is in at #48 and starts beating on Bryan. Owens gets everyone to go after Strowman and it’s Big Cass in at #49. Wait what about Sami and Jericho? They were both announced for the match no? Shane hits the Coast to Coast on Braun and Cass grabs a fall away slam on Lashley. Chris Jericho (POP OF THE NIGHT) is in at #50, giving us a final grouping of Jericho, Bryan, Lashley, Strowman, Owens, McMahon, Cass and Benjamin.
Jericho goes right for Owens and dropkicks Cass to the floor (not out). Shelton gets clotheslined out and there are the Walls to Owens. Cass is back in with a big boot to Jericho but Lashley can’t superplex him, instead dropping Cass down with a brainbuster. Bryan is back up with the YES Kicks and Shane loads up another Coast to Coast, only to have Strowman chokeslam him off the top through the announcers’ table.
Lashley and Jericho are tossed by Strowman as we make sure Shane isn’t dead. Owens is tossed and Bryan goes after Strowman but gets kicked in the head. Cass gets rid of Bryan after about an hour and fifteen minutes. Lashley and Jericho were eliminated somewhere in there so we’re down to Cass vs. Strowman. Cass charges at him but gets crotched on the ropes, followed by a running shoulder to give Strowman the win at 1:17:23.
Rating: D. Yeah this was bad, mainly due to the match being so crazy long that it became more about surviving until the ending rather than caring about the match. I was much more bored here than annoyed or angry or anything, which doesn’t exactly help things. Strowman winning is fine and Bryan getting so far until Cass throws him out is a good way to advance the story, but this was a bad idea, showing how ridiculous it was to have this many people involved.
Vince McMahon comes out to present the trophy and a Saudi official gives him a special title to end the show.
Overall Rating: D+. And that’s being generous. This show just did not need to exist and really, nothing happened. A few matches at Backlash were advanced but it was nothing that couldn’t be done elsewhere. The crowd was only into it some of the times and a lot of the people in the white robes in the front row couldn’t have looked less interested. Throw in all the SAUDI ARABIA IS AWESOME stuff and this was a rough sit. It’s not a terrible show but it really, really didn’t need to be some big event. We’re done with it now though and that means it’s time to rapid fire the Backlash build.
You could have cut at least an hour out of this show (start with twenty minutes from the main event) and it wouldn’t miss a thing. Undertaker vs. Rusev didn’t need to happen and one or two title matches were skippable as well. It’s not the worst show ever, but it’s another good example of WWE overdoing things for very little value. Virtually nothing on here matters and that’s not how this was presented. WWE acted like this would be some mega show and while it was on paper, I’m likely to forget the results in about a week. Long and boring, but not terrible.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the Complete 2000 Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Part 1.
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