Preview by Joseph Currier
The build to WrestleMania kicks into gear in Philadelphia tonight with two Royal Rumble matches.
We're looking for your thoughts on this show, last night's Takeover show, today's New Beginnings in Sapporo and Saturday's New Beginnings in Sapporo so you can leave a thumbs up, thumbs down or thumbs in the middle along with a best and worst match for each show to email@example.com
In addition to the traditional men's match, the first-ever women's Royal Rumble will take place on this year's pay-per-view. Both matches will have 30 entrants and major implications for WrestleMania, with the winners earning a title shot at WWE's biggest show of the year.
Brock Lesnar will defend his Universal Championship against Braun Strowman and Kane in a triple threat match. There will also be two challengers for AJ Styles' WWE Championship, but Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn will team up to face Styles in a handicap match.
Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan will put their Raw Tag Team titles on the line against Cesaro & Sheamus. And on the SmackDown side, The Usos defend their titles against Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin in a two-out-of-three falls match.
On the two-hour pre-show, Bobby Roode is scheduled to issue an open challenge, The Revival take on Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, and Kalisto, Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado team against Drew Gulak, TJP & Jack Gallagher.
Our coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time.
KALISTO & GRAN METALIK & LINCE DORADO VS. DREW GULAK & JACK GALLAGHER & TJP
This was a surprisingly slow-paced but well worked match. The story was that TJP tagged himself in when Gulak was in, then went for a rolling reverse cradle using the trunks on Kalisto, but he reversed into a Salida del Sol for the pin. So once again TJP's partners were mad at him. The faces all did moonsaults off the same corner to the floor at the same time and Metalik did a flip dive. Aside from that it was basic stuff and Gulak got mad at Gallagher once for going to the middle rope.
LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON VS. THE REVIVAL
This was the 50-50 booking ending when Dash gave Anderson a chop block and pinned him. He went to hold the trunks but ended up not really getting them. They worked on Anderson's legft knee. The Revival are so good at little tag team things. Not a flashy match at all, but good work and the crowd did get into it by the end.
BOBBY ROODE VS. MOJO RAWLEY FOR U.S. TITLE
Hell of a surprise. So I'm told Rawley was not the original opponent but that person was moved to the Rumble. I have no idea who this would be. It was okay. You'd expect better. Rawley missed a charge into the corner and his shoulder went into the post and Roode hit a Glorious DDT.
A.J. STYLES VS. KEVIN OWENS & SAMI ZAYN FOR WWE TITLE
Really good match. Styles threw Zayn over the top rope and Owens superkicked Styles and went for the pop up power bomb, but Styles turned it into a front rolling cradle for the win. Zayn workd most of the way and he and Zayn were great together. The controversy was that Owens never tagged in and Zayn was the legal man.
Owens and Zayn told Shane McMahon that the ref screwed them again and asked Shane if he saw it. Shane said "Yep" and walked away.
USOS VS. CHAD GABLE & SHELTON BENJAMIN FOR THE SMACKDOWN TAG TITLES IN A 2/3 FALL MATCH
Gable was pinned in the first fall by Jey after a ton of superkicks. Real good but the crowd isn't that hot for this match. Gable is on fire.
Second fall saw Jimmy pin Benjamin with an inside cradle. I guess all things considered this match was a big disappointment even though some real good stuff here. Gable did a moonsault off the top rope to the floor and Gable & Benjamin did a sky high bulldog on Jimmy.
So the women's Rumble is last which tells you the women are last and means the biggest angle is at the end of the women's match.
MEN'S ROYAL RUMBLE
Corbin destroyed a few people but was elimninated quick. Andrade Cien Almas was the only early surprise entrant.
The final four were Reigns, Cena, Nakamura and Balor.
The surprises were Hurricane, Dolph Ziggler, Andrade Cien Almas, Adam Cole and Rey Mysterio. Rey got a huge pop and looked great. They all got a big reaction at first. The crowd really lvoed Cole who came out with his ribs all tape up selling last night's match with Aleister Black..
Cena threw out Balor who was in 57:30.
Nakamura knocked Cena out with the Kinshasa. It's Nakamura vs. Reigns.
After some very good back and forth action, Nakamura hit the Kinshasa and threw Reigns over the top so it looks like Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania.
This was a lot of fun.
Renee Young asked Nakamura who he wanted to face. The whole place was chanting AJ Styles. He said AJ Styles.
This played out well to the crowd because they hated Cena and Reigns so Nakamura was a super babyface in winning.
Rusev was really over as expected starting out. Balor going long elevated his stock. There was the Kofi Kingston spot where he was thrown out but one of his feet landed on Xavier Wooods, who was selling on the floor, so he wasn't eliminated. But he was eliminated shortly after
Shane and Daniel Bryan were celebrating Nakamura winning and Kurt and Stephanie vowed that one of the Raw women will win. Stephanie promised the big surprise.at the end of Rumble. I think everyoine is now expecting Ronda Rousey at this point.
SETH ROLLINS & JASON JORDAN VS. SHEAMUS & CESARO FOR RAW TAG TITLES
The crowd was dead for this. To explain Jordan being hurt, Cesaro threw him into the post and he was selling on the floor almost the entire match. So it was like a handicap match with Rollins against both. I think this would have worked well in any other position except after the men's Rumble because the people ended way too pumped and didn't care about this at all. Rollins finally got to the corner, and then Jordan tagged himself in, but started selling the idea of a concussion, never made contact, and tagged out. Rollins came back in and it ended up with Sheamus hitting a Brogue kick and then a double-team white noise and Cesaro pinned Rollins to win the title.
BROCK LESNAR VS. BRAUN STROWMAN VS. KANE FOR THE UNIVERSAL TITLE
This This was a match that shouid have gotten over in Philadelphia as it was all about breaking tables. The idea was for Lesnar to win and protect Strowman. Strowman had Lesnar beat after two powerslams but Kane hit Strowman with a chair. Lesnar ended up throwing Kane into Strowman and hitting an F-5 on Kane for the pin. Strowman after made a big deal about how Lesnar didn't beat him. Earlier Strowman also powerslammed Lesnar through a table and Kane broke up the pin. They broke a couple of announces tables. There were some very dangerous blows early. Strowman landed a hard knee to the side of Lesnar's head and Lesnar gave him a receipt by drilling him with a punch. Lesnar also gave Kane an F-5 through the announcers table without clearing out the monitors..
WOMEN'S ROYAL RUMBLE.
Maria Menounos introduced Stephanie McMahon, and then Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair were introduced to sit at ringside.
Sasha Banks in first. She's starting with Becky Lynch.
Kairi Sane and Lita were early surprises but out quickly. Other non-roster wonmen that came in later were Torrie Wilson, Mooly Holly, Michelle McCool (getting Undertaker chants), Vickie Guerrero (doing a comedy gimmick), Jacqueline Ember Moon, Kelly Kelly, Beth Phoenix, The Bella Twins and Trish Stratus,.
Nia Jax has been pushed as a monster.
The final four are Banks, Asuka and the Bella Twins.
The Bellas threw out Banks.
Nikki eliminated Brie so it's Nikki vs. Asuka.
Asuka and Nikki were on the apron and Asuka kicked her off to win.
The first half of the match was pretty bad but the crowd popped for all the non-roster members big so it worked in that way. At the end, it was very good, Stratus looked real good as did Phoenix. In the end, it was all about introducing Ronda Rousey at the end.
Asuka has to make the choice. Fans want he to pick Charlotte. Ronda is out.
She got a good pop, not gigantic. Ronda wanted to shae hands with Assuka. Asuka slapped her hand away. Ronda kept pointing to the WrestleMania sign.
Rousey went to shake hands with Stephanie and left.
Asuka never did pick.
ESPN just announced Rousey has signed a full-time WWE contract and said this is her first priority for the next several years. We'll have to see what full-time means because her doing a Brock Lesnar scheduled would be a lot better than full-time.