WWE Royal Rumble 2018: Ronda Rousey set for Wrestlemania bow as Asuke and Shinsuke Nakamura shine

The Road to Wrestlemania began on Sunday night in Philadelphia 

Matty Paddock@MattyPaddock
Monday 29 January 2018 12:17
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WWE Royal Rumble results: Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka win on a thrilling night but Ronda Rousey steals the show

WWE Royal Rumble made history on Sunday night as Asuka won the first women’s Royal Rumble – but was new signing Ronda Rousey right to steal the spotlight?

The former UFC Champion made her stunning on-screen debut with the company just seconds after Asuka had outlasted all the competition to earn herself a match at Wrestlemania.

Just as she’d look set to name her choice of champion to face in April, Rousey made her way to the ring to confirm she, too, fancies a slice of something big at the year’s grandest wrestling show.

But was it right to throw the two moments together? Here are five talking points as things we learned from the 2018 WWE Royal Rumble.

Rousey is starting big

There’s no doubt that Rousey is set to throw herself into big things with WWE. Her long-term, full-time contract won’t have come cheap where the company are concerned but, then again, she’s a huge name and will definitely turn heads.

The question is – was it the right call to have her make her entrance when she did? The maiden women’s Rumble has been decades in the making and Asuka is a young star worthy of the notoriety that comes with winning it. WWE has invested much of the last couple of years building her as a force, so to dilute that by having Rousey end the Rumble as its major talking point and headline-grabber seems a little bit of a waste.

Rousey might easily have achieved as much by showing up at Monday night’s Raw event to make her mark. She deserves the fanfare her arrival has caused but mixing the two just leaves Asuka out in the cold.

AJ ‘pinned the wrong Uso’

WWE’s storytelling can, at times, be compelling and that’s why fans love it – but its constant selective memory loss or inconsistency is frustrating. Like a plot hole that makes no sense or a storyline in a soap that leaves you scratching your head.

AJ Styles retained his WWE Championship with a fine performance against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens – but did so by pinning the ‘illegal’ man in the match at that point in Kevin Owens. No harm there, you might think – it gives the villains in the piece something to complain about and furthers the overall narrative. Super. But think for two minutes; the match that followed theirs was a two-out-of-three falls match featuring the Usos and Gable & Benjamin. The match was held because the challenges felt aggrieved that their title win over the Uso’s a couple of weeks prior didn’t stand – because they, just as Styles did, pinned the wrong Uso – the ‘illegal’ man if you will.

Having spotted that, a referee came to ringside and restarted the match, which Usos then won. Why, therefore, was the WWE title match not restarted in the same way, given the story we’re watching at the moment is that Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan will do anything to aid Owens and Zayn. It may be that this, in the end, is what happens, but the fact that the match result stood at all just leaves anyone with a memory span longer than that of a goldfish feeling a little frustrated.

Shinuke set to shine

Shinsuke Nakamura made his main roster debut the better part of a year ago after last year’s Wrestlemania – now he’s set to be in one of the biggest matches of this year’s ‘Mania thanks to his win in the men’s Rumble. To say the intervening months have felt a little lacklustre for Nakamura fans would be an understatement.

His talent and connection with the audience are unquestioned, but the screen time and stories he has been given have just seen him coast along so far. No harm in that while he learns his trade on the main roster, of course, but it will be great to see him in a high-profile programme against WWE’s very finest in-ring star in AJ Styles.

Almas shows up well

The Royal Rumble always throws up some surprise appearances and there were no exceptions this year as the men and women’s matches did so – one of them being the arrival of NXT Champion Andrade Almas. He went on to wrestle a good portion of the hour and did himself no harm at all – but it’s a feat even more impressive when you consider he came out on top in a 40-minute match to retain his own title at NXT: Takeover Philadelphia just 24 hours prior.

His bout with Johnny Gargano will, even in January, be a contender for Match of the Year, so the fact that Almas pulled double duty so swiftly clearly shows he’s highly thought of.

Is the Brock run almost over?

Brock Lensar once again picked up a routine win – for him at least – as he retained his Universal title against Braun Strowman and Kane. But how much longer will this continue? UFC chief Dana White has confirmed that he feels Lesnar will likely fight in the octagon again at some point in 2018, which would almost certainly only be once his WWE deal expires in the summer.

It seems highly likely that Lesnar - at least with a long-term view - is keeping his seat warm for Roman Reigns, who looks to be WWE’s star of the next few years. So might we have just a handful of Lesnar bouts left? Whether he choses to bow out at Wrestlemania against the Big Dog or further down the line at Summerslam, the general Universal title picture will certainly become more interesting in the coming months.

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