By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
The Greatest Royal Rumble is going to be one of the more massive shows WWE has put on in a long time. In fact, outside of the yearly extravaganza of WrestleMania, this might be one of the biggest events WWE has ever held. More than 60,000 will be on hand as WWE continues its dream of becoming bigger in the Middle East by running a huge show in Saudi Arabia.
The event is available in the U.S., but feels like an afterthought in this country. When big boxing matches happen overseas, for instance, they are held in the morning in the host country so they can be shown at night here. WWE isn’t doing that, which proves the U.S. market isn’t the main draw for this one. Sure, we’ll all be able to watch it when we get home from work Friday night, but tape delay hasn’t been a big part of wrestling since Raw went live every week or the Saturday Night’s Main Event shows of my youth.
With such a big house and so many matches (this show is going to go way past three hours) the Greatest Royal Rumble feels like it should be a huge deal. But with so little of the focus on American fans and matches which feel big on paper but make no sense in reality, there’s a chance this turns out to be just one big, televised house show.
So let’s break down the matches and try to answer the two big questions of the week. First, what kind of show will this be, and, second, what’s the point?
The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: OK, we’re off to a good start here, as this match should open the show and seems certain to be entertaining. Unfortunately, the number of reasons not to do this match far outweigh the quality of the names involved, which will be a theme for the night. The Miz isn’t on Raw anymore, so, unless he’s going to bring the belt to the blue brand as part of a double switch where the U.S. belt ends up back on Raw, he’s not winning here. I mean, WWE would have to have the foresight to have him win and see Jinder Mahal, a new Raw Superstar, win the U.S. belt from Jeff Hardy later in the night to execute the switch, which would be a shock so soon after the shakeup. Could they be so bold? I think so. Besides, with so many unnecessary matches on this card, SOMETHING has to come of the show, right? Let’s get crazy with a pick right off the bat: Miz wins and brings the IC belt to SmackDown. Part two of how this works comes later.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: I can’t believe the first words I’m typing in this preview turned out to be this: Matt’s right about pretty much everything so far. I know, I know, that’s just insanity. But I’ll give credit where credit is due. First, this show is really just one giant question mark. Is it supposed to be a big deal? Is it a glorified house show? Will any of the matches result in feuds or continuations of storylines? Do we pretend none of this happened? What does the winner of the Greatest Royal Rumble get? So many questions and so little answers. Matt’s also right about this match and the US title match being linked together. If the IC title stays with Seth Rollins or switches to Finn Balor, we know the result of the US title match. If Samoa Joe or The Miz wins the belt here, Jinder Mahal is guaranteed to beat Jeff Hardy for the US title. Hardy retains if Rollins or Balor wins. I think things work better with Jinder the US champ and The Miz as IC champ, but I don’t believe that’s what WWE is thinking. Hardy just won his title and the only way they put the belt on him in the first place was to keep it there for more than a few weeks. So, the IC title is remaining on Raw. But there’s going to be title changes on this show, right? And I’m thinking it will be two, not including the open Raw tag team title match. I’ll go with a slight curveball here. Finn Balor gets the win and the title and him and Rollins move into the future battling for the strap on Raw. I’d put the safe money on Rollins, however.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The Usos
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: Even some of the interesting matches on this show have problems. This is your typical April rematch of a Mania match, and has the potential to solidify a new, interesting feud. But would WWE take the tag belts off the Bludgeon Brothers so soon after anointing them champions? I think not. Having the Usos win here would give the teams a reason to fight again, but it would also ruin any chance of the former Wyatt Family members getting over. Some teams don’t need belts. They do. They win, and SDLive's tag division gets yet another chance to change for the better.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: I see this as the easiest prediction on the show, which means I might be completely wrong. The Bludgeon Brothers aren’t going to lose the titles this soon, so they will get the victory. And they will hold the titles until Sheamus and Cesaro are fully thrown into the SmackDown mix.
Bray Wyatt & “Woken” Matt Hardy vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: I don’t know, if I got thrown into the Lake of Reincarnation, I wouldn’t want to be friends with my destroyer. Oh God, I literally got sick to my stomach just pretending to be interested in what’s going on here. But seriously, and I know I shouldn’t try to apply logic to WWE, but Bray and Matt became friends days after trying to kill each other? In an event which made the Final Deletion seem Oscar-worthy, the Ultimate Deletion did nothing but give us an excuse to have a new tag team, though if you understand why you’re smarter than I am. The winners here claim a title Nicholas never lost, which we can only hope becomes a storyline after his school year ends in June, because a 12-year old fighting for the title makes more sense than this garbage. I feel terrible for Brad’s favorite tag team, as the Bar doesn’t seem to stand a chance here. Hardy’s gimmick is over with enough fans to make it stick around, which means they’re getting the belts. Now, Brad, if you can do me a favor and talk for a while here, I’m going to throw up.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: I’ll just quickly move on from Matt’s sickness and get into another predictable match on the card. Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy are winning the titles, for the simple reason they are on Raw and Sheamus and Cesaro are on SmackDown. After all, how in the world can Sheamus and Cesaro win the Raw tag team titles if they aren’t even on the show anymore? They don’t stand a chance, and that’s something the WWE should have accounted for heading into this event. But the event makes no sense, so I shouldn’t be surprised by anything. And while the Hardy-Wyatt partnership makes no sense, it at least gives them both something to do, as they would have absolutely nothing going for either of them without it.
United States Champion Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder Mahal
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: Remember when Mahal was a world champion because WWE was getting ready to make a big push into India? Well, Saudi Arabia will be good enough for Vince McMahon, and part two of my plan will come to light here. Brad’s been right about Mahal’s recent run. He does get better and better. He’s still never going to be believable because of his history, but a big win in this part of the world would be huge for him, and it would help save some face for the disaster which was the company’s last push into the area. Hardy winning the belt a couple weeks ago didn’t make sense until they booked the rematch to take place here. Mahal wins, the people rejoice, and WWE successfully switches its secondary belts between the two shows.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: I already spoiled this result in the IC title match preview, as Hardy is going to win and keep the US title on SmackDown. I don’t understand at all why Hardy is holding the title in the first place, but when has wrestling ever made sense? For Mahal, I’m really surprised he’s done so well with his role after the switch to Raw. I thought for sure he’d be relegated to jobberville again, and even though he lost to Chad Gable on Raw Monday, hitting on some nice comedic lines beforehand, it appears WWE still believes he can be a mid-car star. And I agree, which is a big change after I thought the company would have him job out to No Way Jose. As for the crowd reaction Friday in Saudi Arabia, I don’t believe they will cheer for Mahal, as they’ll be more than happy when Hardy retains.
John Cena vs. Triple H
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: MMA fans are getting excited about Frank Mir fighting Fedor in a match between two men who haven’t won a big fight in years, so I guess WWE’s Universe can get behind John Cena vs. Triple H. The Game, one of my favorites of all time, hasn’t won a big singles match in two full years and got thrown around by a girl at WrestleMania. (Please, no one show that to Ronda Rousey. I don’t want to get thrown around by a girl). Cena, meanwhile, spent a solid month provoking the Undertaker, only to get obliterated at WrestleMania in about five minutes. I’m sure there’s a reason WWE is burying Cena before his inevitable rebirth (he’s going to win title 17 at some point), but I can’t imagine what it is. We’ll cover this in more detail later, but why feed him to the Undertaker? He wasn’t ever going to win that match, and squashing him because Taker can’t work more than five minutes made sense logistically, but really hurt Cena’s character. If I’m wrong about him winning one more title, then it makes sense to give some young guys the rub by beating Cena, but what good did it do Taker? And what would Triple H have to gain from it? Triple H needs to stay strong, as his role is going to require him to fight occasionally, and if he keeps losing, he’s going to lose credibility along with the matches. If he wins, where does it leave Cena? These men haven’t wrestled each other in eight years, both their characters can ill-afford another loss, and I’m not sure many care about either man at this point as an in-ring performer. WWE wanted big names for this card, but this match is a disaster. Triple H wins, but everyone loses.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: I don’t think there is a fan out there who is more concerned with John Cena’s career after his loss to the Undertaker than Matt Straub. Not even Cena himself is as concerned as Matt is. It all makes sense because Matt loves Cena more than anything, even the Celtics, and proudly wears bright neon shirts and armbands whenever he gets the chance. But I still believe there’s nothing to worry about. People have already forgotten Cena lost that match. And if they remember anything, it was the horrible build, not the match. So, Matt, rest easy, Cena doesn’t care about any of this right now. His only worry in life right now might be trying to figure out how to get Nikki Bella back. Now, this match is on the card to give fans in attendance two recognizable stars who even the newbies will know. That’s all. Who wins is a tough call, however, as it could go either way. My best guess is Cena will go over to give the crowd something to cheer for. And to quickly touch on a subject Matt broached above, I don’t believe Cena is going to be built up into a world champion again. That time has passed and Cena is likely to stay right where he is. Anything can happen, just look at Goldberg, but I just don’t see John Cena in the world title picture anytime soon.
Undertaker vs. Rusev (Casket Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: Speaking of characters losing all their momentum for no reason, it’s Rusev Day! Let’s put aside the worked-shoot thing where Rusev was out of this match because he broke kayfabe and got angry about having to lose to the Undertaker on Twitter for a minute and focus on what a bad idea this is. First off, Taker should have never come back after leaving his gloves and hat in the ring a year ago at Mania. It was the perfect end to a career. The Cena match and now this makes him look like Michael Jordan on the Wizards. There’s no reason for it, and it helps no one. If he was going to lose to get Rusev all the way over, why not do it at Mania? If he wants to go out on top, which he deserves, why feed him people you might need in the future, like Cena and especially Rusev, who is one of the hottest stars in the company right now in the eyes of the fans? Taker wins and closes the door on Rusev’s push, which is a shame. Again, none of this is meant to be critical of the Undertaker. He has more than earned the right to choose how he goes out. If he wants a win on this card, great. Let him beat up someone no one cares about, however. Having him bury Rusev, even if WWE does want to punish him, is one of the dumber ideas it has had in years.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: I like Rusev Day as much as the next guy, but am I the only one who would rather watch Undertaker and Chris Jericho in this match instead? But after some weird social media back-and-forths, (the match went from Undertaker and Rusev, to Undertaker and Chris Jericho and back to Undertaker and Rusev without any real reason why), we’re back to the original, underwhelming match. Now it is hilarious that fans have been saying Rusev is being buried despite being so popular for the last several months, only for the WWE to respond by putting him in a match where he is guaranteed to be buried for all to see. It’s genius. It’s a shot at the smart crowd. But other than that, why is Undertaker fighting Rusev in a casket match? Does Undertaker even know who Rusev is? This is another example of putting together a card that is purely to entertain a crowd with a name everyone knows. Everyone knows who the Undertaker is, so he’s here. And he’ll bury Rusev.
WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: I’ve never been so wrong about a prediction in my life as I was about the first match between these two, but at least Brad was with me. The first WWE match between these two fell so flat it looked like Nia Jax landed on it. WWE put it in an awful spot on the show, when fans were exhausted and dead after four consecutive lousy matches. The biggest problem the two had, however, was the expectations. They were 20 seconds away from having the longest match at Wrestlemania, trailing only the tag match when Triple H got thrown around by a girl (please, please don’t show Ronda this), and it was a solid match. With the crowd dead, however, and everyone expecting more than solid, it just didn’t work. So what does WWE do? It schedules the rematch for a show which no one in America will see live. Nakamura’s turn gives them a reason to fight again, and him being a heel could bring a level of emotion to the match the first one lacked. This could help considerably, as another problem the first one had was that face vs. face matches don’t work nearly as well as when the fans want to see the heel get beat up. Putting it here, however, seems to ensure either WWE gives up on the feud, or gives them a reason to fight again when people can watch. Nakamura wins by DQ or count out, earning himself one more shot. Let’s just hope this one surpasses our lessened expectations this time.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: After seeing what this feud and Shinsuke Nakamura’s new heel character have become, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong about the prediction at WrestleMania. Nakamura losing and then turning on Styles was the best thing that could have happened to him, the feud and for SmackDown as a whole. Nakamura is an unbelievably great heel and has never been better as a character, especially the main roster version. Everything he has done since turning on Styles has been brilliant. His low-blows and facial expressions have been simply great. I can’t say enough good things about him. Could he become champion here? Maybe, but I’m thinking one low-blow too many will cost him the match by disqualification, which keeps him strong, keeps the title on Styles and keeps this feud alive until Nakamura finally wins the championship down the line. This feud now has everything it didn’t leading up to their WrestleMania clash. And on a side note, why is Matt so worried about getting thrown around by Ronda Rousey? Um, you know, think about it for a second.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: By now you’ve heard the story. Vince McMahon gave up on Reigns ever being the top dog, and did it so close to WrestleMania that he had to sign Lesnar to a contract he didn’t want to give him because he didn’t have a way to get the belt off him in time. I continue to feel bad for Reigns, who works as hard as he can, is loyal to the company, and took one hell of a beating from Lesnar in New Orleans. The problem? No one cared. Now Vince even gets it. The Roman Empire era is over. Yes, Roman will be around, but WWE has finally given in to the will of the fans. The result of the last-minute cave was an awful match everyone hated. Hey, let’s do it again! Maybe the crowd in Saudi Arabia will like these two better. Maybe Roman’s last main event for a while not being seen here is a good thing for him, as he can slip away quietly. Or maybe, like most of the matches on this card, it will be two big names fighting for no good reason in a match no one will care about after it’s over. Brock wins because they didn’t resign him to lose at a glorified house show.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: When Paul Heyman was doing his promo for Brock Lesnar Monday, I officially passed the point of no return. I’m done. I don’t want to hear Heyman anymore. I don’t want to see Lesnar anymore. Ever. I’m done with the two of them. And when you hear the rumored contract Lesnar signed, getting $500K for every match and $100K for every appearance, it should make you sick. Just think about Monday. Brock walked to the ring, jogged in place for a few minutes, smiled a couple times, walked to the back and cashed a check for $100K. Does WWE really need this? I don’t think so. Not anymore. The crowd isn’t buying it either. Roman Reigns is beyond terrible, but boy was I happy when his music hit to interrupt Heyman’s promo, because I couldn’t listen to another word. And while WWE obviously planted fans near ringside to chant Roman’s name, which were suddenly loud enough to hear somehow, the surrounding fans would have none of it. Another failed attempt to get Roman cheered. Nobody wants Brock in this spot, but they also don’t want Roman in it either. Everyone knows that except for Vince McMahon. But I got a surprise pick for you. Roman Reigns is going to win the Universal championship. It makes sense for all involved. Roman gets the title while the WWE can go back to using Lesnar as a special attraction where he isn’t holding the Universal title hostage each and every week. Then maybe Lesnar will earn his paychecks. The fans suffer for the time being, but it’s for the best.
The historic first-ever 50-Man Greatest Royal Rumble Match
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: I’m more interested in the actual execution of this match than I am the outcome. Will they send people out in one-minute intervals? Will they use “Titan time,” and just have people come out whenever they think is a good moment and hope we’re not keeping track of the clock? Will this go on last, with WWE hoping the eight mostly useless matches before it don’t put us to sleep and ruin the momentum of the match? How many people can WWE fit in the ring and still have it be somewhat easy to follow, both on TV and live? As for the result, this feels like one of the few matches on the card which will mean something come Saturday. Winning this could be used to push someone pretty hard. The only people currently listed to participate who are both in need of a reason to be pushed and big enough to be worthy winners are Daniel Bryan and Bobby Roode. WWE inexplicably gave up on Roode and sent him to get lost on Raw, so I don’t see him winning. I’ll take Bryan, who doesn’t need help being popular, but needs a reason to be cared about in the storyline. Give him the win here and hopefully get the show over in less than four hours.
Brad’s Breakdown and Pick: The main reason why I’m going to watch this show is because I’ll watch anything involving a royal rumble match. It’s really that simple. It’s the greatest match ever created and I love every second of it. I’m thinking they will keep the match to right around one hour, and that’ll be something to watch with 50 men entering probably every minute, but it’s going to be a good time, guaranteed. I don’t know if the WWE is going to put something on the line for the winner, which would change the thought process of picking a winner, or if it’s just a feather in someone’s cap going forward. If it’s the latter, and I think it will be, Daniel Bryan and Braun Strowman make the most sense. If WWE wanted to build a star out of it, then Baron Corbin or Elias could be the surprise winner. If WWE went that way, they get away with putting a major win on the resume of Corbin or Elias without having to worry about the main event of WrestleMania put into the equation. It opens the winner to a host of possibilities. But this whole card isn’t about furthering a superstar’s career, it’s about sending the fans home happy. And to do that is to have Bryan or Strowman win. Which one is the tougher call, as both are the most popular in the company right now. But I’m going with Strowman, as he could use a marquee win. And he deserves it more than anyone.