The Dive: WWE Has Near-Perfect Four Days In Philadelphia
If you were to craft a perfect four-day stretch for WWE, it would look a lot like what we saw Royal Rumble weekend.
Whenever WWE sets out to do four straight shows in a city, the probability of all four shows being successful is rare. Generally, by night three, viewer fatigue from the live audience has set in, leading to an excessive use of beach balls from the crowd.
This time, though, was different. All four nights were entertaining, kept the crowd alive, and made for some excellent television for the fans at home.
It started Saturday when NXT TakeOver provided us with two Match-Of-The-Year candidates in an hour span. The Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole Extreme Rules match was the perfect way to do an Extreme Rules match in WWE in 2018. Chairs, tables, kendo sticks, and ladders all came into play. There were numerous “holy s**t!” moments (Black going through the tables, Cole being slammed onto the edge of the two chairs, Black double foot stomping Cole through the announce table) that left the crowd buzzing. It was physical, it was intense, and it was a lot of fun to watch.
Then, Andrade “Cien” Almas and Johnny Gargano decided to one-up their peers by delivering one of the best matches in WWE history (no, I didn’t stutter). It was a 32-minute masterpiece. There were multiple times you thought the match was over, only for it not to be. It was both superstar’s magnum opus, and it left everyone in awe of both men. And, Tomaso Ciampa came back at the end to attack Gargano. Beautiful.
Saturday was going to be hard to beat, but the Royal Rumble came pretty darn close to matching it. Specifically, the Men’s Royal Rumble match delivered on every level imaginable, culminating with the first winner fans have wanted to see since Edge in 2010. Shinsuke Nakamura winning was perfect, and it sets up a legit dream match with AJ Styles. Two years ago, those two men squared off for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10. In less than 10 weeks, they have their rematch for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. Surreal.
The men’s rumble was the high point of a pretty solid show. The tag title matches disappointed, but the WWE and Universal Title matches were fun. The women’s rumble had a lot of surprise returns, but ultimately the right person won. Having Ronda Rousey come out after the match was smart, and it adds another level of intrigue to the women’s division in WWE.
After a great weekend of wrestling, Raw and Smackdown both effectively got people excited for the “Road to WrestleMania.” There was a lot of good wrestling on Raw this week, particularly Roman Reigns vs. The Miz and Asuka vs. Sasha Banks. Both of those matches were excellent TV matches. The new graphics looked sleek, and Jonathan Coachman was a pleasant replacement to Booker T on commentary.
Smackdown then had a pretty solid show as well. The slow build to the Nakamura-Styles match will be fun to watch, and I’m excited to see what happens between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn next week. Carmella teased a cash-in also, which could be a storyline to follow in the upcoming weeks.
All in all, it was a successful four days for the WWE in Philadelphia. Known for being a tough crowd to please, WWE stepped up to the plate and left fans satisfied on all four nights. Heck, even 205 Live created some buzz with Drake Alexander (f.k.a. Rockstar Spud) being announced as the new 205 Live GM.
This weekend was a reminder for many (myself included) as to why we love wrestling. There was great in-ring action, memorable moments created, and tons of hype for WrestleMania weekend generated. It’s now up to WWE to capitalize on this positive momentum and use it for the next nine-plus weeks of WrestleMania build. That’s easier said than done most of the time for WWE, but at least they started off on the right foot.