2018 WWE Royal Rumble results, recap, grades: Nakamura, Asuka make history

In one of the best top-to-bottom pay-per-views WWE has put on in years, the 2018 Royal Rumble delivered from start to finish with high-quality in-ring work, developed storylines, new superstars getting put in the spotlight and (of course) the debut of one of the biggest names in combat sports history -- Ronda Rousey -- as the latest full-time member of WWE.

The Road to WrestleMania 34 has officially kicked into gear with two No. 1 contenders now set as Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka won the respective men's and women's Royal Rumbles becoming the first and second Asian professional wrestlers to win one of the company's top honors each year. The matches themselves were tremendous with plenty of top-flight action and special moments that fans will recall forever.

Enough of a tease. Let's get to our extensive recap and review of the 2018 Royal Rumble with plenty of highlights and a grade for each match.

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2018 WWE Royal Rumble results

Kalisto, Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado vs. TJP, Jack Gallagher & Drew Gulak (Kickoff Show): The luchadores delivered a tremendous triple moonsault spot off the top turnbuckle and ring post, which served as the brightest moment in the early portion of the two-segment match. Kalisto eventually got the hot tag and rolled a pinning combination into the Salida Del Sol, pinning TJP for the victory. TJP pushed Gulak and Gallagher after the match but cameras cut away. The action was solid at points but nothing in particular to crow about. Grade: C

The Revival def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via pinfall (Kickoff Show): A hot tag to Gallows saved an injured Anderson from further damage to his knee, which he sold for the duration of the match. Gallows knocked himself out at ringside by running face-first into the ring post, giving Wilder an opening to take out Anderson's knee and roll him up for the pin. There was little to be excited about in this match, and its slow pace didn't do it any favors. Grade: C-

United States Championship -- Bobby Roode def. Mojo Rawley via pinfall to retain the title (Kickoff Show): Rawley reversed the Glorious DDT twice, throwing Roode shoulder-first into the ring post the second time, but Rawley was unable to connect on a running forearm to Roode's face as the champion instead countered it off the top rope and hit a botched Glorious DDT for the win. A slow, laborious match that did not need to be on the show. Grade: D

WWE Championship -- AJ Styles (c) def. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn via pinfall to retain the title: The first five minutes of the match consisted of Owens and Zayn exchanging rapid tags to get in Styles' head. Owens took it to Styles, but the champion dodging a cannonball led to a tag to Zayn, who quickly ate a top-rope hurricanrana and moonsault into a reverse DDT. The spot of the match came as Owens flipped Styles into Zayn, who caught Styles but ate another hurricanrana. Styles had Owens lacked in the Calf Crusher and near a submission before Zayn broke it up. Owens went shoulder-first through the turnbuckles into the ring post, but the theme of the match was quick tags between the best friends immediately when the momentum felt like it was changing. With the referee distracted, Owens superkicked Styles along the ring apron, and Zayn hit his Blue Thunder Bomb but only got a 2.75 count. Owens was next to break up a pinfall attempt after Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Zayn and looked prepared to retain his title. Zayn tried to reach for a tag of Owens while in Styles' arms but seemed unable to do so; however, as soon as Styles threw Zayn out of the ring, Owens entered on his own and superkicked Styles, but Styles reversed the Pop-Up Powerbomb into a pinning combination to get the 1-2-3. Tremendously booked and wrestled match by three of the company's best performers with a consistent story and edge-of-your-seat action. Grade: A-

Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn confront Shane McMahon: After the match, the best friends ran up to the SmackDown commissioner screaming about again being screwed by a referee. Owens eventually calmed down and said McMahon simply had to make it right, asking if he saw what went down. McMahon simply replied, "Yep!" and walked away. It was strange that neither McMahon nor SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan was anywhere to be seen during this match considering the entire storyline revolved around them.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- The Usos (c) def. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin 2-0 to retain the titles: The first fall took a while to come through in this 2-out-of-3 falls match. Jey Uso was given a bright spot as he jumped over the top rope in succession, splashing Gable and then Benjamin on opposite sides of the ring. Gable & Benjamin kept hitting anticipated pinning combinations but were unable to get The Usos' shoulders down, though Gable did hit a fantastic moonsault onto the brothers outside the ring. Confusing The Usos again, Gable got turned around and ate a superkick followed by a splash but managed to kick out at two. A blind tag led to four total superkicks between The Usos, getting the 1-2-3 on Gable for Fall 1. The challengers immediately separated The Usos with their powerbomb / diving clothesline finisher outside, but just as they were preparing to hit another in the ring, Jimmy Uso rolled up Benjamin for Fall 2 and the shutout win. Gable had jumped from the top rope in an attempt to breakup the fall but missed, leading one to wonder whether this finish was actually botched. The action was solid throughout, but it made little sense for Gable & Benjamin to look so weak unless they are going to be split up soon. Grade: B-

30-Man Royal Rumble Match -- Shinsuke Nakamura eliminates Roman Reigns to win: See below for order of entry and exit. Moments after Baron Corbin eliminated Rhyno, Finn Balor eliminated Corbin, who went nuts at ringside, slamming Balor into the barricade and then into his knee. He next pulled Rusev out of the ring and attacked him outside before laying out the next entrant, Heath Slater. This led to an elongated spot for Elias to do his normal spiel. Slater was beaten up by multiple ensuing entrants, consistently unable to make it into the ring. When Tye Dillinger's music hit at No. 10, cameras found him beat up backstage by Zayn and Owens with Zayn holding back Owens to take the "open" spot. As Sheamus made his way to the ring at No. 11, he chose to help Slater into the match; Slater responded by immediately clotheslining him out of the ring.

Jinder Mahal's hot entrance included eliminating two New Day members, but as he went to take out Kofi Kingston, he landed with one foot on Xavier Woods. New Day then put a plate of pancakes under Kingston and lifted him into the ring like a cheerleader before Kingston hit Trouble In Paradise to eliminate Mahal only to quickly be taken out by Andrade "Cien" Almas. When Matt Hardy hit the ring, he and Bray Wyatt actually teamed up for a bit before eliminating each other simultaneously. As John Cena made his way in, the rest of the wrestlers ganged up on him, but as they separated, Cena quickly eliminated Elias and then The Hurricane, who made a surprise entrance.

Before Randy Orton could take off his hoodie upon entering, he hit a flying Almas with an RKO for an elimination. The biggest return came at No. 27 as Rey Mysterio, Jr. electrified the crowd and immediately eliminated Adam Cole before hitting the 6-1-9 on The Miz. Upon Reigns entering, he and Seth Rollins teamed up to powerbomb The Miz over the top rope before Reigns turned and threw Rollins over. The two smirked and nodded. Dolph Ziggler entered at No. 30 and immediately hit Orton and John Cena with superkicks. Ziggler was then eliminated by Balor as the veterans (Cena, Orton, Mysterio) and new era (Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Reigns) squared off 3-on-3. The veterans stood tall early until Reigns eliminated Orton and Mysterio hit a double 6-1-9 onto Cena and Reigns. Balor then eliminated Mysterio.

Nakamura got the chants. Cena got aggressive and then squared off with Reigns, pointing to the WrestleMania sign as the fans chanted, "You both suck!" Balor and Nakamura then squared off and got cheers as the duos fought on and off for a few minutes. Balor caught Cena, Reigns and Nakamura with slingblades, and Balor countered Kinshasa with a stomp only to be eliminated by Cena, which definitely took some air out of the arena. Cena countered Reigns' spear into an Attitude Adjustment, but Nakamura flipped Cena over the top rope and hit Kinshasa to knock him off the apron. Reigns hit his Superman Punch on Nakamura, but after Reigns flipped him over the top rope, Nakamura landed a kick and locked in a hanging triangle on Reigns over the rope. Reigns lifted Nakamura into the ring for a powerbomb, leaving the two sprawled out on the canvas. Reigns made it to his feet first and squared Nakamura up for a spear, but Nakamura caught him with a kick, a boot to the face and a knee. Reigns, however, countered Kinshasa with a spear to flatten Nakamura. However, as Reigns went to eliminate Nakamura, he held himself up with the ropes, nailed Reigns with Kinshasa and eliminated him to win the Royal Rumble.

Immediately after the match, Nakamura was asked by Renee Young if he had decided who he wanted to challenge at WrestleMania 34. After the crowd chanted the champions name, Nakamura screamed "AJ Styles!" It was a perfect ending to a tremendous Royal Rumble with the right number of surprise entrants and big-time spots to keep one entertained throughout. WWE fixed the mistake it made with Reigns back in 2015 by allowing him to look strong but not win, and it put both Balor and Nakamura over huge with Shinsuke eliminating both Cena and Reigns on his way to victory. Grade: A


Order of entryOrder of elimination
1

Rusev

Rhyno (by Corbin 1)

2

Finn Balor

Corbin (Balor 1)

3

Rhyno

Sheamus (Slater 1)

4

Baron Corbin

Slater (Wyatt 1)

5

Heath Slater

Zayn (Nakamura 1)

6

Elias

Crews (Cesaro 1)

7

Andrade Almas

Woods (Mahal 1)

8

Bray Wyatt

Big E (Mahal 2)

9

Big E

Cesaro (Rollins 1)

10

Tye Dillinger Sami Zayn

Mahal (Kingston 1)

11

Sheamus

Kingston (Almas 1)

12

Xavier Woods

Rusev (Wyatt 2, Hardy 1)

13

Apollo Crews

Wyatt (Hardy 2)

14

Shinsuke Nakamura

Hardy (Wyatt 3)

15

Cesaro

Elias (Cena 1)

16

Kofi Kingston

Hurricane (Cena 2)

17

Jinder Mahal

English (Balor 2)

18

Seth Rollins

Almas (Orton 1)

19

Matt Hardy

Cole (Mysterio 1)

20

John Cena

O'Neil (Reigns 1)

21

The Hurricane

The Miz (Reigns 2)

22

Aiden English

Rollins (Reigns 3)

23

Adam Cole

Goldust (Ziggler 1)

24

Randy Orton

Ziggler (Balor 3)

25

Titus O'Neil

Orton (Reigns 4)

26

The Miz

Mysterio (Balor 4)

27

Rey Mysterio, Jr.

Balor (Cena 3)

28

Roman Reigns

Cena (Nakamura 2)

29

Goldust

Reigns (Nakamura 3)

30

Dolph Ziggler

Winner: Nakamura (44:25)

Authority figures bicker backstage: McMahon and Bryan celebrated Nakamura's victory together backstage in front of Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon and GM Kurt Angle, who said they were quite sure there was plenty of success left for the red brand to have before the night was over.

Raw Tag Team Championship -- The Bar def. Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (c) via pinfall to win the titles: Early in the match, Cesaro pulled Jordan off the ring apron and threw him head-first into the ring post. Jordan appeared to be selling a concussion as Rollins, who just participated in the Rumble, was left alone to against the former champions. The crowd was dead for what wound up being a popcorn match by nature of its placement. Eventually, a wobbly Jordan made his way back to the ring apron and tagged Rollins at just the right time, but as soon as Jordan stepped in the ring, he realized he was unable to go and tagged himself back out. A Brogue Kick by Sheamus followed by White Noise put the titles back on The Bar. The combination of the crowd and a lack of action left a lot to be desired here, and the positive grade is purely for the storytelling aspect of the match. Hopefully this is the end of this rivalry. Grade: C+

Universal Championship -- Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane: The action was fast and furious with Strowman starting as the aggressor, kneeing Lesnar hard in the face before Kane chokeslammed the champion. Lesnar responded with a stiff punch to the side of Strowman's head before bringing a chair into the ring that Strowman punched into Lesnar's face. Strowman then picked up the steel steps and laid out both Kane and Lesnar prior to throwing Lesnar into the barricade. Strowman also impressed with a falling dropkick into Lesnar and chokeslam of Kane. Lesnar hit Stroman with three straight German suplexes, but Strowman immediately stood up and hit a running powerslam into a table. Kane then ran Strowman into a table propped up in the corner in what was a blown spot prior to a chokeslam. Lesnar then hit Kane with an F5 only for Strowman to grab the champion with a waist lock and German suplex him out of the ring.

Strowman prepared an announce table for Lesnar, but Lesnar took over and hit an F5 on Strowman, collapsing the table before lifting and throwing another announce table onto Strowman to bury him. Lesnar reversed a chokeslam from Kane into an F5 on the only remaining announce table just as Strowman somehow stood up and kicked Lesnar head-first into the steel steps. Strowman than hit consecutive running powerslams on Lesnar (rather than cover him after one), giving Kane enough time to grab a chair and smack Strowman out of the ring. As Kane prepared Lesnar for a Tombstone Piledriver, Lesnar reversed it, threw Kane into Strowman on the ring apron and hit an F5 on Kane for the win. Lesnar left with the title as Strowman stood tall to scream that Lesnar again didn't beat him. While action-packed, it paled in comparison to the Fatal 4-Way at Great Balls of Fire; the match was highly repetitive and certainly predictable, which does not take away from the effort but does result in a less-enthusiastic rating. Grade: B-

30-Woman Royal Rumble: See below for order of entry and exit. Women's champions Alexa Bliss (Raw) and Charlotte Flair (SmackDown) watched from ringside with Stephanie McMahon sitting in on commentary in place of Booker T. The match was extremely slow to start, but the fans got excited as Lita and Kairi Sane entered back-to-back. Sane hit consecutive Awesome Elbows, and Lita hit a couple Twist of Fates before landing her patented moonsault on Banks and Lynch. Lita then goaded Snuka into rushing her as an elimination, and Lynch quickly flipped her over the top rope. Torrie Wilson did not last long in the ring, but Molly Holly got an even bigger pop and some featured time in the ring.

Fans chanted "Rusev Day" when Lana entered and "Under-taker" when Michelle McCool made her way into the ring, but it was McCool put over big with four straight eliminations, including Lana. Vickie Guerrero received a tremendous reaction while screaming "Excuse me!" but was eliminated immediately by the group. She preceded to attack Carmella on her way down to the ring. Nia Jax wreaked havoc upon her entrance, immediately eliminating three women. Naomi got the Kingston stop by being thrown over the top only to land on a bunch of women and wind up atop the barricade. She preceded to walk the barricade, find her way onto a chair and walk on her hands back to the steel steps and onto top the top rope -- only for Jax to catch her mid-air and toss her over the top rope. Beth Phoenix then entered and stood toe-to-toe with Jax, who she lifted up but was unable to place over the top rope. Phoenix and Natalya teamed up but were only able to get Jax through the middle rope before the close friends hugged; Natalya quickly turned on her and eliminated Phoenix.

Asuka entered to a major crowd reaction and immediately went toe-to-toe with Moon (NXT fans popped huge), who hit the Eclipse but was quickly eliminated by Asuka. Nikki Bella was out next (to light "John Cena sucks" chants), leading Carmella to mock her husband before Bella tossed her over the top rope. Brie Bella then joined her sister to a full crowd of "Yes!" chants. After Bayley hit the ring at No. 29, the crowd began chanting "Ronda Rousey," but it was Trish Stratus to get the last spot in the match. Stratus immediately hit Double Stratusfaction on the Bellas before squaring off with Mickie James as the crowd erupted. 

That led to Jax entering the ring again only to power out of an attack from all of the women. Kicks had Jax teetering as the Bellas Twins tried to eliminate her from the ring apron and succeeded with help from the rest of the women. While the women were celebrating, Banks turned around and threw Bayley over the top rope with no remorse. Stratus and Banks then squared off with Stratus mocking her, but it was Banks who won the battle by tossing Stratus over the top rope. It was Asuka and Banks who had the next staredown, but as it looked like they were prepared to team up, Banks attacked her and was joined by the Bella Twins. However, as Banks continued to trash talk Asuka with her prone atop the middle rope in the corner, the Bellas eliminated Banks together. With Brie teetering on the ring apron, Nikki decided to purposely run her off the ledge and onto the floor to cement a spot in the final two. Asuka and Nikki both found themselves on the apron as Asuka nearly eliminated Nikki by gripping her over the rope with her right leg. Asuka finally kicked Nikki in the shin, forcing her off the apron and onto the floor to win the Royal Rumble. Grade: B+

Ronda Rousey debuts: After the match, Bliss and Flair made their way into the ring with Asuka looking back and forth between the two as they held their championships high. At that moment, "Bad Reputation" hit and Rousey made her way to the ring. Rousey entered the ring, pointed at the WrestleMania sign and went to shake Asuka's hand only for Asuka to slap it away. She again pointed at the sign and left the ring, heading to ringside to shake McMahon's hand before smiling, waving to the crowd, hitting some fans' hands and leaving.


Order of entryOrder of elimination
1

Sasha Banks

Rose (Lita 1)

2

Becky Lynch

Snuka (Lita 2)

3

Sarah Logan

Lita (Lynch 1)

4

Mandy Rose

Sane (Brooke 1)

5

Lita

Brooke (Wilson 1)

6

Kairi Sane

Wilson (Deville 1)

7

Tamina Snuka

Logan (Holly 1)

8

Dana Brooke

Deville (McCool 1)

9

Torrie Wilson

Morgan (McCool 2)

10

Sonya Deville

Holly (McCool 3)

11

Liv Morgan

Lana (McCool 4)

12

Molly Holly

Guerrero (McCool 5, Lynch 2, Banks 1, Riott 1)

13

Lana

McCool (Natalya 1)

14

Michelle McCool

Lynch (Riott 2)

15

Ruby Riott

Jacqueline (Jax 1)

16

Vickie Guerrero

Kelly Kelly (Jax 2)

17

Carmella

Riott (Jax 3)

18

Natalya

Naomi (Jax 4)

19

Kelly Kelly

Phoenix (Natalya 2)

20

Naomi

Moon (Asuka 1)

21

Jacqueline

Carmella (Nikki Bella 1)

22

Nia Jax

James (Stratus 1)

23

Ember Moon

Jax (N. Bella 2, B. Bella 1)

24

Beth Phoenix

Bayley (Banks 2)

25

Asuka

Natalya (Stratus 2)

26

Mickie James

Stratus (Banks 3)

27

Nikki Bella

Banks (N. Bella 3, B. Bella 2)

28

Brie Bella

B. Bella (N. Bella 4)

29

Bayley

N. Bella (Asuka 2)

30

Trish Stratus

Winner: Asuka

CBS Sports Staff

Adam Silverstein joined CBS Sports in 2014 as college football and golf editor. He also helps lead pro wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts coverage. Adam still maintains that Tim Tebow could have... Full Bio

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