WWE Greatest Royal Rumble results, recap, grades: Lesnar-Reigns controversy, Strowman stands tall
Here's everything that went down Friday afternoon at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia
Just three weeks after WrestleMania 34, WWE's biggest show of the year, the company decided to put on the so-called Greatest Royal Rumble, the first event as part of a 10-year deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And while the GRR was hyped with an absolutely stacked card along with a number of returning stars, it was ultimately a five-hour glorified house show with no title changes or major surprises.
WWE not only shoehorned the Greatest Royal Rumble in just three weeks after WrestleMania, it has another pay-per-view in Backlash scheduled just eight days from now. The company will have to do a heck of a lot of work on its television shows next week to properly build that show.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story with detailed results along with highlights from the show. The recap with grades and select highlights can be found below with a full set of highlights available at the bottom of the story.
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WWE Greatest Royal Rumble recap, grades
John Cena def. Triple H via pinfall: Regardless of whether it felt odd to see two sure-fire Hall of Famers of this level as the opening act, the Jeddah crowd provided an explosive reaction that was more akin to a WrestleMania main event. Just about everything Cena or Triple H did was greeted with loud pops. If the pyro for both wrestlers didn't make this venue feel different enough, the overall atmosphere provided by the crowd was universally positive, save for a few negative and smarky cat calls aimed at Cena.
As far as the match, it was largely booked in a house show style with tests of strength and methodical offense. Triple H mocked Cena's five-knuckle shuffle and hit him with a DeGeneration X crotch chop. Both kicked out of each other's finishing move. In the end, Cena reversed a crossface submission into an Attitude Adjustment before hitting a second one for the clean pin. Afterwards, Cena told the crowd it was an honor and privilege to be part of the event, regardless of everything going on in his personal life outside the ring. Grade: C+
Cruiserweight Championship -- Cedric Alexander (c) def. Kalisto via pinfall to retain the title: The silent crowd, coming down from the loud pops given to the more well-known Cena and Triple H, may have lost in translation just how good the match in front of them truly was. Both cruiserweights sold out with high spots and snug work. Kalisto hit a 450 off the top rope onto the floor, and Alexander countered soon after with a Tope Con Hilo. The biggest move of the match drew the smallest reaction as Kalisto hit a dangerous seated springboard Spanish Fly from the top rope. In the end, Alexander countered a Salida del Sol attempt to hit his Lumbar Check for the 1-2-3. Grade: B
Raw Tag Team Championship (vacant) -- Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt def. The Bar via pinfall to win the titles: Not much to talk about here as the two teams largely went through the motions in a basic and relatively short match. The finish came when Sheamus' attempt to set up his Brogue kick was interrupted by Wyatt's spider walk, which startled him. Sheamus then missed the kick, allowing Wyatt to his Sister Abigail. After a failed attempt to hype up the crowd, Wyatt tagged in Hardy and the duo hit their elevated Twist of Fate to put Sheamus away. Grade: C-
United States Championship -- Jeff Hardy (c) def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall to retain the title: It looks like the U.S. title will call SmackDown Live its permanent home after all. Hardy also made sure both he and big brother Matt left Saudi Arabia as champions. The match struggled to get over with the crowd and will largely be remembered for a comical botch in which Hardy badly missed a Whisper in the Wind from the top rope and Mahal still bumped for it seconds later. Even the commentary team had difficulty comprehending what happened. The finish came when Hardy packaged a Twist of Fate with a Swanton Bomb off the top rope for the 1-2-3. Grade: D+
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- Bludgeon Brothers (c) def. The Usos via pinfall to retain the titles: Bludgeon Brothers' demolition of the SmackDown tag team division continued with another virtual squash match. Jey Uso hit a tope-rope splash on Harper for a two count early on. Outside of that, it was all heels, all the time. With Naomi absent, which pressed pause on the angle of their recent storyline, Rowan interfered to flatten Jimmy Uso outside the set up the finish. Rowan tagged himself in and was slapped in the face by Harper. After a Rowan splash in the corner, the duo hit their double power bomb finisher to defend the titles. Grade: C-
Intercontinental Championship (Ladder Match) -- Seth Rollins (c) def. The Miz, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe to retain the title: Considering the Jeddah crowd popped uncontrollably each time Cena or Triple H raised an eyebrow to open the card, it was difficult to watch the competitors in this match sacrifice their bodies to such little fanfare (outside of a distant "this is awesome" chant which formed in the upper deck of the stadium). Luckily, the finish was so electric, it produced the kind of soundtrack worthy of the effort put in.
The match featured a number of fun spots, even if it lacked the overall excitement of a normal pay-per-view ladder match of its kind. Both Miz and Balor used ladders as a foundation to hit their finishing moves on. Joe also produced the spot of the match when he snuck underneath a superplex attempt from Rollins on Balor to hit a simultaneous powerbomb. But the finish proved a nice cover for any minor sins along the way as Balor appeared to have a clear path up a ladder in the center of the ring. Suddenly, Rollins jumped off the top rope onto the other side of the ladder, ran up it and stole the title, leaving Balor (who was cut above his right eye) bewildered. Grade: B+
WWE Championship -- AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura ends in a double countout: Talk about a roller coaster of emotions in a short period of time. What started as a slow-paced affair quickly heated up into an emotional and particularly stiff match, which was beginning to outshine their WrestleMania bout weeks earlier. Then came the finish and the eventual reminder that for all of the fireworks and hype for the Greatest Royal Rumble, the majority of the card has played out as nothing more than a glorified house show.
The electric build to the finish saw multiple exchanges of physical strikes in the center of the ring and Nakamura landing yet another low blow after Styles missed his forearm finisher and was distracted by nearly landing on the referee. Both countered out of each other's finishing move until the action spilled to the floor. But that's where the action stayed as the match ended in a disappointing double countout. Styles, whose anger in retaliation to the groin shot kept the action outside and forced the result, stood tall late after driving Nakamura over the barricade wall and later hitting a springboard Phenomenal Forearm onto the floor. Grade: B-
The Undertaker def. Rusev in a Casket Match: In comparison to expectations considering The Undertaker's age and the fear that Rusev would receive a burial in terms of booking, this one was surprisingly decent. Aiden English played a big role in adding to the fun by constantly interfering in this no-disqualification match, including grabbing the casket lid to prevent The Deadman from closing it on Rusev midway through. Just like in his recent brief WrestleMania match against Cena, the 53-year-old Taker looked and moved well. The finish came when Undertaker sat up in the center of the ring after Rusev asked for the casket to be opened. He went on to hit a choke slam before throwing Rusev into the casket. English interfered from behind and ate both a choke slam and a tombstone piledriver. Undertaker then threw him on top of Rusev and closed the lid for the win. Grade: C
Universal Championship (Steel Cage Match) -- Brock Lesnar (c) def. Roman Reigns via escape to retain the title: For everyone who was 99 percent sure that Lesnar wasn't leaving WrestleMania with his title, nearly the same amount prediction Reigns would finally go over in Jeddah. But credit WWE for having yet another swerve up its sleeve in terms of the creative finish. The match started as physical as one could imagine considering the steel cage and competitors involved. Lesnar hit four German suplexes and a pair of F5's before Reigns rallied for three Superman punches and a trio of spears. Neither superstar could get a three count and both failed during attempts to climb over the cage.
Reigns appeared close to leaving through the side door late only to have Paul Heyman slam it in his face. Both kicked out of each other's finisher one more time until Reigns, after beating Lesnar with a chair supplied by Heyman, speared Lesnar through the cage wall and onto the floor in a stunning climax. Not only did Lesnar bump hard, his back hitting the floor triggered a controversial victory considering two feet are what should've given someone a legal victory. Grade: B+
Braun Strowman wins 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble: At 77 minutes, this one sent a number of Royal Rumble records including longest match, most entrants, longest appearance by one person (Daniel Bryan at 76 minutes, 10 seconds) and the most eliminations (Strowman's 13). While the length of the match was certainly felt (along with the length of the five-hour card as a whole), the feeling of a grind was offset by how many memorable moments the match produced, including many influenced by spots previously seen in Royal Rumbles of the past. With many of the big names having been previously announced (from Chris Jericho and Shane McMahon to The Great Khali and Rey Mysterio Jr.), the 50-man field was short on surprising reveals. The biggest may have been Hornswoggle, who faked joining forces with Kofi Kingston (a la his partnership with Cena in 2011) only to turn on him in hilarious fashion. Mysterio, whose crowd pop rivaled only Randy Orton, ran back many of the spots he did at January's Royal Rumble in his return. The remaining surprises came in the form of NXT talent who have yet to receive a televised push, including 6-foot-10 Babatunde and 6-foot-9 Dan Matha.
If Orton produced the spot of the match when he caught a moonsaulting Apollo Crews from the second rope with an RKO, Titus O'Neil certainly provided it most memorable (and infamous) moment. After running full speed to the ring upon entry at No. 38, O'Neil tripped and fell face first in front of the ring apron with his momentum carrying him completely underneath the ring. The most impressive performance, however, came from Bryan, who entered at No. 1 and lasted until there were two superstars left, eclipsing Mysterio's 2006 record by 14 minutes for the longest single appearance. He also finished the match with huge red blotches on his chest and arm. McMahon's daredevil ways brought excitement to the finish. After hitting his coast-to-coast dropkick on Strowman, he later climbed the top rope to attempt a second. But Strowman, who was out of the ring at the time, sprinted to the apron and tossed McMahon through the announce table with one hand. Strowman was a one-man destruction crew, breaking Reigns' 2014 Rumble record by one for eliminations, which included Bobby Lashley, Jericho and Kevin Owens in succession to set up the final three.
Big Cass landed his big boot to send Bryan over the top rope. Cass, who is currently feuding with Bryan, then screamed, "Go take out my trash, little man." But Cass' attempt to land the same kick on Strowman missed, and The Monster Among Men crotched him on the top rope before tossing him to win the match. In a ceremony that included WWE chairman Vince McMahon and a dignitary from Saudi Arabia, Strowman received a green championship belt and a giant trophy. The match had many fun moments but the length and necessary endurance can't be overlooked, nor can the lack of anything tangible at stake to the winner. Like the card itself, this one was more about show (and money) than anything else. Grade: B+
|Order of entry||Order of elimination|
Sin Cara (Ziggler 1)
Axel (Henry 1)
Kanellis (Henry 2)
Sumi (Henry 3)
Henry (Ziggler 2, Bryan 1)
Viktor (Bryan 2)
Wilder (Bryan 3, Nese 1)
Hornswoggle (Nese 2)
Nese (Kingston 1, Woods 1)
Dallas (Angle 1)
Colon (Angle 2)
Ziggler (Angle 3)
Konner (Elias 1)
Kingston (Elias 2)
Woods (Elias 3)
Angle (Elias 4)
Gulak (Knight 1)
Goldust (Roode 1)
Dawson (Roode 2)
Gallows (Mysterio 1)
Fandango (Rawley 1)
Breeze (Rawley 2)
Tucker (Big E 1)
Gable (Crews 1)
Rhyno (Strong 1)
Anderson (Orton 1)
Rawley (Orton 2)
Rey Mysterio Jr.
Crews (Orton 3)
Roode (Corbin 1)
Strong (Corbin 2)
Babatunde (Strowman 1)
Matha (Strowman 2)
Big E (Strowman 3)
Slater (Strowman 4)
O'Neil (Strowman 5)
Dillinger (Strowman 6)
Mysterio (Corbin 3)
Corbin (Orton 4)
Orton (Elias 5)
Hawkins (Strowman 7)
Elias (Lashley 1)
Khali (Strowman 8, Lashley 2)
Benjamin (Jericho 1)
McMahon (Strowman 9)
The Great Khali
Lashley (Strowman 10)
Jericho (Strowman 11)
Owens (Strowman 12)
Bryan (Cass 1)
Cass (Strowman 13)
Winner: Braun Strowman
WWE Greatest Royal Rumble highlights
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Flair was previously hospitalized in 2017 when he was placed in a medically induced coma