Royal Rumble (2018)
Royal Rumble (2018) was a professional wrestling pay-per-view (PPV) event and WWE Network event produced by WWE featuring wrestlers primarily from the Raw and SmackDown brands, as well as surprise appearances from competitors on the NXT brand. It took place on January 28, 2018, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the thirty-first event under the Royal Rumble chronology, the first to include a women's Royal Rumble match, and consequently, two Royal Rumble matches.
|Royal Rumble (2018)|
Promotional poster featuring various WWE wrestlers
|Date||January 28, 2018|
|Venue||Wells Fargo Center|
|WWE Network event chronology|
|Royal Rumble chronology|
Nine matches were contested at the event, including three on the pre-show. In the main event, Asuka won the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match, which was also the second women's match to main event a WWE pay-per-view, and the first to main event one of WWE's "Big Four" pay-per-views. The men's Royal Rumble match was won by Shinsuke Nakamura. Other prominent matches included Brock Lesnar retaining the Universal Championship in a triple threat match against Braun Strowman and Kane, and AJ Styles retained the WWE Championship against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match. The event was also notable for the surprise debut of former UFC star Ronda Rousey following the women's match, officially confirming that she had signed full-time with WWE.
As is tradition, the winner of the 30-man Royal Rumble match earned a world championship match at WrestleMania 34 for his choice of either Raw's Universal Championship or SmackDown's WWE Championship. The event also hosted the first-ever 30-woman Royal Rumble, in which the winner earned a women's championship match at WrestleMania 34 for her choice of either Raw's Women's Championship or SmackDown's Women's Championship.
The card consisted of nine matches, including three on the pre-show, that resulted from scripted storylines, where wrestlers portrayed villains, heroes, or less distinguishable characters in scripted events that built tension and culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches, with results predetermined by WWE's writers on the Raw and SmackDown brands. Storylines were produced on WWE's weekly television shows, Monday Night Raw, SmackDown Live, and 205 Live, the latter of which is cruiserweight-exclusive. For the first time, the card was highlighted by two Royal Rumble matches.
On the October 16, 2017 episode of Raw, Kane returned from a ten-month hiatus and helped Braun Strowman to defeat Roman Reigns in a steel cage match. Kane was then added to Strowman's team at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in the 5-on-3 handicap Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match. During the match, Kane accidentally hit Strowman with a chair, which caused tension between the two. Later on in the match, Kane turned on Strowman and crushed him in the back of a garbage truck; their team ultimately lost. The two then feuded over the next several weeks, leading to a match on the December 11 episode to determine the number one contender against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble, but the match ended in a double countout. Raw General Manager Kurt Angle then decided that Lesnar would defend the title against both Kane and Strowman in a triple threat match at the event. On the January 8 episode, Kane attacked Lesnar from behind, followed by an attack from Strowman. After laying Kane and Lesnar out backstage, Strowman knocked over a lighting rig and crushed both. Lesnar was taken to a medical facility while Kane refused medical attention. Due to his actions, Strowman was removed from the triple threat match and fired by Angle. Strowman went on a rampage backstage, including destroying Angle's office and flipping over a tractor. Before he could do anymore damage, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon rehired Strowman, putting him back into the Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
After Survivor Series, several women from NXT were promoted to the main rosters of both Raw and SmackDown. On the November 20, 2017 episode of Raw, Paige, who had been out with an injury since June 2016, returned along with the debuts of NXT's Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, forming the heel group Absolution, while similarly on the November 21 episode of SmackDown, NXT's Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan debuted and formed the heel group The Riott Squad. On the December 18, 2017 episode of Raw, with a larger roster of women on the main rosters, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon scheduled the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match for the 2018 Royal Rumble, with the winner receiving a match at WrestleMania 34 for the top championship of their choice: Raw's Women's Championship or SmackDown's Women's Championship. Both brands' respective commissioners and general managers agreed that the women's match would have all of the same rules as the men's match, including having 30 participants. Stephanie was announced to join the commentary team for the women's match, and television host Maria Menounos was announced to be the special guest ring announcer.
At Clash of Champions, SmackDown's Commissioner Shane McMahon and General Manager Daniel Bryan both refereed a tag team match pitting Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn against Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura, where Owens and Zayn would have been fired from WWE had they lost. During the match, there was controversy between Shane and Bryan, which resulted in Bryan giving a fast count for Owens and Zayn to win. Tensions between Shane and Bryan continued over the next couple of weeks, culminating on the final SmackDown of 2017, when Bryan scheduled Owens to face WWE Champion AJ Styles in a non-title match in the main event, much to the disapproval of Shane, who felt that Owens should not be in the main event, or facing the WWE Champion. That match ended when Zayn interfered, allowing Owens to win. The next week, Zayn would also defeat Styles in a non-title match after interference from Owens. Enraged at back-to-back losses, Styles stated they might as well schedule him in a handicap match against Owens and Zayn, which Bryan took literally and scheduled for the Royal Rumble where Styles would also defend the WWE Championship against both men. On the January 9 episode of SmackDown, Styles said that although it was unfair, he was confident that he would win; Owens and Zayn interrupted and claimed that they would become the first-ever co-WWE Champions. On the final SmackDown before the Royal Rumble, Styles faced Owens and Zayn in back-to-back matches where Shane threatened that if one were to interfere in the other's match, that person would be fired. Styles managed to defeat Owens in the first match by submission, however, he would lose to Zayn in the second match.
On the December 18, 2017 episode of Raw, Seth Rollins' tag team partner Dean Ambrose was injured by Samoa Joe. The following week, despite both wanting to take on Joe to avenge Ambrose, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle instead had his (storyline) son, Jason Jordan, and Rollins team up to face Cesaro and Sheamus for the Raw Tag Team Championship; Jordan and Rollins defeated Cesaro and Sheamus to win the championship. After the former champions confronted Angle about their contractual rematch, Angle scheduled it for the Royal Rumble. On the January 15 episode, Jordan caused a distraction, allowing Titus Worldwide (Apollo Crews and Titus O'Neil) to again defeat Cesaro and Sheamus in a rematch from the previous week, which Rollins disapproved of as he did not like Jordan acting on his own. Cesaro and Sheamus would try and return the favor during Rollins' match against Finn Bálor, but it backfired, resulting in Rollins winning, and Cesaro and Sheamus brawling with Bálor Club members, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, at ringside. On Raw 25 the next week, Jordan and Rollins were the guests on Christian's The Peep Show, which Cesaro and Sheamus interrupted and the two teams brawled where Rollins accidentally hit Jordan with a knee attack that was intended for Cesaro.
At Clash of Champions, The Usos (Jey and Jimmy Uso) retained the SmackDown Tag Team Championship in a fatal-four-way match against Rusev and Aiden English, The New Day's Big E and Xavier Woods, and Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin. On the following episode of SmackDown, Gable and Benjamin defeated The Usos in a non-title match, and they were awarded with a championship match on the first SmackDown of 2018, where they defeated The Usos to initially win the titles after pinning Jimmy Uso; however, Jimmy was not the legal man, and thus the match was restarted and The Usos retained their championship. The following week, Gable and Benjamin confronted SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan over the incident. After questioning if they should have to defeat The Usos twice in the same night, Bryan decided that at the Royal Rumble, The Usos would defend the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against Gable and Benjamin in a two-out-of-three-falls match.
On January 26, three matches were announced for the Royal Rumble pre-show. For SmackDown, it was announced that United States Champion Bobby Roode would have an open challenge for the title. Two tag team matches were scheduled for Raw: a rematch between Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson and The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) from Raw 25, and a six-man tag team match for the cruiserweight division with Kalisto, Gran Metalik, and Lince Dorado against Drew Gulak, TJP, and Gentleman Jack Gallagher.
Two other matches had been promoted for the event, but were later removed.
The first was the tournament final for SmackDown's then-vacant United States Championship. Originally scheduled for the PPV, the finals were instead contested on the January 16 episode of SmackDown, where Bobby Roode defeated Jinder Mahal to win the title.
The second was a championship match for the Raw brand where WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore was scheduled to defend the title against Cedric Alexander. However, after Amore was suspended from WWE on January 22 due to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, the match was cancelled. Amore was released the next day and the title was vacated.
|English commentators||Michael Cole (Raw/both Royal Rumble matches)|
|Corey Graves (all matches)|
|Booker T (Raw)|
|Tom Phillips (SmackDown)|
(SmackDown/Men's Royal Rumble match/Six-man tag team match)
|Vic Joseph (Six-man tag team match)|
|Jerry Lawler (Men's Royal Rumble match)|
|Stephanie McMahon (Women's Royal Rumble match)|
|Spanish commentators||Carlos Cabrera|
|German commentators||Carsten Schaefer|
|Ring announcers||Greg Hamilton (SmackDown/Men's Royal Rumble match)|
|Maria Menounos (Women's Royal Rumble match)|
|Pre-show panel||Renee Young|
|John "Bradshaw" Layfield|
Three matches were contested during the pre-show:
In the first match - featuring the cruiserweight division - Kalisto, Gran Metalik, and Lince Dorado faced TJP, Gentleman Jack Gallagher, and Drew Gulak in a six-man tag team match. Kalisto performed a "Salida Del Sol" on TJP to score the win.
Finally, SmackDown's United States Champion Bobby Roode issued an open challenge, which was answered by fellow SmackDown wrestler Mojo Rawley. Roode performed a "Glorious DDT" on Rawley to score the pinfall and retain the title.
The actual pay-per-view opened with AJ Styles defending the WWE Championship against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match. In the end, Styles threw Zayn out of the ring and immediately Owens performed a superkick on Styles. Owens - who was not the legal man - attempted a pop-up powerbomb on Styles, who countered into a roll up to retain the title. In a backstage segment, Owens and Zayn confronted SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon about the incident, however, after questioning if he saw what had happened, Shane smiled, replied "Yep", and walked off.
Next, The Usos (Jey and Jimmy Uso) defended the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin in a 2-out-of-3-falls match. Jimmy and Jey performed a double superkick on Gable, who was kneeling, to score the first fall. Jey then pinned Benjamin with a small package to score the second fall to retain the title.
After that, the 30-man Royal Rumble match for a world championship match at WrestleMania 34 was contested. Rusev and Finn Bálor began the match as the first and second entrants, respectively. Baron Corbin (#4) eliminated Rhyno (#3), but was eliminated by Bálor. Corbin attacked Bálor, Rusev, and Heath Slater (#5), who just made his entrance. NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas was a surprise entrant at #7. Tye Dillinger was scheduled to be #10, but was attacked backstage by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, resulting in Zayn taking Dillinger's spot. Shinsuke Nakamura entered at #14 and eliminated Zayn. John Cena entered at #20 and eliminated Elias (#6) and The Hurricane (a surprise entrant at #21). NXT's Adam Cole, another surprise entrant, entered at #23. Randy Orton (#24) performed an "RKO" on Almas and eliminated him after a near 30-minute run. Rey Mysterio, another surprise entrant, entered at #27 and eliminated Cole. Roman Reigns entered at #28 and eliminated Titus O'Neil (#25). Reigns and Seth Rollins (#18) teamed up and performed a powerbomb on The Miz (#26) over the top rope to eliminate him, after which, Reigns immediately eliminated Rollins. Dolph Ziggler, making his return after vacating the United States Championship, entered at #30 and eliminated Goldust (#29), but was eliminated by Bálor. Reigns performed a superman punch on Orton and eliminated Orton. Mysterio performed a "619" on Cena and Reigns, but was eliminated by Bálor. Bálor, Nakamura, Cena, and Reigns were the final four. Cena eliminated Bálor (who lasted nearly an hour) and immediately afterwards fought with Nakamura, who performed a "Kinshasa" on Cena to eliminate him. Nakamura attacked Reigns and attempted a "Kinshasa", however, Reigns countered into a spear. As Reigns attempted to eliminate Nakamura, Nakamura countered, performed a "Kinshasa" on Reigns and then eliminated Reigns to win the match. Afterward, Renee Young interviewed Nakamura and asked which world championship he wanted to challenge for at WrestleMania 34. He called out WWE Champion AJ Styles, thus choosing the WWE Championship and staying on SmackDown.
Next, Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan defended the Raw Tag Team Championship against Cesaro and Sheamus. During the match, Jordan sustained a head injury (after being thrown into the ring post by Cesaro), rendering him unable to compete. In the end, Sheamus and Cesaro performed a "White Noise"/diving neckbreaker combination on Rollins to win the title for a record-setting fourth time as a team, and a record-setting fifth time for Cesaro individually.
In the fifth match, Brock Lesnar defended the Universal Championship against Braun Strowman and Kane in a triple threat match. Kane performed a chokeslam on Lesnar and Strowman attacked Kane. Lesnar struck Kane with a chair, only for Strowman to attack Lesnar with a running dropkick. After Strowman performed a chokeslam on Kane, Lesnar performed three German suplexes on Strowman. Strowman performed a running powerslam on Lesnar through a table, only for Kane to break up the pinfall at a two count. Kane then threw Strowman through a table positioned in the corner, and performed a chokeslam on Strowman, with Lesnar breaking up the pinfall at a two count. Lesnar then performed an "F-5" on Strowman through an announce table and overturned another announce table on top of Strowman. Lesnar then performed an "F-5" on Kane through another announce table. Strowman performed two running powerslams on Lesnar, but Kane returned and struck Strowman with a chair. Lesnar knocked Strowman out of the ring and performed an "F-5" on Kane to retain the title. After the match, an enraged Strowman yelled at Lesnar that he did not beat him.
The main event was the first-ever 30-woman Royal Rumble match for a women's championship match at WrestleMania 34. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were the first and second entrants, respectively. There were numerous surprise entrants throughout the match - including Hall of Famers Lita, Jacqueline, Beth Phoenix, and Trish Stratus; NXT wrestlers Kairi Sane and NXT Women's Champion Ember Moon; and past stars Torrie Wilson, Molly Holly, Michelle McCool (who scored the most eliminations at 5), Vickie Guerrero, and Kelly Kelly. SmackDown's Nikki Bella, who had been on hiatus since WrestleMania 33, and her free agent twin sister Brie Bella were also unannounced entrants. Banks, Asuka (#25), Nikki, and Brie were the final four. Banks, Nikki, and Brie attacked Asuka, after which, Nikki and Brie eliminated Banks (who lasted the longest at nearly 55 minutes). Asuka attacked Nikki and Brie, but Nikki performed a "Rack Attack 2.0" on Asuka and then eliminated Brie. After a back-and-forth exchange, Asuka eliminated Nikki to win the match and earn a women's championship match at WrestleMania 34. After the match, Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss and SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair entered the ring. Before Asuka could make her decision for which title she wanted to challenge for, they were interrupted by the surprise appearance of former UFC star Ronda Rousey, officially confirming she had signed full-time with WWE. Rousey pointed to the WrestleMania sign and offered a handshake to Asuka, who refused. Rousey then shook hands with Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon as the event ended. The jacket which Rousey wore during this appearance belonged to lifelong idol Roddy Piper, whose son let her borrow it.
On Raw the following night, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon convinced Asuka to wait until after Elimination Chamber to make her decision, as Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss was scheduled to defend her title in the first-ever women's Elimination Chamber match, and the result may affect Asuka's decision. Asuka was then confronted by Sasha Banks, who spent the longest time in the Royal Rumble match, and Banks challenged Asuka to a match that Asuka won. Banks, along with Bayley, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, and Sonya Deville were announced as the other competitors in the Elimination Chamber match. Nia Jax was also scheduled to face Asuka at Elimination Chamber where if she were to win, she would be added to the Asuka's championship match at WrestleMania. On the February 12 episode of Raw, it was announced that Ronda Rousey would sign her Raw contract at Elimination Chamber. At SmackDown's Fastlane pay-per-view, Asuka appeared and decided to challenge Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women's Championship at WrestleMania.
Since Shinsuke Nakamura decided to stay on SmackDown to challenge for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 34, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle scheduled a number one contender's Elimination Chamber match at the namesake event to determine who would face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. Six qualification matches were scheduled over the next couple of weeks. Braun Strowman and Kane battled in a last man standing match, which Strowman won to qualify. After the match, Kane was taken to a local hospital. Elias, John Cena, Roman Reigns, Intercontinental Champion The Miz, Finn Bálor, and Seth Rollins also qualified, marking the first seven-man Elimination Chamber match.
New Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro and Sheamus defended their titles against Titus Worldwide (Apollo Crews and Titus O'Neil), as they had beaten Cesaro and Sheamus two weeks in a row prior to the Royal Rumble; Cesaro and Sheamus retained. The following week, Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins were scheduled to have their contractual rematch, but after Jordan was deemed unable to compete, he was replaced by Roman Reigns. Jordan, however, accidentally caused them to be disqualified.
On the following episode of SmackDown, Shinsuke Nakamura celebrated his win at the Royal Rumble, and said he would become the new WWE Champion at WrestleMania 34. He was interrupted by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who said that they should be the co-WWE Champions, but the referee failed at his job at the Royal Rumble. WWE Champion AJ Styles came out and said that Owens and Zayn could complain all they want, but there would be a dream match at WrestleMania between him and Nakamura. Styles then suggested to have a dream team that night with him and Nakamura facing Owens and Zayn, which SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan made official for later that night in which Styles and Nakamura won. During the match, there were tensions between Owens and Zayn as Bryan had also scheduled them to face each other the following week to determine the number one contender for the WWE Championship at Fastlane. The championship match at Fastlane then became a fatal five-way also involving Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler and finally a six-pack challenge when free agent John Cena qualified by defeating Styles in a non-title match.
In the mid-card, a fatal four-way match between Kofi Kingston of The New Day, Jinder Mahal, Zack Ryder, and Rusev occurred to determine the number one contender against Bobby Roode for the United States Championship, which was won by Rusev, who was unsuccessful in winning the title. Also following the Royal Rumble, SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan revealed the first-ever "SmackDown Top Ten List" as voted on by the SmackDown roster to see who the wrestlers thought should get a title opportunity. This played into a storyline between Roode, who ranked 5th, Randy Orton, who ranked 9th, and Jinder Mahal, who did not rank, resulting in SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon scheduling Roode to defend the U.S. Championship against Orton at Fastlane.
In the women's division, SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair praised the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match, but wished that she could have competed in it. She addressed Ronda Rousey's debut and questioned who her WrestleMania 34 opponent would be. The Riott Squad interrupted and Ruby Riott said Flair would not make it to WrestleMania and they attacked Flair. Carmella came out to try and cash-in her Money in the Bank briefcase on Flair, but was not able to as she accidentally knocked out the referee before the bell could ring. After feuding with The Riott Squad over the next few weeks, Flair was scheduled to defend her title against Riott at Fastlane.
On 205 Live, Drake Maverick (formerly known as Rockstar Spud in Impact Wrestling) was appointed as the 205 Live General Manager. Maverick announced that there would be a 16-man single elimination tournament to crown a new WWE Cruiserweight Champion, with the finals to occur at WrestleMania 34.
Men's Royal Rumble match entrances and eliminations
|1||Rusev||SmackDown||12||Bray Wyatt & Matt Hardy||30:28||0|
|2||Finn Bálor||Raw||27||John Cena||57:38||4|
|4||Baron Corbin||SmackDown||2||Finn Bálor||01:06||1|
|5||Heath Slater||Raw||4||Bray Wyatt||00:33**||1|
|7||Andrade "Cien" Almas||NXT||18||Randy Orton||29:24||1|
|8||Bray Wyatt||Raw||13||Matt Hardy||20:38||3|
|9||Big E||SmackDown||8||Jinder Mahal||14:14||0|
|10||Sami Zayn*||SmackDown||5||Shinsuke Nakamura||06:57||0|
|12||Xavier Woods||SmackDown||7||Jinder Mahal||08:24||0|
|16||Kofi Kingston||SmackDown||11||Andrade "Cien" Almas||05:41||1|
|17||Jinder Mahal||SmackDown||10||Kofi Kingston||03:48||2|
|18||Seth Rollins||Raw||22||Roman Reigns||19:01||2|
|20||John Cena||Free agent||28||Shinsuke Nakamura||29:14||3|
|21||The Hurricane||Free agent||16||John Cena||00:45||0|
|22||Aiden English||SmackDown||17||Finn Bálor||02:16||0|
|23||Adam Cole||NXT||19||Rey Mysterio||06:52||0|
|24||Randy Orton||SmackDown||25||Roman Reigns||13:55||1|
|25||Titus O'Neil||Raw||20||Roman Reigns||06:07||0|
|26||The Miz||Raw||21||Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins||05:20||0|
|27||Rey Mysterio||Free agent||26||Finn Bálor||09:40||1|
|28||Roman Reigns||Raw||29||Shinsuke Nakamura||21:52||4|
|30||Dolph Ziggler||SmackDown||24||Finn Bálor||02:01||1|
(*) - Tye Dillinger was announced as the #10 entrant, but was attacked backstage by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, resulting in Zayn taking his spot.
(**) - Heath Slater spent significant time outside of the ring before officially entering the Rumble, due to being attacked by Baron Corbin and other wrestlers.
(***) - WWE.com's official website lists Sheamus' time to be 20 seconds, but they have otherwise stated 2 seconds.
(****) - Matt Hardy eliminated himself at the same time he eliminated Bray Wyatt.
Women's Royal Rumble match entrances and eliminations
|1||Sasha Banks||Raw||27||Brie Bella & Nikki Bella||54:46||3|
|2||Becky Lynch||SmackDown||14||Ruby Riott||30:54||2|
|3||Sarah Logan||SmackDown||7||Molly Holly||16:30||0|
|5||Lita||Free agent||3||Becky Lynch||05:51||2|
|6||Kairi Sane*||NXT||4||Dana Brooke||04:49||0|
|8||Dana Brooke||Raw||5||Torrie Wilson||02:59||1|
|9||Torrie Wilson||Free agent||6||Sonya Deville||03:04||1|
|10||Sonya Deville||Raw||8||Michelle McCool||06:41||1|
|11||Liv Morgan||SmackDown||9||Michelle McCool||05:12||0|
|12||Molly Holly||Free agent||10||Michelle McCool||04:04||1|
|14||Michelle McCool||Free agent||13||Natalya||08:38||5|
|15||Ruby Riott||SmackDown||17||Nia Jax||11:32||2|
|16||Vickie Guerrero||Free agent||12||Becky Lynch, Michelle McCool, Ruby Riott, & Sasha Banks||00:57||0|
|19||Kelly Kelly||Free agent||16||Nia Jax||05:02||0|
|21||Jacqueline||Free agent||15||Nia Jax||01:52||0|
|22||Nia Jax||Raw||23||Asuka, Bayley, Brie Bella, Natalya, Nikki Bella, & Trish Stratus||17:56||4|
|24||Beth Phoenix||Free agent||19||Natalya||02:22||0|
|26||Mickie James||Raw||22||Trish Stratus||08:24||0|
|28||Brie Bella||Free agent||28||Nikki Bella||11:58||2|
|30||Trish Stratus||Free agent||26||Sasha Banks||05:36||3|
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