WWE Greatest Royal Rumble
WWE Greatest Royal Rumble was a professional wrestling pay-per-view event and WWE Network event promoted by WWE for their Raw, SmackDown, and 205 Live brands. The event was the first in a series of WWE in Saudi Arabia events. The event was held on April 27, 2018 at the King Abdullah Sports City's King Abdullah International Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The event was scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time. It aired live in the United States at noon EDT, with a pre-show starting at 11 a.m. EDT. At the event, all men's main roster championships were defended, in addition to a 50-man Royal Rumble match.
|WWE Greatest Royal Rumble|
Promotional poster featuring various WWE wrestlers
|Date||April 27, 2018|
|City||Jeddah, Saudi Arabia|
|Venue||King Abdullah International Stadium|
|WWE Network event chronology|
|WWE in Saudi Arabia chronology|
The card comprised ten matches. In the main event, Braun Strowman won the Greatest Royal Rumble match. On the undercard, Brock Lesnar retained the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns in a steel cage match, and the WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura resulted in a double countout, The Undertaker defeated Rusev in a casket match, and John Cena defeated Triple H in the opening match.
Since 1988, the Royal Rumble has been an annual event held by WWE and is typically shown on pay-per-view. The event is highlighted by the Royal Rumble match, a battle royal whose participants enter at timed intervals. The Greatest Royal Rumble included the largest version of the match to date, having a total of 50 participants.
On March 5, 2018, WWE and the Saudi General Sports Authority advertised the Greatest Royal Rumble, a live event to be held on April 27, 2018, at King Abdullah International Stadium, part of the King Abdullah Sports City, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The event is a part of a 10-year strategic multi-platform partnership between WWE and the Saudi General Sports Authority in support of Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's social and economic reform program.
On March 19, 2018, WWE scheduled seven championship matches for the event: the WWE Championship, Universal Championship, United States Championship, Intercontinental Championship, SmackDown Tag Team Championship, Raw Tag Team Championship and Cruiserweight Championship were to be defended at the event.
As revealed on March 22, 2018, the event was streamed live on the WWE Network. It also aired on traditional pay-per-view in the United States and internationally. The event was also the first WWE pay-per-view with Arabic commentary.
In the weeks leading up to the event, the WWE held tryouts in Saudi Arabia. From these tryouts, eight were selected to receive training by WWE, which would include an opportunity to earn a spot at the Greatest Royal Rumble event itself.
The card comprised ten matches 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, SmackDown, and 205 Live brands. Storylines were produced on WWE's weekly television shows, Monday Night Raw, SmackDown Live, and the cruiserweight-exclusive 205 Live.
On April 9, Brock Lesnar, who had renewed his WWE contract, was scheduled to defend the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns in a steel cage match as a rematch from WrestleMania 34. On the Raw following WrestleMania, Reigns expressed frustration about not being told about his future matches and opponents, singling out the steel cage match with Lesnar. Reigns alleged that there was a conspiracy against him. Samoa Joe, who had been out with an injury since January, came out and warned Reigns that Lesnar would beat him again.
On March 26, WWE scheduled a ladder match between then-champion The Miz, Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor, and Samoa Joe for the Intercontinental Championship. At WrestleMania 34, The Miz lost the Intercontinental Championship to Rollins, thus making Rollins the defending champion. Both Miz and Joe were traded to SmackDown while Rollins and Bálor remained on Raw.
On March 26, Cesaro and Sheamus were scheduled to defend the Raw Tag Team Championship against The Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt Hardy). At WrestleMania 34, however, Cesaro and Sheamus lost the titles to Braun Strowman and 10-year-old Nicholas. The following night on Raw, Strowman and Nicholas relinquished the titles due to Nicholas being a fourth grader. Cesaro and Sheamus demanded their titles back, but Raw General Manager Kurt Angle instead scheduled them to face the winner of the four-team Tag Team Eliminator tournament for the vacant titles at the Greatest Royal Rumble. "Woken" Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt won the tournament by defeating Titus Worldwide (Apollo Crews and Titus O'Neil) and The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson). Cesaro and Sheamus were then traded to SmackDown during the Superstar Shake-up.
At WrestleMania 34, The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan) defeated The Usos (Jey and Jimmy Uso) and The New Day's Big E and Kofi Kingston in a triple threat tag team match to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. On the following SmackDown, The Usos defeated The New Day to earn a title match at Greatest Royal Rumble.
The Undertaker was originally scheduled to face Rusev in a casket match, the first match of its kind in three years. Due to reasons not entirely clear, Rusev was temporarily replaced by Chris Jericho — this was explained with Rusev's wife Lana complaining about her husband competing in a casket match — but eventually reinserted back into the match. Jericho was restored to his original participation in the Greatest Royal Rumble match.
At WrestleMania 34, Jinder Mahal defeated Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, and Rusev in a fatal-four-way match to win the United States Championship. Mahal was then traded to Raw and lost the championship to Jeff Hardy and Mahal invoked his rematch clause for the Greatest Royal Rumble. Hardy was then traded to SmackDown the following night.
At WrestleMania 34, AJ Styles successfully defended the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura. After the match, Nakamura showed his respect to Styles but then attacked him with a low blow and a Kinshasa, turning heel. On April 17, after repeated attacks on Styles by Nakamura, a rematch between the two was scheduled for the Greatest Royal Rumble.
On the WrestleMania 34 pre-show, Cedric Alexander defeated Mustafa Ali in the WWE Cruiserweight Championship tournament final to win the vacant title. Two nights later on 205 Live, Buddy Murphy attacked the new champion during his celebration. Murphy was then scheduled to face Alexander for the title at the Greatest Royal Rumble, but he failed his mandatory weigh-in when he weighed 207 pounds, 2 pounds over the 205 pound weight limit. He was then removed from the match and banned from competing on 205 Live until he met the weight requirement. The following week, Kalisto earned a Cruiserweight Championship match at the Greatest Royal Rumble by winning a gauntlet match.
|English commentators||Michael Cole|
|Spanish commentators||Carlos Cabrera|
|Arabic commentators||Faisal Almughaisib|
|Ring announcer||Greg Hamilton|
|Pre-show panel||Byron Saxton|
The actual pay-per-view opened with John Cena facing Triple H. During the match, Cena performed an Attitude Adjustment on Triple H for a near-fall. Cena attempted another Attitude Adjustment but Triple H countered into a Pedigree for a near-fall. In the end, Cena performed a second Attitude Adjustment on Triple H, a catapult into the corner, and a third Attitude Adjustment to pick up the victory. Following the match, Cena thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their hospitality, and expressed excitement over the event.
In the following match, Cedric Alexander defended the Cruiserweight Championship against Kalisto. The match ended when Alexander countered a Salida Del Sol attempt into a Lumbar Check to retain the title.
Next, the vacant Raw Tag Team Championship was contested between the team of Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy and the former champions, Cesaro and Sheamus. In the end, Hardy distracted Sheamus, allowing Wyatt to perform a Sister Abigail on him. Hardy and Wyatt then performed a wheelbarrow Twist of Fate on Sheamus to win the titles.
Jeff Hardy then defended the United States Championship against Jinder Mahal. Hardy performed a Swanton Bomb on Mahal to retain the title.
After that, The Bludgeon Brothers defended the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against The Usos. Harper and Rowan retained the titles after performing The Reckoning on Jimmy Uso.
Next, Seth Rollins defended the Intercontinental Championship against Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and The Miz in a Ladder match. Near the end of the match, Balor attempted to retrieve the title, only for Rollins to springboard onto the ladder and retrieve the title belt, thus retaining the championship.
In a segment between matches, four prospects from the recent Saudi tryouts came out to the ring to introduce themselves. Cruiserweight Ariya Daivari and his brother Shawn Daivari, who had not appeared for WWE in many years, came out to interrupt them. The Saudi prospects attacked and cleared the Daivari brothers from the ring.
Later, AJ Styles defended the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura. During the match, Nakamura resorted to various illegal tactics, such as a low blow, increasingly frustrating Styles. In the end, both Nakamura and Styles fought outside of the ring, only for the match to end in a double countout. After the match, Styles performed a Phenomenal Forearm to the floor on Nakamura.
After that, The Undertaker fought Rusev (who was accompanied by Aiden English) in a Casket match. At the end of the match, Undertaker performed a chokeslam on Rusev and rolled him into the casket. Before he could close the lid, English attacked the Undertaker, who retaliated with another chokeslam and a Tombstone Piledriver before putting English into the casket alongside Rusev and closing it for the victory.
In the penultimate match, Brock Lesnar (accompanied by Paul Heyman) defended the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns in a steel cage match. Reigns performed three spears on Lesnar for a near-fall. As Reigns tried to escape through the door, Heyman pushed the door into Reigns, allowing Lesnar to execute an F5 on Reigns for a near-fall. In the end, Reigns performed a Spear through the cage wall on Lesnar. Despite Reigns touching the floor first, the referee awarded the win to Lesnar, thereby retaining the Universal Championship.
Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler began the 50-man Royal Rumble match as the first two entrants. Bryan survived until the final three, beating Rey Mysterio for the longest time spent in a single Royal Rumble match of all time at an hour and sixteen minutes. In the end, Big Cass eliminated Bryan and attempted a big boot on Braun Strowman, who countered and eliminated Cass to win the match. Strowman also achieved the most eliminations of a single Royal Rumble match at 13, beating out a record previously held by Roman Reigns with 12. Post-match, Strowman received a trophy and a green championship belt.
WWE had been criticized for holding the event without female wrestlers, who were unable to perform at the event due to the limited rights women have in Saudi Arabia. Triple H, WWE's Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, responded to the criticism: "I understand that people are questioning it, but you have to understand that every culture is different and just because you don’t agree with a certain aspect of it, it doesn’t mean it’s not a relevant culture...You can’t dictate to a country or a religion about how they handle things but, having said that, WWE is at the forefront of a women’s evolution in the world and what you can’t do is effect change anywhere by staying away from it....While women are not competing in the event, we have had discussions about that and hope that, in the next few years they will be". Women were in attendance for the event, though only if accompanied by a male guardian. This was a major change from previous events, which were only open to men. Associated Press noted that this is due to "a series of social changes" by the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. During the event, WWE aired a promotional video, which included WWE female wrestlers. The Saudi General Sports Authority issued an apology for "indecent material" that aired at the event.
In addition to the women, wrestler Sami Zayn did not participate in the event as Zayn is of Syrian descent, and Saudi Arabia has strained relations with Syria. On the Raw after the event, a storyline excuse was given in where Sami was suffering from vertigo given to him by Bobby Lashley and therefore couldn’t compete.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a militant group offshoot of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, issued a warning to bin Salman and criticized the WWE event stating that "Disbelieving wrestlers exposed their privates and on most of them was the sign of the cross, in front of a mixed gathering of young Muslim men and women. The corruptors did not stop at that, for every night musical concerts are being announced, as well as movies and circus shows."
Tag Team Eliminator bracketEdit
Greatest Royal Rumble (4/27)
(Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson)
|Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows||3:35||Cesaro and Sheamus||8:50|
|The Revival||5:25||Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy||Pin|
|Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy||Pin|
|Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy||Pin|
(Apollo Crews and Titus O'Neil)
Greatest Royal Rumble match entrances and eliminationsEdit
|1||Daniel Bryan||SmackDown||48||Big Cass||1:16:05||3|
|2||Dolph Ziggler||Raw||12||Kurt Angle||21:44||2|
|3||Sin Cara||SmackDown||1||Dolph Ziggler||01:18||0|
|4||Curtis Axel||Raw||2||Mark Henry||02:00||0|
|5||Mark Henry||Free agent||5||Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler||03:27||3|
|6||Mike Kanellis||Raw||3||Mark Henry||00:03||0|
|7||Hiroki Sumi||Free agent||4||Mark Henry||00:46||0|
|10||Tony Nese||205 Live||9||Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods||07:13||1|
|11||Dash Wilder||Raw||7||Daniel Bryan and Hornswoggle||01:26||0|
|12||Hornswoggle||Free agent||8||Tony Nese||01:00||1|
|13||Primo Colón||SmackDown||11||Kurt Angle||05:10||0|
|15||Bo Dallas||Raw||10||Kurt Angle||01:34||0|
|17||Scott Dawson||Raw||19||Bobby Roode||11:44||0|
|21||Luke Gallows||SmackDown||20||Rey Mysterio||09:16||0|
|23||Drew Gulak||205 Live||17||Tucker Knight||01:47||0|
|24||Tucker Knight||NXT||23||Big E||10:08||1|
|25||Bobby Roode||Raw||29||Baron Corbin||17:44||2|
|27||Chad Gable||Raw||24||Apollo Crews||08:17||0|
|28||Rey Mysterio||Free agent||37||Baron Corbin||20:25||1|
|29||Mojo Rawley||Raw||27||Randy Orton||08:52||2|
|30||Tyler Breeze||Raw||22||Mojo Rawley||00:16||0|
|31||Big E||SmackDown||33||Braun Strowman||13:59||1|
|32||Karl Anderson||SmackDown||26||Randy Orton||04:25||0|
|33||Apollo Crews||Raw||28||Randy Orton||03:26||1|
|34||Roderick Strong||NXT||30||Baron Corbin||06:00||1|
|36||Heath Slater||Raw||34||Braun Strowman||07:38||0|
|38||Baron Corbin||Raw||38||Randy Orton||07:08||3|
|39||Titus O'Neil||Raw||35||Braun Strowman||04:42||0|
|40||Dan Matha||NXT||32||Braun Strowman||02:01||0|
|42||Tye Dillinger||SmackDown||36||Braun Strowman||00:29||0|
|43||Curt Hawkins||Raw||40||Braun Strowman||00:20||0|
|44||Bobby Lashley||Raw||45||Braun Strowman||14:38||2|
|45||The Great Khali||Free agent||42||Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley||00:31||0|
|46||Kevin Owens||Raw||47||Braun Strowman||10:43||0|
|47||Shane McMahon||SmackDown||44||Braun Strowman||08:07||0|
|48||Shelton Benjamin||SmackDown||43||Chris Jericho||04:23||0|
|49||Big Cass||SmackDown||49||Braun Strowman||07:23||1|
|50||Chris Jericho||SmackDown||46||Braun Strowman||03:18||1|
- By eliminating 13 men, Braun Strowman broke the record of 12, set by Roman Reigns at the 2014 Royal Rumble.
- Daniel Bryan broke the longevity record for lasting 1:16:05, previous record held by Rey Mysterio (lasting 1:02:12) at the 2006 Royal Rumble.
At the conclusion of the Greatest Royal Rumble, Braun Strowman was awarded a trophy and a championship title. The role of this Greatest Royal Rumble Championship, however remains unclear. According to The Sportster, "the likelihood is that nothing that took place in the main event will have any effect on anything once WWE arrives back in the United States and resume normal service." Thus far, the belt has not reappeared on WWE programs.
The base design is similar to the current design of the WWE Championship, with some differences. Instead of a large cut out of the WWE logo, the center plate is modeled with an Arabic pattern with the WWE logo in the center. Like the WWE Championship belt and other belts introduced in 2016 and 2017, the Greatest Royal Rumble Championship belt contains two side plates, both separated by gold divider bars, with removable round sections that can be replaced with the current champion's logo; the default plates show the official logo of Saudi General Sports Authority, which is identical to the national emblem of Saudi Arabia. The plates are on a green leather strap resembling the color of the national flag of Saudi Arabia.
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