Greatest Royal Rumble a major turning point for Roman Reigns and WWE

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The Greatest Royal Rumble has been positioned as either an extension of the WrestleMania card or a show similar in size and scale. The sold-out King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, will have an entirely different vibe than the Superdome in New Orleans, to say the least, especially considering the absence of the women’s roster in its entirety, but there will be a pair of major WrestleMania 34 rematches and a handful of familiar matches on a card that also features the first-ever 50-man Royal Rumble set to be the main event.

When it comes down to the actual matches that will take place, the fallout is sure to have huge consequences for the weeks and months to come on Raw and SmackDown. With the Backlash pay-per-view set for just nine days later, and certain matches and titles being mismatched after the Superstar Shakeup, these two big shows will be the final steps in establishing how things will play out moving forward.

The biggest lingering question heading into the Greatest Royal Rumble is the same as it was heading into WrestleMania 34, and hopefully by the end of the night there should be a very clear idea of how the pecking order on Raw will play out for the rest of 2018.

Steel cage match for the Universal championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

What’s at stake: The direction that Monday Night Raw will head in for the rest of 2018, and beyond. Since they first clashed in the lead-up to WrestleMania 31, Brock Lesnar has seemingly been built up as the final boss/villain for Roman Reigns to topple on his road to the top of WWE. Between crowd reactions, injuries, erratic schedules and a number of other extenuating factors, that grand victory has never happened.

Three years ago, Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-main event of WrestleMania and walked away as WWE champion. On April 8, Reigns walked in as the overwhelming favorite to leave as Universal champion, only for the crowd to turn hostile on the match and an entirely different outcome as Lesnar hit F-5 after F-5, plus elbows, suplexes and strikes, to ultimately walk out with title intact. Now, they’re doing it all over again inside of a steel cage, and despite the announcement of a contract extension for Brock Lesnar, no one really knows what his future in WWE (or UFC, for that matter) holds beyond Friday.

Where it goes from here: If Reigns doesn’t walk out of the main event of Greatest Royal Rumble as Universal champion, we’re entering uncharted territory. Reigns will have a tough time re-establishing himself as a worthy title contender, and after a seemingly one-off match with Samoa Joe at Backlash, he’ll have no real direction and Raw will once again be without its top championship on TV for the majority of the year.

If Lesnar loses, the speculation of his return to the UFC will pick up once again — there’s no telling how that situation will play out. There’s also no telling what Reigns’ future holding the Universal championship might look like.

WWE championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

What’s at stake: Any future hope of AJ Styles having a fifth child. In all seriousness, even though their first one-on-one WWE match at WrestleMania 34 didn’t check all of the boxes of being the all-time classic it was supposed to be, it was a solid first effort with an eye towards something bigger. Nakamura’s post-match low blow was followed by three more such incidents on SmackDown in subsequent weeks, and Nakamura’s started to tap into his character and general weirdness in a way he hasn’t since leaving NXT — and that’s a great step forward. Regardless of the result in Saudi Arabia, it’s highly unlikely to be the final chapter in this budding rivalry.

Where it goes from here: It depends entirely on the outcome. There’s a world in which Nakamura wins the WWE championship and lords it over Styles for months as the latter tries to fight his way back to the top. There’s also ways that Styles successfully defends his title only for Nakamura to get the last laugh once again. This feels like it will be the rivalry of the summer on SmackDown, so no matter which way it goes, we have a lot more to get out of what could be a very special moment of time in WWE history.


Ladder match for the Intercontinental championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz vs. Samoa Joe

What’s at stake: Seemingly, not much. A big deal was made of Seth Rollins defeating Finn Balor and The Miz in a strong WrestleMania 34 opener, and it seems unlikely they’d change course so quickly (though we’ve been surprised before). The involvement of Miz and Samoa Joe, who are both on SmackDown now, further muddies the waters in terms of potential outcomes, but this particular quartet in a ladder match could lead to something magical, even if the odds of a title change seem low.

Where it goes from here: In the unlikely event of a title change, the placement of the Intercontinental and United States championships could be ironed out at Backlash. In reality, Rollins likely retains, but there’s still The Miz to deal with at Backlash and Balor beyond that. The one wildcard that comes into play would be the fate of the Universal championship, but it seems unlikely Rollins would get involved with something involving Reigns too quickly.

Casket match: The Undertaker vs. Rusev

What’s at stake: The Undertaker’s future. After a sub-three-minute win over John Cena in his first WWE match in a full year, Undertaker returns to action just a few weeks later in a casket match against Rusev. This will be the first casket match in WWE in almost a decade, and if you think there’s even the slightest possibility that The Undertaker loses here, you have another thing coming.

Where it goes from here: This won’t be the last we see of The Undertaker, and there’s still the matter of what happened with Cena to clean up. That could happen here, or somewhere else down the line. As for Rusev, despite his surge in popularity there seems to be very little in the way of forward momentum at the moment.

John Cena vs. Triple H

What’s at stake: Bragging rights. With the exception of last year’s Survivor Series match, the last time Triple H and John Cena were competing against each other in a ring happened inside of the Elimination Chamber in February 2010. From 2006-2010, Cena and Triple H were consistently at odds with one another, with other legends like Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels often involved.

Where it goes from here: This will be Cena’s first WWE appearance since his WrestleMania loss, so some kind of clarity with his situation with The Undertaker is possible. It’s also Triple H’s first televised appearance since WrestleMania, but it’s unclear what this match could mean in terms of a return to Monday Night Raw.


50-man Greatest Royal Rumble match

What’s at stake: As far as we know, just another trophy. Advertising and announcement have revealed some of the potential surprises, including Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio and the Great Khali, but it’s unclear if this match will have any particular value beyond it being a spectacle. All you have to do is look at the two battle royals at WrestleMania and how quickly those trophies have disappeared from WWE TV to see what happens when you don’t put any tangible stakes on the line in a match like this.

Where it goes from here: A win for a higher-profile superstar like Daniel Bryan could offer some momentum moving forward, but this match seems tailor-made for a Braun Strowman victory. Regardless of the outcome of this match, Strowman seems a likely candidate to be in Universal title contention.

United States championship: Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Jinder Mahal

What’s at stake: Very little. Unless there’s some kind of switcheroo and another quick turnaround with the United States championship planned for Backlash, a third U.S. title change in the month of April seems unlikely.

Where it goes from here: The tease of a future Jeff Hardy/Randy Orton United States championship rivalry makes enough sense moving forward. Samoa Joe getting involved before too long also seems like a smart way to go.


SmackDown tag team championships: The Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs. The Usos

What’s at stake: The future direction of the SmackDown tag team division. With The Bar and Gallows & Anderson moving over in the Superstar Shakeup, SAnitY getting the call-up from NXT and the New Day still in play, the SmackDown tag team division seems incredibly deep on paper. Having them all chasing the Bludgeon Brothers seems to make sense.

Where it goes from here: Though small signs of doubt have crept in with the inclusion of Naomi in this angle, the Bludgeon Brothers have been physically dominant in all aspects. Should they retain, The Usos would likely have to step to the back of a growing line.


Raw tag team championships: The Bar vs. Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt

What’s at stake: The early stages of ‘The Expedition of Gold’. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt pairing up was a natural move, and while Wyatt seemed far more in need of a change, his darkness has helped Hardy as well. With Cesaro and Sheamus now on SmackDown, having them win the Raw tag team titles seems a bit far-fetched.

Where it goes from here: The state of the Raw tag team division is in flux, but it should give teams like The Revival and Breezango, as well as newly-formed pairings, a chance to step into the spotlight.


Cruiserweight championship match: Cedric Alexander (c) vs. Kalisto

What’s at stake: Cedric Alexander’s first title defense. Bringing the 205 Live weight limit into play to keep Buddy Murphy out of this match was a questionable choice. He’s very early on in his 205 Live run, and the potential of damaging Murphy’s solid surge of momentum with this speed bump doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you want a heel or up-and-coming challenger to deal with — but here we are.

Where it goes from here: Kalisto is a former cruiserweight champion in his own right, but after making Alexander fight as long as he did to win the title, this would be a strange spot to have him drop the title. An Alexander-Mustafa Ali rematch and Alexander-Murphy seem the likeliest next steps.

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