WWE Nails It Twice with Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka Wins at Royal Rumble 2018

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterJanuary 29, 2018

Credit: WWE.com

WWE Royal Rumble 2018 went 2-0 with two home runs with its choice of Battle Royal winners.

Shinsuke Nakamura outlasted 29 Superstars to find himself alone in the ring, ready to burst with joy. Asuka later followed her countryman's lead and claimed victory in the first women's Royal Rumble after kicking Nikki Bella off the ring apron. Each of those wins, each of those moments sang.

In each case, WWE used the Royal Rumble to elevate a star on the rise. It tuned into the audience's desires. And going with Nakamura and Asuka created two money WrestleMania matches.

The impassioned reaction to Nakamura's win speaks volumes.

Fans in Philadelphia roared. They joined in song. They celebrated.

SiriusXM Busted Open shared a clip of it all:

That's quite the contrast from what we've seen from recent Royal Rumble endings. In 2014, Pittsburgh fans mercilessly booed Batista's win. A year later, the Philly crowd met Roman Reigns' victory with a vocal pushback.

There's been a theme of underwhelming or frustrating winners of late.

Not here. Nakamura has maintained his momentum despite subpar booking. Fans have seemed to be waiting for the company to fully get behind him, to treat him like a top-tier talent, not some eccentric novelty. 

The King of Strong Style is a welcome departure from going the repeat-winner route.

Shinsuke Nakamura celebrates winning the 2018 Royal Rumble.
Shinsuke Nakamura celebrates winning the 2018 Royal Rumble.Credit: WWE.com

This was not a legacy-padder for a made man as we've seen with wins from Triple H, Randy Orton and John Cena recently. This was an announcement of a fresh face's arrival. It was banking on the star Nakamura can be in WWE, not relying on what's already built.

As for the women's Rumble match, WWE could have gone with Nikki Bella, Trish Stratus or someone else with a longer WWE tenure than Asuka. But the company instead opted to push toward the future and solidify The Empress of Tomorrow as a marquee talent right now.

Two Japanese wrestlers winning these huge matches is a sign of progress, as well. As Defy Wrestling producer Matt Farmer pointed out, WWE's history with Japanese wrestlers is marked with stereotypes:

Despite that nation long being a bastion of great performers, there always seemed to be a glass ceiling for Japanese wrestlers with WWE. 

The focus on Sunday was not on their nationalities but instead their ass-kicking ways. Nakamura knocked his foes dizzy with head kicks. Asuka threw her weight around in a match filled with former champions. Nakamura lasted nearly 45 minutes and ousted both Cena and Reigns, per WWE.comAsuka eliminated Ember Moon, Nia Jax and Nikki Bella.

Each result sets up a mouthwatering matchup at WrestleMania.

Nakamura has already chosen to go after WWE champ AJ Styles. That means The Show of Shows will host a New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 10 matchup, a meeting of two top-notch performers that promises to be a classic.

As for Asuka, she hasn't made a decision. But if WWE is smart, it will send her after Charlotte Flair. That's a massive bout that could easily be the greatest women's match in company history.

Asuka will bring along the added drama that comes with her undefeated streak. The stakes against Flair will be extra high as a result. That's not an element any other Rumble winner could bring to the table.

There's a great buzz in the WWE world after the PPV thanks in large part to who came out on top.

After a handful of years of Rumble winners the audience picked apart and groaned about, WWE delivered twice in the same night. Nakamura and Asuka were the absolute right choices to emerge from Philly as the victors.

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