God of Comics – WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Special #1
WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Special #1 (BOOM! Studios)
I love wrestling. I’ve been a life-long fan, initially getting into it when I was five or six so that I’d have something to talk about with my father. He grew out of it, but I stuck around until the Randy Orton era – I found him a repugnant human being and a boring wrestler, but I still kept up to date with it.
Eventually, I started tuning in again when I heard CM Punk was champion. I watched sporadically, really only for Punk until I discovered NXT in general and Paige and Corey Graves in particular. I started watching NXT every week, then followed some of the NXT guys to the main roster when they got called up.
I still prefer NXT to the main roster – the writing, characters, and matches are better developed and executed – but the NXT alumni and some of the people they’ve brought in from outside the WWE keep me checking in on things.
And before I get into this I want to say a little something: wrestling is predetermined, yes, but the wrestlers themselves put their bodies on the line in a way that very few people outside the business can understand. Two of the three people I mentioned above, the ones that reminded me how much I love wrestling, have been hurt to a point where they can no longer perform in the ring.
One of them is Corey Graves, who was given a shot on commentary and has since become the voice of the company. His work is insightful and loaded with character enough to get everyone he talks about over, and he’s a breath of fresh air when compared to every other person they have talking over the matches. He’s incredible.
Paige’s injury is more recent; it happened in just the past couple of weeks, haunting an interesting return to the ring for someone who has shelved because of injury for close to two years. Both Corey and Paige are exceptional talents, though, and while Corey has become the voice, Paige ignited the company in a whole different way.
See, the WWE has had women’s wrestling for a couple of decades, but it’s only really been notable on a handful of occasions over that period of time. Most of the people they brought in were models that were kinda sorta almost taught how to wrestle and they were, well, okay. They were a sideshow. They weren’t even called wrestlers or women; they were Divas. The good women wrestlers were weeded out or mocked in infantile ways until Paige hit NXT like one of HHH’s sledgehammers.
Paige became the reason to watch NXT, and when NXT earned their first live event, Paige was crowned the first NXT Women’s Champion. Not a Diva, but someone that stood apart and claimed her own identity. A flood of talented women followed in NXT, classic hands like Rebecca Knox (now Becky Lynch) mingling with legacy women wrestlers like Charlotte Flair and newcomers like Sasha Banks and Bayley.
While the writers on the main roster have largely wasted the women with the same lack-of-skill they’ve wasted the men, the quality of the matches themselves has improved dramatically. This year, we’re getting the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, a match so good that many consider it to be the most exciting event outside of Wrestlemania itself.
Here’s the pitch: thirty people enter the ring, one at a time over one-to-two minute intervals. Wrestlers are only eliminated if they’re tossed over the top rope and have both feet hit the floor. The last wrestler in the ring gets a title shot at Wrestlemania. It’s an exciting story tool that lends itself to interesting dynamics and has made and broken entire careers, and this year’s takes place on January 28.
I used to do a podcast on wrestling and am going to return to that with this event, covering the big live events done by NXT and the WWE. It seems fitting to announce that here, in the shadow of one of the biggest shows the WWE has. And it also makes sense that BOOM! Studios is doing the same, publishing an anthology comic that covers some of the excitement that goes along with the event.
The first story is written by Lan Pitts, with art by Rodrigo Lorenzo and Doug Garbank, and it covers the union of Ric Flair, Curt Henning, and Bobby Henaan from Flair’s first run with the then WWF. He won his first WWE World Title by winning the Royal Rumble that year, and this comic shows the in-character madness that surrounded that match and that win – if you’re curious about how good a Royal Rumble can be, this match is considered the best of them. It’s the one from 1992, if you’re curious, and features the first time that Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan were in the same ring, at the height of both of their careers.
Story number two concerns one of the most talented performers in the ring, a man named Kofi Kingston. Remember how I mentioned that you can only be eliminated by being tossed over the top rope and having both feet hit the floor? Kofi has taken advantage of that like no other, performing incredible acts of athleticism to keep himself in the match. His skill has become an ongoing highlight, and here we get to see him chat with his teammates in the New Day about some of his best moments. It’s written by Kevin Panetta, with art by Dominike Stanton and Jeremy Lawson.
Our third story goes back to the past and visits the late and lamented Randy Savage, one of the most talented men to ever step in the ring. He was a good guy and a bad guy and everything in-between, and this story deals with the former and sets up a fight that would happen years later with Jake Roberts while also explaining his then red-hot feud with the late Ultimate Warrior. Writer Ryan Ferrier highlights how wrestling is often ridiculous and awesome at the same time, while artist Kendall Goode shows how easily these performers and their stories can translate to comics.
Lastly, we get something a little more heartfelt from writers AJ Styles and Michael Kingston. AJ Styles has had a storied career that has spanned close to twenty years, but he debuted in the WWE two years ago as a surprise entrant in that year’s Royal Rumble match. Since then, he’s had good-to-great matches with everyone on the roster and won multiple world titles, but this story looks back at him getting ready for that debut. Unlike other sports or forms of entertainment, the WWE likes to pretend that there is no wrestling other than what they are showing, so they ignore the things people do until they arrive. The brass and writers expected that to be true for AJ, but were surprised when the crowd roared for his entrance and demanded his inclusion at the main event level. Artist Daniel Bayliss does a great job capturing the tension building to that debut, the people backstage that know him or know of him.
This comic is good stuff and a pretty decent introduction to the world of wrestling; if you’re interested in how it plays out, you can order the Royal Rumble through your cable provider or watch it online through the WWE Network (which is what I’ll be doing). Get some friends together and check it out – it’ll be worth your time.