Royal Rumble 2019, Phoenix, Arizona
Every wrestling fan knows the road to Wrestlemania starts each year with the Royal Rumble.
And if this is the beginning of the journey to the biggest extravaganza of the year, we could be in for one hell of a journey in 2019.
For the first time ever, WWE brought the over-the-top rope event to a baseball stadium, packing out the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.
In the last few months, WWE has come under criticism for producing a stale and predictable product for its fans. The emergence of a rival company, AEW, has, at the very least, spurred WWE into shaking things up and this Royal Rumble certainly felt like a breath of fresh air.
From fan favourite match ups, to superstar entrances up from the baseball benches, WWE pulled out all the stops on a stacked card.
Kicking off with the hottest superstar of the moment, Becky Lynch, fan theories started to spread across the twitter verse instantly.
Lynch’s performances not only in the ring, but on social media, have caught the attention of every wrestling fan and a loss to Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka here, did little to dampen the vocal support that echoed around Chase Field. It wouldn’t be the last time Becky’s name would be heard from a partizan crowd.
Shane McMahon and The Miz upset the odds by becoming the new Smack Down Tag Team Champions over The Bar. For a storyline that hints at a bigger payoff, the match was entertaining with the usual McMahon high spots. It’s just a shame workhorses like The Bar had to be the ones to drop the belts.
A hard hitting and frenetic bout between Rhonda Rousey and Sasha Banks for the title was, at times, hard to watch. Until now, Rousey has delivered in slower paced matches that showcase feats of strength and submissions from the former UFC champion.
The clunkiness and mistakes here, gave an edge of intrigue and reality that will surely help Rousey in her next feud.
A highly enjoyable women’s Rumble saw the aforementioned Lynch come out as an injury replacement to claim her spot in the Wrestlemania main event. The match itself was interwoven with comedy, future stars and set up a number of rivalries. A huge step up from the last year’s debut effort and the crowd reaction when Lynch was allowed to enter the ring was easily the highlight of the night.
A brutal battle between Finn Balor and Brock Lesnar lasted longer than the squash match that was expected and even let Finn get some much-needed rub in a championship match. Lesnar ultimately retained his title and it was the better of the two men’s single bouts. WWE champion Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles in a flat and far too methodical match that did little for either.
The night’s main event saw the ever-popular Seth Rollins outlast 29 other Superstars to join the legendary status of Royal Rumble winner. The smattering of NXT stars in the match added a special atmosphere.
Rushonrock favourite Aleister Black and NXT UK Champion Pete Dunne never looked out of place amongst the main roster and received huge ovations.
Signs of change and giving the fans what they want made this one of the most enjoyable PPVs in years. With plenty of action between now and an April date in Met Life Stadium for Wrestlemania, WWE simply have to keep the momentum rolling. We all know where we are going, let’s just hope we enjoy the ride…
Andy Spoors with John & Reese Burrows