Royal Rumble Wrap
Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
WWE delivered an exhilarating and intriguing night of action at this year’s Royal Rumble event deep in the heart of Texas. With a huge, surprise return for a Hall of Fame Superstar, thrilling match action and the start of Wrestlemania storylines the WWE Universe was treated to a memorable event. Rushonrock King Of The Ring Andy Spoors watched it all unfold…
Fans have long expected WWE programming to step up the quality and consistency in Wrestlemania season and there can be few that ended the night disappointed. As we mentioned in our event preview, the Royal Rumble is everyone’s unofficial favourite PPV of the year. The premise is a simple one, a new Superstar entering the match every 90 seconds and the only way to win is to eliminate 29 other Superstars over the top rope. The winner goes on to receive a guaranteed title shot on the biggest stage of them all, Wrestlemania.
Previous years have been somewhat controversial with the WWE Universe all too eager to vent their frustration at winners they deem unworthy. That would not be the case this year as Britain’s own Drew McIntyre was the last man standing, putting in a star making shift and punching his ticket to Mania.
Before the night’s main event the rest of the card played their part wonderfully. What should be the end of the Roman Reigns vs King Corbin feud spilled out of the ring and into those in attendance. The Falls Count Anywhere stipulation meant a pin or submission could take place anywhere in Minute Maid Park and it was to be above the team benches that WWE’s ‘Big Dog’ would finally best Corbin: a typically WWE-style match in the sense that it was entertaining without ever feeling too dangerous. A sentence that really could refer to the aforementioned Corbin…
After a pretty personal rivalry between Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley and Lacey Evans, that included the latter’s young daughter, the match itself failed to push either competitor. WWE’s insistence on mentioning Evans’ military past or hard upbringing, boarded on the insufferable. If it needs to be said multiple times, within a match, suffice to say it isn’t working. Fans will always prefer the natural and organic development of a Superstar. Give them moments to remember, rather than constant reminders of the person you want them to see. There wasn’t anything particularly bad within the bout, just nothing memorable. Once again, the same can be said for the Champ herself. Bayley, in NXT, was a star, an underdog that people couldn’t help but root for. Here the confused and forced heel turn is doing nothing for her. Perhaps finding that one opponent that can bring out the best in her is just around the corner.
The women’s Royal Rumble match had suffered from little build. The fact only seven out of the 30 entrants to the match had been announced told a very telling story. Any fears that the match would be thrown together and used as an afterthought were soon dispelled as storylines were threaded throughout and big performances created stars. Hall Of Famer Beth Phoenix rolled back the years and powered through a nasty looking injury to the back of her head: her blonde hair, slowly turning a mess of crimson after catching her head on a ring support. A continuation of the bizarre Liv Morgan and Lana rivalry showed consistency, a set piece from a returning Naomi impressed, but NXT Superstar Bianca Belair stole the show, without winning the match. With an upcoming shot at Rhea Ripley’s NXT Championship, Belair introduced herself to the wider audience, eliminating a record number of women in impressive style. The eventual winner, Charlotte, backed up her promise of winning the Rumble by eliminating early favourite Shayna Baszler.
Becoming the hottest property in sports entertainment is all well and good but staying there can prove to be an altogether different challenge. It’s a challenge Bray Wyatt and his ‘Fiend’ persona have found themselves facing up to in recent weeks. Despite taking on Finn Balor and Seth Rollins, something hasn’t quite clicked in to place for the WWE Universe. The initial shock of the character hasn’t translated into anything more than ‘no selling’ even the most devastating of finishers and attacks to The Fiend. In the recent feud with Daniel Bryan, the nightmarish character has really come in to its own. The difference here is the inclusion of a master of his craft in Bryan. In this match Bryan played the underdog facing an unbeatable opponent with great gusto. With The Fiend unable to portray any kind of facial expression the majority of the storytelling came from Bryan here. The leader of the ‘Yes Movement’ might have fallen short here but with a supposed Mania match with Roman Reigns on the horizon the pressure is still on Wyatt to step up in the ring. Reigns will provide fan investment but the chemistry between the pair will need to be spot on for the WWE Universe to really buy in.
The match between Becky Lynch and Asuka delivered everything that was promised in the intense build up. Lynch has somewhat lost the momentum she had in abundance this time last year, but the flame had been reignited here. Desperate to right the last wrong and collect the outstanding debt from 2019’s Royal Rumble, Becky told the world she needed to finally beat her Japanese rival. The intensity on display throughout the bout, reminded the world that Lynch isn’t just about promos and nicknames. She can hang with the very best and deserves a lucrative pay day in her upcoming contract negotiations. A grudge match with Shayna Baszler must be next up as the most dominant NXT champion looks to make the move to Raw.
And so, on to the main event. Having declared himself as entrant number one, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar made quick work of the first few opponents to dare enter the ring. Such was the dominance shown, the squared circle quickly became the Beast’s lair, with valiant but foolhardy knights quickly dispatched. Even the combination of Smackdown Tag Team Champions, The New Day and legend Rey Mysterio couldn’t overcome a game Lesnar. The sight of the WWE Champ dancing to entrance theme songs, while waiting for his next victim was downright unsettling and hilarious in equal measure. The huge crowd inside the stadium made a huge noise for a showdown with the rising star and NXT North American Champion, Keith Lee. Lesnar’s facials told a story of their own, flicking between pissed off and cocky with a blink of an eye.
After verbally running down the rest of the WWE locker-room in the build-up, Lesnar and Heyman’s confidence turned sour, when Ricochet earned himself a level of retribution via a swift kick to the crown jewels. An impeccably well-timed Claymore kick finally eliminated Brock and the remaining half of entrants could begin to believe again. But with that one kick, McIntyre established his own dominance in a a perfectly executed moment by all involved. If that raised the noise level, the surprise return of HOF legend Edge blew the roof off the place. Having retired due to requiring spinal fusion surgery, it was evident just how much the return meant to the Rated R Superstar. A late flurry of activity from number 30 entrant, Seth Rollins and his goons, added further intrigue, but when the last two men remained, Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre were already dreaming of the main event in a few short months.
It was to be the big Scots moment to shine, as McIntyre tossed Reigns over the top rope to take one big step to becoming the first ever British WWE Champion. Social media exploded with scenes of celebrations akin to World Cup goals for England and the man himself quickly declared his intent to go toe to toe with Lesnar.
Royal Rumble 2020 will go down as one of the best in the history of the PPV. As should always be the case, seeds were sown, rivalries started and the journey begun. WWE has encountered some difficult and trying times and have been hammered for it. Credit where it is due, the quality of programming here should be lauded. Not everything was perfect but this was a show that did all the right things and at the right times. Superstars looked strong in defeat, highlight reel levels of crowd pops, the inclusion of NXT, we could go on. But with three PPV events before Mania, we have much more road to travel before Tampa, but it looks like a hell of a ride…
Rushonrock Predictions (Out of 8):