The 2019 WWE Royal Rumble took place at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday, January 27.
Here’s a recap of what happened!
Kickoff Show Match 1: Bobby Roode & Chad Gable vs. Rezar & Scott Dawson Summary: Drake Maverick arranged for the unusual duo of Rezar and Scott Dawson to face Bobby Roode and Chad Gable in a non-title match. If Rezar and Dawson won, they would have earned future tag title opportunities for AOP and The Revival. However, a miscommunication between the makeshift alliance led to Rezar being knocked through the ropes by Gable and Roode. Gable then hit a top-rope moonsault on Dawson to get the 1-2-3.
Verdict: This was… bizarre. WWE is reportedly going to focus more on the tag divisions on Raw and SmackDown Live, but I struggle to see how Rezar and Dawson teaming up — and losing, again — helped anybody here. The match itself wasn’t particularly exciting, either.
Kickoff Show Match 2: Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura — United States Championship Summary: One of the biggest moments came when Shinsuke Nakamura locked in three submissions — an armbar, followed by a triangle and a guillotine — before Rusev finally escaped with a huge suplex. In the end, Lana threatened to hit Nakamura with her shoe after he removed the padding from a turnbuckle. Rusev then inadvertently knocked her off the ring apron, allowing Nakamura to take advantage with a Kinshasa to get the win.
Verdict: None of Rusev and Nakamura’s title matches have had a particularly interesting build-up but, when it comes to the in-ring action, all of them have delivered. The submission/suplex spot was very well done and broke the match up nicely. Now let’s hope the US title gets more television time before WrestleMania.
Kickoff Show Match 3: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Hideo Itami vs. Kalisto vs. Akira Tozawa — Cruiserweight Championship Summary: The main feature of this match was the acrobatic ability of Kalisto and Akira Tozawa, notably when Tozawa dived through the ropes into Kalisto, who connected with a hurricanrana on Buddy Murphy at the same time. It looked at one stage as if Kalisto would get the win after landing a Salida del Sol but Hideo Itami kicked out. In the end, with Kalisto and Tozawa recovering on the outside, Murphy hit Murphy’s Law on Itami to retain his title.
Verdict: Very good. The Cruiserweight title matches rarely disappoint and this was no different. All four guys produced strong performances, especially Kalisto, but Murphy still has a lot more to offer as champion, so it’s good to see his reign continue.
Match 4: Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch — SmackDown Women’s Championship Summary: Both women traded offence and knocked each other to the mat during a high-tempo start to the match. Asuka was the first to really gain control when she planted Lynch to the ringside floor with a modified suplex from the ring apron. Lynch responded moments later with a Super Bex-ploder from the middle rope but Asuka kicked out. In the end, after both women locked in Asuka Locks and Dis-arm-hers, Asuka made Lynch tap out with a Cattle Mutilation Asuka Lock.
Verdict: Wow. I thought Asuka would retain her title but I did not expect it to happen in this manner. The build-up to the finish, with Asuka using the Dis-arm-her and Lynch using the Asuka Lock, was perfect, and that was before “The Empress of Tomorrow” busted out the Cattle Mutilation submission. Superb stuff.
Match 5: The Bar (c) vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon — SmackDown Tag Team Championship Summary: Shane McMahon immediately drove Sheamus to the mat with a takedown in the first few seconds, forcing The Bar to regroup. He then attempted a top-rope elbow drop on Cesaro through the announce desk but, just like on SmackDown Live, Sheamus prevented him from doing so and The Bar began to take control. When Shane set both opponents up for a Coast-to-Coast, Cesaro caught him in midair and gave him the Cesaro Swing. In the end, Sheamus inadvertently hit Cesaro with a Brogue Kick and Shane followed up with a Shooting Star Press to win the titles for the “co-besties”.
Verdict: Shane’s offence is certainly unorthodox but, you know what, it’s actually very entertaining to watch. There, I said it! This story has been going on since way back at Crown Jewel, so it’s good to see it pay off with a tag title win. Now will they remain champions until WrestleMania?
Match 6: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks — Raw Women’s Championship Summary: Ronda Rousey mocked Sasha Banks in the early stages with back-to-back suplexes, just like Banks usually does to pay tribute to Eddie Guerrero. She then inadvertently punched the ring post at ringside, allowing Banks to gain control. “The Boss” damaged Rousey’s arm with an armbar and Bank Statement, while Rousey made her opponent tap out to an armbar but, as it was at ringside, the match continued. Banks tried every submission imaginable but Rousey refused to submit. The Raw Women’s champion then hit her Piper’s Pit signature move to retain her title. Following the match, Banks agreed to shake Rousey’s hand before throwing up the Four Horsewomen ‘4’ symbol.
Verdict: Some people hyped this up to be the biggest women’s match of all time. It wasn’t quite that but it definitely matched the expectations that I had for it. This was Banks’ best match in a long time, and the post-match segment nicely teased the Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen feud that will inevitably be on our screens at some point in 2019.
Match 7: Women’s Royal Rumble match Summary: The match featured surprise appearances from NXT stars Xia Li, Io Shirai, Kairi Sane, Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae and Kacy Catanzaro. In the end, Becky Lynch entered at #28, replacing the injured Lana, to win the match by last eliminating Charlotte Flair. “The Man” also eliminated Nia “The Facebreaker” Jax. You can find a full list of entry and elimination order here.
Verdict: This match couldn’t have been booked much better. Lynch got her revenge on Jax before overcoming a knee injury to eliminate Flair and book her place in the main event of WrestleMania 35. It’ll be interesting to see whether WWE decides to add Flair to the inevitable Lynch vs. Rousey match or whether she will end up facing Asuka in a rematch from WrestleMania 34.
Match 8: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles — WWE Championship Summary: AJ Styles sustained what appeared to be a broken nose in the early stages of the match. The challenger continued as normal but it was Daniel Bryan who dominated the majority of the match. When Styles rallied and went for the springboard 450, Bryan got his knees up and locked in the LeBell Lock. Styles responded with a Calf Crusher but Bryan was able to reach the ropes. In the end, Bryan inadvertently knocked the referee over. While the official was out, Styles hit a Styles Clash on Bryan but Erick Rowan entered the ring and chokeslammed him to the mat, allowing Bryan to pin his rival to get the win.
Verdict: If this exact match took place on SmackDown Live, fans would have been a lot more invested in it. However, as it was positioned right after a Rumble, it felt like the crowd had used up all of their energy. Either that or they had no belief that Styles would win, so they decided not to react to 80 percent of the match. As for Rowan… well, I’ll reserve judgement until I hear an explanation on SmackDown Live!
Match 9: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor — Universal Championship Summary: Finn Balor got off to a fast start against a distracted Brock Lesnar, hitting two missile dropkicks into the corner and multiple kicks from the ring apron. Lesnar retaliated with a suplex and the fight moved to ringside, where Balor wounded “The Beast” by shoving him gut-first into the announce desk on two occasions. Balor went on to land three somersaults to the outside, as well as a Coup de Grace, which Lesnar kicked out of before making his opponent tap out to the Kimura Lock. Following the match, Lesnar attacked Balor with more suplexes and an F5.
Verdict: Balor had a lot more sustained offence than AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan did in their matches against Lesnar, but I feel like he gains less from this because he never seriously looked like causing an upset. The match was still compelling throughout, but I don’t think Lesnar or Balor come away looking any better than before. Lesnar looked weak because he couldn’t hit his usual F5s and suplexes for much of the match due to injury, while Balor had offence but was unable to take advantage against a weakened “Beast”.
Match 10: Men’s Royal Rumble Summary: The match featured surprise appearances from Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, Aleister Black, Dolph Ziggler and Nia Jax. In the end, Seth Rollins last eliminated Braun Strowman to win the Rumble for the first time in his career. You can find a full list of entry and elimination order here.
Verdict: This will not go down as a classic Rumble. It had its fair share of surprises (Gargano, Dunne, Black etc) and the Elias/Jarrett and Jax/Randy Orton moments were entertaining. Overall, however, it felt like the match lacked star power and it was obvious from the moment Rollins was put through the announce desk by Bobby Lashley that he would return towards the end to get the win.
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