Courtesy of WWE Home Video, Matthew Roberts takes a look at the first WWE pay-per-view of the year, Royal Rumble 2019.
A thirty year dream for me was fulfilled in January 2019 as I made my way to Phoenix for the Royal Rumble, and all the associated frivolities. After taking in the sounds and sights of Axxess and NXT Takeover it was a genuine thrill to be in Chase Field for the event. Live, the action lived up to all my hopes but would I have the same feeling six weeks later watching at home?
Things certainly start off well; if the battle over the Smackdown Women’s Title between Asuka and Becky Lynch had little more build up than “both women want the title and are willing to put it all on the line to get/keep it” it was none the worse for that. Sometimes, that simplicity is all you need. It was no surprise that the action was excellent; what may have been a surprise is that there was no traditional WWE cheap cop-out finish. Whilst, with the run she was on, I would say there was no need to make Becky tap out neither will I castigate the WWE for giving a definitive finish on a “Big Four” PPV. Thumbs up all round for this one.
Next up was a match that had no chance of following that; but to be honest a Shane McMahon match coming after Mantaur Vs Beaver Cleavage would have little interest for me. Live, in the arena, I went for a $14 can of Dos Equis and an Italian sausage. Watching it back showed me that I made the right choice. It’s not that the match was awful, and it would struggle to be with three good talents of the likes of Sheamus, Cesaro and the Miz in there, it’s just that once again it was all about the non-wrestler Shane McMahon. Fans seem to like him, so what do I know, but I just don’t get it. The non-wrestler did his usual sloppy work followed by a high-risk move and got the win. The sooner Shane stops wrestling, the better for me.
I was back in my seat by the time we got to the Raw Women’s Title match between Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks. The fact that they are rattling through the matches that Rousey can have that mean anything certainly lends credence to the rumours of her, at the least, taking time off after Mania. Although this couldn’t quite live up to the earlier women’s match it was another very good effort and for all the sniping at Ronda from some sections of the
Then it was time for the Women’s Rumble. Some have bemoaned it lacked the nostalgic comebacks that dominated last year’s first ever showcase but going in I was a firm believer that they couldn’t go to that well again. The addition of a myriad of NXT ladies kept things fresh and there nearly always seemed to be something going on to keep the interest up (even if on occasions the timing seemed to be off as spectacular and interesting moments in the ring kept happening as the cameras turned to welcome the newest entrant). Lacey Evans largely impressed in the early goings whilst Natalya got the “iron woman” spot this year lasting nearly an hour. Liv Morgan came and went in rapid order whilst the likes of The Iiconics showed personality and Mandy Rose & Naomi continued their feud of sorts. Kacy Catanzaro filled the Kofi Kingston spot and Kairi Sane and Charlotte had an entertaining battle that made you long for a singles match between the pair.
Even the Zelina Vega and Hornswoggle spot raised a laugh and the return to in-ring action for Alexa Bliss provided one of the pops of the night. To the surprise of few (god damn you dirt sheets and all who seek out spoilers) Becky Lynch took the injured Lana’s spot in the Rumble (and if someone can tell me how Finlay suddenly got the authority to sanction her entry please write in to the usual address). it came down to her, Bayley, Nia Jax and Charlotte. Despite Jax attacking Becky post-elimination, Lynch overcame the odds to last eliminate Flair and take a hugely popular win. With a fun rumble that kept the attention for the majority of it’s running time AND provided the “correct” winner, this was top notch in my book.
In fact the ending was so spot on that two of the best wrestlers in the world, AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan struggled to follow it. Some will say that the slow start to the match was by design, to build the crowd back up. If that’s the case they forgot to speed it up when it mattered. They resorted to some pretty stiff attempts to maim each other to try and get crowd interest back and they only partially achieved that. The ending, featuring the return of Rowan, didn’t help matter either. This was far from a “bad” match, but considering who was in there and the stage they were on (and the fact that they’d had a scorcher the month previously at TLC) it has to rank as a big disappointment.
Next up was the Universal Championship match as Brock Lesnar defended against Finn Balor. Few, if anyone, gave Balor a chance and this was a match that lasted less than ten minutes and ended up with Balor tapping out suggests that it played out that way. But the bare bones don’t even begin to tell half the story. Balor came out all guns blazing only for Brock to turn the tables until, literally the tables were turned on him when a crash into one hurt him, playing into his well-known Diverticulitis issues. This meant that he couldn’t dominate like one usually expects him to do and I swear that live in the arena when Balor hit his Coup
Finally, it was time for the Men’s Royal Rumble. Whilst not perhaps living up to the best examples of the match, either by the match itself or the surprises therein, it was still an entertaining effort. Jeff Jarrett and Elias had a fun exchange in the opening, whilst Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne and Aleister Black provided the NXT representation. For all of the complaints about the WWE product there is no denying there is a lot of talent on the roster and it was spread out nicely throughout the match with the “lesser names” being brought out at the right times. Some names beyond the usual suspects also shone, with perhaps Andrade Almas being the match’s MVP, joining Dolph Ziggler, Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins in the final four. The result was never really in much doubt as it was clear Rollins was going to win from that line-up, and win he did. Which again, was at least the result that most seemed to want. Again, it won’t go down as a “classic” Rumble but it was a good one.
With the sheer amount of action on show, and most of it being highly entertaining, the Royal Rumble 2019 was a definite thumbs up. Furthermore whilst the Bobby Roode & Chad Gable Vs Rezar and Scott Dawson match on the kick-off was a whole lot of nothing, both the Shinsuke Nakamura Vs Rusev and the four-way battle for Buddy Murphy’s Cruiserweight Title with Kalisto, Akira Tozawa and Hideo Itami are well worth your time too. All in all, a great night of WWE action.
Format reviewed: BluRay
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Royal Rumble 2019 which is out on DVD and BluRay 18 March 2019. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking https://www.wwedvd.co.uk/royal-rumble-2019-online-exclusive-order-p-12665.html