The last 10 minutes of the women's Rumble and AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan (sans the lifeless crowd) were good enough, so it's hard to really pick nits with this show. That is, of course, unless none of the 17 people you had tabbed as guest Rumble match entrants failed to show up. So sorry that you didn't get Velveteen Dream, Brian Kendrick, or Repo Man. Life can be cruel.
And for as much fun as I had watching the Royal Rumble, it was not solely an entertainment experience - it was also an educational one. As with all things in life, you learn something new with each experience, and the 2019 Royal Rumble at Chase Field would be no exception.
10. Chase Field Looks Like Safeco Field
Man, was it nice to get out of the doldrums of the samey-looking arenas or what? I wasn't so sure that having such a large building for the Rumble would really add much to the show's aesthetic, but once I lay eyes on the set-up during the Kickoff show, I just about swooned. I wasn't the only one who noticed a similarity to another venue occupied by another western baseball team.
The bent aisle and some of the natural light (during the early portions) reminded me of WrestleMania 19, at Seattle's Safeco Field (known today as T-Mobile Park). The lack of a garish entrance way added a different dimension to the show as well. May I be the first to suggest more baseball parks than football stadiums for future events requiring a large venue? Would be neat to see a match spill into the ivy at Chicago's Wrigley Field.
9. Gesturing With Your Shoe Is A Good Way To Get Your Point Across
It was a bit of a minor upset to see Rusev drop the United States title so quickly, even if it was to last year's Royal Rumble winner (and noted Elvis jumpsuit enthusiast) Shinsuke Nakamura. The match was a fine little bit of Kickoff show business, and the ending did facilitate the big plot twist in the Women's Rumble, so that was well done.
A weird little bit at the end (to set up Lana's impending ankle injury, so it made sense) as Lana climbed to the apron while Nakamura removed the turnbuckle pad, and took her heels off, I suppose for comfort purposes, and then angrily pointing at Nakamura with one shoe while alerting the ref. Don't know why, but the combination of that, and her yelling "HE'S CHEATING!", made me laugh a bit.
8. Vic Joseph Is A Robot
I like Vic Joseph, the lead voice of 205 Live. He's earnest, smart, and has a voice that doesn't grate your nerves, so that's three good things right there. But man, there was one point in the four-way Cruiserweight title pile-up that made me do the Ice Cube WTF face.
There was a super-elaborate spot that involved a tope to the outside, into a man being held in an elevated powerbomb position, which led to a Hurricanrana into the rail, all in one fluid motion. *Most* people would react the same way cavemen reacted when they discovered fire. Hell, Mauro Ranallo would've spontaneously combusted into a pile of just his glasses and some ash. But Joseph, his response was to lifelessly ask an empty question, in the same voice you'd ask: "What's the soup of the day?" And this is why people miss Jim Ross' fiery bellows whenever something absolutely bonkers happened.
7. Becky Lynch Tapping Out Was A Good Thing
Almost every major MMA star, from Brock Lesnar to Conor McGregor to Amanda Nunes (in her first fight), to countless others in between, has done the tappity-tap with their hand when a hold was hopelessly sunk in. Submissions used to be rarer in pro wrestling due to the perception that submitting shows weaknesses. The proliferation of so many stars have a primary or secondary submission finisher changed that.
Some were a little unsure about having Lynch tap out to a Cattle Mutilation-modified version of the Asuka Lock, but I disagree. If anything, it renews Asuka as the worldbeater that she probably should have always been before WWE lost the path this past spring and summer. Lynch winning the Rumble later keeps her entrenched as "The Man", and if Asuka can be elevated to that level with an impressive submission win, all the better.
6. Shane McMahon Wouldn't Have Lost At WrestleMania 28
The nicest thing I can offer about this match is that, at 49 years old, Shane McMahon can hit a pretty nifty Shooting Star Press. Aside from that, the match was a bit of an eye-roller, as The Miz took the piss from Cesaro and Sheamus before Midlife Crisis Boy Wonder stormed the ring and went ham on the most dominant team of the last two years or so.
When Shane charged Sheamus in the corner and beat him silly right as the bell rang, I realized then that he wouldn't have lost the World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania 28, had he been the one facing Sheamus. No distraction kiss, no blind turn into the Brogue Kick, no 18-second disaster. Well, maybe *he* would have won in 18 seconds. He's quite heroic, you see.
5. Sasha Banks Was Criminally Underused For A Long Time
People like to bring up that Sasha Banks vs. Bayley match from NXT Brooklyn, and for good reason - it was a wonderful piece of business, something that both women have found it onerous (not their fault) to duplicate on the main roster. Kinda hard to hit that level when you're in friendship therapy and facing the Riott Squad in assorted tags for 29 consecutive weeks.
Between uninspired use and the accumulating criticism of Banks' work (the riskiness, especially), we've kinda taken a nap on what she can do. Her match with Ronda Rousey was utterly fantastic, with the sort of next-level counter-wrestling and emotional selling that should be a title match of that caliber. I've been impressed with Rousey in every high-profile WWE match she's had, and after this match, I was reminded that Banks belongs on that level, as well. With a captivating angle that she can sink her teeth into, she gives you some incredible stuff.
4. Even Finlay's Not Messing With The Man
David "Fit" Finlay has been lauded for not only his distinguished in-ring career, but for his time spent helping polish the work of WWE's female grapplers, as well as his innate wrestling smarts on the whole (he's been a WWE producer and trainer for most of this millennium). He's also been regarded as one of wrestling's ultimate tough guys - "The Belfast Bruiser" wasn't some manufactured label, you know.
But when Becky Lynch stormed out to try and replace an injured Lana in the Women's Rumble match, you didn't see Finlay putting up much of a fuss, did you? Turns out that Lynch can be very persuasive, even to a time-tested mauler like Finlay. Finlay has Twitter; he's seen what she's done to others - Becky Lynch collects people's egos the way some people collect bottle caps.
3. Erick Rowan Must Make Vegan-Friendly Wine
What possible connection could Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan have that would make Rowan interfere in the WWE Championship match? By default, Rowan was the liveliest person in the arena during the Bryan/AJ Styles match (Vic Joseph was having his circuitry reconfigured), and made an impact by claw-slamming Styles into oblivion. Yes, Erick Rowan, the man who was once part of the backwoods doomsday cult that tried to brainwash Bryan. Why would Bryan re-associate with him?
Back during Rowan's brief face turn in 2014, it was revealed that he was a producer of wine, which is called a vintner (or, as Bryan Alvarez would say, "THE VINTNER"). Not all wines are vegan-friendly, due to a process called "fining", which calls for the addition of animal proteins and/or egg whites to the concoction. One has to assume Rowan makes some damn good vegan-friendly wine, otherwise Bryan would want nothing to do with him.
2. The State Of Arizona Forbids Body Paint By Law
I understand that Finn Balor is a very confident man - confident in his wits and his abilities alike. At the same time, Balor has also resorted to donning the "Demon" look for his matches, an invincibility shield of sorts that makes him virtually impossible to beat. He's used it to defeat various interesting wrestlers (and Baron Corbin), so why not bust out the alter ego when facing the unbeatable Brock Lesnar, to win back the belt you never actually lost?
Must be one of those "Wacky Laws" you sometimes read about, like being unable to legally wear body paint in the state of Arizona. That's a shame - had the match taken place in Idaho or something, Lesnar would've been utterly screwed.
1. Randy Orton Vs. Nia Jax Is More Interesting Than AJ Styles Vs. Daniel Bryan
I must say, it felt like we were getting away with something unsavory when Nia Jax stormed the men's Rumble in R-Truth's spot, and began locking eyes with the presiding males. When Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton began mixing it up with her (with some facially-expressed apprehension), the fans absolutely lost their minds. It was some of the most compelling WWE TV in forever, because you literally had no idea what was going to happen next.
When Orton and Nia squared off, the fans made more noise for that than they did for the entire duration of Bryan vs. Styles. Yes, that match was in a bit of an unfortunate death slot, but guess what? Orton vs. Nia came about six hours deep into a draining (but fun) show, and the fans acted like Linda McMahon stood up out of the chair at WrestleMania 17. I don't know how much legs intergender wrestling will have in WWE going forward, but that was a nice piece of business, with lots of positive reaction to boot.