How much of a good thing is too much? WWE rarely worries about excess, but it tested the limits of what it could expect from fans Sunday night at Chase Field with a Royal Rumble event that teetered right on the edge of running five hours — and that’s not even counting the pre-show, which featured several matches.
Running as long a show as it wants is a luxury that’s only been possible in the WWE Network era, but the 2019 was pushing it with a show that almost bumped up against midnight on the east coast when it was all said and done. Fortunately, it was a solid to excellent card from start to finish, one that saw the Royal Rumble match end in straightforward but satisfying fashion with two of the bigger stars on Raw, Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman, vying for the right to challenge for a title of their choice at WrestleMania.
This year’s Rumble almost began with a duet between Elias and the lone entrant tossed into the mix purely for nostalgia, Jeff Jarrett. They ended up throwing down instead of belting out any tunes, setting the stage for what turned out to be an enjoyably non-overbooked battle royal.
That didn’t mean there was a lack of highlights. Big E made the Singh Brothers eat pancakes stored … well, somewhere in his singlet. Curt Hawkins broke a long string of futility by actually eliminating someone. Kofi Kingston once again did Kofi Kingston things. And Nia Jax entered the men’s Rumble, making her second appearance of the night.
But there were no shock entrants from decades past save Jarrett, and only NXT stars Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black qualified as even mild surprises once things going. John Cena really did sit this one out, and despite some late rumors to the contrary, so did the still recuperating Roman Reigns.
If there’s a subtle shift in store to make SmackDown the ‘A’ show this year due to the move to Fox, it definitely didn’t take place Sunday in Phoenix, with Raw generally having the better of the Rumble match all the way to the end. The final four consisted of three superstars from Monday nights, Rollins, Strowman and Dolph Ziggler, with only Andrade representing the blue brand.
Seth Rollins, winner of the men’s Rumble.
Rollins and Strowman, thought by many to be the two favorites, ended up squaring off for the win. With some drama but no run-ins or wild plot twists, Rollins prevailed, meaning he could choose to face either Brock Lesnar or Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania after both champions successfully defended their titles earlier in the night.
The second ever Women’s Rumble match, which closed the show in 2018, moved back to the middle of the card this year, and without the time pressure of the main event, took even longer to play out. The big swerve was a popular one, as Lana, selling an injury suffered during Rusev’s bout, was unable to enter 28th after being announced.
Instead, Becky Lynch took her place and found herself in arguably her most dramatic showdown ever with longtime rival Charlotte Flair. In the end, Flair was unable to beat “The Man,” and Lynch will either look for redemption against Asuka, who defeated her in a hard-hitting affair on Sunday, or challenge Ronda Rousey, who was pushed harder than ever before while holding on to pin Sasha Banks.
So while WWE might not want to tempt fate by having a Royal Rumble card run longer than the 2019 edition, it turned out okay this time. The not quite a sellout but still very impressive crowd of 41,000-plus who showed up at Chase Field meant the experiment with the company’s second-most famous PPV was definitely a successful one, and you can almost guarantee the Rumble will be held in a baseball or football stadium again in 2020.
Just maybe with 20 minutes or so less stuff next year, or here’s hoping, anyway.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Elimination Chamber on February 17.
ROYAL RUMBLE PRE-SHOW
In case you’re new here, this is how the rest of the report works: Dale’s bits are in italics, while Nick’s are in plain type. Including this one. Tradition rules.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. Scott Dawson and Rezar w/Drake Maverick – Non-Title Match
If Rezar and Dawson win, both of their respective tag teams will earn a title shot. The makeshift tag team is on the same page, as Dawson catapults Gable into a chokeslam from Rezar. Gable gets cut off from his corner, but when he finally gets the tag, Roode cleans house. A spinebuster plants Dawson and Rezar is taken down with a blockbuster. Dawson looks for a dropkick, but Roode ducks and Rezar bears the brunt. Gable tags in as Roode sets Dawson up. Gable drops the leg and gets the pin.
Winners: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
Shinsuke Nakamura (challenger) vs. Rusev w/Lana (champion) – United States Championship Match
Title match on the pre-show? Alrighty then. The announcers put over the need for Rusev not to fall victim to Nakamura’s mind games. Also, don’t get hit in the crotch. Always good advice. He looks pretty good early on, getting in almost all the offense over the first few minutes. Of course, Shinsuke isn’t just going to keep getting smacked around the whole match, but he eats a double ax handle and the Machka Kick. As Rusev looks to press his advantage, he blunders into an armbar, then a triangle choke. Rusev lifts Nakamura off the mat only to have his challenger transition it into a guillotine, though he fights through into a suplex for a near-fall. Nakamura also earns a two count, then tries to expose a turnbuckle. Lana calls him out on it, but Rusev accidentally knocks her off the apron in his zest to ensure she’s okay. Shinsuke nails the champ with a knee to the back of the head and covers to claim the title.
Winner … and new United States Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura
Kalisto (challenger) vs. Akira Tozawa (challenger) vs. Hideo Itami (challenger) vs. Buddy Murphy (champion) – Fatal Four-way Cruiserweight Championship Match
Itami immediately rolls out of the ring, allowing the other three superstars to fight it out. Buddy Murphy sets up Kalisto for a powerbomb off the apron, but Tozawa launches himself over the ropes, taking out Murphy and Kalisto. Itami picks up the scraps in the ring, but he can’t get the pin. Kalisto gets launched into Kalisto as Tozawa unleashes strikes on Murphy. Tozawa nails Itami with a suicide dive. Murphy follows, taking out all three of his opponents. Kalito spikes Murphy into the mat with a hurricanrana, but the champ kicks out. Kalisto gets caught on the top turnbuckle and powerbombed by Murphy. Tozawa breaks the pin. Kalisto hits the Salida del Sol on Itomi, but he kicks out. A jumping knee from Murphy takes out Tozawa. Itami scores with a back fist to Murphy, who responds with a knee strike. The champ hits Murphy’s Law and covers Itami to get the win.
Winner … and still Cruiserweight Champion: Buddy Murphy
ROYAL RUMBLE MAIN CARD
Becky Lynch (challenger) vs. Asuka (champion) – Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
A dropkick sends Lynch into the ropes. Becky jaws at the champ and ducks a back fist. Lynch begs Asuka to fight her. The champ unloads kicks to the hamstring of Lynch. A hip attack sends Lynch flying off the apron. Lynch avoids a kick from the apron and sends Asuka to the floor with one of her own. Asuka is sent into the security barrier with an exploder suplex. Becky dodges a hip attack, but the champ applies the Asuka lock in the ropes. Becky responds with a Dis-Arm-Her in the turnbuckles. Lynch comes off the middle turnbuckle and right into a kick. Asuka crashes and burns on a dropkick. Lynch slams her into the mat but can’t get the pin. Asuka plays possum and traps Becky in the Asuka lock. Lynch is able to get to the ropes. Asuka drops Lynch to the floor with a neckbreaker from the apron. Lynch catches Asuka on the top turnbuckle and drop her with a super Bex-sploder. The champ kicks out. Lynch misses a leg drop and the champ goes for the Asuka Lock. Lynch breaks free and applies the Asuka lock. The champ breaks free, but Lynch gets the Dis-Arm-Her locked in. Asuka breaks free and applies the Asuka Lock. The champ bridges and Becky taps out.
Cool ending to that one as the improvised submission that Asuka used to end it really looked painful. And let’s face it: That’s not always the case with pro wrestling submission holds.
Winner … and still Smackdown Women’s Champion: Asuka
Match Rating: 8/10
Shane McMahon and The Miz head to the ring.
The Miz and Shane McMahon (challengers) vs. The Bar (champions) – Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match
Shane-o-Mac fires out of the corner at the opening bell, surprising Cesaro and making the champs regroup. Miz falls victim to outstanding teamwork by The Bar, but McMahon flies across the ring to ensure he doesn’t stay in peril. Sheamus and Cesaro start clearing off one of the announce tables only to see Shane turn the tables on them. Big flying elbow from the top turnbuckle? No, though he does jump to the floor to land on Sheamus. Miz ends up in the wrong corner for quite some time, absorbing plenty of punishment in the process. When Shane finally gets the hot tag, he’s as light on his feet as ever, using a DDT to get a near-fall. With both members of the bar slumped in the same corner, McMahon tries to go Coast to Coast, but the Swiss Cyborg pops up first and sends him for a Cesaro Swing. Noted submission specialist McMahon gets a triangle applied, and Cesaro looks to be in trouble. Sheamus puts a violent end to that hold and drops Miz on the outside. A two-man version of White Noise finds the mark, but McMahon kicks out at two. A Brogue Kick looks like it’s next, but Miz shoves Cesaro into it and follows with a Skull Crushing Finale, taking him out of the equation. McMahon goes up top, makes the sign of the cross, and launches into a Shooting Star Press to give us new tag team champions.
Winners … and new Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Miz and Shane McMahon
Match Rating: 7.5/10
The official attendance is 48,193, presumably smashing the old record for this event. Watch for it to creep up above 50,000 in like a decade.
Charly Caruso asks Sasha Banks about the chatter that she’s destined to fail because she can’t keep her emotions in check. Needless to say, she doesn’t agree with that assessment at all, saying she’ll make Ronda Rousey tap out. We’ll see soon since that’s up next.
Sasha Banks (challenger) vs. Ronda Rousey (champion) – Raw Women’s Championship Match
Post-match, Ronda Rousey is not happy about having to beat Sasha Banks.
The women waste no time trading verbal shots and mocking each other’s trademark mannerisms. Rousey yells something about showing people she can wrestle, snapping off two suplexes before an exchange of counters. Rousey kicks Banks out to the floor, but her offense is halted when she smashes her forearm into the post, and The Boss flies out with a suicide dive as well. After kicking out of a pinfall attempt, Banks gets one of her own with a running knee as she tries weakening one of Rousey’s arms. That pays off as Banks administers an armbar and bends the champ’s fingers back as well. She transitions to the Bank Statement but is forced to release the hold and gets hit by Piper’s Pit. Up to the top turnbuckle they go, and Banks gets another two count with a superplex. Rousey fights right back with a slam for two, then yanks The Boss around by an arm until the challenger can sling her out to the floor to catch a breather. Banks goes for a second suicide dive but is caught and placed in an armbar, getting a tap out that doesn’t count since it’s on the floor. They trade shots in the ring until Rousey hits a move in the corner that is quickly answered. Banks counters a spinning slam by landing on Rousey, getting a two count and then switching to the Bank Statement. After all that agony, Rousey is able to rise and hit Piper’s Pit, surprisingly holding onto her gold by pinfall. Will there be a post-match handshake or hug or … Yep, it’s all respect.
Winner … and still Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey
Match Rating: 6.5/10
The Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Royal Rumble Stats
|No. entered||No. eliminated|
|1 Lacey Evans||1 Liv Morgan|
|2 Natalya||2 Mickie James|
|3 Mandy Rose||3 Nikki Cross|
|4 Liv Morgan||4 Billie Kay|
|5 Mickie James||5 Peyton Royce|
|6 Ember Moon||6 Xia Li|
|7 Billie Kay||7 Tamina|
|8 Nikki Cross||8 Sarah Logan|
|9 Peyton Royce||9 Mandy Rose|
|10 Tamina||10 Naomi|
|11 Xia Li||11 Lacey Evans|
|12 Sarah Logan||12 Maria|
|13 Charlotte Flair||13 Alicia Fox|
|14 Kairi Sane||14 Candice LeRae|
|15 Maria||15 Kairi Sane|
|16 Naomi||16 Kacy Catanzaro|
|17 Candice LeRae||17 Dana Brooke|
|18 Alicia Fox||18 Zelina Vega|
|19 Kacy Catanzaro||19 Sonya Deville|
|20 Zelina Vega||20 Ruby Riott|
|21 Ruby Riott||21 Rhea Ripley|
|22 Dana Brooke||22 Io Shirai|
|23 Io Shirai||23 Natalya|
|24 Rhea Ripley||24 Ember Moon|
|25 Sonya Deville||25 Alexa Bliss|
|26 Alexa Bliss||26 Carmella|
|27 Bayley||27 Bayley|
|28 Becky Lynch*||28 Nia Jax|
|29 Nia Jax||29 Charlotte Flair|
Natalya lasted a long time in the women’s Rumble.
Winner of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match: Becky Lynch
Time of the Women’s Rumble: 1 hour, 11 minutes and 22 seconds
Most eliminations: Charlotte Flair with 5
Shortest time in ring: Liv Morgan at 8 seconds
Longest time in ring: Natalya at 56 minutes and 7 seconds
The John Morrison Memorial Award for longest time in the ring without a single elimination goes to Ember Moon, who spent 52 minutes and 34 seconds without tossing anyone over the rope. The award will now be known as the Ember Moon Award when it comes to the Women’s Royal Rumble
- Lacey Evans, entering first, joins a short list of wrestlers to make their in-ing debuts in the Rumble match.
- Nattie gets both Lacey and Mandy in the Sharpshooter at once.
- Liv Morgan goes right out at the hands of Nattie, lasting just eight seconds.
- Billie Kay complains and won’t get into the ring until her BFF Peyton arrives.
- Xia Li, the first Chinese superstar, enters from the NXT roster.
- Ember Moon uses the toes of her boots to hang onto the bottom rope and remain in the match after being thrown over the top rope.
- Naomi does a handstand, then walks the barrier to stay alive. She leaps to the stairs, then gets hauled down by the already eliminated Mandy Rose. They have to be pulled apart by refs.
- Lacey Evans last nearly half an hour, though WWE gives her credit for just over 30 minutes. Not too shabby either way.
- Maria and Foxy make friends until Maria stomps on Alicia’s captain’s hat. Then Foxy throws a tantrum. Weird but not altogether unentertaining.
- Accompanied by her entire Squad, Ruby Riott sets about hauling Charlotte Flair out under the ropes to the floor to beat up, then Fox, and later Candice LeRae and Dana Brooke.
- Zelina Vega hides under the ring for a while, only popping her head out from time to time to see if anyone is on to her or to laugh at other competitors getting thrown out. Unfortunately for her, in a development sniffed out ahead of time by Dale, Hornswoggle is under the ring as well (maybe living there all this time since the last time we saw him there at a Rumble?) and scares her into the ring, where she is quickly eliminated. Hornswoggle then chases her up the ramp to the back.
- Catanzaro, who you might know from American Ninja Warrior, is thrown out by Brooke but does a handstand to get to the ringpost and climbs back in. She then is thrown out for good by Rhea Ripley.
- Finlay is the man put on the spot when Lynch asks to take Lana’s place. He debates for a minute or two before relenting.
AJ Styles (challenger) vs. Daniel Bryan (champion) – WWE Championship Match
Erick Rowan helps out Daniel Bryan by attacking AJ Styles.
Styles stomps Bryan into the corner, who takes refuge in the ropes. The two trade chops and punches. Styles misses Bryan in the corner and crashes into the ringpost. Bryan runs Styles into the post on the outside. Styles looks for the Styles Clash, but Bryan counters. The two trade near-falls. AJ hits a dragon screw. Styles get dropped into the middle turnbuckle. AJ blocks a headscissors on the top rope, but Bryan escapes the Styles Clash, sending AJ crashing to the floor. AJ avoids getting whipped into the security barrier. He moonsaults and drops the champ with a reverse DDT on the floor. Styles goes for the springboard 450, but Bryan gets the knees up. The champ locks in the Lebell Lock. Styles escapes and locks in the Calf Crusher. The champ is able to get to the ropes to break the hold. Bryan goes up top with Styles, but both men land on their feet. AJ scores with a brainbuster and the champ kicks out. Styles launches himself off the ropes for the Phenomenal Forearm and gets kicked in the face. Erik Rowan walks to ringside. Bryan goes for an enziguri, but Styles ducks and hits the ref. Styles drops Bryan with the Styles Clash, but with the ref down, Rowan enters the ring and slams Styles. Bryan makes the cover and the ref counts to three.
I’m here for Rowan as an eco-goon for Bryan, a little role reversal from Bryan’s short stint as part of the Wyatt Family.
Winner … and still WWE Champion: Daniel Bryan
Match Rating: 6/10
After the match, Rowan picks up Styles and Bryan nails him with a running knee.
Finn Balor (challenger) vs. Brock Lesnar (champion) – WWE Universal Title Match
David shows no fear of Goliath, with Balor launching a dropkick right after the bell and a flurry of offense right after that. Alas, a big belly to belly brings that onslaught to a quick halt, and Lesnar tosses Balor around on the outside. The Beast clears off the English announce table, but Balor knocks him into the corner of the table twice in a row before he can land a knee to get a moment to recover. Lesnar is selling the damage to his midsection even as he throws Balor around with more suplexes. A Sling Blade is answered by a big clothesline, and this is the most we’ve seen Brock sell for … years, maybe. Balor flies once, then twice to the floor, getting an animated reaction from Michael Cole — one that ramps up to a new level on his third dive. The Coup de Grace is on target, but Lesnar kicks out and applies the kimura. Balor fights for a moment but then taps out, but despite the loss, he looks pretty good in defeat. He won’t feel good, though, because after the bell, an enraged Lesnar unleashes not one but three German suplexes.
Winner … and still WWE Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar
Match Rating: 7/10
Jeff Jarrett and Elias start off the men’s Rumble.
The Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Royal Rumble Stats
|No. entered||No. eliminated|
|1 Elias||1 Jeff Jarrett|
|2 Jeff Jarrett||2 Kurt Angle|
|3 Shinsuke Nakamura||3 Jinder Mahal|
|4 Kurt Angle||4 Big E|
|5 Big E||5 Elias|
|6 Johnny Gargano||6 Titus O’Neil|
|7 Jinder Mahal||7 Curt Hawkins|
|8 Samoa Joe||8 Shinsuke Nakamura|
|9 Curt Hawkins||9 Johnny Gargano|
|10 Seth Rollins||10 No Way Jose|
|11 Titus O’Neil||11 Kofi Kingston|
|12 Kofi Kingston||12 Xavier Woods|
|13 Mustafa Ali||13 Dean Ambrose|
|14 Dean Ambrose||14 Samoa Joe|
|15 No Way Jose||15 Apollo Crews|
|16 Drew McIntyre||16 Aleister Black|
|17 Xavier Woods||17 Pete Dunne|
|18 Pete Dunne||18 Bobby Lashley|
|19 Andrade||19 Baron Corbin|
|20 Apollo Crews||20 Shelton Benjamin|
|21 Aleister Black||21 Jeff Hardy|
|22 Shelton Benjamin||22 Drew McIntyre|
|23 Baron Corbin||23 Mustafa Ali|
|24 Jeff Hardy||24 Nia Jax|
|25 Rey Mysterio||25 Rey Mysterio|
|26 Bobby Lashley||26 Randy Orton|
|27 Braun Strowman||27 Andrade|
|28 Dolph Ziggler||28 Dolph Ziggler|
|29 Randy Orton||29 Braun Strowman|
|30 Nia Jax*|
Winner of the Royal Rumble Match: Seth Rollins
Time of the Rumble: 57 minutes and 22 seconds
Most eliminations: Braun Strowman with 5
Shortest time in ring: Several superstars only last for seconds in this year’s Rumble. No one could top No Way Jose, though, who only lasted two seconds
Longest time in ring: Seth Rollins. He entered at 10 and won the whole thing. He lasted 43 minutes even.
Randy Orton is sneaky behind Nia Jax .
The John Morrison Memorial Award for longest time in the ring without a single elimination goes to both Pete Dunne and Shelton Benjamin. Both men were in for over 9 minutes without an elimination.
- Looking a little heavier than last time we saw him in a WWE ring, Jeff Jarrett enters at No. 2 and is asked to join in a duet by Elias. But Elias smashes him with a right hand, and away we go.
- The Singh Brothers get beaten up, and one is forced to eat singlet pancakes by Big E. Yum!
- Curt Hawkins goes to the floor on purpose, multiple times, then goes under the ring. Guess he didn’t watch the Women’s Rumble?
- Titus O’Neil sprints down the ramp but slows up at ringside, a reference to his embarrassing slip and fall at Greatest Royal Rumble last year. He goes under the ring and chases Hawkins into action, but Curt turns the tables and eliminates him.
- Kofi Kingston has one foot out (and looks like he almost accidentally touches both), but he puts his feet on the apron and rolls sideways to the stairs to re-enter.
- No Way Jose is out in 2 seconds. He and his Conga line are on the ramp when McIntyre enters. Yes, Drew beats some of them up.
- Kofi is thrown out again with one foot on the floor, but this time he gets a piggyback ride from Xavier Woods, who is conveniently just arriving to get into the match. That spoilsport McIntyre eliminates them both in short order.
- Bobby Lashley is eliminated quickly by Seth Rollins, then goes crazy on the Kingslayer on the floor, slamming him through the English announce table. That leaves Rollins out of harm’s way for quite a while. In other words, you never really want to be put through a table, but if you do, you want it to be during the Rumble match after you’ve gone under the ropes.
- In one of the cooler spots of the night, Braun Strowman picks up Andrade and Mustafa Ali, then Rey Mysterio comes off the top to knock everyone over.
- R-Truth is destroyed on the stage by Nia Jax, who enters in his place. Various male wrestlers look like they have crises of conscience before attacking her, but it’s Dolph Ziggler who finally ends the tension with a superkick to the face. A reluctant Rey hits her with a 619, and Randy Orton also ends up hitting her with an RKO. Rough way to make a statement.
Total Event Time: 4 hours and 52 minutes
Event Rating: 8/10