PHOENIX — When it comes to big WWE shows, especially those in stadiums, sometimes you have to take the bad with the good.
Sunday’s Royal Rumble at Chase Field was no exception.
The card itself, from top-to-bottom, was one of the better WWE pay-per-view outputs in a long while. However, by the time officials raised the hands of Seth Rollins at 9:52 p.m. local time, the large majority of the 48,193 announced in attendance were long past the point of exhaustion after many got into the building around 3 p.m. local time — a span of nearly seven hours inside the stadium.
There was no truer sign of a tired crowd than the fact that the famous countdown from 10 for each new entrant started petering out the longer the men’s Royal Rumble match went on.
Even with a dauntingly long show, the crowd still had its favorites.
To no one’s surprise, Becky Lynch was the most popular wrestler on the show. From the moment she opened the pay-per-view, Lynch was a megastar. Then, when she shockingly entered and won the women’s Royal Rumble match, the crowd went, as the legendary Pat Patterson would say, “banana,” exploding in jubilation that their favorite actually won.
After the emotional women’s Rumble match, Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles had the unenviable task of following. Unfortunately for them, while they had a good match, they were never quite able to capture the crowd’s full attention. That said, it was not a Brock Lesnar-Roman Reigns situation from WrestleMania 34 where the crowd did everything but watch the match, but the bathroom lines were long inside the stadium coming after an hour-plus Rumble match.
On a show with a lot of memorable moments, both women’s championship matches carried the emotions of the crowd.
While fans were steadily behind Lynch in her match with Asuka, the champion had her fans, as well. But the Raw women’s championship match between Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks is where the crowd came alive again — almost willing Banks to the upset win.
The same could be said about the Universal Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Finn Balor.
Balor was the clear crowd favorite from start to finish — in fact, there was no doubt the roof would’ve blown off Chase Field had Balor knocked off Lesnar. However, hopefully those who need to notice took note of Balor holding the support of the nearly 50,000 in attendance.
The fans also took to those who starred on NXT, in particular Kairi Sane, Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black. And almost shockingly, the crowd also responded to WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett — the only legend participant in either Royal Rumble — going along with his trademark phrases as he performed with Elias.
Overall, judging by the lack of non-WWE wrestling merchandise in the crowd, this was likely more of a local crowd than most WWE stadium shows. That also made for a better experience as there were no moments of the crowd being too worried about making themselves the show rather than the action inside the ring.
Post-match, Ronda Rousey addresses Sasha Banks .
Inside the stadium, there was a huge mismanagement of the souvenir cups, as they were sold out before the show barely got off the ground. According to a concession worker, only 3,000 cups were allocated by WWE — and by the amount of people rapidly seeking these it, it was a clear miss on WWE’s part.
The stadium’s floor, lower and second levels were mostly full — minus some outfield sections that were tarped off. The highest reaches of the upper bowl remained empty. WWE’s announced attendance figure of 48,193 is a bit dubious given stadium capacity (with nothing tarped off) is 48,686. The floor seats would not have compensated for the amount of areas tarped off.
However, no matter the true attendance, this was one of the better wrestling crowds this reporter has been apart of. They were enthusiastic for most of the show (it’s not their fault the show was so long) and played a big part in making the show a success.
Even though Phoenix is a non-traditional wrestling market, they proved themselves on a big stage here.
Royal Rumble weekend rolls in Phoenix with Raw and Smackdown coming up at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Monday and Tuesday respectively.