There’s something about the countdown. The anticipation of who will be coming through the curtain next. Yes it is almost always someone from the current roster, but the fact that you don't know who it is makes for an intriguing moment, and gives the Royal Rumble match a unique feel.
I’ve made no bones about the Rumble being one of my favourite shows of the year, simply because the concept means you will never be truly disappointed, even when the match itself is below the lofty standards set in prior years. After last year’s success WWE decided to once again have both a male and female rumble match on this show, and set against the backdrop of a baseball stadium the 2019 Royal Rumble certainly had “Wrestlemania” type feel to it.
The big draws on these shows, as I mentioned previously, are the Rumble matches, so let’s start there. The women’s rumble match was solid, but not a patch on last year. The level of talent was far higher than 2018, with the likes of Rhea Ripley, Kairi Sane, Io Shirai and Candace LeRae as surprise entrants, and the women’s roster being fully utilised. I enjoyed that there was less emphasis on legends to bulk out the field, but I think this led to some subdued reactions from the crowd. Lacey Evans had a nice run, and putting her in from the off was a brave move that shows they have plans for her in the long term even if she’s not quite there just yet. Becky Lynch taking the spot of the injured Lana was predictable, but it was clearly what the audience wanted and provided the big feel-good finish. The match was plodding at points, but the finishing moments were electric which more than made up for any issues with what came before it.
The men’s match was a very entertaining affair, with some un moments right from the off with the surprise return of Jeff Jarrett and his back and forth to open the match with Elias, having Kurt Angle return, the appearance of NXT talent in the form of Pete Dunne, Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano, Nia Jax entering at number 30, and right to the closing sequence with Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman. This was very enjoyable, but I can’t say it was ever verging on memorable. The right person won, but it certainly underlined the lack of star power on the roster.
The undercard was, on the whole, very good. Finn Balor vs Brock Lesnar was a frenetic sprint and Brock clearly had his working boots on. AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan was a tight, technical affair that suffered massively from a crowd who were burnt out from the end of the rumble match that preceded it. Ronda Rousey vs Sasha Banks was probably Rousey’s best singles match to date and a great reminder of what a good heel Banks can be when given the chance. Asuka vs Becky Lynch was another well-fought battle and although the ending was surprising, it set up what was to come later in the night, while also putting Asuka over and cementing her title reign. Finally, The Miz and Shane McMahon vs The Bar was brilliant. It shouldn’t have been, it had no right to be in fairness, but it was. IT ended up being a surprisingly emotional contest, and the finish was as spectacular as you’ll see in a Shane McMahon match that does not involve a Hell in a Cell or some other sort of apparatus.
Royal Rumble 2019 was an excellent show. Every match delivered, the right performers won the Rumble matches and set up the key parts of the card for Wrestlemania, which is the prime objective for this show. There was plenty of storyline development as well as some sterling in-ring action. This show is very much worth the money, and is certainly and event I will revisit in years to come
EXTRAS: Full pre-show including Shinsuke Nakamura vs Rusev for the US Title, which does actually play into events later in the night, Razar and Scott Dawson (yes it's weird) vs Chad Gable and Bobby Roode, as well as Buddy Murphy vs Akira Tozawa vs Hideo Itami vs Kalisto for the Cruiserweight title in a match that stands up against anything on the main show, and is well worth checking out.