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Kevin’s WWE Royal Rumble Review

January 29, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Becky Lynch Royal Rumble
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Kevin’s WWE Royal Rumble Review  

WWE Royal Rumble
January 27th, 2019 | Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona | Attendance: 48,193

Non-Title Match: WWE Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. Rezar and Scott Dawson w/ Drake Maverick
A last minute addition to the card. With Akam out, Rezar still wanted the titles and so did the Revival, so this was what we got. A win for Dawson and Rezar would put both of their teams in title contention. Interesting idea. Also, this match screams 2016 NXT. Gable started hot but ended up playing the face in peril. Rezar and Dawson worked better together than you’d probably expect. However, a miscommunication led to a Gable moonsault that got his guys the win in 6:54. Fine enough for a thrown together match. [**]

WWE United States Championship: Rusev [c] w/ Lana vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
These two have crazy good chemistry. Their Fastlane match last year ruled, their Crown Jewel match was solid, and the title change on Smackdown was great. That trend continued. Their exchanges were crisp and the strikes looked stiff. Rusev had an awesome spot where he countered a guillotine into a vertical suplex. It did seem like Rusev tapped while in the movie but nothing came of it. Nakamura untied the turnbuckle pad, so Lana got on the apron to yell at him. They argued and Rusev accidentally knocked her off the apron. She fell and held her ankle in pain. Nakamura hit the Kinshasa to the back and regained the title in 10:13. Nakamura should’ve had his WWE Title feud with Rusev instead of AJ Styles because they work way better together. [***½]

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy [c] vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Hideo Itami vs. Kalisto
Right off the bat, this was the kind of match I expected from these guys. Lots of action, a crazy pace, and big spots. You could tell a lot of thought went into setting this up. Multiple guys were used for big moments, including one that saw Tozawa hit Kalisto with a tope suicida that sent Murphy into the guardrail with a rana. This wasn’t your typical multi-man match where only two guys were in the ring at a time for most of it. Murphy retained in a wild 12:06 with Murphy’s Law on Itami. It had some sloppy moments, but this was fantastic. So much fun, nonstop action, and a hell of a way to end the Kickoff Show. [****]

WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship: Asuka [c] vs. Becky Lynch 
Time for the main show. What a way to start. Often, people online complain (go figure) about WWE copping out of big matches with cheap finishes. That wasn’t the case here. Two red hot Superstars went out, had a classic, and we got a clean finish. This was an intense match. Everything they did not only looked great, but seemed vicious. From the hard hitting strikes to the submission exchanges. I loved the moment when Asuka put on a Dis-Arm-Her and Becky did the Asuka Lock. The finish was outstanding, with Asuka applying a modified Asuka Lock that turned into some kind of Cattle Mutilation. Becky tapped in 17:08. This, Ricochet/Gargano, and Omega/Tanahashi are in early MOTY contention. A phenomenal match from start to finish in front of a hot crowd. [****½]

WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Bar [c] vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon
I love The Miz. This storyline hasn’t fully clicked with me, but I’m enjoying where it seems to be headed. Anyway, I’ve seen folks get upset that Cesaro isn’t pushed as a singles star but I’m not getting that. Dude is the greatest tag team wrestler I’ve ever seen. This is where he belongs. He’s so good here. Miz took the heat, setting up the hot tag to Shane. Even with that, Cesaro caught his Coast to Coast attempt with an old fashioned Cesaro Swing. It had like 20 rotations, which he hasn’t done in a long time. Sheamus accidentally kicked Cesaro in the end, ate a Skull Crushing Finale, and Shane hit a Shooting Star Press to win the titles in 13:00. Good stuff. The Bar work seamlessly with almost everyone. Miz and Shane had good chemistry and that ending was clever. [***]

WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey [c] vs. Sasha Banks
A lot of hype for this one. Sasha Banks finally getting another crack at the top after doing a lot of nothing in 2018. This told a wonderful story. Sasha was game and prepared for everything Ronda threw at her. She’d counter or match each move. Ronda punched the LED ring post outside, setting up some arm work. Ronda gave us some of the best selling of her short career in this one. It helped make Sasha look like even more of a threat. At one point, Sasha applied an armbar that looked a million times more brutal than anything Ronda does. Seriously, it was Zack Sabre Jr. levels of sick. They had some sloppy moments but it came off like they were exhausted from the fight, which I appreciated. Sasha became, I believe, Ronda’s first pinfall victim, losing to Piper’s Pit rather than the Armbar after 13:48. Very good match and Ronda’s second best singles match. [***¾]

Women’s Royal Rumble
The mark of a great Royal Rumble is to keep me invested. Last year, all the nostalgia pops helped do that for the Women’s Rumble. This year, we didn’t really have any but the match was still a lot of fun. Lacey Evans (#1) got some shine for a while and Natalya (#2) broke Sasha’s mark for longest lasting competitor at 56:01. Liv Morgan (#4) had the shortest time in at eight seconds. I liked how they added to the Mandy Rose (#3) and Naomi (#16) rivalry, with Mandy cheaply eliminating her. Billie Kay (#7) and Peyton Royce (#9) worked very well together in their short time in. We got plenty of surprise NXT entrants, including Xia Li (#11), Kairi Sane (#14), Candice LeRae (#17), Kacy Catanzaro (#19), Io Shirai (#23), and Rhea Ripley (#24). Kacy had the biggest highlight, besting anything survival spot Kofi Kingston has ever done. You need to see it because it was spectacular. Zelina Vega (#20), with a nod to Street Fighter’s Vega during her entrance, was a fun entrant that saw her hide under the ring only to be chased away by Hornswoggle. Lana (#28) took a bump during the Kickoff Show to give her a bad ankle. She couldn’t make it to the ring and was also attacked by Nia Jax (#29). Becky Lynch showed up and petitioned Finlay to take Lana’s spot since she couldn’t compete. Finlay agreed and Becky was in. It came down to her, Nia, Charlotte, and a surprisingly game Bayley (#27). Eventually, we got Charlotte against Becky. With a bad leg after a Nia attack, Becky managed to dump out Charlotte and win to a thunderous ovation in 71:24. A long Rumble but one filled with entertaining moments. My girlfriend is a casual viewer and she was engaged throughout. That counts for something. One thing that sucked during this was the camerawork. They kept cutting away at the wrong times and missing key moments. [****]

WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan [c] vs. AJ Styles
Their match at TLC was one of the best of 2018. This wasn’t that. I understand starting off slowly. The fans were molten and worn out after the Becky Lynch win and a long Rumble. You should start slow and pick up, giving the fans a chance to rest. However, this never picked up. It just remained a match that was kind of there. Technically, they did nothing wrong. Everything was crisp, had a point, and well executed. It was just boring and no end seemed to be in sight. Erick Rowan confused and surprised everyone by walking out during this match. He got involved following a ref bump and hit AJ with a lame looking chokeslam. Bryan covered following that weakness and won in 24:33. Difficult to rate because it really wasn’t bad at all, but it failed at what it needed to do. Nobody cared what was happening and the Rowan stuff went off like a wet fart. Good in-ring stuff, but nowhere near what they’re capable of. [***]

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar [c] w/ Paul Heyman vs. Finn Balor
Logically, this would kind of be the time to bust out the Demon. However, he seems to save that for bitter feuds and this wasn’t that. Anyway, Brock is fantastic against smaller opponents. He’s vastly better against Bryan, Styles, Punk, and Finn than he is with Show, Braun, or Roman. Here, Finn shot out of the gates, which was the opposite of what Bryan did at Survivor Series. Brock turned it around, only to crash into the table and have his DIVERTICULITIS flare up. I love it. That made it so Brock could never dominate Finn the way he wanted to. It gave us a fresh feeling Brock match. Finn added something extra to every move, especially his dives to the outside. However, he got caught in the Kimura and submitted in 8:36. I loved that. It told one hell of a story in one of the best sprints ever. They wasted no motion and the match made total sense. [****¼]

Post-match, an insecure Brock attacked Finn Balor. He was clearly not pleased that he couldn’t beat Finn the way he wanted to.

Men’s Royal Rumble
Last year, we got one of the best Royal Rumbles in history. This wasn’t on that level, but was still very good. It started with a fun little exchange between Elias (#1) and Jeff Jarrett (#2). Johnny Gargano (#6), Pete Dunne (#17), and Aleister Black (#21) were our NXT entrants. Looking at the list of entrants, this was one hell of a collection of talent. The roster is so loaded. Kurt Angle (#4), Samoa Joe (#8), Seth Rollins (#10), Kofi Kingston (#12), Mustafa Ali (#13), Drew McIntyre (#16), Andrade (#19), Jeff Hardy (#24), Rey Mysterio (#25), and the list goes on and on. I loved watching them interact, especially those who don’t often get to do so. Kofi kind of flubbed his two elimination saving spots and I think he hit the floor on both. Lashley (#26) got eliminated almost instantly by Seth and then put him through a table. No Way Jose (#15) lasted about a second, while Titus O’Neil (#11) played off his infamous tripping moment. Nia Jax took out R-Truth (#30) and stole his spot, making her the fourth woman in Men’s Rumble history. She threw out Ali (who got revenge on Joe by eliminating him) and I was wondering if any men would actually hit her. They did. She ate a Dolph Ziggler (#28) superkick, Randy Orton (#29) RKO, and 619. Andrade had a big moment throwing out Orton, while Black eliminated Ambrose for his memorable spot. It came down to Andrade, Braun Strowman (#27), Seth, and Ziggler. Andrade and Dolph were dispatched. Seth and Braun had a short battle over the final spot, won out by Seth with a dope Curb Stomp on the apron at 57:24. A really fun Rumble featuring an absurd amount of talent. A lot of great new stars got to shine (Andrade, Gargano, Ali, Black), some of the comedy worked, and it was enjoyable throughout. [***¾]

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
I’ll get the bad out of the way. The show was crazy long. Bryan/AJ dragged. The opener on the Kickoff Show was kind of just there. But, everything else got at least *** and a whopping SEVEN matches ranked at ***½ or higher. The Rumbles were a blast and the right people won both of them. Finn/Brock ruled, the Cruiserweight Title was a banger, the US and Raw Women’s Title matches were very good, and Asuka/Becky is a MOTY contender. Hell of a show.

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Royal Rumble, Kevin Pantoja