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Wrestle Respawn – Thoughts on WWE Royal Rumble 2019

One thing I can confidently say about the WWE Royal Rumble 2019 event was that it was far too long, clocking in at nearly seven hours if you watched the two hour pre-show. Me and my mate Adam didn’t bother with the pre-show, instead having a couple of pints in the pub first as preparation for the long slog we expected the main show to be, but even we were shocked to find ourselves past 4am with the Men’s Royal Rumble not even officially started.

I didn’t take any notes during the matches, so I wouldn’t be giving out match ratings or anything like that. Instead I’ll just be looking at the general booking decisions on the show, as well as giving my overall thoughts on the show itself.

The biggest news coming out of the show (For me anyway) was that Becky Lynch came back from defeat in the opening match against Asuka to win the Women’s Royal Rumble match and secure her place at WrestleMania XXXV. Despite losing cleanly to Asuka, Lynch’s performance in the match was a strong one and I personally think she didn’t lose any steam due to the defeat, especially as she heroically fought on to win the Royal Rumble after suffering a bad knee injury.

Most of the complaints I’ve seen towards the booking were that Lynch submitted to Asuka, which I think is kind of a silly sentiment to have in 2019. MMA has shown us that there really is no shame or embarrassment to submitting if someone catches you in a hold. Tapping out is the smart thing to do and I think people need to get out of the mind-set that tapping makes a wrestler look weak. Asuka didn’t destroy Becky and the force her into submission in a dominant beat down. Instead, this was a good back and forth bout that Asuka was able to just edge thanks to catching Becky with the right hold at the right moment.

Another complaint I’ve seen is that Becky took a slot from Lana to enter the Royal Rumble match, which made her look heelish. Lana was due to enter the match at #28 but, due to hurting her ankle in the pre-show, she took her time getting down to the ring, which allowed #29 entrant Nia Jax to viciously assault her. With Lana clearly unable to compete, Becky came out and asked to be allowed to replace her, which WWE agent Fit Finlay eventually allowed. Had Becky attacked Lana herself I would understand the sentiment but, in storyline terms, Becky did nothing wrong. If Lana couldn’t compete, she had every right to suggest herself as a replacement.

The amassed Phoenix crowd certainly had no problem with Becky entering the Women’s Royal Rumble, and the reaction when she last eliminated Charlotte Flair to win was thunderous. One good thing about the match seemed to be that Charlotte is now officially a heel, as she gurned like a Bond Villain when it looked like Becky would have to forfeit the match due to her knee injury, caused by Jax shoving her off the ring steps. Becky gallantly fighting on despite the injury to defeat the near psychotic Flair was a great ending to the match and it finally seems like WWE are booking the two women in line with what the fans actually want.

The general consensus now seems to be that both Becky and Charlotte will tangle with Ronda Rousey (Who defeated Sasha Banks earlier in the night in a good match to retain her Raw Women’s Title) in a triple threat match at WrestleMania. I personally think this is a mistake however and would rather see Charlotte tackle Asuka at the event, whilst Becky and Rousey collide in a singles bout. The feud between Becky and Rousey has been brewing ever since the autumn, when Lynch invaded Raw to put a beating on the champion. A legitimate injury to Becky put paid to that bout at taking place at Survivor Series, so it only makes sense to give it to the fans now.

Ultimately, Charlotte doesn’t need to be a part of this storyline. Becky has been referring to her as “Shoehorn Charlotte”, and it’s a sentiment that a lot of the fan base seem to agree with. A fully heel Charlotte going after Asuka would not only keep her out of the Rousey/Becky program, but it would also provide another strong women’s bout for WrestleMania. Asuka lost her unbeaten streak to Charlotte at last year’s WrestleMania, so they could easily draw from that when promoting a rematch for this year. I personally think that a Becky/Rousey and Charlotte/Asuka one-two punch would be fantastic for WrestleMania, especially as there seems to be a distinct lack of interesting matches on the male side of the roster.

Seth Rollins claimed victory in the Men’s Royal Rumble, in a match that ultimately felt like a bit of a damp squib. Rollins is nowhere near as popular now as he was during 2018, mostly owing to WWE’s flaccid 50/50 booking, which often ends up with none of the wrestlers truly feeling like stars. It’s why Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar are really the only true stars in the company, because they hardly ever lose (Rousey in fact hasn’t been pinned or submitted since her debut) and often defeat their rivals cleanly. Everyone else on the roster trades wins with one another in 4-5 match series’ until no one feels like a big deal.

I personally expect to see Rollins challenge Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania as opposed to Smackdown Champion Daniel Bryan (Who defeated AJ Styles thanks to a run in from Erick Rowan) because I can’t see them having him swap brands. Regardless of how hard everyone works on the Smackdown brand, it just never seems to be treated with the same level of importance by the WWE higher ups as the Raw one, which means I think it’s unlikely that they’ll go with Rollins Vs Bryan for the title at Mania.

As has been the case in most of the recent WWE main roster events I’ve watched, the women were very much the stars of the Royal Rumble, with Becky/Asuka and Banks/Rousey both being more enjoyable than the male title bouts between AJ/Bryan and Balor/Brock. Finn Balor did give a decent account of himself on the way to defeat against Brock, but sadly this was all undone thanks to an utterly pointless post-match beat down from the champion, which served only to make Balor look like a chump.

After coming so close to losing his title, the better way to have ended this would have been for Lesnar to leave to the backstage with a relieved look on his face, whilst Balor soaked up cheers from an appreciative crowd for his brave efforts. Balor getting pummelled post-match was seemingly done to ram home the message that he didn’t belong in such a position on the card, which is an utterly baffling way for a company so bereft of genuine stars to behave.

The AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan match featured good work from both men, but due to it coming off the heels from Lynch’s big win, the crowd were worn out and didn’t give it the best of reactions. Rowan coming down to help Bryan is an interesting development at least and could be a precursor to Bryan putting together his own heel faction.

The Men’s Royal Rumble match suffered from taking place in the sixth hour of a show that had already gone for two hours too long, and I’ll be honest that I struggled to stay awake for large periods of it due to it being long past 4 in the morning before it go going. One interesting development in the match was that women’s wrestler Nia Jax attacked #30 entrant R-Truth and seemingly took his slot in the match. The 300+ pound Jax then managed to eliminate male wrestler Mustafa Ali, before falling prey to an assault from Dolph Zigger, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton.

What was interesting about this was that Jax got fully involved in the match, both clobbering the men she interacted with and taking some actual punishment from the men in return, including a super kick from Ziggler, a 619 from Mysterio and an RKO from Orton. WWE hasn’t really done Man Vs Woman bouts for over a decade now; with the move to a PG product pretty much spelling the end for it. Indeed, you can’t have male wrestlers compete with their female counterparts on the modern WWE 2K games, with any interaction leading to an immediate disqualification.

It’ll be interesting to see if Jax’s involvement was just a one off to give a unique twist to the Men’s Royal Rumble match or whether it was the beginning of a gradual reintroduction of inter-gender wrestling in the company. I personally think that they’ll be courting some negative press if this becomes a regular feature of the show, just because it’s so socially unacceptable for men to beat up women, even big 300 pound ones like Jax. Seeing her get kicked in the face was a big shock for me, because I really didn’t think they’d go that far with it, but they did and it didn’t lead to an especially negative reaction from the crowd. We’ll have to see I guess. There hasn’t been a massive outcry about it from the usual outlets as of me writing this, so WWE might see that as positive and will try it again another time.

Overall I thought Royal Rumble 2019 would have been a decent enough show if they’d chopped it down to three hours. Heck, I would have accepted four hours. These shows are just too long and they happen far too regularly. A company like New Japan can get away with Wrestle Kingdom being so long because it features different styles of matches and the show is booked to build to a crescendo, which means you don’t get anywhere close to as burnt out when you get to the later matches.

Also, most importantly, Wrestle Kingdom is really the only New Japan show that goes that long, which means it feels special when they do it. WWE do it for all of their big events, so we’re at the point now where long shows have almost become blasé. Hopefully WWE cuts out the marathon pre-show next time and manages to keep the main show less than four hours for WrestleMania XXXV, but I’m not overly optimistic about that.

Thanks for reading and take care till next time

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