Big events come and go, and we’re left with a pile of results at the end of the night. But sometimes, the results don’t tell the whole story. Beyond the win and loss columns, who were the real winners and losers coming away from 2019’s edition of the Royal Rumble?
Shinsuke Nakamura, the winner of last year’s Rumble, may have reclaimed his United States Championship from Rusev. But the fact he did it on the pre-show mutes the achievement somewhat. And for the man himself, from being in the brightest spotlight of the show last year, this is a step backwards, and a loss. It’s a triple whammy for Rusev, who was a) stuck on the pre-show; b) lost his title, and c) saw his wife lose out on her Rumble spot due to the injury she suffered costing him his belt. And on Rusev Day, too. Nothing but losses.
Buddy Murphy and the Cruiserweight title were also on pre-show duty, in a highly entertaining, fast-paced and brutal fatal four way. The climax to the match was tight, with a flourish of reversals and moves. It’s nice to continue to see the Cruiserweight title having a spot on the big PPV events, albeit the pre-show card. It’s nicer to see the participants embrace the opportunity. All four men, and the 205 Live brand, left as winners.
Kicking off the main show with Becky Lynch versus Asuka for the SmackDown Women’s Championship got the crowd pumped up nicely for the main portion of the event; it was also a good indication The Man would be making another appearance later in the evening. Not a terrible match, but disjointed spots for sure – things like Lynch leaping off the top turnbuckle and into a knee from Asuka, didn’t look crisp or natural. What was the move Asuka gave Lynch off the apron to the floor? It looked like equal parts botched suplex, neckbreaker and facebuster – in other words, awkward. Asuka validates her reign with the win over the former champ. While the clean defeat for Lynch doesn’t kill her, it does leave her looking a lot more vulnerable than her likely Mania main event opponent.
It’s strange watching The Miz pander to Shane McMahon like some doting high school girl. And probably even stranger to watch McMahon still throw himself around with all the recklessness he displayed more than a decade ago. The Bar looked good, making quick tags, treating Miz and McMahon with disdain and pounding on them like anvils. Finally seeing Coast to Coast countered was nice, and watching Cesaro swing McMahon forty times afterwards was also fun. Four guys who know how to work put on an entertaining match that told a good story. And McMahon’s shooting star press to end the bout was a thing of beauty. Wins all around, with a bonus one for Miz’s dad. After Crown Jewel, what’s the point in complaining about McMahon winning these matches, let alone being in the ring.
Sasha Banks and Ronda Rousey put on a great match for the Raw Women’s Championship. Rousey’s suplexes early in the match were fantastic. The Legit Boss came across as a legit challenger and contender to the throne. She looked comfortable smoothly transitioning from submission to submission, reversing and countering moves – until Ronda came out of nowhere with her own reversal and counter to get the pin. Both women left looking better. This elevated Banks, putting her right at Rousey’s calibre. Rousey added another layer to her character, showing she can match strong chain wrestling, fight through adversity and come back from a brink we hadn’t seen her on before. The interaction after the bout, and the look on Banks’ face as she left the arena, says we’re heading for a Horsewomen vs Horsewomen program very soon.
For the second consecutive year, the Women’s Royal Rumble match was excellent. There were probably one or two too many relatively unknown faces, but the pacing, the action in the ring, and the surprise inclusion of Lynch more than made up for that. Lacey Evans put in a solid debut Rumble performance going toe-to-toe with Charlotte Flair for a while before Flair ended her night. Natalya took over the record of longest entrant on the female side, overtaking Banks’ run last year, which was on the cards as soon as she entered second. Natalya’s like the Chris Jericho of the women’s division, will always be one of the first five girls in the Rumble, and always one of the longest lasting. Mandy Rose avoided being the first elimination this year, which is a win for her. However, her botched apron spots with Mickie James were not. Liv Morgan set the new record for shortest Women’s Rumble entry at eight seconds, not the night she was hoping for or needed. Ember Moon debuted with the main roster at last year’s Rumble, and needed a strong showing tonight to re-establish herself going forward. She had one, lasting more than 50 minutes and being taken out by Alexa Bliss. Nikki Cross had a great opening to the match, and her elimination at the hands of The Iconics was somewhat surprising. Good for the duo from Oz, bad for Cross. The ring looked set to be cleared by Tamina Snuka when she entered, but instead, she looked gassed within a minute. Someone needs to force her to watch more videos of her dad’s top-rope splash. Tamina tossed out James, but that was her only plus for the night. Xia Li suffered from not being known by the live crowd. Charlotte Flair and Kairi Sane squaring off was like a little slice of dream match. Naomi’s balance was tested as she walked the ring barricade, but she pulled of her streak of Kofi Kingston-like Rumble saves – before being screwed by Rose. Former American Ninja Warrior champion Kacy Catanzaro looked very good in her main roster debut, as did Candice LeRae. Ruby Riott and her hot new haircut made her two henchwomen look better than either of them had while they were actually in the Rumble. Io Shaira just missed getting to tangle with Sane in the ring, but Flair and her did pair off for a while in another fantasy booking showdown. NXT UK Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley looked absolutely dominating, but was yet another debut that left fans wondering who they were watching. Sonya Deville got a reception not unlike the girls that were debuting, meaning she needs more solo exposure – maybe some different ring attire that stands out, too. The Hornswoggle bit was just weird. Bayley looked very impressive with some quick eliminations, and a solid run, including assisting in taking out Bliss. Fit Finley must have gotten some sort of promotion to authority figure we weren’t told about, but since he let Lynch enter the Rumble, nobody’s complaining. The final trio brought some nice conclusion to the whole Face Breaker story that inadvertently led into Survivor Series, and Flair versus Lynch to end it just felt poetic. Years from now, this Women’s Rumble will be looked upon much like the 1992 men’s Rumble is today with so many championships represented, and so many top superstars in the same match. Not many losers here, but a lot of winners.