2018: The Man
A funny thing happened between the Royal Rumble 2018 and the Royal Rumble 2019, as perpetual also-ran Becky Lynch became a star so big that she pulled so many of WWE’s plans into her orbit. She became THE focus of so much going on, and was easily the most talked about figure in the WWE landscape. Are we hitting the hipster backlash yet where people are bashing Becky and talking about how terrible and overrated she is? I’m sure that’s coming if it’s not happening. Listen, you just ignore people like that; you don’t need their negativity in your life.
Yeah, did you miss Reviewing The Rumbles? Well, it’s back!
Women’s Rumble: The Participants:
1. Lacey Evans
3. Mandy Rose
4. Liv Morgan
5. Mickie James
6. Ember Moon
7. Billie Kay
8. Nikki Cross
9. Peyton Royce
11. Xia Li
12. Sarah Logan
13. Charlotte Flair
14. Kairi Sane
15. Maria Kanellis
17. Candice Lerae
18. Alicia Fox (in a hat that becomes part of the march for some reason? It’s inoffensive)
19. Kacy Catanzaro
20. Zelina Vega (in a “Vega From Street Fighter 2” costume that SHOULD have become part of the match)
21. Ruby Riott
22. Dana Brooke
23. Io Shirai
24. Rhea Ripley
25. Sonya Deville
26. Alexa Bliss
Lana Becky Lynch (eventually)
29. Nia Jax
4. Bayley (eliminated by Jax/Charlotte)
3. Jax (eliminated by Becky)
2. Charlotte (eliminated by Becky)
WINNER: Becky Lynch
-First, a non-match note: I really loved this show. I have seen some opinions that Bryan/Styles wasn’t great, but it was hardly a “bad” match. It just didn’t overly deliver. But on a night where one of the two Rumbles, both women’s title matches, the cruiserweight title affair, and the Universal Title bout all definitely did, I can forgive Daniel and AJ for just being OK.
-Lacey Evans out at #1, and she gets a bit if promo time to tell us all that she thinks we are bad or whatever. Eh, maybe less talking for you going forward?
– I feel like WWE constantly overestimates Natalya’s popularity, and that the guitar strains of her music after Lacey’s heel promo was supposed to elicit a bigger reaction than it did.
-During the one-on-one with Natalya, Lacey mildly botches a backflip spot AND a kip-up just seconds later. Within a few more moments, she does a backspin over the ropes but holds on, and I’m surprised she didn’t just fall right out of the ring. Why am I being so harsh on Lacey Evans here? I’m a jerk.
-Shortly thereafter, she shuts me up by doing a snazzy-as-hell second-rope-to-top-rope, reverse hopping moonsault thing! Okay, Lacey; all is forgiven. That was pretty rad.
-After Liv Morgan is (sadly) immediately tossed by Natalya, Corey Graves says that the Riott Squad now still has a 66% chance to win the Royal Rumble. Corey Graves grew up in the same area of the country that I did, and I hope none of my friends’ kids are going to the same school district he went to.
-Ember Moon comes out, and we are treated (?) to the first large on-screen graphic of the match: a big, red moon. Man, remember when we just had pyro? I miss those days.
-I love Ember Moon’s music. Also, I love her gear and her get-up. Also also, I love her wrestling. Okay, here’s the thing: I might be in love with Ember Moon. Sorry, Becky. Also, you know, sorry to my wife.
-Billie Kay appears, but makes a big show of running around the ring and alerting everyone that she is absolutely not entering the march until Peyton Royce is entered. I’mma be honest with you: I adore the IICONICS. They kill me. You do you, Billie Kay.
-Actually, this match has a decent mini-story with Kay’s non-entrance, then Nikki Cross’ entrance (whereupon she attacks Billie), and the subsequent turn for Peyton Royce. It looks like Billie was going back on her plan by running in to attack Nikki right before #9 is called, but when it’s revealed to be Royce at that spot, it makes sense. The little moments like that in these matches make me happy!
-By the buzzer for #11, only ONE woman has been eliminated, though as I wrote that, Mickie is dumped right at said buzzer.
-Ember Moon has a nifty save by hooking the tips of her boots on the bottom rope and hanging dangerously out of the ring after a Sarah Logan attack. It also looks like she ALMOST missed catching herself.
-Kairi Sane and Charlotte have a special, non-cooking episode of Chopped in the middle of the ring, and Kairi loses. Eh, that’s fine; you don’t out-chop a Flair.
-Naomi goes after Mandy Rose like a house of fire, building the feud that Smackdown Live has set up. Naomi gets Mandy out, then pulls a Kofi to save herself, but Rose knocks her off the ringsteps before she can even re-enter. Here’s what watching Rumbles has taught me: the majority of the time a wrestler does one of these saves, it is immediately followed up with their actual elimination.
-Candice Lerae shows up looking WAY too much like Kelly Kelly for some reason. I keep seeing her in the ring throughout her duration and thinking “when did Kelly enter?”. She eventually gets into a staredown and fight with Zelina Vega over a storyline from a year ago, and hey, any time WWE remembers continuity is a thing, I dig it.
-Alicia Fox and Maria have a bit where they comically become allies for a minute until Maria… destroys Alicia’s hat? This leads to Foxy having a temper tantrum on the mat, and eh. It’s inoffensive. Even commentary says something like “real things are happening in the corner, but we’re focusing on a hat”.
-A fully armed and operational Riott Squad accompanies Ruby Riott to the ring and helps her have a very strong showing. It also gives Zelina Vega a reason to hide under the ring for a bit. She spends the next few minutes occasionally poking her head out to chuckle… until it’s revealed Hornswoggle is with her. He chases her into the ring so she can be chucked out, and then he follows her to the back. I genuinely love this match, but the comedy bits aren’t really landing.
-Commentary puts over Rhea Ripley like she is The Incredible Hulk and everyone in the ring is about to get smashed. This is why I wish commentary was generally better in main roster WWE because there would be more weight to their words, and this would really boost Ripley’s stock with fans who aren’t as up on Rhea. But we’re so used to tuning them out that it’s just noise.
-Kacy Catanzaro goes out, but lands feet-up, so she is not eliminated? This show would really overplay that angle by the midway point of the men’s match, and I suddenly wish the Rumble had the same rules as being called “down” in the NFL. If your whole body is on the ground, you should be out. Come on, that’s basic.
-BIG pop for the returning Little Miss Bliss, and an almost equally large one for her pitching Sonya Deville.
-Bayley’s number is up, and she gets Ripley and Riott both out (and both women had been having a great Rumble and looked strong). This earns a boisterous “Bayley!” chant. See? If you book talented people well, fans will buy in.
-Brace yourself: long-form storytelling is coming: Lana suffered an ankle injury WAY back on the pre-show, but still efforts to come out at #28. Her ankle is heavily taped, and she approaches the ring at somewhere around 50 feet per hour. She doesn’t make it far before she has to stop, and Lana is visibly in too much pain to continue. The fans POSSIBLY see the writing on the wall here and chant “Becky!”, but it might also be that #29 was about to show up, and they thought she might be there.
-Alexa and Ember have a brawl leading to Moon’s elimination (50+ minutes in the match and NO eliminations that I can recall? Come on). This will hopefully give them both something to do on Raw for the next few months.
-Moments after Carmella’s entrance, Becky does come out and tells all the WWE officials tending to Lana something like “She can’t wrestle, but I can wrestle. May I please wrestle?”, and Fit Finlay is eventually like, “Okay, you may wrestle”. Becky’s in the Royal Rumble!
-Alexa and Mella have a showdown in the middle of the ring, but all I can see is a kid in the audience hold up one of those “THE MAN” signs and then rip it up. Screw that kid!
-After Becky knocks Nia off the apron to eliminate her, Nia shoves Becky, injuring her knee (incredibly obviously, Becky switches which knee she is selling after a few seconds because she landed on her right knee, but training to sell the left limb must have kicked in). This leads to a solid drama sell of Becky not being able to re-enter the match. The referees are ABOUT to announce Charlotte as the winner, but Becky throws herself in and valiantly shouts that she can still go. A furious Charlotte brutalizes Lynch’s knee for not gifting her the win and DAMN, say what you want about WWE not listening to the fans, but even just a few months ago, Charlotte was the fiercely heroic one of the two, and Becky the cowardly heel. But WWE let the characters and the fan reactions evolve to where they both are now, and while it’s clearly not what they wanted, at least they quit fighting against the tide.
-Ultimately Becky Lynch wins a Royal Rumble she wasn’t entered in because a FELLOW IRISHPERSON (controversy!) told her she could go ahead. As of this writing, Raw and Smackdown haven’t aired, but there is a lot of story to tell here. Both Nia and Charlotte have somewhat legitimate gripes about being eliminated by a ringer. For some reason, I really hope they play up the Irish Conspiracy theory. But either way, the assumed Title Threat match at Wrestlemania is taking shape…
Men’s Rumble: The Participants:
2. Jeff Jarrett
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
4. Kurt Angle
5. Big E
6. Johnny Gargano
7. Jinder Mahal
8. Samoa Joe
9. Curt Hawkins
10. Seth Rollins
11. Titus O’Neil
12. Kofi Kingston
13. Mustafa Ali
14. Dean Ambrose
15. No Way Jose (w/ conga line)
16. Drew McIntyre
17. Xavier Woods
18. Pete Dunne
19. Just Andrade
20. Apollo Crews
21. Aleister Black
22. Shelton Benjamin
23. Baron Corbin
24. Jeff Hardy
25. Rey Mysterio
26. Bobby Lashley
27. Braun Strowman
28. Dolph Ziggler
29. Randy Orton
R-Truth Nia Jax (Okay, so the Rumble has a rich history of allowing these substitutions based on attacks to happen, and I dig it. But if they are going to do it, I want a year where, like, 6 different people come out and jump a late-entry mid-carder, and then they all have to fight amongst themselves for the spot. A mini-Rumble subplot to the Rumble!)
4. Andrade (eliminated by Braun)
3. Ziggler (eliminated by Braun)
2. Braun Strowman (eliminated by Rollins)
WINNER: Seth Rollins
-All Rumbles apparently start with promos now, as Elias starts off doing his Elias stuff. Jeff Jarrett soon joins, and we get a full-on pre-match skit. Can anyone tell me if Elias is a babyface or a heel now? I thought he turned good against Lashley recently, but here he bashes the local sports team and heels it up on Double-J.
-I have to admit, Big E having an inter dimensional portal in his tights to wherever pancakes live never ceases to amuse me. I’m an easy target sometimes.
-Johnny Wrestling gets rid of Jinder to a solid pop. And yep, these are the kinds of notes I have, because this Rumble is a meh parade.
-Samoa Joe gets a massive ovation and chant, showing that no matter how ineffectual WWE insists on making him look, the fans still appreciate how hard he works.
-Curt Hawkins retreats under the ring, causing JBL to recall the earlier goings-on and ponder if a whole herd of leprechauns might live down there. Devotees of Raw will know that they actually do, and I hate myself for knowing that.
-Titus has a callback to the “Greatest” Royal Rumble by voluntarily going headfirst under the ring to fetch Curt Hawkins.
-Kofi Kingston has two save spots this year, both of which follow the aforementioned “everything by one foot hit the ground” policy, and… maybe it’s time to retire these? Also, they don’t show a replay, but I’m pretty sure he botched the first one and his foot might have touched. To his credit, he does SOMEHOW keep his right foot from hitting on the second, when he essentially does a sunset flip over Woods.
-No Way Jose has the Godfather entrance from a few years back where he enters and exits so quickly that he just happily dances to the back with his entourage in tow while his music keeps playing. He eventually runs afoul of an entering Drew McIntyre, though. I get a chuckle out of him turning to his conga line like, “I got this, guys” before Drew mauls him.
-No Way Jose lasts no time at all, but his entrance music gets caught in my head for most of the rest of the match.
-This Rumble is hot for constantly repeating the New Guy Dominance Push, where several people in a row come out and wreck shop on everyone for a solid minute, usually even beating up the guy who just did the same spot right before them. Hell, even Apollo Crews gets this treatment!
-Lashley is instantly chucked by Rollins (in a neat spot where, when you watch it, you could legitimately think it was an accidental elimination). Vengeance is his, however, when he smashes Seth through an announce table before leaving.
-The reaction to Braun’s entrance is positively mild, and it’s ridiculous how hard WWE has worked to make him just another dude.
-That said, JBL makes note that Braun owns the record for most eliminations in a Survivor Series match, and Elimination Chamber match, and a Royal Rumble match—if you count the GRR, which… I don’t blame you if you don’t.
-Crazy visual spot: Braun holding Andrade up in an electric chair drop position WHILE ANDRADE HAS MUSTAFA ALI IN A DELAYED VERTICAL SUPLEX. I don’t even know which part of that is most impressive, but kudos to everyone involved. I can barely do half a dozen pull-ups (haha, that’s a lie; I can’t do half a dozen pull-ups).
-Nia enters the Rumble, I remark “Well, they won’t let a woman take any bumps from men, so she’ll probably idiot charge her way out”, and Nia then proceeds to take a BUNCH of bumps from men! A straight-up super kick from Dolph, the 619, AND an RKO. That’s really shocking to me, and I can’t help but wonder if WWE will catch any crap for it. I will admit that commentary openly laughing about all these men hitting a woman was a bit uncomfortable for me, but… *shrug*. I probably shave with Gillette brand razors.
-To Nia’s credit, I am positive she lasted substantially longer than any woman in a men’s Rumble match before her.
-The Final Four isn’t a particularly remarkable one, because you know Andrade and Ziggler ain’t winning this match. They should have at least kept Drew around to this point.
-Rollins wins with an apron Curb Stomp/Blackout/Nameless Stomp Move to Braun, and that’s good. Rollins is a guy who, when his career is over, should have a Rumble win under his belt. He’s almost certainly going after Brock, which makes sense, but… I want to see Bryan/Seth. Who else is left for Bryan to face at ‘Mania from Smackdown? And Raw could still do Braun/Brock there since they bailed on it here, so that’s not a problem. No idea what Seth’s motivation for chasing Daniel would be, but… maybe he hates cows and has kept that to himself until now?
1. 2001 (Austin III) – 10/10
2. 2010 (Edge) – 9/10
3. 2004 (Benoit) – 9/10
4. 1992 (Flair) – 9/10
5. 2007 (The Undertaker) – 8/10
6. 2019W (Becky Lynch) – 8/10
7. 1997 (Austin I) – 8/10
8. 1998 (Austin II) – 8/10
9. 2008 (Cena I) – 7/10
10. 2018 (Nakamura) – 7/10
11. 2002 (HHH I) – 7/10
12. 2018W (Asuka) – 6/10
13. 2016 (HHH II) – 6/10
14. 2005 (Batista I) – 6/10
15. 2017 (Orton II) – 6/10
16. 2003 (Lesnar) -5/10
17. 1989 (Studd) – 5/10
18. 1996 (Michaels II) – 5/10
19. 2019 (Rollins) – 5/10
20. 2011 (Del Rio) – 5/10
21. 1999 (McMahon) 4/10
22. 1993 (Yokozuna) – 4/10
23. 1990 (Hogan I) – 4/10
24. 1994 (Hart/Luger) – 4/10
25. 2013 (Cena II) – 4/10
26. 2009 (Orton I) – 4/10
27. 2012 (Sheamus) – 3/10
28. 1991 (Hogan II) – 3/10
29. 2014 (Batista II) – 3/10
30. 2006 (Mysterio) – 3/10
31. 2000 (The Rock) – 3/10
32. 1995 (Michaels I) – 2/10
33. 1988 (Duggan) – 2/10
33. 2015 (Reigns) – 1/10