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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Royal Rumble 2019


There's an important reason the Royal Rumble is always the second-best show to put a viewing party on for: the main attraction, the Royal Rumble match itself, is casual-friendly.

The men's Royal Rumble match (and in last year's case, the women's too) has traditionally always had something for everyone. The whole affair's prestige is derived from the implied fact that it's open to everyone, and they mean everyone. Legends are welcome. Wrestlers returning from injury are welcome. Returning free agents are welcome. New free agents are welcome. You don't have to know everything there is to know about the WWE at any point when you go into the Royal Rumble, which is how it's managed to keep itself so accessible.

Both this year's Rumble matches, however, turned that formula on its head.

Only a shocking Jeff Jarrett comeback was the real non-WWE surprise for both matches. The actual surprises, however, came in the form of more than a few token NXT appearances, especially on the women's side. For the first time in a rather long time, the Royal Rumble was treated as the first milestone on the Road to WrestleMania it really is: it's an actual match for the #1 contendership at the biggest WWE show's main event. Why wouldn't it be contested among active roster members? Why would you give too many slots to retirees?


But beyond treating the Royal Rumble the most seriously it's been treated in a while, it also showcased one more important fact: the WWE spent the last few years amassing some of the best talent around the world (but not all of it) and it's finally showing them off. The present and future are front and center, with guys like Elias, Mustafa Ali, Andrade Cien Almas, Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre, and Seth Rollins, to name just a few, in prime spots. When you consider that 3/4s of Evolution—Evolution, a stable whose prime was a decade ago—won three of the last five Rumbles, this feels like the first time they've really made the effort to show us the bigger picture of who's exactly on NXT and the main roster.

The women have it easier, of course, with their Rumble match being new, but the conscious decision to go with the unassumingly deep female roster is also a step in the right direction. I just felt that not closing the show with a Becky Lynch pointing-to-the-WrestleMania-sign final shot was a wasted opportunity, despite its predictability. She's your hottest star; you're supposed to go with it, and now you're just leaving yourselves open for further roasting.

So if you have casual friends who want to get an idea of who's who in the WWE right now, this year's Royal Rumble is still as good a time as any to introduce them to wrestling in 2019. Let's be honest—you don't need a Kenny Omega, because there's too much talent in the company as it is already. It's a good thing that they finally realize it.

Royal Rumble
2019 Final Grade: A

Match of the Night


There are many feasible choices for Match of the Night, but I have to give it to the Universal Championship match. Brock Lesnar found himself a winning formula which justifies his newfound penchant for working with smaller guys, and it is glorious: let the opponent do all the work and build up a legitimate hope that maybe, just maybe this'll be the day Lesnar drops the title, then squash all those dreams after exploiting one tiny glimmer of daylight. Finn Balor still ends up looking like a million dollars for bringing the fight, because you'll never see it as his fault for losing. Brock is just Brock, and when he finally loses it'll probably be much more refreshing just for not being a millionth Roman Reigns attempt.

Other observations

  • I didn't understand why Rezar and Scott Dawson teamed together to take on the Roode Bois. If they were going to do this weird hodgepodge Authors of Revival pairing, why not put up the RAW Tag Team Championships to add a little sizzle to the stakes? Or, you know, just give the actual Revival a title shot? Anything to make it not scream "throwaway match."
  • Interesting decision to have Buddy Murphy pin Hideo Itami of all people to retain his championship, and I don't think I mean that in a good way. I hope that wasn't the plan, because that set Hideo back some precious time.
  • But do catch the fatal four-way on the preshow, because that was a good match.
  • At first I thought Rusev losing to Nakamura via inadvertent Lana hit was hilarious yet pointless, but after the events of the women's Rumble, I appreciate how they planted that seed to have it all make sense. I just don't know where this leaves Rusev, and poor guy couldn't make it on the Rumble itself (while Nakamura was still able to pull double duty).
  • That said, I can't wait for the inevitable Mustafa Ali/Shinsuke Nakamura feud, which was teased after the former threw out the latter in the men's Rumble.
  • Great move to have Becky Lynch tap out to a Cattle Mutilation progression of the Asuka Lock; if Becky was to tap out to anything, it's extremely sensible for it to be a move she didn't prepare for. It takes the sting out of the loss a bit.
  • Shane McMahon is the ultimate backyard wrestler/CAW, and it's hilarious. I mean that in a good way, as the guy does his best to show up to each match bringing something to the table. He does that Shooting Star Press because he knows he can.
  • I feel like all the drama surrounding the two sets of Four Horsewomen will be lost in the shuffle thanks to Lynch/Rousey. Yes, Becky's part of the NXT Four Horsewomen, but their beef runs deeper, so the two warring teams will likely continue to take the backseat.
  • Amazed at the slots given to the female NXT superstars, but I was also waiting for Toni Storm, Shayna Baszler, and maybe Bianca Belair. Glad we got Team Japan, though, but maybe we didn't really need to see Xia Li and Kacy Catanzaro yet?
  • Please don't tell me Hornswoggle will be tormenting Zelina Vega and Andrade on SmackDown this week.
  • I kinda wish Becky got Finlay in a choke to get into the Rumble match. Let the legend of the Man live on.
  • Poor Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles had to deal with a tired crowd right after the women's Rumble, but I am so down for the vegan society. Hoping Luke Harper joins them both when he recovers, but it is a little odd that they're no longer Bludgeon Brothers after all that hype last year.
  • Where's EC3?
Photo from WWE


*****

Romeo Moran (@roiswar) is the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.

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