WrestleWatch: WWE Royal Rumble 2020
Here we are! The Road to Wrestlemania in 2020 has officially begun! One of my favourite events of the year just took place- the Royal Rumble. I'm writing this shortly after watching the show live, although it'll probably be the day after by the time you read this. I'll try not to let recency bias cloud my review, because I'm on cloud nine at the moment. Get ready for sickening amounts of positivity.
So I've binged Rumble matches like crazy over the last week or two. God bless the WWE Network. From the first one in 1988 won by Hacksaw Jim Duggan, to The Rock getting in done in 2000 (WrestleWatch review on the 2000 Rumble PPV on the home page). From Stone Cold punching his ticket to Wrestlemania in 1998, then again in 2001, to John Cena's miraculous return in Madison Square Garden in 2008, then winning again in 2013 to set up the "Twice In A Lifetime" match with The Rock. To the 2017 Rumble, which I re-watched purely because it was building to Wrestlemania 33- the first Mania I attended live. And of course, the 2019 Rumble, which was crowd-pleasing as fuck with Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch winning their respective Rumble matches. That's a lot of Rumbles.
Despite the overwhelming amount of Rumble action I've viewed, I was by no means burnt out by it. I think it's because there's near infinite possibilities with the Rumble match format. 30 wrestlers compete in this battle royal style event- although the one Hacksaw won only had 20, they jacked it up to 40 in 2011, and in 2018 they got ridiculous with the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia- oh, I watched that the other day, too. With so many players in the game, all with distinct characters and wrestling styles, and the format of starting with 2 wrestlers and adding someone every 90 seconds, lots of fun can be had.
With this year's Rumble being the 33rd event of its kind, you'd think we've seen just about all there is to see. Not quite. This year, the reigning WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, declared that he would enter the Royal Rumble match. This is unusual because normally the prize for winning the Rumble is a title shot at the champion at Wrestlemania. In 1992, the vacant WWE Championship was on the line in the Rumble, and in 2016, The Authority forced Roman Reigns to defend his title in the match, but this was the first year that the WWE Champion was choosing to compete. Not only that, Brock- via Paul Heyman- declared himself as the #1 entrant, putting himself theoretically at a huge disadvantage. Such is the confidence (or cockiness) of the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. Could he back it up? Time would tell.
There's a lot more going down on the Rumble card, including a women's Royal Rumble match, and a bunch of championship matches. So, let's not waste any more time with me waffling on, let's get to the action!
Usual panel blah-blah, predictions are made. Christian takes a shot at David Otunga over the amount of "classic matches" he's had. Forget that, I can't remember a GOOD Otunga match. Or a good soundbite as a commentator/analyst. His continued employment continues to baffle me.
Match 1: Sheamus def. Shorty G (at 12:35)
Thoughts: The classic David vs. Goliath story, a nice bit of action to, well, kick things off in Minute Maid Park. Gable got some convincing hope spots in, including a gorgeous Kurt-Angle-in-his-prime-esque moonsault, and reversing White Noise into a crucifix pin nearfall. Also really liked the way Gable got in ankle lock attempts down the stretch. Ultimately though, the big ginger fella struck suddenly with the Brogue Kick, damn near taking Shorty's head off. Really good stuff.
Star Rating: (***1/4)
Match 2: United States Championship- Andrade def. Humberto Carrillo (at 14:20)
Thoughts: This happened back-to-back almost immediately following the Sheamus/Gable match, which was a little surprising, normally they'd save it for closer to the top of the hour. Luckily, it was a very different style of match, with Andrade and Humberto digging deep into their bag of lucha tricks. Carrillo is almost too graceful in the ring, everything he does seems light and dancey rather than looking like he's using the ropes to hurt his opponent. Andrade gets a convincing near fall with the double knees in the corner after failing to hit it earlier on- also, Zelina Vega kept screaming for "knees!" at ring-side to the point where it seemed like she had a knee fetish. Humberto hits a nice top rope rana down the stretch, but ultimately the champ retains with a nice roll-up in a rapid-fire finishing sequence. Good shit!
Star Rating: (***)
We open with a video package narrated by Stone Cold Steve Austin- WWE legend, Hall of Famer, and only man to win 3 Royal Rumble matches. He asks "what are you here for?" We're here to Rumble.
Match 1: Falls Count Anywhere- Roman Reigns def. King Corbin (at 21:20)
Thoughts: This was a really fun way to open the show. The Falls Count Anywhere stip played to both men's strengths, where they could brawl around the arena and slam each other into and through things- turnbuckles, tables and toilets, oh my! The interference of Ziggler, Roode, and the Usos to counteract them was obvious, but still cool, especially with Roman's cousins diving off the scaffolding. Novel finish too, climbing on top of the dug-out (the venue is a baseball stadium) and using the roof as a runway to hit the Spear. This was redemption for Reigns and Corbin after their abysmal outing at the TLC PPV.
Star Rating: (***1/2)
Backstage segments hyping the "every man (or woman) for themselves" aspect of the Rumble. Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe make a gentleman's agreement to knock each other's blocks off during the match, no hard feelings. Meanwhile, Sonya Deville vows that if it comes down to her and Mandy Rose, she's eliminating herself. Dumbass.
Cole and Graves acknowledge the death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant today. He died in a helicopter crash. I'm not a basketball guy, but I knew who Kobe was. Tragic to lose a life, no matter the celebrity status, and also, Kobe's young daughter Gigi died in the accident as well. Heartbreaking.
We go to the commentary desk, and hey, Tom Phillips is back! He's replacing Vic Joseph on Raw commentary, don't know if that's just for this show or permanently going forward. As I Tweeted (@mickrobson1990) during Worlds Collide, Big Tom absolutely deserves the Raw spot. Nothing against Vic Joseph, but Phillips is just better.
Match 2: Charlotte Flair wins the Women's Royal Rumble Match (at 54:20)
Thoughts: Look, I'm not happy with the winner. Only because it likely means more Charlotte vs. Becky, which is quickly becoming the Cena vs. Orton of the Women's Division. Shayna Baszler would have been a fresh choice to go with- at least she had a great showing in the match. I expected Ronda Rousey to return here- I was wrong, but she would have been a better choice than Charlotte. I was hopeful that we'd finally get the Becky vs. Ronda singles match we were deprived of last year... because Charlotte got involved. I don't dislike Charlotte generally, she's very talented and naturally she was always going to get a Rumble victory on her resume at some point. I'm just not excited for the aftermath of this win right now. As for the actual action in the women's Rumble... it was really good. Also, I'm a huge mark for surprise entrants, and considering we came into the show with only 9/30 announced women, we got a lot of surprises. Big NXT presence, which is not a bad thing. Their women's division eclipses Raw and Smackdown by miles. Bianca Belair looked amazing, she was made a star here. Beth Phoenix had an awesome run going late into the match despite having the back of her head busted open badly. The returns of Mighty Molly and Kelly Kelly were fun. And both Liv Morgan and Mandy Rose had me drooling with their sexy outfits. Goddamn, I need to get laid. But seriously, there was a lot to like with this Rumble. Also, Otis saving Mandy by using his "power belly" as a landing pad was hilarious!
Star Rating: (****)
Charlotte gets interviewed post-match by Charly Caruso. Flair reminds everyone that it's "her division". Yawn.
Match 3: Smackdown Women's Championship- Bayley def. Lacey Evans (at 9:20)
Thoughts: The match that followed a Rumble match was always going to have a tough time engaging a fatigued crowd. My attention wavered in this one, too. Bayley seemed to ground Lacey a lot, trying to build up sympathy for an Evans babyface rally, but it was lukewarm. The Sassy Southern Belle misses her patented springboard moonsault, and Bayley takes advantage of the crash and burn, pulling the tights for the win. So, Lacey has a little out for the loss and maybe even grounds for a re-match. Okay match, nothing special.
Star Rating: (**)
Match 4: WWE Universal Championship- Strap Match- "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt def. Daniel Bryan (at 17:35)
Thoughts: Best match that The Fiend character has had. And I'm not just saying that because they finally scrapped the red lighting, although I am stoked about it. In this feud with Bryan, Fiend has found the right balance with his matches. The matches with Rollins- he was too unstoppable, to the point where you couldn't really suspend your disbelief anymore. Bryan showed heart, fought his ass off and took some NASTY shots with the strap, but Fiend was able to shake it off at the right time and do the Mandible Claw slam for the win- I love that Bray is taking Foley's move and made it his own, too.
Star Rating: (****)
Promotional material airs. WWE are going back to Saudi Arabia on February 27. Gee, that'll be a busy weekend for wrestling, with AEW's Revolution PPV happening on February 29. And my local promotion, Rock And Roll Wrestling, is holding a show as well! Damn. Anyway, the Saudi event is called Super Showdown. Sorry, but Australia had the best Super Showdown show to date. I know our little country doesn't have as much money as the Saudi princes, but please come back Down Under with a big PPV soon!
Match 5: Raw Women's Championship- Becky Lynch def. Asuka (at 16:25)
Thoughts: Not the classic I was hoping for, but still really well done. Becky did a nice job of fighting with the urgency that befit the story going in- Asuka being the one woman to have her number. Asuka, for her part, shows great heel tendencies with her facials and body language, just oozing arrogance throughout. Poetic finish with Becky kicking Asuka right as she was about to use the green mist, causing her to spray it up in the air in an awesome visual. Dis-arm Her follows, and Becky collects on that one last debt. What's next for her? If it's as by the numbers as Charlotte's Rumble win made it appear, I'm going to be disappointed. But this match was a nice outing for both champ and challenger.
Star Rating: (***1/2)
Alright, time for the main event. The men's Royal Rumble. Booker T is introduced to do guest commentary. He didn't get the Rumble spot he wanted, facing the Revival with his brother Stevie Ray, but it's good he got something here.
Match 6: Drew McIntyre wins the Men's Royal Rumble (at 1:00:50)
Thoughts: This was one of the best Rumbles in years. I've already seen people on Twitter proclaiming it as "trash", but they don't love Brock Lesnar like I do. Starting at #1, he was an unstoppable killing machine for half of the match. We've never seen anything quite like it. For Brock's part, he seemed to have the time of his life in there. They incorporated other stories throughout his run of dominance as well. Ghosts from his past, like Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio. A fun interaction with a surprise veteran return- former US Champion MVP... Brock was dancing to his music! Then we had NXT's Keith Lee show up as Brock's physical equal and slow his momentum a little. The only question was, if Brock's not winning the Rumble, who would get the boost of eliminating him? That honour would go to eventual winner Drew McIntyre... with a little help from a low blow from Ricochet... which is a little karma after Brock kicked him in the nuts last week on Raw. So one big story of the 2020 Rumble was Brock's dominance and McIntyre overcoming him. The other big story was...
Time and a lot of medical intervention has done the seemingly impossible. After being forced to retire in 2011 due to a series of neck injuries, after being told that one more bump could paralyze him... Edge is once again wrestling in a WWE ring. Rumours had been swirling over the last couple of months that the Rated R Superstar was cleared, which he denied... but of course he would. Always working, brother. Coming out at the #21 spot (one of my lucky numbers), Edge looked on the verge of tears as he made his entrance and the Houston crowd lost its shit. Looking in better shape than he did in the last few years of his career, Edge wasted little time Spearing everyone in sight. He also took a couple of bumps and all seems well. He even had a brief Rated RKO reunion with Randy Orton!
Edge worked about 20 minutes and was in the final 3. Definitely seems like more than a one-off deal. I'm hoping we get Edge vs. AJ Styles at Mania, but Styles may have hurt himself doing a flip bump off an Edge Spear. Time will tell, and we'll keep an eye on that situation.
And finally... it was down to Reigns and McIntyre. Just like they did 2 years previously with Nakamura, WWE played with fans' paranoia that we'd get a LOLREIGNSWINS situation, and in the process, may have essentially created a new star. Drew McIntyre is one of those guys that's always seemed on the verge of real superstardom, but just couldn't quite break through. A recent babyface turn, while retaining the smash-mouth aggression he's had since making his 2017 WWE return, seems to have him set on the right course. I'm really looking forward to seeing Brock vs. McIntyre at Wrestlemania... something I wouldn't have believed possible a year ago when Roman ran through him at Wrestlemania 35.
Tremendous Rumble. Have some snowflakes.
Star Rating: (****1/2)
The first major event of 2020 set the tone nicely for WWE. Everyone on the card delivered in the ring, but that's a fairly standard occurance nowadays. What made the Rumble work so well was the ability to tell stories through it, and build towards the future. We often talk about the Road to Wrestlemania, so why not take a detour? Why not go the scenic route? Let's see some interesting stories rather than the tired old formula. Many wrestlers came out of this show looking better than when they came in, and I hope this trend continues. The more momentum people have, the more entertaining the shows are. From the main event Rumble match to the Kick-Off, I was thoroughly sports-entertained for several hours with this one.
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care,