It’s that time of year again. The timeless seasonal event where gigantic, sweating meatheads, each try desperately to heave one another out of a ring in the name of gold, glory, and a fast track to the grandest stage of ‘em all, Wrestlemania. I’m talking of course, about the Royal Rumble.
As an international fan of the WWE, there’s a significantly larger commitment to undertake when deciding to watch a Pay-Per- View. We sacrifice sleep and ruin our Monday mornings in the name of seeing the action unfold live, and I’ve found that, more often than not, I’ll go to bed around 4-5am with an overwhelming feeling that I’ve wasted my time.
The men’s royal rumble match.
Year on year, the bookies are right on the money with who’s winning the rumble, so infrequent is a genuine swerve in wrestling these days that I actually miss Vince Russo!
This year’s rumble has me hesitant. On the one hand, we know for certain that we won’t be seeing another Roman Reigns victory, opening the door up for another superstar to earn their place in the sun. Even still, all signs point to a fairly predictable outcome, the three Roman understudies in Seth, Braun, or McIntyre.
These three have been trading barbs for months, and it’s evident they’re being groomed to take the helm whilst the big dog recovers.
Despite this handful of likely lads, the main name on everyone’s lips is Kenny Omega. Kenny is without argument the number one free agent in all of wrestling. He was the prime example of what can be achieved independent of the WWE machine. Without Kenny, the platform for Cody Rhodes to make his move towards a wrestling revolution with AEW would have likely been a much more arduous task.
As much as I want this to happen, his involvement in the royal rumble would be a very bittersweet moment. Kenny is the gold standard of the industry, yes it would be incredible to see him arrive on the world stage by winning the 2019 Rumble, but nobody can elevate past poor long term booking. WWE’s track record speaks for itself in failing to represent non WWE grown superstars, and I don’t know if I’m ready to give up Omega’s prime years to possibly languish on the big show.
The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) (c) vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon
Somebody please put out an APB for the smackdown tag team division, it’s currently being held hostage by three singles superstars and the Boss’ middle aged son.
This match perfectly encapsulates what I despise about WWEs opinion of tag team wrestling.
As different in style and skill as rugby league is to union, tag team wrestling should be represented in it’s own right, with the best tag teams getting space to have matches for the titles they so desperately deserve. Granted Cesaro is an alumnus of “Kings of Wrestling” arguably one of the greatest tag teams the independents has to offer, but last I checked his tag partner is not Kasius Ohno (FKA Chris Hero)
The spot in this card should have been reserved for the likes of AOP, The Revival, Gallows & Anderson, The USOs, The Ascension, Sanity, or Heavy Machinery. Real tag teams, dedicated to working in tag team roles. All four men in this match have found themselves in this position because creative simply don’t have anything for them in a singles capacity, and it’s just not a good enough an excuse anymore.
If I were any of those aforementioned team’s I’d be having serious discussions with my partner. I hear there’s a pretty hot tag team invested in that new AEW promotion…. Just a thought.
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Recent rumour suggests that The Boss has recently been in discussion regarding her release from the company, most likely due to poor booking and a lack of utilisation in general (this is becoming a bit of a theme).
She’s one of the top performers in the industry with a really strong fan base, yet she’s constantly sidelined in tag team storylines, ignoring all the groundwork herself and Bayley laid in their terrific pair of encounters from NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 1&2.
By the looks of things, this match is WWEs way of mending fences. It’s unlikely Sasha will walk away victorious, but hopefully they build her from here and get her back into the top spot where she belongs. Despite being on the main roster for 3 and a half years, we’re yet to see a real heel Sasha banks holding the title. It would be such a wasted opportunity if she manages to skip through the net to do her best work elsewhere. Ronda will most likely put on another great performance, but her trajectory seems much more concrete, it’s long been speculated she’ll be closing out Wrestlemania, but now rumour is abound of her riding off into the sunset after the fireworks go out.
This match isn’t so much about what’s going to happen during, but where both these competitors will be 6 months from now.
Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Either the long term plan is for Becky to walk into Wrestlemania as smackdown women’s champion, enduring the main event is a singles contest between Charlotte and Ronda, or we may see Lynch lose this encounter so as to find her way into the main event of Wrestlemania.
Becky has proved she’s the obvious face of women’s professional wrestling. The iconic shot of her stood in the rafters, face full of blood is imagery that‘s be etched in the minds of fans worldwide.
Asuka’s place in all of this is slightly more ambiguous. If Becky loses then Asuka will likely be defending at Wrestlemania, however should Becky win, what’s left for the empress of tomorrow come mania season? I’m praying it’s not the women’s battle royal. It would be refreshing to see Asuka take on a formidable newcomer such as Nikki cross or Lacy Evans, possibly even a cross brand clash with Alexa bliss?
Women’s royal rumble match
Of the remaining women not booked in a standard match on this card, there a few who could feasibly come out on top? This match seems to have been created around the idea of Charlotte going onto mania to face Ronda, possibly with the addition of lynch to make a triple threat to close the show.
That being said, with the addition of Alexa Bliss, Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler, WWE may just scrap their obvious plans and work towards something to really shake up the status quo. It’s only the second outing for the women in this type of match, but they certainly outperformed the men last year, here’s hoping they continue that tradition into this year.
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles
Rife with potential for match of the night, possibly even a contender for match of the year, both AJ and Bryan have often managed to elevate every card they work on.
Last year, Bryan put on a match with Brock Lesnar that was easily the best match Lesnar has been involved with in the last 5 years.
His new attitude and in ring style make him a very interesting champion, and low-key part of one of the most interesting story arcs in WWE today.
AJ has been a consummate pro over the last two years, but he’s yet to have that all-time, five star classic in WWE, if he can do it with anyone, it’s Bryan.
With enough technical innovation and a strong story this could be a genuine classic. Of all the matches this will be the one I go into with a very open mind. Try to remove any pre conceptions and let two PWI wrestler of the year award winners do their thing.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor
Will Brock take the loss and move aside for wrestlemania?
I personally don’t see it happening. Sure, Finn has had a couple sizeable wins as of late, but has he been well set up to take the mantle from WWE’s ultimate trump card?
I do think this match has potential. As long as Brock’s willing to play ball, Balor could build himself a match to really cement his place in a main event position.
The main downfall is the writing on the wall that this match is purely a spacer to fill time before Wrestlemania, for the eventual big lads clash between Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar.
Anyway, that’s my two pence on the matter. Sure, I’ll complain, but I’ll also be watching. As much as WWE has disappointed and failed to meet expectation for quite some time now, you always feel that the tide may turn, and the royal rumble is usually the most likely place for it to happen. In any case, I sincerely hope my cynicism is proven wrong and WWE put on a great show.
WWE Royal Rumble is available Sunday night via the WWE Network.
For more northern drawl on the biggest and sweatiest of sports- esq persuits, you can catch myself, Ethan, and Rob on @thelightspod on twitter and staringatthelights on Instagram.