WWE Royal Rumble 2019: Recap, results, analysis, grades

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The Royal Rumble is officially in the books! Rob and Chris recap a wild, historic and memorable night in Phoenix, as the road to WrestleMania is in full effect!

Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. Rezar and Scott Dawson

Robert O’Neill: I don’t mind the ragtag tag team of Rezar and Dawson since Akam and Dash Wilder are both apparently hurt but I feel like not having them win in a non-title match is kind of a weird decision. The Raw tag division is so weird and dumb. This match also wasn’t very good, for whatever reason. And I say that as someone who is very high on the majority of the participants. **

Chris Novak: Concur here. The match absolutely did not hit at all and hopefully this is the worst match we see all night. I too will give this **.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev — United States Championship

Chris Novak: Nothing like a shock title change on the preshow! Once again they go with the incidental contact on Lana that leads to Rusev’s demise. Nakamura wins the US Championship for the second time. Interesting. I really liked this match though. I’ll give this ***¼.

Robert O’Neill: This was a good match! I like Nakamura and Rusev’s chemistry and I look forward to them continuing it. It could have been a tad longer. ***

Buddy Murphy vs. Kalisto vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Hideo Itami

Chris Novak: No title change here! This match absolutely banged. Everybody brought out something new and inventive. There was so much innovation in this match and it wasn’t your atypical, choreographed WWE F4W match. Quite the opposite in fact. Really, REALLY liked this match a lot. ***¾ for it, and will wind up as one of the best matches of the entire month. These 205 guys absolutely kill their opportunities now and it’s great to see.

Robert O’Neill: That was awesome. I don’t watch 205 Live religiously, but I think I should start, because these guys brought it. The preshow matches progressively got better and I’m ready for the main show. ***½

Asuka vs. Becky Lynch — SmackDown Women’s Championship

Robert O’Neill: Holy crap what a match. It should come as no surprise that two of the best workers in the world had a banger of a match, but this was an amazing way to open the show. Asuka needing the super Asuka Lock in order to stand tall was great, the move thieving throughout was great, and it’s just another great step for the women. Now we wait and see if Becky Lynch makes another appearance tonight… ****½

Chris Novak: What a phenomenal opener. Becky and Asuka worked stiff as hell and it worked so damn effectively for me. So did the move thieving and just about everything else. As always, these matches come off like fights more than anything else, and that freaking rules, honestly. ****½ for me. A fantastic opener, and among the best in Rumble history.

The Bar vs. Miz/Shane McMahon — SmackDown Tag Team Championships

Robert O’Neill: Shane didn’t get a chance to do the elbow through the table but he also hit a Shooting Star Press to win the match, which is pretty nuts since he’s 49 years old. I think this was the only path to take because you eventually now have Miz turn on Shane and we get a Wrestlemania match with them. The Bar will be fine, because they’re a top 10 tag team in WWE history. This will probably be the worst main card match of the night, but it was still fine. ***

Chris Novak: Shane is a complete and total crazyperson. That is all. ***½ for me, as I really dug the stuff they did here and enjoyed the title change for what it was.

Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks — Raw Women’s Championship

Robert O’Neill: Whew. This turned into a hell of a match after a bit of a slow start. Sasha Banks being a great improviser and using Ronda’s gear against her, along with stomping the hand like the did in the NXT matches with Bayley was a nice touch. Ronda obviously prevailed, but for a while it seemed like maybe she wouldn’t. Bring on whatever’s next for both. ****

Chris Novak: Absolutely loved this match. Sasha and Ronda were both at the top of their games and boy did this match jump off the damn page. Ronda won with “Piper’s Pit” which was a new way for her to win matches without making Sasha tap out. These two showed the hell out and matched the efforts of their contemporaries to me. ****½

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Chris Novak: BECKY LYNCH IS GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA!! What an unreal showing. This match was paced obscurely for the first 20 entrants or so but ABSOLUTELY picked up at the end. Highlights were Alexa Bliss getting a damn Stone Cold pop and picking up an elimination of Ember Moon, Bayley getting a huge pop as well and then eliminating Bliss with the help of Carmella. She also NEARLY eliminated Charlotte and I absolutely lost my shit at that point. In the end, Charlotte was the last woman to be eliminated by Becky, as Lynch stands tall and is going to WrestleMania. **** for me, and what an UNBELIEVABLE moment they just created.

Robert O’Neill: I have mixed thoughts on this match because the first half or so was largely not great, but business picked up and we got a nice mix of surprises (Kairi Sane! Kacy Catanzaro! Io Shirai! Rhea Ripley!) and people already on the roster. While I could have done without Natalya and Lacey Evans being in for so long, the last third of the match saved it for me with Bayley, Alexa Bliss, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch all looking like absolute stars. I think I enjoyed it more than last year just because there weren’t a ton of legends. It was all currently-signed people. ****½

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles — WWE Championship

Robert O’Neill: It feels like that match was fine but not their best match in the past few weeks/months. It was a cooldown after the Women’s Rumble, which is fine, AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are the two guys you don’t need the crowd to be invested in because they’re bulletproof. Erick Rowan coming down and helping Bryan win is certainly interesting, though. This could definitely be going places. ***¼

Chris Novak: Yeah, that was definitely a good match in a cooldown spot is all. I love the usage of Erick Rowan as one of Bryan’s henchmen and am looking forward to seeing how this transpires. It might be over? It might not be? I don’t know for sure, but whatever the case, good match, cooldown spot. ***¾

Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor — Universal Championship

Robert O’Neill: Wow. What a match. That was the best Brock Lesnar match since Goldberg at Wrestlemania 33. It was short, but incredibly effective. Balor got a ton of offense in, working Brock’s midsection a whole bunch to set up for the Coup de Grace, which Balor hit! But Brock kicked out then locked in a Kimura which ultimately got him the win. It’s really amazing how, when he tries, Brock Lesnar is still a top 10 professional wrestler on the planet. ****½

Chris Novak: A dynamite sprint. And let it be known: BROCK GOT LUCKY! FINN WAS NEVER F-5’ED (until after the match was over). They made everyone in Chase Field believe, and baby, that was the endgame. ****½ for me too.

Men’s Royal Rumble

Chris Novak: SETH WINS!! This was a very crisp Royal Rumble. While it didn’t have the WOW/surprise factor of others in the past, it was still a really well put together match. The Nia spot was confounding but wound up working for her and… credit where credit is due: She took those finishers like a champ. All the NXT people (Gargano, Black, Dunne) felt like super big deals. Andrade looked awesome and got into the Final 4. What more could you really ask for at this point? Oh, and of course, the way that it started was SO GOOD! Love Jeff Jarrett and Elias. **** for me.

Robert O’Neill: It was a blast of a Royal Rumble match. Jeff Jarrett showing up was a legitmate surprise, and the NXT people looking awesome was another great thing, as was the Nia Jax stuff. I could have done without Dolph Ziggler, but the right man won in Seth Rollins and I can’t wait to see what comes next, likely his pursuit of Brock Lesnar. ****

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: An all-time great show, just as we expected it to be. Mopped the floor off of TakeOver and then some. A+ for everything here. Can’t say it enough.

Robert O’Neill: It was nearly seven hours from the start of the preshow till the end of the Men’s Royal Rumble. I watched every second of it. I enjoyed every second of it. That means it’s an A+ from me, as well.