It’s a new year and the Part-Time Champ is back to defend the championship! In our world of constant wrestling content, it’s become impossible for me to keep up with anything not called NXT. So instead of hanging up my boots or drowning in wrestling, I’ve taken an alternative route of only watching pay-per-views and other special events. No context, no spoilers, no problem. It all comes down to one question: Is less wrestling actually more? With only a few rumours swirling around my head, how will my experience differ from the rest of the wrestling community’s? Let’s find out.
Today’s edition: The 2020 WWE Royal Rumble
This is by far my favourite night in pro wrestling, and it has been since the beginning of my fandom in 2014. It’s one night that no matter what else is happening in the product, I remember why I love being a wrestling fan. This is the first time I don’t have at least a pretty good idea of everyone who’s in it or what the stories are expected to be. I think out of all of the year’s shows, this is the one that lends itself most of all to the PTC strategy, as it’s built around on the constant change, the unexpected, and the entertaining.
Here’s what I know so far:
Brock Lesnar is entering the Rumble, presumably because he has something on his calendar for April 5th and would really prefer the night off. While I don’t think he’ll win, whoever eliminates him will probably set up the feud for Mania. I had logic’d myself into picking Roman Reigns for the win, then a friend suggested Kevin Owens and I threw logic to the wind.
Daniel Bryan is facing the Fiend, who I’ve soured on, unfortunately. I’m hoping this is the first great Fiend match. I love the Fiend, but for me, it’s got to come back to wrestling at the end of the day. If we want a Blumhouse horror movie called Firefly Funhouse, then go call Jordan Peele and I would watch that movie and I would love that movie. If we’re going to do wrestling, it needs to come back to wrestling.
On the women’s side, Asuka and Becky Lynch are facing off and it’ll probably be my match of the night. Question: If Becky wins, does she become Women’s Tag Team Champion and replace Asuka as Kiari’s partner? I’m not saying I want an Asuka loss but…
Rumours have been pretty strong that Ronda Rousey is returning, and that sound you hear is me yawning. I have many many favourites within this division, and I would love to see them make a new main roster star tonight. My brother-in-law thinks it’s going to be “that lady from NXT who I don’t know,” I think he’s talking about Shayna Baszler. She’s my pick as well, especially if she eliminates Ronda and then makes a “not here to make friends” line.
Overall, this was one of my favourite pay-per-views to date, especially if you leave TakeOvers out because it’s just not a fair fight. It was well-paced, the stories were well done, and I was in bed before midnight. It was excellent. This is one of the first times I’ve ever felt like I enjoyed Sunday’s main show more than Saturday’s NXT show. I give it three New Day thumbs up!
The Big Beats:
Aside from the extremely awkward Shorty G vs. Sheamus kickoff show match, the only real lowlight for me was the opening event: Roman Reigns vs. Baron Corbin, Falls Count Anywhere. It’s not that the match itself was bad, it just had a hard time keeping my attention for more than a few minutes. I felt like I had seen these two a bunch of times and they never become any more interesting to me. Around the internet, I had read that Reigns was the odds-on favourite to win the Royal Rumble, but I don’t understand how to read betting odds so who really knows? Putting him through a gruelling match like this is a good way to set up the babyface story, but sometimes I feel like they don’t know when to stop selling with Reigns. It made me a little nervous he was going to run through the Rumble like no problem and we’d be left feeling like his win was unearned.
We followed Reign’s victory with the Women’s Royal Rumble, which is kind of a crappy spot. I actually quite like it when the big women’s match opens the show since you just can’t have two Rumbles back to back. Second isn’t a great option. Despite that, and the fact that less than ⅓ of the competitors had even declared at the top of the show, the ladies really brought it. I’m quite into the Fire and Desire storyline, their backstage interview was quietly one of the best moments of the night. When Sonya declared she would let Mandy have the win if it came down to the two of them, she didn’t say “I know my friend would do the same for me.” She didn’t ask Mandy if she would, the dynamic between the two just hung there, unspoken for a moment. I loved it.
The women of NXT had a particularly good night. That division is so stacked it could basically have its own show at this point. Unsurprisingly, Shayna’s arrival was a big moment, though I felt that her appearance at the NXT over the top Battle Royale cheapened the moment just a tad. Still, she proved that she’s a star and I’m glad Ronda Rousey didn’t show up and siphon off the spotlight from her. I wasn’t expecting Charlotte to win at all, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me from the way it was presented. Listen, they can’t have Charlotte never win a Royal Rumble, they just can’t. So this was the best year and way to do it. They did a great job of laying out the story, everyone else wanted it, but Charlotte needed it.
— Ms. WrestleMania (@MsCharlotteWWE) January 28, 2020
I expected this to not be a particularly common opinion. People love to hate Charlotte. Honestly, I think they hate what they believe she stands for much more than they hate who she actually is or what she does. Bleacher Report’s Erik Beaston put it on his list of Worst Royal Rumble booking choices, for much of the reasons I anticipated. Maybe it’s because I happened to be wearing my Charlotte Flair shirt and have to admit I’m a bit of a Charlotte Stan. Or maybe, it was because, within the bubble of the night, the story worked for me in a way it wouldn’t have otherwise. Either way, I’m happier that Beaston on this one.
Oh, and the Santina Marella moment was trash.
Bray Wyatt’s entrance made me forget all my sass from earlier about the Fiend character. There’s something so special and magnetic about his presence. But, I also forgot he was the Universal Champion. So there’s that. This was one of the better matches the Fiend has had, and I was impressed that WWE proved they do have a long-term memory by bringing up the Daniel Bryan/Wyatt Family feud from a couple of years ago. Around the community, I’ve noticed people being pretty hyped up about this, it got an A rating from CBS Sports. Personally, I wouldn’t go quite that far. It wasn’t a lowlight or a highlight of the night for me. I know that gimmick matches tend to dampen my enjoyment rather than enhance it. This disparity may not have much anything to do with not watching every week.
The Main Event:
I’m only slightly fading by the time we get to the Men’s Royal Rumble. Considering that it’s been about 5 hours of wrestling at this point, that’s a testament to how good of a show it was. Personally, I could’ve done without the Brock show for the first part of the match. Does anyone actually like Brock or is it just WWE that’s obsessed with him? Let me know in angry comments below. It’s not that I hate the angle of one person absolutely dominating the first few minutes. When we previously saw this, it was relatively surprising. Bray Wyatt wasn’t the guy that we expected that kind of absolute domination from, so it was exciting. This was just sort of the same story we’ve seen with Brock a million times. Bleacher Report’s trusty winners and losers rundown agrees, naming every one of the 13 eliminated contestants as a collective major loser of the night.
Edge’s moment was excellent, though I had money on him at #30 and was just a little off. I wasn’t even around for his run, and I still understood how big of a deal this was. It was a powerful moment, one that makes the Royal Rumble so special no matter what else is happening.
Is there anything better than the sight of a wrestler returning from a long, cruel absence to the joyous adulation of an audience that never forgot him? pic.twitter.com/HpDXD8T5rp
— Mith Gifs Wrestling (@MithGifs) January 27, 2020
By the time we got to #30, I had forgotten that Seth Rollins hadn’t yet made an appearance. I’ve been following the Monday Night Messiah thing through Twitter gifs but seeing it first hand was an experience. Because this is familiar territory with Rollins, AOP feels a little bit like overgrown J&J security. Guess that’s what happens when you take your vitamins, I wouldn’t know. He feels a lot more serious than last time he was a heel, he’s got a chip on his shoulder.
Ultimately, I’m into the coronation of Drew. It was a great moment for him and well deserved. My only thing is I’m having a hard time picturing what a match between him and Brock Lesnar would look like. We saw a glimpse of it when he eliminated Brock, but there needs to be more than that for a match of this magnitude. I’d be curious to see what the build would be, but then I hear about a “Loser Eats Dog Food” match on Smackdown and remember why I don’t watch weekly. When they do a match like that on a pay-per-view, I’m out.
For a more balanced, well-informed rundown of everything that happened at the Royal Rumble, check out Bradley Tiernan’s full review. For more hot takes based on little-to-no context, join us again next month as the Part-Time Champ reviews The Elimination Chamber.