The 2019 Royal Rumble is the starting point for WrestleMania season. By the end of Sunday night, we'll know at least two title challengers for the biggest WWE show of the year, and probably a big deal more than that.
Going into the main card, one title has already changed hands. Fifty more will be on the line over the course of the night, including the top four titles on Raw and SmackDown, but most attention will be paid to the men's and women's Royal Rumble matches
Tim Fiorvanti is live at Chase Field in Phoenix, with coverage supplemented by stats and insights from Sean Coyle and Matt Willis
Men's Royal Rumble
Match in progress
Already eliminated: Jeff Jarrett
When Finn Balor emphatically stated that he would not be donning the Demon persona against Brock Lesnar in the lead-up to his Universal Championship match at Royal Rumble, fans of Balor responded with a metaphorical groan.
In all his successes in the big matches to date, Balor wore the paint and showed an extra burst of aggression on the way to victory. Most were resigned to the inevitability of another Lesnar win and another Balor failure on a big stage. For a fleeting moment on Sunday night, however, Balor seemed to have a glimmer of hope as he broke down Lesnar's ribs and then landed his patent Coup de Grace – but then it was only worth a two-count
Lesnar quickly rolled that setup into a kimura, locked the hold in and earned a submission victory. This was not at the level of Daniel Bryan's challenge of Lesnar at the Survivor Series, and while Balor will be left to search for solutions moving forward, it was not a case of pure decimation by any means
Balor brought the fight early, but Lesnar overhead belly-to-belly'd Balor and sent him flying out of the ring. Balor got ragdolled all over the ringside, but found his opening in sending Lesnar ribs-first into the corner of a commentary table.
Lesnar still supplored Balor all over the ring and ringside, but along the way, his chain of German supporters was hurting him as much as he was hurting Balor. A short flash of offense led to an almost blindingly fast successful Coup de Grace, but it was not meant to be on this night
After the bell, Lesnar went back to the well three times, hitting a trio of German supplements and an F-5 to a loud chorus of boos.
For nearly a year, AJ Styles dominated the landscape on SmackDown Live as WWE Champion, but Daniel Bryan and Daniel Bryan made a quick blow to Daniel Bryan showcase
Five years ago, Daniel Bryan owned the road to WrestleMania as the everyman hero that the whole WWE fan base got behind. Now, he's the proachy environmentalist, the "New Daniel Bryan," he's grating those same fans who have been so passionately behind him long ago.
Meanwhile, he has pushed Styles to a more-edgy place, with a little push from Vince McMahon, who enraged Styles into throwing a right hand to the Chairman
After the show these two put together in their last singles meeting at TLC in December, and Bryan win in a nearly 25-minute match, the bar was set high into their Royal Rumble match. Becky Lynch won the Royal Rumble moments before, this one started slow as the two jockeyed for position, with a lot of arms and chin locks
But Bryan took control after Styles hit the ringpost, injuring his chest and left arm. At this point, Bryan's technical expertise took over as he picked apart Styles – the highlight being a double underhook seamlessly transformed into a submission attempt
Styles' comebacks were cut off time and time again, as Bryan hit and nasty-looking dragon suplex and kicked Styles off the apron when Styles attempted to reverse the top-rope hurricanrana into a Styles Clash attempt
On the outside, the pace picked up. Styles moonsaulted off the barricade and landed in perfect position for a reverse DDT on Bryan. Bryan got the knees up on a springboard 450 attempts, but his LaBell lock attempt turned into a calf crusher, broken when Bryan reached the ropes
Bryan kicked the arm out of under Styles, but Styles landed on his feet after avalanche back suplex attempt, and locked in the Calf Crusher once again.
The two were left standing after a desperation Pele kick from Styles, and then when things just got puzzling
Erick Rowan appeared from who knows where not seen on WWE TV since August, and stood ominously at ringside. Bryan attempted an enzig, but Styles ducked and instead the referee was hit. Rowan used that opportunity to come in, hit his face-grasping slam on Styles and handed a easy three count to Bryan
It was a disappointing ending to a well-worked match. It seems like Rowan is standing as Bryan, perhaps hired, environmentally friendly muscle. If this is the end of the Bryan-Styles feud, the ending did not seem to do the build justice. Becky Lynch wins Women's Royal Rumble
Becky Lynch's instant reaction to winning the women's Royal Rumble match
Becky Lynch's instant reaction to winning the women's Royal Rumble match
Last year's inaugural women's Royal Rumble match was a memorable one.
The match had its own
The match had its share moments, surprises and was entertaining as a result.
In-ring execution: 0.50
Match psychology: 0.75
– Sean Coyle
The first entrant who took part in her very first major roster match tonight was Lacey Evans. She matched Natalya to start the match and it was Natalya who recorded the first elimination of the night when the fourth entrant, Liv Morgan, entered the ring and was tossed over the top rope in mere seconds
As the match moved along, many memorable moments unfolded. When the eighth entrant, Nikki Cross, stormed the ring and knocked down Billie Kay, who stood on the ramp, she ascended the top turnbuckle and performed a cross body block on five other superstars
The 10th entrant was Tamina, who recorded the second elimination of the night when she tossed out Mickie James. Immediately after the elimination, we had our first surprise entrant of the night at number 11 when the Mae Young Classic competitor and NXT superstar Xia Li entered.
One of the favorites to win, Charlotte Flair, arrived at number 13 and instantly took control .
Our first Kofi Kingston moment occurred when Mandy Rose, who was eliminated by Naomi, attempted to illegally power a bomb Naomi out of the ring. Naomi twisted and managed to balance herself on the barricade without her feet touching the ground. She performed a balancing act and jumped across the steel ring steps, avoiding the ground. (19659018) Two more surprises came at numbers 17 and 19 when two more NXT superstars, Candice LeRae and Kacy Catanzaro, entered the match. LeRae and Zelina Vega, who entered next, reignited their heated NXT rivalry. The former American Ninja Warrior star Catanzaro thrilled the crowd with another Kingston moment when she appeared she had been eliminated but walked on her hands to the ring post and climbed up to re-enter
Ruby Riott entered at number 20 and was flanked by Morgan and Logan, who had already been eliminated. They stayed at ringside and started pulling superstars out of the ring and softening them up to allow Riot to officially eliminate them, a strategy we had not seen in a Royal Rumble match before. During the chaos, Vega snuck under the ring, but more on that later
One of the Riot Squad victims was Kairi Sane, but at number 23, Io Shirai arrived and delivered a perfect moonsault from the top rope to the outside of the ring on the trio
Yet another surprise came at number 24 when Rhea Ripley, the first NXT UK women's champion, entered and began to make an impact using power moves. She tossed out Dana Brooke and then Vega reappeared from under the ring, but she was not alone. Hornswoggle, who has always been known to have a home under a wrestling ring, was right next to her, much to her chagrin.
Alexa Bliss and Bayley arrived at numbers 26 and 27. Bliss was eliminated by Sonya Deville while Bayley tossed out both Riott and Ripley. However, it was number 28 that proved to be the turning point of the match. Lana tried to enter, but she could not make it to the ring due to ankle injury suffered during her husband Rusev's kick-off show match. As Nia Jax, who entered at number 29, she made her way to the ring, she added to Lana's injury with an ambush. Carmella entered the match officially at No. 30, and shortly after, Becky Lynch, who lost to Asuka in the opening match, emerged to take Lana's spot
The final four were Lynch, Flair, Bayley and Jax. Bayley was eliminated first when she was at Jax's shoulders for a Samoan drop. However, Flair connected with a boot to Bayley sending her off Jax's shoulders to the outside. Lynch was sent under the ropes to the outside and helped Flair eliminate Jax by pulling her from the outside off the apron. As Lynch prepared to re-enter the ring, Jax pushed her and caused an obvious knee injury.
Lynch fought back, but Flair stayed persistent in her attack. Wowever, when Flair attempted to deliver a boot, Lynch ducked and sent Flair over the top rope. One laundry line later sent Flair to the ground and Lynch was the 2019 women's Royal Rumble winner
While it is unconfirmed at the moment, it seems that the highly anticipated potential main event-level bout between Lynch and Rousey is ready to close WrestleMania
There was a very strange energy inside Chase Field just before the bell rang for the Raw women's championship match at the Royal Rumble. Fans were collectively excited to see the match, but the feelings for Ronda Rousey were decidedly mixed.
There was a vocal contingent of Rousey fans but the support of Becky Lynch has stretched so far that Lynch's spectre finally got a chance at Rousey turned the other parts of the crowd against the Raw women's champ. At the same time, there were plenty of Sasha Banks supporters, but even as different sections of the crowd got louder or more quiet, there was a buzz to see how everything would play out
Rousey and Banks battered each other from pillar to post, each taking out an arm of their opponent, but in the end Rousey absorbed everything Banks had to give and held on just a bit longer to secure the victory. Despite the intensity and level of physicality in the match, the lasting image of this match happened after the bell. As Rousey shook Banks' hand, Banks pulled away and put on the four-hand hand salute of the Four Horsewomen – a moniker that the NXT quartet of Banks, Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Bayley use, but also one Rousey and her trio of compatriots currently in NXT have used.
As far as the match went, there were no pulling punches at any point in the contest. Rousey embraced the role of the heel early on as she mocked Banks by pulling out Eddie Guerrero's "three amigos" trio of suplexes. Banks stifled that combo, though, and managed to control a good chunk of the match with flying knees, kicks and punches – anything that could hit
Banks eventually got cocky, though, and that allowed Rousey to roll through with swinging neckbreaker that looked really brutal. From that point on, both in and out of the ring, Rousey and Banks traded a submission attempt after submission attempt. Rousey caught a suicide dive at one point and got Banks to tap out on the outside – highlighting Rousey's inexperience and lack of situational knowledge, as that tap out would not eventually count
Banks got control back once the action returned to the ring , and locked in a modified surfboard stretch that look agonizingly painful. Both women attacked from creative angles, but both worked most of the tail end of the match clutching one of their arms. They changed their offense in kind, though, and Banks seemingly had the match on a razor's edge by using part of her ring gear to lock in Banks statement.
Rousey resisted, though, and while Banks rolled through to the middle of the ring and trapped Rousey's arm, the champion rolled through and hit a combination of suplex and powerbomb. She picked Banks up, she spun her around and dropped Banks on her head to secure the win
The suggestion that a battle of the four horsewomen is palpable, but we'll have to wait until the end of the women's Royal Rumble
The Miz and Shane McMahon def The Bar (c)
The Miz and Shane McMahon became the SmackDown tag team team championships with the win over The Bar at the Royal Rumble. WWE
Before tonight's challengers joined forces, the SmackDown tag team division was strong. The addition of the compelling combination of The Miz and Shane McMahon has increased it even further. The unlikely duo found themselves in a position to capture the SmackDown tag titles just a month after establishing themselves as a team. Their partnership was built on the basis of Miz living up to his father's expectations, and a feeling that McMahon knew all too well
Was this a very fun tag team match as Miz and McMahon proved they are mesh well as a team.
In-ring execution: 0.50
Match psychology: 0.75
The match began with McMahon spearing Sheamus to kick things off in intense fashion and early sequences maintained that tempo with a lot of back and forth action. The first big spot of the match came when McMahon appeared ready to perform one of his patented elbow drops from the turnbuckle onto Cesaro who was lying on the announcers table. Miz was holding down Cesaro, but Sheamus interfered and Cesaro broke free.
McMahon, still perched on top of the ropes, changed his target and hit a top rope clothesline on Sheamus. the Bar took control inside the ring with a number of double team tactics on The Miz
Eventually, Miz made the hot tag to McMahon and unleashed a flurry of strikes on Sheamus. A few sequences later, McMahon had both Sheamus and Cesaro set up in the middle of the ring and appeared poised to deliver his patented coast-to-coast dropkick. However, as he jumped off the turnbuckle, Cesaro caught him in mid flight and performed an extended version of the Cesaro swing. After the swing, McMahon immediately turned the tides locked into a triangle choke, but the flying knee by Sheamus off the top rope broke the hold.
In an effort to close the match, Cesaro held Shane up to allow Sheamus to connect with Brose kick, but Miz shoved Cesaro in front of the kick and caught Sheamus with a skull crushing final and rolled him out the ring.
As Cesaro laid in the middle of the ring, McMahon hit a beautiful shooting star press and secured the championships for his team and the two celebrated with the ringside Mr. Mizanin
Will the Miz and McMahon duo flourish now that they have the straps or will the pressure of being the top team in a stacked division be too much? Many predict that their partnership will derail heading towards WrestleMania. Time to tell
SmackDown Live women's championship: Asuka (c) def. Becky Lynch
When you are building a major show of the size and scale of Royal Rumble, you need something to kick the card off with a bang
By starting the show with the SmackDown women's championship match , WWE accomplished a few things at once. They got an electric reaction for Becky Lynch, they got a tremendous match and, most importantly, a shocking result that made wonders for both women involved.
Match psychology: 1.00
– Sean Coyle
Some might ask Asuka defeating Lynch – probably the most popular star of the moment – cleanly in the middle of the ring. Those in opposition, there may still be a sound explanation by the end of the night. In the meantime, there is no doubt that the reclamation project for Asuka is complete heading into the busiest time of year.
From the opening bell, this title was a stiff, technical affair. Lynch shook off some brutal kicks from the beginning, and that set the tone for everything to follow. Asuka surely got her shots in, but Lynch easily gave her as good as she got. And the Bex-ploder in the ring barrier was an indication of how far and how hard these women were willing to go in.
Asuka and Lynch flew all over the ring, used every part of the ring to batter each other back and forth, and each struggled to get a definite edge until the match started to peak. Everything hit another level when, after a major struggle on the apron ended with a brutal-looking fisherman's neckbreaker by Asuka that sent both women crashing to the ground.
As they slowly climbed to their feet, they traded open-handed slaps and stared in each other's eyes. Lynch blocked and backfist, but could not quite turn it into a Dis-arm-her. And the top rope Bex-ploder only got two counts, and a follow-up top rope dropped missed.
Asuka was able to sink into the Asuka lock, but then turned it into a dis-arm-her. Lynch responded by stealing Asuka's submission, but it all turned into a pinfall attempt. Finally, as Lynch and Asuka each fought to lock in their signature submissions, Asuka finally got the upper hand. When the Asuka lock was not quite enough, she flipped over on her head and put Lynch in what I can only describe as a variation of the old pre-WWE finisher of Daniel Bryan, but that was enough to win
Let the speculation of Lynch being in the women's Royal Rumble begin, but for now, Asuka picked up a signature win, to say the least.
Cruiserweight championship: Buddy Murphy (c) def. Akira Tozawa, Hideo Itami and Kalisto
In a match that featured the creativity and acrobatics you would hope for in a four-way Cruiserweight Championship match, Buddy Murphy pinned Hideo Itami to retain his title in a match that also involved Akira Tozawa and Kalisto. The finish came through Murphy's Law, after a crazy sequence of knee strikes and stiff blows between all four competitors. The match might not have been on the main card, but if that was the reason they got 15-20 minutes to shine, then it was well worth the pre-show placement. (Photo from @ WWE205Live)
United States championship: Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev (c)
Just over a month after losing the United States championship to Rusev on SmackDown, Shinsuke Nakamura regained that title on the Royal Rumble Kickoff. Nakamura removed the top turnbuckle cover, which brought Lana up to the apron to complain. The distraction led to a sequence in which Nakamura tricked Rusev, slipped out of the way and caused Rusev to crash into Lana – the second time he had done so in recent weeks. In the confusion, Nakamura hit and Kinshasa knee and earned a pinfall victory.