WWE Royal Rumble 2019
January 27, 2019
Chase Field
Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers:

  • Barry Hess: Voices of Wrestling contributor. Follow him on Twitter @BFHess171
  • Lee Malone: Voices of Wrestling Irish wrestling expert and co-host of Days of Thunder, a WCW Thunder retrospective podcast. Follow on Twitter @Malone_713 @WCWTHUNDERPOD

WWE United States Championship
Rusev © vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Barry Hess: This year’s Rumble card is stacked, which makes this particular match stick out like a sore thumb. We don’t need this match on the main show and we don’t need it on the pre-show. This would have been a perfectly fine little TV feud, but with Andrade and Rey Mysterio demanding much of the SD Live undercard time in recent weeks (for the better) we’re getting it here. Rusev is fighting for Lana’s honor. Eh. Nakamura is a member of the SmackDown Live roster. Eh. Rusev should be a heel. Nakamura should be anything other than what he is right now. Lana should have a Russian accent again. Any questions? Prediction: Rusev

Lee Malone: Talk about a feud that has been overshadowed in recent weeks by pretty much everything else on Smackdown Live. I was happy for Rusev when he won the US Title from Nakamura in the main event position and it appeared that he was about to embark on a renewed push up the Smackdown Live ranks. Sadly this feud instead has lingered on and is the least important match on this show. It would be easy to say that both men deserve better but right now they probably don’t. Prediction: Rusev

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Bar © vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon

Barry Hess: I am unapologetically excited for this match. The story of Miz and Shane McMahon has been a lot of fun to follow. Will this story end with a full-blown Miz face turn, or will he doublecross Shane when the going gets tough? Will Shane embrace Miz’s unabashed corner cutting and turn heel? Will Shane be the one to doublecross Miz to orchestrate a double turn? Does this not-so-odd couple have a nice run as tag champions? This could go any which way right now and still make sense, which is a rarity in WWE these days, to say the least. It feels like we’re on our way to a Miz vs. Shane match at WrestleMania and I’d be more then okay with that. The Bar, for their part, is the perfect opponent for Miz and Shane and I expect the in-ring to over deliver. We’re getting a Shane plunder spot for sure. I’d like to see Shane crash and burn, putting Miz in the position to either win it or lose it for the team and advance whatever story they are telling from there. Prediction: The Miz and Shane McMahon

Lee Malone: Like Barry, I am oddly excited for this match because of the various possibilities. The build has been a rare example of WWE actually rolling with the punches and logically building a story. The Miz getting injured in the World Cup tournament and Shane winning in his place and the gradual build to Shane and Miz as a team has been enjoyable and allowed everyone to invest in them as a team. The Bar has defeated everyone else in the tag ranks a hundred and one times already so this feels really fresh. Shane and The Miz getting a feel-good win makes the most sense to me and allows them to continue on their story.  Prediction: Shane McMahon & The Miz

WWE RAW Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey © vs. Sasha Banks

Barry Hess: After two weeks of contrived passive aggressive interactions between these two, the angle on the go-home edition of RAW has reignited my interest in this match. Both Ronda and Sasha Banks finally created a believable tension that was more interesting than the silly back and forth dialog we got in previous weeks. The Sasha character is so much more interesting when she’s allowed to subtly play up the heel aspects of The Boss persona. In a perfect world, she’d be positioned as the top heel of RAW’s women’s division, but they seem dead set on keeping her tied down with Bayley on the road to nowhere. Because the Women’s Tag Team Championships are looming in the near future this feels like a one-off match before Rousey’s WrestleMania story begins to take shape. I’m expecting a great match; a match of the night contender for sure. Sasha is always motivated and this is a big spot for her. Rousey has reached the point where I’d be more surprised if she didn’t perform well in a high profile spot than if she does. With Becky Lynch and Charlotte in the same building as their RAW counterparts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shenanigans, particularly if protecting Sasha is a concern. The finish from the WWF Championship match between Bret Hart and Diesel at the 1995 Royal Rumble comes to mind. I’ve always loved that finish and it would work perfectly in this situation. Lynch and Charlotte certainly owe Rousey a receipt for the interference that led to Asuka becoming the SD Live champion. I suppose there’s a potential danger of overbooking this thing, but the women are the most compelling characters on the main roster right now so as long as it isn’t too egregious it should be a wild ride. Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Lee Malone: There is no doubt that Ronda Rousey is retaining her title in this match, of that I am absolutely 100% certain. I am also certain that Sasha never allows an opportunity to shine on the big stage pass her by. She was the star of the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble last year and now she has her highest profile match in well over a year. Sasha has that hunger and drive in her eyes again and Ronda has yet to disappoint in a big-time singles match. This will be wild and chaotic and will steal the show. Prediction: Ronda Rousey

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Asuka © vs. Becky Lynch

Barry Hess: My expectations for this match are very high, probably too high. If given the proper time and story I could easily see this as an early Match of the Year contender. From a character development perspective, this match is more important for Asuka then Becky Lynch, who remains the most over character on the main roster writ large. I would think this match will tell us exactly how Vince and company see Asuka within the hierarchy of this reignited women’s division heading into WrestleMania season. Is she just a transitional champion – a necessary device to further Lynch’s larger story – or do they view her on the same level as Becky and Charlotte? If the answer is the latter then Asuka must go over and go over strong. I don’t see that happening. Perhaps she walks out of Phoenix with the title, but a strong and clean win over Lynch seems far fetched based on WWE’s booking patterns. It will be interesting to see if/how the outcome of this match is affected by the women’s Royal Rumble match as well as the RAW Women’s Championship match. If Lynch does lose clean, will she enter the Rumble match?  That scenario seems like the one that makes the most sense, one that allows both Asuka and Lynch to go over strong. That said, I’m thinking we get a match similar to Charlotte vs. Ronda from Survivor Series: a great match turned into a good match by a schmoz finish. Prediction: Asuka

Lee Malone: Asuka won the Smackdown Womens Title at TLC when Ronda Rousey cost Becky and Charlotte Flair the match. Is Asuka a fluke champion? This match will give us that answer. No matter the result here Becky remains on course for a mega main event match with Rousey at WrestleMania. Lynch doesn’t need the Smackdown Womens Title yet Asuka requires a big match victory to solidify her position as a deserving champion. I wouldn’t have booked this match in the first place but a clean victory over Lynch could do wonders for Asuka’s perception and I’m sure everyone can think of a way for Becky to get back any lost momentum very quickly….  Prediction: Asuka

WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Buddy Murphy © vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Hideo Itami vs. Kalisto

Barry Hess: We’ve reached the broken record portion of the preview where I write about my refusal to watch 205 Live no matter how great of a ‘brand’ it may be. Sorry folks, I just don’t care. Prediction: Buddy Murphy

Lee Malone: I should watch 205 Live every week but I don’t. Instead, I keep up with the show via Joe Lanza’s Thursday TV reviews on the VOW Patreon (voicesofwrestling.com/patreon). With a major new name being lined up for 205 Live I see no reason for Buddy Murphy to lose the title yet. Prediction: Buddy Murphy

WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar © vs. Finn Balor

Barry Hess: I’m excited to see this match because all Brock Lesnar matches still feel special to me, but Finn Balor does not exactly light my world on fire. His title reign in NXT was pedestrian at best, and having to forfeit the Universal title the night after winning it, unfortunate as that was, really killed the character for me. Since returning from his untimely injury I’ve been given zero reasons to care about Balor. I think the ‘guy with abs in a leather jacket’ gimmick is corny. I think the Balor Club gimmick is hollow. I think the unbeaten champion angle is disingenuous. I think the Demon gimmick, beyond a cool entrance and body paint, creates more problems than it solves in terms of sensible character development. Oh yeah, and I think the Coup de Grace finisher looks clunky and lame. And while I’m on this rant, there’s something about his selling that really annoys me. It’s not overselling per se, but for whatever reason, I personally find it unbearable to watch at times. Wow…it felt good to get all that out.  

Anyway, anti-Balor rant notwithstanding, I think this could be a valuable match in terms of resetting Balor’s character for much of the fanbase. There are few wrestling angles I love more than the underdog with no shot making me believe he/she is actually going to win. For me, that kind of storytelling (when executed well) is the best kind of suspension of disbelief we all strive for as wrestling fans. Here’s the catch though, I’m more than a little afraid this match will go beyond the aforementioned hope spot and actually crown a new champion. That would be disastrous in my view. Sure, you’d get the short term benefit that comes along with a major title change, but Brock needs to lose the title at WrestleMania in a major angle that will transfer the considerable equity his character possesses. Maybe Balor is the right man for that role and maybe he’s not, but crowning Balor at Royal Rumble would be a mistake regardless. Let me think it’s going to happen and then smash those hopes to pieces one F-5 after another. Prediction: Brock Lesnar

Lee Malone: Did you know that Finn Balor is an extraordinary man that can do extraordinary things but he’s also very small so he has no chance against Brock Lesnar. If you watched Monday Night Raw recently you would be well aware of the fact that Brock is big and Finn is small and nobody believes in him and if you do you are in fact a moron. This match was originally scheduled to be Brock vs Braun Strowman but Braun was stripped of his title shot by Vince McMahon for some reason and Braun pushed over a limo. This led to small Finn winning two matches to earn the title match that he can’t possibly win because he is small and Brock is big and strong.

Issues with the build to this match aside, this is a massive opportunity for Finn to show he can step up and produce on the big stage. In their brief interactions, it seemed obvious that Brock respects Finn and he will have his working boots on for this one. This won’t be Lesnar vs Ambrose from WrestleMania but it is up to Finn to get this match to the next level and prove he belongs in these big-time matches  Prediction: Brock Lesnar

WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan © vs. AJ Styles

Barry Hess: The new Daniel Bryan reminds me of a group of people I work with…only they don’t have his work rate. I’ve said before, my favorite kind of heel is the heel that has a bit of truth embedded in his evil ways. Here we have a heel that has quite a bit of truth guiding his motivations and yet he’s still received as the clear heel in the story. I love it. The outside the ring interactions between AJ Styles and Bryan have really done a nice job in adding the appropriate level of intensity to this rivalry. It’s nice to see an AJ Styles feud have some real juice behind it again, it’s been far too long. I don’t see Styles regaining the title here, nor do I think he should, but that does leave me a bit concerned about his role for WrestleMania. Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Lee Malone: AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan is one of those matches that even WWE shouldn’t be able to mess up with their usually overly contrived stories. And this time they didn’t, they actually added to the anticipation. Since his title victory over Styles in November, the New Daniel Bryan has been a revelation. His promos whether directed at fans or Styles have been enthralling. The Yes schtick had long since lost any juice and long may this NEW Daniel Bryan reign as WWE Champion if he continues to be this entertaining.

Styles has played his part in the feud too and has been the perfect every man to Bryan’s ultra vegan and environmentalist stance. We can’t ignore the fact that Vince McMahon has been a featured player in this story in recent weeks and I just hope that come the PPV that McMahon plays no part in the actual match. I see no reason for Styles to beat Bryan right now but I can’t rule out the possibility that WWE may have something else in mind for Bryan at WrestleMania other than a title match. Prediction: Daniel Bryan

2019 Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Barry Hess: Based on what I know right now there is only one woman that can conceivably win this match and that’s Charlotte Flair. And that’s fine. Sometimes a Rumble match has one obvious winner and the fun is watching how we all end up at the ‘point to the sign’ moment. Before we go ahead and chisel Charlotte’s name into the WrestleMania main event, however, there are a ton of variables to consider. We don’t officially know if the losers of the respective Women’s Championship matches will be competing in the Rumble match. If so then Charlotte’s odds decrease significantly (see Scott Steiner to explain the math behind the odds). Furthermore, even if Ronda Rousey isn’t in the match, she could get involved in a way that influences the outcome. Last year’s women’s Rumble was based around the history of the match and the nostalgia acts returning to celebrate WWE’s new presentation of women’s wrestling. This year it’s all about who’s cashing in that ticket to WrestleMania; it’s high stakes with plenty of compelling stories to support it and that’s great. Without knowing match order or the outcomes I’m sticking with the chalk for my prediction and I’ll just sit back and watch how it all plays out. Prediction: Charlotte Flair

Lee Malone: Hey remember I said there was a way for Becky Lynch to get her momentum back in spite of losing clean to Asuka earlier in the show. Becky winning the Rumble and facing Ronda at WrestleMania makes so much sense that I am worried that WWE will over complicate things. Charlotte is the one person that could prove to be the fly in the ointment to prevent Rousey and Lynch becoming a reality. Charlotte has certainly upped her game alongside Lynch in recent months and she has been a major part of the Rousey and Lynch feud but I would love to see a Charlotte Asuka rematch at WrestleMania with the roles reversed this time of Asuka going in as champion and Charlotte as the challenger. This would allow WWE to build to two major women’s singles matches at the biggest show of the year. However, it appears that a triple threat match is most likely between Flair, Lynch and Rousey and for that reason I think we will get co-winners ala Luger and Hart in 1995 with Charlotte and Becky hitting the floor at the same time. Prediction: Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch

2019 Men’s Royal Rumble Match

Barry Hess: As narrow as the path to winning the women’s Rumble match may be, the men’s match is wide open. At one point it appeared like Drew McIntyre was being prepped to win this thing, but that was before he lost something like seven of his last eight television matches (apparently the Scottish terminator’s kryptonite is the dreaded schoolboy roll-up). He’s certainly still a contender. Lately, it seems like Seth Rollins might be a sound pick, but now that Braun Strowman is presumably a participant that muddies the waters even more, at least on the RAW side. On the SmackDown Live side of things, it’s really anyone’s guess. I’m thinking the winner comes from the RAW brand this year. Prediction: Seth Rollins

Lee Malone: While the women’s Royal Rumble appears to be a straight choice of either Flair or Lynch the men’s Rumble is far less of an inevitability. With no clear winner is it possible a debuting star could win and change the world? To quote Gorilla Monsoon “Highly unlikely”. From the names announced so far Seth Rollins catches my eye as the most likely to win and go on and challenge for either the Universal or WWE Title at WrestleMania. Being that the Rumble is so wide open this is the perfect time to promote one or two guys from the incredibly bloated NXT roster by allowing them to have a good showing here. Aleister Black or Tomasso Ciampa coming in off the back of Takeover the previous night seems a no brainer to me and a personal choice of mine would be Pete Dunne who is the longest reigning champion in all of WWE has instant credibility. Rumble matches rarely disappoint and with nobody standing out from the pack as an obvious winner this match should have no issues holding everyone’s attention. Prediction: Seth Rollins