- Presented LIVE on the WWE Network on January 27th, 2019 from Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ. We've got the usual groups calling the action unless specifically noted: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young for Raw matches, Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves for Smackdown matches. 205 Live, who cares. We're not watching the entire Kickoff Show, but here's the quick rundown: Chad Gable and Bobby Roode defeated Rezar and Scott Dawson in a make-shift match added about 20-minutes before bell-time (2 stars)... Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev to regain the US Title. The finish saw Lana knocked off the apron and twisting her ankle, not unlike the time Rusev fought John Cena in 2015. When you read this, Nakamura would lose the title to R-TRUTH on Smackdown Live (3 stars)... Buddy Murphy retained the Cruiserweight Title by pinning Hideo Itami in a Fatal 4-Way that also involved Kalisto and Akira Tozawa (3.5 stars).
Back inside, Lynch covers for two. Lynch with some mud-hole stomping in the corner followed by a snap suplex for two. Asuka avoids the Disarm-Her and wildly kicks at Lynch to create separation. She staggers Lynch with a roundhouse but misses the hip attack and gets caught in the ropes. Lync wastes time with the referee, allowing Asuka to recover and hook the Asuka-Lock in the ropes. Asuka posts herself on a charge and Lynch gives her a receipt with the Disarm-Her assisted by the ropes. Asuka catches Lynch diving off the ropes with a knee to the jaw. Whip to the corner and Asuka surprises Lynch with a missile dropkick. She hits Lynch in the corner with a hip attack and connects with a spinning back-fist. Asuka with a release German Suplex and hip attack for two. Lynch avoids a Missile Dropkick and connects with a modified pump-handle slam for two. Asuka surprises Lynch with a cross armbar and transitions to the Asuka-Lock, but Lynch rolls through and gets to the ropes.
Both women end up on the apron, trading blows. Asuka gets the better of the exchange and takes Lynch to the floor with a GRUESOME DDT that looked intended to be something else based on the hooked leg. The referee counts but Lynch manages to get back in at 9. Asuka greets her return with a running kick for a near-fall. They trade strikes in the middle of the ring until Becky catches the arm. Asuka blocks the Disarm-Her and connects with the roundhouse kick for two. Lynch escapes an Exploder and surprises Asuka with a springboard boot to the chest. Lynch with a Super-Exploder for two. Asuka avoids a guillotine leg drop and grabs the Asuka-Lock before transitioning into the Disarm-Her! Lynch counters and applies the Asuka-Lock! Asuka rolls over into a cover for two. Lynch with the Disarm-Her, but Asuka counters with a roll-up for two. O'Connor Roll for two. Asuka with a takedown into the Asuka-Lock. She floats over with the hold into a guillotine choke and Lynch taps out at 17:05. Great match to kick the "PPV" portion of the show off with non-stop action and a big fight feel. They came out of the gates at high speed and never relented, building to a hot finish. You could question making Lynch lose clean, but I'll take a clean finish every day of the week. ****
Sasha goes back to the arm and springs off the top into a code breaker to the arm. Running knee strike for two. Sasha misses the knees in the corner. Rousey rolls into a fireman's carry but Sasha counters into a modified arm-bar. Rousey rolls over to stack Banks up, but Sasha turns that into the Bank Statement. Ronda escapes and connects with the twisting Samoan drop ("The Piper's Pit", otherwise known as one of the dumbest names possible). Rousey hops up on the shoulders of Banks and hangs over the top with an arm-bar. Banks straddles Rousey across the top turnbuckle and they fight for position. Banks with a knee to the face, followed by a super-plex for two. Rousey powers out of an arm-bar with a judo throw for two. Rousey with three more throws but Sasha cuts off the armbar attempt, tossing Rousey to the floor. The second attempt at a suicide dive is countered, with Rousey hooking the armbar on the floor. Sasha taps, but it's moot.
Rousey wins the strike battle in the corner and throws Banks over, again. Banks blocks a boot and connects with a knee, but Ronda uses the ropes to bounce back with a knee strike of her own for two. Banks fights out of a gut-wrench, throwing Rousey face-first into the bottom turnbuckle. Banks with the double stomp across the bad arm. Banks counters the "Pit" with a body press for two. Banks with the Bank Statement, using the strap of her top for illegal leverage on several occasions, and stomping the bad arm to prevent Rousey from hooking the rope. Banks with the Fujiwara armbar, bending the fingers at the same time. Rousey rolls through for a counter and connects with a gut-wrench suplex. Fireman's lift into the "Piper's Pit" and that finishes at 13:49. Post-match, they make nice, but Sasha flashes the Four Horse(wo)men sign at her to be a jerk. Had Sasha not been treated as a geek for all of 2018, this could've been even better with intrigue. It's a good match, but the result was never in doubt. ***1/2
#11 is Xia Li. She's made zero appearances on NXT TV, but she's been in both Mae Young Classics, so there's that. She lays into Tamina with kicks, including a spinning heel kick. Li is the next to botch a "land on your feet" spot. #12 is Sarah Logan. Please, SOMEONE CLEAN HOUSE. Logan runs wild and doesn't eliminate anyone. Billie Kay and Royce casually eliminate Nikki Cross at 20:16. #13 is Charlotte Flair. Guess what... she runs wild. Meanwhile, LACEY EVANS gets to eliminate Royce and Kay at the same time at 21:52. Xia Li goes for Charlotte, but a springboard is countered with a boot to the face and Li is done at 22:28. #14 is Kairi Sane, winner of the Female Athlete and Overall Athlete in the 2018 NXT Awards. Charlotte dumps Tamina at 23:31. Sane hits Logan with a flying forearm and gets into a chop battle with Charlotte. Sane hits Logan with the Insane Elbow and tosses her (with assistance from Natalya) out at 25:01. #15 is Maria Kanellis. I'm sure she'll win. She tries to interrupt a face-off with Evans and Charlotte and gets booted. Maria hits them both with a bulldog. She celebrates with a dance that Charlotte interrupts with a spear. "You don't belong in this ring" might be the truest statement ever uttered. #16 is Naomi. She goes right after Mandy in a rare bit of continuity these days. She pulls Mandy over the top with a suplex and knocks her out at 27:52. Mandy fights off an attack and does the John Morrison spot, walking the barricade and hopping to the steps... only for Rose to sweep her off for the elimination at 28:50. That was funny. Charlotte eliminates Evans at 29:33. #17 is Candice LeRae, wearing Tegan Knox's tights in tribute to her. She quickly hits Moon with a missile dropkick and applies an Octopus-Lock. #18 is Alicia Fox. She needs to join Tamina on the "over-stayed their welcome" wagon out of WWE. She forms an unlikely alliance with Maria that includes Maria stepping on her hat in a back-stabbing move, but not doing any damage to it, and the commentators burying the entire sequence. This was DEATH. #19 is Kacy Catanzaro as Fox eliminates Maria at 33:56. Kacy does a handspring head-scissors on Moon and a forward head-scissors on Natalya. Good to see her hit these spots in a match filled with missteps. Fox saves herself from elimination and hits a tilt-o-whirl back breaker through the ropes. #20 is Zelina Vega, dressed as Street Fighter's "Vega." She rekindles her rivalry with LeRae that is surprisingly acknowledged on commentary.
#21 is Ruby Riott, with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan in tow. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RULES?! They pull Charlotte out and beat on her. Same treatment for Vega, who decides to hide under the ring, making sure to peak under the apron every 30-seconds because we're morons. Fox gets pulled out next, laid out, then easily eliminated by Riott at 38:51. LeRae takes a powerbomb into the barricade and Riott tosses her at 39:24. #22 is Dana Brooke. She counters a hurricanrana from Catanzaro with a Liger-Bomb. Kairi sane gets flipped over the top by Riott and eliminated at 40:32 in a spot I think might've been messed up. Too much momentum on the toss. #23 is Io Shirai, saving Sane from a 3-on-1 from the Riott Squad. Yeah, that was a mess-up. Shirai hits a moonsault to the floor, but since she never entered the ring, it's not a self-elimination. I guess. Rules check, please? #24 is Rhea Ripley, former UK Women's Champion. She runs wild on everyone in a trend we should be used to by now. Brooke eliminates Catanzaro... or so we think. She didn't land on her feet and scoots to the barricade, pushes into a handstand, and somehow flips herself up, climbing the turnbuckle. Then she's eliminated for real by Ripley at 44:59. #25 is Sonya Deville. She goes after Ripley with kicks and spears Moon. Dana hits Deville with a handspring splash, then Ripley with an enzuigiri and Muta Elbow. Ripley sends Brooke to the apron and dropkicks her off at 47:07. Vega pops her head again, as does HORNSWOGGLE. He chases her into the ring, and she gets dumped by Ripley at 27:44. These 90-seconds feel more like 3-minutes now. #26 is Alexa Bliss, making her first in-ring appearance since September due to concussion issues. She hits a moonsault double knees to everyone's favorite punching bag (Ember Moon). Bliss eliminates Deville at 50:00. #27 is Bayley. The #27 has become the kiss of death in the "By the Numbers" era. Bayley clotheslines Riott out at 51:16, then back-drops Ripley to the floor at 51:24. #28 is Lana, but she's still selling the ankle from earlier and is barely able to shuffle herself out of the dugout. If you don't know what's coming, I pity you. Crowd chants for someone, but I can't make it out. Sounded like Freckly, I think. Never heard of whoever that is. #29 is Nia Jax. She can't help but assault the already injured Lana. At least that's a heel move worth doing. Jax runs wild on everyone. Shirai's moonsault is caught and Jax dumps her at 55:40. Natalya tries her out, going for a fireman's carry, but Jax escapes and tosses Nattie at 56:02. #30 is Carmella, thanks to winning the Mixed Match Challenge (SEASON 2) with R-Truth.
Our final field is Ember Moon, Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Nia Jax, and Carmella (wearing Phoenix Suns inspired tights). WAIT, BECKY LYNCH comes out demanding to take Lana's spot, and she's lucky Finlay is there to make the decision, as he gives her the greenlight to enter! I guess that makes her #31. Might as well declare the woman the winner now, because there's no other possible ending except a double elimination, and that's stupid. She immediately gets in Jax's face and the crowd pops harder than they have all match. Charlotte immediately goes for the elimination, but Lynch hangs on and re-enters with a missile dropkick on Jax. Bliss uses a handful of hair to pull Moon to the apron and sweeps the leg to eliminate her at 60:22. Carmella hits Bliss with a Bronco Buster and a Super-Kick. Bayley with a Buckle-Bomb and Carmella helps in tossing Bliss at 61:39. Everyone goes after Nia, who's playing the role of 2004 Big Show. Charlotte rolls through a flying body press from Carmella, muscles her up, and connects with a back breaker. Charlotte blocks a head-scissors and tosses Carmella over the top rope. Big boot finally eliminates Carmella at 63:56. Bayley goes for Charlotte, unsuccessfully. Jax lifts Bayley up, and Charlotte boots Jax, unknowingly assisting in Bayley's elimination at 64:50. Charlotte lays into Jax with boots, knocking her into the corner. Charlotte lifts her up and drops her on her head. "You deserve it" is sadly NOT chanted. Jax gets put over the top and Becky sweeps her off the apron at 67:00 as we're down to two. Jax attacks, causing Becky to land awkwardly on her knee. The referee almost calls the match, but Becky won't give up. DON'T BE STUPID, WWE. Charlotte immediately clips the knee and attacks like a vicious heel. Becky comes back with an enzuigiri and tosses Charlotte to the apron. Charlotte pokes at the knee to save herself and launches Becky with an Exploder. Charlotte misses a boot, ends up on the apron, and Becky clotheslines her to the floor to win the Rumble at 71:25. WWE... gave the fans what they wanted! This was long for the sake of being long. The entries got better the deeper we got into the match, and that's great considering how sloppy and uninteresting most of the first half of the match was. Becky entering all but ensured victory, and any other result would've been illogical. At the same time, why have her lose clean to Asuka when you're doing this finish for the Rumble? ***
Styles blocks a Franken-Steiner from the top rope, but Bryan with calf kicks, knocking Styles off the top rope, to the floor. Bryan misses a charge through the ropes and Styles connects with a sliding knee from the apron. Whip into the barricade and Styles moonsaults into a reverse DDT. Back inside, Styles sets up for the Springboard 450, but Bryan gets the knees up. Bryan locks in the LeBell Lock, but Styles stacks him up for two and transitions to the Calf Crusher, but Bryan makes it to the ropes to force a break. Bryan with more Not-Yes Kicks. Styles ducks the roundhouse, but Bryan comes back with the left leg, kicking the injured arm. Styles tries the Calf Crusher again, but it's countered with a kick to the head for two. Styles straddles Bryan across the top turnbuckle and unloads with headbutts. Bryan slides between the legs and gives Styles a taste of his own medicine before climbing up. Styles lands on his feet on the Super Back Suplex attempt and goes back to the Calf Crusher. They fight over a back slide, trading elbows for position. Styles gives up on that and gives Bryan a brain buster for two. Bryan counters the Phenomenal Forearm, kicking the arm from underneath Styles. Styles tries it again and gets kicked out of the air. Styles quickly throws a Pele Kick, and both men are down as we see ERICK ROWAN wander to ringside (wearing a Tom Savini shirt for some reason). The referee gets bumped as Styles hits the Styles Clash. Rowan runs in, face-palms Styles into a Choke-Slam, and Bryan covers to retain at 24:32. Are you telling me NXT doesn't have a dozen big men to use in this role, instead of repackaging Rowan for the 10th time? I guess we're getting the Vegan Edge Society. This had the potential to be outstanding. The work was more than acceptable (it was great, TBH) but the lack of crowd heat REALLY killed it, and then the finish with ERICK F'N ROWAN knocked it down a peg. ***
#11 is Titus O'Neil. He puts the breaks on before he could pull another goof like at Greatest Royal Rumble. He sees Hawkins and climbs under the ring, giving chase. They end up in the ring and Titus dives for Hawkins, missing, and being eliminated at 16:32 (lasting 3-seconds). HAWKINS ELIMINATED SOMEONE! Hawkins celebrates and gets tossed by Joe at 16:40. #12 is Kofi Kingston. He flies in with an elbow to Shinsuke and gets into an exchange with Joe. #13 is Mustafa Ali, wearing Muhammad Ali inspired tights. He immediately hits Joe with the rolling X-Factor. Nakamura catches him with a knee. Ali taunts Shinsuke with his own pose and dropkicks him off the top rope, to the floor, at 19:48. Ali with a Super-Kick and springboard Tornado DDT on Gargano before being thrown into the corner by Joe. #14 is Dean Ambrose. Just like Shawn and Marty of yesteryear, Seth and Dean can't help but throw fists at each other. Kofi gets tossed over, but one foot (allegedly) doesn't touch. He rolls himself over to the steps like a top to save himself and comes back in with a flying DDT to Ambrose. Gargano gets launched to the apron and caught with Dirty Deeds before being tossed at 21:44. #15 is No Way Jose. He comes out with his Conga Line, hops in, and gets clotheslined out at 22:45, lasting 2-seconds. There's NO WAY anyone will break Santino's record, and Jose did a good job trying. #16 is Drew McIntyre. He lays out Jose and a few of the extras before entering the match. Claymore Kicks to Rollins, Ambrose and Joe. #17 is Xavier Woods. He immediately saves Kofi from elimination with a weird wheel-barrow walk. They both hop back in and McIntyre clotheslines them both out at 26:25 (Woods lasted 3-seconds). Retire the gimmick unless Kofi wins or makes a deep run in the match. #18 is Pete Dunne. He hits Ali with a rolling German Suplex, stomps the hand, and hits a Super-Kick. Dunne with a roundhouse kick to the back of Joe's head. He drop-outs Ali across McIntyre with a suplex. #19 is Andrade (no longer Almas). He lays into Dunne with a big chop and rolling elbow. Dunne goes for the Bitter Ending but Andrade counters with a Tornado DDT. #20 is Apollo Crews. Cole calls him a "sleeper pick." Give me a break. He hits Ali with a dropkick and Joe with an enzuigiri.
#21 is Aleister Black. He targets Dunne and hits him and Rollins with a springboard moonsault. Ali tries his luck and gets killed with a knee strike as he came off the top rope. Ambrose gets hit with Black Mass and eliminated at 33:19. #22 is Shelton Benjamin. I honestly forgot he was still on the roster. He unloads on Apollo with rights and connects with his signature spinning heel kick. Pay-Dirt to Pete Dunne. Ali escapes Joe's Coquina Clutch and tosses Joe at 34:53. #23 is Baron Corbin. He hits Rollins with a clothesline, Ali with Deep Six, and tosses Apollo at 36:11. Graves accidentally calls him Shelton, channeling his inner-Vince. #24 is Jeff Hardy, selling his ribs because... I don't know. Didn't see anything on Smackdown to account for it. He does all his signature spots on various bodies, including a Whisper in the Wind. Dunne snaps the finger of Black and hits an enzuigiri. Black returns fire with a jumping knee and snaps the finger back in place. I don't care if it's a work, that's a cool spot. Corbin tosses Black at 38:19. McIntyre hits Dunne with the Claymore Kick and tosses him at 38:44. #25 is Rey Mysterio. He is immediately caught jumping in by Corbin with a back breaker. Andrade puts the boots to him and hits a Liger-Bomb. #26 is Bobby Lashley. He goes after Rollins, tossing him with a belly-to-belly. He misses a charge and gets eliminated at 41:10, lasting 13-seconds. He pulls Rollins to the floor and ends up putting him through a table. #27 is Braun Strowman. I'd say time to clean house, but the ring isn't over-populated, sans Corbin. Corbin tries his luck and gets clotheslined out at 43:00. Benjamin goes for the monster among men and gets tossed at 43:17. #28 is Dolph Ziggler. Hardy is out at 44:05. Dolph immediately targets his former friend, McIntyre, hitting him with a Super Kick and dumping him out at 44:26. Andrade spikes Mysterio going for a wheel barrow bulldog. #29 is Randy Orton. He has a confrontation with Strowman. Strowman blocks the RKO and connects with a power-slam. We get a Tower of doom spot involving Strowman, Ali, Andrade, and Mysterio. Strowman meets the post and falls out of the ring. #30 is R-Truth. BUT WAIT. NIA JAX attacks him and steals his number. Is this legal? SOMEONE CHECK THE RUMBLE RULEBOOK! Seriously, I REALLY thought Roman Reigns was coming out here.
We have our final field of Seth Rollins, Mustafa Ali, Andrade, Rey Mysterio, Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, and... Nia Jax. She runs wild, including eliminating Mustafa Ali at 49:08. BOO! Jax's luck eventually runs out, as she gets hit with the Super-Kick, 6-1-9 and RKO before being eliminated at 51:34. Orton RKO's Mysterio and tosses him at 51:54, then Andrade tosses Orton at 51:59, leaving Ziggler, Andrade, Strowman (napping), and Rollins (also napping). After a brief back and forth with Andrade and Ziggler, Strowman comes back to life to demolish them. He sees Rollins coming to on the floor and runs him over with a shoulder tackle. Ziggler with a Super-Kick to Strowman. Andrade hits him with the Double Knees, Ziggler hits the Zig-Zag, and Rollins comes off the top with a Frog Splash. Strowman shrugs off the 3-on-1, tosses Andrade at 55:33, then Ziggler at 55:53. Rollins pushes Strowman over the top and hits him with a Super Kick. Strowman catches him coming off the ropes with a Choke-Slam to save himself. Rollins blocks an elimination and pulls Strowman over to the apron. He posts Strowman and hits him with a Curb Stomp to complete the elimination to win the Rumble at 57:25. Not the best Rumble, but far from the worst. They did a good job avoiding cluttering the ring, and there's some good spots. ***1/2
Final Thoughts: It's hard to not recommend a show that technically features zero bad matches, but the pacing of this show is highly questionable. We're in the era where I can't recommend a 5-hour PPV (6 ½ from first bell) for a one-sitting viewing, but in two pieces, I can't say this show isn't worth checking out. There's two solid Rumble matches and great matches underneath. There's one disappointment due to a lack of crowd interest, but that's unfair to call a "bad match." Overall, a good show, just too long.