World Wrestling Entertainment offers its annual Royal Rumble pay per view this evening from Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona with both a men’s and women’s 30-person battle royal that provide the winners with title shots at WrestleMania and Daniel Bryan defending the WWE championship in a rematch with AJ Styles, while Brock Lesnar puts the Universal belt up for grabs in a “David and Goliath” encounter with Finn Balor, who may or may not morph into “The Demon” for the occasion.
Four other bouts are scheduled for the show with Ronda Rousey, the topic of much conversation this past week with reports that she may be finishing up as regular for the company at WrestleMania in order to start a family despite having more time left on her contract, being challenged for the Raw women’s title by Sasha Banks. Asuka and Becky Lynch battle over the Smackdown’s women’s belt. Shane McMahon teams with the Miz to pursue the tag straps currently owned by Sheamus and Cesaro.
The pre-show includes a scheduled contest between Rusev and Nakamura for the United States championship and Buddy Murphy putting the cruiserweight crown up for grabs in a four-way that includes Hitami, Tozawa and Kalisto. There are apparently plenty of tickets left for the event with the stadium reportedly set-up for a little over 40,000 seats. The show is expected to draw in the neighborhood of 30,000 paid attendance, not bad for the current level of popularity for the WWE product.
This past Monday’s Raw featured an appearance by Vince McMahon in the midst of a promo with Finn Balor, Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman. It did get physical, with Finn getting some good offense in on Brock and Brock selling convincingly for the diminutive Balor to the point where some fans might be believing Finn has a chance tonight with Goliath. Not sure the number able to suspend disbelief is real high, but the angle needed to be done and at least given the old college try.
Brock’s million dollar smirk is enough to want someone, anyone, to teach him a lesson and he will certainly be able to throw Balor around like a rag doll while dishing out the punishment and accumulating heel heat. Hopefully, Lesnar will factor in Finn’s lighter weight and not seriously injure the guy by miscalculating the landing zone on those release suplexes. The two should provide a better match than Lesnar-Strowman would have in terms of athleticism. Strowman was cleared to return to wrestling action this past week after some time on the shelf after elbow surgery, but a return grudge match with Lesnar is being put off until some time down the road.
Besides the Royal Rumble, Phoenix will play host to a Fan Axxess, which will include the taping of a When Worlds Collide tournament that includes guys from NXT, NXT United KIngdom and 205 Live. Battle Royals will determine seedings for the tourney and the matches should be excellent.
In addition, there was to be an NXT Takeover Phoenix show headlined by a bout between Tommaso Ciampa and Aleister Black for the NXT title last night. Newcomer Matt Riddle was to be tested by veteran Kassius Ohno. Johnny Gargano challenged Ricochet for the North American belt and the War Raiders battled Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong for tag team gold. Each of those matches would be well worth going out of your way to check out on the WWE Network if you didn’t catch them live last evening, too late for our deadline for this column.
Roman Reigns has recently been working on a movie set with his cousin in Hawaii. He has a role in the Rock’s upcoming spinoff from the Fast and Furious called “Hobbs and Shaw.” Reigns plays the Rock’s brother and must be doing reasonably well in his battle with leukemia to play an active, physical role in a movie. That sounds like real positive news on that front.
Reports surfaced on Friday that Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter took a spill on his bike that resulted in a broken finger, a mishap of some significance to a prolific typer who puts out 30-40 thousand words with each weekly issue and thousands more on daily updates on his website.