WADE KELLER PODCAST - EARLY PREVIEW OF ROYAL RUMBLE 2020 MEN'S MATCH, PLUS 2019 AND 2010 LOOK-BACK ROUNDTABLES
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WWE ROYAL RUMBLE ON-SITE REPORT
JANUARY 27, 2019
PHOENIX, ARIZ. AT CHASE FIELD
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
– Other than a smattering of empty seats at the top of the upper sections, available seating was nicely filled out. They had tarped off two sections in the upper deck, one on either side of the outfield big-screen. The 12 lower deck sections on the outfield side behind the hard camera were completely tarped off. It is odd going to a major stadium show but looking at a clear outfield and no big stage setup. The ballpark environment was a refreshing change that clearly made WWE think outside of the box and go with something different than their usual PPV setup.
– Big props to Chase Field for having the best legroom and most space between seats of any venue I’ve attended for a wrestling event. I’m 6-1 and still had about a foot between my knees and the row in front of me. I’ll take all the comfort I can get for a show of this length. As nice as the seat was, and as much as I appreciated the unique environment, I do hope they don’t run any more major shows at a ballpark. The field is just so large that stadium seating starts very far back. The ring is so far away no matter how good your seat is. I felt most sorry for people seated on the floor level where there were about 50 rows of seating that were not tiered whatsoever. I felt this affected crowd reactions throughout the show, where it felt like things were happening that we were supposed to react to, but couldn’t see. Especially during the Rumble matches, the big screens were taken over for countdowns and entrance videos. Other times they just left the Royal Rumble logo up in lieu of a live picture. Even with “good seats” it was just difficult to make out what was happening in the crowded ring without added context from the big screen.
– The odd sight-lines and potential for pole obstructions made for an angsty ticket purchasing experience. There would have been few seats with a clear view of both the ring and the entrance stage, without being blocked by poles. I settled on tickets directly opposite the hard camera in the lower bowl. If it were a traditional setup, that would have provided great views of the ring and entrance. In this case, I was actually to the left of and behind the entrance. These were $206 from TicketMaster, and I picked them up last week. I got similar seats a few sections off-center just after they went on sale, but was able to exchange when I found better available. For those who don’t know, TicketMaster will swap you to a seat of equal or greater value if you call their Fan Services line and pay a $10 exchange fee. This is possible until the final three days prior to the event.
– I made the life-altering decision to indulge in a Royal Rumble Burger. I may never overcome the shame. Or the atherosclerosis. Delicious, but not sure it was worth waiting in line for 45 minutes. They had run out of the crispy onions and side garnish by the time I was served. Boo!
– This was a fairly go-along, get-along crowd. Not super raucous, but they didn’t come to sit on their hands. The only reaction against the grain that I can recall was loud booing for Ronda Rousey. The strongest positive reactions were for Becky Lynch, Shane McMahon, Sasha Banks, and Seth Rollins. I was expecting a stronger reaction for Finn Balor, but exhaustion had surely set in by that point. The NXT surprises in the Rumble matches got good pops too. The loudest one I can recall being for Aleister Black. I think you’ve got to apply some sort of grading curve to crowd reactions the later we get into the show. I stopped cheering just past halfway through the show to conserve energy, sit back, and just watch the show without draining myself. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.
– I don’t have a lot to add in terms of off-air happenings. The same promos that aired on WWE Network during down moments also aired on the big screen, so there wasn’t much time where the live experience was incongruent with the broadcast.
– I attended Royal Rumble Axxess, at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. A smoothly run, refreshing experience compared with WrestleMania Axxess, which is usually hectic. The meet-and-greet lines moved quickly since they had set up professional photo booths, rather than having fans fumble about taking phone camera pictures. This was a great addition. I got to meet and exchange a few words with Samoa Joe. He was pleasant, but about as intimidating a physical presence as you would expect.
-I’m traveling home to Orlando, at the PHX airport as we speak. Even if I was able to stay for Raw and Smackdown, I don’t think I’d have been able to brave it. These four-show weekends are challenging, so props to your correspondents and anybody else sticking it out!