Last January, I caught COVID for the first time. It was not a great experience, but it almost became a bit of a blessing in disguise.
I was stuck quarantining in the upstairs bedroom in my house with no TV, so I had nothing to entertain myself. That was until Saturday, January 28, when I decided that I would watch WWE’s Royal Rumble on my laptop.
The decision to watch the Royal Rumble was a great one, and it’s all due to the fact that I got COVID. So I guess getting sick wasn’t all bad. I have turned into a big wrestling fan since then, tuning into every WWE show and, more recently, even tuning into shows for other wrestling companies like NJPW, AEW, and TNA. So with that, here is a recap of my first year as a wrestling fan, just shy of my one-year anniversary and the 2024 Royal Rumble.
Why Did I Watch the 2023 Royal Rumble?
My dad always watched wrestling when I was growing up. However, due to my parents not living together for basically my entire childhood, I never knew my dad watched it. For that reason, I never watched WWE or any type of wrestling since it was never on in my house. I wouldn’t say it was banned, but I’m sure my mom didn’t want me to get interested in it.
When my mom introduced me to her new boyfriend six or seven years ago, I found out that he watched WWE. I’d occasionally see bits and pieces of Raw or SmackDown in 2021 and 2022 when I was living at his house during my senior year of high school. When I got sick in January of 2023, I listened to Jared Carrabis’ podcast and he said he was doing a Royal Rumble watch party at his house. That was when I figured out that the Rumble was taking place the following weekend.
I figured that I would watch the Royal Rumble, as it could be a great talking point with my mom’s boyfriend since he isn’t interested in regular sports at all. I then found out that my dad was an even bigger wrestling fan who watches WWE, NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling), and regional promotions across the U.S.
Wrestling actually drew me closer to my father.
I was intrigued the moment I tuned into the Rumble. I knew who some of the big names were, such as Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, but I pretty much went in completely blind. I didn’t know who could win the Rumble match, I had no idea about the ongoing (and amazing) Bloodline storyline, and I didn’t have a clue who more than half of the wrestlers were.
But that was the beauty of it. As soon as the Rumble finished, I went straight online and looked on YouTube to learn as much as I could. Over the next couple weeks, I dove down a rabbit hole of WWE and professional wrestling as a whole. I ended up tuning into the Elimination Chamber event, and that was the show that really sucked me in. I understood most of the storylines by then, and I understood that it wasn’t “fake,” which was the reason I had never watched it before. I decided to just dive in headfirst and see what would come of my new interest.
Going To WWE Live Events
I have been to a few WWE shows over the last year, including two NXT house shows where I live in Florida and two SmackDown shows in Boston and Providence when I moved back to Massachusetts for college. Each show was a ton of fun to attend. Attending these shows, particularly the two NXT shows (the first wrestling shows I ever went to) showed me that I will be a wrestling fan for a long time.
My first NXT show in June 2023 was my birthday present to myself, and it didn’t disappoint. Highlights of the night included Brutus Creed winning the opening match, Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo defeating Oro Mensah, and Tyler Bate defeating Julius Creed in what was by far the match of the night, Then-NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes (my personal favorite wrestler) and Trick Williams also cut a short promo and defeated the team that would eventually be known as Out the Mud, and then-NXT Women’s Champion Tiffany Stratton defended her title in a triple threat match against Thea Hail and Ivy Nile.
My second NXT show was great before the matches even started. I got the ticket add-on for the pre-show superstar Q&A, which ended up being with Chase U members Andre Chase, Duke Hudson, and Thea Hail. That was great to experience, and I also got to take a picture with the three of them. My night was already guaranteed to be awesome, but the matches were great as well.
The highlights of that show were Tyler Bate and Chase U (Andre Chase and Duke Hudson) defeating the group later known as No Quarter Catch Crew, and the star-studded eight-person tag match where Meta-Four (Noam Dar, Oro Mensah, Lash Legend, and Jakara Jackson) defeated Dragon Lee, Eddy Thorpe, Roxanne Perez, and Lyra Valkyria (who defends her NXT Women’s title against Perez Feb. 4 at NXT Vengeance Day). NXT Tag Team Champions Tony D’Angelo and Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo also defended their titles against Schism (aka Grizzled Young Veterans) with Ava Raine (The Rock’s daughter) ringside.
Going to a TV show like RAW or SmackDown is a bit different in terms of a live experience, but both
SmackDown shows I went to were good. The highlights of the SmackDown on September 8 were LA Knight defeating Austin Theory and AJ Styles defeating Jimmy Uso on the TV portion of the show. The post-TV show dark matches of Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar defeating the Street Profits and Cody Rhodes defeating Dominik Mysterio were good ways to end the night. I got to be a part of LA Knight’s YEAH! Movement, the boo-Dominik-Mysterio-out-of-the-building movement, and I got to do the Cody Rhodes WHOA-OH-OH! during his entrance.
The second SmackDown I went to on December 8 was the Tribute to the Troops show, which was also really cool. The TV portion had some good matches, including LA Knight and Randy Orton (two weeks after his long-awaited return at Survivor Series) defeating Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa. The dark matches where Gunther faced Chad Gable and Cody Rhodes took on Dominik Mysterio were nice, but the best part by far was to hear CM Punk’s first real WWE promo (I’m not counting the “I’m happy to be home” RAW promo from the week before) in almost a decade following his shocking surprise return at the end of Survivor Series. The “CM Punk” chants were deafening, and the pop for his music to kick off the 9:00 hour was the loudest I’ve ever heard at any event in-person. House shows are typically better for match entertainment, but getting to hear Punk’s first real promo back was a special moment that was unforgettable.
Royal Rumble Anniversary
The 2024 Royal Rumble will mark my one-year anniversary as a wrestling fan, and it has been an awesome year. I recommend wrestling to everyone. If you haven’t tried to give wrestling a chance or if you want to get back into wrestling, now is the time. Between WWE, AEW, NJPW, TNA, and more, there are options that should fit the taste of everyone. I feel that WWE has been proving why it’s at the top as the best product, especially with creative control now fully in the hands of Triple H. Regardless, the Royal Rumble is tomorrow, January 27, and it may be the most unpredictable Rumble ever according to people who have been fans much longer than I have. So with that, I will be giving my official 2024 Royal Rumble wants and predictions.
For the women’s Royal Rumble, I would personally like to see Becky Lynch win to set up a match at WrestleMania with Rhea Ripley, but my official prediction is that Bayley will win and challenge her current Damage CTRL running buddy Iyo Sky (my favorite women’s wrestler in WWE) to a title match at Mania. I personally wouldn’t like to see that, as I’d be afraid of Iyo Sky losing her title and I’d like to see Damage CTRL stick together longer.
I would personally love to see Gunther, the all-time longest reigning Intercontinental Champion and iron man of the 2023 men’s Rumble, prevail this year and get a massive push that culminates with a match against Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania. Gunther interrupted Rollins’ update on his health this past Monday night, a confrontation which has sealed the deal on my prediction.
In the U.S. title match, I see Logan Paul successfully defending his U.S. title against Kevin Owens. Paul’s WWE contract as just renewed, and I believe the correct move is for him to hold it until WrestleMania, where he should lose it to LA Knight.
Speaking of LA Knight, he will be competing in a fatal four-way match with AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, where I see Reigns picking up the win to either build to a match with The Rock at Mania or to make Roman to reach peak invincibility before Cody Rhodes finally finishes his story by winning the WWE title for his family.
That will wrap up my reflection piece on my first year as a wrestling fan. Professional wrestling, sports entertainment, or whatever you want to call it isn’t necessarily for everyone, but it’s something that you should give a chance. The best time to do that is to hop on the Road to WrestleMania by tuning into the Royal Rumble. My story as a wrestling fan started at the Royal Rumble, and now I watch WWE weekly shows and PLEs (Premium Live Events), AEW PPVs, TNA PPVs, and NJPW PPVs, while also occasionally catching the weekly shows for AEW and TNA. Your story as a wrestling fan can start soon, and the best time to start is now with the Royal Rumble.