PHOENIX – News that the WWE’s Royal Rumble event will land in Chase Field next January pumped up local fans, including a World Series hero and local wrestling talent who could benefit from the visit.
The professional wrestling organization announced Wednesday that the Arizona Diamondbacks’ home field will host the match on Jan. 29, 2019.
The Royal Rumble is the first of the Big Four Shows that take place throughout the year for the WWE.
“There’s no doubt I’ll be in line for that,” said former Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who hit the game-winning hit in the 2001 World Series and now is an adviser to the team.
The sport’s popularity remains strong. More than 40,000 are expected at the Phoenix event, said John Saboor, WWE executive vice president of special events. Related competition at Talking Stick Resort Arena could draw about 15,000 nightly, he said.
In 2016, the sport’s popular WrestleMania event drew 101,763 fans, compared with the 74,340 who attended the NCAA men’s basketball championship game that year and the 71,088 who went to the Super Bowl.
Its economic impact is strong, too, according to “Forbes,” which cited a study that said the 2016 Wrestlemania generated a $170.4 million economic impact for Arlington, Texas.
The Royal Rumble is known for a huge brawl that features 30 WWE superstars attempting to throw each other over the top rope of the ring. The winner is guaranteed a spot at the biggest pay-per-view of the year, WrestleMania.
Gonzalez has a special memory of the WWE from his time as a ballplayer.
“I just had shoulder surgery,” he recalled. “I was in the ring and fans were chanting and adrenaline was rushing in there and I got on the second ring rope and got up and gave a fist pump. It was pretty cool. I felt like a wrestler.”
Not only does Gonzalez enjoy the action inside the ropes, he respects what WWE does outside them.
“The good part about them is they do an incredible job at charity work,” he said. “They aren’t just out there providing entertainment. They are doing stuff out of the ring, too.”
One of the lesser talking points about the WWE is that it affords local talent opportunities.
“When the WWE comes to town, there is a shot at getting a security job, or to get a spot on the card,” said Roy “SBR” Davidson, a local wrestler for the Arizona Wrestling Federation.
Not only do local competitors get to show off their skills with the most popular wrestling promotion in the world, they have a chance to watch up close how the stars of WWE perform.
“When I watch an event live, I look at it through a lens,” Davidson said. “I watch how they do it and see if there is anything I could change.”
Downtown Phoenix businesses hope for results at the cash register. With all four events in the heart of city, restaurants, hotels and bars could benefit.
“The weather, the central location,” Gonzalez said, “it’ll be good for a lot of the fans and people that are going to fly in to see this. It should be a fun night.”
The Royal Rumble was last held in Phoenix in 2013. John Cena won that Rumble; the main event was CM Punk vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the WWE championship.
In what will be a first for the Royal Rumble, a baseball park will house the event, which is considered the start of the Road to WrestleMania.
This will be the second time in the past three years that the WWE has scheduled the event at a bigger stadium. They have tended to stick to smaller basketball arenas with maximum capacities of 15,000 to 20,000. The 2017 Rumble was at the Alamodome in San Antonio and had more than 52,000 people in attendance.
The WWE has also continued the trend of giving Arizona major pay-per-views. Next year, the Rumble will be its eighth pay-per-view in the past 16 years.