Love or hate the “two-night” WrestleMania it appears as if it is here to stay for the foreseeable. And it does mean that the WWE have more scope to pack more on to the card. This might not always be a good thing of course, but with a stacked roster (whatever you may say about how they are used) it certainly opens up a lot of possibilities… It’s WrestleMania 38!
Night one kicks off with the Smackdown Tag Team Titles match between The Uso’s and Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs. It didn’t seem going in like the time that the Champions would drop the titles here to something of a makeshift team so there is no suggestion that Rick Boogs’ legitimate injury meant that “plans changed”. But it did perhaps curtail the match slightly although it was still a more than fine opener.
It was followed by a match that most would not say had that “WrestleMania Moment” feel about it. But I’ve never got the hatred for Happy Corbin (or any version of him) and whilst it was naturally a comedown from last year for his opponent Drew McIntyre it was always likely to be a solid enough match. And that it was. And Drew got to kick out of End of Days which no one had ever done before.
I wasn’t looking forward to Rey & Dominik Mysterio against The Miz and Logan Paul although it was far from the desecration of WM that some would have had you believe. Celebrities in a match at Mania? Whatever next? Rey teaming with his son on the most stupendous stage of them all was nice and Logan Paul was perfectly fine too. Like all the best celebrity involvements he took things seriously.
Up next was the Raw Women’s Championship and Bianca Belair’s opportunity to get revenge on Becky Lynch for Summerslam. It’s easy to be sceptical with WWE storylines but at the same time, you have to give credit where credit is due. This was the logical denouement to what had happened eight months or so ago and the WWE delivered it. The two got the time they deserved and they delivered a great match which pleasingly ended with a clean with for Belair with her finisher.
Even though we all “knew” who was going to be Seth Rollins’ mystery opponent at WrestleMania 38; (though with the likes of Meltzer changing their tune more than I change my underwear in the build-up who really “knew”) it was still a big moment when that music hit and up popped Cody Rhodes. It felt like a big moment and was one that fans responded to. They responded to an excellent match too. Full of back and forth action it was one of those where both winner and loser came out of it in a better place.
With the introduction of the Hall of Fame class being a buffer, Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey were up next in their battle for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 38. There were the usual Internet moans around this match going into it and it has to be said that it was both a little slow to get going and struggled to get the fans on board in the early going as well. Still, the second half of the match was very good indeed and built to an unlikely crescendo.
Night one ended with the KO show, with Stone Cold Steve Austin as a special guest. Of course, this was all a “set-up” to a match that was agreed on the night by the two participants. Was it a “five-star” classic? Of course not. It’s WrestleMania 38, nearly 20 years since his last match, but was it a hugely entertaining slice of WWE sports entertainment? Of course, it was.
Austin was in great shape considering it was his first match in 19 years and whilst it was nothing more than your standard “Attitude Era brawl” both men were having the time of their lives. And most of the fans were too. A great ending to a good night of action.
Night two started with a goodbye to Triple H who had recently announced that his time was up due to his health problems. It was a nice moment considering all that Triple H did in his career. The action kicked off with the Raw Tag Team Championship Triple Threat between RK-Bro, Alpha Academy and the Street Profits. The rules were the usual confusing ones but they worked an entertaining opener which was full of some good spots to get the crowd going. Gable Stevenson had a moment post-match with Chad Gable.
Bobby Lashley and Omos were up next in perhaps tonight’s match that most people wouldn’t have envisioned being “WrestleMania worthy”. And it proved to be a little bit of something and nothing. Lashley did what he could and Omos controlled most of the match to look strong enough. You can’t see any Omos push working but for what it was this was alright.
Expectations were low for Sami Zayn against Johnny Knoxville, despite the entertaining build-up to it. And there is no doubt that some people will have hated this. Again, what it was is more than adequate and gave us enough funny moments to raise a few smiles. Few others than Zayn could have handled this so well. The Women’s Tag Team Championship match that followed couldn’t, well, follow that. It was a decent enough effort but there was too much going on and no real flow to the match. At the time it seemed to many that it had the correct winners but you wouldn’t be so sure about that now. But that’s a route of discussion for another time.
Edge and AJ Styles came into WrestleMania 38 with many expecting an all-time classic, or something close to that. It never, for my money, quite reached those levels but it was still a very good match. It was perhaps let down by a dull middle section which made you think it might have been better with four or five minutes less but that might be me being picky. After being shunted from the previous evening’s show, Sheamus & Ridge Holland against The New Day was given less than two minutes. They might as well have not bothered. Especially when The Undertaker wandered out to say hello (or goodbye I suppose) to the fans again in a segment that went longer than the match that preceded it.
Austin Theory and Pat McAfee were next and that got over with the live crowd. Considering it was a non-worker against a comparatively inexperienced wrestler it was amazing. It was followed up by Pat throwing out a challenge to Vince McMahon that the chairman of the board happily accepted. It was not very good but it was somewhat saved by post-match Stone Cold Steve Austin coming out to the ring and throwing some Stunners about. With the one on Vince being perhaps the worst one of all time. It was good nostalgic fun though.
We ended with the battle for it all between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Even though they’ve met several times at Mania the added stipulation helped with the positioning of it as a major moment. It was a good, if not great, match that did what it needed to do.
Night two couldn’t quite live up to the previous night but as a whole, the event delivered lots of entertainment and its fair share of great graps. The Blu-Ray adds the Undertaker’s pitch to become a motivational speaker… Sorry, his Hall of Fame speech. It’s one of the best we’ve ever seen.