WrestleMania 38 Postscript

After a 19 year absence, Stone Cold Steve Austin returned to the ring at WrestleMania 38 against Kevin Owens

I must move past my complaints about the WrestleMania two-night paradigm because it appears to be permanent. But when WrestleMania spans two nights for a total of 16 matches, there is a lot to unpack. First and foremost, as a whole WrestleMania was very enjoyable. Most of the matches were exciting and there were many unexpected moments.

In isolation, however, Saturday night was the better of the two. In fact, if WrestleMania 38 was just what was given to us on Saturday night, I would have been perfectly satisfied. It was full of great matches that were capped by a surprise main event match featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin that re-wrote the history of his career and legacy.

Sunday night was a good show, even if things were a little strange at times. The Gable Steveson segment was a bit awkward and made him look very green. The New Day match was unusually short. The Pat McAfee bonus match with Mr. McMahon was another awkward segment that did not do either one of them any favors. The main event between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar ran a little short for a champion versus champion match.

These are minor criticisms. A show this large would be impossible to make perfect. Not every wrestler is the best and not every match can draw five stars from the critics.

To look at it through a different lens, I offer a list of WrestleMania winners and losers every year. This year, there are far more winners than there are losers.

Losers

  • Rick Boogs: The show got off to a rough start when Boogs suffered a devastating leg injury in the first match. Things were looking good for the upstart wrestler, but now he is facing surgery and a lengthy rehab.
  • Otis: The big man has a lot of potential but got lost in the shuffle in his six-man tag team match.
  • Omos: Having him lose at WrestleMania is not a great way to build a monster heel of his size.
  • The New Day: As I mentioned, their match was so short it was a throw-away. Time to move on from this gimmick.
  • Mr. McMahon: He should know how to sell a Stunner by now!

Winners

  • The Usos: Their career began with them constantly being overlooked at WrestleMania. Now they are the top tag team in the WWE and made a strong statement by winning the opening match.
  • Drew McIntyre: He got to cut the ring ropes with a sword. Cool!
  • Logan Paul: I had no expectations for his wrestling ability given that as far as I could tell, he had never worked a match in front of a crowd. I was blown away with how well he performed. He carried himself like a veteran. He was smooth, paced himself well, and his mechanics were solid. He should sign a full-time contract.
  • Cody Rhodes: Jim Ross always says that when a wrestler leaves a promotion, it is usually because of one of “the two c’s: cash or creative”. Rhodes left the WWE for AEW for the latter but returned for the former. And while he was cashing in, he orchestrated himself a great WrestleMania moment with his win over Seth Rollins.
  • Kevin Owens: The big man from Marieville, Quebec was in a WrestleMania main event match against Stone Cold Steve Austin. Enough said!
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin: He looked a little slow, but it did not matter. His connection to the audience is as strong as it has ever been. He often said he did not want to return because he did not think he was physically capable of performing at a high level. But he proved himself wrong and found a way to make his match work.
  • Steve Austin Fans: If you ever chanted “ONE MORE MATCH” at Steve over the last 19 years, you finally got your wish!
  • Triple H: He got the send-off he deserves with one last WrestleMania moment.
  • Gable Steveson: The Olympic gold medalist and NCAA champion was spotlighted two nights in a row. I only hope for his sake that this sake he doesn’t get slapped with the “he’s being forced down our throats” label.
  • Randy Orton: What a pop for that hot tag!
  • Pat McAfee: He might not look like a wrestler, but he can sure work like one. He even got to call his own match on commentary. He should be on cloud nine all week after the weekend he had.
  • Austin Theory: Hey Mr. McMahon, you can learn a thing or two from your protégé about how to sell a Stunner!
  • Roman Reigns: I started this blog primarily so I could rant about how much I could not stand to see Reigns in the WrestleMania main event year after year. But since he took WrestleMania 36 off and returned as The Tribal Chief, he has been the top performer in the world. I have done a complete about-face about Roman. It is about time I finally say it: I acknowledge Roman Reigns!

Raw is beginning as I am finishing this post. I look forward to seeing where things go from here. Hey look, Veer is going to make his Raw debut tonight…

WrestleMania 38 Sunday: Analysis and Predictions

If WrestleMania 38 was just the Saturday card, it would have left everyone satisfied. Every performer on the Sunday show is going to have a hard time following the matches that took place on Saturday. It was a near-flawless show that exemplified professional wrestling at its finest.

There is no lack of star power lined up for WrestleMania Sunday, and there is a good mix of grudge matches and title matches. It is going to be capped with a title unification match between the two top stars in the WWE. If WrestleMania must be two nights, at least there is a lot to look forward to tonight.

The New Day (Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston) vs. Sheamus and Ridge Holland (with Butch)

This match is behind the eight-ball to begin with because Big E will not be able to compete in it, having suffered a broken neck on Smackdown in an accidental botched spot with Ridge Holland. Big E would have been the biggest star of the bunch, and it cost Butch his opportunity to be in the match. Instead, he will be the heater on the outside.

The New Day gimmick certainly has staying power and is still over with WWE fans. Sheamus and Ridge Holland are a much newer pairing, and Holland is in a good spot here with a chance to show that he can hang with this veteran group. Butch is the odd man out but should at least get a spot to draw some heat for himself.

Prediction: Winners, Sheamus and Ridge Holland

Queen Zelina and Carmella (c) vs. Sasha Banks and Naomi vs. Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan vs. Natalya and Shayna Baszler in a fatal four-way tag team match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

Try to say that one fast. This is the lone overbooked “let’s get everybody on the WrestleMania card” match of the weekend. These matches are always confusing and help nobody look good. This will give me an opportunity to catch up on my DVR queue while the show is still on.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Johnny Knoxville vs. Sami Zayn in an Anything Goes match

Logan Paul crushed it on WrestleMania Saturday. Can Johnny Knoxville do the same? The Anything Goes stipulation opens a creative channel to introduce multiple Jackass-type stunts into the match. It also protects Knoxville if he can not wrestle at a competent level.

Prediction: Winner, Sami Zayn

Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory

I caught Pat McAfee wrestling in a War Games match on NXT and was very impressed with how he carried himself. He does not have too many matches on his professional resume, but he has shown he can rise to the occasion. Austin Theory is among the youngest competitors at WrestleMania 38.  He is going to want to prove he has long-term potential to be a WrestleMania star.

McAfee has a great deal of name recognition outside the WWE as a sportscaster to begin with. This is an obvious spot for the WWE to give him a few highlight-worthy spots and a victory to draw some mainstream recognition.

Prediction: Winner, Pat McAfee

RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle) (c) vs. The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) vs. Alpha Academy (Chad Gable and Otis) in a triple threat tag team match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

SHOOOSH!!! This one is not quite as bad as the women’s fatal four-way championship match, but there is going to be a lot going on that will distract from the individual talents. These are three very capable tag teams, and you must hope that their performances do not get lost in the shuffle.

Randy Orton is a former WrestleMania main-eventer who has slid down the card as a babyface tag-team wrestler. It seems logical that at some point he is going to backstab Riddle and turn heel. What better time and place than WrestleMania?

Prediction: Winners and new WWE Raw Tag Team Champions, Alpha Academy.

Edge vs. AJ Styles

A grudge match between two veterans with nothing titles or stipulations on the line? Yes, please! Edge working heel for the first time since his surprise return to the WWE? Yes, please! This one has match of the night potential.

Prediction: Winner, Edge

Bobby Lashley vs. Omos

It is good that Bobby Lashley made the WrestleMania card after it looked like he was suffering from some sort of injury that limited his participation at Elimination Chamber and saw him surrender the championship. Unfortunately, there was not much of a build for this match. But Bobby is one of the top stars in WWE today and it should be fun to watch these ridiculously large human beings do battle.

Prediction: Winner, Bobby Lashley

Brock Lesnar (WWE Champion) vs. Roman Reigns (Universal Champion) (with Paul Heyman) in a Winner Takes All match to unify the WWE Championship and WWE Universal Championship

This is the third time we have seen this exact same WrestleMania main event. But it is the first time that Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar have been positioned properly. Roman Reigns is finally the arrogant heel that the fans wanted him to be, and Brock is the “cowboy with a strange mohawk and ponytail” that is somehow working out very well for him.

There is a clear good guy versus bad guy dynamic in this match, and there is a title unification on the line. What more could you really ask for in a WrestleMania main event?

Prediction: Winner and Unified Champion, Roman Reigns

WrestleMania 38 Saturday: Analysis and Predictions

Seth Rollins vs. who?

I promise my ranting about WrestleMania being two nights long is over. It is WrestleMania weekend, and I am consumed with everything going on and am looking forward to it all. The stage for the weekend has been set by an emotional Hall of Fame speech by The Undertaker which hopefully inspired the current talent to be at their very best when it is their turn on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

I already expressed my opinion on the main event KO Show featuring Kevin Owens and Stone Cold Steve Austin so now I will take a look at the actual matches on the card.

Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio vs. The Miz and Logan Paul

While I have never been much of a Rey Mysterio fan, I certainly admire his longevity in the WWE. Rey’s status helped his son Dominik cut the NXT line and get a spot on the main roster. At Rey’s age, however, the writing is on the wall that he is nearing the end. They Mysterio’s are going to want to impress at what could be their last WrestleMania appearance as a team.

The Miz drew the celebrity match card for a second year in a row, this time he has the celebrity on his side. Well, if you can call Logan Paul a celebrity. I am not sure exactly what his claim to fame is, he never really showed up in my YouTube feed. It remains to be seen if he has enough moves to work an entire match, or if The Miz will have to carry the load for his team. I would guess that The Miz will work most of the match and they will give Paul one big high spot.

Prediction: Winners, The Miz and Logan Paul

Drew McIntyre vs. Happy Corbin (with Madcap Moss)

Drew McIntyre was the pandemic-era champion of the WWE. Unfortunately, most times when a babyface champion loses the title, he ends up sliding down the card. Looks like that is what happened to Drew when he landed in this match.

Happy Corbin works a different gimmick every year. This time around he is… happy? I do not get it either. Somehow this guy seems to have enough talent to be good, but he never connects with the audience. With Madcap Moss in tow (I do not get him either), he should be able to deliver a bruising match against McIntyre.

Prediction: Winner, Happy Corbin

The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso) (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs in a tag team match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship

The veteran Usos are in their best professional run. They are both the best tag team in the WWE, and they are great heaters for Roman Reigns.

Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs are an odd pairing that are hard to understand. Nakamura has under-delivered throughout his WWE run that was supposed to have a lot more promise. Boogs somehow took Elias’ gimmick and does not bring much else to the table.

Prediction: Winners, The Usos

Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair in a singles match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

Becky has not done much of anything interesting since her return from maternity leave. Belair uses her hair as a weapon. Do not expect much from this match.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Raw Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch

The New Day (Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston) vs. Sheamus and Ridge Holland (with Butch)

This was originally supposed to be a six-man tag team match with a fully reunited New Day, but unfortunately Big E’s career came to a sudden end when he accidentally broke his neck in an encounter with Ridge Holland on Smackdown a few weeks ago. The New Day does not have the same cachet without the big man.

Sheamus is the veteran member of his team and being used to get Ridge Holland over. Butch, the former Pete Dunne from NXT, has not had enough time on the main roster with his new name and gimmick to connect with the audience. Sheamus is really going to have to do all the work in this match.

Prediction: Winners, Sheamus and Ridge Holland

Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ronda Rousey in a singles match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

I was at WrestleMania 38 when Rousey managed to mess up the finish of the first ever women’s main event at WrestleMania. I regret not leaving early to beat the traffic. Then she disappeared for three years. I don’t imagine she has gotten much better since then, and I don’t have high expectations for this match.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE SmackDown Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey

Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. TBA

Mr. McMahon will announce Rollins’ opponent during the show. I won’t get into what the rumors are because most wrestling Internet rumors tend to not come true. Although this one seems likely to happen, you never know.

That makes this one hard to predict. But you can count on Seth Rollins to be his very best no matter who they trot out to wrestle him. He is known for his WrestleMania performances and this match is very likely going to steal the show.

Prediction: Winner, Seth Rollins

WrestleMania 38: Where the Main Event Is Not a Match

Stone Cold Steve Austin Will be at WrestleMania 38 in a main event segment. What?

I had planned to end my rant about the WrestleMania 38 card being watered down when spread over two nights with my last blog post. Then Kevin Owens announced on Monday Night Raw that his KO Show interview of Stone Cold Steve Austin will be the main event of WrestleMania Saturday.

Let that sink in for a moment. The main event of a WrestleMania event is not even a match!

Granted WrestleMania is always a different show that is intended to stand out from the rest of the pay-per-views throughout the year. It leans more on the entertainment aspects of WWE’s content than a regular show would. But the word “wrestle” is still in WrestleMania! It still should be about wrestling matches, especially in the main event.

Let us flash back to WrestleMania V at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There were fourteen matches on the card.

Midway through the show, Rowdy Roddy Piper hosted Morton Downey Jr. on a Piper’s Pit segment in the ring. Downey was a controversial television host at the time and Piper was already a wrestling legend. The segment lasted for a few minutes and ended with a quick laugh when Piper sprayed Downey in the face with a fire extinguisher because Downey refused to extinguish his cigarette.

WrestleMania V culminated in a main event between Randy Macho Man Savage and Hulk Hogan for the WWF championship. It was an instant classic of a match between the two biggest stars in the WWF at the time that was built up over the course of the year. The main event was not the damn Piper’s Pit segment! That segment was where it belonged, filler in the middle of the card.

I was going to give my analysis of the Austin segment later in the week, but in the context of this rant, I will do it now.

The KO Show featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin

On March 30, 2003, WrestleMania XIX took place at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. In the penultimate match on the card, The Rock defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin. It was their third and final WrestleMania matchup, and unbeknownst to us at the time, it was Austin’s last match. It was kept from the public that it this would be the conclusion of his in-ring career. His body was failing, and he knew he could no longer continue.

The fans were not ready to see Austin retire, and he did not want to leave. He later would admit that he struggled through an existential crisis for years without the job that he loved. But continually refused multiple offers to wrestle any more matches. He knew that he was physically incapable of performing at the highest level. His pride kept him from tarnishing his legacy and embarrassing himself. It was rumored that Austin was once again offered to work a match at WrestleMania 38.

Austin would return for various guest appearances in the 19 years since his retirement. One memorable example was when he delivered a Stunner to Xavier Woods at WrestleMania 32, the last time WrestleMania was in Dallas, Texas. This year, in lieu of the match he reportedly refused, Austin will be in a much higher profile WrestleMania segment.

Austin’s journey to WrestleMania 38 began with Kevin Owens disrespecting and insulting the state of Texas repeatedly on Raw. In the beginning, it was hard to understand where this angle was headed. But Owens, who did not have a match lined up for WrestleMania, invited Steve Austin to be a guest on his KO Show at WrestleMania. In a taped segment, Austin agreed to Owen’s offer the next day.

Let’s consider the potential scenarios for how this will play out:

  • Scenario 1: The WWE will attempt to recreate a classic Austin “raising hell” segment with a prop like a monster truck or a beer truck, but bigger and more elaborate.
  • Scenario 2: Another Austin foil such as Mr. McMahon will interject himself into the segment and Austin will beat him up.
  • Scenario 3: Austin and Owens will come to blows, Austin will grab a microphone and demand a referee come to the ring and ring the bell to start an impromptu match between him and Owens. He will deliver a Lou Thesz Press and a quick Stunner to Owens giving us one last “match” that will total about 45 seconds.
  • Scenario 4: Austin and Owens argue about the state of Texas and Owen’s pilfering of Austin’s Stunner as his finisher. Austin will kick Owens in the plumbs and give him three or four Stunners.

No matter which scenario they pick, Austin will shotgun about a dozen beers and give the crowd the double-bird as the announcers thank us for tuning in.

If you imagine any of these scenarios as a segment somewhere in the middle of the show, it sounds great. We get to see Austin do something funny and he maintains his integrity for not wrestling one more match.

But if you imagine this as the main event of WrestleMania Saturday, it is a creative trap from hell. How do you shape any of these scenarios into a WrestleMania main-event-level production? In Scenario 1 does he bring a machine gun to the ring and blow Owens away? In Scenario 2 does Mr. McMahon make a run-in only to eat a Stunner? In Scenario 3 does a quick match really belong as a main event? In Scenario 4, what can the two possibly say or do to each other that would make this better than a wrestling match in this segment? In conclusion I am not happy with this situation because of where it is placed on the show. I can not get past the fact that the main event of WrestleMania Saturday is not a wrestling match!

WrestleMania 38: Where Less is No Longer More

As an aficionado of the Jim Ross podcast, I’ve often heard him use the phrase “less is more” as a bit of advice he would give in-ring talents for how to construct the flow of their matches. Well, that phrase does not apply to the big picture in the WWE. For the third year in a row, WrestleMania is a two-night affair. The previous two double-WrestleMania’s appeared to be necessitated by the pandemic. Unfortunately, that trend appears to be permanent.

Were any fans really clamoring for a two-night WrestleMania? I did not even like the trend of the show getting longer and longer every year to begin with. Like the rest of the world, my attention span gets shorter and shorter all the time. I would be fine with a three-and-a-half-hour card featuring the best full-time talents on the show that save their best efforts for the Grandest Stage of Them All.

The WWE business model is about grabbing new revenue opportunities at every turn. It is like the Star Wars Effect where a conglomerate super-sizes content such that creativity suffers greatly, but it makes a lot more money, so the creators really do not care about the quality of their product. Case in point: Two superstars who were prominently featured at WrestleMania 37, Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt, have since been fired due to “budget cuts”, but now the WWE paradoxically must fill two shows without them. The WWE gets to earn more money while spending less on in-ring talent.

At the time of this writing, there are fourteen matches announced in total for the weekend, and an appearance of Stone Cold Steve Austin on the KO Show. The cards are watered down and bloated even in isolation. The only match that seems like a big deal is the Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar title unification showdown. Maybe that is because this is the third time these two will face each other in a WrestleMania main event.

Everything else that has been announced does not move the needle. A handful of celebrities that I do not care about, and a bunch of matches that look like they belong on Raw or Smackdown.

But hey, it is still WrestleMania weekend. Even if it sounds like a chore to sit through both shows, that is what I am going to do! Maybe Edge and AJ Styles have big plans for their match. Maybe Seth Rollins brings his A game to his mystery opponent. Maybe Johnny Knoxville finally breaks every bone in his body on live television and I can say I saw it. And if I get tired or bored, I can take a nap during one of the women’s matches!

Keep an out for my expert predictions and analysis later in the week. I sure have a lot of typing to do!

2022 Royal Rumble Analysis and Predictions

The Road to WrestleMania 38 begins Saturday night at the Royal Rumble in St. Louis. WrestleMania is now an unnecessarily long two-night event, so there are a lot of storylines to lay out between now and then. The matches on the Rumble card that will have the biggest consequences for WrestleMania are the men’s rumble match, and the two men’s championship matches.

Edge and Beth Phoenix vs. The Miz and Maryse in a Mixed tag team match

A lot of what Miz does these days is mid-card work that promotes his outside interests in reality shows. He is still the most dependable heel the WWE has on the roster and could easily move up the card if he was not mired in situations like this.

You would be hard-pressed to find an Edge fan who wanted to see him come out of retirement to be in a mixed tag team match with his wife. This is a long way down from last year when he won the 2021 men’s rumble match as the #1 entrant and went on to get smoked by Roman Reigns in the WrestleMania main event.

Prediction: Winners, The Miz and Maryse

Becky Lynch (c) vs. Doudrop in a Singles match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

No comment.

Prediction: I’m going to take a nap during this match.

Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. Bobby Lashley (with MVP) in a singles match for the WWE Championship

These are two of the very best in the game right now. Both competitors have similar backgrounds as amateur wrestlers-turned pro who then bounced between professional wrestling and mixed martial arts. Lesnar has been near or at the top of the WWE for his entire career, but Lashley was more of a late bloomer, not winning his first WWE championship until he was in his mid-40’s.

Time has not slowed these two down at all, they are both peak athletes and freakishly large. This is a WrestleMania caliber match that I cannot wait to watch.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Champion, Bobby Lashley

Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth “Freakin” Rollins in a Singles match for the WWE Universal Championship

These two former Shield members are feuding again. They have both undergone many character machinations since Rollins took the belt off Reigns at WrestleMania 31. Reigns took longer to find himself but he finally figured out how to be the top guy in the company. This will be the first time they clash as heels. The Uso’s have been banned from ringside so Reigns will have to go it alone.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Ronda Rousey is going to make a surprise return to win the Royal Rumble and go on to face Becky Lynch at WrestleMania.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

The rumor mill has not had much to say about this year’s men’s rumble winner. The main men’s matches at WrestleMania are going to feature Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar (potentially even head-to-head) so that leaves a spot open for someone to jump into the main event picture.

The WWE is cross promoting the new Jackass movie and will place Johnny Knoxville in the rumble match where he will likely eliminate Sami Zayn. Zayn always seems to be the mark to get guest celebrities over. Not a bad spot to be in.

At the time of this writing, there are five spots that have yet to be announced. They’ll likely be filled by NXT call ups and returning retirees. None of them have potential to contend for the win.

I am handicapping the field as follows:

No Chance in Hell

  • Angelo Dawkins
  • Montez Ford
  • Dominik Mysterio
  • Austin Theory
  • Johnny Knoxville
  • Happy Corbin
  • Madcap Moss
  • Sami Zayn
  • Omos
  • Riddle
  • Chad Gable
  • Otis
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Robert Roode
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Rick Boogs
  • Ricochet

Dark Horse Potential

  • Sheamus
  • Damian Priest
  • AJ Styles
  • Kofi Kingston
  • Randy Orton

Favorites

  • Rey Mysterio
  • Big E
  • Kevin Owens

The No Chance in Hell field contains nobody with WrestleMania main event potential, at least not in 2022.

Damien Priest has been on the rise this year and could surprise with a big win. The rest of the dark horse field are former champions and can be counted on to carry a WrestleMania title match. A win by any of them would be a surprise, but not a shock.

Rey Mysterio has been at the forefront of WWE storylines and is on the cover of the latest WWE video game. The geriatric luchador apparently is still a moneymaker and might have one big main event run left in him.

Big E is a recent former champion and may be poised to take off again. He would match up well against Reigns or Lesnar in a one-on-one match.

Kevin Owens recently returned to working as a heel which is his natural state. He would be able to sell a WrestleMania main even against a top babyface in his sleep. Maybe this is finally KO’s time to have a big WrestleMania moment.

WrestleMania 37 Postscript

What was up with Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania?

The WWE delivered in a big way over the two-night showing of WrestleMania 37. It was dealt a tough hand with a storm in Tampa which forced a 40-minute rain delay at the beginning of Saturday’s show. Once the rains subsided enough for the show to start, the first live crowd the WWE has hosted in over a year was clearly excited for action.

Most critics tended to agree that both shows were exciting from start to finish and exceeded expectations. What makes that interesting is that this was more of a transitional WrestleMania than it may have appeared to be. Consider that this was the first time since WrestleMania XVI in 2000 that there was no involvement from The Undertaker or John Cena. Also consider that the WWE did not reach into the past to bring back a relic like Goldberg or a part-timer like Brock Lesnar to generate interest in the show. It mainly ran with the regular talent roster and one big outside celebrity. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned there.

I have been a constant critic of both Roman Reigns and the WWE Women’s division. Roman Reigns returned after an absence in 2020 to reinvent his character and put on a masterful performance in the main event of night two. Aside from the Women’s tag team matches that laid an egg both nights, even I must admit that Sacha Banks and Bianca Belair put on the match of their lives and that certainly bolstered the division.

There were some great moments along the way, along with some inconsistencies and some odd creative decisions. Out of it all emerged a clear list of winners and losers, with the winners far out numbering the losers.

Losers:

The Fiend: Here’s Bray Wyatt’s career arc: Gets built up, fans buy in, loses in a peculiar fashion, reinvents himself, repeat. That loss to Randy Orton did not help either competitor, the finish with Alexa Bliss made no sense at all.

Big E: Lost the Intercontinental Championship in his home city.

Mandy Rose: Through no fault of her own, she slipped on the wet ramp during her ring entrance. This will haunt her on the Internet for the rest of her life.

Bayley: Her championship run in 2020 was not enough to earn her an actual match at WrestleMania 37. Instead, she was stuck with a comedy bit that did not work and got tossed aside by the Bella Twins. The crowd had the wrong reaction to the episode anyway!

Hulk Hogan: Worked babyface, got booed. His magical aura is clearly a thing of the past.

Winners:

Bobby Lashley: Opened the show with a surprise win over Drew McIntyre. This was his biggest WrestleMania moment since “The Battle of The Billionaires”.

Cesaro: In his first ever singles match at WrestleMania, he picked up a signature win over Seth Rollins.

Omos: Looked like a killer in his debut. Hopefully he is always booked that way.

Shane McMahon: Even though it is entirely predictable that he is going to take an insane bump, he still makes it entertaining. His in-ring career is one car crash after the next.

Braun Strowman: Looked great in his match. He is a physical specimen that can cut a skilled promo and tell a story in the ring.

Bad Bunny: Far exceeded any expectations with his in-ring ability. Granted, the other guys helped make him look good, but he still carried himself like a pro.

Bianca Belair: Put on probably the best women’s match the WWE has ever seen in her WrestleMania debut. Hopefully, the rest of the division follows her lead and steps up their game.

Sheamus: Hit some great moves in his win over Riddle and walked out with a singles title.

Apollo Crews: It was a very round-about way to become a singles champion, but if becoming an ethnic heel is what it took, good for him.

Daniel Bryan and Edge: Both were forced to retire due to injury but ended up in the main event of WrestleMania anyway. The losses did not hurt them at all, they looked good in defeat.

Roman Reigns: Against all odds, turned his career around and is now the clear face of the WWE. Unlike in the past where he ruined every WrestleMania main event he was in, he turned in a commanding performance this time.

The WWE added WrestleMania branding to the Backlash pay per view for the first time ever. With any luck, they can continue some of the momentum they now have from a strong WrestleMania weekend into that show.

WrestleMania 37 Night 2 Analysis and Predictions

Two nights of WrestleMania? Best weekend ever? Or too much wrestling?

After watching last night’s card, I believe the WWE has fixed the “overcrowding” situation it used to have when WrestleMania was one night. There was only one over-booked match that was in place to get people on the card. Most of the matches were plain singles or tag team matches that were not rushed. While there were not too many surprises in the outcomes, most of them were very entertaining from start to finish.

Saturday’s show will be a tough act for Sunday’s show to follow. I think I would have been happy if last night was the entire WrestleMania card, but I am happy to watch again tonight. Here are my match predictions.

Riddle (c) vs. Sheamus in a Singles match for the WWE United States Championship

I have always been the kind of wrestling fan that found most of the babyfaces to be annoying. Riddle is my worst nightmare. I do not know what they are thinking with this guy. All I can hope for is that Sheamus shoves Riddle’s scooter down his own throat, and then kicks Riddle’s head into the 19th row.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE United States Champion, Sheamus

Asuka (c) vs. Rhea Ripley in a Singles match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

Rhea Ripley’s gimmick seems to be to show up from NXT just before WrestleMania and get herself a major brand title shot. Not sure why this keeps happening to her, she does not bring much to the table.  Asuka certainly does not bring anything to the table either. 

Prediction: This match is going to suck

The Fiend (with Alexa Bliss) vs. Randy Orton

Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews Nigerian Drum Fight for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

This is a head-scratching development. These guys were perfectly capable of carrying a babyface/heel feud centered over the Intercontinental Championship as they were. For some reason, Apollo Crews decided he was going to turn into an ethnic heel and develop a fake accent just a few weeks ago. There is nothing stranger than when a WWE Superstar gains or loses an accent, just ask Kofi Kingston.

Whatever a Nigerian Drum Match is supposed to be does not sound like it is WrestleMania-worthy. But these terrible creative decisions can not take away from the fact that these are two of the best wrestlers on the roster today. Hopefully, they can make chicken salad out of chicken scratch and turn in a memorable match.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Intercontinental Champion, Apollo Crews

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (with Logan Paul)

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are trying to challenge Randy Orton and John Cena for the longest feud ever. These guys know each other well and are both performing at a high level right now. They are going to have to get Logan Paul involved in the match somehow, hopefully in a way that does not interfere with the story the two professionals are trying to tell.

Prediction: Winner, Sami Zayn

Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler (c) (with Reginald) vs. Tag Team Turmoil winners in a Tag team match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship

The makeshift team of Natalya and Tamina was the puzzling choice to win Saturday night’s race-to-the-bottom turmoil match to earn a shot at the Women’s Tag Team Championship on Sunday. With any luck the title match is better, but I would not count on it.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

The Fiend (with Alexa Bliss) vs. Randy Orton

Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt are at it again at WrestleMania and hopefully this time their match is better than the aborted mess that was their WrestleMania 33 match. The 2017 version of Bray Wyatt was floundering, and the special effects used in the match were anything other than scary. Now that Bray Wyatt is working as his “Fiend” alter-ego and his television exposure has been kept to a minimum, his work is stronger than ever. Given the involvement from Alexa Bliss and some creative camera work and special effects in the fan-less WWE Thunderdome, the build for this match has been one of the only standout storylines on WWE television right now.

Randy Orton is a versatile performer and seems to be in his element dealing with the supernatural aspect of Wyatt’s character. These guys are going to want to erase the memory of their first WrestleMania match and deliver a match to remember this time around.

Prediction: Winner, Randy Orton

Roman Reigns (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Universal Championship

For years I complained that Roman Reigns was a talentless disaster that ruined every single WrestleMania main event he was in. He was miscast as a babyface, his promos and catchphrases were cringe-worthy, and his in-ring psychology defied logic. Then he disappeared the week before WrestleMania 36, forfeiting his spot in a championship match with Goldberg and stayed off WWE television for months.

Then something strange happened. Reigns pivoted into a heel and finally became a talent worth taking an interest in. His brooding mannerisms are much more suited towards being the arrogant “Head of the Table” than whatever the “Big Dog” was supposed to be.

While it is a feel-good story that Edge was able to return to the ring after being forced into retirement due to a neck injury, his reemergence has been a complete debacle. His WrestleMania 36 match with Randy Orton was among the worst on the card, a thirty-minute exercise in how many times they could hit each other over the head with a heavy object. Not much longer after that, Edge was lost to injury in a development that surprised nobody. While he was able to win the Royal Rumble and secure a title match at WrestleMania, it seemed like the match was lacking something big.

Cue everyone’s favorite underdog, Daniel Bryan. Bryan was the main event winner that WWE management did not even want on the card at WrestleMania XXX. After being forced into early retirement himself and making a miracle comeback, Bryan is now being asked to spring into action to spice up the action for the main event of WrestleMania 37. There has not been a career arc like this in WWE history!

For the first time in his career, Roman Reigns will be in a WrestleMania main event worth watching. Bryan knows his days are numbered and will look to make this a match to remember. This not only has match of the night potential, but it could also go down as a WrestleMania classic.

Prediction: Winner and new WWE Universal Champion, Daniel Bryan

WrestleMania 37 Night 1 Analysis and Predictions

After a year of not having fans in attendance, the WWE is “back in business” with a live crowd at WrestleMania 37 in Tampa. The WWE product has been downright bizarre to watch without real fans in attendance this past year and having a crowd for the performers to work off will be a welcome change.

Splitting WrestleMania into two nights leaves a lot less clutter on the WrestleMania card than in a normal year where they over-book many matches to get as many people on the card as possible. There are lot more singles matches than we would have seen in years past.

The WWE has also seemingly admitted that the “Women’s Revolution” in the WWE has been an abject failure. Just two years ago, the WrestleMania event was a triple-threat between Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Ronda Rousey. This year, none of the three are even on the card. Something is clearly wrong with the creative process that has left most of the women in the WWE out of a prominent spot at WrestleMania.

There have been some creative missteps on the men’s side of things as well. The bizarre saga of Bobby Lashey as champion (more on that in a bit) has been a head-scratcher. For the life of me, I can not understand the appeal of Riddle. And the sudden emergence of Apollo Crews’ fake Nigerian accent almost makes me embarrassed for him.

But this is WrestleMania, and the card is stacked with talent who will have ample time to tell good stories. Without the involvement of John Cena or The Undertaker, the members of the current roster will look to cement their own WrestleMania legacies. Even if the lead-in to WrestleMania was weak, this two-night event could be professional wrestling at its best! On to the match predictions.

Bad Bunny and Damian Priest vs. The Miz and John Morrison

WrestleMania history is rife with celebrity guest appearances, many of whom actively participated in matches.  Mr. T. started the tradition when he teamed with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 1.  This year, Bad Bunny gets the nod as the token WrestleMania celebrity used to bring in viewers that are not part of the current fan base. 

The appeal of Bad Bunny is lost on me, I guess I am not in his target demographic. However, there are reports that his WWE merchandise is a huge seller right now, so this appears to be a good business decision for the WWE. He is not a trained wrestler so The Miz and Morrison are going to have to carry him in the match. The rookie Damian Priest will not be much help in covering Bunny’s weaknesses. I would not expect this match to be remembered as a WrestleMania classic.

Prediction: Winner, The Miz and Morrison

The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (c) vs. AJ Styles and Omos in a Tag team match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

This is an interesting spot for AJ Styles, having been assigned the task of getting NXT call-up Omos over as a main-roster competitor. I am not sure I like the creative direction this angle has taken, Omos seems to be lacking on the microphone, and attempts at the two of them being comedic have fallen flat. His appearance and skill set seem better suited to “monster heel” than comedic sidekick, but this is what we get so we will see how he does. For Omos, this is a great spot in which to make his debut in a championship match at WrestleMania.

The New Day continue to flounder as a duo, having lost their most charismatic member, Big E to a singles push. It is time for this team to break up, no better time or way to accomplish that than a WrestleMania swerve and a heel turn for one of them!

Prediction: Winners and new WWE Raw Tag Team Champions, AJ Styles and Omos

Lana and Naomi vs. Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose vs. The Riott Squad (Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott) vs. Natalya and Tamina in a Tag Team Turmoil match, winners receive a WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match on Night 2

This is a late addition to the card to placate those who were upset there was not enough involvement from the Women’s division. There is not a single wrestler in this match who is worth watching.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon in a Steel Cage match

It is WrestleMania! Time for Shane McMahon to jump off something high and attempt to mount credible offense against someone he has no business being in the ring with! Stop me if you have heard this one before.

Prediction: Winner, Braun Strowman

Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bianca Belair in a singles match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship

The only bright side about this match is that it is the only women’s singles match on the card.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Cesaro Vs. Seth Rollins

I have always felt that WrestleMania needs more matches like these on the card. No-gimmick singles matches that are based on a grudge and nothing else. It gives the competitors a chance to tell a unique story and showcase their skills.

Both superstars in this match are at an interesting crossroads in their individual careers. Cesaro has been a constant under-achiever as a singles competitor, and this is his first singles WrestleMania match. Seth Rollins was on a roll with his “Monday Night Messiah” gimmick, but that appears to have been taken away from him. He kept the look but not the personality which makes no sense at all. Even still, Rollins is one of the best in-ring competitors the WWE has on the roster today and he should be able to carry Cesaro in this match.

Prediction: Winner, Seth Rollins

Bobby Lashley (c) (with MVP) vs. Drew McIntyre in a singles match for the WWE Championship

This is an intriguing matchup of two superstars who took long and difficult trajectories to a championship match at WrestleMania.

Drew McIntyre had poor timing for his first WrestleMania moment as it took place in a taped match at the WWE Performance Center with no fans in attendance. He likely would have gotten a huge pop from a live crowd if there were fans in attendance. He spent most of the following calendar year as champion without performing in front of a live crowd. This match finally gives him a chance to reconnect with a live audience since his ascension to the top.

Bobby Lashley was the other feel-good story during the pandemic, having won his first ever major WWE championship at age 44 in March. The WWE is doing everything it can to muddy his creative waters since then. At the time of his win, he was presented as a vicious mauler who had to chase down a cowardly Miz and ragdoll him to win the championship. He was surrounded by a stable that supported his aura and was on top of the wrestling world.

In the ensuing weeks, he flipped to being a cowardly heel by putting out a “bounty” on Drew McIntyre, then his stable inexplicably broke up. I do not know how this helps build a WrestleMania match, but I believe that these two veterans will still step it up when the bell rings and bring the house down.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE Champion, Bobby Lashley

WrestleMania 36 Postscript

Undertaker Boneyard Match

The most unusual WrestleMania ever featured an unforgettable Boneyard Match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles

Vince McMahon and the WWE managed to defy the odds and stage WrestleMania 36, despite overwhelming regulatory pressure across America to avoid unnecessary work and remain socially distant.  The die-hard fan in me says that WrestleMania is necessary and must go on at all costs.  But I’ll leave it up to my readers to decide if it was a wise decision to go ahead with it, given the potential risks to the performers, production staff, anybody they came in contact with, and society as a whole.

The WWE did the best they could under the circumstances, but it is nearly impossible to put on a credible professional wrestling show without a live audience in the stands to react to what they are seeing and hearing in the ring.  Two nights of fan-less WrestleMania started to fall a little flat by Sunday.

It was the most obvious during the final match of Sunday night between Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntire.  This was a championship match in a WrestleMania main event that was made up of almost all finishing moves and not much else.  Under normal circumstances, the fans would have popped for the finishers and each subsequent false finish, finally exploding when the emerging hero Drew McIntire finally got the pin and took home the gold.  But with silence in the building, the match came across as underwhelming and lacked excitement.  That exact same match in front of 80,000 fans would have appeared to be much different.

It wasn’t all a wash, there were some fun moments, and some interesting spots that wouldn’t have happened in front of a live crowd.  You could hear what the wrestlers and their entourage members were saying, like when Paul Heyman said to Lesnar: “He’s good, you have to hit him again!”  And the wrestlers were able to make creative use of the props in the WWE performance center.

If I had to grade the show overall, I’d give it a “B”, but I’d give Saturday night an “A” and Sunday night a “C”.  Saturday night was a bit more compact, and it featured a very good match between Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins.  And of course, the main event Boneyard Match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles stole the show and will go down as one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time.

Sunday was a big more lackluster overall, not just because of the lackluster main event.  It also featured another cinematic match between Bray Wyatt and John Cena which didn’t work as well as the Boneyard Match on Saturday.  In their Firefly Funhouse Match, there wasn’t much of a match at all, but a satirical and bizarre career retrospective of both individuals that ended without much wrestling or fighting at all.  I see what the WWE was trying to do there, but it just didn’t work all that well.

Sunday also featured the Last Man Standing match between Randy Orton and Edge.  The match went way too long, and in fact clocked in at the second longest WrestleMania match ever behind only the sixty-minute Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Brett “The Hitman” Hart at WrestleMania XII.  As Causal Geekery points out, Last Man Standing matches are a creative trap to being with, they are an exercise in very long false finishes which try your patience.  Which is more exciting, a kick out at two and 7/8ths, or someone who barely gets to his feet after an excessively long 9 count and then falls back down again?  These two should have had an emotional and exciting match, instead all they did was hit each other over the head repeatedly and found ways to get up until Edge brained Orton with a Con-Chair-To to put the match out of its misery.

Per the norm, WrestleMania had its share of winners and losers.  Some came out looking very good, others not so much.

Losers

  • Seth Rollins: Seth came into WrestleMania with an impressive 6-1 record, having recorded at least one victory in every WrestleMania he had competed in. Those aren’t exactly Undertaker-like stats, but they were nothing to sneeze at and something he could have used to build interest in future WrestleMania matches.  That angle is now dead.
  • Charlotte Flair: Now that she’s the NXT champion, does that mean she’s demoted from the main brands?  This never made any sense.
  • Brock Lesnar: He sure loses a lot of WrestleMania matches, doesn’t he? At what point does he lose his mystique as The Conqueror?
  • Goldberg: Why was he brought back again?
  • Bobby Lashley: Jobbing to Aelister Black has no upside.
  • Daniel Bryan: Lost a championship match in two straight WrestleMania’s. He needs to regain some momentum if he wants to finish his career out on top.
  • Dolph Ziggler: They finally put him on a WrestleMania card in a singles match, and he loses to Otis? And Otis gets the girl in the end?  Oh man, just put Ziggler out of his misery already!
  • Randy Orton and Edge: Had a chance to put on a much better match than they did. Nobody told these veterans that “less is more”?

Winners

  • Kevin Owens: Seth Rollins’ loss is KO’s gain. He finally had his WrestleMania moment and can build off this.
  • Becky Lynch: Her match sucked, but she has her own Mack Truck!
  • Drew McIntyre: His WrestleMania moment lost a little something with no fans to enjoy it, but he still closed out WrestleMania with a championship win over Brock Lesnar, his journey to the top of the WWE is finally complete.
  • Braun Strowman: Let’s hear it for the guy who couldn’t ever seem to get to the top!  After all these years in WWE, he won his first singles title in 2020, only to lose the Intercontinental Title very quickly.  He had to replace Roman Reigns in a championship match against Goldberg with no buildup, and just like that he had his WrestleMania moment and walked out with the WWE Universal Championship!
  • Sami Zayn: His middling career finally includes a singles championship match victory.
  • Otis: This is the unlikeliest WrestleMania booking of them all. For a guy who is a rookie and a tag team specialist to get a singles win at WrestleMania is nearly unheard of.  And he got the girl in the end, I guess I must admit that the guy has game!
  • AJ Styles and The Undertaker: All I can say about their match is “wow!”  It was a masterpiece of the rarely utilized “Cinematic Wrestling” artform.  The Undertaker has been justifiably criticized for hanging on for too long and putting on sub-par matches.  But the creative editing in this non-traditional match made him look like a million bucks.  AJ Styles was the perfect foil for this match.  The guy knows how to be a heel, he cheats, he talks smack, and he begs for forgiveness right before he gets pummeled by the babyface.  It was a movie and a wrestling clinic all in one, and it will be included in the list of greatest WrestleMania matches of all time.  And it began and ended with “Now That We’re Dead” by the greatest band in the world, Metallica!

Moving forward, it is very hard to say what will happen next.  Not because of the natural unpredictability of WWE storylines, but because the world is still in the throws of the COVID-19 crisis, and that directly impacts how and if the WWE can still generate content.  Now that WrestleMania is over, safety is paramount, and we can only hope that the world returns to normal sometime soon and we can get back to enjoying Raw and Smackdown and WWE pay-per-views in front of packed arenas again.  That would make the world seem normal again!