LECLAIR’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA 37 NIGHT 1 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Banks vs. Belair, Lashley vs. McIntyre, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


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LECLAIR’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA 37 NIGHT 1 REPORT
APRIL 10, 2021
TAMPA, FL AT RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe, Corey Graves, Jerry “The King” Lawler (varied teams)

-Vince McMahon welcomed the audience at Raymond James Stadium to the show. The roster filled the stage behind him. A newly remixed version of the opening video followed.

-Mike Rome introduced Bebe Rexha to perform “America the Beautiful.” The camera swept over the roster, socially distanced and all dressed in their ring gear.

-The opening video package aired, focusing heavily on the “WrestleMania is back in business” tagline. They paid tribute to the fans, thanking them or making it possible to “raise the sails again.”

-The camera swept over the live audience at Raymond James Stadium as Michael Cole welcomed fans for the first time in over a year. The camera cut to Cole, Byron Saxton, and Samoa Joe at ringside. Michael Cole said they needed to “settle things down” for just a little bit as they’ve had to pause for a weather delay.

Cole, Saxton, and Joe improvised with talk about the ways in which the weather delay may impact Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley. Cole tossed to interviews backstage.

-Sarah Schreiber stood backstage with Shane McMahon. She asked about his problems with Braun Strowman, and about his plans for tonight. Shane was quickly cut off by Bobby Lashley and MVP.

MVP said the time for talking is over. He claimed the only language that Lashley can speak, and that McIntyre can understand, is the language of violence. MVP claimed that the WWE title “changes you from the inside.” He said there’s no way McIntyre can get the title back tonight. “I told Drew he would lose,” MVP said. Drew McIntyre walked onto screen.

Drew said mother nature can’t stop the match from happening. “I’ll take you down back here if I have to.” Officials poured in and separated the two men. Sarah Schreiber stepped back on camera to speak to Drew. She asked him about his emotions heading into this match. McIntyre choked up, he said he’s trying not to lose it seeing fans for the first time in over a year. He recounted his last year, and said as good as it was to see fans on screens, it’s a whole different story to see them in person again. McIntyre grew flustered, saying he’s going to face Lashley tonight no matter what.

-The broadcast moved back to the pre-show panel with Kayla Braxton, JBL, and Peter Rosenberg. They reset the scene before tossing to Kevin Patrick backstage, who welcomed The New Day.

Xavier Woods said you can’t imagine what it feels like to have fans back in the stands until it actually happens. Kofi said the last time fans were in the stands, Patrick wasn’t even employed yet. Patrick said he was around to see them win back the Raw Tag Team titles. Kofi held up the title. He asked if Styles and Omos had even registered as a tag team yet. Woods said they were excited to face Styles and Omos because they’ve beaten everyone else.

Big E wandered on camera and stared down Kevin Patrick. Woods hyped up E’s match on tomorrow night’s card. Big E put his arm around Patrick and told him he’s blessed to watch Kofi and Xavier work.

-Sarah Schreiber welcomed Braun Strowman. He said he’s going to beat Shane McMahon within an inch of his life. He said Shane has backed him into a corner and made a huge mistake by putting him in a steel cage. He said he plans on standing over a corpse by the end of the night.

-Kayla Braxton, JBL, and Peter Rosenberg discussed seeing Vince McMahon welcome fans back to the stands.

-Kevin Patrick spoke to Kevin Owens backstage. KO took the microphone from Patrick and ran down his relationship with Sami Zayn. Owens said that he and Zayn were told they’d never make it to the big leagues, and now they get to do it against each other at WrestleMania. Owens said the Zayn he’s facing tomorrow isn’t the Zayn he grew up with, but he plans to “stun sense back” into him. He said if Logan Paul wants to try something, he’ll be in the ring.

-Michael Cole and Samoa Joe stood at ringside in ponchos. Byron Saxton’s mic cut out and he had to be fitted for a new one. Cole said the show would begin in about 5 minutes. He tossed to Sarah Schreiber.

-Schreiber welcomed Bianca Belair. She asked Bianca about her main event title match tonight. Bianca said she’s going to prove she’s the EST. She said as important as that is, she’s most excited about seeing the fans again.

-Kevin Patrick welcomed Seth Rollins. Seth got his name wrong, but spoke jovially with him. “What’s going on, what’s on your mind?” Seth kept calling him “Mike.” Rollins admonished him from bringing up Cesaro’s swing. Rollins called himself the new Mr. WrestleMania, and promised to prove it again when he trounces Cesaro. “What a night, baby!”

-Sarah Schreiber welcomed The Miz and John Morrison. She said they told her they didn’t need luck against Bad Bunny and Damian Priest. Miz said that this isn’t the Grammy’s or SNL, it’s WrestleMania and Bad Bunny can’t compare to the greatest tag team of the 21st century.

-The pre-show panel continued to stall before tossing to the video package for Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre

(LeClair’s Analysis: An unfortunate start to the show, but there’s a ton of energy in the building, with the crowd, and among everyone on the roster. These promos were unique and enjoyable, because they were very clearly unscripted and on the fly. I’m not going to get my hopes up, but perhaps seeing several members of the roster pull off respectable, functional, real promos with little to no preparation will make Vince and company more likely to allow things like this going forward.)

-Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan took to the stage to hype up the crowd, who had finally begun filing back into the stadium. O’Neil said WWE is back in business live for the first time in one year, one month, and one day. Hulk Hogan said they’re going to make history tonight. A smattering of boos could be heard. He said they’re going to make history with their first match. Titus O’Neil said they’re kicking the night off with aggression and violence in the WWE Championship match.

-Drew McIntyre’s music hit and he emerged onto the stage to a large reaction. He counted down with the fans before driving his sword into the floor, setting off a massive display of fire. Byron Saxton said that Drew was “jumping out of his skin” waiting for the match to begin. The announcers agreed that he and Lashley were going to tear each other apart.

Bobby Lashley headed to the ring, flanked by MVP, to a very modest reaction. Pyro shot from the rafters as he posed on the top rope.

Mike Rome delivered traditional championship introductions. The crowd roared at the announcement. A small “Bobby” chant broke out after his name was announced.

(1) BOBBY LASHLEY (c, w/ MVP) vs. DREW McINTYRE – WWE Championship Match

Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre locked up at the sound of the bell. They quickly worked into the ropes, forcing a break. Drew McIntyre grabbed a side headlock. Lashley shoved him off and gave Drew a shoulder tackle. McIntyre popped back to his feet instantly. The two men engaged in a test of strength. Lashley leapfrogged a running McIntyre, who fought back quickly with an overhead capture suplex. Lashley popped back up in equal response.

Both men fired off shots. Lashley backed McIntyre into the corner, but Drew quickly turned it around. Lashley chopped Drew in the throat. McIntyre clotheslined Lashley over the top rope to the floor. Drew climbed to the outside while the champion regrouped with MVP. Lashley drove McIntyre kidney first into the barricade, then tossed him into it. He barked at the fans in the first few rows. Lashley tossed McIntyre into the barricade a second time.

McIntyre rolled back in the ring, followed closely by Lashley. Drew retreated to the corner. Lashley speared him into the turnbuckle. Bobby covered for a quick one count. Drew stumbled to his knees and into the the ropes. Lashley dropped him and drove his boot into Drew’s chest and neck. McIntyre fought to his feet slowly and created separation with knife edged chops. Lashley shook them off, tossed Drew to the corner, and tried to spear him again. McIntyre moved, sending Lashley shoulder first into the turnbuckle.

Drew grabbed an arm bar. Lashley used his strength to roll out of it and on top of Drew, firing off a series of mounted punches. Lashley slapped McIntyre across the face. Drew shook with frustration. Lashley cornered Drew again, driving his shoulder into McIntyre’s abdomen repeatedly. Lashley whipped McIntyre across the ring, but Drew bounced back with a big clothesline. He caught Bobby with another overhead belly-to-belly. Lashley wandered to his feet and McIntyre hit another one. He followed up with a neckbreaker. McIntyre kipped up and riled up the fans. He set up for the Future Shock DDT, but Lashley fought free.

Lashley ran into an elbow from Drew, followed by a bridging Northern Lights suplex for a two count. McIntyre grabbed the left arm of Lashley again, but Bobby fought his way out of it. He scooped Drew into a power bomb position, then transitioned into a falling flapjack. Lashley covered for a two count. Lashley set up for a suplex, but McIntyre caught him with the Glasgow Kiss. Lashley shrugged it off and gave McIntyre a choke slam.

Bobby went for the Hurt Lock. McIntyre blocked it. Lashley got caught with an elbow to the back from McIntyre. Drew followed  up with a reverse Alabama Slam. He covered for a two count at the ten minute mark. Drew hoisted Lashley onto the top rope and gave him a quick chop. Drew set up for a superplex, but Lashley blocked it and crotched Drew on the top turnbuckle. McIntyre shook it off and grabbed a Kimura. Lashley didn’t allow it to be set all the way in. McIntyre let it go and flipped Lashley off the top rope.

McIntyre set up for the Claymore. He charged, but Lashley caught him with a massive spinebuster. McIntyre kipped up, no selling it. The two came to blows. McIntyre caught another belly-to-belly. He hit the Future Shock DDT, but held onto Lashley, hitting it a second time. McIntyre scooped Lashley up and hit it a third time. He hooked the leg, but Lashley kicked out at the last moment. A “this is awesome” chant broke out.

The champion dragged himself to his feet with assistance from the ropes. Drew McIntyre set up for the Claymore. MVP dragged Bobby Lashley out of the ring, saving him. McIntyre didn’t miss a beat, launching his body clear over the top rope, taking down Lashley and MVP. Drew rolled Bobby into the ring and followed slowly, selling the dive. Lashley managed to grab the Hurt Lock. McIntyre broke free of it, but Lashley planet him.

Bobby set up for the Hurt Lock again. McIntyre flexed out of it, using his momentum to dump the champion into the corner. Lashley wandered out and went for the spinebuster again. McIntyre wrapped his legs, rolled Lashley over, and locked in the Kimura Lock. Lashley struggled to reach the ropes, and eventually did.

Both men pulled themselves to their knees, then to their feet. They traded punches and kicks and spilled into the corner. Lashley went for a spear, but McIntyre caught him with a big boot and another Glasgow Kiss. McIntyre went for the Claymore, but MVP screamed at him, causing a distraction. Lashley grabbed the Hurt Lock. McIntyre faded quickly, dropping to one knee. McIntyre rallied, returning to his feet and using the turnbuckle to roll through the hold. Lashley didn’t let go. He wrestled Drew to the floor. The official called for the bell.

WINNER: Bobby Lashley in 18:00 to retain the WWE Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Hard hitting, physical fight that told an excellent story from start to finish, with one nagging caveat. Drew McIntyre getting distracted by MVP yelling isn’t just bad, it’s inexcusably bad. McIntyre looked like an idiot. MVP just yelled Bobby’s name. He didn’t get on the apron. He didn’t attempt to distract Drew. He simply yelled Bobby’s name, and that was enough to throw McIntyre off enough to cost him the match. I’m hesitant to speak so highly of the rest of this simply because of the asinine finish. I’m also a little nervous about fully endorsing the continued reign of Bobby Lashley, given that it seemed like the crowd was rather tepid to him in general. Granted, I don’t expect them to book a change on the fly, but you have to wonder if this would’ve gone differently had hit closed the show. This certainly would’ve made for quite the anticlimactic ending. We’re going to learn a lot tonight.)

-Bayley was shown backstage trying to get in the good graces of the N.W.O. They were mostly unimpressed, wandering off. “Call me, brother!’ Bayley yelled after them.

-Greg Hamilton introduced the Tag Team Turmoil match. Corey Graves joined Michael Cole on commentary.

(2a) LANA & NAOMI vs. CARMELLA & BILLIE KAY – Tag Team Turmoil

Naomi began the match with Carmella. Naomi delivered a quick dropkick and made a quick tag to Lana. Lana caught Carmella with a calf to the top of the head. She followed up with a bulldog and double knees to the back of the neck. Carmella recovered, dropping Lana with a clothesline and taking a bow for the audience.

Carmella tossed Lana to the corner and tagged in Billie Kay. Kay pounded the back of Lana. Lana quickly caught a headscissor into a Russian Leg Sweep. She ran to her corner and tagged in Naomi. Naomi caught Kay with a quick springboard kick, then hit a tandem face buster with Lana. Naomi covered, but Carmella broke up the pin attempt at two. Billie Kay rolled up Naomi. Carmella held onto the ropes and pushed Kay’s back with her feet to create leverage and a three count at 2:23.

(2b) CARMELLA & BILLIE KAY vs. THE RIOTT SQUAD (RUBY RIOTT & LIV MORGAN)

After a brief flurry of offense from the Riott Squad, Carmella managed to down Liv Morgan in the corner and pull off her patented moonwalk. She tagged in Billie Kay, who dropped Morgan and covered for a two count broken up by Ruby Riott. Billie Kay managed to tag Riott onto f the ring with a big boot.

Billie rolled up Morgan and Carmella attempted the same leverage spot. The referee caught her, breaking up the count at two. Liv Morgan caught Kay with a pair of double knees and tagged in Ruby. Riott flew off the top rope with a splash for a three count at 5:11.

Carmella gave Morgan a kick on her way out of the ring.

(2c) THE RIOTT SQUAD vs. MANDY ROSE & DANA BROOKE

Mandy Rose caught Ruby Riott with a running pump knee trike. Mandy tagged in Dana, who hit Riott with a blockbuster. She covered, but Morgan managed to break ip the count. Dana Brooke continued to beat down Riott, preventing her from reaching her corner.

Dana tossed Ruby to the corner and tagged in Mandy Rose. Ruby kicked her away and knocked Brooke off the apron. Ruby tried to reach Morgan, but Mandy blocked it. Riott rolled her up. Rose kicked out at two and Riott made a leaping tag to Liv Morgan. Morgan and Rose went back and forth briefly. Riott tagged back in. She hit double knees to Rose, and Riott followed up with the Riot Kick. She covered, but Brooke managed to break it up.

Rose worked Liv Morgan to the corner and set her up for a superplex. She tagged in Brooke on her way. Dana hit a Swanton on Morgan and covered. Morgan rolled through it into a small package for a three count at 9:30.

(2d) THE RIOTT SQUAD vs. NATALYA & TAMINA

Natalya immediately went for the Sharpshooter on Liv Morgan. Morgan rolled through into a small package for a two count. Natalya dumped Morgan onto the ropes and tagged in Tamina. Tamina fired off a number of shots and then tagged out. Natalya continued to work Morgan over. She covered her, but Ruby Riott returned to break it up.

Natalya and Tamina traded frequent tags in their corner, wearing down Liv Morgan. Tamina set her up on the top rope, but Morgan managed to kick her away. Ruby Riott made a blind tag. Riott caught Tamina with a running kick to the face. Morgan tagged in. Morgan hit double knees on Tamina. Ruby Riott came off the top rope with a senton. Liv covered Tamina for a near fall.

Tamina caught Liv Morgan with a super kick to the face after Morgan tagged in Ruby Riott. She gave Riott a big boot and tagged in Natalya. They hit the Heart Attack. Natalya set up for the Sharpshooter. She dropped the legs and tagged in Tamina instead. Nattie instructed Tamina to go to the top rope. Tamina hit the Superfly splash and covered Riott for a three count.

WINNERS: Natalya & Tamina in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: This wasn’t very good. Fast paced with a number of sloppy moments. None of these acts are particular over, and none of these teams really have any credibility or momentum. I suppose Nattie and Tamina were the best choice of the bunch given the way they’ve been handled on TV lately, and they seemed to spell out this finish last night on Smackdown. This was a bit of a throwaway to get a bunch of women on the card.)

-After an Old Spice partnership ad, “Burn it down!” echoed throughout Raymond James Stadium. Seth Rollins headed to the ring with a brand new heavy metal theme, much more befitting of his heel character. Fireworks shot from behind the stadium entrance. Cole and Graves tossed to a video package hyping the match.

Cesaro’s music garnered a strong reaction from the crowd. He practically bounced to the ring with excitement. Cole and Graves talked about it being his first singles match at WrestleMania.

(3) SETH ROLLINS vs. CESARO

Cesaro dropped Seth Rollins with a running uppercut the moment the bell rang. He looked quickly for the swing, but Rollins dragged himself to the ropes and held on for dear life. Cesaro let go, but hit a springboard uppercut that sent Rollins reeling. Seth spilled out to the apron and managed to hang Cesaro’s arm up. He climbed to the top rope, but Cesaro recovered and leapt up to meet him.

Rollins managed to counter an attempted top rope gut wrench into a buckle bomb. Rollins covered for a quick two count. Seth went back to work on the arm he exploited moments prior. Seth managed to toss Cesaro to the apron. Cesaro caught him with a quick uppercut and climbed to the top rope. Rollins leapt up to meet him and hit a quick superplex, rolling through, back to his feet and into a Falcon Arrow for a near fall.

Seth took his time, slowly pulling Cesaro this feet. He set up a neckbreaker, but Cesaro rolled him into a backslide for a two count. The two men traded punches and uppercuts. Cesaro backed Rollins into the corner and peppered him with uppercuts from both arms. Cesaro hit a running uppercut with the injured arm, then followed up with a spinning clothesline for a two count.

Cesaro looked around at the crowd and set up the swing. Rollins countered it into a roll up for a two count. Cesaro took Rollins down again. Seth rolled to the ropes, then hit a step-up enziguri. Rollins looked for the stomp, but Cesaro blocked it, dropped Rollins and initiated the swing. The crowd counted along as Cesaro completed nine rotations, having to let go due to the injured arm. Cesaro quickly applied the Cloverleaf, but Rollins pulled himself to the ropes with relative ease.

The crowd chanted “one more time!” Cesaro set up for the Neutralizer. Rollins broke free and hit a springboard knee off the ropes. He followed up with the Slingblade. Cole said you can feel the momentum shifting in Seth’s favor. Rollins climbed to the top rope and hit a corkscrew splash for a near fall.

Rollins grabbed a waist lock and set up for the Ripcord Knee. Cesaro elbowed out of it and hit the Neutralizer off a tilt-a-whirl for a near fall of his own. Cesaro was shocked. He tried to set up for the swing again, but Rollins grabbed the ropes. Cesaro went for the Neutralizer a second time, but Seth flipped through it and caught Cesaro with the Pedigree. Rollins covered for another near fall.

Seth shook his head in disbelief. Cesaro laid dormant on the mat. “I survived the Neutralizer! I survived the swing! I am a god!” Rollins declared. He gave Cesaro an elbow to the back of the neck. Cesaro rose to his knees. Rollins set up for the stomp. Cesaro blocked it, launching Rollins into the air and hitting an uppercut. Cesaro hoisted Rollins onto his shoulders and commenced an arm-less Airplane Spin. He went for the swing a second time, completing 23 rotations. Cesaro hit a second Neutralizer and covered for a three count.

WINNER: Cesaro in 11:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Great match. I would’ve liked to have seen it go longer, but these two made the absolute best of the time they had. Both guys brought a variety of offense and counters. The stomp into the flying uppercut was gorgeous. The stomp evoked the biggest reaction of the night thus far. Cesaro was completely, and totally over with this audience. Rollins is very much earning his self-declared title of the new Mr. WrestleMania – delivering consistently memorable performances year after year. I’d like to see these two face off again, undoubtedly. Cesaro deserved this win, and it served as the first feel-good moment of the night.)

-Cole and Graves talked over recaps of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and Smackdown Tag Team title match on last night’s Smackdown.

-Kayla Braxton welcomed Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode to the interview set backstage. Ziggler it says it finally feels like WrestleMania now that they’ve arrived. Kayla asked for their prediction for the Raw Tag Team title match. Ziggler said even he had KofiMania for a minute, but it’s hard to discredit A.J. Styles. Roode said you should never bet against the Phenomenal One. Ziggler said Braxton will have to excuse them, because the 2020 Hall of Fame class has requested pictures with he and Roode.

-Big E stood on the stage to deliver The New Day’s intro live. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods danced onto the stage, both sporting new hairstyles. Big E got them hyped up before returning to the back.

Samoa Joe and Byron Saxton replaced Corey Graves at the commentary table. Cole said that the New Day could be considered the greatest tag team of all time. Joe and Saxton discussed the merits of Styles and his partner, Omos.

A.J. Styles entered through a wall of pyro. Omos stepped out at his side. New Day danced to Styles’ music in the ring.

It looked like Omos was prepared to begin the match with Kofi Kingston. Xavier Woods began an A.J. chant, coaxing him into kicking things off.

(4) THE NEW DAY (c, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) vs. A.J. STYLES & OMOS – Raw Tag Team Championship Match

A.J. Styles and Kofi Kingston trade rapid fire offense to open up the match. Kofi missed the S.O.S. which prompted Styles to try to roll him quickly into the Calf Crusher. Kingston rolled through it and dropped styles with a rib-breaker. Kofi followed up with a dropkick and a cover for a one count. Xavier Woods played the trumpet at ringside.

Kofi hit a standing splash on Styles and tagged in Xavier Woods. Woods hit a quick splash from the apron for a two count. He grabbed a side headlock. “We are effectively cutting the ring in half!” Woods declared emphatically. He tagged Kingston back in. Woods and Kofi traded tags, engaging in the “Unicorn Stomp.” The camera kept cutting to Omos on the apron, who appeared to be growing frustrated.

Woods grabbed a headlock on Styles and repeatedly took him down, keeping him as far away as he could from Omos. Styles tried to reach his corner and nearly did, but Woods managed to take him over in the opposite direction. Woods tagged in Kingston, who continued to work Styles over in a heel-like manner. Kofi tagged in Woods. A.J. Styles left the ring and tried reaching Omos from the other side. Kofi cut him off with a quick dropkick.

Kingston climbed to the top rope and hit a leaping dropkick for a two count. Kofi tagged in Woods and fed Styles into an attempted back drop. Styles rolled through and rushed to Omos. Styles went for an enziguri, but Woods ducked it and dragged him back to New Day’s corner. Woods tagged in Kofi. Kofi hit a splash to Styles’ back. Kofi set Styles up on his knee as Woods climbed the ropes. Styles kicked Kofi, leaving Woods stranded on the top rope. Styles leapt to Omos and made the tag.

Omos climbed in the ring and approached a wide-eyed Xavier Woods. Xavier threw a series of kicks to the shins, but Omos stood stoically. Woods tagged in Kofi. Omos dropped Kofi with ease. New Day retreated to the corner, trying to strategize. Omos tossed Kofi into the corner, then flattened Woods. Omos gave Woods a massive rib-breaker, wrapping Woods’ body over his knee. He scooped Kingston up with one hand and hit a massive side slam. Styles barked orders from the apron.

Omos backed into the ropes. Styles leapt onto Omos’ shoulders and hit the Phenomenal Forearm on Woods. Omos gave Kingston a double handed choke slam and pinned Kofi with one foot for a three count.

WINNERS: A.J. Styles & Omos in 10:00 to win the Raw Tag Team Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt rather misguided. The audience was just waiting for the novelty of seeing Omos. They seemed completely disinterested in New Day outside of the entrance, and it’s not hard to see why. Kofi and Xavier were annoying and incredibly heelish – they tried to avoid facing Omos at the start of the match, they taunted him relentlessly while beating down A.J. Styles, and the crowd seemed genuinely pleased to see them get beat down when Omos finally got the hot tag. Styles was sympathetic, Omos was a monster, and New Day felt incredibly stale and out of sorts. This was strange, all the way around. Kofi Kingston seems light years removed from KofiMania at this point.)

-A teaser for WWE 2K22 aired.

-Michael Cole tossed to a video package hyping Shane McMahon vs. Braun Strowman, then welcomed Jerry “The King” Lawler as a guest on commentary.

As Shane McMahon entered, Cole asked why Shane would accept a steel cage match against Braun Strowman. King said you can never underestimate a McMahon, and suggested Braun was as dumb as Shane claimed. Braun Strowman headed to the ring to a surprisingly strong reaction, full of pyro, smoke, and explosions.

Elias and Jaxson Ryker attacked Braun Strowman from behind with steel chairs as he rounded the corner to the entrance of the cage. They focused on his leg. Strowman climbed into the cage to escape, but Elias tossed Shane a chair before leaving.

(5) SHANE McMAHON vs. BRAUN STROWMAN – Steel Cage Match

Shane McMahon cracked the steel chair over Braun Strowman’s back as soon as the bell rang. Strowman briefly blocked a shot, but Shane attacked the leg damaged by Elias and Ryker in the pre-match attack. Strowman eventually shoved Shane away to create separation, but found himself limping on the damaged leg.

“You’re gonna get these hands!” Strowman barked as he fired off punches. McMahon ducked them all and caught Strowman with kicks to the injured leg. Shane tried to climb the cage, but Strowman cut him off. Shane retrieved a thin piece of sheet metal from the top of the cage. He cracked it over Braun’s back. Shane prepared to swing at Strowman’s head, but paused, allowing Braun to laughably bend over so Shane could hit his back.

Shane called for the door to open. He headed for the exit, but Strowman caught him tossed him across the ring. Braun ripped Shane to his feet and threw him into the cage wall repeatedly. Strowman continued ti limp around the ring. Strowman caught Shane with a right hand that sent Shane reeling. Braun caught Shane with a punch to the gut. Shane climbed onto the apron in a failed attempt to escape. Strowman threw his body at Shane, trapping him against the cage.

Strowman clubbed Shane across the chest and pulled him to his feet by the shirt. Strowman set up for the Powerslam, but Braun’s leg gave out on him. Shane slid down the back and kicked Strowman in the knee before planting him with a DDT. Shane climbed to the top rope as Strowman pulled himself to the opposing corner. McMahon hit Coast to Coast and covered him for a near fall.

Elias and Jaxson Ryker reemerged at ringside, climbing the cage and trying to help Shane get over the top. Strowman recovered and threw his body into the cage, sending Elias and Ryker flying back to the floor. The collision with the steel caused Shane to lose his grip on top of the cage and fall haphazardly back into the ring. The camera pulled back to show the venue from afar as both Braun and Shane struggled to stand.

McMahon ascended the cage wall again. Strowman followed. Shane managed to pull a toolbox from a cylindrical attachment hung from the cable holding the cage. Shane hit Strowman in the head with the toolbox. Strowman fell to the mat. Shane made it over the cage and began his descent. Strowman bounced to his feet in the knick of time and grabbed McMahon. Braun peeled the steel fencing from the piping and pulled Shane back into the ring through the hole he created.

Shane escaped Braun’s grasp and returned to the top of the cage. Strowman followed. Braun stood on the very top of the cage and pulled Shane to his feet. Shane begged for mercy. Strowman tossed Shane off the top of the cage to the mat. Strowman climbed back in the ring, nearly collapsing on the injured leg. Strowman said he’s doing this for anyone who has been called stupid or been bullied. He scooped Shane up and hit the Running Powerslam for a three count.

WINNER: Braun Strowman in 11:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Thank heavens, this is over. I’m on record saying that everything about this angle has been awful, and that this was the match I looked forward to least all weekend. This went shorter than I anticipated, and I’m thankful for that. The promos leading up to the match were awkward and poorly delivered, the story was ridiculously contrived. Braun Strowman isn’t exactly the guy you want carrying the “anti-bullying” torch given his own controversial moments on social media. Ultimately, this was what it needed to be. Shane got his spots in, Strowman got to rip a steel cage apart and destroy him in the end. Time to move on.)

-A huge pyro display was set off, seemingly at random. This may have been scheduled for the start of the show, but held back due to the weather delay.

-Bayley interrupted Michael Cole at ringside to ask why Hulk Hogan and Titus O’Neil aren’t out to talk about the Hall of Fame inductees. Cole said it’s because they’re both about to be honored as part of the class of 2020. He tossed to a Hall of Fame video package.

-Steve Austin narrated a video package officially announcing Dallas as the home of WrestleMania 38.

-Booker T joined Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and Samoa Joe on commentary for the next match.

Dozens of people in bunny costumes hopped down the ramp and into the ring. “Hey Hey, Hop Hop” played and The Miz and John Morrison headed to the ring, rapping along to the recorded lyrics. They danced with the bunnies in the ring. Cole tossed to a video package hyping the match.

Damian Priest entered to a sea of fire. The camera cut to an 18-wheeler driving down a road near the stadium with Bad Bunny riding on the top. The broadcast cut back inside the stadium as the truck pulled onto the stadium floor to the right of the entrance. Bad Bunny stood atop it as fireworks shot from the behind the stadium. Bad Bunny received a positive response from the crowd.

(6) THE MIZ & JOHN MORRISON vs. BAD BUNNY & DAMIAN PRIEST

Damian Priest began the match with The Miz. Miz begged off Priest and yelled for Bad Bunny to start the match. Bunny gladly accepted a tag. The crowd roared. Bad Bunny put his fists up and circled the ring with The Miz. Miz put his hands behind his back and pretended to give Bunny a free shot. Bunny punched him in the jaw, sending Miz to the mat.

Miz shook it off and charged at Bunny. Bad Bunny grabbed a waist lock. Miz broke it off and charged again, eating another right hand. Miz talked to Morrison briefly, then went back to attack. He cornered Bunny, but Bunny caught a double leg takedown and fired off a flurry of punches. Miz finally shoved Bunny away and regrouped. A “let’s go Bunny” chant broke out. Miz dragged Bunny’s face across the top rope.

Miz went for a hip toss, but Bunny rolled through it and gave Miz an arm drag. Miz left the ring in shock. He slid back in the ring and Bunny caught him with a drop toe hold, followed by a roll up for a two count. Miz retreated to his corner for a pep talk with John Morrison. Bad Bunny mocked The Miz’s “awesome” taunt. Miz welcomed into a test of strength, but kicked Bunny in the gut before they could lock up. Miz tossed him to the apron then jawed with Damian Priest.

Bunny caught Miz with a shoulder to the midsection, then an impressive tilt-a-whirl headscissor. Miz tagged in John Morrison. Bunny continued his offense, sending Morrison to the corner and catching him with a “bunny hop.” Miz managed to tag Bunny with a cheap shot from behind, allowing Morrison to take control and tag Miz back in. Miz gave Bunny a boot to the face. Morrison followed up with a sweeping leg kick.

Miz taunted the crowd, tossing him arms up while working over Bunny. Miz grabbed a rear naked choke and talked trash to Priest. Priest tried to get the crowd going. Miz tossed bunny to the corner. Bunny punched Miz, then knocked Morrison off the apron. Bunny leapt toward Priest, but Miz held him back. Bunny caught a sunset roll up for a two count. Miz returned to his feet and caught Bunny with a big boot.

Bad Bunny reached mercifully for Damian Priest, but Miz dragged him by the jaw toward John Morrison and tagged him in. Morrison did the Spin-A-Rooni, taunting Booker T on commentary. Morrison and Miz continued to trade quick tags, slowing the pace and laying in the beat down on Bunny. Miz tagged Damian Priest, causing him to leap in the ring. The referee held Priest back, giving Miz and Morrison an opportunity to deliver tandem stomps to Bunny.

Miz mounted Bunny in the corner and fired off right hands. He stepped down and charged, but Bunny caught him with a boot to the face and followed it up with an impressive tornado DDT off the middle rope. Bunny crawled to Priest. Miz grabbed his foot, but Bunny broke free and reached Priest.

Damian Priest delivered a quick spin kick to The Miz. John Morrison joined the fray and Priest dropped him. Priest delivered a leaping elbow on Morrison in the corner, then tossed The Miz into him. Priest hit the Sound of Heaven Chokeslam on Miz and covered him, but Morrison broke it up.

Bad Bunny returned. He and Priest set up, and executed tandem Falcon Arrows on Miz and Morrison. Both covered, both kicked out at two. Bad Bunny assisted Priest in a step up dive over the top rope onto Miz and Morrison. Priest pointed to Bunny to follow it up with a dive of his own. Bunny climbed to the top rope and dove onto Miz and Morrison. “Bunnies fly!” Cole exclaimed.

Back in the ring, The Miz caught Damian Priest with the Skull Crushing Finale. He covered, but Bad Bunny saved the pin. Bad Bunny hit Morrison with a Canadian Destroyer on the outside. Priest and Miz stopped wrestling each other to look on in amazement. Priest tagged in Bunny, who leapt onto Miz with a top rope cross body for a three count.

WINNERS: Damian Priest & Bad Bunny in 15:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Consider me impressed. I was in the camp of this being a perfectly acceptable novelty match on night one of WrestleMania, and perhaps even a decent match with Priest, Morrison and Miz involved. What I did not expect, however, was to be thoroughly impressed with Bad Bunny. Though clearly green and a little rough around the edges, Bunny displayed natural timing and a general knack for the flow of a match. The spots were well executed, the Canadian Destroyer was shocking, and, most importantly, the crowd ate it up. WWE got lucky with quite a commodity here. Not only did Bunny bring a legitimate big star in the music world, that star managed to earn the respect of wrestling fans. It’s a win-win.)

-Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and Samoa Joe ran down the card for night two of WrestleMania. Cole then tossed to a video package hyping Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair.

Corey Graves rejoined Michale Cole for the main event. Bianca Belair entered to a strong reaction, though Banks’ outdid her. Neither woman received a special WrestleMania entrance, outside of fireworks for Banks as she held out the Women’s title on the apron. Banks sported new gear and freshly colored hair.

Greg Hamilton provided standard championship ring introductions, the audience roared for both women. Cole said it’s the first time two black women will headline a Pay-Per-View, let alone WrestleMania.

(7) SASHA BANKS (c) vs. BIANCA BELAIR – Smackdown Women’s Championship Match

Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair stood across the ring from one another, soaking in the moment for several seconds after the bell rang. They locked up, each gaining a brief advantage with a takedown. Banks managed to wrestle Bianca to the mat, but Bianca kipped up. Banks took Belair down again, but Belair cartwheeled over Sasha and taunted her.

Banks went for a double leg roll-through, but Belair caught her. Sasha managed to still roll Belair through the ropes to the floor. Bianca returned to the apron. Sasha tried to kick her, but Bianca blocked it hoisted Banks onto her shoulders. Sasha managed to slide free and shove Belair’s head into the turnbuckle. Banks told the referee to count Belair out.

At the count of 4, Banks dove through the middle rope and onto Belair. Bianca caught her and deadlifted her into the air. Belair carried Sasha all the way up the steps and pressed her back into the ring. Banks pulled herself up, disgust on her face. She caught Belair with a basement dropkick and covered her for a one count.

Belair shoulder tackled Banks and followed it up with a three-squat body slam. Banks went for a standing moonsault, but Banks grabbed her ponytail and ripped her to the mat. Sasha followed up with a running knee for a two count. Sasha mounted Belair and pounded her before pinning her arms to the mat for a quick two count.

Sasha gave Bianca a snapmare out of the corner and tried to apply a chinlock. Belair powered Banks’ hands apart. Sasha turned to an arm stretch instead. Belair worked back to a vertical base and tossed Banks to the apron. Sasha caught Belair with a knee to the jaw, then climbed to the top rope. Banks went for the Meteora, but Belair caught her and slammed her to the mat. Sasha rolled to the outside, but took Belair’s ponytail with her. Sasha used the hair to pull Bianca into the turnbuckle.

The referee reached a count of eight with both women on the outside. Banks and Belair broke the count simultaneously. Belair lifted Banks into a stalling vertical suplex. Sasha folded herself repeatedly to break free, but Belair kept lifting her back up, She finally connected. Cole sold the idea that the blood must’ve rushed to Banks’ head. Graves said Belair may have spent too much energy.

Both women returned to their feet. Banks continued to grab at Belair’s hair, trying to use it to coax Bianca into an arm drag. Bianca telegraphed it and caught Sasha with a dropkick. She followed up with a standing Shooting Star Press to the back of the champion. Sasha dragged herself to the corner and caught Belair with a kick. Belair shook it off, lifted Banks by the elbows and planted her face first.

Bianca climbed to the top rope and went for a 450-splash. Banks got her knees up, connecting with the upper chest and face of Belair. Both women rose slowly. Belair rolled Banks up for two. Sasha turned it into a backslide for two of her own. Banks leapt on Bianca’s shoulders, but Bianca caught her and hit a power bomb. Belair deadlifted Banks into the air and hit a second. Bianca went for a third, but Sasha forced Belair’s head down into a face buster.

Banks dragged Belair to the corner and executed a tornado DDT off the middle rope, covering her for a near fall. Banks climbed to the top rope. Banks dove for the Meteora, but changed her trajectory midway and converted it into a splash. She covered Belair for two. Belair rolled to the outside, Banks followed. She tossed Bianca into the steps before bringing her back in the ring. Belair went for a tilt-a-whirl, but Banks fought through it, grabbed Belair’s hair, and tripped her into the Bank Statement. Belair crawled desperately toward the bottom rope. Banks rolled her through back to center, but Belair used her strength to roll her all the way back and clutch the bottom rope. Sasha used the entirety of the referee’s count before breaking.

Sasha paused to regroup, letting Bianca use the ropes to stand. Belair fought Banks to the corner and set her up for a superplex. Sasha shoved Bianca to the mat. Belair rushed back, but Banks snagged her into the tree of woe position. Banks went for a Meteora, but Belair ducked it. Sasha tweaked her knee on the roll through. She charged, looking for double knees again. Belair lifted her body, causing Banks to collide with the turnbuckle. Belair climbed to the top rope and connected with the 450 splash for a near fall. Belair screamed in frustration.

Bianca set up for the K.O.D. Banks slid down the back and grabbed the hair again. Belair ripped it away from her and whipped her with it. The crack filled the stadium. Banks recovered enough to leap onto Belair’s back for the back cracker. Belair held onto her, hoisted her onto her shoulders, and connected with the K.O.D., covering Banks for a three count.

WINNER: Bianca Belair in 17:00 to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Belair celebrated as her family jumped up and down in the front row, nearly spilling over the barricade. The camera cut to Sasha Banks on the floor, a massive welt appearing on her side where Belair hair-whipped her. Belair climbed to the top rope and held the title over her head as fireworks exploded around the stadium. Michael Cole bid the audience goodnight and the show went off the air.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Phew. Fast, furious, and impressive. Banks and Belair brought it from the onset, wasting few precious moments to soak in the atmosphere before going all out for the entirety of their 17 minute encounter. This felt like a main event, with a tremendous atmosphere created by the crowd and perpetuated by the two competitors in the ring. For all the rightful criticism of Banks’ character as of late, she’s consistently remained a tour-de-force in the ring and tonight was no exception. Belair was truly captivating in her own right, overcoming her relative inexperience with jaw-dropping athleticism and innovation. While I would’ve loved to see these two get another few minutes, they made every second they did have count and pulled off a worthy WrestleMania main event. I’m excited to see the reign of Belair, and truly enthusiastic for Banks now that she’s back on the chase – especially if this leads to a full blown heel turn. While Sasha undoubtedly filled the heel role during the meat of the match, the crowd certainly didn’t treat her as such, nor did she display any full-blown heel-like tendencies. Instead, Banks came off as resourceful and crafty. Bravo.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: A well-executed WrestleMania worthy spectacle from start to finish. Despite the initial momentum being halted by an untimely weather delay, WWE was able to get back on track thanks to highly motivated wrestlers who were visibly ecstatic to be back in front of a live crowd. It’s worth noting that the weather delay created some interesting circumstances in its own right – creating opportunity for several unscripted, on-the-fly promos from talent put into situations they’re hardly, if ever placed in. Most shined brightly, lending credence to the belief of many that scaling back on scripting could greatly benefit the WWE product as a whole. Though it was a largely a very enjoyable night, there were undoubtedly lowlights – the women’s tag team turmoil was rough, Strowman vs. McMahon, though largely enjoyable in execution, felt unwarranted in its existence. Ultimately, I felt most let down by the finish to the WWE title match. Drew McIntyre, built to have his crowning moment in front of a live audience after a year of waiting, not only lost, but lost because he was stupidly distracted by a heel manager who wasn’t even trying to distract him. I’m hesitant to outright say keeping the title on Lashley was a poor decision, though I think it’s more pertinent to question it now more than ever, given the rather tepid reaction to Lashley as a whole. Still, though, there should have been a better finish here. It was a good match – a very good match, even, marred by a bad WWE overbooking cliche. This felt like a return to form, and it made me hopeful, and excited for night two.)

 

 

 

 

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