LECLAIR’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA XL NIGHT 1 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Rock & Reigns vs. Rhodes & Rollins, Ripley vs. Lynch, Gunther vs. Zayn, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


APRIL 6, 2024

Announcers: Michael Cole & Corey Graves & Pat McAfee

-A new iteration of the “Then. Now. Forever. Together.” signature officially opened the show.

-A drone camera was positioned high above Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. It faded into arrival shots for each of the four men participating in the tag team main event. Michael Cole talked over a sweeping wide shot of the packed stadium. “Buckle up,” he said, “for the greatest event in all of entertainment. This is WrestleMania!”

The opening video package was narrated by Meek Mill.

After the video, Cole welcomed fans back to a “chilly” Philadelphia. The camera cut quickly to Rhea Ripley and Becky Lynch warming up backstage. Cole mentioned that it’s 52 degrees in Philly. He wondered aloud whether the conditions would effect the wrestlers throughout the night.

-Samantha Irvin welcomed Coco Jones to perform national anthem.

“Time to play the game” rang out to a massive ovations. Camera followed Paul Levesque as he crossed the threshold onto the stage. He closed his eyes and soaked in the moment as Irvin introduced him. Triple H marched to the ring as Cole said it should be referred to the “Triple H era.” At ringside, Cole re-introduced himself and welcomed his broadcast partners, Corey Graves and Pat McAfee.

A big “Triple H” chant filled the stadium. “Man, I live for this,” Levesque said. He welcomed the crowd to a “new time and a new era.” He concluded his brief appearance with a signature utterance of “welcome to WrestleMania!”

-An AR graphic of Becky Lynch’s book appeared on stage. Becky read passages aloud over clips of her career. The book was wiped from the screen, revealing “The Man” behind it. Becky Lynch walked to the ring, all business. She slapped hands with fans at ringside as the camera swept around the ring to follow her. Motionless in White played Women’s World Champion, Rhea Ripley to the ring. Samantha Irvin delivered championship introductions.

(1) RHEA RIPLEY (c) vs. BECKY LYNCH – Women’s World Championship match

Michael Cole noted that Becky Lynch had been suffering from strep throat all week. Corey Graves said she admitted to him that she had a fever for much of the last few days. Rhea Ripley shoved her challenger to the corner right out of the gate. Becky took it in stride, returning to her feet and stepping to the champion. The crowd broke into a quick “let’s go Mami” chant. Lynch managed to create some separation by attacking Ripley’s arm. McAfee mentioned that Rhea has been suffering from a wrist injury. Becky tossed Rhea to the outside, them leapt off the apron onto her. She quickly tossed the champion back in the ring.

Champion and challenger traded quick blows. Ripley gave Lynch a back slam, then a Suplex with a bridging cover for a two count. Ripley backed Lynch into the corner and drove her shoulder into the challenger’s ribs repeatedly. Becky collapsed to the mat. Rhea dragged her out of the corner by the hair. “You’re nothing!’ she told Lynch. Becky countered a Suplex attempt into a roll up, but Ripley broke out with ease. She hoisted Becky back into a Suplex and dropped her. Rhea gave Becky a couple of weak toe kicks to the back of the head. The two traded blows again. Ripley caught Becky with a dropkick off an Irish whip.

Ripley dragged Lynch around the ring. She slapped her chest and smiled at the crowd before ascending the southwest turnbuckle. She gave a signature Guerrero shake, but Becky ripped her down with an arm drag. Both women were down as the match approached 5:00. As the opponents rose, they began trading body blows. Rhea bounced Becky off her knee, then looked for another Suplex. Lynch turned it into a tornado DDT off the middle rope for a cover and two count. Becky willed the crowd to life, but they booed her. She leapt off the bottom rope and caught Rhea with a kick. Ripley was draped over the middle rope. Becky gave her a diving leg drop, flipping the champion to the floor. Lynch followed up with a Bex-ploder into the barrier at ringside. Lynch tossed Rhea back into the ring and gave her another leg drop, this time from the middle rope. She covered for another two count.

Lynch grabbed onto the injured wrist of Rhea and tried to apply the Dis-Arm-Her. Ripley shoved her away, into the turnbuckle. Lynch tried to use the momentum to leap onto the champin, but Rhea caught her and slammed her. Becky popped to her feet and ate a huge knee to the face from the champion for a two count at 7:45. Ripley set up her challenger for the Riptide, but Lynch floated over her back. She shoved her into the ropes and delivered a back cracker. Becky transitioned right into an arm bar. Ripley writhed on the mat, searching for leverage. She dead-lifted Becky into a trio of Powerbombs, sitting out on the last one for a near fall.

The camera pulled back as Cole reiterated the chilly temperature in the stadium. Back in the ring, Ripley dropped Lynch with another big boot and two count. Rhea began to show frustration. She peppered Becky with quick punches and slaps. Becky rose to her feet and returned several of her own. She side-stepped a charge, running Ripley right into the southeast ring post. Becky climbed the ropes and locked the Dis-Arm-Her against the top rope. Becky used the entirety of the referee’s count, finally letting go. Ripley shook out her arm, tripping Lynch up and quickly applying the Prison Trap. She dragged Lynch to the center of the ring. The crowd cheered for a tap. Becky reached valiantly for the ropes, but Rhea laid into it. Lynch turned her over multiple times, eventually catching the champion in a pin, necessitating a hold break.

Rhea went for Riptide again. Becky blocked it and turned it into the Man-Handle Slam for a cover and near fall at 12:20. Becky sat in the middle of the ring, gasping for breath. She tried again to work Ripley’s arm into position for the Dis-Arm-Her. Rhea blocked it. She managed to hoist Becky up and deliver Rip Tide for a stack cover and last moment kick out. The crowd popped big. Ripley was incensed, believing she scored a three. She climbed to the top turnbuckle. Becky sat her down by shaking the ropes. Lynch met Ripley atop the southeast buckle. The two traded punches. Lyunch managed to deliver a Superplex, then rolled into the Dis-Arm-Her. Ripley fought to her knees, trying to gain leverage. She hoisted Becky onto her shoulders. The two tumbled over the top rope, still in Electric Chair position. Ripley dropped her.

“That was a long way down!” McAfee exclaimed as Ripley tossed the challenger back in the ring. She climbed the ropes and delivered a frog splash for a cover and near fall at 15:45. Graves said you’re going to have to kill Becky Lynch before she gives up at WrestleMania. A small “this is awesome” chant broke out. Lynch rolled to the apron with Rhea in pursuit, taunting her. Ripley tried to dead lift Lynch back into the ring by the hair. Becky fought her off. She hooked the champion for a top rope Man-Handle Slam. Lynch dove, but Rhea blocked the move. She scooped Becky up and gave her a Riptide onto the turnbuckle. Becky bounced back into her arms and Ripley delivered the move again, stacking her for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Rhea Ripley in 17:09 to retain the Women’s World Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good opener in an advantageous position on the card. Becky and Rhea took advantage of being the first wrestlers out of the gate and came off like major stars. This started off a little bit slowly as the two felt each other out, but picked up as they crossed the 5:00 mark and settled in. Coming off the incredible match with Charlotte Flair last year, it felt like there were some lofty expectations for these two, and while I don’t think they quite reached those levels, I do think they did a good job of delivering a strong WrestleMania opener without taking too much of the energy out of the crowd for what it sure to be a long evening. They really played up Lynch’s sickness, which seems like it could’ve played a part in this never reaching a notable fourth gear. The crowd’s reactions were to be expected, with a heavy amount of respect built in for Lynch, but clear favoritism toward Ripley. There’s some interesting stories they can tell with Becky coming out of this loss, too.)

-Out of the break, Samantha Irvin explained the rules for the six-pack tag team ladder match. The tag team titles were hung on separate rungs above the ring. DIY entered first, with new DX-themed graphics as part of their entrance. Awesome Truth was next.

(2) THE JUDGMENT DAY (c, Finn Balor & Damian Priest) vs. DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa) vs. AWESOME TRUTH (The Miz & R-Truth) vs. NEW CATCH REPUBLIC (Pette Dunne & Tyler Bate) vs. AUSTIN THEORY & GRAYSON WALLER vs. THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) – Six-Pack Ladder match for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships

All twelve men stood in the ring looking up at the two sets of tag team titles. Wrestlers came to blows immediately. The fight left the ring right away, with various people focusing on taking down Damian Priest. Austin Theory and Grayson Waller returned to the ring quickly with two ladders, trying to steal a win. Multiple wrestlers came back in to stop them. Judgment Day returned to the fold and took everybody down. Priest tossed a ladder at Waller, knocking him out of the ring. Finn Balor tossed wrestlers into Priest’s ladder and he batted them down like baseballs. The champions propped a ladder in the corner and tossed Tyler Bate onto it. The “Big Strong Boy” rolled out of the way, sending Priest crashing onto the steel.

Balor grabbed a ladder. Bate hoisted him onto his shoulders, ladder still in tow. He completed an airplane spin, then tossed the dizzied champion onto the propped ladder. On the outside. Xavier Woods traded blows with both members of New Catch Republic. The duo cleared a path and climbed a ladder on the outside. Wrestlers gathered under both sides. Bate and Dunne hit tandem Moonsaults off the top of the ladders onto the crowd of wrestlers below as the match crossed 4:00.

Back in the ring, New Catch Republic set up a ladder and began to climb. Damian Priest pulled Dunne off the ladder and launched him into it,. dropping Bate in the process. Priest re-positioned the ladder in between both sets of titles and began to climb. The Miz pulled him down. He set him up for a Skull Crushing Finale, but the two got their feet tangled in the ladder and stumbled dangerously. R-Truth leapt onto the apron, asking for a tag. The crowd popped big. Miz made a leaping dive, reaching his partner. Cole said that Truth thinks it’s a regular tag team match. Truth completed a standard “hot tag” comeback, finishing it off with a Five Knuckle Shuffle and Attitude Adjustment to Balor onto a ladder. Truth pinned Balor and counted to three for himself. The crowd reacted like he’d just won. So did Truth.

DIY returned to the ring. Truth told him to tune up the band. Miz and Truth fed Priest to Johnny Gargano, who hit Sweet Chin Music. Tommaso Ciampa gave Priest a Pedigree. Truth offered the Raw titles to DIY if he and Miz could retrieve the Smackdown titles. The teams tried, but Austin Theory and Grayson Waller knocked both teams off the ladders. Waller ascended the ladder himself and retrieved the Smackdown Tag Team titles just after 7:30. Samantha Irvin announced them as the new champions. Cole noted that that they could become Undisputed champions if they retrieve the Raw titles. Theory tried, but was quickly pulled down by Pete Dunne. Meanwhile, Tyler Bate grabbed Waller off his ladder in Powerbomb position. He launched Waller over the top rope, through a propped ladder between the ring and announcers desk.

Outside the ring, Ciampa tossed Tyler Bate into the ringside Prime “hydration station.” He and Gargano retrieve a table from underneath the ring, much to the delight of the Philly faithful. On the apron, DIY tried to Suplex Woods over the ropes and onto a pair of tables. Kofi Kingston cut them off. New Day propped a ladder against another ladder and the middle rope. Xavier hit a frog splash onto Ciampa, who was laid out on the ladder. New Day began ascending the ladder as the match approached 11:30. Kofi, too far to reach the belts, delivered a trust fall out of the ring onto a group of wrestlers below.

Austin Theory ripped Xavier Woods off the ladder and began climbing. New Catch Republic caught up to him. They manipulated his fingers until he released his grasp on the steel and fell into their waiting arms. They gave him the Burming-Hammer. Meanwhile, Johnny Gargano gave Pete Dunne a tornado DDT off the apron and through a table on the outside. Tommaso Ciampa climbed the ladder to join Tyler Bate. He gave him an Air Raid Crash onto the mat. Cole said he killed him.

R-Truth entered the ring, all alone, as the match crossed 13:30. He began climbing the ladder. J.D. McDonaugh appeared, ripping Truth to the mat. He helped Finn Balor climb the ladder. New Day returned to pull Finn back to the mat. J.D. was left alone atop the ladder. Cole explained that it wouldn’t count if he pulled the titles down. New Day tipped the ladder, sending J.D. crashing through the two tables on the floor. Damian Priest returned and gave Xavier Woods a Big Boot. He delivered a Razor’s Edge to Kofi onto a chair.

Priest began climbing the ladder. Referees tried to get his attention, seeing that the ladder was falling apart. Priest ignored them. Miz ran up the ladder. It nearly broke under his weight. Priest and Miz fought back to the mat. Priest tossed the damaged ladder to the outside. R-Truth returned with a new ladder. Priest took it from him and set it up. He began climbing, but Truth pulled him off and onto his shoulders. He gave Priest an Attitude Adjustment to the floor. Truth climbed the ladder and retrieved the Raw Tag Team titles.

WINNERS: Austin Theory & Grayson Waller in 7:30 to win the Smackdown Tag Team Championships, Awesome Truth in 17:27 to win the Raw Tag Team Championships

(LeClair’s Analysis: An expected level of chaos and carnage in a very entertaining WrestleMania ladder match. I’m surprised its taken them this long to split the tag team titles, but it certainly made sense for them to pull the trigger here. The two winners made a lot of sense, too. Theory and Waller have been firmly established as a team as of late and should be able to rehabilitate their image some with a strong tag team title run against a variety of capable opponents on Smackdown. On the Raw side, R-Truth and Miz seemed primed for a title win for a long time now, with many having originally predicted they’d face Priest and Balor in a regular tag match at WrestleMania. The crowd was with them every step of the way, and Truth’s antics proved wildly over with the audience. A solid, feel-good moment for this show that worked better than here than it perhaps could have at any other event. I expect they’ll get plenty of TV out of Judgment Day trying to get their titles back from Awesome Truth, unless their break up comes sooner rather than later. In any case, I don’t anticipate it’ll be a long run for Awesome Truth.)

-Following a break, Santos Escobar entered, flanked by the other members of Legado Del Fantasma. They posed atop the stage as Dominik Mysterio’s music took over and he sauntered onto the stage. The crowd booed him loudly. Rey Mysterio and Andrade headed to the ring together. Rey wore Eagles-inspired green gear.


Rey Mysterio kicked things off with Santos Escobar. Cole and Graves noted that the temperature seemed to drop another few degrees right as the bell rang. After a brief exchange, Santos and Rey tagged out. Andrade caught Dominik Mysterio with a hard shot to the jaw, sending him to the outside. Andrade tagged Rey back in. Mysterio leapt onto Andrade’s shoulders and the duo leapt together off the apron onto Mysterio and Escobar. The camera cut to a shocked and pleased Zelina Vega.

In the ring, Mysterio removed his belt and prepared to use it on his scorned son. Dominik cut him off with a knee to the gut, then tossed him to the floor. Dom called for the referee’s attention so he could tag in Santos. Graves said it was “wisdom beyond his years.” Escobar gave Mysterio a kick to the midsection, then tossed him back in the ring. Graves noted that it must be hard for the tag partners on the outside to keep their muscles warm in this weather. McAfee said it’s nothing like football, where at least they had warm benches.

Escobar tagged in Dominik, who flipped into the ring onto his father for a cover and two count as the match hit 4:00. Dom grabbed a front face-lock as members of L.W.O willed on their faction’s leader. Dominik dropped Rey with a spinning back elbow and covered him for a two count. Dom tagged in Escobar. The duo dropped Rey with tandem back elbows and dropkicks. Santos covered Rey for another two count. The crowd continued to boo Dom as he riled them up from the apron. Escobar hoisted Rey onto the northeast turnbuckle. He rose to meet him, using his leverage to try to rip Rey’s mask off. Rey held onto it, but Santos pulled Rey into tree of woe position. He gave him a kick to the gut. Rey crumbled to the mat.

Mysterio battled out of an abdominal stretch and worked Escobar into the corner. He gave him a quick trio of punches before Santos hoisted him onto his shoulders out of the corner. Rey slid down his back and delivered Code Red. Both men were down in the center of the ring. Both managed to reach their partners for a tag. Andrade exploded into the ring, delivering dragon screws to both Santos and Dominik. Dom retreated to the northeast corner. Andrade caught him with double running knees. He climbed to the top rope and went for a Moonsault. Dominik rolled through. Andrade landed on his feet and hit a standing Moonsault instead. He covered for two just before 8:00.

Dominik Mysterio landed a neckbreaker after ducking a clothesline. He and Andrade reached their respective corners for tags. Rey delivered a Hurricanrana to Escobar, draping him over the middle rope. Dom tried to get involved, but Rey tossed him to the floor. Andrade leapt onto Dom on the outside. Mysterio hit the 619. He climbed the southwest turnbuckle to finish it off, but Angel leapt on the apron out of sight of the referee. He kicked Rey to knock him off balance. Escobar pulled him down. Meanwhile, Elektra Lopez leapt onto the apron to distract the referee. Zelina Vega pulled her down. She flipped onto Lopez below.

L.W.O took out Legado Del Fantasma on the outside. They set up Wilde for a massive dive onto the entrance way. In the ring, Escobar told Dominik to retrieve a chair He tried to, but two large men in Rey Mysterio masks attacked him. They tossed him back in the ring. Rey tripped up Escobar and Dom into the middle ropes. He hit the 619, then a splash from the top rope for a cover and three count.

WINNERS: Rey Mysterio & Andrade in 11:02

The masked men revealed themselves to be Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. They celebrated with L.W.O. and slapped hands with fans.

(LeClair’s Analysis: The match was fine, but felt like more of a set-up for the action on the outside of the ring and the eventual appearance by Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. It was strange, by keeping them both under masks for such a long time, the crowd didn’t seem to know how to react. It sort of felt like they kind of knew who they were, but they weren’t sure enough to react until they finally took the masks off. The ensuing pop was decent enough, but it didn’t feel let a huge deal because so much of the crowd just isn’t from Philadelphia or the surrounding area. Still, a fun moment for what it was. The assisted dive from Wilde onto Angel and Humberto was a sight to behold.)

-Cole tossed to a video package for Jimmy vs. Jey Uso.

Samantha Irvin introduced Lil’ Wayne, who played a brief snippet of “A Milli” before Jey Uso’s music hit. Wayne accompanied Jey to the ring. The stadium bounced along with him on the ropes. Jimmy Uso entered with a traditional, red Bloodline lei. Cole said that Jey Uso could have earned a lot more had it not been for his twin brother, perhaps becoming the Universal or Intercontinental champion.

Jey Uso dove onto his brother as soon as he got to ringside. He walked him around the ring and slammed him into the southeast ring post before sliding him into the ring.


Jey Uso continued his onslaught as soon as the bell rang. He clotheslined Jimmy Uso over the top rope to the floor, then launched himself right back onto his brother. Jey tossed Jimmy back in the ring and caught him with a step-up. He climbed the northwest turnbuckle and delivered a big cross body for a cover and two count not event a minute into the match. Jey removed his vest and let his brother collect himself. He charged, but Jimmy hoisted him into the air and caught him with a quick Samoan Drop. Jimmy looked back at his twin with disgust. Jey rolled toward the corner. Jimmy hit him with two big hip checks.

“This it? Him?” Jimmy asked the crowd. Jey crawled out of the corner. Jimmy kicked him in the head. He looked around at the crowd. They booed him loudly. Jey launched himself off the middle rope, but Jimmy picked him out of the air with an uppercut. He dropped his brother with a kick to the chin. “Come on!’ he challenged him before delivering another chin kick. Jey slumped against the ropes. Jimmy lifted him to his feet and kicked him again. “Jimmy sucks!” the crowd chanted. Jimmy shrugged them off and kicked Jey in the head again.

A chorus of boos continued to ring out. Jimmy took his time, sauntering onto the apron and climbing to the middle turnbuckle. He mocked Jey’s bounce before jumping at him back in the ring. Jey cut him off with a boot, finally buying himself an opening. The two brothers rose to knees opposite one another at 4:30. They smiled and started trading punches. The crowd responded with dueling “yeet” and “no yeet” chants. Jimmy hoisted Jey onto his shoulders, but Jey slid free. He kicked Jimmy first in the gut, then in the jaw. He gave him a step-up Enziguri. Cole said it’s been a stalemate thus far. The two rose to center. They began firing off wildly. Jimmy gave Jey a Superkick. Jey shrugged it off and delivered one of his own.

“Right here, big brother!” Jey challenged Jey to kick him in the face. He did. Jey returned the kick again. Jimmy stumbled toward the corner. Jey kicked him again. Jimmy slumped in the southeast corner. Jey kicked him again. “You hear me?” Jey asked. He kicked him again. Jimmy was out on his feet. Jey got a running start and delivered a leaping kick. Jimmy collapsed to the mat. Jey called for his brother to stand. McAfee wondered if Jey is supremely confident, or if he’s unwilling to put his brother down. Jey set up for the death blow. Jimmy put his hand up. Jey kicked air. Jimmy screamed out, “I’m sorry! I was wrong!” He crawled toward his twin. Jey seemed moved. Jimmy offered his hand. Jey took it and helped him up. Jimmy could barely stand.

Jimmy suckered him in. He reared back and kicked Jey in the face. He quickly climbed to the top rope and delivered a frog splash for a cover and near fall just before 10:00. McAfee said he thought the Usos were back. “No chance,” Cole responded. McAfee said Jey wanted it, and Cole agreed. Jimmy called for Jey to stand. He got a running start, but Jey picked him off with a Spear. He climbed to the top rope and delivered a splash of his own for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Jey Uso in 11:04

(LeClair’s Analysis: Like matches involving the Bloodline have been apt to do, this relied less on the in-ring action and more on the emotional storytelling. In truth, the stock of the Bloodline had dropped so dramatically in recent months that this lacked the impact it may have had months ago. Jey has maintained a strong connection with the crowd, and relied on it heavily here to carry the weight. I don’t think it ever really felt like this program hit a strong crescendo, and so the match felt similarly hollow. Jimmy’s late match ruse proved fruitless, as no one seemed to really buy into it except Jey. Thankfully, the babyface wasn’t full thwarted in the end and Jey managed to counter his way into a win. There just wasn’t much meat here. They treated Superkicks like chops and largely traded move for move for the better part of the match’s eleven minutes. A pretty big disappointment considering the incredible video package that preceded it.)

-After a break, Damage CTRL headed to the ring. Cole continued to remark on the cold temperatures, calling Dakota Kai “brave” for her outfit. They cut to ringside, showing Corey had pulled out gloves and Cole was sporting a beanie.

Jade Cargill, Bianca Belair, and Naomi were lowered onto the stage from a lift. Cargill and Naomi had their music played briefly before Belair’s played them all down the ramp and to the ring.

(5) DAMAGE CTRL (Dakota Kai & Asuka & Kairi Sane) vs. JADE CARGILL & BIANCA BELAIR & NAOMI

Noami began the match with Kairi Sane. She gave one half of the women’s tag team champions a kick and landed herself on the apron. She tried to leap back in, but Dakota Kai gave her a quick kick from the apron. This allowed Kairi to knock her to the outside and hit an Insane Elbow from the apron to the floor. She tossed Naomi back in the ring and covered her for a two count. Cole mentioned that Iyo Sky is not in the building tonight as she prepares for her Championship defense tomorrow.

Sane tagged in Asuka. She worked Naomi into the corner. Damage CTRL worked together to isolate Naomi, but she managed to reach her corner and tag in Bianca Belair. The EST gave Dakota Kai a stalling Suplex, then stacked Sane and Asuka in the corner for double punches. Kai charged her, but Belair telegraphed it and flipped over her. Kai speared her own partners. Belair gave Kai a Gutbuster, then pressed Asuka onto both Kai and Sane. She delivered her signature handspring standing Moonsault to all three women and covered them for a two count just before 5:00.

“We want Jade!” the crowd told Bianca. She looked to honor the request, but Dakota Kai cut her off by pulling on her braid. The heels worked Belair over in their corner. Kai tagged Asuka, who delivered a quick flipping neckbreaker to Bianca. The Jade chants continued. “They want Jade and Asuka does not care!” Pat said. Kai and Asuka tried to give Belair a double Suplex, but she flipped through and landed on her feet. She slid through their grasp and dove into Jade’s waiting hand.

Cargill dropped Dakota Kai, then gave Asuka a Chokeslam. Kairi was waiting for Jade on the top rope. She dove at her. Cargill picked her out of the air and slammed her. Kai charged her. Jade gave her an awkward back drop. Cargill delivered a driver to Kai and hooked both legs, but the Warriors broke up the pin. Bianca returned to the ring. Asuka tried to mist Belair, but she ducked. She sprayed Sane instead. Belair whipped Asuka with her braid. She gave her a K.O.D. Jade hit Kai with Jaded and covered her for a three count.

WINNER: Jade Cargill, Bianca Belair, and Naomi in 8:02

(LeClair’s Analysis: Incredible entrance for the babyface women. This was exactly what it needed to be. The crowd was prepping themselves for the official non-Rumble debut of Jade throughout. They popped respectfully for Belair’s always-impressive offense, but the story of this was getting Cargill in the ring to do some impressive stuff. She succeeded. Each of the three babyface women got a few minutes to do their thing, and Damage CTRL fed into it well enough. I couldn’t help but feel like Belair deserved a more prominent role on this card, but, if nothing else, at least she was still presented as a star. I’m intrigued to see what the next step is for Cargill. Does she transition into working WWE-style women’s main events, or is she treated more like a big-move, quick match attraction in the same vein as Brock Lesnar? )

-Sami Zayn was shown with his wife and son backstage. He asked his wife to keep his son backstage. “I don’t want him to see this.” He told him he could watch it on TV. Chad Gable approached Zayn. He told Sami that he could do it by himself. “You’ve got this on your own, you always did,” he told Zayn. He told Sami not to forget that he owes him a favor. The camera followed Sami all the way through the winding tunnel toward gorilla. Zayn kicked and punched various road crates on his way. When he rounded a corner, Kevin Owens was standing waiting for him. He gave Sami a friendly shove and slapped his chest. “Go do it!” he yelled.

Sami’s music played and he stepped onto the stage as the crowd sung along to his theme. Gunther entered, flanked by his Imperium cohorts. They remained atop the stage as he made a brisk walk to the ring. Gunther looked around at the crowd with a smirk.

(6) GUNTHER (c) vs. SAMI ZAYN – WWE Intercontinental Championship match

Gunther flashed a confident smile at Sami Zayn as the bell sounded. Sami circled him. The two locked up and the champion took early, firm control. He shoved Zayn to the mat and then gave him an arrogant boot to the face. He chopped Sami to the mat. Zayn shook it off and stood up, so Gunther did it again. He helped Sami to his feet and gave him a stiff uppercut. Sami stumbled to the corner and Gunther game him no quarter, following close behind him. Sami returned the favor with a pair of quick chops. The champion largely shrugged them off. He hoisted Sami side-first onto the top turnbuckle and mauled him. Sami collapsed to the mat below.

The referee checked on Sami, asking if he wanted to continue. Gunther just laughed. He gave Sami another brutal uppercut. Zayn collapsed in a heap. The camera cut to Sami’s wife, sitting at ringside. She begged her husband to stand. Gunther chopped him to the mat again. Zayn struggled for breath as the match crossed 4:00. Gunther challenged Sami to chop him. Zayn gave him a couple. Gunther cut him off again, but Zayn hit the ropes and dropped Gunther with a big clothesline. He pounded the mat, willing the crowd to life. Gunther gave Sami another violent chop. Then two more. Sami firing a stiff right straight to Gunther’s jaw. He caught him with a boot, then a half-nelson Suplex. Zayn hit a second one. Gunther rolled right to his feet and dropped Zayn with a huge lariat. He covered for two.

Zayn continued to redden Gunther’s chest with chops. “I think he’s just pissing Gunther off,” Cole concluded. Sami managed to drop the champion with a tornado DDT. Gunther stumbled the corner in retreat, allowing Sami to set up for a Heluva Kick. Gunther telegraphed it and tried to grab a sleeper hold as Zayn charged. Sami fought through it. He pulled Gunther in for a Blue Thunder Bomb, but Gunther sunk his hips and prevented the lift. He transitioned back into a sleeper and fell to the mat, locked in deep. Zayn wiggled his lower body free, allowing himself to return to a vertical base. He walked Gunther toward the ropes. “He’s carrying Gunther like a backpack,” McAfee exclaimed. Gunther let go of the hold, but gave Zayn a German Suplex.

Sami used the turnbuckles to pull himself up. Gunther charged, but Zayn caught him with an Exploder. He called for the Heluva. Zayn lifted the leg high, but Gunther pulled him up into a massive Powerbomb with a stack cover for a near fall just before 9:00. Gunther leaned against the ropes, exasperated. He waited for Sami to stand, delivering a big kick in the corner. Sami fell into Gunther’s arms. The champion set his foe back against the corner and looked for a finishing blow. Gunther ran to the opposing corner, but Sami exploded to life and followed him. Zayn hit the Heluva Kick. he hooked the leg, but Gunther kicked out at the last moment. Sami set him up for another Heluva Kick. Gunther flew out of the corner with a massive clothesline, turning Zayn inside out.

“The Ring General has had enough,” Graves said. Gunther gave Zayn a massive Powerbomb. He held onto him, hoisted him up, and delivered a second. Gunther stacked his challenger for another near fall. The champion was shocked. Zayn was slumped lifeless against the bottom rope. Gunther stomped him repeatedly. A dueling chant broke out. Sami used the ropes to pull himself up. Gunther gave him another huge clothesline. “Just stay down, Sami!” Graves exclaimed. Gunther circled his prey. He yelled to Sami’s wife, “do you want to come help him?” He gave Sami another Powerbomb, immediately turning back to Sami’s wife and laughing.

Cole and Graves pleaded with the referee to stop the match. Gunther ascended the southeast turnbuckle. He gave Zayn a big splash, but didn’t even bother with a cover. He climbed the turnbuckles again and crushed Zayn with another splash. He asked Sami’s wife if she wanted to throw in the towel. He laughed. Meanwhile, Zayn began pounding the mat, trying to will himself to life. Gunther climbed the turnbuckles again. Sami leapt to life and gave him a Heluva Kick on the top rope. He dropped Gunther with a massive Brainbuster onto the top turnbuckle. Gunther stumbled to his feet, then to the opposing corner. Sami hit him with another Heluva Kick, this time to the back of the head. Gunther still didn’t go down. Zayn gave him one more for good measure. He fell on top of Gunther for a three count.

WINNER: Sami Zayn in 15:30 to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Samantha Irvin announced the result with legitimate emotion in her voice. “The 666 day reign is over!’ Cole exclaimed. He called it one of the biggest upsets in history.

Sami rose to his knees, title sitting against his waist. The crowd gave him a huge ovation. He rolled to the outside and shared a kiss with his wife.

(LeClair’s Analysis: That was a ton of fun. Incredibly emotional from the start. Gunther was every bit as dominant as regularly advertised, and they sold the idea that he was unbeatable incredibly well. Zayn, for his part, showed off why almost nobody sells better or fights from behind quite as well as he does. The crowd was certainly split in the early going, but as Gunther became more dominant and more cocky, the tides shifted and the crowd got heavily behind Zayn. By the time the big comeback happened at the end, he’d whipped them into a frenzy. I thought this was both guys at their absolute best. A great match with a ton of emotional investment, and a win that seemed to catch most by surprise. Sami can have great matches against a variety of opponents for a title that’s had new life breathed into it, while Gunther can move up the card where he now undoubtedly belongs. Great stuff.

I think it’s fair to debate whether using Gunther’s historic run as Intercontinental Champion to hoist a well-established babyface like Zayn is making the best use of the earned cache, but I’d argue that the most important thing is knowing when to move Gunther to the next level. The path appears to be clearing for him to move into a main event position, and so with that, it’s necessary to move the title off of him. They’d done a really good job at telling a compelling underdog story with Sami and weaving in Chad Gable’s quest for gold along with it. Giving a strong Sami Zayn character a run with the now very strong Intercontinental title feels to me like a suitable expenditure from Gunther’s stockpile.)

-After a break, Samantha Irvin introduced general managers Adam Pearce and Nick Aldis. They called it the biggest WrestleMania of all time and asked for a little more passion and excitement as they head to the main event. Pearce announced the attendance as 72,543.

The cameras showed George Kittle, Vanessa Hudgens, Wale and more at ringside. Cole plugged The Slammys and the WrestleMania press conference. The announcers then plugged tomorrow’s card before tossing to a lengthy video package for the main event.

-Cody Rhodes was out first to a big reaction, made thunderous by the signature “whoa.” He handed his weight belt to his father-in-law. Cole noted that he’s been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. “Burn it down!’ rang out and the World Heavyweight Champion danced onto the stage. The crowd sang along to his theme. Rollins’ entrance coat featured a ridiculously long tail. Rhodes and Rollins looked around at the massive crowd as Cole noted that this is “must win” for Cody. He explained that a loss for them means Bloodline Rules for the title match tomorrow.

The camera moved back to the entrance way as all the house lights went dark. Lightning bolts radiated from the center of the stage. “Final Boss Engaged” appeared on the screens. The Rock’s music hit as flames engulfed the screen. The Rock stepped out from the shadows, revealing that he was standing in the middle of a flaming Brahma Bull logo. He carried the “People’s Champ” title belt first revealed at last night’s Hall of Fame. Rock wore a variation of the street clothes he’s been donning in recent weeks, but tore them away to reveal his traditional wrestling gear.

Roman Reigns entered, flanked by the newly-minted Hall of Famer, Paul Heyman. The wise-man held Roman’s title high above his head as the champion marched down the ramp. Graves remarked on Reigns’ abs. Cole said it’s easy to get in shape when you’re only seldom showing up for work. McAfee retorted, saying Reigns is still hungry.

Samantha Irvin introduced the participants. All four men got big reactions.


All four men stood stoically in the center of the ring as the bell rang. They let the crowd work themselves in several different chants. The Rock broke the stare down nearly 90 seconds in. He turned to his cousin and gave him a fist bump before taking his place on the apron. Seth Rollins elected to begin the match with Reigns. The crowd sang his song. Rollins and Reigns locked up. Seth shot the champion off the ropes. Reigns dropped him with a shoulder tackle and threw a finger to the sky. Rock did the same. They shared a quick laugh. Rollins returned to his feet and he and Roman circled one another again.

Both men hit the ropes. Seth leap-frogged Roman and reached to Cody Rhodes for a tag. Roman pulled him back initially, causing Seth to stop and consider. Cody accepted the tag. Roman regrouped in his own corner with Rock, but didn’t tag out. Reigns and Rhodes locked up. Cody worked over Roman’s arm. He whipped the champion toward the corner, but Reigns turned it around and delivered a clothesline. Cole said tonight is about finishing the story, but is meant to “prolong it.” Cody and Roman traded rope runs. Cody cut Roman off with a knee to the gut. He hooked Reigns over with a headlock. Roman shot to his feet and another stalemate ensued.

Cody and Roman engaged in a test of strength as the match approached 6:00. Cody led Reigns into the ropes, allowing Seth to tag himself in. Cody and Seth tried to double team Roman, but he caught himself on the ropes and backed away. The Rock offered his hand for a tag. Roman slapped it. The crowd popped big. The Rock stepped through the ropes, officially in a match for the first time in eight years. He circled Rollins. The two locked up. Rock shoved Rollins across the ring. Seth shook out his wrist and smiled. McAfee said Rollins got tossed around like a bag. Seth rose to his feet and grabbed a waist lock. He shoved Rock in the back and posed for the crowd. Rollins got some boos, but most of the stadium sang his song.

A large “Rocky” chant eventually drowned out the pro-Seth audience. Cole said it’s a city that “loves nostalgia.” Rock worked Rollins into the corner and gave him a punch to the gut. “You shut your mouth!” Rock said. He and Seth traded punches. Seth whipped Rock to the corner. Rock exploded out with a big clothesline. He turned to Cody Rhodes and gave him his signature “bring it” taunt. Cody reached his hand out for a tag. Seth obliged.

Rhodes and Rock stood opposite each other for the first time. “Cody!” chants were quickly drowned out in favor of “Rocky!” Rhodes worked Rock into the Bloodline corner, but Rock passed up a chance to tag out. He kicked Cody in the gut on the comeback. Cody dropped to the mat and caught Rock with an uppercut. He worked Rock into the corner, talking trash and firing off right hands. Cody worked Rock into the babyface corner and tagged in Rollins. They stomped Rock together to a mixed reaction. Roman entered the ring and ate a right from Rhodes. Seth gave him a Slingblade. All four men rose to their feet and returned to center as the match crossed 11:45. Right back to where things began.

Seth and Cody attacked first, knocking their opponents to the outside. Rollins paired off with Rock. They fought into the beverage cart again. Rollins took a sip of Prime and spit it in Rock’s face. The referee began counting. Rock told him if he counts, he’s fired. Meanwhile, Rhodes and Reigns battled on the ramp. Rock tossed Rollins over the barricade and into the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. They walked and brawled toward the scaffolding above the ring, and eventually toward the extended lower bowl. On top of the stage, Rhodes delivered a Suplex to Reigns. Rock tossed a big green trash can at Rollins. Seth fought back, causing Rock to try to escape back toward the ring. He grabbed a bottle of water, took a sip, poured some over his head, then spit some into Seth’s face. They brawled around the scaffolding and back toward the barrier.

On the ramp, Reigns tossed Rhodes into the barricade. Seth threw Rock back to ringside. Graves mentioned that it takes a while to get your “ring lungs” back. McAfee mentioned his 12 week training camp. Rollins tossed Rock back in the ring. Rock grabbed the shirt of the referee, distracting him. Roman took Seth’s knee out from behind. Rollins pounded the mat repeatedly in frustration. Rock leapt to the outside and kicked Rollins in the knee. Cole said it doesn’t bode well for Seth’s title defense against Drew McIntyre tomorrow. Rock rolled Seth back in the ring. Rollins tried to stand, but quickly collapsed on the injured leg. Rock wrapped the leg around the northeast ring post and slammed it against it repeatedly.

Rock tagged in the Undisputed Universal Champion at 18:05. Graves said he’s “fresh as a daisy.” Reigns worked Seth into the corner and hyper-extended his knee around the middle rope. Cole commiserated with Seth, noting that the referee can’t do anything to break the hold because of The Rock’s threat. Reigns ripped Seth to mat and applied a single leg crap. Seth was left to scream in pain, but eventually managed to turn the hold over and kick Roman away. Reigns sucker punched Cody off the apron. He turned around and ate a clothesline from Rollins, falling to the floor. Rollins leapt outside to continue to his attack, but Rock attacked him from behind. Cody tried to intervene, but the referee held him back at instruction of The Rock.

Paul Heyman held a finger to the sky, acknowledging his tribal chief. Rock did the same. Roman tagged in Rock. The Final Boss whipped Rollins into the corner. Seth collapsed to the mat, exhausted. Rock tagged in his cousin and they worked together to whip Rollins into the corner again. Cole noted Seth’s history of back problems, in addition to the re-aggravated knee injury. Reigns cocked his fist to a chorus of boos. He charged, but Seth ducked it. He turned Reigns over into a Neckbreaker. The World Champion writhed on the mat, crawling toward Cody Rhodes. Roman reached Rock first. Rock dragged Seth out of reach of his partner.

The People’s Champ delivered a low blow to Seth Rollins in clear view of referee Chad Patton. Cole again explained that there’s nothing Patton could do. Patton turned to Rhodes and apologized, selling that Rock had threatened his job. Rock continued his assault. Seth eventually managed to kick himself free of Rock’s grasp to create some separation. Rock tagged in Roman. Reigns shoved Seth against the ropes and charged. Rollins ducked, sending Reigns flying to the outside. Seth dove toward Cody, but Roman managed to pull him off the apron just before the tag was made. Rock turned Seth over into a Sharpshooter. Rollins screamed in agony. Rhodes leapt in the ring and slapped Rock right in the face. Rock broke the hold. Rollins kicked Rock in the face, then caught him with the Stomp.

Both men were down. The crowd willed Rollins to life. He dove to Cody and made the tag. Rock tagged Reigns. Cody dropped Reigns with a clothesline. He sent him to the corner. Reigns exploded out, but Cody caught him with a snap Powerslam. Cody flexed. He dropped Reigns with a Disaster Kick, then a Cody Cutter. He hooked Reigns’ leg for a two count at 27:25. Reigns and Rhodes were alone. Cody set up for Cross Rhodes, but Roman slid free. Cody went for another Disaster Kick. Roman picked him clean out of the air with a Superman Punch. He hooked the leg for a very close near fall.

Reigns checked his nose, finding blood. He snarled, turning to Rhodes to size him up. Reigns threw his arms back. The crowd yelled in unison. Cody leapt over the Spear attempt, catching Roman in a sunset pin for a two count. Cody leapt onto the ropes, tagging in Rollins in one swift move. He leapt at Roman and hit another cutter. Rollins immediately left off the top with a massive splash for a cover and near fall at 29:45. Outside, Heyman remarked that he “hates that damn song” as the crowd began to sing to Seth again. In the ring, Reigns recovered and caught Seth with a Powerbomb. He called for a Spear again. Rollins blocked it with a kick to the face. He tagged in Rhodes. Cody kicked him, too. Seth delivered a Stomp to Reigns. Rhodes hit Cross Rhodes. He hooked the leg. The Rock pulled Patton out at two and dropped him.

Rhodes yelled at Rock for attacking the referee. Rock tossed Rollins into the timekeeper’s area. In the ring,. Reigns caught Rhodes with a low blow. He followed up with a Spear. Reigns covered just as Rock tossed Patton back in the ring. Cody kicked out at the last moment. Reigns and Rock were livid. Reigns stomped away at his biggest foe. He pulled Cody into the Guillotine. Rhodes began to fade. The referee checked the hand, but Cody kept it raised. Rock grabbed Cody’s ankle and pulled him to the mat, allowing Reigns to sink deeper into the hold. Rollins returned and gave Reigns the Stomp to break it up. Rock tossed Rollins back to the floor.

“It’s a pretty wild set of rules here,” McAfee said. Cole laughed, saying it might as well be Bloodline rules tonight. Rock tagged himself in. He thought better of getting in the ring. Instead, he fetched the blood covered weight belt from ringside. He turned to Cody’s mother at ringside. “This is your son’s blood, now it’s about to have your tears,” he told her. He slid in the ring. Cody ripped the belt from his hands. Rock caught him with a pair of rights. Cody fought back with a Bionic Elbow. He sized Rock up, but the Final Boss delivered his signature Spinebuster. He sauntered to Cody’s head. The crowd popped big. Rock removed the elbow pad and tossed it into the crowd. He ran the ropes. Rhodes leapt to his feet, leapt off the middle rope and dropped Rock with a Cody Cutter.

The American Nightmare pulled Rock to his feet, pulling him in for a Cross Rhodes. Reigns appeared and delivered a Superman Punch to break it up. The match ticked toward 37:00. Rock and Cody used each other to stand. Roman threw his arms back again, calling for another Spear. He charged. Seth shoved Cody out of the way. Reigns speared Rock. Rock sold it like he’d been shot by a cannon. Rollins and Rhodes pulled Rock and Reigns in and delivered stereo Pedigrees. They both covered their man for last moment kick outs.

Cody and Seth helped each other to their feet. They shook hands and took to opposite sides of the ring. Rollins dove onto Reigns near the ramp. Cody came after Rock near the announcers desks. Rock cut Rhodes off and cleared the Spanish announce desk. He spit some water in Cody’s face. Rock bounced Cody’s head off the desk. He scooped him into Powerslam position, then turned to Cody’s mother. “Mama Rhodes! You look at your son!” he said before dumping Cody onto the desk. He climbed up to meet him. Rock pulled Cody into position for a table-busting Rock Bottom. Seth grabbed Rock’s leg. The distraction was enough to allow Cody to switch position. He gave Rock a Rock Bottom off the Spanish announce desk through the main commentary table. Seconds later, Reigns speared Rollins through the timekeeper’s barricade.

“There are bodies everywhere!” Cole exclaimed as the match ticked beyond 40:00. A weathered Rhodes tossed Rock back into the ring, but was dropped by a drive-by from Roman Reigns. Rock tagged in the Tribal Chief. Roman stumbled in the ring and stomped his challenger. “He don’t belong here!” he told the crowd. Cody slumped against Reigns’ legs. Graves said there’s no quit in the heart of the American Nightmare. He and Reigns began trading punches. Reigns knocked Cody toward the ropes with an uppercut. Rhodes fell toward the ropes, bounced back and caught Roman with Cross Rhodes. He pulled him up and hit a second one. He turned him over for a third, but Rock cracked Cody in the back with the weight belt. Cody crumbled. Reigns dropped him with a Spear. Roman rose triumphantly and tagged his cousin.

The Rock stalked Cody Rhodes, hands on hips. He pulled him in and delivered a Rock Bottom. Rock walked to Cody’s head and threw a finger to the sky, looking down at Cody’s family. He delivered the People’s Elbow and hooked the leg for a three count.

WINNERS: The Rock & Roman Reigns in 44:31

“Cody is screwed.” Cole said with immense disappointment. Graves said it’s time for Cody to find a new story and a new dream. Cole said The Rock burned the book, and we’re not finishing a story. The crowd, who had largely backed The Rock throughout, now booed loudly.

The Rock and Roman Reigns sauntered up the ramp slowly. Reigns waved his title in the face of booing fans. In the ring, Seth rejoined Cody. The sat opposite each other, disappointment plastered on their faces. They showed a close-up of Cody’s face with the Bloodline standing tall in the background, mimicking prior year’s shots. Seth let out an exasperated sigh. Cole bid the audience goodnight, saying he’d see everyone tomorrow night.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I can absolutely entertain the notion that this match went too long, but it worked it for me. These four brought a tremendous amount of energy and star-power, enough the bring the fans to their feet for the opening bell. This had an atmosphere that no other moment on the card could touch, and four guys who knew they could elicit monstrous reactions with relatively innocuous in-ring work. This wasn’t stellar in-ring work by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought it told an excellent story full of nuance and ego and over-the-top fun – exactly what I’d expect out of a WrestleMania main event. The Rock looked and wrestled the part. I was impressed by his prowess, even taken the tag rules into account. In particular, I thought Michael Cole did an incredible job on commentary, selling the dastardly nature of The Rock and explaining his interactions with the referee. He added drama and stakes by harping so incessantly on Rock being able to bend the rules at his will. The result, with commentary acting like the world had just ended for Cody Rhodes, telegraphed tomorrow night but set the crowd up for an incredible emotional swing. This was big business, with big stars and a big atmosphere. An Infinity War style cliffhanger for tomorrow’s Endgame.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Last year’s night one put people on an emotionally charged high that was hard to recreate or top on night two. This year, to me, felt like they were very purposefully setting up the opposite. The result of the main event aimed to create the ultimate stacked odds for the company’s lead babyface to finally overcome. There should be a great, cathartic exhale at the conclusion of night two. On the undercard, there were several matches and moments that were very good but failed to kick into that final gear we expect from WrestleMania. It left us with what I thought was a very good show, but not one that exceeded expectations. By now, most have surrendered to the idea that WrestleMania is much more about the spectacle of the moment than it is the quality of the wrestling. Sometimes, they wholly succeed at both. Tonight, I think the former carried the weight, but not to any real detriment.

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