LECLAIR’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA XL NIGHT 2 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Reigns vs. Rhodes, Rollins vs. McIntyre, Sky vs. Bayley, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


APRIL 7, 2024

Announcers: Michael Cole & Corey Graves & Pat McAfee

-Night 2 opened on a sweeping wide shot of Lincoln Financial Field, fading to a drone shot from outside the stadium. Michael Cole narrated a quick trip around Cody Rhodes’ tour bus. He said no one has seen Cody all day as he prepares for the main event. They transitioned to arrival shots of Damage CTRL and Bayley. Cole said the stars are out, celebrities are in abundance, and it’s not quite as chilly as last night. “Welcome to WrestleMania Sunday!” Cole exclaimed as the broadcast faded to a recap of last night, and the opening video package, again narrated by Meek Mill.

Cole talked over a corner balcony shot of the packed stadium. He said they’re sold out for a second night. The camera cut quickly to Drew McIntyre warming up backstage, then to World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins. He wondered whether the fighting champion could pull it off tonight.

-In the ring, Samantha Irvin introduced The War & Treaty to perform “God Bless America” from the stage.

-Stephanie McMahon was introduced. Cole and Pat McAfee remarked about how great it was to see her. The crowd gave her a strong ovation. Stephanie talked up the company’s “new era”, saying there’s no one better to lead the company than Triple H. She used the “are you ready?” line. The crowd popped big. She welcomed everyone to WrestleMania and threw to the entrance way.

-Bagpipes rang out and a Celtic band played a brief introduction before giving way to Drew McIntyre’s theme. Sword-bearing warriors lined the entire length length of the ramp. They lowered their weapons as Drew passed underneath them. Cole called Drew “confident, and sometimes delusional” and said he could very well be the next World Heavyweight Champion.

From the announcers desk, Michael Cole introduced his partners, Corey Graves & Pat McAfee. He then looked down the row to welcome CM Punk. Punk said that McIntyre has a pipe band, and he has a pipe bomb. Cole introduced the Spanish announce team, then joked about becoming WWE’s chief meteorologist last night. We announced the temperature – a much more comfortable 61 degrees.

A colorfully dressed band filled with banjos, accordians and horns played a joyful rendition of Seth Rollins’ theme. Cole announced them as the Philadelphia String Band Association. They parted the sea for Seth Rollins, dressed in a lavish coat that featured an owl’s head and branches of leaves. Punk said Liberace is rolling in his grave. “What am I supposed to do with this?” he asked. Rollins riled up the crowd. They continued to sing after his theme faded out. Samantha Irvin delivered Championship introductions.

(1) SETH ROLLINS (c) vs. DREW McINTYRE – World Heavyweight Championship match

Drew McIntyre exploded out of his corner and delivered a Claymore to Seth Rollins in the opening second of the match. He hooked the leg for a very close near fall. CM Punk called it “smart.” Graves agreed. Drew lined up for a second one, but Rollins astutely rolled to the outside to save himself. McIntyre followed. He gave Seth an overhead belly-to-belly, then took a cell phone from his wife in the front row. He pretended to text somebody and take a selfie, then handed the phone back and promptly delivered another overhead belly-to-belly. Drew turned to CM Punk at the announcers desk. “You recognize this one?” he said as he hooked Rollins for the Future Shock DDT. Seth slipped free and gave McIntyre a Pedigree.

The World Heavyweight Champion rolled his challenger back in the ring and delivered a quick stomp. Seth landed awkwardly, selling the injured knee. He covered awkwardly. McIntyre kicked out at two. The two began trading punches as the match crossed 3:30. Punk talked up the merits of both wrestlers, saying he respects their games as much as he dislikes them both. McIntyre broke the right hand stalemate with a Glasgow Kiss. He shook off the cobwebs and delivered a neckbreaker. Drew kipped up and trounced to the corner, calling for another Claymore.

“3, 2, 1!” the crowd chanted with McIntyre. He charged for another Claymore, but Seth moved. He pulled Drew in and hit him with another Pedigree. Rollins followed up immediately with another Stomp. He hooked the leg for a believable near fall. Punk said Rollins’ offense is compromised and he’s hurt. “Rollins’ body is beginning to fail,” Graves said. Seth began to ascend the northeast turnbuckle. He went for a super Stomp, but McIntyre moved. Drew went for another Claymore. Seth broke free. Rollins tried the Stomp again. McIntyre blocked it and delivered a Future Shock DDT. He covered for a near fall at 6:45. A “this is awesome” chant broke out as McIntyre turned his attention to CM Punk. He did Punk’s signature “go to sleep” taunt.

McIntyre set Rollins up for the G.T.S. Seth slid down his back. Rollins missed wildly with a clothesline. Drew hit the ropes and dropped Seth with a Claymore on the bounce back. He hooked both legs for another near fall. Both men were down. Drew rolled to the outside and began clearing off the announcers desk. Punk said that doubt is creeping into the mind of McIntyre, within earshot. Drew wasn’t phased. He dragged Seth outside and set him up for a Powerbomb. Seth fought free with punches to the head. Drew put him down gently on the table. Seth slammed McIntyre’s head against the desk repeatedly, then gave him a kick to the head. Rollins crawled to the Spanish announcers desk, clearing a path for himself to get a running start. Rollins gave Drew a Stomp on the table.

Seth rolled Drew back in the ring, looking to put him away. Drew popped to his feet and gave Rollins another Claymore. He hooked the leg for another near fall at 10:05. “McIntyre is about to go insane,” Cole exclaimed. Punk said he’d have to steal his stuff to get the job done. Instead, McIntyre shrugged off the frustration and hit another Claymore. He hooked the leg again, and this time, scored a three count.

WINNER: Drew McIntyre in 10:32 to win the World Heavyweight Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Whirlwind opener that circumvented my expectations wildly. I expected these two to come out and have a strong, twenty or so minute opener to the same effect that they’d worked a couple of times in the fall. Instead, we got a rapid-fire finisher spam affair. Normally, I’m pretty strongly opposed to that type of match, especially on a major show. But this? It just worked. It was an effective route to take – the idea that McIntyre, knowing Rollins was still hurting from last night, would throw absolutely everything out of the wall straight out of the gate to try to steal a win. Meanwhile, Seth, knowing his back was firmly against the wall, would pull out all the stops in a last-ditch effort to end his weekend on a high note. In the end, the odds were simply too severe for Rollins to overcome and Drew got his big moment in front of fans. This was the right match in the right spot on the card, and the crowd ate it up.)

McIntyre sat in the middle of the ring, clutching his new Championship. Seth Rollins rolled to the outside and looked back at the ring. Tears were forming in his eyes. McIntyre left the ring and gave his wife a kiss. He circled ringside and climbed atop the announcers desk, laying the title in front of CM Punk. He started talking trash. “I want you know I can’t hear a word you’re saying because I have cans on,” Punk said. Drew told Punk he’d end his career, “I’m serious. Get a shot, I want this framed on my wall.” McIntyre held the title in Punk’s face. He turned to leave, but Punk grabbed his ankle, tripping him.

Punk removed his elbow brace and clocked Drew in the head with it. The crowd went wild. Judgment Day’s music hit and Damian Priest ran to the ring. He got a running start and cracked McIntyre over the head with the briefcase. Punk just stepped aside. Priest rolled Drew in the ring as Samantha Irvin announced the cash-in.

(2) DREW McINTYRE (c) vs. DAMIAN PRIEST – World Heavyweight Championship match

Damian Priest delivered South of Heaven and pinned McIntyre for a three count.

WINNER: Damian Priest in :07 to win the World Heavyweight Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: And I thought the advertised title match was a whirlwind. I’m of two pretty distinct minds on this. First, the positive: the execution was excellent. McIntyre, the prideful hypocrite, couldn’t help but boast in front of CM Punk. He spent weeks berating Seth Rollins for being too distracted to beat him, only to get distracted himself once the title was finally in his grasp. Enter Damian Priest, who finally realized he could cash that darn briefcase in, apparently. Punk gleefully stepping onto the table to get out of the way was great fodder for the eventual feud with Drew. Priest stealing the title from underneath McIntyre sets up Drew in a wonderful position going forward. But, here’s the thing: I don’t like moving the World Title to Damian Priest. I’ve heard the counter arguments, namely, that the briefcase holder had to win to protect what little credibility the gimmick had left. I get it, but I disagree. To me, protecting the integrity of the World Title should be of higher priority, especially when The Rock and Roman Reigns spent weeks denouncing it. To me, Priest, transitional champion or not, devalues the title. I think he lacks credibility to be World Champion. A perfectly fine wrestler who I think more or less peaks in his currently position. So, dislike the player but love the game, I guess.)

-After a brief break, Snoop Dogg was introduced as a special guest commentator. Bubba Ray Dudley was introduced as the special guest referee for the Philadelphia Street Fight. The Final Testament was out first. Cole noted that it’s the first time any of them are appearing at WrestleMania, including Paul Ellering. Bobby Lashley and the Street Profits entered to a decent reaction.

(3) THE FINAL TESTAMENT (Karrion Kross & Akam & Razar, w/ Scarlett & Paul Ellering) vs. BOBBY LASHLEY & THE STREET PROFITS (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins, w/ B-Fab) – Philadelphia Street Fight

Bubba Ray called for the bell by yelling “ding ding ding.” The Street Profits and Bobby Lashley immediately cleared the ring. Karrion Kross and Authors of Pain used the opportunity to retrieve Kendo sticks from underneath the ring. They surrounded the Street Profits and forced them outside the ring, then beat Lashley mercilessly with sticks. Kross gave Lashley a violent neckbreaker on the edge of the chair. He covered, but Angelo Dawkins dove in the make a last moment save.

Authors of Pain immediately beat Dawkins senseless with Kendo sticks. Montez Ford flew off the top rope, but was quickly taken out by Akam and Razar. AOP stacked the Street Profits on top of one another and Kross went for the cover. B-Fab entered the ring with a Kendo stick and broke up the pin. Scarlett entered and hit B-Fab with a trash can. Snoop Dogg called it “trash.” Lashley returned to the ring and gave Kross an overhead belly-to-belly. Montez Ford leapt clear over the ring post onto the Authors of Pain.

The crowd, who’d been chanting “turn the screen on” since the match started, finally popped, indicating that they’d finally…turned the screen on. Bobby slammed Karrion on a chair and set him up for the Hurt Lock. He applied the hold, but Scarlett cracked him across the back with a Kendo stick. B-Fab returned and gave Scarlett a pump kick as the match crossed 4:30. B-Fab worked Scarlett out onto the apron, and the two went crashing through a table. Kross gave Lashley a back Suplex, then set up another chair. He gave him a DDT on the seat and covered for a near fall. Kross began arguing with Bubba about the count. Dudley confirmed it was a two count. Kross gave him a shove. Bubba reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of glasses. He put them on just as Kross turned around and ate a Spear from Lashley. Snoop said Kross may need Pepto.

Lashley and Ford split Kross’ legs for Dawkins to come off the top with a headbutt to the lower extremities. The Profits and Lashley shared friendly shoves with Bubba. The referee instructed them to get the tables. “Tables!” the crowd chanted. Dawkins and Lashley set one up as the crowd chanted “ECW!” They hoisted Kross onto the table and it broke. The crowd booed. The Profits rushed outside and grabbed another one, much to the crowd’s delight. Ford snapped a Kendo stick repeatedly over Kross’ back. Lashley and Dawkins placed Kross carefully on the table. Ford splashed him through it from the top and covered him for a three count.

WINNERS: Bobby Lashley & The Street Profits in 8:32

(LeClair’s Analysis: The crowd spent most of this chanting for production to turn the screens on, so it can assumed they couldn’t see much. Once they did, there was a second, less audible chant that sounded like it may have had something to do with the lights. I guess if there was a time for it to happen, it’d be here. The only real investment in this came from Bubba Ray’s involvement, where the crowd popped for the Street Profits recreating classic Dudley spots. Not much to speak of otherwise, here. The Final Testament doesn’t really have any juice as an act, and Lashley and the Profits have felt like they’ve been floundering for a while.)

-After a recap of last night’s main event, Paul Heyman joined Kayla Braxton backstage. She asked if he could explain “Bloodline Rules.” Heyman jokingly referred to a section in the WWE rulebook, then stopped himself. He said that the Bloodline is allowed to anything within their power to ensure that the Tribal Chief remains Undisputed Champion, while the other man in the match returns home to his wife, Brandi. “Bloodline rules, and Roman reigns,” he concluded.

-LA Knight was shown arriving to the stadium earlier in the day in a sponsored car. He told the camera that he’s got a “car to give away, and couple B.F.T.s to give away, too.”

-After an extended break, LA Knight headed to the ring to a sizable reaction. He handed the keys to the sports car he drove to the stadium to a contest winner in the front row. The woman looked absolutely dumbfounded.

A.J. Styles entered with brand new music. He ran to the ring.


The referee rang the bell right away. The crowd immediately launched in boos for A.J. Styles’ punches and big “yeahs” for LA Knight’s. Knight got the better of the exchange early, clotheslining Styles over the top rope to the floor and then sliding through the ropes to smash Styles’ head against the announcers desk. The crowd yeah’ed every hit. Knight posed atop the Spanish announce desk as the referee counted both men out. He reached a count of eight before Knight returned Styles to the ring.

Styles attacked Knight as soon as he stepped through the ropes. He took him out from the back of the knee and began driving his boot into it repeatedly. Cole noted that LA Knight won two Slammy’s earlier in the day – Breakout Star and Fan Chant of the year. Styles worked Knight into the corner and continued to work over the leg, kicking him back to the mat. A.J. dropped Knight on his own knee. The crowd began booing and chanting about the lights again. Knight worked his way to his feet, but Styles continued to kick at his knee. Knight managed to get him in a quick slam and Russian Leg Sweep for a cover and two count.

Knight worked Styles into the northeast corner. He stomped a mud-hole, then hit a running knee to the face. Knight leapt off the middle rope and delivered a nice tornado DDT for a cover and near fall just before the 4:00 mark. Knight walked Styles to the northwest corner and hoisted him onto the top turnbuckle. Knight delivered a hard knife-edged chop, then climbed the turnbuckle himself, preparing for a Superplex. Styles slid underneath Knight’s legs and pulled him into an Electric Chair, tossing him face first onto the ring post. Knight stumbled to the center of the ring. Styles gave him a sit out slam for a cover and two count. McAfee said Styles appears to be in the best shape he’s ever see him. Graves agreed.

A.J. slipped out to the apron and began climbing the turnbuckles. He appeared distracted by the crowd’s chants. Knight used the opportunity to meet Styles at the top and bite him on the forehead. Styles returned the favor by raking Knight’s eyes. The referee missed both transgressions. Knight managed to deliver an avalanche German Suplex off the top for a cover and near fall just after 6:30. LA Knight paced the ring, trying to rile up the crowd. He tried to grab Styles, but A.J. rolled him into a Calf Crusher. Knight fought valiantly, eventually breaking the hold. Styles didn’t let up, though. He dragged Knight to the southeast corner and wrapped his legs around the ring post repeatedly. Styles talked trash to the crowd.

LA managed to pull A.J. in, bouncing his body off the ring post. It bought him enough time to slide outside and remove the protective padding surrounding the ring. Knight hooked Styles up for a Piledriver on the floor system. Styles blocked it and back dropped him. A.J. rolled in the ring and requested a count out. Knight answered the count just before ten. Styles was livid. He gave Knight a stiff kick to the gut, then set up shop on the apron. Styles went for a springboard 450 splash, but Knight got his knees up. The camera pulled back for a quick drone shot looking toward the ring from the entrance way.

Both men hit a series of punches. Styles broke the stalemate with a Pale Kick. He headed back to the apron for the Phenomenal Forearm. Knight blocked it and pulled him in for the B.F.T. Styles blocked that. He went for the Styles Clash, but Knight wiggled free. Styles kicked him and went back to the apron. He leapt up for the forearm, but Knight knocked the ropes, dropping Styles in the ring. LA immediately pulled him into Blunt Force Trauma for a cover and three count.

WINNER: LA Knight in 12:27

(LeClair’s Analysis: I had relatively low expectations for this going in, and I’d say it exceeded them marginally. I thought both guys worked hard and told an effective story for their spot on the card with the time they were allotted. This feud never felt much like a heated issue to me, and so they were working from behind the 8-ball out of the gate. I applaud the extra work they put it on social media this week to try to get there, but it just came off more generic and uninspired than I assume they’d hoped. Knight’s in-ring work tends to leave a fair amount to be desired, and Styles has grown comfortable working a very specific type of match. They did that here, but with just enough flourish to make it an entertaining breather.)

-Samantha Irvin introduced the Hall of Fame Class of 2024. Paul Heyman was introduced last, with his own music.

-Michael Cole talked up the triple threat match for the United States Championship and tossed to a video package for Premium Plus subscribers.

Logan Paul entered first on a Prime-branded truck. He shot a bottle cannon and fireworks exploded from the stage. A man in a bottle suit danced behind him on his way to the ring. The crowd booed him loudly as he held up the U.S. title.

Backstage, Kevin Owens turned a corner to find Sami Zayn, a call back to their moment last night. He gave KO a shove and said, “go get ’em!” Kevin Owens entered with ECW-themed graphics and shorts. He drove a golf cart to the ring. Randy Orton entered last Owens put the cart in reverse and drove it back up the ramp to pick up Orton and give him a ride to the ring. Randy thought about for a moment, but eventually lamented and climbed on the back.

“This doesn’t seem fair!” McAfee exclaimed. Cole said that Owens and Orton do have a strange alliance, but triple threat matches are every man for himself.

(5) LOGAN PAUL (c) vs. KEVIN OWENS vs. RANDY ORTON – WWE United States Championship Triple Threat match

Michael Cole opened the match by stating Randy Orton is competing in his 19th WrestleMania. Logan Paul slid from the ring as soon as the bell rang. Orton and Kevin Owens cornered him and tossed him back and forth, delivering hard chops to his chest before eventually slamming him against the edge of the ring, the steel steps, and the announcers desk. Orton gave him a back drop onto the desk. Graves said it might be a good idea for them to move. “I’ve seen a Randy Orton match or two,” he said.

Owens copied Randy, giving him another back drop. Orton said he was okay, but he needed to get a little bit higher. Orton demonstrated, giving Logan some extra elevation. “I totally see it!’ Owens said. They tossed the champion back in the ring. Owens asked to try again. He hoisted Paul up, but Logan flipped over him and shoved Owens, who collided with Orton. KO and Randy talked it out and turned right back to Paul. They beat him down again. “This is our show!’ Owens told the crowd. They roared. Kevin asked Paul if he was having a good time. Logan screamed in pain.

Randy dropped Paul with a back elbow. Owens gave him a Senton. Both men covered the champion at the same time. Both Kevin and Randy shrugged. Kevin suggested they wait a little while a continue beating Logan up. Randy agreed. Orton then tried to give Owens an RKO. Owens blocked it. The two stared each other down. Orton just shrugged. “Do you want to do this now?” Kevin asked. Orton nodded. They began firing wildly at each other. Almost immediately, Paul flipped into the ring and clotheslined them both.

“Logan sucks!” the crowd said as he mocked Orton’s taunt. The U.S. Champion bashed KO’s head against the middle turnbuckle repeatedly as the match crossed 5:00. The crowd started a loud “Gatorade” chant. Logan downed Orton in the corner. KO took Paul down and climbed to the top rope. Owens went for a Swanton, but Paul got his knees up. He leapt to the top rope and delivered a Swanton of his own. He immediately rolled to his feet and gave Orton a Senton for a cover and two count. Owens rolled to the side. Orton and Paul rose slowly, trading punches. Paul got the better of the veteran, peppering him with uppercuts. He dropped Orton to his knees. The crowd booed louder than they had all night to this point. Orton returned to his feet and tossed Paul to the outside.

The challengers traded blows. Owens hit the ropes, but Orton caught him with a snap Powerslam. He tossed Owens to the apron and set him up for his signature DDT. Paul broke it up. Logan looked for the Buckshot Lariat, but Orton caught him with another Snap Powerslam. He tossed Logan to the apron and pulled Owens back in, delivering his signature DDT to both men. “Vintage Orton!” Cole called. Randy dropped to the mat and pounded his fists. He looked to both opponents. He went to Paul first, who shoved him away. Owens caught him with a Superkick. KO landed a kick on Paul, then stunned Orton. Randy slid to the outside. Owens covered Paul for a two count.

Orton returned quickly, cutting off Owens’ attempt to climb the turnbuckles. The two teetered at the top. Paul joined in, setting Orton up for a Powerbomb. Randy punched him, too. Owens gave Randy a pair of headbutts, knocking him to the floor. Paul caught Owens with a right hand. Kevin scooped Paul and gave him a strange looking Powerslam off the top. He climbed the ropes quickly and hit a Moonsault for a cover and near fall just past 10:30. Orton went for another RKO on KO, but it was blocked again. He rolled Randy up for two. Both men popped up. Kevin went for a Stunner. Orton blocked it, spun Kevin around and landed the RKO. He hooked the leg, but KO got a shoulder up. McAfee said everyone in the world thought he had it.

KO rolled to safety on the floor. Orton nearly got caught with a brass knuckle shot from Logan Paul, but he ducked. Paul swung back and connected the second time. He hooked the leg, but Orton kicked out at the last moment. Paul was shocked. He sized Orton up for another shot. KO leapt onto the apron, grabbing Paul by the hair. Logan turned around and punched KO with the knuckles, first in the gut, then in the head. Paul pulled Orton to his feet, talking trash. He reared back for another punch with the knuckles. Orton hit him with an RKO out of nowhere. He was too dazed to make the cover. Both men writhed on the mat as the match ticked toward 14:00.

The Viper found the brass knuckles on the mat. He picked them up and handed them to the referee. Instead, Orton got set up for a punt. The Prime bottle pulled Paul from the ring. He took his cap off, revealing IShowSpeed, a YouTuber. He barked at Orton, then kicked him in the gut. Orton slammed him against the the announcers desk and tossed him onto it. Orton barked back at him and gave him an RKO through the desk.

Paul tossed Orton back in the ring, leapt to the top rope, and went for a Frog Splash. Orton moved. Owens gave Paul a Stunner. Orton went for an RKO on Owens, but KO blocked it an stunned him, too. KO lifted Randy to his feet and tossed him off the ropes, looking for a Pop-up Powerbomb. He hoisted him into the air, but Orton turned his body and hit an RKO on the way back down. Paul immediately returned to the ring and blindsided Orton, driving him into the ring post and out of the ring. Paul climbed the northeast turnbuckle and hit a splash on Owens for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Logan Paul in 17:37 to retain the WWE United States Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Really entertaining triple threat match that had the crowd invested from the get-go. Orton and Owens’ friendship at the start was endearing, and I loved the fact that KO basically narrated their inevitable downfall. There was an obvious understanding that they’d eventually come to blows, and I thought they did a fun job setting the whole thing up. Once Paul was able to get involved with his offense, the pace quickened and all three guys managed to get some great spots in. I could’ve done without the appearance of the YouTuber. It didn’t really seem like the crowd necessarily knew the guy, but rather, just wanted to see anyone associated with Paul get beat up. I’m glad that, if nothing else, his involvement didn’t directly lead to the finish. Furthermore, I’m happy they teased the “heel steals a triple threat match” finish, but didn’t quite go all the way with it. It made sense for KO to take the fall here, as he always sort of felt like the third wheel in this match. I’d imagine we’ll see Orton face Paul one on one before too long.)

-Michael Cole tossed to a video package for the Women’s Championship match for Premium Plus subscribers.

-Bayley was carried onto the stage by men in Egyptian Pharaoh garb. They set her down gently and turned to leave. Her new (but equally generic) music played as she marched to the ring. Iyo Sky entered, flanked by her Damage CTRL cohorts. They stayed atop the ramp as she headed to the ring. Samantha Irvin delivered Championship introductions. Bayley received a huge reaction.

(6) IYO SKY (c) vs. BAYLEY – WWE Women’s Championship match

Michael Cole talked up Bayley and Iyo Sky’s accolades as the crowd settled in and the referee called for the bell. Bayley immediately took Iyo down with a shoulder tackle. The champion slid from the ring to regroup as the crowd began to sing to Bayley. Sky wrestled Bayley to the mat and tossed her to the outside. Bayley smiled as the crowd sang to her. Sky threw her arms out wide. The two locked up again, working to the mat. They rolled all the way to the floor. Bayley gave Iyo a hard shove. Sky pushed her right back. The two women traded punches before the champion tossed her challenger back in the ring.

Iyo landed a quick dropkick on Bayley. The challenger rolled to the outside and circled the ring. Sky tried to catch her with a baseball slide, but Bayley caught her legs. She leapt onto the apron and hit a quick guillotine. Sky fell to the floor. Bayley hit the ring and, with a running start, dove through the middle rope onto Sky. She came up favoring her right leg. Bayley shook it off and charged at Sky. Iyo moved, sending Bayley crashing into the ring post. Sky noticed Bayley favoring her leg and quickly wrapped it around the post, wrenching it the wrong way. Bayley scream in agony. The referee broke it up before too long.

Back in the ring, Sky worked Bayley into the corner and gave her a dragon screw back to center as the match approached 4:00. McAfee said Sky had a brilliant strategy. Graves agreed. Iyo drove her knee into Bayley’s mid-section and covered her for a two count. Bayley rolled back to the outside, wincing. Sky mocked the crowd for singing. Bayley managed to use the momentary distraction to pull Sky down to the floor. She tossed Sky over the barricade and into the timekeeper’s area. She grabbed Sky by the hair, trying to retrieve her. Sky fought her off. McAfee noted that George Kittle was sitting in front of Bayley, cheering her Bay Area buddy on. Bayley and Sky worked back into the ring. Bayley managed to catch the champion with a quick kick to the face. Sky stumbled to the northeast corner. Bayley littered her with clubs to the back. She hoisted Sky onto her shoulders and gave her a spin-out side slam for a cover and near fall at 6:00.

From the apron, Bayley ascended the southeast turnbuckles. Sky met her there. She knocked Bayley all the way to the floor to a chorus of boos. She leapt onto Bayley and threw her arms in the air. She slid Bayley back in the ring and hit a Springboard dropkick, covering for a two count. The crowd continued to sing to Bayley. Sky hooked Bayley for a German Suplex. Bayley countered. Sky countered. They traded a number of standing switches, all the way to the opposing turnbuckle. Bayley finally hit a German Suplex, right into the turnbuckle. She tried to pull Sky into a small package, but she couldn’t bend the knee all the way. Sky kicked at two.

Sky side-stepped Bayley, sending her to the apron. Bayley landed awkwardly on her injured knee. Sky pulled her back in the ring and gave her a bridging German Suplex for a near fall. Iyo called for the Moonsault. She leapt to the top and flipped, but Bayley got her legs all the way up. The right knee buckled under Sky’s weight. Bayley limped to her feet and climbed the same turnbuckles, looking for an elbow. Sky blocked it and turned her right into a Crossface. Bayley slipped free and popped up, landing an elbow. She went for another, but Sky pulled her into a Crossface again. Bayley used her legs to scoot her body toward the ropes. Just as she was about to reach it, Sky turned her over and into an STF. Bayley used her elbow to break the hold. Both women rolled to their feet. Bayley delivered a Bayley-to-Belly for a cover and near fall at 11:10.

Champion and challenger struggled to their feet in the center. Bayley looked for the Rose Plant, but Iyo held firm on the mat. She fired off a right at Bayley and laughed. Bayley returned it. “You were never my friend, Iyo!” she said. Sky punched her again. They fired rapidly. Bayley went for another Bayley-to-Belly, but Sky blocked it. She gave Bayley a double-underhook Backbreaker, then climbed to the top turnbuckle. Sky delivered the Over-the-Moonsault and hooked the leg. Bayley kicked out at the last moment to a big reaction. Sky was furious. She pounded on Bayley’s stomach, then gave her a standing Moonsault. She climbed to the middle rope and delivered another. Not satisfied, she leapt to the top rope for another Over-the-Moonsault. Bayley rolled out of the way. She limped to Sky on the opposite side of the ring and gave her a Rose Plant. Sky immediately popped up. She gave Bayley a strong lariat. Bayley popped up. She gave Sky a back drop, then climbed the turnbuckle.

Bayley hit the diving elbow and immediately pulled Sky up and into the Rose Plant for a second time. She hooked the leg for a three count.

WINNER: Bayley in 14:23 to win the WWE Women’s Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Very good match with an excellent closing stretch. It felt really cathartic to see a crowd cheer for Bayley again, and be invited to do so. She’s had a great run as a heel, particularly her work during the pandemic, but it was time to see what this new iteration could do in this role. Though I thought this feud lacked some of the juice it probably should have had, they did a nice job selling the gravity of the moment. I liked the story the match told, with Sky working over the leg that Bayley has had problems with for a long while. The closing sequence was a lot of fun, with a fitting no-sell of the first Rose Plant, a fitting end to Sky’s chapter as Women’s champion. I thought this delivered.)

-The cameras showed The War & Treaty, T-Pain, George Kittle, Vanessa Hudgens, and Lilly Singh sitting at ringside. “The stars are out,” McAfee said.

-Samantha Irvin welcomed the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders, who revealed Snoop Dogg behind their pom-poms. He announced the attendance as 72,755. He announced the overall attendance as 145,298. Fireworks exploded from the stage and Snoop Dogg danced with the cheerleaders in the ring. Cole updated the audience on the weather, now at 49 degrees. He tossed to a video package for the main event.

When the broadcast returned, the lights were out in the stadium. A fiery landscape appeared on the stage. The American Nightmare flag was tattered and torn. Cody Rhodes, wearing a skull mask with golden wings (a physical recreation of his tattoo/logo), rose up from the stage. Brandi Rhodes emerged at his side. The stage went dark, and “Kingdom” kicked in. Brandi gave Cody some words of encouragement, and then left him to take the walk down the ramp alone. An absolutely massive “whoa” preceded a huge fireworks display around the stage. Cody nearly floated to the ring, visibly overwhelmed with adrenaline. He handed off his weight belt and completed his march to the ring.

Cody rounded ringside and gave his mother a hug and kiss. She was seated in the same spot as last night.

Roman Reigns’ theme was played by the Philadelphia All City Orchestra. He had new, golden graphics to accompany the rendition. “His greatness just smacks you in the mouth,” McAfee stated. Cole ran down his impressive list of accomplishments. He listed all the big names that Reigns has defeated, including Edge and Daniel Bryan. Graves noted that Michael left out one name – Cody Rhodes. Their discussion was interrupted by another explosion of fireworks as Reigns hoisted the Universal title.

Samantha Irvin delivered Championship introductions. The crowd buzzed with anticipation. They roared for Cody. The boos were overwhelming for Roman.

(7) ROMAN REIGNS (c, w/ Paul Heyman) vs. CODY RHODES – WWE Undisputed Universal Championship, Bloodline Rules match

A huge wave of emotion rang out from the crowd when the bell rang. The camera pulled back wide to show the lower bowl moving about as the first “Cody” chant took hold. Roman Reigns took the match’s first steps forward. He got within a foot of Cody Rhodes’ face and talked some trash. Cody was having none of it. He circled the champion and motioned to the crowd. They sprang to life on command. Cody and Roman locked up, but Reigns quickly broke the hold. He turned to Paul Heyman briefly, nodded in affirmation, then went in for another lock up. Rhodes grabbed a waist-lock. Roman turned it over. He shot Cody off the ropes and dropped him with a shoulder.

Cody popped to his feet and shook out his shoulder. Roman gave him an apathetic point. He smirked at the crowd as they cheered his opponent. Rhodes grabbed a side headlock. Roman shoved him off the ropes. Cody slid under his legs and caught him with the uppercut. Reigns tried to shrug it off. He ran at Cody, who side-stepped him. Reigns went crashing into the southwest ring post and crashed to the floor. Rhodes slid out the opposite side. He pulled a table from underneath the ring. Cole called it smart. “Rock and Roman did it last night, Roman did it last year. It’s Bloodline rules, anything goes!”

Just as Cody stood the table up, Reigns dropped him with drive-by. He grabbed the table and slid it back under the ring, much to the crowd’s chagrin. Cody recovered and tossed Reigns into the steel steps as the match crossed 4:00. Rhodes stopped to look at the Universal title. Cole told him to focus. Cody tossed the champion back in the ring, but before he could catch him, Reigns rolled back to the outside. Cody went to retrieve him. Roman had a Kendo stick in hand. He cracked Cody in the forehead. Roman returned to the ring and beat Cody with the stick repeatedly. “Shut your mouths!’ he told the crowd as they booed.

Kendo stick in hand, Reigns sized up his challenger. He swung and missed wildly. Cody picked up the stick. Roman begged off. Rhodes charged and caught him with it, then gave him a bulldog out of the corner. Cody immediately applied the Figure Four. Reigns writhed. Cole noted that no break will occur if Reigns reaches the ropes, under Bloodline Rules. Reigns used the stipulation to his immediate advantage, poking Cody in the eye to break the hold relatively quickly. “Cody’s going to have to keep chipping away, “Graves surmised, “you’re never going to get sustained offense against the Tribal Chief, few ever have.”

The Tribal Chief walked his foe from corner to corner, bouncing him off the turnbuckles. He tossed him to the outside, talking trash. “I’m gonna miss whoppin’ your ass!” he told Cody. He tossed Cody into the hydration table, knocking it over. Cody stumbled over the barricade and into the crowd. Roman followed. They traded punches near the scaffolding rig. Both men climbed atop a string of covered crates. Reigns told people to move out of the way, as he planned to Suplex his opponent into the crowd. Cody blocked it and delivered one of his own onto the hard surface they stood atop. Rhodes worked Reigns back to ringside.

9:00 in, Cody tossed Roman in the ring and went for an early Disaster Kick. Reigns picked him out of the air and gave him a Powerbomb. Both men were laid out. Roman used the ropes to help himself stand. Cole mentioned that they’re not even 24 hours removed from the grueling tag team match. Reigns gave Cody a quick snap Suplex and covered him for only a one count. “That was all psychological,” Cole said. Reigns got in Cody’s face. He told him he was going to “send him to Hollywood with the rest of them.” He said it’s his company. Reigns delivered a back Suplex in the center and covered him with a forearm for a weak two count. Paul Heyman shouted instructions. “A 3 count means a $3 million bonus,” Roman smiled. He grabbed a cravat hold on Rhodes. Cody worked himself to a knee, then to his feet. He broke the hold and kicked Reigns in the gut. Roman shrugged it off and delivered a bridged Fisherman Suplex for a two count.

With the pace slowed dramatically, the champion settled in. He worked Rhodes into the southeast corner and gave him slow, plodding right hands. The fans tried to rally, booing Reigns and showing him middle fingers. Roman delivered ten short-arm clotheslines in the corner. He wound up for an eleventh, but Cody exploded out of the corner with a kick. He hit another one. Roman hit one of his own. Rhodes shrugged it off and dropped Reigns with one more.

Both men were down in the center. Cole said it’s the conclusion of the most intense rivalry of the past year. Champion and challenger reached their feet, trading punches. “A true heavyweight battle,” Cole said. They turned to gut punches, then back to rights. Cody dropped the champion with a body tackle. He followed up with a snap Powerslam. Cody flexed, bringing the crowd to life. He hit the ropes, connecting with a Disaster Kick for a cover and two count at 15:45.

Cody dragged Roman to his feet. He hit the ropes again, looking for the cutter this time. Reigns caught him in a waist-lock and pulled him into a Cross Rhodes. He hooked the leg, but Cody kicked out at two. “That move sucks,” Roman said. “That move ain’t beating nobody. This is fun. I just like shoving it in his face,” he said to Heyman. Paul laughed. Reigns stood, cockily. He sauntered to the corner and cocked his fist. Reigns charged, but Cody ducked. He gave Reigns a number of quick jukes, capped off with the bionic elbow. Reigns rolled to reprieve on the outside. Cody followed. He stood over the toppled champion, contemplating. Rhodes turned to the announcers desk and cleared it off. “Bloodline rules also applies to what Cody is allowed to do,” Graves explained. Rhodes tried to retrieve the Tribal Chief, but Reigns caught him with a low blow.

Roman Reigns gave Cody a Powerbomb through the announcers desk. He wasted no time, quickly tossing him back in the ring and delivering a quick Superman Punch for a cover and near fall just after 19:00. Both men writhed on the mat as the camera pulled back to a wide shot of the stadium. “Cody!” the crowd pleaded. Reigns motioned for them to quiet down. He motioned for the Spear. Rhodes blocked it with a kick to the face. He hit the ropes and hit the Cody Cutter for a cover and near fall. Graves pleaded with Cody to keep his foot on the gas pedal. “I’m not sure anyone can pin Roman Reigns,” McAfee concluded.

Rhodes set up for Cross Rhodes. Reigns blocked it with lifting knees to the face. He hooked Cody in for a Uranagi, but Cody blocked it, hit the ropes and drove Reigns through the mat with a Spear. Cody hooked the leg for a very close near fall. Heyman looked on, shocked. Cody dragged Roman to his feet and delivered the first Cross Rhodes. He held on, setting up for another. Before he could execute, Jimmy Uso leapt in the ring and gave Cody a Superkick. He held Cody in place for Roman to deliver a Superman Punch.

“It’s just me, uce!” rang out. Jey Uso bounced onto the stage. Jimmy left the ring and ran up the ramp to meet him. The two traded punches atop the stage. Jey speared Jimmy off the stage, through a pair of tables waiting below. In the ring, Cody rolled Reigns up for a near fall. Roman bounced up, hit the ropes, and delivered a Spear for a last moment kick out. Roman began threatening referee Charles Robinson. The Head of the Table was incensed. He lifted Cody and applied the Guillotine. Cody flailed desperately. He ran Roman’s body against multiple turnbuckles, then straight through the ropes and out the ring, breaking the hold.

Reigns was hunched by the timekeeper’s area. Cody got a running start and speared him right through the barricade as the match approached 25:00. Rhodes walked the champion back into the ring. He pounded the mat, stalking his prey. Graves wondered when was the last time anything like this happened. Cody hit a first Cross Rhodes, then a second, then primed him for a third. Solo Sikoa entered the ring and gave Rhodes the spike. He dragged Reigns’ lifeless body over Cody’s chest, then turned his back, knowing the result. But Cody kicked out. Solo turned back and wiped his face. He mounted Rhodes and punched him repeatedly. He hollered at his cousin, “get up! Finish him!” he ordered. “I know!” Reigns barked back. Solo told Roman to “finish the story.”

Solo Sikoa held onto Cody. He delivered the spike in tandem with another spear from Roman Reigns. Roman hooked the leg, but Cody kicked again. Sikoa was enraged. He stomped around the ring. Suddenly, John Cena’s music rang out. He bolted to the ring, and tossed Solo Sikoa out of the ring. He grabbed Roman and delivered an Attitude Adjustment. Cena wasn’t done. He retrieved Sikoa on the outside and gave him an Attitude Adjustment through the Spanish announce desk.

Cena removed his hat and slicked back his hair, satisfied with his work. Then The Rock’s music hit. The Final Boss marched to the ring, talking trash. Cena returned to the ring. McAfee said The Rock is furious with John Cena for sticking his nose in the Bloodline’s business. Rock and Cena stood opposite one another. Cena removed his shirt and tossed it in the crowd. Both he and Rock paused to look around at the crowd. Cena taunted him and took a swing. Rock caught him and delivered a Rock Bottom. “Get the f— out of The Rock’s ring!”

Suddenly, The Shield’s music hit. Rock looked around as crowd looked around frantically. Roman Reigns caught something out of the corner of his eye. He charged and caught an approaching Seth Rollins, decked in Shield gear, with a Superman Punch. Rock laughed. The gong sounded and the lights went out. When they returned, The Undertaker was standing in the ring. He gave The Rock a chokeslam. The lights went out again, then Taker was gone.

The Undisputed Universal Champion was left alone in the ring with a steel chair. He cracked Seth Rollins in the back with it, in homage to the Shield’s destruction. Roman called for another Spear. He charged, but Cody blocked it. He pulled Reigns in and hit one Cross Rhodes. Then another Cross Rhodes. Then a third Cross Rhodes. He hooked the leg for a resounding three count and absolutely thunderous pop.

WINNER: Cody Rhodes in 33:24 to win the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship

Samantha Irvin choked her way through the announcement, overcome with emotion. Brandi Rhodes entered the ring, embracing her husband. The crowd continued to cheer, singing Cody’s theme. Cody retrieved the Championship, climbing the turnbuckles and hoisting it above his head for the first time. “And now the celebration begins,” Cole said over a number of highlights. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Randy Orton, and LA Knight rand down to the ring. John Cena and Jey Uso returned. Sami and Jey hoisted Cody onto their shoulders. Cole said he’s known Cody since he was a boy, and he knew he’d be a star. He talked about Cody leaving the company disgruntled and heartbroken, only to come back as a Superstar.

CM Punk joined Cody in the ring, giving him a big hug. Cody’s mom entered the ring, embracing her son. “Dammit, I love professional wrestling,” Michael said. Cody gave the title to his mother, having her pose with it in front of the camera. More family and friends joined the celebration.Even Brodie Lee’s son. Seth Rollins re-emerged. Cody grabbed a microphone. He asked for Bruce Prichard and Triple H to come to the ring. They did, and celebrated with the others.

Cody left the ring momentarily to shake Michael Cole’s hand and give him a big hug. He shook hands with Graves and McAfee, then returned to the ring. Everyone cleared the way. KO helped Seth out of the ring. Cody and Seth shared a moment between the ropes, shaking hands. Rhodes left the ring, hugging some fans at ringside and a couple of cameramen, too. He celebrated on the ramp as the broadcast faded to the recap video package.

(LeClair’s Analysis: There were copious amounts of Twitter posts and message board fodder fantasy booking the most overbooked, ridiculous, over-the-top WrestleMania main event of all time. So much so, that I think I’d resigned myself to this being an overbooked mess that I could enjoy in the moment and maybe debate the merits of later. In actuality, I thought this was just the right amount of overbooked. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of straight up wrestling we got from Rhodes and Reigns. The latter seemed extra motivated, never fully settling into the slow and plodding pace we’ve seen grow to become the standard in the last year or so of title defenses. They worked hard, while selling the effects of last night’s grueling war.

When it came time for stuff to hit the fan, it did so in the most satisfying of ways. Each member of the Bloodline met a fitting ghost of their past. For Jimmy Uso, it was his twin Jey. They both flamed out in a crazy looking table spot that I’m sure to some, redeems their underwhelming performance from last night. Then, it was Solo Sikoa, who was met by John Cena, a call back to last fall I hadn’t even really considered. I expected Cena to be involved in some way, but hadn’t connected the dots that he had a specific grudge to settle. Then came the Final Boss, and the implications of what he did (or didn’t do.) Rock and Cody never touched, signaling a possible match for them down the road. The only mild disappointment, something I’ve only really considered in hindsight, was The Undertaker’s place in the match, replacing what would have been a much more obvious and befitting appearance by Steve Austin. But it didn’t matter. The crowd was electric, they ate up every moment and hung on every second. It was, simply, electric.

The final sequence was poetic, though under-served on commentary. Seth Rollins, dressed in Shield garb, presented himself to Roman Reigns one final time, knowing that he would not be able to resist the opportunity to avenge Seth’s turn in 2014. And he was right. Roman cracked the chair across Seth’s back, returning the favor from ten years ago. The lapse in focus is what allowed Cody to beat Reigns. An incredible moment, and really the only time I felt commentary missed in this encounter. Michael Cole gave another career highlight performance.

The outpouring of emotion from everyone at the conclusion of the match was a historic feel good moment. From Samantha Irvin choking back tears as she announced Cody as the winner, to the crowd erupting from their chairs, babyfaces pouring from the back, Michael Cole going in to detail about his history with Cody Rhodes and what this moment meant to him. It was beautiful, it was brilliant, and it was what pro wrestling is all about.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: If last night’s show met or fell just below expectations, I felt like tonight exceeded them. Where WrestleMania 39 paid service to the fans on Night 1, knowing what was in store on Night 2, WrestleMania 40 set its table to deliver the ultimate feel good closing moment. I thought the majority of the card over-delivered, the crowd’s demeanor improved significantly, and WWE managed to produce one of the most memorable moments in WrestleMania history to close the night. The celebration felt genuine, and it felt shared, not just by the wrestlers, but the fans, the producers, the announcers, everyone. I felt intrinsically and vicariously connected as Cole said “I love professional wrestling.” An emphatic thumbs up.

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