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It seems that every year we go in to the biggest WWE show of the year bemoaning some lacking build-ups or facing constant internet pessimism but there’s something so magical about this event for fans. So, as we give it another go in Tampa Bay at the Raymond James Stadium (the venue meant for last year), the fans have returned and “WrestleMania is Back in Business”. And once agin we have two nights of action, with the second looking more stacked but the first featuring a historic main event. There were a lot of hopes, a lot of speculation and as we will soon find one hell of an unexpected heel turn by mother nature. What better way to mark my official first year of WWE Roobla reviewing! This is WrestleMania baby, there’s lots to get through, so let us not waste time…
Here is what went down this past weekend at the showcase of the immortals!
On the Kick-Off Show, we were told Tampa Bay was having some weather issues with heavy rain and potential storms but all seemed to have passed, so no worries right…RIGHT?
The show opened with Vince McMahon on the stage with the WWE Roster (Roman Reigns was getting boo’s, I suppose we are back in business then, poor guy), where he said how much the fans were missed in the pandemic and welcomed them back to (*does best Vince voice) WRRRREEESTLEMAAANIA! Lovely moment.
Bebe Rexha then sang “America the Beautiful”, with the Jet flyover and all, yes, we are back!
The show opened with a pirate-y video package that reflected last year’s, complete with the Jack Sparrow esque voice over again and fun send ups. Nice opening video package.
Ah crap! Michael Cole, Samoa Joe and Byron Saxon welcome us to WrestleMania but we are being told there is a delay for weather updates. Panic mode! At least it would be but you know what, they really all made the best of this and talked about the feelings and emotions of the night, veering from ringside to the Kick-off team, and best of all a variety of clearly off-the-cuff and unscripted backstage interviews with Shane McMahon, Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, The New Day, Big E, Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens, Bianca Belair and Seth Rollins, who all really earned their pay tonight (although they always do) with some great promos, proof that WWE should really let their stars work unscripted more often. Despite everything going wrong (there were a number of tech issues too), they kept going and Cole even called it ‘WrestleRainia’, and Joe said nights like this can yield the best results, how right he ended up being but it wasn’t without early mishaps.
Oh, and that pirate ship stage is an amazing WrestleMania stage and truly a triumph on every level for the production team. Heartbreaking how many problems it has faced.
The show was back on after a delay and WrestleMania hosts Hulk Hogan and Titus O’Neil came on stage to cut a promo and get the crowd going, and off we finally go!
1. WWE Championship Match
Drew McIntyre vs. Lashley (c) w/MVP
Drew McIntyre wanted to be the first to enter in front of fans and it clearly meant the world to him (and everyone for that matter), as the music hit, the pyro lit, and the fans gave him a great ovation. McIntyre and champ Lashley worked hard as hell here to combat the ‘what can go wrong, will go wrong’ situation WWE were in. Their battle was hard hitting and impactful and while there were clearly moments where the weather had made them be a bit more cautious in that ring, they powered through, delivering a blast of a WWE Title match. Drew withstood some exhausting onslaughts from the Almighty, and the badass Lashley likewise kept powering out of some very fresh and new move sets from Drew. These guys were on a mission tonight to put on a show and Drew helped put over the champ big too, the end saw a slight distraction from MVP, where Drew missed his Claymore and Lashley locked in the Hurt Lock. McIntyre would not submit but did pass out giving Bobby a surprise title retaining victory. I feel a bit bad for Drew not getting his crowd title win but Lashley is clearly being built up for a big series of encounters as champion and McIntyre will get his chance again, because fans being back added such irreplaceable atmosphere. They worked through some hellish odds here to open strong and they did.
Backstage Bayley said “Ding Dong, Hello” to hosts Titus and Hulk, who were accompanied by 2020 class Hall of Famers the NWO (Kevin Nash, X-Pac and Scott Hall), only Pac was into giving her a “too sweet” wolf pac hand bump though, as the rest seemed to awkwardly back away.
2. Women’s Tag Team Gauntlet Match – Winner Faces Women’s Tag Team Champions on Night #2
Billie Kay and Carmella vs. Naomi and Lana vs. The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan) vs. Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose vs. Tamina and Natalya
After the show started with problems, alarms started ringing somewhat with this match, as this was a bit of a mess. Mandy Rose slipped and fell on her way to the ring, the ring announcer announced an elimination wrongly and the fast paced action saw the ladies being ambitious but there were a lot of slip ups and botches throughout. I applaud the effort but even without everything going on, this last minute match (it was made on this week’s Raw) did not seem like it had the time to be properly mapped out by all involved and was hectic in the wrong ways. Billie Kay and Carmella started out with Naomi and Lana, I love Kay’s comedy antics and they surprisingly got a cheat (but iffy looking win), next came Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan who were really the MVPs of the match and maybe should have won. They knocked off Kay and Carmella, out came Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose but they didn’t last, as Liv reversed Brooke into a small package pin (hence where the ring announcer slipped up), but it was inevitable in the end, as Tamina and Natalya came out, and are clearly the “big threat” for champs Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax, so they got the win with Tamina’s Snuka Splash.
3. Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro
Truth be told I was fearing a show maybe edging towards trouble here, a feeling not alleviated when Seth Rollins’ fiery entrance (complete with new theme music) did not go as smoothly as planned (ala Shawn Michaels’ confetti gun at WrestleMania XIX) but with this anticipated first main show WrestleMania singles match for Cesaro, WrestleMania 37 made one hell of a miraculous turn around and all credit to WWE for the show they put on, on this night and the problems they conquered. Selfishly I would have liked them to have more time but Rollins and Cesaro made the best of what they got and had a great match. Cesaro’s swings were over as hell with the live crowd, and his hands free UFO shoulder move was jaw-dropping. Both men had great, innovative moves (that curb stomp uppercut counter) and a super chemistry together and Cesaro’s win was emotional and a feel good moment for the crowd and the man himself. I look forward to where he goes next but if Rollins and Cesaro aren’t done yet, I certainly would not complain because this was great stuff.
Backstage we had an interview with Smackdown tag champs Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler about their win on WrestleMania Smackdown.
4. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match
AJ Styles and Osmos vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (c)
The debut match on the main roster for Osmos, this was a fun match but one that served the story and character entirely. New Day irked AJ Styles into starting the match, where both members took it to the Phenomenal one and kept him separated from his 7’3” partner. In fact, it took a long time for Osmos to get in there but once AJ made the tag (with Xavier Woods hilariously pleading him not to) it was done. Osmos brushed off dropkicks like it was drizzle drops and floored both members of the team, with AJ hitting a beautiful Phenomenal Forearm on Woods from the shoulders of Osmos, to leave a weakened Kofi Kingston at the giant’s mercy, one Great Khali-esque choke bomb later and with a foot on the chest (as AJ requested), Osmos and Styles were your new champs! Some might say this was a misuse of Styles on the grand stage but I liked him getting in on the lacking tag picture and I love he and Osmos as a team. This match did precisely what it needed to.
5. Steel Cage Match
Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon
This rivalry has been random as hell and a strange way to make a stance against bullying but that said, this match far exceeded people’s expectations. This was the first Mania Steel Cage match (not including the Hell in a Cells) since WrestleMania II and it was a fun brawl that featured a hell of a closing sequence. The wily Shane McMahon predictably tried to get the advantage early, with a pre-match assault on Braun Strowman by Elias and Jaxson Ryker with steel chair. Shane would use weapons to keep the big man grounded and even looked set to win, after Braun fought back in but got knocked to the mat by a toolbox shot to the noggin’. Shane waved sarcastically at Braun as he climbed out the cage but Braun grabbed his hand and ripped out the steel cage wall to pull Shane back in before tossing him off the top of the cell to the ring mat for one heck of a hard hitting bump (how can you not respect the limits Shane goes to?!). It was over pretty much but Braun dedicated his win to anyone who has been bullied and put the stamp on things with a running powerslam and pinfall win over Shane-O-Mac. This was great fun. Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler was a guest on commentary for the match.
A pyro interval took place (I’m guessing this was what was meant to open the show), as a video package played featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin, announcing the Dallas, Texas return for WrestleMania 38 (bet Vince thinks against more open air arenas after tonight).
Then the commentators were ready for the Hall of Fame honouring, until Bayley interrupted to announce them herself, when are we getting Michael Cole vs. Bayley then? Anyway, the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 came to the stage to be honoured, I’m guessing the 2021 class will be on Sunday. Always nice to see these legends.
6. Bad Bunny and Damian Priest vs. The Miz and John Morrison
Well, talk about a shock! Celebrity matches in WWE can be very hit and miss, for every Floyd Mayweather there’s a Maria Menounous and arguably (to date) Arrow star Stephen Amell made the best wrestling effort for a celebrity, that is until Grammy winning Puerto Rican rap star Bad Bunny. Yes, you read right. As a clear life long fan, who has visibly loved living his dream of being involved in WWE, I did not begrudge Bad Bunny the card space but even I did not expect what we got here. The Miz and John Morrison flanked by big bunnies (think Adam Rose’s bunny) made their tomfooling entrance, before Damian Priest came out and Bad Bunny then made his pretty cool jacket wearing neo-noir truck top entrance (it was a bit reminiscent of Blade) into the arena. And then, the match began with The Miz and Bunny, and so did the joys. This match was great, Bad Bunny had obviously put an amazing amount of work into training for this and boy did it show. He hit wrestling moves bang on (a Flacon Arrow, top rope plancha, arm drag), he sold well and my jaw slapped on the floor when, later in the match, he hit a picture perfect destroyer on Morrison outside the ring. This was the best celebrity match I have seen in some time (maybe ever), and Bunny won a lot of respect from a fully invested crowd, even Priest looked shocked by that Destroyer – who wasn’t? Miz and Morrison did a great job working with Bunny and making everyone look great. It was crazy but in a good way and, after a back and forth match, Priest and Bunny picked up the deserved win via a Doomsday Device with a cross body rather than a clothesline, to the delight of the audience, as Bunny got the pinfall. Booker T was a guest on commentary for the match and said “give him a contract”, good call Booker!
The announcers hyped up Night #2 (which has a great card) and considering how tonight has gone, Sunday could be special indeed. The crowd seemed to pop for The Fiend vs. Randy Orton graphic, you love to see it!
7. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bianca Belair
History. As two African American women main evented the show, despite a build up that did these two no justice on the weeks prior, the stakes and pressure were high on champion Sasha Banks and challenger Bianca Belair but they slapped the mouthes of critics and delivered the match of the evening (and of WrestleMania 37 as a whole). It clearly meant so much to each star and Belair especially had to hold back the tears. This title match was incredible and NXT-like. A beautifully wrestled, evenly matched showcase for two towering talents, which had you invested every step of the way. Both ladies left it all in the ring and energised the ending of the show and worked off of an awesome affection from the crowd. This was just terrific work by both women, and there were some dazzling moves unleashed (Belair gorilla pressing Banks outside the ring and walking her up the steps before tossing her back in the ring, wowzers), as neither were up for losing, one particularly eye-watering moment came when Belair used her hair (which Banks had actually used to her own advantage throughout) to whip the ribs of Banks (the edible crack was disturbing) and it left a hell of a welt on the champ. In the end, Belair hit her finisher for a definitive victory, to emerge victorious as the new champion and (B)EST of WWE. What a match and what an ending to Night #1.
And then, we move on to (a better-looking) Sunday card for Night #2….Hopefully with less weather problems but kudos to WWE they rode that mad wave and turned in a belting start on Saturday against all odds. So, how did Night #2 fare? Early reports say weather could be iffy again, eek! It’s so sad to see these problems, considering how hard people have worked. Fingers crossed all goes ok on Night #2…
We had “America the Beautiful” again, this time with country star Ashland Craft on vocal duties and mother nature tapped out tonight, as the spectacle was well and truly on…at least in slick presentation. #NoMoreRain
The opening video package was the same as last night, just with added recaps of Night #1 And match previews of Night #2.
Out came Hogan and Titus to open things up, this time dressed as pirates. Good lord guys, haha!
1. The Fiend w/Alexa Bliss vs. Randy Orton
A bold choice to open the night and The Fiend’s Jack-in-a-Box entrance was cool, as was his pre-entrance regeneration from charred monster back to The Fiend we know. The match started as The Fiend dived from the top of the box to the ring onto Orton, and was contested under the red lights he used back in 2019. It seemed like all would go well enough, with Fiend hitting his usual stuff and even throwing in a tribute to the late great Jonathan Huber. Sadly, that’s as far as it goes, as he had Orton prone for a loss until Bliss distracted him with a crown of black goo and Orton hit the RKO and it was over. Simple as that. Then he and Alexa had a stare down, lights went out and that was your lot. The crowd was audibly annoyed (so much so they later edited down the boos in a recap) and as a huge Bray Wyatt fan so was I. I understand there may be some greater story at play here (I hope) but this night was not the right night to pull such things, this curdled the atmosphere right off the bat and that loss to Orton was devastating to the character. They could go anywhere with this (Sister Abigail, power shifts, a doppelgänger) but this felt like spur of the moment “oh that’ll shock ‘em” nonsense that was too illogical considering the build-up and story going in, and was the opposite of gratifying, and left me as a viewer the most deflated I have been since Super Showdown. Wrong winner, a huge blow to the character (again) and while certainly not the worst Mania match in history as some have said, it is up there with the most disappointing and badly booked. Heartbreaking. Hopefully one day, I can return to it and see what they did there. But at this moment, I’m baffled.
Titus and Hogan were backstage and had a talk with Hall of Famer Eric Bischoff, who got in a podcast plug somewhere, before Bayley interrupted and was blanked by the two legends, and then Titus too. Poor lass.
2. WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match
Shaman Baszler and Nia Jax (c) vs. Natalya and Tamina
Set up via Night #1’s hectic tag turmoil match, this match was sadly just there. All the ladies worked to try and make something here but coming after that opener they were in a very tough spot. I was certainly struggling to connect with it but maybe that’s on me, as the Tampa crowd seemed to buzz more than expected for some of it, Tamina especially. Still, this division really needs more long building stories rather than transitional challengers and thrown together feuds going forward. I mean, it wasn’t the worst point in the evening but this was mediocre stuff at best and not especially convincing at any point. The whole women’s tag title chase across the two nights here was rather pointless to be frank.
3. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn w/Logan Paul
Why on earth we needed Youtube star and – god I hate this term – social media influencer Logan Paul involved here is anybody’s guess and the crowd did not hold back their disdain for the controversial “celebrity”, who sat at ringside watching with the same wide eyed reaction throughout, as though he had just seen a 90 year old do a backflip. That said, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had a fun little match here, it ran far too short and they had to cram in their usual ace moves, meaning this was not the showstealer it could of been. Although on this night, that was still more than enough. In the end, Owens nailed Sami with a stunner for the win. Post-match, Zayn and Paul got in an altercation, and Paul pushed the angered conspiracy theorist over. Paul then went over to a clearly unimpressed Kevin to celebrate and KO nailed him with a stunner to the crowd’s utter delight. This was moment of the night for me personally, haha!
Backstage Riddle ran in to Hall of Famer The Great Khali alongside Ranjin Singh but there were some communication problems when Singh had to dash, so fellow class of 2021 Hall of Famer Rob Van Dam kindly stepped in to help out. A joke was made about his rolling papers, wink wink.
4. WWE United States Championship Match
Riddle (c) vs. Sheamus
All things considered, Sheamus and Drew McIntyre’s awesome Fastlane match probably should have been what they did at Mania because while this match concluded with a nice title win for the Celtic Warrior, this was really nothing we haven’t seen before on the weekly TV shows. In fact, it didn’t help that we only had this exact same match and result (in a non-title capacity) a week or so ago. The match itself was fine, if a tad clunky at points, and the closing Brogue Kick moonsault counter that got Sheamus the win was brutal and a great finish but this was just another contest that was just there and did not have much heat to it. I mean, Riddle’s scooter was a main talking point, which kind of speaks volumes.
5. WWE Intercontinental Championship Nigerian Drum Fight Match
Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews
Wale played Big E to the ring for this title defence, which I was hoping would make up for these two’s unfortunate last meeting, even more unfortunately it didn’t. The stipulation was basically No Holds Barred, only with tables, canes and, erm, drums all around ringside, yikes. Anyway, E and Apollo Crews got in some decent action but it all felt over before it began as E had Crews prone for defeat after a missed table spot and he was up in the Big Ending position, before Nigerian superstar Dabba-Kato (formerly known as Babatunde) came out and made the save, laid out Big E and bish bash bosh, we had a new champion. No issue with the title change but this all felt really quite weak and like a massive missed opportunity, also, I expect Kato is appearing as a new character again because the announcers made out like they didn’t have a clue who he was (then again, we all have forgotten about Raw Underground).
They showed a CGI Ghost ship graphic (like the big skeleton they’ve been using all weekend), not sure why. And we had the 2021 Hall of Fame Class on stage to get their moment. Which was nice, although I do wish they’d have had a masked Kane one last time (like when Austin did hid beer bash at WrestleMania 25) still, he did get his iconic pyro in there. I’ll miss The Big Red Machine.
6. WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Asuke (c) vs. Rhea Ripley
Wow, this was a real disappointment in a night quite literally full of them! I think many of us were expecting Charlotte to get added to the fray at some point in the build for this match (if you can call it that) but it wasn’t to be (not that I’m too cut up about that), still I was really looking forward a lot to this one. Yet, I never in a million years expected Rhea Ripley to look better in her loss last year to Charlotte than she did in her victory over Asuke here. She came out with Ash Costello’s rebel yelling playing her to the ring, which I enjoyed actually but the match itself just did not feel quite right at all. The weeks of non-events in the build to this match have played a factor because the live crowd seemed so cold on this one and it couldn’t help but affect the match. There was no fire here or a real feud, and while it had some moments and these two obviously didn’t deliver a complete debacle, this was just such a let down, with a few awkward moves and the atmosphere was never there. Although it was nice seeing Ripley get the title win in the end with her Riptide finisher. Still, I feel for Asuke, this run of hers has pretty much been one big non-event and filled with utter creative failure throughout and she deserved a hell of a lot better.
They recapped Fiend/Orton (that stung) and out came Hogan and Titus to thank all the fans but Bayley once again came out and dissed them, all the legends and Michael Cole, which had fans clearly awaiting the rumoured return of ‘The Man’ Becky Lynch. Well, we didn’t quite get that and as disappointing as that was, it was kind of hilarious, as out came The Bella Twins and wow what a chorus of boos they received, moreso when – after an exchange of insults – they knocked Bayley down the ramp for a “feel good” moment…or not. Crikey, this night has been an absolute train wreck in terms of decision-making. Misjudged.
7. WWE Universal Championship Triple Threat Match
Edge vs. Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Daniel Bryan
Now, this will undoubtedly prove controversial for many people because a number of folks have praised this match to the moon and as good as some of the action was, I felt this whole situation did not really come together or make much sense. This was by far the best built fresh match of this year’s show and while Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan and especially Edge got you invested, this ended up becoming a wash, rinse, repeat of The Tribal Chief’s last few months as champion, with Jey Uso (incapacitated earlier on by Edge) coming back out and delivering them white sneaker super kicks to give his ‘fam’ the win, as Roman piled Edge on top of Bryan and pinned both, much to the crowd’s audible disgust (they were on Roman’s back here and he worked that heel role well). Edge had it won a few times and I guess he and Bryan will have a thing after this (which admittedly should be amazing). Look, as good as the match was from a ring standpoint, I have been more than fair to how they’ve done all this stuff every month/week but at WrestleMania in the main event, this was unsatisfying, and despite it making sense heel-wise, the repetition soon led to the realisation of where we were going, and thus a predictable conclusion, and it just soured me on the whole thing. Afterwards I was really puzzled what the point of Edge winning the Rumble actually was? Why he didn’t just face Orton as they planned last year? Or why they mentioned his 10 year (to the day retirement) if there was no redemption coming. Or why they even made this a triple threat if both were eating the pin anyway? Overall, people clearly loved this but I was taken out of it and while good, it is a match that seems like an interpretation of what they thought would be a Mania classic rather than one itself.
Overall, WrestleMania 37 is incredibly difficult to call because the night expected to fail delivered a blinder, the night expected to rock was a waste of time. At a point that fans were welcomed back, it seems like they went in on giving people one night to remember but also were hesitant of keeping them too happy the entire weekend. Now, maybe it is just me, maybe this is one that will all play better with the clarity of what comes next, patience is of course key, but my utter soul-crushing disappointment with Night #2 (which just could not get in gear on almost every level) cannot help but takeover in my feelings of the whole weekend, as it was the more recent finale. That said, Night #1 is well worth your time and a night that showed how the show must go on and what some of the current stars can accomplish. Bianca and Sasha delivered a classic in my eyes and the match of the weekend. WrestleMania 37 is as 50/50 as it gets! Maybe in time, I’ll go back to some of this more level-headed and less emotional in the face of great expectations I had going in, but after Mania last year I was left feeling happy and grateful for Mania, after last night I just felt fed up, deflated following Saturday’s boost and hype and overall ready to for some sleep, which was kind of a gut punch to be truthful.
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