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After all the hype, the talk, the endless promotion and more uses of the word “stupendous” than I thought humanly possible on weeks of WWE programming. We are here. At the gates of the show of shows. This is what it’s all about. This is the grandaddy of them all. This is WrestleMania! Please god let it deliver more than last year. Anyway, here goes for this two-night showcase of the immortals….wonder if The Iron Shiek has got to the ring yet? (Not many of you may get that gag!).
Night #1 – WrestleMania Saturday
We open up with “America the Beautiful”, performed by Bradley Gilbert (insert the “I’m at a loss” Harry Hill TV burp GIF here) on this year’s grand WrestleMania stage. WWE really do some of their best work with these Mania stages, I miss the days when every PPV (sorry, Premium Live Event) looked and felt so distinctive.
The opening video package is presented by Mark Wahlberg, who does a pretty good job of presenting us the night ahead. I think this was in aid of Father Stu’s release if memory serves.
And kicking us off are the world famous Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders performing to AC/DC much to the delight of the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. Which leads us neatly on to our rocking opening match…
1. WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships
Rick Boogs and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jimmy and Hey Uso (c)
Thank the maker that Pat McAfee and Michael Cole are still together commentating this weekend, despite Pat being in action on Night #2. Rick Boogs and Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance was red hot as always, especially with a hyped up capacity crowd like this, and I was rooting them on here. The match started well enough but sadly this one did not amount to much due to an unfortunate legitimate knee injury suffered by Boogs just as things were getting going, which led to a quicker finish as Shinsuke fought the odds for a bit, ultimately losing out to the champs The Usos, who retained their belts thanks to their version of the 3D (renamed the 1D) finisher. An unfortunate start to the show that was made doubly so by how bad we all felt for Boogs here, in what should have been a huge moment for him.
2. Happy Corbin w/Madcap Moss vs. Drew McIntyre
After the show’s sad start, who’d have thought Happy Corbin vs. Drew McIntyre would get things back on track. I have been vocal of this feud ahead of Mania and how it felt like a waste of Drew’s time but I hold my hands up and say that this match way overdelivered. It was no show stealer, but the crowd were insane for Drew to end Corbin’s winning streak, in what was possibly Corbin’s best ever match. Drew got a hell of a moment as he became the first person to ever kick out of Corbin’s surprisingly protected End of Days finisher, which was well reacted to by Corbin. Who ultimately fell victim to a Claymore and a loss at the hands of the Scottish Warrior. In a fun match that did precisely what it should and very well at that. Afterwards, Drew took a swing at Andre the Giant Memorial Trophy winner Madcap Moss (who earlier on inadvertently momentarily distracted his happy chum) with his sword Angela and cut the ring ropes in half. Ring crew must be thrilled! Is it bad that Moss is growing on?
3. Dominik and Rey Mysterio vs. Logan Paul and The Miz
The Miz could be on the verge of a new streak, as the go to celebrity match guy! Needless to say expectations weren’t exactly sky high for this tag match and while this was no Bad Bunny breakout jaw dropper, I rather enjoyed it. Logan Paul came out with a priceless Pokemon card round his neck (as Alan Partridge would reassuringly say, “not sure why, but he’s now showing off”) and in some extravagant ring gear, in fact everyone had pretty fancy threads here (nice Eddie Guerrero homage by Dominik too). The match started out well, with the heels working the crowd well and Rey Mysterio especially getting the crowd’s love. Paul got monster – and I mean MONSTER – heat when he started doing Eddie’s three amigos suplexes, taunts and – blasphemy- the frog splash, as he hung in there with the action and showed he’s a natural heel. In the end though, The Miz was the one who snatched victory, hitting a Skull Crushing Finale on an unsuspecting Rey for the win. Afterwards he turned on Paul too, which I didn’t see coming. Not always slick but a fun celebrity-infused tag encounter, with great effort by all.
4. WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair
This was a spectacle from the off, as Becky Lynch made her entrance from a car, with a new look akin to Blade Runner’s Pris and with a Marvel-esque Big Time Becks ident that was pretty cool. Not to be outdone, Bianca Belair was played to the ring by the marching band TSU’s (Texas Southern University) “Ocean of Souls”, to which Corey Graves said “what the hell is this?”. That guy really grinds my gears as Peter Griffin would say, I know he’s meant to be a D-Bag but crikey he abuses the privilege. Anyway, after that initial entrance sparkle, this Raw women’s title match kept the fireworks coming, with an athletic display some are quite rightly calling a match of the year candidate. After a SummerSlam referencing fakeout start (which genuinely had me believing it for a minute there), this just kept on going with the high stakes drama. True unpredictable, edge of seat excellence that was absolutely brilliant from start to finish. Either woman could have conceivably won here and Big Time Becks very nearly kept her gold, before falling victim to the EST’s KOD finisher for the three count. Belair is the new champ! What a damn match!
5. Seth Rollin’s vs. A Mystery Opponent of Mr. McMahon’s Choosing
Seth Rollins makes a Capella entrance, wearing flamboyant gear that will have a certain Macho Man smiling somewhere! “Oh yeah!” Anyway, once the drip god got settled in the ring waiting for his opponent to be announced the time was upon us. We’ve heard the rumours over the weeks, days and hours. Would it be Undertaker? Would it be The Fiend Bray Wyatt? By christ it isn’t Shane McMahon is it? Nope. It is, who it always should have been. The lights go out, the pyro sets off, the speakers echo with the line “wrestling has more than one royal family”…And out comes Cody Rhodes! The rumours are true. He’s here, with Downstait’s “Kingdom” as his theme and in full “American Nightmare” mode. Cody is back and he is all WWE! Seriously though, credit where it’s due to WWE for keeping everything he has built these years he has been away (not wrestling at all according to commentary, yeah…right.) and credit to Cody for leaving and making himself the megastar he said he could be.
And then, there’s the match itself! Cody vs. Seth could rarely disappoint in any multiverse but at this moment, on this grand stage, this was phenomenal stuff. This was sensationally done in every respect. This match was a showstealer, that told a story looking backwards, forwards and in the moment. As Seth asserted his sense of superiority, and Cody shook off the past of Stardust, tipped his hat to his older brother and his late great dad, in a heart in mouth, emotional, slice of pro wrestling brilliance. Over 20+ glorious minutes, these two put on a high flying, technical and hair-raising show, that was a bruising (literally) gut check, that saw Seth push hard to ruin Rhodes’ comeback but he couldn’t as Cody hit a triple Crossrhodes, inter-cut by a flipping flopping Bionic Elbow, for the triumphant win. What a match and moment, welcome back Cody.
The Hall of Fame Class of 2022 were represented onstage, with The Steiner Brothers, Queen Sharmell and the respective families of Vader and Warrior Award Recipient Shad Gaspard, all there to soak in the crowd’s respect. And then. the gong hit. The lights went out. The flames rose and out came this year’s HOF headliner Mark ‘The Undertaker’ Calaway looking dapper in his suit to wave to the loud and passionate crowd. A great moment.
Michael Cole tells us all that Rick Boogs will need surgery on his quadricep patellar tendon. Get well soon big man.
6. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ronda Rousey
Remembering Survivor Series 2018, and the great match Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair had back then, I expected great things from this one. Sadly, while this was still a scrappy and physical affair, it was far outshone by many other matches on the card this evening and the iffy finish did not really help matters. As “Lil’ Naitch” referee Charles Robinson was knocked unconscious (well WWE Ref unconscious that is), missing Charlotte tapping out, Ronda attempts to revive him and Charlotte sneaks the win with a running big boot. This filled its near 20 minute time decently enough, with submission based offence and reversals and whatnot but felt less impressive considering the expectations, and there were a few untidy moments, punctuated by a pretty bog standard “let’s continue this feud” finish working against it. It was decent but not all that impressive surprisingly.
THE KO SHOW with Stone Cold Steve Austin
Say it ain’t so, an interview segment is headlining WrestleMania?! Mind you, when you see who is involved it’s understandable. For weeks Kevin Owens has been running down the state of Texas and its biggest representative in the Texas Rattlesnake. The build was great and Owens has done stellar work proving why he’s one of WWE’s best, even if this all felt like it should have probably been a match. Anyway, Owens continued to wind up the crowd, before the glass shattered and out came Stone Cold Steve Austin to one hell of an ear-tearing pop, and on his trusty 4X4. The two exchange words, as Owens appears to have a calmer mindset in the face of a reliably un-PG Steve Austin. And then, he says it, he didn’t invite Austin out here for a chat but for a fight. In fact, A MATCH! A NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH! Austin asked the crowd as only he can, and out came a referee and the bell sounded…Holy shi…
7. No Holds Barred Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens
19 years since he last wrestled a match, and here we are, Stone Cold back in a WWE ring to compete. A day I can safely say I never thought would come. I’ll admit, I expected a The Rock-style WrestleMania 32 squash here but I could not be more wrong. This was indeed a match. An Attitude Era throwback brawl that saw a clearly ecstatic Owens main event Mania with one of his heroes! Austin shook off any rust in seconds, as he unleashed some trademark brawling stomps and shots and even weapons moments, all whilst chugging on a few cans of beer. Then, fighting Owens into the electric crowd, and he even took a suplex onto the concrete! Austin is bumping in 2022! Oh my days. They fought back ringside before Austin hilariously took KO on a 4X4 ride up the ramp, where there were ramp suplexes and brawling before the match led back to ring. Owens nearly got the victory too, hitting the beer-swillng Rattlesnake with his own Stunner but the self professed “big, beautiful French Canadian bastard” made a big mistake, swinging a chair, missing and it bounced off the top rope and hit him in the noggin’, one Stone Cold Stunner later and it was over. More beers were chugged, Owens was hit with another stunner and led away by Texas law enforcement. Even Byron Saxton (no, Byron, No!! Hope you have a cup this time.) got in there and received a stunner to send the crowd home happy in a beer drenched celebration. Crikey, how many did Steve have? At least 12 I’d say!
This was just WrestleMania magic. At 57 years old, Stone Cold became the oldest guy to main event a Mania and looked darn good doing it. This was not just a proper match, it was a proper main event. I feel so great for Owens, who proved he is one of the finest in WWE and made this match what it was, special. That young lad who once took a photo with Austin as a fan, could never have imagined he’d be here all these years later. Nearly two decades after losing to The Rock at WrestleMania XIX, Austin has still got it, and that’s why he is very much one of the greats. I had a smile on my face from start to finish, this really was awesome. For 15 minutes, I was taken back to my childhood, by two incredible performers who deserved every moment of this soon to be classic main event spot. Incredible to witness, what an end to a great show.
In summary, Night #1 was a marvellous evening of Mania moments and magic. Belair/Lynch, Cody/Seth and Austin/Owens will go down as all time great Mania matches on a show that sets an incredibly high bar for Night #2. Oh Hell Yeah!
Night # 2 – WrestleMania Sunday
On the Kick-off the announce that the Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. Sheamus and Ridge Holland match originally intended for Night #1, will indeed take place tonight on Night #2. As well as doing seemingly endless hypes and re-caps, in fact this is something they did all Night #1 and Night #2. Seriously WWE, no need for so many.
The night opens with “America the Beautiful” this time by another acclaimed award showered star I have never heard of in Jessie James Decker, crikey I must be getting old.
Mark Wahlberg returns again for another video package bigging up Night #2 as a sequel just as good as the original, that’s quite a promise, in another cool opening video package.
Motörhead kicks in, as Triple H makes his entrance one last time to say thank you to the WWE Universe and cement his recent retirement news by leaving his boots in the ring. Thank You Game for everything, and it was great he received this moment to put the final stamp on a legendary career and at the stage he was apart of so many memorable years.
8. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Match
RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle) (c) vs. The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) vs. The Alpha Academy (Chad Gable and Otis)
This was an awesome opener, that started Night #2 far better than Night #1 and the crowd were scorching hot for every single minute of it. Every man from every team got a chance to stand out, and on a personal note, I am so glad to see Chad Gable FINALLY get a spotlight with his great work in the Alpha Academy. Back to the match though, all the teams got major moves and moments in, and it went at a right old lick. Montez Ford is a marvellous athlete and unleashed some truly high flying manoeuvres here. In the end though the trusty “RKO Outta Nowhere” reclaimed the belts for the RK-Bros. First with a top rope RKO by Riddle, and a mid-air RKO by the seemingly ageless veteran Randy Orton, who celebrated Mania No. 18 with a win! Afterwards RK-Bro and The Street Profits brought in Olympic gold medallist and soon to be WWE Superstar Gable Steveson from ringside to do a red solo cup Mania toast with them, until the other Gable, Chad got a bit big for his britches and was almost suplexed out of them by Steveson in return! It’ll be interesting to see if this lad can make it big when he arrives, mind you Kurt Angle casts a mighty impressive shadow for all medallists in WWE.
9. Bobby Lashley vs. Omos
This one was never going to be a mat classic but for what it was, it was actually an entertaining battle of monsters, as the Almighty took the fight to the Golliath, in a match that did not overstay its welcome. Bobby Lashley obviously carried things from an in-ring standpoint and while it was not exactly neat (that turnbuckle post head bump in the corner was scary), it did precisely what it needed to and kept the crowd on board! Short, to the point, old school battle of man monsters. Side note: that fan’s ‘Meltzer fears facts’ sign, made me laugh out loud! Lovely stuff. There have been some great signs this last two nights!
10. Anything Goes Match
Sami Zayn vs. Johnny Knoxville
I am so glad McAfee is still calling action tonight! And he and Cole seemed to enjoy this one as much as the crowd and I did. I give major credit to Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville for turning what could have been a throwaway celebrity match into a really fun well built feud in the week’s leading up, and Sami’s character work was tremendous. Now, how do I describe this Anything Goes match? Crazy, ingenious, ridiculous and just absurdly entertaining. This was sports entertainment for sure, with Johnny in his ridiculous goggled wrestler gear (and with one hell of a good ring announcer’s intro), original spots and even some standout match run-ins by Jackass regulars Party Boy and Wee Man, who got in on the actual action too! Bowling balls to the nuts, hydraulic hands in the face, a groin kick machine, a rat-trap coated table, this was sheer mad scientist wrestling insanity, and Zayn sold it all beautifully, as Knoxville also took some gutsy blows. The match ended with Knoxville covering Sami for the win, as Zayn was held down by a humungous mouse trap mechanism. I had a ball with this Looney Tunes come to life inventive and anarchic slice of entertainment! When wrestling meets Home Alone! Hilarious and just excellent. Zayn is such a pro.
11. WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Fatal-4-Way Match
Carmella and Queen Zelina (c) vs. Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan vs. Shayna Baszler and Natalya vs. Sasha Banks and Naomi
Surely tonight was the night Sasha Banks’ WrestleMania losing streak came to an end right? Right? Well….yes of course it was. Her and Naomi were rightly the winners of this competitive four way, and they even entered like champs in an automobile, mind you I appreciated Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley’s The Batman themed entrance gear too (which clearly went over Corey Graves’ head! Sigh.). This was a fun, fast paced and exciting fatal-4-way tag, with great wrestling and some eye-opening multi-woman moves from all these talented women. And thank you Banks/Naomi for shutting Graves up about his bloody bride to be! Finally!
12. Edge vs. AJ Styles
We were all expecting a show stealer here and that can be a dangerous thing (see AJ Styles and Nakamura in 2018) but despite what the stuffy internet says, I thought this was the best wrestling match of Night #2. AJ Styles was oddly bleeding on the way to the ring but I soon forgot about that when Edge (in his new Ministry of Darkness meets Aleister Black deranged overlord character) made his amazing fiery throne entrance with that kick ass new Alter Bridge theme “The Other Side”, and nice gear homaging both The Undertaker and Kane. Edge vs. Styles may divide some opinions but I thought it was a utterly fantastic match. A methodical battle of two veterans breaking each other down until one could not get back up. Was it slower paced? Yeah, but that was the point, plus both men are nearly 50 for goodness sakes and are still capable of turning the heat up like this. How about a bit of respect? It was back and forth and engaging, despite the crowd’s unfortunate disinterest, that ended with a great new faction tease at the end, with Damian Priest distracting AJ for a mid-air Spear and win for Edge. Superb stuff in my book.
13. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. Sheamus and Ridge Holland w/Butch
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were wearing Big E styled gear, which was a great tribute to their friend. Get well soon big man! Sadly this one was nothing to write home about, as Sheamus and Yorkshire’s own Ridge Holland got the quick win after a very fast paced, largely outside the ring scuffle. As Pete Dun…I mean Butch was the MVP of the match despite being not legally in it. Holland got the quick win with Northern Grit. Not sure this was the right place for this, after that New Day tribute, or at least make it 2-on-3 to save face, but I was glad to see the Englishmen and the Celtic Warrior get a moment, as brief and, just, ‘there’ as it was.
The Hall Of Fame 2022 class is celebrated again briefly, as Undertaker comes out on stage to say thank you again to the fans. He can do this two nights if he wants, he’s earned the time! No superstar has meant more to me as a fan. He is the greatest ever in WWE, and “Never say never” notwithstanding, if this is it. Thank you Deadman for being there. Undertaker was there when my mum watched when she was pregnant. He was there when I became a fan. There through High school. A-Level. Uni. Work. The good times and especially the worst. There will never be another. What an incredible character and man. #ThankYouTaker
14. Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory w/ Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon came out to introduce his protege Austin Theory, and stuck around at ringside to watch him take on McAfee, who came out to The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” alongside the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders for a pretty great entrance, and that predated what was to follow over the next 40+ minutes rather well really. An absolute show, as McAfee lived about 4 dreams in one night. First, this match delivered. It was a good story of a cocky upstart picking a fight with someone who had a few tricks up his sleeve. McAfee pulled out some jaw-dropping Shelton Benjamin style moves, as Cole was on fire at commentary, he clearly loves working with Pat so much. Eventually McAfee would reverse Austin’s finisher and get the roll up win over a too confidant for his own good Theory!
After the match, McAfee celebrated, as McMahon disapprovingly told off his protege, then McAfee must have irked ‘The Boss’, as the jacket came off and the 76 year-old (physically impressive it must be said) WWE Chairman got in the ring, and a bell rang. Wait? What?
15. Pat McAfee vs. Vince McMahon w/ Austin Theory
Yes ladies and gentleman, in 2022 we saw Vince wrestle a match, downing McAfee (after early interference from Theory) with clotheslines, before Theory tipped the balance again and McMahon covered McAfee for the cheap win after kicking an American football square in McAfee’s mush! At 76, Vince finally got a Mania win! He’s 1-4! You crazy ‘ol S.O.B! And then…Glass Shatter!!!! OUT COMES STONE COLD to the elation of the crowd and the horror of Vince. Steve lays out Theory with a stunner, that Theory sold like an absolute champ. The Chairman reasons with The Rattlesnake (that’s never worked Vince c’mon) , who offers to share a beer with him…this can’t end well. And after tasting it like a fine wine, Vince guzzled it down and….of course got one last stunner from his old nemesis, in what had to be the worst stunner ever taken. Folks, it finally happened, we finally have a worse stunner than Linda McMahon’s in 2005! But by god, what would a stunner to Vince be if it wasn’t a terrible sell, haha! Even Austin laughed his arse off as Vince stumbled about like a drunk man outside your local and went down like a sack of s**t. What a moment. Out came the beers, as McAfee celebrated with Austin and was nailed with a sweetly sold stunner himself! Oh Stone Cold, it has been a blast this weekend it really has, never change! Drew McIntyre described all this on Twitter as a fever dream, and it was in the best possible way. A glorious throwback to the madness of previous eras, and McAfee was a star through it all, especially that shot of him half knocked out on the floor on his back still attempting to celebrate with a beer! Gold! This was just ridiculous and hilarious stuff!
16. Winner Takes All WWE Championship and WWE Universal Championship Unification Match
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman
I was not into the whole idea of WM Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns III but Lesnar has never been better character wise and after this last two days, who the hell knows what’ll happen. Let’s hope it’s more WM31 and less WM34. No special entrances here, we were down to business and business went down precisely as expected! Death. Taxes. Reigns wins. Seriously though, this was ok I suppose but utterly bland, especially after what we have seen this Mania. “Biggest WrestleMania Match of All Time”, it wasn’t even the biggest of WrestleMania 38! And this one could have done with someone coming out at the end but we’ve had a lot of that this last two days, so they probably opted to give Reigns his moment because he really doesn’t get too many does he? Sorry guys, The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven still holds the title of Biggest Match in WrestleMania History. Any-who, we have a new undisputed WWE Universal champion, at this rate they’ll have Roman break Bruno Sammartino’s record.
In summary, Night #2 was less stellar than the first all round and ended with a damp squib but thanks to some highly engaging madness from McAfee, Theory, Stone Cold and Vince, a terrific Edge/AJ, standout multi-tags and a crazily ingeniously fun Sami/Knoxville, this night had its Mania moments for certain.
Overall, WrestleMania 38 was a brilliant two-night show that celebrated past, present and future. There were major talking points that will be remembered for years to come and highly entertaining scenes that were as crazy as they were thrilling. Despite all the fears of a Wrestle-meh-nia, WM38 was pretty damn amazing and I’ll fondly recall this two-night ride. Unlike last year, where Night #2 left me feeling like I should quit watching wrestling altogether, this year left me feeling energised for hopefully more to come in 2022. PPV (sorry Premium Live Event, I keep doing that) of 2022 to beat!