Wow, WrestleMania 38 – Night 1 lived up to the marketing and was a stupendous event. WWE produced two exceptional matches and the return of a legend to cap off the festivities. The bar is set extremely high for Night 2.
The two best matches were Bianca Belair defeating Becky Lynch to become the Raw Women’s Champion and Cody Rhodes making his triumphant return over Seth Rollins. As good as Rhodes/Rollins was, Belair/Lynch was the match of the night.
Belair has now had two show-stealing matches In her first two WrestleMania events against members of the 4 Horsewomen. Lynch more than held up her end, and Belair was on another level, creating a fever-pitch atmosphere.
Fans were mad at WWE for booking Lynch to beat Belair in 27 seconds at SummerSlam last August. That sentiment held for eight months as everyone yearned for Belair to get her win back.
A few more performances like this, and we will have to start calling her Mrs. WrestleMania.
Two months of fierce speculation came to its conclusion as Cody Rhodes returned to WWE as Seth Rollins’ mystery opponent. In an unusual but welcomed move, it was AEW Cody we got on Saturday.
The music, the entrance, the Homelander robe, how he wrestled in the ring, and that infamous neck tattoo plastered all over the place. “The American Nightmare” has arrived; the unaltered presentation made it feel like a multiverse effect where one superhero switched from DC to Marvel.
Typically, the returning mystery opponent wins their match in quick fashion to establish their dominance. We got a competitive match this time around, and it serves Cody and Rollins well.
Cody got to show why he became a big deal in the six years he was away from WWE. Rollins, in the storyline, fought hard for a spot on the card and almost missed out. He got to show how much this WrestleMania moment meant to him by not being outperformed so easily by the returning Rhodes.
Cody came off as a legitimate top star here, and I gained a new appreciation for Seth “Freaking” Rollins.
The KO Show featuring Kevin Owens and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin became an official match-up. Owens revealed Austin’s invite was a trap challenged “The Rattlesnake” to a no holds barred encounter.
Austin said he had his first match in Dallas and will have his last match in Dallas. The bell rang, and the two brawled all over the stadium.
If you judged the match on points, Austin won most of it, but he actually took a few bumps. Including a suplex by Owens on the concrete floor.
That suplex scared me because of Austin’s well-documented neck issues. While Austin didn’t need to take that suplex, it was the most important bump of the match because it told the audience this was not going to be an Austin squash match to protect him, and it was going to be a fight.
Owens hit his Stunner on Austin, which served as the ultimate “Oh no” moment. Austin kicked out and hit Owens with the Stone Cold Stunner for the three count.
This match had a little bit of everything. No one expected a prime Steve Austin, but he looked better than I even expected. Owens finally has a WrestleMania main event and put on a master class on how to take care of and put over your opponent.
Austin and Owens are tremendous entertainers through and through.
Other action saw Charlotte Flair defeat Ronda Rousey to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship in an ill-fated match-up. The original night one main event was put in an unenviable situation by following Lynch/Belair and Rhodes/Rollins.
Charlotte is good, and Rousey can rise to the occasion in big situations. They tried, they really did, but the audience sat on their hands for most of the match. In the end, it was not a bad match, but no one will remember it.
I would have put Charlotte/Ronda on Night 2, so there would have been no immediate expectation to follow Lynch/Belair.
The Usos beat Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Titles in the opening contest. It was a fun outing until Boogs legitimately tore his patella after his right knee gave out trying to carry both Usos on his shoulders.
Things were changed up, and a different finish was conjured up on the fly. It’s a tough break for Boogs, who was getting over and improving in the ring.
Social media star Logan Paul continued the emerging streak of great celebrity performances at WrestleMania. Paul teamed with The Miz and defeated Dominik and Rey Mysterio when Miz pinned Dominik.
The Miz turned Paul after the match with a blindsiding Skull Crushing Finale. Paul looked like a natural in the ring, and Miz appears to be the go-to superstar to work with the celebs.
Logan Paul vs. The Miz at WrestleMania 39?
Drew McIntyre toppled Baron Corbin in a match that exceeded low expectations. McIntyre was the first person to kick out of Corbin’s finisher, End of Days. Corbin is one of those wrestlers that never get his due as a performer, and this win will hopefully position McIntyre in the world title picture.
WrestleMania 38 was a poorly constructed card with an even worse build. Night 1 not only exceeded expectations but blew them entirely out of the water. Honestly, I was good after Night 1 and didn’t need a Night 2 as this was the best WrestleMania card in eight years.