WrestleMania 38 recap & reactions (Sunday): Acknowledge him


Guess who’s back? WrestleMania! Welcome to night two of the greatest show on earth. Will it reach the heights of night one? I’ll tell you my thoughts on one condition: Check Claire’s play-by-play blog first then come back here.

Done?

Let’s talk WrestleMania…again!


Your Winner, and Undisputed Champion…

Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar put on a Goliath vs. Goliath match. What’s that, you ask? It’s when two cats, who are basically built up as gods on earth, wrestle each other with nothing but big moves. Brock and Roman were never giving us what AJ Styles and Edge did earlier.

This was always going to be about multiple spears, multiple Superman Punches, and pretty much multiple of anything that easily finishes any other wrestler on the roster.

That much was made clear early on when Brock literally took Roman’s best shots and kept getting up. Not only did the Superman Punches not phase him, but he found them hilarious. Brock wasn’t laughing when he took a spear through the barricade early, but he did survive, although with a pair of hurt ribs.

Throughout the match, even when he took Reigns to Suplex City several times over, Brock held those ribs and winced. Reigns came with more spears and Brock kept getting up. But more importantly, he kept wincing.

Reigns went to the well of spears (sounds like something from Raiders of the Lost Ark) another time but Brock caught him in the Kimura Lock.

And here’s where the match gets a little weird.

Reigns is in the lock for what feels like eons while Brock is turning purple. Reigns gets the ropes, Brock finally relents, and winces again as he stands. While the ref is keeping the Beast at bay, Reigns is repeatedly yelling to Paul Heyman “it’s out” referring to his shoulder. So, we got Reigns with a hurt shoulder and Brock with hurt ribs. Okay, now we can really get st…

Or so I thought. Reigns stood to his feet, Brock went for another F5, Reigns escaped, hit another spear, and that was all she wrote.

It was over just like that. In movie terms, this was all act one. Right when it looked like act two was upon us, the credits rolled. It was abrupt and a bit of a shock. Maybe that’s what they were going for because Michael Cole mentioned how quickly Reigns ended this thing and sent everyone home.

As it stands, the match was fine. It didn’t put a damper on the night at all but it lacked the things necessary to put it over the top. Brock is rarely the type to take anything laying down, so I’m curious if this is the end to this saga or just another chapter.

For now? Acknowledge your Undisputed champion. Even if he earned that title in an unsatisfying fashion.


Sudden Death Tag

The triple threat tag between The Street Profits, Alpha Academy, and RK-Bro lived up to the hype. Well, specifically, my personal hype for the match.

To differentiate it from their past encounters, WWE framed it as “sudden death.” That meant the action was the opposite of slow and placid. Rather than the normal game of “anything you can do I can do better” the teams went with “who can get the job done the earliest and fastest?” This led to a ring-clearing brawl, each team getting tossed out of the ring, and of course, Montez Ford playing Superman by leaping over the turnbuckle to collide with the wrestlers outside of the ring. While Chad didn’t quite top that, his Moonsault to everyone was still a cool visual and illustrated the sense of urgency each man felt.

Riddle, as per usual, was the whipping boy. Otis, as per usual, was the great equalizer. Nom scratch that, Otis was the greatest equalizer.

The breakneck pace made it hard for any team to capture any momentum. Meaning it came down to the first mistake. Unfortunately, neither the Profits of the Street or the Alphas understood this going in and they paid the price.

Montez, with Randy Orton square in his sights, went to the top rope to finish the match. But he forgot about Riddle on the outside. Randy’s partner nailed Tez with a top rope RKO. If that wasn’t enough, Chad Gable took to the skies as well—copying Montez again—and flew head first into an RKO from Randy.

RK-Bro are still your tag team champs!

But then the post-match happened. The Profits hit the ring, solo cups in hand, apparently as peace offerings for RK-Bro. I thought we were getting a heel turn. I want us to get a heel turn. And maybe we will, but not at the stupendous WrestleMania. Instead, the Profits invited Gable Steveson to the ring to partake in the solo cup concoction.

Chad Gable interfered and, since you know wrestling, it’s easy to tell what happened from there. One thing led to another and Gable suplexed Chad into another zip code. And this is Texas; these aren’t small cities.

While it wasn’t the ending I hoped for, this was a hell of a match and a great way to kickoff WrestleMania Sunday.


Boss x Glow Connection

There was a moment during this very good triple threat Women’s Tag Team Championship match that reset the field. Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley realized each of their opponents were on adjacent top ropes. Both women took hold of a body, and proceeded to do the superplex/powerbomb spot that never gets old. Up until this point, this was the story of a very even matchup with each team getting their moment in the sun. After Liv and Rhea put everyone on the mat, the match found it’s true story: Why Sasha Banks & Naomi are a better team than Carmella & Queen Zelina.

The beauty of this type of match is anyone can tag in at any given moment without tagging their own partner. But one team kept it a family affair, for the most part, and that was Sasha and Naomi. They utilized quick tags to each other, ensuring the best seal of freshness this side of Ziploc. Sasha and Naomi found a rhythm while the tag champs only found frustration.

Carmella’s offensive fury wasn’t enough to keep Naomi down. Zelina was no match for Sasha. Despite the number of times it looked like The Boss and Naomi had the titles in hand, they never lost their composure. Not even once. They simply adapted on the fly.

Carmella kicks out of Sasha’s Frog Splash? Cool, no problem. Regroup. Zelina saves her partner from the Bank Statement? Also cool. There was never a moment where Sasha and Naomi were over their heads, while the champs—and every other team—couldn’t keep it together.

Fittingly, the Boss and Glow connect used a double team finisher that’s part of what Naomi does best and part of what Sasha does best. All Carmella could do was look up at the lights while the ref counted to three, and we have new tag champs.

Fun match with a great story, along with Sasha Banks finally getting a WrestleMania win.


The New Stable of Omnipotence

Edge and AJ Styles put on, shocker, a really good match. This was a tale of psychology: Edge’s bum knee vs. AJ’s separated shoulder. But before we even go there, let’s talk about the entrances. AJ stepped to the ring already bleeding—Cody is jealous somewhere—while Edge rose through the floor on his Throne of Omnipotence, perched on his Mountain of Omnipotence surrounded by rings of fire.

Two thumbs way up, Edge.

The match lived up that pomp and circumstance as both men felt each other out in the early goings. It’s always a nice touch when great veterans start off basically wrestling to a draw. It lets us all know they both did their homework, they’re evenly matched, and truly need to find another level to get the job done.

And the match played out just like that. AJ using one arm constantly bit him in the ass. His Torture Rack Bomb? Great with two hands, merely okay with one. The Styles Clash? Really hard to lift someone with one arm and AJ tried twice to no avail. Even if Styles’ attacks weren’t as effective as normal, they did make a dent.

Edge played the role of the exhausted veteran who just wanted to hold on long enough. His Edge-O-Matic didn’t put Styles away, nor did his multiple STF and Crossface attempts.

Eventually, AJ had Edge right where he wanted him. When the Phenomenal One loaded up for another Phenomenal Forearm attempt, someone caught his eye. that someone was Damian Priest, who apparently developed teleportation powers because I refuse to believe a man that size can move that quietly and unnoticed. But, okay, sure, he appeared out of nowhere, dressed in all black like his namesake.

That split second hesitation was the mistake Edge needed to see. Once AJ went airborne, Edge met him with a spear in mid-air.

The bell went ding, Edge got the W, and Damian Priest joined his new partner (leader?) in the ring for a maniacal laugh session.

Edge and AJ told one of those epics that you either love or love to hate. Or merely like. I like them a lot, even if it felt out of place on this particular show. WrestleMania Saturday and Sunday was anything but methodically paced. Edge and AJ provided a different flavor tonight with a huge development at the story’s conclusion. I dig it.


Extracurriculars

McMahon Two for One

Pat McAfee put on a show during his match with Austin Theory. A hell of a show, actually. Pat showed agility, dexterity, and a natural ability at this thing called wrestling. And that other thing called sports entertaining. Pat caught Austin off guard and picked up the W on a roll up.

Done, right? Match over, we can all move on to the next thing.

Nope!

There was a rumor many moons ago about Vince McMahon wrestling Pat McAfee and I remember thinking that was silly. Then it happened, and yes, it was silly. The old man took umbrage with his protege losing and with Pat gloating. Vince took off his jacket, hit the ring, and “beat up” Pat McAfee. The funniest moment was Vince punting a football into Pat’s chest for the W.

Oh, but that wasn’t it!

With Vince gloating and celebrating in the ring with Theory, we all knew what was coming. There’s no way WWE passes up an opportunity to get Austin and McMahon back in the ring together. In another moment of hilarity, Vince flinched to the wrong music cue. He, like so many apparently, don’t know Austin Theory’s theme music.

But then the glass broke and Vince knew what time it was. Austin went to the ring, stunned Theory, drank a beer with Vince, stunned him, and then drank a beer with Pat. Oh, and then stunned Pat too just because DTA is a thing.

It was, dare I say, stupendous.

Austin is magic. Not like rabbit out of the hat magic or saw a woman in half magic, either. There will never be another like him in pro wrestling. I don’t care how many people we designate as “stars” or “the next big thing.” Not a single soul will ever reach the heights of Stone Cold Steve Austin. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Austin is the biggest star in any pro wrestling arena he walks into. And that includes arenas occupied by Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.

The All Mighty Suplex

Bobby Lashley is the first man to pin Omos. That’s a big deal. An even bigger deal is that he suplexed the big man. I wondered how they planned to top Lashley getting the big man off of his feet like he did on the most recent episode of Raw. Well, a vertical suplex will do it.

It wasn’t the best match but seeing Lashley do the unthinkable, and watching the build up to the moment, was great.

Welcome to the Trap

Real talk: If you weren’t entertained by what Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville did in that wrestling ring, I don’t know what to tell you. Pontius showed up and showed his ass. Wee Man bodyslammed—yes, you read that correctly—Sami. Sami suffered multiple strikes to the gonads, got slapped in the face by a gigantic baby powder-less hand, and, in the end, was beaten with the help of the biggest mouse trap in history.

Welcome to the trap, Sami.

This was great. It was exactly what it needed to be and overdelivered. Props to you, Johnny Knoxville.

I pray I never get too old to enjoy someone getting kicked in the balls. That’s a maturity of which I want no parts.

Thanks, HHH

Triple H kicked off the show with one last entrance and left his boots in the ring. Another nice bookend moment on a weekend filled with them for the man formerly known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

For Big E? Sure, Jan

On Saturday, WWE bumped the match between The New Day and the Guy Ritchie Special of Sheamus and Ridge Holland. On WrestleMania Sunday, we got that match.

Nah, we didn’t. We got Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods getting squashed in a match commentary told us was dedicated to Big E.

Let that sink in: They were squashed in a match dedicated to their partner and brother who suffered an actual broken neck a few weeks ago.

And while we’re on the subject, WWE, do us a favor. Stop showing Big E getting his neck broken. I understand using it as a part of your story, which is fine. But you don’t need to show the footage to make the point. It’s weird and gross.

On a night where WWE made so many right moves, this was, by far, a terrible look on multiple fronts.


Another incredible night of professional sports entertainment wrestling. WWE delivered on its STUPENDOUS promise overall, even if night two didn’t quite reach the heights of night one. The best match of the event was on night one and Austin—shock—gave night two a bit more juice. Night two didn’t flow as well as night one and he best matches were the gimmick matches. And then there’s whatever the hell they did with The New Day that was just stupid and wrong.

That said, I’m looking forward to Raw and cannot wait to see what’s coming our way after this phenomenal weekend of wrestling.

Grade: B+

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.