By Jason PowellProWrestling.net Editor (Forrestlingnet)
WrestleMania 38 Night One Hit
For Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Bellayer’s Women’s Championship: My choice for the best match of the night. With this match the show enters another gear and it sets the pace for the rest of the show. There were several clunky moments, but it was a good, dramatic match with the strong work of both wrestlers. Since returning to SummerSlam, Lynch has taken his game to a whole new level. I still feel that coming back as a baby face would be more profitable for her and the company, but she has embraced the heel personality and is doing great. When Lynch left as a ring general, Bellaire held on to the end of his match. The moment never seems too big for Bellaire even though she has only been on the main list for two years this week. These two wrestlers have really special talent and I hope it will be a long-term rivalry that they will continue to revisit at the right time in the years to come.
Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins: A real WrestleMania moment. Much like CM Punk’s return to AEW, everyone knew it was coming and yet it was a joy to see it happen. It was great to see Rhodes bring his “American Nightmare” personality to the WWE. I’ve never been crazy about Cody’s entrance theme and yet it was a pleasant surprise to hear. The actual match was very good and was equal to the match of Lynch vs Bellaire. I can’t argue with anyone who liked this match even though I liked the Raw Women’s Championship match a little more. Whichever way you lean, it was obviously a hell of a night for Rollins and Lynch’s husband and wife team, even though they both suffered. As much as the match was fun, I’m actually looking forward to Cody’s first promotion. There’s nothing to say about Cody’s return run in the WWE, but he’s made a great start and promises to be a fun and exciting journey.
Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens No Holds Barred match: I give a lot of credit to WWE officials. If you were to tell me that Austin was going to be a real match, I thought it was a mistake not to advertise in advance. But they listed it as a talk show segment and then immediately made the perfect match by matching the style. Fans left Austin in anticipation of hitting a few stunners and drinking a lot of beer. They didn’t spend weeks setting their expectations too high for an Austin match, and so when they got it they were thrilled to see it and felt like he and company had delivered extra. Austin looked pretty good for a 57-year-old man who hasn’t played a real match in 19 years. He was obviously in great cardio shape, as he got better as the fight went on. Owens main props. He was responsible for the vast majority of the build and gave us a few great off weeks with the heat for the Austin entrance spoof and home-to-home promotion. Owens has his doubts wherever he has gone and yet he has always achieved more and won over the masses. It was a huge moment for him and more than he had achieved.
Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousse for the SmackDown Women’s Championship: This seems to be the polarizing match of the night. I really enjoyed it. It was occasionally physical and perfectly agile and they made really good plays around potential pins and deposits. I understand the frustration with a ref bump finish at WrestleMania, but I actually like the idea of expanding the controversy and creating the need for a rematch. The live crowd didn’t rally behind Rousey like the other babyfaces on the show, so it’s not like the public was worried about seeing him win this championship. Rather, it felt like a predetermined conclusion that he would win, so the result really surprised me. Fans did not launch Rousey and working with Flair was helpful in that regard. Whenever this feud comes to an end, Rousseau would lean towards his normal heel charisma. He made it clear that he was bitter with the fans for introducing him before him. Why not embrace that with a heel turn?
Ray Mysterio and Dominic Mysterio vs. Miz and Logan Paul: A fun match with somewhat amazing results. Of course, the celebrities were booked to win their WWE match, but everything about the build was set up for Paul to take a double 619, so it looked like it would take Mysterios forward. We got to that place, but then Miz recklessly throws Dom into Ray to break the pin. The match wasn’t set for Paul to impress anyone like Bad Bunny last year, but he did a really good job at what he was asked to do. Looks like Miz will take Paul back for something more after taking him to the amazing post match Skull Crushing Final. The only problem with launching Ms. Paul is that it seems to have mistaken one of the Paul brothers’ nuclear heat generators for the role of a child’s mouth.
Drew McIntyre vs. Happy Corbin: McIntyre certainly deserved a big WrestleMania moment. There is nothing wrong with matching WrestleMania with Baron Corbin, but there is something wrong with matching WrestleMania with Happy Corbin. Happy and Madcap gimmicks are brutal. Fortunately, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel now that Corbin is showing signs of frustration with Madcap, which means at least one of these guys should get away with this nonsense. Despite the gimmick problems, they worked in a quality match and strengthening McIntyre was the right call. Hopefully McIntyre is in a much better place and the camp at WrestleMania 39 is not going to carry a huge sword.
Jimmy Uso and Jay Uso vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Bugs for the SmackDown tag title: More than average than hit or miss. The match was good for survival and it seems to be heating up when the Bugs are unfortunately injured. He had a knee injury before and for a moment I thought it might be a planned place, but then it became clear that others were discussing plans for a new finish. All things considered, they handled it well. Here’s to wishing Bugs well for his recovery. However, why did they take him back instead of putting him on a stretcher? Perhaps there is a better explanation. If so, it would be nice if they could share it with the broadcast team.
WrestleMania 38 Night One Miss
None: WrestleMania Night One was a great show. Commercial and video package counts were much higher. Gable Stevenson’s shirt was weird in general. The performance of Brantley Gilbert’s “America the Beautiful” was the worst I could remember hearing at a WrestleMania event. Those ads and videos must have been annoying (although selfishly making it an easy show to cover), other things were trivial and none of them were enough to bring this show down a notch. The Night One looked better on paper, but there are plenty of choices about the Night to Lineup and hopefully it can deliver at the same high level. To close with a good old-fashioned negative note, the kickoff show was a waste of two hours and I’m groaning at the thought of sitting round two today. What’s even more frustrating about the two-hour pre-show without a match is that they actually cut Coffee Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. Sheamus and Ridge Holland off the main card due to timing issues.