Roman Reigns stands head and shoulders above the rest, getting a rare clean and decisive win over Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Reigns has now unified the Universal and WWE Championship belts -- though they're sure to be split again soon -- and the key question is, what's next now that no one feels like legitimate competition?
WrestleMania 38 Night 2 was, like Night 1 before it, an entertaining show. It wasn't what you'd call a great WrestleMania, as it lacked anything that could become a legendary moment, and it didn't feel like it was building to the future in any significant way. But it was a fun show, featuring some strong wrestling and memorable performances.
The big surprise from the show was an impromptu wrestling match pitting Vince McMahon against Pat McAfee. It was grim, but led to a great segment involving Stone Cold Steve Austin doing his thing. Edge defeated A.J. Styles in a great match, and Randy Orton and Riddle retained their Raw Tag Team Championships in a solid opening bout.
It follows a very good Night 1 of WrestleMania 38, which featured, among other things, Stone Cold Steve Austin returning for a No Holds Barred match against Kevin Owens. It was one of two returns, alongside Cody Rhodes jumping ship from AEW to face Seth Rollins in an outstanding match. The big surprise result was Ronda Rousey losing her match with Charlotte Flair, though in a way that sets up a return match. And a cause for celebration: Bianca Belair is once again women's champion after defeating Becky Lynch.
Roman Reigns defeats Brock Lesnar
This match got real explosive real fast. Lesnar hits three suplexes straight up, then tossed Reigns out of the ring. Lesnar confronts Paul Heyman on the outside, where Reigns spears him through the barricade. Back inside, Reigns hit another Spear for a two count.
From there it was a series of big moves. Reigns blitzed Lesnar with Superman Punches, but Lesnar countered the third one into a German Suplex. He then landed a few more Germans, but Reigns countered one into a Superman Punch. He attempted another Spear, but Lesnar snatched him into an F5 for a two count.
Then came a ref bump, when Reigns tackled Lesnar into the referee. With the ref down, Reigns hit Lesnar with a low blow and then got the title from Heyman and smashed Lesnar with it, a callback to their finish at Crown Jewel last year. Two count. Reigns speared Lesnar from the back -- which actually looked like a botch -- then hit him with another Spear, but Lesnar countered it into a Kimura Lock. Reigns did a great job selling it.
Lesnar hoisted Reigns for another F5, but Reigns pushed off, speared Lesnar and got the win. Reigns beats Lesnar clean in the middle.
Rating: 3.5 stars. It's hard to say this wasn't a disappointment, literally billed as the biggest WrestleMania match of all time, but it was far from even being the best match between Reigns and Lesnar. In fact, this was the shortest of the pair's WrestleMania matches. Length is of course not a proxy for match quality, but this felt less epic than their previous clashes, especially with the abrupt ending.
Now that Reigns has beaten Lesnar clean in the middle of the ring, the question is, what's next?
He's been champion forever, and while WrestleMania did build up some challengers -- Cody Rhodes, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre -- Reigns feels head and shoulders more protected than everyone else. For the second year in a row, WrestleMania ends with Reigns standing tall as champ.
Vince McMahon (!) beats Pat McAfee
Yep, Vinny Mac ripped out of his suit and fought Pat McAfee after McAfee's victory over Austin Theory. McAfee was taunting McMahon and Theory, which led McMahon to get mad and demand McAfee wrestle him. It was bizarre.
As soon as the bell rang, Theory attacked McAfee from behind. McMahon then hit a few weak clotheslines on McMahon and threw him into the turnbuckle. McAfee got back to his feet, but then Theory pulled him by the legs, ramming his groin into the ring post. McMahon then got a football, kicked it into McAfee's gut and pinned him. Super weird.
As weird as it was, though, it wasn't for nothing. As Theory and McMahon celebrated their win, Stone Cold Steve Austin hit the ring. It was a priceless moment: The crowd pop was amazing, as was McMahon's facial reaction.
Austin hit a huge Stunner on Austin Theory, and it was just McMahon and Austin in the ring. Austin asked McMahon if he'd drink a beer with him. You know what happens from here. McMahon takes a drink, eats a Stunner and the crowd goes wild. It was an awkward as hell Stunner, but that didn't dampen the fun.
Austin and McAfee drink beer to celebrate -- until Austin stunned McAfee too.
Rating: Silly match, incredible segment. That Vince McMahon Stunner will live in infamy, probably the last time Austin ever stuns Vince, and it was so hilariously awful. The match between McMahon and McAfee was embarrassing, as McAfee looked like such a chump losing to McMahon and having to sell clotheslines and the like. But McAfee is an announcer and not a wrestler, which makes it slightly easier to eat.
Still, for all the issues here, the Austin-McMahon moment was worth it.
Pat McAfee pins Austin Theory
This was good wrestling. A simple A to B match, but one that the crowd was massively into the whole way through. McAfee won by countering Theory's A-Town Down finisher into a rollup for the 3 count.
After McMahon introduced Theory, the match began with McAfee and Theory exchanging strikes. Theory set up McAfee up for a suplex, but McAfee countered with a suplex of his own -- which got a nice big pop. After Theory got some heat on McAfee, McAfee bumped Theory to the outside, strapped on the announcer's headphones and did some commentating as he beat Theory about. That was fun.
On the inside, McAfee attempted a Swanton Bomb, but Theory dodged it. Theory tried to do a Superplex, but in an impressive athletic display McAfee backflipped off the top rope and landed on his feet. He then sprung to the top rope and hit a suplex of his own. The crowd went ballistic.
McAfee got control back by blasting McAfee with a forearm. This led to the finish, where he attempted to hit his finish but McAfee countered for the win.
Rating: 3.5 stars. The crowd's electricity made this simple, solid match a lot of fun.
Sheamus and Ridge Holland beat The New Day
This match was meant to happen on WrestleMania Night 1, but got cut for time. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods came out in Big E's gear, a tribute to their partner who's recovering from a neck injury.
This was a quick match. Ridge Holland and Sheamus attacked The New Day before the bell rang. The teams brawled outside, including Sheamus' lackey Butch (Pete Dunne). When Kofi and Xavier good back in the ring, the bell finally rang.
The New Day hit a nice flurry of offense on Ridge Holland, then Xavier blasted Sheamus to the outside. Kofi tried to jump off the steps onto Sheamus, but Sheamus took him out with a Brogue Kick. In the ring, Ridge Holland planted Xavier with a Northern Grit for the win.
Rating: 2 stars.
Edge defeats A.J. Styles
Edge and A.J. Styles were put in the "show stealer" spot, alloted plenty of time to deliver a classic. It would be going too far to call this a classic, but it was a great match between two legends. If there's any criticism, it's the ending -- Edge got a spear on A.J. in midair after A.J. was distracted by Damian Priest, who is now aligned with Edge.
Edge's entrance was awesome, rising to the stage in a throne with flames engulfing the background. Styles came out with a dash of blood on his face, which he seemingly got from bumping his head on the stage during his entrance.
Edge worked over Styles' shoulder in the beginning of the match, hitting a wicked shoulder breaker (imagine a tombstone except instead of a piledriver, Edge dropped his knee into Styles shoulder). A.J. went for the 450 Splash early, but Edge got his knees up. Halfway through, there was a great submission exchange where A.J. rolled into a Calf Crusher, but Edge countered it into a crossface.
The last few minutes were great. There was a gnarly spot where A.J. did a suplex from the second rope onto the ring apron. From there he attempted a Phenomenal Forearm, but Edge doged and went for a Spear. A.J. dodged it and hit his Styles Clash, which had been built up all match. A.J. then attempted another Phenomenal Forearm, but was distracted by Damian Priest for a moment. He then went for the move, but got hit with a spear in midair.
Rating: 3.75 stars. Great match with a weak finish.
Sasha Banks and Naomi win tag team titles
Sasha Banks and Naomi are the new Women Tag Team Champions, defeating the teams of Queen Zelina and Carmella, Shayna Bazler and Natalya, and Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley.
This was the ultimate example of performers going out there, taking chicken shit and turning it into chicken salad. Not only was this match thrown together, all of the teams were too. None of them even have team names! Yet despite a makeshift build, all eight women worked super hard and put together a great match.
It'd be useless for me to describe the action here, since this match was in essence a steady flow of big moves. I would normally use that as a criticism, but when you have eight performers, and only one big star among them in Sasha Banks, that's the best way to go. It also worked because the less developed performers like Carmella and Zelina weren't in long enough to have their weaknesses shine through, so everyone looked good and everything looked tight. Lots of creative tandem offense that was fun to watch (and would be impossible to describe).
The best compliment I can give is the simple observation that the crowd wasn't into this match at all to begin with, I'd imagine due to the weak build I mentioned earlier, but by the end they were on their feet.
Rating: 3.5 stars. A pleasant surprise. They should do more with Shayna Baszler, who ruled here.
Johnny Knoxville beat Sami Zayn
This was so stupid, and I loved every minute. I hate the fact that a professional wrestler got beaten by a comedy celebrity, but this was too fun to be mad about. Or rather, if you have a soft spot for Jackass this was fun. If you dislike Jackass, this would be torture, since it was in essence half match, half Jackass sketch.
It began with Sami Helluva Kicking Knoxville square in the face, at least establishing Sami as someone tougher than Knoxville in a one-on-one bout. But it quickly became more than one-on-one, with weapons and interference aplenty. Once Zayn started heckling the Jackass guys on the outside, Knoxville sprayed him with a fire extinguisher for a distraction.
Back in the ring, Zayn beat down Knoxville with all sorts of weapons. Chris Pontius then hit the ring as Party Boy Chris Pontius, a throwback to the old Jackass character. After rubbing himself on Zayn, he got knocked out and thrown out. Zayn stuffed him under the ring, but then Wee Man crawled out and barraged him with kicks and punches. In the ring, Wee Man hit a body slam on Zayn, and Knoxville flew off the top rope, hitting a splash for a two count.
It was all stunts and props from there. The highlight was Zayn kicking Wee Man in the face, which got incredible heat from the crowd. They booed Sami and called him an asshole. When Zayn scaled the ropes, Knoxville set off pyro and he fell down. Knoxville then bowled a bowling ball into Zayn's groin.
The finish came when Knoxville electrified Sami with a taser and then trapped his shoulders to the ground using a giant mousetrap. Incredible stuff.
Rating: If you like Jackass, this was 4 stars of fun. If you don't, this would be minus stars for sure. I have fond memories from watching Jackass, so loved this.
Bobby Lashley pins Omos
This clash of the titans was, as J,R, would say, bowling shoe ugly. Thankfully, it was over fairly quickly.
Bobby Lashley pinned Omos after a suplex and two spears. The whole match centered around Lashley repeatedly going for a suplex but Omos using his size and strength to bat him away. Omos remains unimpressive. He's large but lumbering, and his offense is unconvincing despite his heft. Much of the match was him doing generic big man offense -- clubbing blows, a bear hug, that kind of thing.
Lashley got a suplex on his third try, then speared him from behind. Then he was able to set up a proper spear, land it and get the win.
Rating: 1 star. Omos has been built up as a giant that would one day be slain. Now that he's been slain, what value does he have? Despite an unimpressive match, it was a big win for Lashley, setting him up nicely for a post-WrestleMania title chase.
RK-Bro retains Raw tag team championships
WrestleMania 38's first match was the Triple Threat Tag Team Championship bout pitting Orton and Riddle against the Alpha Academy and Street Profits teams. After a super fun match, Orton and Riddle retained when Orton pinned Gable.
After the match, the Street Profits congratulated RK-Bro on their win, and invited Gable Stevenson, 2x NCAA Champion and WWE signee, into the ring to celebrate. Chad Gable confronted Gable Stevenson and ate a suplex. WWE obviously has high hopes for Stevenson, highlighting him on both nights of WrestleMania.
The rules of the match were quizzical: There's three men in the ring at all times, one from each team, but no disqualifications. What's keeping the other tag team wrestlers from jumping in at any time? Nothing. But alas, the format allows for fast-paced action. It started explosive, with Riddle blitzing Chad Gable with a high kick. Big dives followed, with Montez Ford flipping over the turnbuckle to take out the field, and Gable following that up with a big moonsault off the turnbuckle.
From there both teams got heat on Riddle, building to a Randy Orton hot tag. And what a hot tag it was, the crowd went wild for Orton's tag as he took out everyone, including Ford and Gable on the outside. Riddle and Orton hit stereo second-rope DDTs in the ring and setup for stereo RKOs, but Otis interrupted.
From there it was all teams hitting huge tandem offense on each other, including a crazy Blockbuster from the Street Profits. Orton tried to RKO Dawkins, but Dawkins pushed him off into the ropes and then planted Orton with a spinebuster. As Ford was setting up for a top-rope splash, Riddle caught him with an awesome springboard RKO. Gable then tried a top-rope cross body but Orton RKO'd him in midair for the win.
Rating: 4 stars. Great opening match.
A surprise Triple H appears
WrestleMania Sunday is being kicked off by none other than Triple H, who's making an unannounced appearance following his recent retirement announcement.
After making his entrance, Triple H laid his boots in the center of the ring as the crowd chanted "Thank you Hunter!" and "Too sweet!" Grabbing a microphone, he said he wanted to thank the crowd and welcomed them to WrestleMania.