When, things didn't look good. The show opened with announcer Michael Cole informing us that bad weather above Tampa, Florida's Raymond James Stadium meant that the show's start would have to be delayed. After 30 minutes of stalling, the show opened properly.
And that's when the surprises started. The first bout was Bobby Lashley defending his WWE Championship against Drew McIntyre. Drew seemed like a sure thing -- but Lashley made him pass out with his Hurt Lock. WrestleMania started with a shocker.
It was a mostly good show from that point on, with one weak match and many good ones. As far as WrestleManias go, though, it was saved by the main event. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair killed it, and in the end Belair stood tall as SmackDown Women's Champion.
So Night 1 is officially in the books. But like, Sunday night will see a second night of WrestleMania. That's where we'll see the most anticipated match of the weekend: Reigns versus Bryan versus Edge. That at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.
Bianca Belair wins SmackDown Women's Championship
In a star-making babyface performance, Bianca Belair beat Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania 37 Night 1. It was the best match on the show. Sasha Banks was on fire, and put on an absolute great performance that helped Belair look like a star.
The was great before the two even locked up. Belair and Banks were overwhelmed with emotion at main eventing the show, as the two were visibly tearing up as the bell rang. Once they locked up, though, both women were all business.
The point of this match was to get Bianca Belair over as a top bobyface. It was a success. All of the key spots showed off her crazy athleticism, like the bit where she got Banks in a military press on the outside and walked up the stairs, holding Banks in the air, before tossing Banks inside. Then there was the wicked suplex spot, where Belair hoisted Banks up for a vertical suplex, walked around the ring and bounced her off two sets of ropes, with Banks fighting back twice and almost countering it only for Belair to use her strength to re-lift Banks back to a vertical position, ultimately landing the suplex.
From what I could see, this was the stiffest match on the card -- or at least, it looked the stiffest. I mean that in a good way. All the action was tight, a hallmark of Banks' matches. There was a bit where Banks put her knees up to counter Belair's 450 Splash, and it looked like Belair crushed her ribs on the impact. Sasha also gave a lot with her body, crashing into the barricades and later the turnbuckles with Meteora attemps that Belair dodged.
Banks' creative flair was on show too, as she used Belair's long braid throughout the match. The high point here was when she wrapped Belair's own hair around Belair's shoulder before locking in the Banks Statement. Towards the end of the match, Belair hit back by whipping Banks with her long braid, slapping her leg (I hope) so it sounded like a gunshot. It was great. The finish came after a 450 Splash. Belair went for the KOD, Banks countered to go for the backstabber, but Belair countered again and scored the KOD for the pin.
Rating: 4.25 stars. Bianca Belair could be WWE's next big thing. She has everything. Incredible athleticism, highly marketable look and, as this showed, the ability to have great matches -- even if Sasha Banks deserves a lot of the credit for this one.
With WWE's track record at making babyface stars, she's unlikely to reach that level. But we can complain about that in the future, if and when those mistakes are made. This was a breakout moment for her, and a fabulous WrestleMania main event.
Bad Bunny and Damian Priest beat The Miz and John Morrison
Bad Bunny is the biggest star of the show so far. This whole match was laid out to make him shine, and he did great in his role. His offense was surprisingly tight, and he took his share of bumps too. You could tell he's a true fan who wanted to do this the right way. He pinned The Miz when Priest hoisted Miz on his shoulders and Bunny did a top-rope splash.
Miz and Morrison enter with a gang of bunnies, singing their parody rap song. Bad Bunny got a major superstar's entrance, with a prerecorded clip of him sitting atop a trucker arriving in the arena. He then got fireworks with his big entry. The crowd is hotter for Bad Bunny as he starts the match out with Miz than they've been for anything on the show, other than maybe Cesaro and Rollins.
It started with basic stuff, Bad Bunny hitting strikes on an incredulous Miz and getting the better of Miz in a few wrestling exchanges, including an armdrag counter. This lasted a good few minutes, with every moved being milked. Eventually, Miz cut Bunny off and Miz and Morrison got heat on him until Bunny tagged in Priest.
Priest ran wild, and he and Bunny even hit stereo Falcon Arrows. Later, Bunny did a Canadian Destroyer to Morrison on the ground, which led to the finish.
Rating: 3.5 stars. You can gripe about Miz and Morrison looking weaker than a celebrity star, which is an absolutely fair argument. But this in WWE, so considering the expectations that entails, this can't be considered anything other than a success. If I'd change anything though, I'd have given more shine to Damian Priest.
Braun Strowman obliterates Shane McMahon
Braun Strowman defeated Shane McMahon in a steel cage match after throwing him off the very top of the cage, a gnarly looking bump, and then hitting a powerslam.
Before the match began, Strowman was ambushed by Elias and Jackson Rikker, who smashed him with chairs. They threw Strowman and a chair into the ring, allowing McMahon to continue barraging Strowman with chair shots. From here, the flow of much of the match was that Strowman would fight back from below, only for McMahon to find a new weapon and cut him off. At one point, McMahon retrieved a sheet of steel from the top of the cage and clocked Strowman with it. Later, as both were ascending the cage, McMahon found a toolbox up there.
The best spot of the match was when McMahon climbed atop the cage and began his descent down to the floor. He stuck his arm through the cage to flip Strowman the bird, but Strowman jumped up and grabbed his arm. He then ripped the cage apart and pulled him back in. They then scaled to the top of the cage -- where Strowman threw him off in pretty brutal fashion.
Rating: 3.25 stars. The wrestling itself wasn't much, as you'd expect, but it did its job. We got the memorable Shane McMahon bump and the cool moment of Strowman ripping open the cage. Importantly, at under 12 minutes it wasn't long enough to really drag.
AJ Styles and Omos win Raw Tag Team Championships
Omos joins the club of wrestlers who've won a championship in their first match. He and AJ Styles defeated The New Day to win the Raw Tag Team Championships.
The story of the match was simple. Styles started out for his team, and The New Day did everything they could to to keep him from tagging Omos. They cut him off from his side of the ring, and the drama came whenever Styles would get close to Omos. This was kind of weird, because that's tag team psychology 101 -- except AJ and Omos are heels, not babyfaces.
In any case, once Omos eventually did get tagged in it was very much game over. He entered the ring and threw both Kingston and Xavier Woods around. Styles hit a sweet Phenomenal Forearm by springboarding off Omos' shoulders. Omos planted Kingston with a double-arm chokeslam and pinned him with a single foot.
Rating: 3.25 stars. Simple but sensible story. The downside is that AJ Styles, the best wrestler in the match, was relegated to the role of selling rather than providing thrilling offense. But it did its job of introducing Omos. From what we saw here though, it looks like Omos is severely limited, as all he did was a few shoves, a few throws and one average-looking chokeslam.
Cesaro pins Seth Rollins
This wasn't the classic match some (I) hoped it would be, but it was still a strong. It ended with Cesaro swinging Rollins 23 times in the Giant Swing, then pinning Rollins after a Neutralizer.
The story of the match was that Cesaro was trying at every turn to catch Rollins in the Giant Swing, and that Rollins escaped each time in increasingly creative fashion. Rollins also worked over Cesaro's arm. At one point, midway through, Cesaro got the swing but, after about 9 rotations, his arm gave out. Seth Rollins later showed off a new top-rope move, an awesome corkscrew splash.
Cesaro hit a surprise Neutralizer for a two count. Moments later, Rollins got a near fall with a Pedigree. The high point of the bout came when Rollins went for a Curb Stomp but Cesaro countered with an awesome uppercut. He then swung Rollins with a UFO firemans carry, got the 23-rotation Giant Swing and Neutralizer for the pin.
Rating: 3.75 stars. A very good bout, but not a classic. At just over 11 minutes, it would have benefited greatly for an extra 4-6 minutes of time. I suspect these two will have a stronger match with more time at an upcoming pay-per-view.
Tamina and Natalya win tag-team turmoil match
In what will hopefully be the weakest bout of the night, Tamina and Natalya won a tag team turmoil match to become the number one contenders for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships. The rules of the match are that two teams start, and that once one team is defeated another takes its place, with there being five teams in total.
Naomi and Lana start the match off against Carmella and Billie Kay. After a minute or two of sloppy action, Kay pins Naomi with a rollup and added leverage from Carmella. The Riott Squad are in next and they almost immediately defeat Kay and Carmella with tandem finish,. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke are in next -- with Rose actually slipping on the stage on the way to the ring. Hate to see it.
After about five minutes of average-at-best wrestling, the Riott Squad elimianted Rose and Brooke with a cradle. The announcer actually got mixed up and said The Riott Squad was eliminated, but the referee corrected him. Natalya and Tamina were the final team. The most noteworthy spot was Tamina kicking out of the same double-team move the Riott Squad elimianted Billie Kay with.
Tamina and Natalya then hit a Hart Attack on Ruby Riott, and then Tamina scored a pin after a top-rope splash.
Rating: 2 stars.
Bobby Lashley retains WWE Championship
WrestleMania opens with a shocker: Bobby Lashley beat Drew McIntyre with the Hurt Lock. McIntyre didn't tap out, Cole was eager to point out, he passed out.
It started slow, but the match ended up being very good. It began with standard stuff, exchanging moves in the ring with some brawling on the outside. It picked up about halfway through when McIntyre hit a trifecta of Future Shock DDTs for a two count. Moments later, McIntyre nailed a very impressive over-the-top-rope dive to Lashley on the outside, like Undertaker's famous dive at WrestleMania 25.
Back in the ring, Lashley locks in the Hurt Lock but McIntyre powers out. McIntyre gets a submission of his own, locking in a Kimura Lock -- potentially signalling a return of Brock Lesnar. The announcers are selling that McIntyre has one last weapon to use in the Claymore Kick. Sure enough, after a big boot, McIntyre sets up the Claymore. Here's where things get dumb. McIntyre has it set up but, as he starts running for the kick, he's distracting by MVP yelling from the outside. Like, he stops in his tracks to look at MVP.
Again: MVP yelled at him from the outside. Not even from the apron. And it stopped McIntyre. So bad.
Lashley then takes advantage and, after some more action, successfully locks in the Hurt Lock and McIntyre passes out.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Shock finish with good action. Would have been better without the confoundingly stupid "distraction." We'll have to see how this plays out, as it could be leading to something worthwhile, but it feels like a bad move to cut off McIntyre like this. He was protected strongly for the past year, and it looks like an abrupt change of course to have him pass out clean to Lashley, who though protected has been a midcard star for the past few years.
Weather delay opens the show
The Tampa, Florida area that's housing WrestleMania had heavy rain and storms in the hours preceding WrestleMania, and the main show opened with Michael Cole explaining they have to delay the action for a few moments due to weather concerns. Brutal.
They're now stalling with backstage interviews. We hear from Shane McMahon, before Bobby Lashley comes into the backstage area to talk trash about Drew McIntyre. McIntyre then joins the set and they get into a confrontation. Lashley is sequestered off and McIntyre cuts a fiery promo.
WWE is clearly stalling on the fly here, transitioning from backstage interviews to the kickoff-show panel to the announcer's at ringside. The promos are actually pretty good, way better than the scripted stuff we see each week, but this is still grim.
At 5: 25 p.m. PT, Cole tells us the weather delay will end within five minutes. After a brief Bianca Belair interview, a promo for the WWE Championship match opens. Here we go.