WrestleMania Goes Hollywood Saturday
April 1, 2023
Meet your reviewers:
Suit Williams: Voices of Wrestling’s WWE correspondent checking in for the biggest show of the year! These look like the best cards WWE could put together for these shows, so I’m cautiously optimistic for this weekend. You can check out more of my work here on Voices of Wrestling, including my review of today’s NXT Stand and Deliver. You can also find me as the Ring of Honor correspondent for the Wrestling Observer website, and on Twitter @SuitWilliams.
Sean Sedor: I just got done watching a very eventful NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in Texas (squeezing in my usual racing viewing with all the wrestling happening this weekend), and because I’ve got nothing else going on, I’m joining Suit for this review of the first night of WrestleMania. You can find me on Twitter @SASedor2994. If you’re interested in some of my other escapades, you can watch me play the Formula 1 games on YouTube (just search my name), and you can also go to the Be The Booker forums if you’d like to check out my EWR Diary, where I play as WCW (started in 1998, currently in the Autumn of 2001).
Jon Hernandez: My COVID test came back negative, but I’m still sick as all hell, so this Wrestlemania review is going down as my Flu Game. Except I’m, like, Jud Buechler. I’ve been reviewing wrestling all weekend; I may as well keep it going. Follow me on Twitter at @oldjonhernandez or, better yet, follow my band at @TimesharesMusic.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE: AUSTIN THEORY © def. JOHN CENA
Suit: First thoughts on everything: the stage is incredible. WWE always tries to make these shows feel visually impressive, but sometimes they go a little too overboard with it. The Wrestlemania stage this year is patterned after an award show stage, a great pick for the Hollywood setting. Cena shared his Wrestlemania entrance with some Make-A-Wish kids, which is very nice.
This was as basic as it can be. Workrate John Cena is a thing of the past, as he exists as more of a living legend stopping by to say hello every now and again. Theory got the chance to benefit from Cena’s appearance here, but he did little to impress. He did simple heel work to set up Cena’s signature spots, then won after a ref bump and a low blow set up his finish. I don’t see it with Theory, but he is young, so he has time to develop. It’s always nice to have Cena around. **1/2
Sean: I didn’t realize how tall this ramp was until Austin Theory came out for his entrance. John Cena, meanwhile, has a special entrance involving several Make-A-Wish kids. A pretty simple start to the bout as the “Let’s Go Cena”/”Cena Sucks” chants start up. Theory gets his first big opening when he bites Cena’s ear, and follows up by jumping him from behind when Cena goes to complain to the referee. The bulk of this match saw some solid, but pretty basic action before Cena went for his trademark Five Moves Of Doom. He tried for the Attitude Adjustment, but the referee got knocked down in the process. The referee is still down as Theory taps to the STF, and when Cena releases the hold, Theory takes the opportunity to punch Cena low. One A-Town Down later, and Austin Theory. I used the word “basic” a little earlier, and that’s really the perfect word for this match. It was incredibly average. I didn’t hate it by any means, but there wasn’t much to it. Totally forgettable in the grand scheme of things. **½
Jon: The set looks fantastic tonight. When the camera panned behind Austin Theory to show the length of the ramp, I legitimately ooh’ed and aah’ed. Finally, John Cena stepped out in front of ~65,000 fans and about a dozen Make-A-Wish kids he brought as personal guests. No one was watching closer than my wrestling-hating fiance: “Fuck, he looks like Ernest now.”
These two took it really easy, and that was probably beneficial for both — Cena doesn’t really wrestle anymore, and Theory’s never been in a spot half this big before. They had a by-the-book, perfunctory wrestling match with some typical heel stuff at the end. The stiffest offense came from a ringside camera man, shooting the top of Cena’s head during the STFU.
Not much of a match, but in the scope of the show, that’s fine. A John Cena singles match in 2023 is a Mania-worthy way to start a show (if you ignore the half hour of other shit that started the show). **¼
WRESTLEMANIA SHOWCASE TAG TEAM MATCH: THE STREET PROFITS (ANGELO DAWKINS & MONTEZ FORD) def. BRAUN STROWMAN & RICOCHET, THE VIKING RAIDERS (ERIK & IVAR) (w/ Valhalla), & ALPHA ACADEMY (CHAD GABLE & OTIS)
Suit: This was a whole lot of fun. These guys came out here in what could kindly be described as a filler spot, and they brought a lot of energy and smart spots for the position they were in. There were some goofy spots, like the Viking Raiders having to wait for a replay to end before going to the next spot. But on the whole, this was as good as this was going to be. The Street Profits won with Ford frog splash onto Ricochet. ***1/2
Sean: Titus O’Neil has joined commentary….for some reason. Chad Gable and Ricochet started this one off, but it quickly broke down into a four-team brawl. The first big spot of the match sees Gable hit the Chaos Theory on Braun Strowman, which was a legitimately impressive spot. Ivar tried for a moonsault, which didn’t work, though that proved to be just a setup for Braun to hit a huge splash off the top rope. A few more crazy spots followed, mainly involving Ricochet. He first took down almost the entire field in a wild Tower Of Doom spot, and then followed up a short time later with a huge Shooting Star Press to the floor. He would try for one in the ring, but Angelo Dawkins got his knees up. That allowed Montez Ford to hit a big splash off the top, and The Street Profits got the win. This was a pretty entertaining match with good action from start to finish. One or two moments were a little cringeworthy (The Viking Raiders posing for what felt like ages while a replay was airing), but the action more than made up for it. This match served its purpose perfectly. ***1/2
Jon: The Street Profits somehow feel big here. That’s a huge credit to them because this match has “throwaway” written all over it, from the names, to Titus O’Neil’s commentary, to Michael Cole’s note that the winner “could perhaps find themselves in line for a title shot.” Dream big, guys; two tag teams are main eventing this show because the company accidentally backed itself into a corner, and it can happen to you.
This won me over, though. Colorful personalities did big fun moves. Gabel’s rolling German on Braun was almost cool enough to cancel out all the awful noises he makes. Dawkins’ big takedown on Braun and pin on Ricochet made me happy. Street Profits can be the Montez show sometimes, and Dawkins deserves this kinda shine. ***¼
SETH ROLLINS def. LOGAN PAUL
Suit: This was a fun party match. The story was Paul using his knockout power to rough up Rollins to start but losing that advantage after Rollins stomped his hand. After that, Rollins held control until the interference of KSI, the popular YouTuber who cornered Paul while disguised as a bottle of Prime energy drink. They double teamed Rollins and set up a massive splash through the announce table, but Rollins pulled KSI into his place to eliminate him from proceedings. Then they went into the closing stretch, where Rollins would superkick Paul out of the air on a coast-to-coast before hitting the Curb Stomp to win.
Logan Paul is legitimately good at pro wrestling. If he wanted to make this a full-time career, he could become a legitimate great. The thing is, why would he go full-time? He’s got the schedule that people who work full-time in wrestling try to get. He works on all the big shows, and he’s got the natural ability to succeed in the major spots he’s put in. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Either way, his work has been genuinely great, and this match was no exception. Oh, Rollins was also good here. I guess I should say something about him too. ****
Sean: Logan Paul makes his entrance on a zipline, while also being accompanied by the mascot for his Prime Energy Drink. Meanwhile, an orchestra director of some kind comes out and does some conducting of the chanting from the Seth Rollins theme before Seth makes his entrance (though it was weird as they seemed to have an obvious recording of the singing play over the crowd instead of letting the crowd actually sing it naturally). Logan takes control early with a Buckshot Lariat and a big right hand to the gut. Rollins finally got an opening after he avoided a wild moonsault attempt from Paul. He hits the Jay Lethal special (three dives through the ropes to the floor), but Paul would respond a short time later with a right hand that led to a very close nearfall.
The guy in the Prime Energy Drink costume ends up being KSI, and that led to a spot where Paul accidentally put KSI through the announce table with a splash off the top (after Rollins pulled him in harm’s way). Some more nearfalls towards the end culminated in Paul trying to go Coast-To-Coast. However, Rollins countered with a superkick, and followed up with The Stomp to pick up the win. This was a really good match that sets the mark to beat as far as Match Of The Night goes. While I don’t think this was Logan Paul’s best match, it was still another strong outing on his end of things. As for Rollins, his current gimmick is incredibly annoying, but the guy is still very capable of delivering quality matches when the time calls for it. Apparently Logan Paul’s contract is up (despite WWE touting last year that he signed a “multi-year deal”), so time will tell whether we’ll see him again, or if this was it for him in WWE. ****
Jon: I still really do enjoy watching Seth Rollins wrestle, but man, Logan Paul makes him look like such a fuckin’ nerd. Seth Rollins is a guy who used to wear a bulletproof vest and beat people, then one day started laughing like Bugs Bunny and talking like a grown-up McLovin and I still have no idea what the character is supposed to be. Logan Paul is one of the world’s biggest assholes in real life, so when he gets in a wrestling ring and acts like an asshole, it just WORKS.
Michael Cole is bringing up Antonio Inoki while Paul does a Cobra Twist. Okay, he’s an asshole, too!
This is the first match of the night that feels like it means business. Rollins is a long-proven commodity in the ring, and Logan Paul is just way, way too good for having, like, five matches. These guys executed well and had the crowd on their side. The KSI segment didn’t bother me, either — it was goofy fun and didn’t overstay its welcome. That’s a good summation of the match, too. ***¾
BECKY LYNCH, LITA & TRISH STRATUS def. DAMAGE CTRL (BAYLEY, DAKOTA KAI & IYO SKY)
Suit: This was definitely the fourth match on the card of Wrestlemania Saturday, which saw Becky Lynch, Lita, and Trish Stratus beat Damage CTRL. Damage CTRL is a dead act, and while I understand trying to give them some shine, this was academic from the time the bell rang. This didn’t need to be nearly as long as it was. Also, it’s nice to see Lita, but she does not need to be in a wrestling ring. A match that was excess to requirement. *1/2
Sean: The trio of Becky Lynch, Lita, and Trish Stratus had (what I guess was) a Sin City inspired intro before their entrance. A brief brawl breaks out before the match officially gets going. Becky was isolated by Damage CTRL for a few minutes before she finally made the tag to Lita, who was….not very good. The heels then isolate her from her partners for a bit. Trish finally tagged in and she ran wild for a bit. This leads to some very clunky double-team attempts involving Lita and Trish. Iyo Sky nailed a beautiful moonsault to the floor in what was probably the highlight of the match. The closing stretch saw Lita and Trish hit their finishers before Becky put away Bayley with a Manhandle Slam off the second rope. This sucked. Plain and simple. Lita was bad, and Trish wasn’t much better. On a side note, Trish’s top was working overtime in this one, and there were points where I honestly thought Trish was going to have a wardrobe malfunction in front of the entire world. Will this end up being the worst match of the year? Probably not (I could easily see something being worse), but this was still very bad. A giant mess, mainly because of the two nostalgia acts who clearly don’t have it anymore. *
Jon: I think it’d be boring for me to dump on this match, so I’m only going to say nice things about it: I’m 35, so I’m the correct age for this match’s brand of nostalgia. Bayley and Becky are very good professional wrestlers who, as expected worked great together. I understand that the point of this match isn’t to be particularly good. Trish’s top might be the real workhorse of this match. Dakota Kai and Io Sky were very generous in their performing of Lita and Trish’s offense. My Chinese food is here. *1/2
REY MYSTERIO def. DOMINIK MYSTERIO
Suit: Look, Dominik Mysterio is an actively bad professional wrestler. There is no sugarcoating it. He does not have the natural ability that his father had, or someone like Logan Paul has now. But what he’s learned is the ability to hotdog and grandstand, as the Macho Man would say. He’s become a part of an act that has pulled out a good bit of charisma that has translated into a fine little storyline with his father.
This match was filled to the brim with smoke and mirrors. Dominik constantly playing to his mother and sister at ringside. Judgment Day interference countered by Legado Del Fantasma – now rebranded as the LWO. And the finish of the match saw Bad Bunny get up from Spanish commentary to stop Dominik from using a chain to cheat. This was using every shortcut in the book to get through this, and it worked. I’m still not sold on Dominik as any type of prospect past this feud, but for tonight, it all worked out. **1/2
Sean: Dominik has an absolutely hilarious entrance where he comes out in a van from a correctional facility, while also wearing one of his father’s masks (shoutout to Detective Dan Barry for making a WrestleMania appearance. Meanwhile, Rey Mysterio comes out in a low rider with Snoop Dog while a Cinnamoji Toast Crunch mascot (yes, you read that correctly) greets Rey at ringside. The Cinnamon Toast Crunch advertising is also all over the barricades and the digital ring skirt. Rey did have a big moment of revenge early on when he took off his belt and whipped Dominik, but Dominik rolled to the floor and tossed a drink on his sister. Rey was incensed, and Dominik used that opening to take control.
Rey would start mounting some more offense after his wife slapped Dominik. The rest of Judgment Day (sans Rhea Ripley) would later get involved, though Legado Del Fantasma (in their Latino World Order shirts) chased them off a short time later. The finish would see Bad Bunny (who had joined the Spanish Commentary team) take a chain away from Dominik, which allowed Rey to capitalize and pick up the victory. The bright colors of the cereal advertisement being all over ringside during an emotional grudge match was certainly a choice, but as far as the match itself was….solid? I guess? It’s weird. I don’t think Dominik is very good, though he did do a fine job in his role here. The same could be said for Rey, who finally got revenge on Dominik after everything that’s happened over the last several months. The Bad Bunny involvement makes me think we’ll see him in a match on the Puerto Rico PPV? Guess we’ll see in a few weeks. ***1/4
Jon: I missed the video package, but Michael Cole tells me that Dominik screamed at his mother and told her to “shut up.” I think I’m caught up. Honestly, if his mom is anything like my mom is on the phone, I think that makes him the babyface.
I’m kidding, I know the story. Rey held out hope for his relationship with his beloved, estranged son, and eventually he had no choice but to call the good people at Cinnamon Toast Crunch in pursuit of justice.
Dominik’s wrestling won’t blow you the way but he’s become a very confident, comfortable heel in the ring, and I value that. I watch a lot of very talented wrestlers tentatively stumble through their character work elsewhere (yes, AEW included), so seeing this kid nail it is noteworthy to me. The match was set up with enough shenanigans to take some spotlight off Dom (there’s a new LWO?) and it’s kinda nice to see Rey in a big singles match — even if he’s completely surrounded by LED screens with dancing cereal on them. ***¼
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE: RHEA RIPLEY def. CHARLOTTE FLAIR ©
Suit: This was rumored to be the Wrestlemania main event. Many fans had issues with that due to there being no real heat for this match in comparison to the Tag Team Title match. You felt the effects of that cold build as the match started, with the crowd as cold as they had been all night when the bell rang. But these two women earned a reaction by simply beating the hell out of each other. Boots to the face, inside-out suplexes, incidental blood. I was waiting for the old slow-mo replays at the end of this match like they used to have on the old All Japan video tapes.
They built up the Riptide throughout the match, with Charlotte countering it consistently with big moves of her own. Charlotte ran through her finishers – the big boot, the Natural Selection, the Figure Four – with none of them gaining the fall. Ripley hit the Riptide but couldn’t get the win with it. Both women went to the top rope, where Ripley bashed Charlotte’s head into the corner post before hitting the Riptide off the top to win the match and the title. The clear match of the night so far, and one of the best matches of both women’s careers. ****1/4
Sean: Michael Cole made a big deal on commentary of this being the first time that women have been involved in every aspect of a match on WrestleMania (I guess referring to the two wrestlers, the referee, and the ring announcer). After the initial opening exchange, Rhea gains the advantage after dropping Charlotte face first on the turnbuckle from an Electric Chair position. The crowd is firmly behind Rhea as she levels Charlotte with clotheslines. Charlotte would fight back, and the first notable spot of the match sees Rhea get spiked on her head when Charlotte countered the Rip Tide into a DDT. Rhea would respond with a big German Suplex off the top rope. More German Suplexes followed (including one where Charlotte landed right on her face), and after recovering from a Charlotte moonsault to the floor, Rhea nearly had the match won with the Rip Tide. More nearfalls and submission attempts followed. Eventually, they went back up the turnbuckle, and Rhea nailed the Rip Tide from the second rope to capture the SmackDown Women’s Title.
This was a super strong women’s match, and just nudged ahead of Seth Rollins/Logan Paul for Match Of The Night. Coming into this, I knew Rhea was going to work hard, but Charlotte was the one I was worried about. I’m honestly over Charlotte, and coming into WrestleMania, I could not remember the last time that Charlotte had a match that I would call great. Well, I’ll give her a ton of credit….she held up her end of things here. The match took a little bit to get going, but once it did, it was great. I don’t think I have much else to say about this one. It delivered in the ring, and the right person won. ****
Jon: I’m the third guy here, so I don’t want to recap too hard. You know what happened. Look, when people are critical of Charlotte Flair’s work, they often talk about how reckless she seems, how it looks like she’s gonna kill somebody. Well, when everything stays on the rails, I absolutely love that about her matches.
This was brutal and mean. They wailed on each other. Once the pace picked up they were dropping each other on their heads at angles we just don’t see in this company. This was the realization of the physicality we used to love about Rhea on a larger stage. The intensity escalated and escalated until the killer nearfalls started. The crowd, who had no interest at the opening bell, was raging by the end. It was a WRESTLING MATCH! By the time Rhea hit the Riptide from the top, it felt like both of them had been through a total fuckin’ war. And they had!
This match had an aggression to it, a physicality to it, that I wish this company knew how to access with any regularity at all. I loved it. If this match HAD held onto the main event slot, it woulda been a notable one. ****½
PAT MCAFEE def. THE MIZ
Suit: I muted the TV to finish the Flair/Ripley write-up, and I looked up to see Pat McAfee, the Miz, and a referee. This didn’t need to exist. *
Sean: So this was an impromptu match made by Snoop Dogg after Pat McAfee answered The Miz’s Open Challenge. McAfee ran wild for a minute before The Miz decided to bail. He shoved San Francisco 49ers Tight End George Kittle (who was sitting at ringside), who then hopped the barricade and attacked The Miz. McAfee hit a big dive to the floor, and then hit a punt to The Miz in the ring to get the win. A segment disguised as a match. N/R
Jon: I dunno, man. I’m still coming down from Flair/Ripley. I’m happy for Pat McAfee that he got to do a thing at Wrestlemania again. Cool, George Kittle, sure. I give it good for Pat stars.
Undisputed WWE TAG TEAM TITLES: KEVIN OWENS & SAMI ZAYN def. THE USOS (JEY USO & JIMMY USO) ©
Suit: The culmination of the last 9 months of Bloodline back-and-forth saw Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, the eternal pair of good enemies but better friends, end the longest tag team title reign in WWE history. It came down to the two principles of the feud, Zayn and Main Event Jey Uso. After hitting two Helluva Kicks, Owens ran interference to Jimmy and allowed Zayn to hit the third shot to get the win and the titles.
This was an emotional battle throughout, with the Usos taking their anger out on both men with superkicks in the dozens. They battered Owens and Zayn, but they could never put them away. Zayn kicked out of a One & Done, the first time anyone’s kicked out of the Usos’ 3-D variant. Owens kicked out of the double splash, a move that has won them matches for over a decade. The Usos fought for years just to get on the main card of Wrestlemania. They fought to earn bigger and higher-profile spots as a team. And at every step of the way, they won those fights. They went from the pre-show to the marquee, from jerking the curtain to closing the show. But when it came down to it, tonight just wasn’t the Usos night. It was Kevin and Sami’s night.
From breaking out of the Montreal independent scene into the US, to stealing shows across the country from the Hammerstein Ballroom to a dumpy armory in Reseda, California. They were dismissed by respected names at the time: Owens for his size, Zayn for his look. But their talent shone through. The cream rose to the top. And every step of the way, they were together. Whether it be as rivals or as friends, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were never far away from each other. They were destined to do this forever. And now their names will live together forever as Wrestlemania main eventers and tag team champions. ****1/4
Sean: As someone who’s been a ROH fan for a long time, it’s really cool to see Kevin Owens main event WrestleMania two years in a row (I know it’s weird with the two nights now, and we know for sure that this wouldn’t sniff the main event if WrestleMania was still a one-night-only affair, but it’s still a nice accomplishment). What was also pretty cool was seeing versions of the PWG logo on Zayn’s gear, while Owens had the PWG logo AND a Super Dragon logo on his gear. That rocks.
The Usos isolate Sami Zayn for a few minutes before he’s finally able to tag in Kevin Owens. At this point, Owens absolutely runs wild, hitting a big dive to the floor, a frog splash off the apron, and a frog splash inside of the ring. Sami got a nearfall after a brainbuster on the apron followed by a big splash off the top, but The Usos slowed things down with a series of superkicks. They then wiped Owens out with a double powerbomb through the announcer’s table. The Usos seemed to have the match won with the 1D, but Sami kicked out! It’s Community Theater Time as Jey Uso talks trash to Sami. Jey hits his own Helluva Kick, but that only fires up the babyfaces. We do the West Side Story spot for some reason before The Usos nearly win the match with a double splash. Owens and Zayn fire up again, and after Owen takes out Jimmy Uso, Zayn nails Jey Uso with three straight Helluva Kicks to score the victory! Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are the new Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions.
This was a great match, though I felt it just barely got to that point. Owens and Zayn absolutely rocked in this one, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. This was their big moment in the spotlight, and they more than held up their end of things. The Usos? Eh….can’t exactly say the same. While the action throughout was relatively strong, it just felt like there was something missing. For me, The Usos weren’t exactly compelling opponents here, though I feel that’s just more down to the fact that they’re wrestling the same slow/methodical style that their cousin Roman Reigns has been using. Of course, we got the typical Bloodline melodrama, which does knock the match down slightly for me. On the whole though, this was a strong bout that had the right team go over in the end. ****
Jon: I’ve seen Owens have total sprints at Wrestlemania, so I wasn’t surprised that, when left to their own devices, Sami and Owens came out the gate guns blazing. It was only appropriate after Owens came out in the PWG gear. The match took an interesting course from there. After going full blast from the opening bell, the match’s pace came to a halt when the Usos took control.
I think that was a clever move. Flair/Ripley ended up being a corker, and then a full half hour passed before this entered the ring. Steenerico and the Usos got the crowd back on board, then slowed things down for the heel Usos, and built the match back up conventionally from there.
By the time it got to the closing stretch, the arena was foaming at the mouth. Owens kicking out of the 1D, accompanied by a (finally appropriate) berserk Michael Cole call, kicked everything up a notch. By the time we were finally exposed to some WWE-style hamfisted melodrama, Sami eyeing down Jey in the corner before the Heluva Kick, the match had more than earned it.
The crowd was desperate for Owens and Sami to win, and the length of the Usos’ title reign finally felt like it had some gravity, just in time for the belts to change hands. Zayn and Owens standing in the center of the ring with the belts, looking at themselves on the video screen, was a uniquely heartwarming and organic-feeling Wrestlemania Moment™️. ****1/4