WWE
WRESTLEMANIA XL – SATURDAY
APRIL 6, 2024
LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD
PHILADELPHIA, PA

Watch: Peacock

MEET YOUR REVIEWERS:

Suit Williams: Here we are. The first WrestleMania of the Endeavor era, and the first-ever WrestleMania with no McMahon involvement. It comes during a zenith of WWE’s popularity in the last decade, led by the Bloodline and the various babyfaces who have tried to end it. Suit has been here the whole time, covering it all and trying to understand why. He still doesn’t get it, but he’s still here. You can read Suit’s longform previews and reviews of wrestling from around the world here at Voices of Wrestling. You can also find his weekly reviews of AEW Collision over at F4WOnline. Follow Suit on all social media platforms @SuitWilliams

Sean Sedor: After attending four wrestling shows over the course of two days in Philadelphia (DEFY, STARDOM, and the WrestleCon SuperShow on Thursday, and ROH on Friday), Sean is back home, and here to help Suit review Night 1 of WrestleMania XL from Lincoln Financial Field (Fly Eagles Fly, baby). You can find Sean on Twitter @SASedor2994. If you’re interested in some of Sean’s other escapades, you can watch him play the Formula 1 games on YouTube (just search his name and you’ll find the channel), and you can also go to the Be The Booker forums if you’d like to check out Sean’s EWR Diary, where he plays as WCW (started in 1998, currently in September of 2002).

WWE WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE MATCH
RHEA RIPLEY (C) def. BECKY LYNCH

Suit: I’m not a big fan of WWE’s presentation of their shows. The commentary is grating, as Michael Cole, Pat McAfee, and Corey Graves are an announce team pulled from my nightmares. The on-screen graphics are weird and corny, as Becky’s big entrance was an annotated CGI version of her book, surely hyping up all of the BookTokers out there. The ring announcing sucks, as I want to fire the ring announcers into the sun every time they scream and shout at me. It all works against the efforts of the people in the ring.

Some freaks sang Rhea Ripley to the ring for her entrance. We were told that Becky had been dealing with the flu all week, but it didn’t affect her performance, as she was as clunky as she usually is. She gets by with her charisma and presence though, and she was able to work things out with Ripley here to have a fine opener. Ripley is still trying to reach the heights she did last year with Charlotte Flair, as she’s had a forgettable year as champion to this point. This was her best match since last year, but that’s not saying much. ***

Sean: Becky Lynch had an entrance that featured a giant CGI version of her book with various quotes (looked pretty corny, to be honest). Meanwhile, Rhea Ripley had her theme performed live by Motionless In White, who I just learned today are from Scranton, Pennsylvania (my neck of the woods). You learn something new every day!

The story of this match became clear pretty quickly, as Rhea utilized her power advantage whenever she could (suplexes, powerbombs, running boots/knees, and so on), while Becky would work over Rhea’s arm to set her up for the Dis-Arm-Her. Both women managed to survive each other’s standing finishers (the Rip Tide and the Manhandle Slam), and at one point, we got a very cool spot where Rhea got Becky in an Electric Chair position, tumbled to the floor with Becky still on her shoulders, and connected with the Electric Chair on the floor. After avoiding a top rope Manhandle Slam, Rhea gave Becky a Rip Tide into the turnbuckle, and followed up with another one in the ring to score the pin. 

On the whole, I really enjoyed this match. I wouldn’t call it great or anything, but it had very solid back and forth action throughout, and a couple of unique spots here and there. There was some VERY obvious crowd sweetening during this one, which is pretty annoying. You’re in a giant stadium and your fans are really into your product right now. It’s unnecessary, but whatever. The result was really fascinating to me. This was a match they had protected for a year, and Becky was clearly going to be the biggest threat to Rhea’s reign to date (in terms of Rhea facing someone that had a realistic shot of beating her). Now that Rhea has beaten her, I’m not exactly sure where they go from here as far as her title reign goes, because there isn’t any obvious challenger (that’d actually be a serious challenger) for her anytime soon. Regardless, this was a pretty good way to kick off the show. ***3/4 

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE & WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE SIX-PACK LADDER MATCH
AWESOME TRUTH (R-TRUTH & THE MIZ) & AUSTIN THEORY & GRAYSON WALLER DEF. THE JUDGMENT DAY (DAMIAN PRIEST & FINN BALOR) (C) #DIY (JOHNNY GARGANO & TOMMASO CIAMPA), THE NEW DAY (KOFI KINGSTON & XAVIER WOODS), NEW CATCH REPUBLIC (PETE DUNNE & TYLER BATE)

Suit: A bunch of guys hit each other with shit. You’ve seen a million of these at this point, and none of them reach the heights of the original TLC matches. Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, once selling out basketball arenas with their blood feud, are now professionally cosplaying as their bosses. Austin and Aussie Theory won the Smackdown Titles. The Awesome Truth, which was barely a thing in 2011, won the Raw Tag Titles to a massive pop. I don’t get it. I don’t really want to. **

Sean: So this is basically happening under similar rules to what we saw back in the Full Metal Mayhem Match at TNA Bound For Glory 2009, where there are two sets of tag team titles on the line, and two different teams can technically win the match (the TNA World Tag Team Titles and the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles were the titles on the line in that example from Bound For Glory, and both went to different teams in that match). The only notable thing from the entrances was that Ciampa and Gargano did a DX style entrance that made them look like the biggest geeks you’ll ever see.

The match started as a giant brawl, as one might expect. Tyler Bate did an airplane spin with Finn Balor and a ladder that looked kinda goofy, but then he and Pete Dunne did dueling moonsaults off a ladder on the floor that actually looked pretty cool. After some R-Truth comedy, Austin Theory and Grayson Waller thwarted the attempts of Awesome Truth and DIY to grab both belts, and managed to pull down the SmackDown Tag Team Titles. Waller was then immediately powerbombed through a ladder. A few more minutes of brawling led to a pair of absolutely wild spots involving DIY and Bate/Dunne (I will not say their stupid tag team name).

JD McDonagh getting involved only led to him getting sent off a ladder through a pair of tables on the floor. The battle for the RAW Tag Team Titles came down to Damian Priest vs. Awesome Truth, and after a VERY sketchy moment involving Miz and one of the ladders, Priest was sent to the outside by R-Truth, and he pulled down the RAW Tag Team Titles for himself and The Miz. There were a couple of super cool spots in here, but beyond that, this was largely one giant mess. Those handful of spots definitely lift this one up to what I would technically call a “good” match (with regards to star ratings), despite the fact that there was nothing else of note here. I don’t have any issues with them separating the titles, and in terms of the winners, I felt they made sense. There have been plenty of better Ladder Matches than this one. It had some potential with the teams involved, but it just didn’t work out that well. ***




ANDRADE & REY MYSTERIO def. DOMINIK MYSTERIO & SANTOS ESCOBAR

Suit: Poor Dragon Lee. Guy works hard in NXT, gets called up, and literally on the eve of his big WrestleMania moment, he gets replaced by a guy who left and came back. The announcers won’t stop moaning about how cold it is, because I guess they didn’t expect to get cold in an open-air building in Philadelphia in April. I’m starting to get annoyed at every square inch of space on the screen being used for advertising. Don’t these whores make enough money?

The match was a SmackDown special, nothing you’ll remember tomorrow. Two masked guys posted Dom, setting him and Escobar up for their finishes. Andrade and Mysterio won, and the masked guys unmasked as Philadelphia Eagles legends Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. So it’s known, Taylor Swift is dating the other Kelce brother. Cole said that he’s never seen luchadores that big. Someone needs to get that man some Galeno Del Mal tapes. Nothing to see here. **

Sean: Dragon Lee was originally announced as Rey Mysterio’s tag team partner here, but after Lee was attacked on SmackDown, Andrade stepped up to take his place. I’m not entirely sure why they announced Dragon Lee, then pulled him, but whatever. There was a cool spot early on where Andrade put Rey on his shoulders, and then did a diving crossbody off the second rope to the floor. From there, the heels spent a number of minutes working over Rey until he was able to make the tag to Andrade. It became a more even affair from there until all of the seconds got involved, which all led to Joaquin Wilde doing his big launching springboard dive. While all of that was going on, two giant dudes in masks came out and attacked Dominik, which led to the babyface side getting the win. It was kinda obvious who at least one of those giant dudes was, but they unmasked to reveal themselves as longtime Philadelphia Eagles stars Jason Kelce (who retired after the 2023 season) and Lane Johnson. Cool to see some Eagles guys getting in the mix here, but as far as the match went, I thought it was perfectly fine. They pretty much had what I would call a decent TV match. Solid action, but easily forgettable. ***

YEET VS. NO YEET
JEY USO def. JIMMY USO

Suit: There were people who said that the Bloodline story was about Jey Uso. Sami Zayn couldn’t win the title. Cody Rhodes couldn’t be the one to beat Roman Reigns. No, it had to be the YEET Man. I want those people to bathe in how wrong they are, and how bad they look.

This was a goddamn snoozer and a half. All they did was superkick each other. That’s it. They did a poor approximation of what people think the Young Bucks do. Then you got your Bloodline melodrama, as Jimmy begged off to Jey and apologized. Jey, like the biggest rube on the planet, fell for it and almost lost to a, you guessed it, superkick and a splash for a nearfall. Jey came back and won with, say it with me now, a superkick and a splash. 

I didn’t expect this to be good, but I really didn’t expect it to be THAT bad. These two had two minutes of ideas and fifteen minutes to fill. An exposing effort on both sides, with the added hilarity of him being called “Main Event” Jey Uso upon victory. An embarrassment, and what’s even worse is the fact that no one cared. Outside of saying YEET, nobody gave a fuck about their drama. It’s almost as if people got into the idea of the Bloodline ending more than the Bloodline itself. I cannot stress how truly pathetic that match was. DUD

Sean: Ah yes. Yeet vs. No Yeet time. I cannot believe how over with the WWE fanbase this “Yeet” thing with Jey Uso has gotten. Jey attacked Jimmy right away to get this one going, but Jimmy gained the advantage a short time later. We’re only a few minutes into this and it’s already starting to bore me (not a very interesting control period from Mr. No Yeet). Jey finally cuts Jimmy off with a superkick, and we get the crowd chanting “Yeet” every time Jey connected during an exchange of offense between the two. They’re hitting each other with superkicks and the crowd is going mild. Mix in some trademark Bloodline Community Theater, and you have all the makes of a match that isn’t very good. Jey actually buys into Jimmy saying he was sorry, and that leads to Jimmy kicking his brother in the face and nearly winning the match.

Jey then returns fire, hitting one of the worst spears you’ll ever see before connecting with a twisting splash to score the win. This was a really bad match, and I won’t hear anything to the contrary. The wrestling felt so slow at times, nobody cared during their big superkick exchange, and the Bloodline Community Theater was such a big turnoff (as it always is). This sucked and it didn’t work. Simple as that. *

BIANCA BELAIR, JADE CARGILL & NAOMI def. DAMAGE CTRL (ASUKA, DAKOTA KAI & KAIRI SANE)

Suit: Nothing about this mattered until Jade got in. When Jade got in, she looked like Jade Cargill. Well, she looked like Jade Cargill with some ring rust. But she looked like the star the company wants, and that’s all that matters. She pinned Dakota with the Jaded in a nothing match. *1/2

Sean: The announce team has been talking about the weather all night. Look, fifty degrees fahrenheit, with a windchill that makes it feel a little colder, is indeed chilly (and I can attest to that since I was in Philly yesterday and the weather was very similar to today by the sounds of it), but it’s NOT THAT COLD. Come on guys. Anyway, both teams had special entrances and special outfits and all that jazz. Very early on in the match, Kairi hits a BIG elbow drop off the top rope to the floor onto Naomi, which was a wild spot to bust out that quickly. Bianca was able to turn things around with her power once she tagged in, but much like Naomi before her, the heel side was able to isolate her. At this point it was fairly easy to see what they were doing here, as they built towards the big tag to Jade. She cleaned house, and while Damage CTRL tried to fight back, a miscommunication between Asuka and Kairi did them in. Bianca took out Asuka, and Jade hit Dakota with Jaded to seal the deal.

This was a fine match that played out exactly how most of us expected, with the build up to the Jade Cargill hot tag. She wasn’t in there very long before they went to the eventual finish. I’m interested to see where Jade goes from here, because they can’t hide her in six-person tags forever. She’ll have to wrestle singles matches eventually. Actually, now that I say that, a good idea if you wanted to keep protecting Jade is to put her in a tag team and have her win the Women’s Tag Team Titles….though that would actually require WWE to put effort into a set of belts that they’ve never cared about. Again, this match will only be remembered for the last minute or so, and not much else. **




WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH
SAMI ZAYN def. GUNTHER (C)

Suit: Fun fact: I was in attendance when Gunther won the Intercontinental Championship. It was in the Raising Cane’s River Center in beautiful Baton Rouge, Louisiana. $20 and a 10 minute drive was all it took to see history.

Svelte Gunther is still not normal to me. Gunther beat the piss out of Sami for the majority of the match, mocking him in front of his wife in the front row. At the end, Sami got a surge of adrenaline and caught Gunther with a Helluva Kick as he was climbing the ropes. He then hit a BRAINBUSTAH~! before hitting two Helluva Kicks to win the match and the title.

This match was good, but I think I’m gonna end up being the low man on it. For one, the build for the Intercontinental Title match felt like it was building towards Chad Gable, who ended up training Sami for this match. The story was the same too, with Gable wanting to make up for losing to Gunther in front of his family. There was no reason to shoehorn Sami into this match. Then, I didn’t really like the finish. Sami flopping around like a fish out of water before hitting the first Helluva Kick looked goofy. I’d have rather just seen him shoot up and hit it out of nowhere then this cartoonish Hulk up he did. But again, this was good, and by far the best match of the night. ***1/2

Sean: Before the match, Sami Zayn met up with his wife and child, as well as Chad Gable and Kevin Steen, who gave him some final words/moments of encouragement. Zayn connected with some chops early on, but Gunther quickly gained control. Gunther would cut off Zayn again after a short flurry that culminated with the Tornado DDT. Zayn managed to kick out of Gunther’s powerbomb, and after trying to hit the Helluva Kick a few times earlier in the match, he finally managed to hit it for a close nearfall. Gunther responded with two more big powerbombs, and Zayn survived again to a huge reaction. Zayn continued to take some brutal offense from Gunther, who taunted Zayn’s wife at ringside. After two top rope splashes (while not going for the cover), Zayn fires up and stops a third splash with TOP ROPE BRAINBUSTER!! Hell yeah that was awesome!! Two Helluva Kicks later, and Sami Zayn ends Gunther’s record-setting reign as Intercontinental Champion.

On the whole, I thought this was a really good match that was right up there with Rhea/Becky as far as Match Of The Night goes (though that’s not exactly a high bar to clear on this particular show). I liked the idea of Gunther’s arrogance ultimately costing him the match, as when he clearly had the match won, he was more concerned with taunting Sami Zayn’s wife. I could see people not being into Zayn getting a sudden surge of energy after taking such a beating at the hands of Gunther (perhaps seeing it as a little too goofy and unbelievable). While I cannot disagree with those sentiments, Sami actually busting out the Top Rope Brainbuster (which I think he might have done once before in WWE against Kevin Owens, but I don’t remember off hand) makes up for it in my eyes. It’s such a dangerous and unbelievably awesome move that I can’t look past it. This fell just shy of notebook territory, but from start to finish, it was very good on the whole. ***3/4 

HIGH STAKES TAG TEAM MATCH
ROMAN REIGNS & THE ROCK def. CODY RHODES & SETH ROLLINS

The result of this match will determine the stipulation for Rhodes vs. Reigns for the WWE Title tomorrow night: If Rhodes & Rollins win, it will be a straight singles match with all parties banned from ringside. If Rock & Reigns win, the match will be a Bloodline Rules match where Bloodline interference will be allowed.

Suit: The night of WrestleMania 32 was one of the worst nights of my life. I watched a terrible WrestleMania, then had to shit out a seven-page term paper before 7 AM. That night, The Rock stood on the WrestleMania stage and lit his name on fire. Tonight, the Rock stood in the middle of a flaming Brahma bull for his entrance. And much like that night eight years ago, the main event of this show was an endless trainwreck.

There was the heatless staredown between Roman and Cody. There was the very heated staredown with Cody and Rock. There was the long and boring walk and brawl. There was the long and boring heat segment on Rollins. There was about 15 minutes where it looked like they were close to going home, then never went home. Then Cody put Rock through the announce table, and Roman put Rollins through the barricade. They FINALLY went home with a redo of last year’s Mania main event, with Cody hitting two Cross Rhodes on Roman before the Rock hit him with the weight belt. Roman hit the spear, Rock hit the Rock Bottom and the People’s Elbow to mercifully end this match after 40 minutes.

Where to start? Let’s start with the fact that Roman vs Cody tomorrow feels so secondary to Rock vs Cody. Those staredowns at the start of the match were so telling. Then, Roman didn’t pin Cody to set up tomorrow night. Rock pinned Cody. So even if/when Cody beats Roman for the title tomorrow, Cody still has to get his payback on the Rock. The greatest story in wrestling history – as I’ve heard people call this Bloodline story – cannot see the main antagonist get little brothered at the end of it. That’s not how great stories end, and that’s now how good stories are even told.

Then there was the match, which was fucking terrible. If you’re gonna go 40 minutes, you can’t have 10 good ones in there. You have to have ideas to fill that time, otherwise it’s just a masterbatory exercise in saying you went that long. These guys had no such ideas, thus they had an incredibly boring main event. Add another one to the wretched WrestleMania catalog for Roman Reigns, who has consistently bombed in the big spots year-after-year. The Brock match at 31 and the Cody match last year are the outliers. This guy, who some people are genuinely considering an all-time great, never shows up when it matters and doesn’t have the presence to hold up when real stars enter the room. I’m done hearing about Roman Reigns as any kind of significant star in wrestling history, and hopefully that talk dies when this needlessly overlong and unproductive title reign ends tomorrow night. *1/2

Sean: I’m actually kind of impressed that this show is going to end before 11:00 Eastern Time, though that’s mainly down to the show starting at 7:00 PM (and yes, I recognize that this main event is probably going long). The Rock had a wild entrance that, once again, involved him setting something on fire (this time it was his Brahma Bull logo). After a lengthy staredown, the match finally got started with Roman and Seth in the ring. Those two had a very basic exchange that led to Cody tagging in. There wasn’t much of a reaction when Cody locked up with Roman, but the crowd exploded when The Rock tagged in.

Rock had a brief interaction with Rollins before Cody tagged in. Should be noted that Cody and Rock going at it got a MUCH bigger reaction than Cody and Roman locking up. Things then broke down, and the match devolved into a very slow walk-and-brawl as The Rock has yet to take any actual bumps (learning from greats like Togi Makabe). They eventually get back to the ring, but it’s been a pretty slow and boring match thus far. Is this what it felt like watching those WCW main events back in the day with all of the old guys (who were all younger than The Rock is here, by the way)? The pace finally started to pick up a bit after The Rock was taken out for a bit, but it didn’t help that not one, but TWO Cody Cutters were botched (the second one more than the first).

As I type this, it is now 11:00 Eastern and the show is still not over. My goodness, this match is taking forever. After Cody survived some Roman Reigns submission attempts, he went at it with The Rock again (who took a better Cody Cutter than the two Roman took earlier), and this all led to a spot where Roman accidentally speared Rock. Dueling Pedigree from Cody and Seth lead to the biggest reaction of the whole match so far. Cody putting Rock through an announce desk and Roman spearing Rollins through the barricade soon follow. Then, just as Cody was on the verge of putting Roman away, Rock hits him with the weight belt, and hits the Rock Bottom and the People’s Elbow to put Cody away. 

This match was something else. About 90% of it was so slow and so plodding. It went nearly FORTY FIVE MINUTES, and the majority of it was as boring as can be. Things picked up a little bit in the last few minutes, with some spots that the crowd did react big to for sure, but it couldn’t save what was unquestionably a bad match. As far as the result is concerned, it was pretty much what most of us expected, with The Bloodline victory assuring that we will more than likely be seeing The Rock again tomorrow during that main event (while also guaranteeing that nothing in that match will matter until The Rock does come out). Oh, and speaking of The Rock, let’s not forget that, once again, Cody Rhodes vs. The Rock feels bigger and much more important than Cody vs. Roman does. The crowd reactions told us as much. I have no doubt that Cody will finish the story (I feel gross just saying that) tomorrow night, but it will be unbelievably funny if he fails again. While this tag team match accomplished the goal of setting things up for tomorrow, it was an absolute slog to sit through. If anyone tells you this match was good, they’re lying to you, and you should never listen to them again. *

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