Sunday, April 3, 2022

WWE Wrestlemania 38 Night Two

By Steve Ward

WWE returned this evening to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX with night number two of Wrestlemania. Last night’s edition was entertaining for the second half of the show and was excessively littered with ads hyping tonight (so many that the tag team match featuring Sheamus and Ridge Holland taking on The New Day was cut). I will admit that last night’s show would not have been nearly as entertaining if not for Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first match in 19 years to close out the evening. Even the “surprise” return of Cody Rhodes seemed to fall flat initially as the WWE Universe was either disinterested, in shock, or felt the same way they did about him in the final months of his AEW run. This evening’s show was promoted with the ability to surpass last night. The card featured eight matches (originally, however, it ended up as nine) with three titles contested and of course the main event would feature WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, versus Universal Champion, Roman Reigns - winner takes all.

The show kicked off in electric fashion as Triple H made his way to the ring to a deafening ovation. Triple H simply welcomed everyone to Wrestlemania and left his wrestling boots in the ring as a final gesture of his previously announced retirement from in-ring competition.

RAW Tag Team Championship

RK-Bro (Randy Orton & Riddle) (c) vs. The Street Profits vs. The Alpha Academy (Chad Gable & Otis)

Winners: RK-Bro via pinfall

The unlikely duo of Orton and Riddle kicked off Wrestlemania Sunday with a defense of their RAW Tag Team Championship against stiff competition in the form of The Alpha Academy and The Street Profits. The conclusion of the bout saw Riddle deliver an RKO to Montez Ford off the top rope and moments later Orton hit the RKO Out Of Nowhere on Gable as he attempted a dive off the top turnbuckle in The Viper’s direction. Orton then easily covered Gable to retain the titles for RK-Bro.

Bobby Lashley vs. Omos

Winner: Bobby Lashley via pinfall

Following months of domination over every man in his path, Omos’ challenge was answered this past Monday night by Bobby Lashley who made his return from injury for the first time since Elimination Chamber. As the their verbal exchange erupted into an all out brawl Monday, Lashley also became the first individual to take the seven footer off his feet. After being thrown around like a rag doll for much of the bout tonight by the 7-foot, 400 lb Omos, Lashley rallied late and executed a suplex on his much larger opponent and finished him off with a devastating spear for the win.

Johnny Knoxville vs. Sami Zayn

Winner: Johnny Knoxville via pinall

After months of one upsmanship games with each other, including Zayn crashing the premier of Jackass Forever and Knoxville costing Zayn the Intercontinental Championship, their rivalry culminated with a meeting tonight in Dallas. The encounter quickly evolved into a hardcore match involving much of the Jackass crew coming to the aid of Knoxville. The closing moments saw Zayn laid out on a giant mouse trap which Knoxville triggered to close on Sami allowing him to secure the pinfall.

Women’s Tag Team Championship

Naomi & Sasha Banks vs. Liv Morgan & Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler & Natalya vs. Queen Zelina & Carmella (c)

Winners: Naomi & Sasha Banks via pinfall

In the WWE’s way of packing the majority of the women’s division who did not compete yesterday into one segment, a fatal four way for the Women’s Tag Team Championship was booked for the reigning champs, Queen Zelina and Carmella, to attemp to retain their titles. The conclusion of this match arrived as Carmella fell victim to a tandem version of X-Pac’s finisher, the X-Factor, at the hands of Banks and Naomi which allowed Sasha to cover for the victory.

Edge vs. A.J. Styles

Winner: Edge via pinfall

Edge made his way to the ring on RAW several weeks ago soliciting for an opponent at Wrestlemania with his challenge being answered by “The Phenomenal” A.J. Styles. Edge proceeded to go into full-on heel mode as he kicked Styles between the uprights and delivered a one-man con-chair-to sparking a bitter rivalry heading into this weekend. Edge withstood all of Styles’ offense just long enough for his window of opportunity to open in the form of Damian Priest. In the closing moments, Priest emerged at ringside and distracted A.J.’s delivery of the Phenomenal Forearm long enough for Edge to return to his feet and deliver a body breaking spear to Styles in mid flight which allowed him to secure the pinfall.

Sheamus & Ridge Holland w/ Butch vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods)

Winners: Sheamus & Ridge Holland via pinfall

This match was supposed to take place last night, however, WWE aired too many promos for tonight’s show and ran out of time. This match didn’t last long as Butch created enough of a distraction at ringside to allow Holland to hit the Northern Grit on Xavier Woods sealing the victory for his team.

Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory

Winner: Pat McAfee via pinfall

During his recent appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, Mr. McMahon granted the former NFL punter and current Smackdown commentator a match at the Showcase of the Immortals against his protégé, Austin Theory. McAfee who trained as a professional wrestler following his NFL retirement showed proficient wrestling acumen during the match and in the end found his way off of Theory’s shoulders for a rollup pinfall. 

Mr. McMahon vs. Pat McAfee

Winner: Mr. McMahon

After Theory’s loss, Mr. McMahon took exception to McAfee’s celebration, removed his tie and dress shirt, entered the ring, and challenged McAfee to an impromptu match. The capacity crowd went insane as a jacked and tanned 76 year old Mr. McMahon began strutting around the ring and threw a few clotheslines at McAfee. With a few distractions and cheap shots from Austin Theory at ringside, Mr. McMahon finally took a football and punted it into McAfee’s ribs before he covered him for a pinfall victory.

As McMahon and Theory celebrated, the sound of glass shattering echoed throughout AT&T Field as Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring! First, Austin delivered a Stunner to Theory. Next, Austin lulled Mr. McMahon into a beer celebration that ended in a Stunner for Mr. McMahon. Finally, Pat McAfee was invited into the ring for another beer celebration and received a Stunner himself.

Champion vs. Champion - Winner Takes All

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns w/ Paul Heyman

Winner: Roman Reigns via pinfall

The main event of Wrestlemania’s stakes could not be any higher as Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, and WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, put their respective titles on the line in a winner takes all affair. This hard hitting encounter was shockingly stopped dead in it’s tracks as Brock Lesnar seemed to be in total control. Lesnar cinched in the kimura, however, Paul Heyman pushed the bottom rope within The Tribal Chief’s grasp to break the hold. Lesnar then hoisted Roman up for the F5, however, Reigns was able to escape and propel Brock towards the ropes setting him up for a spear and subsequent pinfall to become undisputed champion.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Wrestlemania 38 Night One

By Steve Ward

WWE kicked off the “Showcase of the Immortals” with night one of a two night extravaganza from AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. Some may say two is better than one or that they had grown weary of how long Wrestlemania had become each year prior to COVID, however, the event which for over 30 years has equated itself to the Super Bowl of professional wrestling now feels as if it’s lost some of it’s luster. No longer is it the one day of the year that die-hard and casual fans alike would mark on their calendars but instead an opportunity for WWE to capitalize on two days of massive ticket gates and merchandise sales with an overproduced product. Nonetheless, that’s what we have and can only hope that two days worth of shows can produce one equivalent in entertainment value to AEW Revolution last month. Night one’s card featured seven matches with three titles contested and the main event segment would highlight the return of the legendary Stone Cold Steve Austin as the guest of Kevin Owens on the KO Show.

Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs vs. The Usos (c)

Winners: The Usos via pinfall

The night opened as The Usos put their 257-day title reign on the line against the duo of Nakamura and Boogs (who has replaced Elias as WWE’s resident guitar player - although I still wonder if he’s actually playing at times). As Nakamura and Boogs seemed to have all the momentum midway through the match, Boogs knee gave out as he attempted to carry both Usos on his shoulders effectively removing him from the match. The numbers game was too much for Nakamura as he finally succumbed to the 1D (The Usos version of the Dudley Death Drop) allowing Jimmy and Jey to retain their titles.

Drew McIntyre vs. Happy Corbin w/ Madcap Moss

Winner: Drew McIntyre via pinfall

In a rivalry that has seemingly been carried out for way too long, not only because of a lack of creative ideas but also to ensure both men had a spot on the Wrestlemania card, McIntyre and Corbin’s months long rivalry hopefully reach it’s conclusion tonight. In what should be the final chapter of this long running program between the two, McIntyre withstood Corbin’s End of Days in order to execute the Claymore Kick moments later to seal the victory.

Rey & Dominic Mysterio vs. The Miz & Logan Paul

Winners: The Miz & Logan Paul via pinfall

This bout came to fruition after The Miz ridiculed Dominic Mysterio for having a contract only because of his father (which is not completely false) and later introduced YouTuber and “boxer” Logan Paul as his tag team partner. It appeared that The Mysterios were poised for victory as The Miz was seemingly out of the picture. Logan Paul fell victim to a dual 619 and then back to back frog splashes. As Rey went for the pinfall attempt, Miz reemerged and dropped Dominic on top of Rey. Miz then executed the Skull Crushing Finale and pinned the elder Mysterio for the win. As The Miz and Logan Paul celebrated, Miz back-stabbed Paul and delivered another Skull Crushing Finale to his tag team partner to ensure he was the only one in the spotlight as the dust settled.

RAW Women’s Championship

Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair

Winner: Bianca Belair via pinfall

Following the shocking return back at Summerslam by Becky Lynch where she took Belair’s title in 26 seconds, Belair finally finally found her way into a rematch with “Big Time” Becky Lynch on the grandest stage of them all. This match would have been significantly more entertaining if it was about five minutes shorter as it just seemed to drag on and on between a few highlights such as Lynch delivering a senton-like heel kick from the top rope and Belair executing a 450 splash from the middle rope. The conclusion arrived after Belair executed the KOD for the win as a new champion was crowned.

Seth Rollins vs. An Opponent of Mr. McMahon’s Choosing (Cody Rhodes)

Winner: Cody Rhodes via pinfall

After Seth Rollins missed out on every opportunity for securing a match at Wrestlemania, Mr. McMahon told him this past Monday night on RAW that he would indeed have a match - against an opponent of his choosing. This caused speculation to run wild…would it be Cody Rhodes? Shane McMahon? Or my guess Corey Graves? Seth would not know until he made his way to the ring. After a few minutes of suspense, Cody Rhodes was revealed as Rollins’ mystery opponent. Interestingly enough, Cody made his way to the ring with his identical AEW entrance theme song and a near identical entrance through the floor of the entrance stage. This was enough to make me wonder for a split second if Vince McMahon had opened the “forbidden door” again after he allowed Impact Knockouts Champion Mickie James to compete in this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Seth Rollins seemed in prime position to spoil the return of Cody, however, he  was stopped dead in his tracks before attempting the curb stomp. Rhodes then countered with consecutive Cross Rhodes, The Bionic Elbow, and one final Cross Rhodes as he put away Seth Rollins in his return following a six year absence from the company.

Smackdown Women’s Championship

Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

Winner: Charlotte Flair via pinfall

Ronda Rousey not only made her shocking return to the WWE at the Royal Rumble but also won the match. Following her victory, she decided to challenge The Queen for her coveted title at Wrestlemania. Late in the match Ronda Rousey first executed the Piper’s Pit, however, Charlotte got her foot on the rope to break the pinfall attempt. Next, Rousey cinched in the armbar causing Charlotte to tap, however, referee Charles Robinson had been knocked out moments earlier. As Rousey attempted to stir him, Flair rolled up Ronda for the pinfall to retain her title.

Night one concluded with Kevin Owens hosting the KO Show with special guest, Stone Cold Steve Austin! After Austin made his way to the ring to the loudest pop of the entire show, Kevin Owens told Austin he didn’t bring him out to talk but rather to challenge him to a no holds barred match. Austin called for a referee and the fight was on!

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens

Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin via pinfall

Steve Austin looked like he never left a WWE ring as he beat Kevin Owens all over the stadium. In the closing moments, Owens was unable to capitalize on a Stunner he delivered to Austin as the Texas Rattlesnake rallied to deliver the real Stunner and pinned KO for the victory. This match was by and large the absolute highlight of the evening and arguably the most entertaining thing I’ve seen on WWE programming in years. If this was the last hurrah, it was fitting for one of, if not the, greatest of all time. Not only did Austin score the victory in his home state, but also had an epic beer celebration in the ring that featured a Stunner delivered to Byron Saxton and a beer shared with his brother.