A one-off artist returned at Wrestlemania 38a great surprise revealedand the game of the night is one that immediately qualifies as a contender for game of the year.
And that was just the first night Wrestlemania 38.
Legendary “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had his first match in 19 years and ended with it WrestleMania in an all-out match against Kevin Owens. His performance brought back memories of a bygone era, when pro wrestling was a Monday night TV must and Austin was the leader of the revolution.
Even at the age of 57, with two wobbly knees supporting him, Austin’s connection to the audience is as pristine as ever. He delivered a physical match with Owens, an artist he holds in high esteem, and it felt like old times as Austin ended the show with a victory celebration of stunners and beers.
After a six-year absence – one during which he left WWE and established himself as a true main event talent, helped guide the wild success Everything in it Pay per view in 2018 and became an indistinguishable part of All Elite Wrestling – Cody Rhodes returned WrestleMania Defeating Seth Rollins in dramatic fashion. From entrance to end, this was reminiscent of the famous WWE-WCW bouts when a star switched brands. While All Elite Wrestling was not directly credited, it was significant that Rhodes came out to the same music and wore the same gear he wore when starring in AEW. On a night of publicity, he signed one a multi-year contract With WWE, Rhodes’ return has captured the magic of pro wrestling.
The match of the evening came when Bianca Belair defeated Becky Lynch. The match was incredibly well executed, beginning with a near-repeat of the frustratingly quick ending that took place SummerSlam when Lynch beat Belair in just 26 seconds. That was 19 minutes of back-and-forth action and detailed, nuanced storytelling. It’s also the best single WrestleMania Game of Lynch’s career. It’s hard for Belair to compare this to last year’s WrestleMania Main Event vs. Sasha Banks as this was a history-making fight, but there’s no denying that Belair redefined brilliance at WWE’s signature event for the second year in a row.
Belair and Lynch have been building on this match for the past eight months and seizing the moment. This was the only track of the evening to change hands. The Usos retained their SmackDown Tag Titles and in a surprise finish, SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair pinned Ronda Rousey.
The night wasn’t perfect. Rick Boogs’ right knee buckled in the opening match of the night and the show ran long, preventing The New Day – Sheamus/Ridge Holland match from happening. But there was solid action throughout the night, real excitement leading up to the Rhodes reveal and even an appearance from Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson, who was introduced by Stephanie McMahon during the show.
Here are the results from night one Wrestlemania 38:
- The Usos defeated Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs to retain the SmackDown Tag Titles
- Drew McIntyre defeated Happy Corbin
- The Miz and Logan Paul defeated Rey and Dominik Mysterio
- Bianca Belair defeated Becky Lynch to win the Raw Women’s Championship
- Cody Rhodes defeated Seth Rollins
- SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair defeated Ronda Rousey
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeated Kevin Owens in an all-out match
The match of the night was Belair and Lynch’s masterpiece. In just over 19 minutes, Belair and Lynch told an outstanding story that capitalized on what seemed like a missed opportunity SummerSlam when Lynch dealt with Belair so quickly. A key detail was that Lynch consistently countered every time Belair attempted a move for the second time. But after escaping the KOD on the first try, Lynch met her match when Belair hit the KOD to start her first-ever run with the Raw Women’s Championship. This was Lynch’s first fall pay-per-view pin loss since May 2019, and it came together perfectly to continue building Belair into one of the top stars in the industry.
No other match lived up to Belair and Lynch’s standard, but a very different moment was created when Cody Rhodes returned as a mystery opponent for Seth Rollins. This was Rhodes’ first WrestleMania Match in six years when he worked as Stardust in a multi-man ranked match for the Intercontinental title at the same location at the AT&T Center in Texas.
The plot was that no matter the opponent, this was going to be Rollins’ moment – and that was clearly stolen from him by Rhodes. This was an immersive match that packed a lot of emotion given Rhodes’ overall history in WWE. He left the company in 2016 amid frustration and deep disappointment that WWE decision makers didn’t see him as someone who could reach the top of the map or carry the mark. During his absence, which included runs in Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro-Wrestling and across India, and then a star-making run in AEW, Rhodes proved that he is indeed a headline act. As AEW’s first major talent to defect, his run in WWE is crucial.
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The most surprising end to the evening was Charlotte Flair’s victory over Ronda Rousey. The finish came right after Rousey knocked Flair out with her armbar, but the referee fell unconscious and never saw it. After Rousey turned her back on Flair to help the referee get back on her feet, Flair dropped her with a big boot for the win.
Talk to us earlier this week sports illustratedFlair shared that she dedicated the match to her late brother, Reid.
“My little brother started me on this path,” Flair told SI. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I take it all so seriously.
“March 29 is the anniversary of his death. It’s such a dark time. Nine years ago he wanted to see me wrestle Axxess For the first time. He came home from Japan, but then he died. That’s why this time of year is particularly emotional for me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”
Rousey is an MMA pioneer and a huge star, but she’s failed to connect with WWE audiences as a fan favorite. Becoming a villain would prolong her career in WWE. It’s not out of the question that Rousey – who won the Royal Rumble last January – wasn’t booked to win that match had she defeated Flair due to concerns about crowd reaction, which likely wouldn’t have been positive.
“I protect my business,” Flair said. “She’s an outsider. This is my world.”
The show began with The Usos defeating Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs. The match was marred by injury when Boogs’ right knee collapsed during a spot when he had both Jimmy and Jey Uso on his back. He was carried backwards and was later found to have torn his quadriceps patella. This ended shortly after the injury when Nakamura was pinned by Jey Uso after the 1D. The Usos are integral to the success of WWE’s weekly product, and they deserve this moment – but spirits have been dampened by Boogs’ injury.
Drew McIntyre defeated Happy Corbin in the second match of the night, putting an end to their seemingly never-ending feud. This match was by no means star-making, but it is important for McIntyre to string together a string of wins if he is to compete at Roman Reigns in the coming weeks.
There was some star power in the next fight as The Miz and Logan Paul teamed up to defeat Rey and Dominik Mysterio. The Miz outwitted the Mysterios with a blind tag, then surprisingly pinned Rey – and not Dom – for the win. During the post-game celebration, Miz Paul missed a skull crushing finale, further showing he’s only looking out for himself. Paul excelled in the ring, was naturally disliked by the crowd, and seems made for WWE.
The first night of Wrestlemania 38 went neck and neck with the NCAA Final Four, including the most anticipated college basketball game of the last decade in Duke-North Carolina, but it will steal its share of mainstream headlines. Watching Austin wrestle in the main event was equal parts nostalgic and compelling, Rhodes’ return will live on as real WrestleMania Wait a minute and the match between Belair and Lynch was phenomenal. Overall, the night was a resounding success for WWE.
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