By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WrestleMania 38 Night Two Hits
Triple H appearance: A terrific way to open the show. Well, technically, they opened with Jessie James Decker singing a quality version of “America the Beautiful” unlike whatever that was on WrestleMania Saturday. Anyway, a wrestler leaving his/her boots in the ring is typically a sad affair. And while it was obviously an emotional time for Paul Levesque, it was also a feel good moment for him and the fans simply because he was healthy enough to make this appearance. Congratulations to Levesque on his truly legendary in-ring career and here’s wishing him good health going forward.
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the Unified WWE Championship: A good, dramatic match while it lasted. They had the live crowd hanging on every near fall. The length of the match was an issue. When a lot of fans immediately speculate that the WrestleMania main event was cut short due to injury, it tells me that I’m not alone in feeling like this should have gone longer. And if it turns out there was a legit injury, then obviously the brevity of the match is totally understandable. Either way, I enjoyed what they gave us during those twelve minutes and they made the right call in putting over Reigns regardless of whether it ever leads to the showdown match with The Rock. I wish there was a Paul Heyman cam option where a small onscreen window would show him along with the match. He’s so good at reacting to everything that happens throughout the course of a major match. His speech to Reigns prior to the finish also helped spotlight the fact that he’s been on the right side of each of the Reigns vs. Lesnar singles matches at WrestleMania (not counting the Seth Rollins cash-in that became a Triple Threat). I give everyone involved a lot of credit. I had no interest in seeing another Reigns vs. Lesnar match following their last match at WrestleMania. The simple shift in the babyface/heel dynamic breathed new life into their rivalry and made it feel hotter than ever.
Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory: McAfee delivered again. His NXT matches were so much fun and this was even better. Using “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes as McAfee’s entrance music was a great call, as that song always gets live crowds fired up and chanting along. McAfee has been a great get for WWE and I really believe that his star will just keep shining brighter, as it seems crazy to me that none of the television networks have hired him to be part of their NFL coverage. This was also quite the moment for Theory. The company still put a lot of faith in the 24 year-old by attaching him to the Mr. McMahon character and by trusting him to have a quality match with McAfee on the biggest stage in the business.
Vince McMahon vs. Pat McAfee: Okay, so there wasn’t much to the match. I did enjoy watching the master tease the crowd that he was going to remove his jacket only to bring them down again by acting like he changed his mind, and then remove it after all to signify that he was looking for a fight. I love those little moments in wrestling. I actually get a kick out of knowing that Michael Cole quickly regained his bragging rights as the only undefeated broadcaster at WrestleMania. And, of course, this match led to Vince taking one more ass kicking from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Vince’s selling of the Stunner was so damn bad that it was actually great. Theory’s Stunner selling was super over the top and fantastic. And while everyone is talking about the Vince and Theory bumps, I also got a big kick out of McAfee spitting beer when he took his Stunner. I also loved the shot of him lying on the ground at ringside afterward and pouring more beer into his mouth. As much as I enjoyed the big dose of Austin vs. McMahon nostalgia, I also hope this was the last installment. All good things must come to an end and WWE has gotten everything there is to get out of this legendary rivalry and then some.
Johnny Knoxville vs. Sami Zayn in an Anything Goes match: The “Jackass” match was a blast. Those who don’t care for the show or wrestling fans who are not familiar with it may disagree, and surely wrestling purists despised this. But for those who do enjoy the show and movies, it was really fun to see the two worlds collide. I enjoyed the hell out of this over the top silliness. Zayn did such a good job throughout the build and was awesome as the heel human punching bag. I would have paid top dollar to watch Party Boy run out and grind on Undertaker to conclude Taker’s second Hall of Fame bow of the weekend followed by the obligatory chokeslam, but that probably says more about my warped tastes than anything.
“RK-Bro” Randy Orton and Riddle vs. “The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins vs. “Alpha Academy” Chad Gable and Otis for the Raw Tag Titles: A good opening tag match with the popular babyface duo retaining their titles. After being dicks in the weeks leading up to the match, the Street Profits turned out to be good sports in that they held the big post match toast with Orton, Riddle, and Gable Steveson. The Gable on Gable violence spot served as a nice teaser for Steveson’s forthcoming debut.
Edge vs. AJ Styles: A good match. It wasn’t the epic dream match that both men and fans wanted it to be. As such, I understand the reaction of fans who feel the match was a letdown, but it was still a quality match that simply fell below high expectations. It didn’t help that the Edge turn occurred so close to WrestleMania and he hasn’t fully established his new persona. The Damian Priest distraction finish was weak, but I am intrigued by the start of Edge’s new faction. I like Jake Barnett’s idea from last night’s WrestleMania 38 audio review, as he mentioned the outside the box idea of putting Rhea Ripley with Edge and Priest. WrestleMania Sunday wasn’t as hot as WrestleMania Saturday. And while it wouldn’t have been enough to change that, taking five minutes from this match and giving it to the main event would have made WrestleMania Sunday a better show than it was.
WrestleMania 38 Night Two Misses
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. Sheamus and Ridge Holland: They couldn’t find room for a 100-second match on WrestleMania Saturday? Better yet, they couldn’t find room on those long, boring Kickoff Shows to give these guys a full-length match? On a side note, I really wish WWE would stop showing the spot that resulted in Big E breaking his neck.
Queen Zelina and Carmella vs. Sasha Banks and Naomi vs. Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan vs. Shayna Baszler and Natalya in a four-way for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: This Miss says more about my lack of interest in the women’s tag titles than it does about the match or the wrestlers involved. The titles are treated like afterthoughts and the challengers were a bunch of makeshift teams that did nothing from a storyline standpoint to earn spots in this title match. WWE didn’t hold a women’s battle royal to get everyone on the card this year. We got this match instead.
Bobby Lashley vs. Omos: For all the time the company has invested in protecting Omos due to his size, there’s just something missing. It was good to see Lashley was healthy enough to work the show and he was the right person to go over. But Lashley’s win just didn’t pack as much of a punch as it should have considering that he handed the giant his first loss.