McGuire’s Mondays: Five takeaways from WrestleMania 39 weekend


By Colin McGuire, Staffer (@McGMondays)

If not now, when? And if not Cody, who?

Those are the only two questions that matter for a lot of people coming out of WrestleMania. In a move that seemed unlikely – but always possible – Roman Reigns defeated Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania Sunday night to cap off professional wrestling’s biggest weekend. In any other circumstance, I’d focus entirely on that for this week’s piece. But damn, a lot happened over the last three days. That said, I’m following up last week’s five things I was thinking about the most as we headed into WrestleMania weekend with five things I took away from it now that it’s over. And I bet you can guess which topic will kick it off …

1. What’s that about long-term storytelling? You didn’t just think it would be as easy as leaving to help start your own pro wrestling company after you toil away in the middle of the card, only to come back and walk right into a scenario where you instantly dethrone the most important champion WWE has seen in years, did you? I loved the decision to keep the belt on Roman Reigns (so much so that if I still had The Twitter, buddy, my level of obnoxiousness would have made Vince McMahon’s mustache blush). It seemed like such a foregone conclusion that Sunday night would be a formality – especially after the Usos dropped their tag-team titles to end Saturday night – and Cody Rhodes would “finish the story” (yes, I’m already sick of that phrase, too) by fulfilling his life’s quest to win WWE’s biggest prize.

But that didn’t happen and it has me wondering if it ever will, even though it seems like it has to, right … right? If there’s one gripe I have with the decision, it’s the notion that WWE could be playing with fire by doubling down on Roman’s reign. The company dodged a bullet by somehow navigating the Sami Zayn rise and subsequent loss to Reigns, but the more you get your top babyfaces as over as Zayn and Cody are, and the more you tease a title change without actually doing it, the bigger the chance is that we stumble into the fickle territory in which some WWE fans like to live. Cody can smile and kiss babies while Zayn can buy a warehouse’s worth of black hoodies, but if some people don’t see this thing move in the direction they want to see it move when they want to see it, those people will turn on everyone and they’ll turn quick.

Pair that with the widespread belief that no matter what the company says, Vince McMahon has at least something to do with creative – and the good will from the perfect storm that was Paul Levesque taking the book, Sami Zayn organically winning over fans and Cody receiving the white-meat babyface torch from John Cena … well, that good will is almost gone. It will be beyond interesting to see where things go from here, but as we speculate, it’s imperative we take at least 24 hours to appreciate how tremendous the match between Reigns and Cody actually was. The drama, the near-falls, the interference, the story – that was world-class stuff from both guys. I cannot recall a WrestleMania main event in recent memory that had me feeling anything close to the way I felt Sunday night, watching that match. Kudos to those guys, who had the impossible task of putting a worthy cap on a hell of a wrestling weekend – and they did so brilliantly.

2. So, that’s what’s up with the women. In last week’s piece, I complained about the main women’s programs heading into WrestleMania, saying that things weren’t clicking and builds weren’t particularly affecting. Well, Bianca Belair, Asuka, Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley said, “pound sand, dude,” and all four women stepped up for two great title matches Saturday and Sunday. Charlotte and Rhea, especially … man, you know they took not being in the closing spot Saturday night personally and they delivered one hell of a match. There’s something about those two women working together that lights up each time they stand in a ring against one another. It just works. Maybe both can be guilty of having subpar television matches from time to time, and maybe there have even been Big Spot matches where one or the other felt a little off. But damn it, when they square off against one another, it goes from zero to sixty in a hurry.

Asuka and Belair, meanwhile, complemented each other pretty well. I was hoping for a title change because I’m a big Asuka fan, but Belair is a good champion and my God, those strength spots during that match were wild. Belair is a beast and whenever she gets the chance to remind people of that, she never misses. I’m not sure where either Asuka or Belair go from here, but WrestleMania means the reset button is as activated as it’ll ever be, so here’s hoping Asuka can find a meaningful program while Belair can elevate someone who needs a little nudge toward the top of the card. As for Rhea and Charlotte, I can’t imagine the former ever dropping that belt … like, ever … while the latter could probably benefit from returning to her natural heel form. Or, who knows. Maybe they run it back at SummerSlam. I wouldn’t complain.

3. Tag team troubadours. Lost in the surprise of Roman Reigns retaining his title Sunday night and the news Monday that WWE is being acquired by Endeavor is the Saturday night main event. For the first time ever, the WWE tag titles were on the line in a ‘Mania main event and goodness, it didn’t disappoint. Need proof? Check out Kevin Owens’s face as he sat in the ring once the final bell rang. The wave of emotions was nothing short of palpable and the moment didn’t seem lost on anyone. From PWG to beating the longest-reigning tag champs in the history of WWE at the company’s biggest show … how cool was that?

The match itself was fantastic and I’m not so sure a better tag team match exists in the history of WrestleMania. The melodrama. The crowd (which, by the way, deserves all the accolades it gets for being up and on all weekend). That finish with the multiple Helluva Kicks. The story between Sami and Jay. The only thing missing was a backstage shot of Cody smiling as he watched the match play out on a television. My hope is we don’t get a turn from either Owens or Zayn, if only because we’ve been down that road so many times through the years. If they are long for the tag title world, let them have a good run, drop them organically and then move onto other things in singles competition. My guess is my hopes won’t be recognized – even if it is KO who turns on Sami, we all know those two could heat up any program they work with one another – but a boy can dream.

4. Conspicuous by their absences. For a show that had to shoehorn in two eight-person tag matches to ensure that more people could get on the card, it sure was odd that a few names weren’t mentioned or even teased. The biggest one of those names, of course, was Bray Wyatt. I don’t know what the hell is going on with that guy (or the company’s plans for him), but his return seems to have gone sideways, and it’s gone sideways in a hurry. Does it have anything to do with Vince’s return? Is Wyatt not healthy? Did Brock Lesnar’s reported rejection of a ‘Mania program with him hurt his political standing backstage? For an act that had so much fanfare when he came back into the fold, the lack of his presence on this card felt like it was more telling than anything he’s said in one of his rambling promos since coming back.

Another name I was surprised to see left on the sidelines? LA Knight. He’s good, man. I don’t know what else to say. He’s … good. Real good, and the crowds seem to like him, too. Plus, if I recall, they started to tell somewhat of a story about him not being on the WrestleMania card for a week or two on television, but nothing really came from that and he was nowhere to be found on Saturday or Sunday. Here’s hoping WWE has some big plans for him coming out of the biggest show of the year. Another name that was bandied about going into the weekend was Randy Orton. Will he be back soon? We can only hope (that guy sure is missed when he’s not around), but if he is, it’d be great to see him without Matt Riddle, who is also nowhere to be found these days.

Perhaps more noteworthy to me? The surprise celebrities and/or legend returns. Each WrestleMania has its share of “Oh, that’s cool; I didn’t know he or she would be there,” but this year, we didn’t quite get that. It would have been impossible to follow up everything Stone Cold did last year, but as far as I’m concerned, Pat McAfee is always in play whenever WWE runs a big show, so that didn’t move the needle for me. Then on Sunday, we got Shane McMahon, which was surprising in that WWE actually thought it would carry any weight. Poor Shane-O, though, with his legs giving out and all. The wrestling business hasn’t been all that kind to Vince’s son over the last year. Here’s hoping he can land on his feet (see what I did there?!) one last time before calling it a day in the wrestling business for good.

5. Stand and (kind of) deliver. I had the pleasure of picking up NXT’s Stand And Deliver coverage Saturday afternoon and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it to wrap things up here. Why? Because the biggest match that NXT has had bubbling for a bit now has been Carmelo Hayes vs. Bron Breakker. The brand’s top two stars were set to square off for the NXT Championship and even though we could all agree we were planning on seeing Hayes come away with the belt, like he did, we were not planning on seeing a subpar match. But we got one.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the weekend, the match didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I’m not sure if NXT is trying to lean into people booing Breakker or if NXT is deaf to the cheers that Hayes receives these days, but the dynamic between the two was off. It didn’t help that Trick Williams interfered once … only to be tossed out … only to return after a ref bump … only to hit Breakker with the belt in order for Hayes to get the win. Even weirder was the post-match handshake that Breakker gave Hayes for … not beating him fair and square? I don’t know. Maybe this means Breakker is main roster bound. Maybe this means they’ll try and run it back to get the stench off that performance. Either way, those two can do better and it was frustrating that they didn’t in such a big time situation.

But, hell. I’m not ending this piece on a sour note. This was a great weekend of wrestling. We didn’t even get to Gunther’s match, anything from the Collective, Ring Of Honor’s Supercard of Honor, Brodie Lee Jr., John Cena’s hairline, Finn Balor’s head staples, or, of course, the most important show of the weekend, AEW’s Rampage. WrestleMania season is exhausting, fulfilling, chaotic and unavoidable each year; this time around, it was also pretty great (and being great isn’t always promised).

So. See you in Philly next year? See you in Philly next year.


Readers Comments (2)

  1. Michael Tennant April 3, 2023 @ 7:33 pm

    The ending of Cody/Roman was pure trash. It is the same old thing. It takes a bunch of interference for him to retain. It does not build anyone else up. It kills the credibility of all the other performers. It also makes the officials look like jokes.
    It hasn’t been entertaining for over a year now.
    If Reigns was a better performer it might work but he isn’t.

  2. I don’t think it’s Roman’s fault. He plays the role of unstoppable “final boss” excellently. It’s just silly that everyone is supposed to forget that he is never booked to win matches without help.

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