Recaps (PPV/Event)WWE PPVWWE PPV 2021

‘WWE WRESTLEMANIA 37: NIGHT 1’ Rundown + Review – Banks vs. Belair, Bad Bunny for WWE Champion, FANS AGAIN

DATE: April 10, 2021
VENUE: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
VIEWING METHOD: Peacock (Live)

The first night of WrestleMania 37 features Sasha Banks defending the SmackDown Women’s Championship against Bianca Belair in the main event, Bad Bunny and Omos making their respective in-ring debuts, and Shane McMahon meeting his big ‘Mania bump quota for the year.

CHAMPIONS 

  • WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION: Roman Reigns
  • WWE CHAMPION: “The All Mighty” Bobby Lashley
  • SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION: “The Boss” Sasha Banks
  • RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Asuka
  • WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION: Big E
  • WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPION: Riddle
  • RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston)
  • SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Dirty Dawgs (Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode)
  • WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Nia Jax & Shayna Bazler

LINEUP

  • Bobby Lashley [c] vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE CHAMPIONSHIP (***1/4)
  • #1 Contenders Tag Team Turmoil – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship (*)
  • Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins (***1/2)
  • The New Day [c] vs. AJ Styles & Omos for the RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (***)
  • STEEL CAGE MATCH: Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon (**1/2)
  • Bad Bunny & Damian Priest vs. The Miz & John Morrison (***3/4)
  • Sasha Banks [c] vs. Bianca Belair for the SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (****1/4)

*****

Vince McMahon opened the show, the roster on the stage behind him, welcoming everyone BACK to WrestleMania in his often imitated and never duplicated growl. 

-After a goofy Jack Sparrow-y video package, the show then went right into a RAIN DELAY for thirty minutes, forcing various wrestlers to cut off the cuff promos to kill time. They were all pretty damn good, even Seth Rollins who might have cut the best annoying jerk promo I’ve ever heard him do.

-This year’s hosts Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan did some crowd work. Crowd loved Titus, crowd DID NOT care for Hogan but WWE is now well-versed in crowd sweetening thanks to the ThunderDome so cheers were still piped in. Titus deserves TWO Warrior Awards for putting up with Hogan and having to hang out with him.

“The All Mighty” Bobby Lashley [c] [w/ MVP] defeated Drew McIntyre via KO to retain the WWE CHAMPIONSHIP (18:20)
  • McIntyre was visibly emotional to be wrestling in front of fans again, taking it in and getting them revved up during his entrance. He got the big sword pyro entrance as expected while Lashley…did not get any pyro. Might have been a malfunction but it was awkward for him and MVP to stand there seemingly waiting for something to happen on the stage.
  • MVP distracted McIntyre long enough for him to miss the Claymore, Lashley cinched in the Hurt Lock and ROLLED THROUGH an escape attempt to knock his challenger out and retain.
  • JON’S THOUGHTS: I don’t know if it was the novelty of seeing fans again or WrestleMania being in a big ol’ stadium again, but I was HYPED UP going into this match. McIntyre & Lashley delivered too, just a couple of big bulls crashing into each other. One of those bulls locking horns and puffing their chests kind of matches. Lashley looked great here, his rolling through of McIntyre’s Bret Hart-style attempt to escape was great and really put over how badass the Hurt Lock is. I like that we’ve cycled back into an era where they want to make Full Nelsons a thing again. (***1/4)

Bayley tried to get some love from the nWo (Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, & Sean Waltman) and Titus O’Neil but they all left her “Too Sweet” hanging except for Waltman, who’s a big fan. 

Natalya & Tamina won Tag Team Turmoil, last eliminating The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan) via pinfall (14:06)
  • Other teams involved: Naomi & Lana, Carmella & Billie Kay, and Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose.
  • Poor Mandy Rose slipped on her way to the ring, undoubtedly due to the THUNDERSTORM that rolled into the area right before the show started. Lucky she didn’t injure anything but that’s some rotten luck. Hopefully WWE doesn’t make a thing out of it.
  • JON’S THOUGHTS: WOOF. Bowling shoe ugly match, felt like everyone was behind a step which led to a lot of awkward spots. Riott Squad got most of the shine, eliminating two teams only to be discarded at the end so Natalya & Tamina could get shot #599343483 at relevancy. Made me sit through that and didn’t even give the one good tag team on the roster the title shot? Boo-urns. (*)

Cesaro defeated Seth Rollins via pinfall with the Neutralizer (11:26)
  • Match was built around Rollins trying to avoid the Swing, going after Cesaro’s arm early. It didn’t work and Rollins got swung not only once, but TWICE, the second one beating Cesaro’s WM record I guess. I thought his one at WrestleMania 35 was longer but maybe I was wrong.
  • Cesaro also brought back the UFO, a hands-free Airplane Spin I don’t think I’ve seen him use in WWE before. Much like everything Cesaro does it was impressive.
  • JON’S THOUGHTS: A high-energy match that honestly should have opened the show, this would have been a great way to get the crowd’s blood pumping to start the night. Real fun match with nary a wasted motion and an absolute clinic put on by Cesaro who looked like a million bucks. That finishing sequence with the UFO, Swing, and Neutralizer kicked ass. I desperately want to believe Cesaro is going to finally get his due but we’re almost at year ten of WWE not pulling the trigger and I’ve been burned so many times. (***1/2)

“The Phenomenal” AJ Styles & Omos defeated The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) [c] when Omos pinned Kingston after a spinebuster throw to win the RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (9:48)
  • Big E made an appearance to do his New Day intro for his buddies. Woods, Kingston, & E still being friends despite being on other brands is one of my favorite things about WWE. No breakup angles, no ill will, just friends hyping up friends. Great stuff.
  • New Day wrestled this match like heels, isolating Styles in the ring and mocking Omos until he finally got the “hot” tag. 
  • JON’S THOUGHTS: A really entertaining match all around. I liked the story of New Day getting REAL cocky about their tag team prowess only to be undone in the end by the monster that is Omos. This was Omos’ first main roster match and Woods & Kingston did a great job making him look like an unbeatable monster. Omos didn’t do a whole lot but seeing New Day bounce off of him whenever they tried any offense was the best. I would very much like to see Omos squash EVERYBODY on the roster now. I will admit that Styles & Omos winning did kind of hammer home that you don’t need to be an experienced team to be successful which is a strange message but it’s whatever. Overall a fun match with a memorable debut from Omos, who has ALL of the upside in my eyes. (***)

STEEL CAGE MATCH
Braun Strowman defeated Shane McMahon via pinfall with the Running Powerslam (11:27)
  • Jerry Lawler guest commentated this match for some reason.
  • Elias and Jaxson Ryker got involved in the match before it even began, attacking Strowman with chairs on the outside of the ring. They would later try to interfere a second time but Strowman would send them crashing to the floor by running into the cage.
  • McMahon almost had the match won by climbing out but Strowman grabbed his hand and PEELED THE CAGE OPEN to drag him back inside. They fought on the top of the cage and Strowman THREW HIM OFF and onto the canvas, finishing things with a Running Powerslam to get the win.
  • JON’S THOUGHTS: One of the dumbest feuds I can remember in recent pro wrestling history, with Shane picking on Braun for seemingly no reason and Braun vowing to get revenge for being called stupid by beating up his bully. Match itself was better than it had any right to be given the next-level awful build but it also felt like it went on for 50 hours instead of 11 minutes. The two spots were cool but the rest of it I couldn’t even bother to care about. Happy the massive Braun finally got his revenge on his much smaller bully, real underdog victory there. If this story continues I’ll…not care much because I don’t watch RAW a lot but I’d still prefer it didn’t. (**1/2)

Bad Bunny & Damian Priest defeated The Miz & John Morrison when Bunny pinned Miz following a Doomsday Device Flying Crossbody (15:03)
  • Naturally Booker T was the guest commentator for this one. He didn’t get involved in the match though, sadly.
  • Bad Bunny got the WrestleMania entrance of the night, coming in on a giant black truck looking like he just jacked into The Matrix.
  • In a surprising twist Bunny started and wrestled most of the match, both getting in some much better than expected offense and getting the absolute sh*t kicked out of him. 
  • Priest got the hot tag and he and Bunny hit STEREO FALCON ARROWS for the nearfall, Bunny recreated his flying crossbody to the floor from the Royal Rumble then eliminated Morrison from the match with a CANADIAN DESTROYER ON THE FLOOR, surprising Miz and even Priest. 
  • JON’S THOUGHTS: This is easily the best celebrity wrestling match in WWE history, possibly even professional wrestling history. Bad Bunny DID NOT half-ass it here and was involved for the majority of the match on both ends of the spectrum, all of it looking great and like he’d been wrestling for years. Miz & Morrison were the perfect opponents to guide him through the match too, absolute professionals. Miz’s reactions to Bunny’s offense were AMAZING and made me laugh so much. To be honest this really didn’t even need to be a tag team match, I think Bunny and Miz could’ve had a great singles match without the added safety net of making it a tag team affair. Tremendously entertaining, Bad Bunny chased his childhood dream and f*cking EXCELLED at. Oh also Damian Priest was here too. (****)

Bianca Belair defeated “The Boss” Sasha Banks [c] via pinfall with the KOD to win the SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (17:17)
  • Banks and Belair got emotional as soon as the bell rung, the reality of the situation finally getting to them. A genuinely sweet moment.
  • Belair showed off her amazing power game here, ROLLING THROUGH a tope on the floor and WALKING BANKS BACK UP THE STEPS and throwing her in the ring like a sack of garbage.
  • Belair almost got the win with a flurry of offense and a 450 Splash and when Banks kicked out she had the BEST reaction I have ever seen to almost getting the win. 
  • Banks targeted Belair’s hair for most of the match, using that long braid to throw her around and hurt her challenger. Belair finally had enough at the end, whipping Banks with her hair so hard IT LEFT A MARK and finishing her off with the Kiss of Death to get the win.
  • JON’S THOUGHTS: I’d be looking forward to this match since Belair won the Royal Rumble back in January and it not only lived up to my expectations but it SURPASSED them. This match is in contention for one of the greatest Mania main events of all time, an excellent match filled with a ton of drama and memorable moments and a real star-making performance from Belair leading into her first big championship win (in her first ‘Mania match to boot!). Banks was excellent as always, once again proving why she’s the bar when it comes to women’s wrestling (and maybe all of pro wrestling to be honest. No time wasted, no dull moments, just a match chock full of awesome sh*t and a truly feel good ending. WWE better be thanking whatever Gods they pray to that Bianca Belair fell into their lap the way that she did. She’s going to be THE player in the company, man or woman. (****1/4)

*****

FINAL THOUGHTS

Night 1 of WrestleMania 37 is an unmitigated success in my eyes, a tremendous show filled to the brim with good to great matches and only one true stumble (Tag Team Turmoil). Banks/Belair is going to be a match remembered by fans years from now, not only for the historical value but for how GREAT it was. WWE picked the perfect match to main event its big return to having fans. It was also nice to have a WrestleMania only go three hours instead of seven, and while WWE said they only split it up for pandemic reasons, I would urge them to reconsider. Splitting things up let this card breathe and gave everyone the time it deserved while not burning out the crowd too much. Excited to see how Night 2 measures up.

  • FAVORITE MATCH: Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair
  • FAVORITE MOMENT: Belair whipping Banks so hard with her hair that  my partner & I both SCREAMED at the television. She doesn’t get into wrestling as much as I do so to get little moments like that is wonderful for me.

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