DATE: April 11, 2021
VENUE: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
VIEWING METHOD: Peacock (Live)
WWE tries to top its excellent first night with a bevy of title matches, the return of The Fiend, and much more!
- WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION: Roman Reigns
- WWE CHAMPION: “The All Mighty” Bobby Lashley
- SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Bianca Belair
- RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Asuka
- WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION: Big E
- WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPION: Riddle
- RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles & Omos
- SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Dirty Dawgs (Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode)
- WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Nia Jax & Shayna Bazler
- Randy Orton vs. The Fiend (*1/2)
- Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler [c] vs. Natalya & Tamina for the WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (*1/2)
- Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (***)
- Riddle [c] vs. Sheamus for the WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP (***1/2)
- NIGERIAN DRUM MATCH: Big E [c] vs. Apollo Crews for the WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP (**1/2)
- Asuka [c] vs. Rhea Ripley for the RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (**3/4)
- Roman Reigns [c] vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP (****)
-(Apparent) new country music sensation Ashland Craft opened the show with her acoustic guitar rendition of “America the Beautiful”. After a couple of opening videos (including the exact same Jack Sparrow-y one) and some pyro and ballyhoo, WrestleMania hosts Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan came out to welcome the crowd while dressed as pirates. Hogan called the crowd scallywags and O’Neil said that he can’t call people that (yeah THAT’S the word he can’t use). They did some crowd hype but it was very apparent that only O’Neil was getting the cheers; Hogan was getting audible boos that WWE either tried to drown out with crowd sweetening or turning the volume down. Take the hint, guys.
–The Fiend made his big return by way of a giant Jack in the Box (or a “box-like structure” according to commentary). He was no longer burned, having gone through some sort of CGI cleansing to become restored.
“The Viper” Randy Orton defeated “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt via pinfall with the RKO (5:54)
- Fiend laid into Orton right at the start, beginning with a clothesline off the box-like structure. In a great moment he even threw in a Brodie Lee “YEAH YEAH YEAH” tribute and appeared to get emotional for a second before going back on offense.
- Orton tried to combat the rejuvenated Fiend, suplexing him on the announce table, but Fiend bounced right off and IMMEDIATELY locked in a Mandible Claw in my favorite spot of the night,.
- Fiend appeared to have everything in control until FIRE SPEWED FROM THE TURNBUCKLES and Alexa Bliss, dripping the same black goo from her head as Orton had been throwing up in the lead-in to this match, sat on top of the box-like structure staring daggers at Fiend. This distracted him long enough for Orton to hit an RKO and steal the victory.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: The match itself kinda blew and Orton picking up the win that quick with just one RKO was weird, but I’m a sucker for The Fiend’s bullsh*t and was VERY INTO that entrance. He was robbed of getting one last year due to the pandemic and I’m glad he finally got the chance to do weird Fiend sh*t in a stadium in front of a crowd. Not really sure what Bliss was doing here, I’m guessing she’s Sister Abigail or something since she appeared while Fiend was trying to use the move, but I thought she looked real f*cking cool, definitely a step up from the weirdo child-like thing she’s been doing to attract the perv crowd. Fiend works A LOT better doing “cinematic” stuff and horror movie sh*t, maybe they should go back to that. (*1/2)
After the match Fiend and Blissigail stared each other down, then the lights went out and they vanished (probably inside the Jack in the Box but no one thought to look).
–Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan shoot the sh*t with 2021 HOF inductee Eric Bischoff, who promotes his 83 Weeks podcast (YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE MIGHT OF CONRAD THOMPSON). Bayley interrupted, offering Bischoff a spot on Ding Dong, Hello!. But Bischoff turned her down, instead wanting to have Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair on his show which offended her. Hogan and Bischoff excused themselves, O’Neil awkwardly trailed behind, plopping his pirate hat on Bayley as he walked off. That was one way to kill time I guess.
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler [c] defeated Natalya & Tamina when Baszler knocked Natalya out with the Kirifuda Clutch to retain the WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (14:18)
- Natalya & Tamina earned the title shot the previous night by winning the truly awful Tag Team Turmoil.
- Stiff shots all around in this match, with Baszler damn near caving Natalya’s face in with one of the most brutal-looking knee strikes in memory. Straight out of an MMA knockout highlight reel.
- Baszler choked out Natalya to win the match, Nattie having IGNORED Baszler getting the tag and turning her back to her so she could get Nia Jax in a Sharpshooter instead.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: I appreciated the stiffness of the action but this went way too long and did not earn the time given to them. Baszler was the highlight and tried to keep things interesting, but three people is a LOT to carry and no amount of knee strikes can make up for some of the stuttery action. I especially liked Natalya & Tamina botching the hot tag spot and also waiting around for Jax to finally hit her flying crossbody. (*1/2)
Kevin Owens defeated Sami Zayn via pinfall with a Stunner (9:16)
- 2021 HOFer JBL joined commentary for this match. Much like pro wrestling itself he added nothing but still got rewarded for it.
- Before the match Zayn introduced his special guest Logan Paul to watch at ringside. He wore hangover shades and reacted goofily to the spots. You know, YouTuber sh*t.
- Zayn looked to be heading towards a win with a Helluva Kick but decided to hit another to put an exclamation on things; Owens caught him charging in with not one but TWO Superkicks followed by a Stunner for the win.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Owens & Zayn could have a great match in their sleep so it’s no surprise this one kicked ass, especially compared to the two matches that opened this show. They did NOT hold back, Zayn busting out the BRAINBUSTAHHHHH power of his buddy El Generico and Owens took some pretty sick bumps, including a suplex on the apron and a couple of suplexes into the corner. Logan Paul, like JBL, added nothing and was rewarded for being useless anyway. (***)
Zayn confronted Paul after the match, Paul shoved him down and a hurt Zayn walked off saying everyone was AGAYNST him. Paul tried to switch sides to Owens, raising his hand in victory but Owens took offense to this (only HE gets to beat Sami Zayn up) and drilled him with a Stunner which Paul admittedly sold beautifully, landing on his stomach in the same way Nate Robinson hit the canvas when he knocked him out. Dammit I just said a nice thing about Logan Paul, I’ll finish this review after I take a shower.
–Riddle ran into 2021 HOFer The Great Khali backstage, who apparently flew in for the show after all. Riddle was impressed by the size of Khali’s hand and said he should open a “Giant” show. After a VERY UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE fellow 2021 HOFer Rob Van Dam remembered his cue and came in to act as Khali’s interpreter, even sneaking in a plug for his rolling papers.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Riddle and RVD interacting was a can’t miss opportunity but dragging Khali in was a little dumb. Also how crazy is it that RVD’s biggest run ever was cut short because of marijuana but now he’s on the same company’s show shilling his rolling papers? GodDAMN.
Sheamus defeated Riddle [c] via pinfall with a Brogue Kick counter to a springboard moonsault to win the WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP (10:51)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Riddle’s whole dumb jock scooter thing kinda blows but OH MAN did this match slap. He and Sheamus beat the ever-loving sh*t out of each other, and Riddle showed off some great hops with a flipping belly to belly suplex from the top turnbuckle as well as a pair of corkscrew splashes. The finish kicked ass too, Sheamus hitting a Brogue Kick counter to Riddle’s springboard moonsault that busted his mouth open. HELL YEAH. Not sure where things go with Sheamus as champ but it’s not like there was much going on with Riddle as champ either (it seems like anyway, I don’t watch RAW) but cool to see him get the WrestleMania nod. Not sure how many he has left tbh. (***1/2)
–Bad Bunny announced his 2022 Tour via cinematic featuring Triple H giving him a microphone and thanking him for his service in WWE. I wonder if they’ll make Bad Bunny feel even more like part of the roster by trying to take a cut of his revenue.
NIGERIAN DRUM FIGHT
Apollo Crews [c] defeated Big E via pinfall when Dabba-Kato interfered to win the WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP (6:50)
- Big E got a live music entrance courtesy of Wale. Well sort-of live music, it was VERY obvious Wale was lip-syncing.
- A Nigerian Drum Fight turned out to be just a bunch of weapons placed around the ring, including a gong, drums, and a whole lot of kendo (drum?) sticks.
- RAW Underground alum Dabba-Kato interfered and helped Crews get the victory, though the commentators pretended like they had never seen him before and did not give him a name. I assume he’ll be rechristened as something or another.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: This match had the AUDACITY to put “Drum” in its name and not use a drum at all during the match. Ridiculous. I am offended. The match itself was way too short given the animosity between the two but still had some good moments, from Big E launching himself and Crews almost to the ramp with an apron spear and Crews beating the snot out of Big E with a kendo stick (that the quick cuts made UNWATCHABLE but I digress). It was fine and it was cool to see Crews get a big win at WrestleMania when it seemed like he was doomed even during his NXT days, but the stipulation was superfluous. (**1/2)
-The 2021 Hall of Fame got their chance to wave at the crowd, and Kane got to make fire spew from the stadium.
Rhea Ripley defeated Asuka [c] via pinfall with the Rip Tide to win the RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (13:27)
- Ripley got a live music entrance as well, with Ash Costello providing vocals. It sucked sh*t and may be the worst WrestleMania music performance of all-time.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Very cool to see Ripley get the win here, I love that WrestleMania weekend is ending with fresh Women’s Champions on each brand. Match on the whole was a good hard-hitting affair, Asuka’s apron to floor DDT on Ripley being the best spot of the match, but Ripley spent way too much time doing the DRAMA TALKING thing that NXT loves having their people do and it took some of the wind out of the sails for me. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it just feels like it’s there just to be there and it was the latter. Either way glad they got the time and glad Ripley won, WWE seems to be REAL into her and I like it when new stars get the shine. Asuka, as always, was great as Women’s Champ despite being given next to nothing to do but she did what she could admirably and continues being an MVP for the company. (**3/4)
–Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan come out to thank the fans in the stadium for coming. Bayley interrupted once again and called for her pyro WHICH SHE GOT. The Bella Twins then showed up to beat Bayley up and dance with O’Neil & Hogan.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Bayley spent the weekend getting under everyone’s skin just to be half-assedly beat up by THE BELLA TWINS? Yeesh. This hit worse for me too because I have next to no love for The Bella Twins. I don’t get everyone’s love of them, they were not good save for a few months of Hoss Nikki.
Roman Reigns [c] [w/ Paul Heyman] defeated Daniel Bryan & “The Rated R Superstar” Edge via pinfall to retain the WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP (21:40)
- Jey Uso got involved early, hitting Bryan and Edge with superkicks and helping Reigns control things but was taken out by Edge with an Implant DDT on the steps.
- Edge got some solo time with both Bryan and Reigns, with he and Reigns colliding after both going for a Spear in a great moment.
- Bryan was put through the announce table with a power bomb but returned just in time to prevent Reigns from tapping to a Crossface; Bryan applied a Yes Lock at the same time and traded headbutts with Edge as they both jockeyed for submission position and it f*cking RULED.
- Bryan tapped into a ruthless streak as his attempts to win became more desperate, showing some of the intensity he had as the evil heel hippie WWE Champion two years ago.
- Edge countered a Busaiku Knee with a Spear and then hit Reigns with a Spear but Bryan PULLED THE REF OUT OF THE RING to prevent losing. Edge lost it from there, laying into Bryan and Reigns with a chair and hitting a full-on CONCHAIRTO on Bryan which took him out of the match. Edge went to do the same to Reigns, but Jey Uso returned and saved Reigns. Edge wrecked Uso with a Spear and chairshots, Reigns speared Edge and hit him with a CONCHAIRTO then stacked Edge and Bryan on top of one another and covered for the 1…2..3..
- JON’S THOUGHTS: I had been looking forward to this match all weekend and for the most part was not disappointed. All three of these guys were AMAZING here, Bryan and Edge playing their parts of desperate challengers beautifully and Reigns showing why he’s been so dominant. Jey Uso once again coming in to run interference was a bit of a bummer but not unexpected and didn’t take away too much from the end. Reigns stacking them on top of each other and covering both was a great visual and way to end the show. GREAT match, not quite Banks/Belair level but worthy of headlining the second night of the show. (****)
Night 2 of WrestleMania 37 was a visible step below the first night, with the lineup not being nearly as good quality-wise. The first hour of this show was pretty awful (doubly so if you hate The Fiend), Owens/Zayn and Sheamus/Riddle were great but then it kinda dipped again heading into the excellent main event. Night 1 was a quick watch with a truly historic main event, Night 2 I could FEEL how long it was and was not nearly as tuned in. That being said I think the two night WrestleMania experiment was mostly a success but if I had my way I’d rather just have a shorter one night show (4 hours tops). WWE probably wouldn’t do that though so maybe we can still get them to spread it across the weekend again. All in all I really enjoyed WrestleMania as a whole between the two nights and I want to watch more wrestling again…just maybe not RAW.
- FAVORITE MATCH: Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Edge
- FAVORITE MOMENT: Bryan and Edge trading headbutts whole both trying to make Reigns tap.