Before jumping into Part Two of our Wrestlemania recap, check out Part One. I thought night two was decidedly less interesting than night one, except for one very key piece that Russ and I will go over ad nauseam I’m sure. I also wasn’t drinking during night two, which may have heavily factored into this opinion.
Gronk once again welcomes the WWE universe to the second night of Wrestlemania in his finest formal Zubaz suit and knock-off Hitman wraparound sunglasses.
Russ: I need Gronk to go away. He kills the vibe. Just awful.
Opening Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley for the NXT Championship
In an interesting setup, Royal Rumble winner and former WWE and NXT Women’s championship Charlotte Flair decided to go back to her roots to take on the extraordinarily popular NXT Champion Rhea Ripley. Both Flair and Ripley are uber strong, tall, Amazonian women who love to work stiff.
Right off the bat it’s obvious that Ripley likes to scream. She likes to scream A LOT, which is much more jarring now with no fans. I had to turn the volume down on my TV at least three times during the match to not wake up my four-year-old and have to explain to him why a screaming woman was in daddy’s living room.
The best thing Flair did in her career was steal every one of her father’s mannerisms and immediately inject them into every match she’s ever had. I could watch a Flair progeny throw knife edge chops, chop block the backs of knees, and strut across the ring for the rest of my God given days.
Ripley hits an early Riptide finisher (just a fallout pumphandle slam that I always thought was a little lame for her trademark finisher) and can’t put Flair away. Flair mounts a comeback by working over Ripley’s knee that she’s targeted in the past several weeks. Kicks to the knee. More screaming. More dirty looks from my wife to turn the fucking television down. I’m sorry, dear, a woman’s career in his jeopardy here.
Ripley can’t sell a spear to save her life…she just kind of slowly lays down on the mat like an elderly gentleman easing his way into a warm bath.
After a far longer match than Lynch and Baszler from the day before, Flair finally makes Ripley tap with a PATENTED figure-eight to become your NEW NXT CHAMPION. Hell of a way to start off the second night.
Match grade: B
Russ: This match was far longer than it needed to be, but given the stature of the competitors, I get why it was a longer match than we saw from Lynch and Baszler. The screaming from Ripley triggered memories of Maria Sharapova trying to intimidate the much more intimidating Serena Williams.
I totally expected Ripley to win this one, especially since she came dressed as Vegeta:
— Morgan LVM 👅💙 (@Morganlvm1) April 5, 2020
It’s a bit shocking to see Flair win the NXT title as the woman who’s arguably the best overall competitor in the division will now move to Wednesday nights. Then again, this is Ric Flair’s daughter and that name carries a ton of weight. I do wonder if it becomes the first NXT title to wander off to other nights, allowing for more crossover with Raw and Smackdown, pulling a smaller version of the invasion angle we saw again leading up to Survivor Series.
Good match. Too long. Surprising winner.
Match Grade: B-
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
Talk about a storied history between these two. Black, a goth emo kid from the Netherlands, and Lashley, a muscle-bound dork from Kansas whose biggest storyline in the last year was stealing the wife of a fellow wrestler, square off to settle their differences once and for all on the biggest stage of them all despite having NEVER interacted before tonight. I hope this match doesn’t get too ugly, tensions could be running high.
Lashley stole the wife of fellow wrestler Rusev in his biggest storyline of the year and Black hid in a dark room and recited Edgar Allen Poe passages to the camera for months before actually wrestling. THEIR MINUTES LONG FEUD ENDS TONIGHT!
This is fine. Lashley is a genetic freak whose athleticism made him a huge draw in the mid-2000s before he left the WWE. Black probably deserved to be in the AJ Styles/Undertaker feud, but that never materialized. The audience deserved this match being left off the card.
Black wins after Lashley cartoonishly runs head first into a Black Mass (a spinning heel kick) like the coyote running headfirst into a mountain with a painted on tunnel. Would have been a perfect moment for fans to run en masse to the restrooms if they were, you know, allowed in the building.
I think Russ enjoyed this one a little more than I did. Russell?
Match Grade: C-
Russ: Yeah, Cog, I’m going the opposite direction on this one. I loved the match. The lack of real buildup to this match allowed Black and Lashley to make the feeling-out process feel way more legit than you see in a series of matches or encounters leading to a PPV. There was an early sequence in the match when Black went for a moonsault from the top rope to the floor, Lashley moved, Black landed on his feet, and Lashley launched him with a release belly-to-belly suplex.
We had an opportunity to take in the sheer size of the biggest genetic freak since Scott Steiner. There was such a nuanced clash of styles as Lashley went for multiple stalled vertical suplexes, only to be blocked/countered by knee strikes from Black. Eventually we saw a spear countered by a high knee strike. Lashley manhandled Black with suplexes, holds, and a toss for good measure. Black countered with some strikes, connected on a moonsault from the middle rope, seemed to be turning the tide. Lashley takes over again. Call me a traditionalist, but I dug the story being told.
For better or worse, that included the presence of Lana on the outside, who ultimately cost her beau.
With Black hoisted on Lashley’s shoulders, mere moments from destruction, Lana hopped onto the apron screaming instructions calling for a spear, leading to this:
— ZayanMir (@mir_zayan) April 5, 2020
I love the Black Mass finisher. It looks great and is a believeable finishing strike regardless of the opponent’s size.
I really enjoyed this match. It was the appropriate length of time, sold Lashley’s strength, and Black’s incomparable striking. More please.
Match Grade: B+
Otis vs. Ziggler
Otis, the morbidly obese half of the popular Heavy Machinery tag team, takes on pretty-boy Dolph Ziggler in a match for Mandy Rose’s heart after months of will they/won’t they tension between Otis and Rose. Of course it all came to a head during their planned Valentine’s Day date where Otis received a text message from Rose claiming she would be late, and when he arrived at the restaurant he was crestfallen to see Ziggler wining and dining Rose who didn’t appreciate Otis’s tardiness.
Of course, as we find out, Rose’s tag team partner Sonya Deville actually sent Otis the text from Rose’s phone that she would be late and set Ziggler up with Rose as a way to keep Otis and Rose apart because REASONS….all of which were revealed by an enshrouded “hacker” who revealed the entire scheme through bad backstage security camera footage, setting up a Wrestlemania match between the alpha males.
Got it? No? Who cares, it all means nothing in the long run and will be forgotten by everyone a day after this is over.
Thankfully Michael Cole lets us know this is “one of the most personal matchups in Wrestlemania history!” before the two square off Didn’t the undertaker just bury AJ Styles alive last night for bad mouthing his wife? Isn’t Edge fighting Randy Orton later tonight for LITERALLY beating his wife?
The match is a class fat guy, in shape guy, featuring tons of rest spots and delays for the fat guy to not keel over. No crowd really works to the disadvantage of Otis, as we can clearly hear his labored breathing way too clearly.
Despite Otis’s asthma, it’s an entertaining match that features a distraction from Deville, a DASTARDLY low blow to Otis, and then a run-in from Rose who slaps Deville and low blows Ziggler to set up Otis for the win.
Otis comes out on top and wins one for morbidly obese wrestling fans who have ever pined for a woman out of their league everywhere.
The two share a sweaty kiss as Rose jumps into his arms and Otis carries her up the ramp and backstage, where I can only assume he’ll noisily consummate their relationship after catching his breath.
Match Grade: C+
Russ: I hated this match. I hated the storyline. I hated the buildup. Otis is a tag team wrestler. Ziggler is way better than he’s given credit for. If the idea was to show Otis’ power vs. Ziggler’s finesse, you can’t book it right after Lashley and Black.
Match Grade: D+
Edge vs. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match
In what is obviously the SECOND MOST PERSONAL WRESTLEMANIA MATCH EVER, Edge returns after surprisingly appearing at the Royal Rumble after a nearly decade long retirement to step inside the ring against the Viper Randy Orton. Orton’s been trying to get Edge to “save him” from himself, which is basically just Orton RKOing Edge and his wife Beth Phoenix every chance he gets.
Edge’s first Wrestlemania in nine years is in front of Gronk instead of 90,000 fans. Life isn’t fair sometimes.
Edge EATS an RKO after Orton reveals himself as a cameraman. If only he could have somehow known Orton would attempt an RKO out of nowhere…he never does that.
He beats the 10 spot and the two quickly leave the ring and brawl through the performance center. The custodians are seething as they watch the two sweaty wrestlers fight on every surface in the arena, knowing it will likely take 50,000 Clorox wipes to sanitize everything after this is all over.
The two brawl into a weight room and Orton chokes Edge out on a piece of weightlifting equipment. Probably should steer clear from anything involving “hanging” another wrestler from a piece of weightlifting equipment, right gang?
Edge swings off a chin up bar to land ball first into Orton’s face as he’s sitting in a chair. A truly devastating maneuver.
They’re going through halls, into a conference room, back down more halls. The cameraman takes a tumble when he’s backing up a hallway. Always puts a hop in my step.
This one could have used a little editing. It’s going on…and on….and on….and on. Well over half an hour is a long time to see two wrestlers slowly walk from room to room like the world’s worst house tour, only stopping to momentarily hit each other with clangy poles or folding chairs.
This match is so long AJ Styles dug himself out of the grave he was buried in last night.
When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?! ::starts sobbing::
Mercifully, the two brawl up onto a production van and Edge floors Orton with a spear and then smashes his head with a chair as it’s laying on top of another chair. HO HO, WHAT IRONY! A tearful Edge stands triumphantly as the clearly dead Orton cannot stand up for the 10-count. Two murders in two nights….not too shabby.
Match Grade: B-
Russ: This match was too freaking long. It was as if the show had been live and the guys in the back were screaming into the ref’s ear that the show was running short. Am I going to hold that against the match? Yeah, but only a little.
What a bummer for Edge, who returned to the ring for his first singles match in nine years. (Side note: I watched the documentary covering the leadup to his comeback after this had ended and it was fantastic.) The storytelling and leadup to the match were exceptional. Orton’s hit Edge with a ConChairTo. He’s hit Edge’s wife with a ConChairTo. He hit Edge’s formal tag-team rival Matt Hardy with so many ConChairTos that Hardy bolted for AEW.
Orton’s an amazing heel. Edge is the babyface everyone wanted to get behind again. There was one spot in this match that will live in infamy, if for no other reason than it’s timing relative to the Dark Side of the Ring special on Chris Benoit:
Unless you're new to wrestling, you didn't need that doc last week to know what this was…. Complete savages both of them. pic.twitter.com/X4xEdnD29h
— ColdAsIce (@_c0ldAsIce_) April 6, 2020
Was it an intentional slight? Of course not, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.
Back to the match. It got incredibly repetitive. It’s like when you were a kid and you and your best friend decided to film your basement matches against your Bashin’ Brawlers:
At some point, the battery on the camera runs out. It didn’t quickly enough here. So why am I going to give it a good grade? The storytelling. Long-range storytelling culminating in a satisfying payoff is done so rarely in the WWE that it needs to be given its due.
Match Grade: B
Street Profits vs. Angel Garza and Austin Theory for the Raw Tag Team Titles
I’ll be 100% honest on this one, I checked out of this completely. Sure the Street Profits are entertaining, but why do I care about Garza and Theory?
The Street Profits are so clearly from the mind of Vince McMahon, who previously brought us the racially sensitive “Cryme Tyme” tag team that featured two African American wrestlers who would “steal” items from their opponents, it’s not even funny.
Who cares. The Street Profits win and keep the titles, but the fun comes after the match when Garza and Theory jump the “Profs” with their manager Zelina Vega. Bianca Belair, who was last seen completely stealing the show at the Women’s Royal Rumble, runs out to make the save and align herself with the Street Profits (Belair is the real-life wife of Montez Ford on the Street Profits). That’s something to get excited about at least.
Match grade: C-
Russ: The Street Profits are incredible on the mic. They’re decent in the ring. They’re likable. If the apparent partnership with Biance Belair turns into a longterm thing, we could be witnessing a Hardy Boyz and Lita partnership. That’s a ginormous if. If you asked me to throw my money on a team of charismatic, über-talented African American wrestlers, I’d direct you to AEW’s Private Party. I think there’s far more upside there.
There was no reason whatsoever to buy into the notion that Garza and Theory were going to win this match. I love where the Zelina-Vega-building-a-stable-of-talented-acrobats thing is going, but the last-minute need to pull Andrade stunk.
Match Grade: C-
Fatal Five Way Match with Bayley, Sasha Banks, Naomi, Lacey Evans, and Tamina for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Is this finally the night Bayley and Banks’ friendship, which is built purely on mistrust and previous betrayals, dissolves after an inevitable betrayal and deep-seeded mistrust?! Watch to find out!
Everyone gangs up on Tamina because a group of women always have to gang up on one of their friends and completely destroy her for no reason whatsoever (my apologies to the woman on twitter who did NOT enjoy this joke when I used it Sunday night. I’m recycling it. Forgive me). That’s a shame.
Tamina is eliminated first and Naomi quickly follows after Bayley and Banks team up on her. Evans has been on the ground, motionless, like a slug for the last 10 minutes. I’m sure this will end well for the two best friends.
And there it is. Bayley throws Evans into Banks who LEVELS her with a “Woman’s Right” … HOW DROLL. Bayley pleads with Banks that it was an accident as she leaves the match. Will their friendship ever get over this deep mistrust and betrayal?
Bayley ties Evans’ hand to the ringpost with an INESCAPABLE bunny ears knot and beats her down for a while before Evans regroups and nearly wins the championship before Banks runs back out to make the save for her friend. Bayley wins, gloats, and we set up a match at Summer Slam between the two women. Yee ha.
Match Grade: C+
Russ: Womp. Maybe it’s the Conrad Thompson podcasts getting in my head, but I don’t get how you can try to sell a singles match with five people. I just don’t.
Naomi seems like a fun talent who has high potential for the future, but might be better suited as a tag-team wrestler. Lacey Evans was immensely hateable, but she served in the Marines, so I have a ton of respect for her. Tamina is like a Nyla Rose lite. I’m a big Sasha Banks fan and think she should be more prominently featured.
That leads me to Bayley. I’ve never understood the draw of Bayley. She went from being some mid-card, family friendly performer to a heel? Watching this has been akin to seeing Bernie Sanders supporters going from a ragtag crew in 2016 to chopping their hair off demanding blood in 2020.
I didn’t enjoy this one, but I’ll give points to Naomi, Sasha, and Lacey.
Match Grade: C-
Firefly Funhouse Match – John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
What the fuck did I just watch? In a beauty of a pre-taped match, Cena and Wyatt face off in a Firefly Funhouse Match? I’m not sure anyone outside of Wyatt really knows, but Goddamnit was it interesting and unlike anything we’ve ever seen in WWE before.
The best way I can describe this is Cena is magically transported to Wyatt’s “Firefly Funhouse”, the set that hosts Wyatt’s alter-ego The Fiend and his puppet friends. Rambling Rabbit (one of his puppet friends) guides Cena through a door, which leads Cena back to the start of his career as the brash young rookie stuffed into biking shorts who screamed out “RUTHLESS AGGRESSION” during his first official WWE match wayyyyyy back in 2002 against Kurt Angle.
Cena is transported to different moments of his career….the Doctor of Thuganomics, his “Marine” persona when he defeated Wyatt at Wrestlemania six years ago, and his present day part-time self, each time opposed by a teleporting Wyatt who finally takes his final form as The Fiend to pick up the victory.
The entire production is so weird. We even get a brief vignette of Wyatt as Eric Bischoff and Cena as Hollywood Hogan during the WCW Monday Night Wars. A shot at Cena’s “Hogan-like” qualities over his career? Maybe what he could have been if he actually had turned heel at some point?
How the fuck did Vince McMahon let this go out on air? It takes shots at his real-life personality (pushing muscular, larger wrestlers over clearly more talented individuals) and brings up Cena’s faults as a performer, his in ring character, his real life persona and the dislike so many of us have felt for him when he dominated the WWE landscape for more than a decade.
It was weird. It was visceral. It was unlike anything he’s ever let be put out on the air. It was WEIRDLY entertaining and worked amazingly well on the biggest night of the year.
It will be extraordinarily interesting to see how they move this forward. Characters that have wrestled The Fiend previously, such as Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, have undergone on-screen persona changes after tangling with Wyatt. Will Cena do the same? Will he finally turn heel? It’s opened up a ton of doors that the WWE can easily take advantage of.
Or they’ll just blow and we’ll all forget about this a month from now. Yeah. Probably that one.
Either way, I loved this.
Match Grade: A
Russ: I think Coggin did a pretty excellent job recapping what happened, so let me focus on the part that had my heart aflutter. Seeing the Wyatt/Bischoff clipping followed by Hollywood Cena coming out from a mock WCW Monday Nitro set tells me something: Cena wanted to turn heel. He should’ve turned heel:
— Fightful Wrestling (@FightfulWrestle) April 6, 2020
Let me offer a hypothetical that could’ve changed the landscape of sports entertainment. Cena’s only heel turn happened in October 2002, when he betrayed Billy Kidman. You know who else was around in 2002? The nWo. The issue, of course, was mult-faceted as Hollywood Hogan turned face after facing The Rock, Scott Hall asked for his release in search of sobriety, and the wheels came off when Kevin Nash followed up a return from a biceps tear with a quad tear. Thanks for nothing, Big Sexy.
Imagine if they had been able to carry momentum into the fall. Cena could’ve been the nWo’s version of Randy Orton in Evolution…
The Firefly Funhouse lived up to every expectation I had. It somehow built on the cinematic experience we witnessed a night prior in the Boneyard match. I loved it.
Match Grade: A+
Drew McIntrye vs. Brock Lesnarrrrrrrrr for the WWE Championship
Here we are. We all knew McIntrye was destined to win the WWE championship when he surprisingly won the Royal Rumble and picked Lesnar as his Wrestlemania challenger. Lesnar’s role for the past several years has been to be a dominant figure 364 days out of the year and then drop the title to a challenger at Wrestlemania.
But it’s hard to feel for McIntrye here. The biggest moment of his career, something he’ll never forget, and he had to come to the realization over the last several weeks that he’d be doing it in front of nobody at all.
What else can you say? It’s a typical Lesnar match. He eats a Claymore kick from McIntyre straight off the bat, kicks out at two, throws a few german suplexes around, eventually F5s McIntrye twice in a row for two counts, and loses after the inevitable McIntyre comeback.
Lesnar turned purple after less than 7 minutes of wrestling, ate three Claymore Kicks in a row, and that was all show wrote. McIntyre is the NEW WWE CHAMPION until he loses to Lesnar at Summer Slam or at a PPV in the fall.
Rinse, wash, repeat. You’ll see Lesnar as champ again next year, he’ll lose it at Wrestlemania again next year, and we’ll go on and on and on.
AT LEAST it wasn’t Reigns this time. Good for McIntyre who worked his way up from 3MB, shaped his new gimmick to get WAY over with fans, and realize a dream. Hopefully next time he can do it in front of someone other than Paul Heyman.
Match Grade: B
Russ: I’ll keep my remarks brief like many Lesnar matches. This was essentially the same match as Goldberg v. Strowman, with the key difference being the reigning, defending, undisputed champion’s ability to put over his challenger in a meaningful way.
I know a lot of people hate Brock Lesnar. They hate Paul Heyman. They hate the shtick. I’m here for it. Why? Because we get moments like this.
Drew McIntyre’s return to prominence after getting fired and building himself back up at other promotions has been nothing short of inspiring. When many would’ve given up, McIntyre persisted. I’ve spent over a year wondering when he’d get moved from a mid-card billing, where he teamed up with Dolph Ziggler for a time, to the main-card billing he’s clearly meant for.
Just as I was happy for Strowman the night before, I was even happier for McIntyre. Unlike Strowman’s arc, the WWE didn’t screw up this build. They didn’t knock him down when he appeared to be reaching the summit. Kudos to Lesnar for putting him in the way he did.
Match Grade: B+