As the song so famously says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. Sure that song was talking about Christmas, but for fans of WWE, it’s all about that one special weekend in the spring where the biggest show of the year takes place. This year’s WrestleMania emanated from the enormous AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, and took place over two nights. The first night featured some of the biggest matches available including two huge Women’s title matches, and a mystery opponent for Seth Rollins that caused widespread speculation online. However, perhaps the most anticipated match (well not match, but not quite a segment either) going into the show was the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, in front of his home state fans to take on Kevin Owens. If you want to see the SteelChair Magazine predictions for the show before you read about what went down, you can see those here. Let’s get underway as we look back at all the biggest comings-and-goings on night one of WrestleMania 38.
Before the main show got underway, there was a pre-show but with no matches, it’s hard to say anything of note really happened. So we’ll move straight to the main card. The show opened with a rendition of “America The Beautiful” by Brantley Gilbert (nope, no idea either) followed by an epic video package hyping the history of the event featuring Mark Wahlberg, randomly. The former Marky-Mark talked a lot about “greatness” as a way of pushing the importance of the show. It was pretty good and definitely served its purpose.
The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders did a quick routine to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck (presumably chosen directly from Vince McMahon’s gym playlist) before Rick Boogs appeared on the stage, guitar in hand to introduce himself and Shinsuke Nakamura, looking resplendent in yellow and black while Pat McAfee lost the run of himself on the announce table. The Usos were out next looking mean and ready to defend their titles.
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso) (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs
In terms of build, there wasn’t a huge amount of backstory created for The Usos defending their tag titles against Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs. The Usos have long been one of the best tag teams in WWE, and naturally should be on this card although it would have been nice to see them get something of a meatier role. That said, Nakamura and Boogs have been gaining traction with the SmackDown audience for months, and a legendary performer like Nakamura should undoubtedly have a place on any WrestleMania while he’s still active within WWE. While it was hard to get excited about this match, it was also a virtual certainty that this combination would put on an excellent bout.
Nakamura and Jimmy started things off, with Nakamura dominating early with kicks and his usual repertoire of strikes in the corner. The Usos quickly rebounded and took control of the former New Japan star with a series of quick tags and double team moves attempting to wear down Nakamura, who valiantly tried to fight from underneath trying to make the tag to Boogs. Nakamura and Jimmy would both tag out as Boogs got the hot tag offence on Jey, before hitting an impressive stalling vertical suplex for a near-fall.
Boogs suffered a knee issue while trying to do a move on both Usos and tagged in Nakamura hit a series of strikes on Jey Uso and the always devastating sliding German suplex. A Kinshasa was countered into a superkick by Jey, who then tagged in Jimmy for the big Splash for the top for a very close 2-count. A fun false finish. However, the end was nigh for Nakamura as having to survive against both Usos proved too much, fighting valiantly alone, before succumbing to the 1D and The Usos taking the victory.
Winners: The Usos
A decent opener, nothing to write home about and instantly forgettable but not bad either. The injury to Boogs seemed like it might well have been legitimate, so perhaps this wasn’t the planned finish, or maybe this was just very good selling from Boogs and Nakamura after the match.
After a video hyping the Sami Zayn vs Johnny Knoxville match for Night Two, it was time for Drew McIntyre vs Happy Corbin, and yet another video recapping their seemingly endless feud, including the sword theft and a crass joke about McIntyre’s mother.
Drew McIntyre vs. Happy Corbin (with Madcap Moss)
It was only a year ago that Drew McIntyre was in the opening match at WrestleMania challenging for the WWE Championship, having carried the company on his back through a deadly pandemic. This year he’s facing off with Happy Corbin in a mid-card match. In many respects, McIntyre ended up being the odd man out this year, although that may also have been due to a neck injury that has reportedly bothered McIntyre throughout the winter. Hopefully, with this match ending this programme with Corbin and Madcap Moss, Drew will go on to bigger and better things, but first, he had to get through his match here with Corbin.
Both men made their way to the ring with their usual entrances, although McIntyre got a bit of extra pyro, and McIntyre looked every inch the superstar here. Drew started the match full of fire, but Corbin fired back and the two traded punches and kicks before things spilled to the floor and they brawled around the ring before returning to the squared circle. Corbin sent McIntyre into the ring post allowing him to gain the advantage, although McIntyre continued trying to fight back as Corbin dominated with a big vertical suplex and a side suplex. Following some more punching and kicking from Corbin, a mix-up with Corbin and Madcap Moss on the apron gave McIntyre the opening to hit a spinebuster, a series of shoulder blocks, an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, and a big neckbreaker followed by a kip-up to a nice pop from the crowd. Corbin blocked a Futureshock attempt and reversed a Claymore into the Deep Six for a near-fall as the match began to gather some momentum.
Corbin tried to assert the advantage with a chokeslam, but McIntyre reversed, gained the advantage and hit a big clothesline from the top rope before calling for the Claymore, although Corbin bailed to the floor, only to be hit by a sensational somersault dive to the floor. Moss ate a suplex on the floor for his troubles before McIntyre went to the top rope again, but Corbin avoided the move and the two jostled for the advantage before Corbin hit the End of Days only for Drew to kick out, the first person ever to do so, much to Corbin’s disbelief. Naturally, that was the beginning of the end, as McIntyre hit the Futureshock and the Claymore for the definitive win.
Winner: Drew McIntyre
After the match Drew cut the ropes in half trying to murder Madcap Moss with his sword. While spectacular, it’s hard not to see that as very inconsiderate of the rest of the wrestlers who are yet to perform on this show.
The first part of this match was plodding and dull, but once things got going it was actually a very decent back-and-forth contest with a definitive winner. Now let’s never see them wrestle again, please WWE. Drew McIntyre needs to be in a big main event programme, and now is the time to rehabilitate him back to that level.
Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio vs. The Miz and Log
Before last year’s WrestleMania, Logan Paul was probably a name many wrestling fans, this writer included, were largely unfamiliar with beyond hearing the name bandied around online. However, following a fun showing last year he was recruited by The Miz (after a tease of bringing in Cody Rhodes, more on him later) to be his tag team partner as he continued his feud with The Mysterios. Paul has been superb as the disrespectful, dickhead heel spitting in the face of tradition and the Lucha Libre lineage of Rey and Dominik, which of course played perfectly into a partnership with The Miz and set up a match for night one of WrestleMania.
Rey and Dominik were out first in some shiny new gear, with Dominik’s tights very reminiscent of Eddie Guerrero’s pre-WCW gear which is a nice nod to his real Dad (a joke for the long-time fan there). The Miz was out next before Logan Paul joined him on the stage looking every inch the obnoxious dickhead he is playing (and may well be) including wearing the world’s most expensive Pokemon card as a necklace.
The Miz and Rey started things off with the heels cheating to gain the advantage on Mysterio early on with Paul coming in and hitting some punches on Rey before he attempted a couple of leapfrogs and a split drop-down only to eat a boot from Mysterio and quickly tagging The Miz back in. Rey and Dominik worked some double team moves before Dominik hit a moonsault, a double rope-assisted move on Miz and Paul and a corkscrew dive onto The Miz on the floor. However, a distraction from Miz on the outside allowed Paul to hit a cheap shot on Dominik and the heels to take advantage of the younger Mysterio.
Dominik is a great “white meat babyface” and played the face in peril brilliantly here. Paul hit a very strong looking running power slam on Dominik before he joined Miz in hitting stereo “It Kicks” followed by more double team offence. Paul hit a blockbuster on Dominik for a near-fall, as the heels dominated Mysterio with cheating tactics and quick tags in their corner. Dominik finally got an opening with a tornado DDT and crawled to the corner for the hot tag to his Dad, who came in and hit a flurry of moves on Miz including a headscissors, a top rope seated senton, a sunset flip into a big kick and a huge moonsault for a close near-fall, only saved by Logan Paul intervening. Paul and Miz went for a double suplex, but Dominik returned and hit a superkick to Miz allowing Rey to apply an inside cradle for a close two-count.
A 619 attempt was countered by Miz, but Rey turned that into a tornado DDT for another near-fall. A Three Amigos was countered by Miz by throwing Rey into the ring post, as Paul came in knocking down both Rey and his son with big boots to their respective faces. Paul then hit the Three Amigos, in Texas no less, on Rey before doing a kip-up. What a heel. Paul got cocky and went up to the top rope doing the Guerrero shuffle and hitting a picture-perfect Frog Splash on Rey for a surefire victory had it not been for Dominik making the save.
Things spilled to the floor with Dominik taking out Miz and throwing Paul back in the ring. Paul was hit with a father-son double 619 before taking two frog splashes as the end looked in sight. However, Miz tagged himself back in, slammed Dominik on his Dad (and Logan) and hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the victory.
Winners: The Miz and Logan Paul
As The Miz and Logan Paul celebrated after the match Miz hit a Skull Crushing Finale on his tag partner, surprisingly, before heading to the back leaving Paul fuming in the ring.
A surprisingly great match. It was fast and fun, and all four men performed brilliantly. Paul is a great heel and a natural athlete. While this might not have quite hit the heights of Bad Bunny last year, in terms of celebrity involvement this was right up there with the best ever. The post-match was odd, but presumably that sets up some future involvement for Logan Paul and on the basis of this match, that can only be a good thing.
Stephanie McMahon was out next, microphone in hand. She thanked the fans and made a speech about WrestleMania before introducing Gable Steveson to the crowd, who is reportedly going to be joining the RAW brand very soon. This was followed by a fantastic video chronicling the Bianca Belair/Becky Lynch story ahead of their match.
WWE RAW Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair
The roots of the RAW Women’s Championship match on this year’s WrestleMania began at last year’s SummerSlam when Becky Lynch returned from her maternity leave unannounced, and defeated then-SmackDown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair in record time. Understandably there was a massive outcry from fans as Belair essentially had her legs cut out from under her. However, after months of battling, Belair was back on the precipice of a second major championship win on the biggest stage available. Interestingly at the same time, “The Man” became “Big Time Becks” and the dynamic of this match shifted. Although Lynch had been incredibly popular as a babyface, arguably she has been doing some of the best character work of her career and as such provided the perfect foil for Belair. As such, the big question remained as to whether the story would end with a cathartic babyface triumph, or if Lynch would continue her reign past the biggest show of the year.
Lynch was out first, with a big Marvel-inspired entrance video, which was superb, before being driven to the ramp in an SUV with some absolutely ridiculous gear. You can say what you like about how Lynch has been booked, but she has really steered into the “Big Time Becks” gimmick. Belair was out next with a full marching band heralding her arrival and playing her theme looking every inch the megastar she should be. As spectacular Mania entrances go, this was awesome.
Both women took a moment to soak in the atmosphere as this started before Belair offered a handshake, and Lynch cheap-shotted her and attempted the Manhandle Slam, which Bianca reversed into a KOD attempt, but Lynch reversed again into a successful Manhandle Slam for a near-fall. A great start and a brilliant nod to that controversial SummerSlam match. Lynch tried multiple stomps and quick covers to try and finish the match quickly but to no avail. Lynch tried to reverse an inside cradle by using the ropes but was caught before Belair hit a series of impressive suplexes, only for Becky to regain the advantage by reversing into a DDT.
Lynch went to the top rope but missed a moonsault before Belair applied a Dis-Arm-Her. The two women traded pinning combinations and strikes before things spilled to the floor with Belair being driven into the ring steps. Back inside, Lynch pressed the advantage with suplexes of her own before targeting the throat of Belair before hitting a big leg drop from the top to Bianca as she was draped over the top rope. Lynch applied a chinlock, but Belair escaped, only to be caught in an armbar attempt, which Becky then turned into a triangle using Bianca’s braid. However, Belair used her incredible strength to lift Lynch up and over to the floor. A struggle followed, which led to Belair doing a handspring off the apron to the floor and then hitting a big suplex, in what was a phenomenal bit of athleticism.
Both women returned to the ring and traded strikes with Belair taking the advantage hitting a big gutbuster for a near-fall. Lynch countered a powerbomb attempt into a rollup for a near-fall of her own. Belair recovered hitting a modified Glam Slam, and a standing moonsault before dragging Lynch to the corner. However, Lynch jumped up from the mat and attempted a superplex, but Bianca reversed into a modified gutbuster/stun gun-type move. A beautiful 450 splash followed, but Lynch kicked out at two. Lynch recovered, hitting a rope-assisted jawbreaker on the apron and a cannonball senton that ended with her hitting both her heels into Belair’s face. This may have been an accident, given Belair’s facial expression afterwards, and if she escaped without a broken orbital bone of the nose, it would be a surprise. A Manhandle Slam attempt followed, but it was reversed and the two traded running forearms.
Belair tried to end things with a spinebuster and another handspring standing moonsault, but Lynch got the knees up and went for the Dis-arm-her. However, it was reversed into another series of traded pinfall attempts. Belair tried for the KOD, but Bianca sent her to the floor after Lynch grabbed the ropes. Becky, in desperation then sent Belair into the ring post and hit a Manhandle Slam on the ring steps, which sounded brutal. Lynch rolled back in and went for the cheap count-out win, but Bianca just beat the count. Lynch hammered her desperately, losing her composure, trying for a final Manhandle slam, but Belair backflipped out and hit a KOD for the win!
Winner AND NEW RAW Women’s Champion: Bianca Belair
Easily the best match on the card up to this point and maybe the whole night. This was electric from start to finish, and the write-up probably doesn’t do it justice. Belair is a big game player, and as much as the win over Sasha Banks last year made her a star, this takes her to a whole new level. Becky Lynch did some great character work here and played her part majestically. An insanely good match and a must-see, as well as a great ending to the story that started at SummerSlam, thankfully.
Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. TBA
One of the biggest stories on WWE television going into this show was who Seth Rollins would face at WrestleMania having failed to win the RAW Tag Team Championships alongside Kevin Owens, and then subsequently failed in attempts to oust Owens and AJ Styles from their respective spots. Rollins seemed to be at breaking point until Mr McMahon stepped in and offered him a match against a mystery opponent of McMahon’s choosing. Naturally, with speculation running wild that Cody Rhodes had signed with the company, this seemed like the obvious choice, until reports surfaced that suggested perhaps Rhodes had not in fact signed with WWE. So going into this match there was huge anticipation to see whether, in fact, Cody would be turning up, or WWE would pull a swerve and insert another superstar into that position.
A video was shown detailing the whole story up until this point, and obviously, the crowd were on edge, excited for the big reveal. Seth made his way to the ring with a choir of sorts, singing his theme. Rollins was in the most outrageous gear to date, including a big blue fur cape. Absolutely ridiculous.
As Rollins waited in the ring, anticipation built for a few moments as Seth paced anxiously. A huge pyro blast went off, the lights went out and “Wrestling Has More Than One Royal Family” whispered over the PA system, and Kingdom kicked in to a huge reaction from the crowd as Cody Rhodes rose up through the stage looking like an absolute megastar. Interestingly, there was no commentary here as Rhodes came to the ring, in a rare moment of self-awareness by WWE of letting the moment set in. The presentation here was one of Rhodes being a returning main eventer and although it’s hard to say where it goes, at this moment he looked like a massive deal in front of a huge crowd.
Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes
Things started off with a staredown before locking up, testing each other out, before a big arm drag from Cody landed and then he did a cartwheel and the old Stardust pose, as if to throw it away as he started afresh. They locked up again, trading the advantage with shoulder blocks and hip toss attempts before Cody hit the drop-down uppercut to a big reaction, leading to things devolving into a slugfest. Both men then reversed quick finisher attempts with the Pedigree, the CrossRhodes and the Curb Stomp all avoided before a stalemate of suplex reversals ended up with the suplex to the floor which hurt both men. Cody rammed Seth into the ring post before they returned to the ring and Cody worked on Seth’s arm with a series of arm locks. Rollins went for the ropes and Cody hit the wheelbarrow kick to the stomach/low blow, but Rollins recovered with an enzuigiri, but Cody went back to the arm. Rhodes went to the top but ate a mid-air dropkick from Rollins.
After the dropkick, Rollins targeted the ribs with a gutbuster and an Irish whip to the corner and a bear hug. Cody rallied with a snap powerslam before clotheslining Rollins to the floor and hitting a suicide dive, still selling his ribs. Back in the ring, Cody went to the top and tried for a moonsault cross body, but only got a two-count. As they went to the outside, Rhodes tried a step up disaster kick from the ring steps, but was caught and powerbombed, and then hit with a buckle bomb into the security barrier. This wasn’t the smoothest segment of the match, but it worked in the end.
Back in the ring, Rollins hit a springboard knee and a superkick, followed by a big Falcon Arrow for near-fall. Rollins teased the Curb Stomp, but Rhodes moved, Seth went for it again, but Cody reversed, went for the CrossRhodes, but Rollins dropped down to a cradle for a near-fall. Not to be denied, Cody again locked in the CrossRhodes and hit it for another super close near-fall. As Rhodes looked to the skies, he went up to the top rope, but Rollins recovered but Cody elbowed him back to the mat. Undeterred, Rollins leaped back up and hit the top-rope inverted superplex-into the reverse suplex (which is interesting, given that the second part of the move was the original finisher of Goldust upon his WWE debut) for a very, very close near-fall.
Rollins climbed the top rope, looking for the Phoenix Splash, but landed on his feet as Rhodes moved and then hooked in The Pedigree, only for Cody to reverse into an attempt at the same move (a terrific tease), but Rollins took his legs out and went for a jackknife cover. Rhodes kicked out and powered into a bridge, before teasing a Pedigree, but actually hitting a Tiger Driver. A springboard Cody Cutter from the top rope followed, but Seth kicked out again at two.
With Rollins down, Cody took too much time and ate a Pedigree, but also kicked out at the very last second. The two men traded fists, exhausted doing the boo/yay spot, before Cody hit another drop-down uppercut, only for Seth to respond with a kick to the ribs. Kawada kicks from Rollins to Cody were next, and he even pulled out a roaring elbow and a variation on the Hidden Blade, but Cody popped up and hit two CrossRhodes. He looked for a third, but stopped and hit his father’s trademark punches with a Bionic Elbow before hitting a third and decisive CrossRhodes for the win.
Winner: Cody Rhodes
A ready-made classic, the re-debut of Cody may not have been a shock, but he looked great here. Although you could see the emotion of the moment on his face throughout, it was fantastic. It’s very interesting in terms of the optics that WWE kept his AEW presentation intact, including his look and music and treated him like a huge star here. At least for now. A big moment on this show, and a great match between two huge talents. This felt like an old school Japanese epic, with the slow build and the big finish with lots of cool layered storytelling. Brilliant work all round.
Following a recap of the Hall of Fame ceremony, it was time for the inductees to be trotted out for the crowd, including The Undertaker doing his big entrance (in his suit rather than full gear, thankfully), with full flame pyro which is apt given his status within the company and his longevity. A nice moment that gave him the big send-off in front of the stadium, if this is truly the end.
An update followed on Rick Boogs, confirming that the injury in the opener was legitimate and he has torn his quadricep and patella, which sounds very nasty. We wish him a swift recovery.
An announcement of the attendance (presumably including the staff working in the stadium) warranted more pyro before a video aired highlighting the upcoming SmackDown Women’s Championship match.
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ronda Rousey
With Ronda Rousey returning at the Royal Rumble, it was assumed she would be taking on Becky Lynch having won the right to challenge for a title at the Showcase of the Immortals. However, in an unexpected choice, perhaps to save that programme for a later date and preserve the Belair/Lynch plans, Rousey opted to challenge Charlotte Flair. With a history dating back to Rousey’s last Mania appearance, and a nearly unmatched physical pedigree between them, there was little doubt this pairing would yield a fantastic contest. However, the build-up has somewhat been lacklustre, with neither woman really excelling in building up excitement and anticipation in the way it had been hoped. However, with the bright lights on, both women were ready to deliver in a huge way and with a point to prove.
Ronda Rousey was out first making her usual no-nonsense entrance to the ring, doing her smiling killer routine. Charlotte entered second in a spectacular robe, as expected, with a huge pyro display inside and outside the stadium.
Things started off with a very physical exchange. Rousey used her MMA strikes and hit Charlotte with chops and forearms. Before Flair went to the mat, only for Ronda to roll into an early anklelock attempt. They locked up again and Flair went for a figure four, but Rousey countered into an armbar attempt and then a triangle attempt before Charlotte escaped. Flair did the flip in the corner but was met with a stiff punch, with Ronda cutting Flair off at each attempt at her patented moves. Charlotte improvised with a Final Cut on the apron before things inevitably went to the floor. Rousey went face-first into the ring post, and Flair rolled her back inside.
More grappling on the mat followed, with Flair trying to out-wrestle Rousey, but Flair also hit a big lariat for a near-fall before locking in a dragon sleeper. Ronda responded with a big knee to the face, but Charlotte cut off her momentum in the corner. A modified Tornado DDT-bulldog move from Rousey yielded a near-fall before Rousey went back to her judo roots with various throws. However, Flair surprised her with a spear for a solid false finish two-count.
Charlotte tried for Natural Selection, but Rousey countered into an armlock, but that was reversed into a back suplex. Charlotte tried for a moonsault, and while Rousey moved, Charlotte missed the standing moonsault in a bit of miscommunication as the match felt like it was on the verge of falling apart here. Rousey got things back on track with a big suplex for a near-fall, but Flair re-took control, tying up Rousey in the corner. Flair went for a modified Boston Crab/Lion Tamer on the top rope, but Rousey sat up and flipped back out to the mat and nailed a scary-looking top rope throw. Piper’s Pit followed, but Charlotte escaped the armbar attempt and hit a big boot.
Smelling blood, Flair went for the Figure-Eight, but Ronda countered again and hit a snap powerslam for a two count. A Piper’s Pit was reversed into a sunset flip attempt, but Ronda reversed that into an ankle lock. Charlotte countered into an ankle lock of her own. Rousey went for an armbar but sent Flair headfirst into the turnbuckle. An ugly elevated-armbar into a powerbomb followed with Flair almost getting the win. After more grappling, another ankle lock followed, with Rousey locking in the hooks. Flair broke the hold with a kick to the face after teasing a tap out. A back and forth of counters from an armbar, to a Figure Eight eventually ended with Ronda teasing tapping out but reversing the pressure and both ending up in the ropes.
Outside the ring, Rousey tossed Flair to the floor from the apron, but seconds later Flair hit an exploder into the ring barrier, with both women only just about beating the count-out. Back in the ring, Ronda hit Pipers Pit, but Flair got the foot on the ropes. Flair hit Natural Selection, but Ronda kicked out at two. Another Figure-Eight attempt followed and the referee was knocked unconscious in the process. Rousey got the armbar for the visionary tap, but with no referee to make the call. As Ronda tried to revive the ref, Charlotte hit a boot to the head for the win.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
In all honesty, this was not brilliant. Not terrible, but not quite the dynamic contest that everyone hoped for. At several points, it felt like it was all going wrong. Charlotte and Ronda Rousey’s styles didn’t gel all that well at points, and they overcame this by the end but it wasn’t a WrestleMania level performance overall. It all also suffered from a crowd who weren’t really into it after the entrances. Not a highlight, not a disaster either, but it certainly didn’t deliver as it probably should have given the talent of both women.
A video preview of Night Two was up next, as well as a video announcement of the two-night event a SoFi Stadium next year, which presumably means this is the format going forward. Then we got a video recapping everything leading to the “main event”, with a tremendous package on both men. This was genuinely brilliant and I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t be ultimately very excited for the finale of this show after seeing it.
The KO Show: Stone Cold Steve Austin returns to confront Kevin Owens
It’s unusual for the “main event” of WrestleMania to be anything other than a match, either for a title or with some sort of marquee attraction. However, with the two-night format, and with both major men’s titles involved in night two, few things seemed more appropriate to close the show than the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin. The biggest star in the history of wrestling coming back for a physical confrontation with one of the top stars of the current crop was obviously a momentous happening and deserved nothing more than the top spot.
Kevin Owens had spent much of the last few months running down Texas, home of this year’s WrestleMania and Stone Cold Steve Austin, which also provided the impetus for Austin to accept Owen’s challenge. Owens has continued to goad Austin on WWE TV, but without Austin having shown up on RAW, it has been difficult to ascertain what sort of Austin appearance this would be. However, it quickly became obvious exactly what WWE had in mind and what Stone Cold Steve Austin would be delivering on this show.
As you would expect, Kevin Ownes was out first to a chorus of boos from the assembled Texas audience who KO had spent weeks running down. Owens, in full wrestling gear, welcomed the crowd to the KO Show. He explained he said a lot of negative things about Texas and said perhaps he went too far and should apologise. He apologised to every Texan…for telling the truth about Texas, which garnered even more boos. He continued to run down Texas, whipping up the crowd and saying he would bring his guest out when he wanted. He began running down Stone Cold Steve Austin, which made the crowd even more angry as their anticipation built and built for that glass breaking sound.
As the glass broke, the crowd went insane and Austin came out in his trademark 3:16 T-shirt and jean shorts, only this time with the knee braces, a sure sign he was ready to fight. After a few minutes of posing, Austin went back behind the curtain as Owens laughed in the ring, only for Austin to return on an ATV and speed down the ramp towards the ring, while Owens rolled his eyes in the ring. As Austin got in the ring, he threw down both of Owens’ KO Show signs and did his trademark pose in the corners to a continued huge ovation.
Owens cut off the music, as he explained this was his show, not Austins. The crowd were rabid at this stage. Owens told Austin to take a seat, and Stone Cold turned to face Owens eye-to-eye. Owens claimed he was not there for a fight and both men sat down. Austin asked if Owens wanted to bring him out for a conversation, after everything he said about Texas and Austin himself as Austin verbally ran him down in only the way Stone Cold Steve Austin can. Owens continued to point out all the things he hates about Texas, while Austin glared at him and the crowd booed., and Austin encouraged them to call KO an “asshole”. Owens said Austin should be more like him and admitted that he lied earlier when he said he just wanted a conversation. He says he tricked Austin, and he is indeed looking for a fight, and he wanted to challenge Austin to a match, even though Stone Cold had a litany of injuries nineteen years ago that are probably worse now. He said that didn’t matter as he was challenging Austin to a “no-holds-barred” match. Stone Cold thought it over, as Owens goaded him further saying Austin knows he can’t beat KO, and he if he wasn’t going to accept he should go back to his “stupid ranch”.
Austin looked out at the crowd for a moment, before he explained that he had his first match in Dallas, Texas and he could have his last match there too. He then asked the crowd if they wanted to see it, also calling Owens a “sack of shit” in the process. Obviously, the answer was a resounding, “hell yeah” from the Texas faithful. Austin called for a referee and the match was on.
No Holds Barred Match: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Kevin Owens
As the bell rang, there was a huge pop from the crowd. Owens and Austin traded punches before Austin stomped a mudhole in Owens in the corner. After an Irish whip, Austin opened a mid-match beer before continuing to stomp Owens. Austin threw Owens to the floor, opened another beer, and hit Owens with a big clothesline before dropping him on the barricade. A huge “You still got it” chant erupted from the crowd, but Owens regained the advantage by ramming Austin into the ring post. He followed this up to be nailing Austin with the tripod from the KO Show set and a series of punches to Austin’s face. Owens pulled a table out from under the ring and went to throw Austin through it, but of course, Stone Cold reversed and put Owens through it.
In classic Austin style, the brawl moved into the crowd as Stone Cold hit punches and chops among the sea of his fellow Texans. However, after Austin went for a suplex, Owens reversed and planted Austin on the “concrete”. Owens celebrated, but Austin recovered and the two resumed trading blows until Owens hit a big body shot and the action moved back to ringside. As they did, Austin landed a big slam from the barrier onto the announce table, leaving Owens prone. Stone Cold hammered Austin with punches on the table, opening more beers as he went.
Things moved back into the ring, as Owens draped Austin throat-first over the top rope. As Owens looked for a way out, he climbed aboard Austin’s ATV, but Stone Cold stopped him, beat him up some more, and then started the ATV driving it up the ramp with Owens on board. The two men brawled on the stage, Austin hitting a suplex on the entrance before he bounced Owens off various bits of staging and then nailed another suplex on Owens. Austin rolled Owens down the ramp, hitting punches every time Owens popped up. More beers followed.
Back in the ring, with Owens downed, Austin drank a cold one, but then ate a stunner from Kevin Owens, only kicking out at the very, very last moment, as the crowd audibly gasped. Owens grabbed a chair from ringside and did one of the best “heel misses a chair shot and bounces it into his own face” spots ever recorded before Stone Cold Steve Austin hit the original and best Stone Cold Stunner for the 1-2-3.
Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin
After the match, Stone Cold straddled the corners, drank a beer and soaked in the adulation of the crowd following what will surely be his final match ever. He briefly got on the microphone, saying how good it is to be back in Dallas while sharing a beer with the referee and he then continued the celebration. Austin then called Byron Saxton into the ring to share a beer with him, and everyone knew what was coming. A stunner followed, including a great sell from Saxton. Austin also shared a beer with his brother in the ring, who did not receive a stunner as the celebrations continued.
Austin and Owens both delivered huge here. This was tremendous fun, a great way to end the night, and a fitting end to a great career. Owens bumped like a madman, and Austin looked like a superstar while also hiding his limitations. Austin’s retirement in 2003 was understated, so it’s great to see him get one last big moment in a match with a top star on the biggest stage possible, in his home state. A great main event.
WrestleMania 38 Night One was a very enjoyable show from start to finish. With the possible exception of Rousey vs Flair (and I say possible because they did rescue it in the end, just about) every match delivered great action. We had awesome memorable moments, including the returns of Cody Rhodes and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and a hot crowd ensured this felt like a fun show, with a brilliant crowd-pleasing ending. WWE don’t always get it right (and they may well undo that goodwill on Night Two), but coming out of this first night it’s hard to argue this was a fantastic show.
All Images Courtesy of WWE