Welcome, faithful readers, to WrestleMania 38 Night two. If you missed night one, then be sure to check it out here before you read any further. All caught up? Good. Then we shall continue. Night one is in the record books, and what a night it was. With a new SmackDown Women’s Champion crowned in the form of Bianca Belair, Cody Rhodes returned to WWE after a six-year absence, and Stone Cold Steve Austin wrestled his first match in 19 years. Truth be told, I wasn’t much looking forward to night one, ahead of time, but the show did exceed my expectations, even if it was rather on the long side. Except it wasn’t the matches, I didn’t feel that any of them were too long, it was more the endless video packages between matches that long overstayed their welcome.
Those of you who have kept up with my part of the predictions column will know that I was 4/6 from the matches on the first night, so I was feeling suitably smug ahead of night two. Over the last couple of years, where WrestleMania has been split over two nights, the second night has generally been the bigger night with more of the highly anticipated matches, and I was certainly hoping that this show would continue that trend.
Triple H officially kicked off the show and welcomed us to WrestleMania. Following up on the recent announcement of his retirement, The Game marked the moment with the time-honoured tradition of leaving his boots in the middle of the ring. It felt pretty special for Triple H to make one last ‘Mania entrance, complete with his trademark water spit.
RAW Tag Team Championship Triple Threat
RKBro (c) vs Street Profits vs Alpha Academy
Doesn’t it seem crazy to think that Otis made his WrestleMania debut two years ago when he defeated Dolph Ziggler? Of course, that was the year that Mania had to be held inside the Performance Center with no fans in attendance. Considering a month later, Otis won the Money in the Bank contract, it seemed like the man was destined for big things. However, things didn’t turn out that way so this marked the first WrestleMania appearance for Otis in front of a live crowd. One can only imagine how incredible that must’ve felt.
With the absence of any pre-show matches, this did feel like the ideal way to start the show. The fact that RKBro came out first, and as soon as that first note of “Voices” started, the crowd went wild. That tells you everything you need to know. This duo is super over right now. The crowd loved them. Beyond that, this was the ideal match to warm the crowd up and encourage everybody to settle in for the night ahead. Highlights include RKBro landing synchronised Spike DDTs to the Street Profits and Riddle landing an insane Springboard RKO to Montez Ford. As Chad Gable launched off the top rope, Orton caught him with an RKO for the victory.
Following the match, the Street Profits were about to raise a toast with RK-Bro and Gable Steveson – who was sitting at ringside – when Chad Gable crashed the party and knocked the drink out of Steveson’s hand. Everybody else cleared the ring, and Chad attempted to talk down to Steveson and suffered an overhead throw for his troubles.
Verdict: Considering the matches that Orton has had at this event, will this one go down as a classic, definitely not, but it was a fun opener to the show. One would imagine this was probably intended to be Orton vs Riddle, but with RKBro being as popular as they are, it would be dumb not to ride that wave for a little longer. Meanwhile, WWE continues to give a lot of screentime to Gable Steveson. They clearly think they’ve got another star on their hands, only time will tell if they’re right.
Omos vs Bobby Lashley
Again, it’s worth checking in with wrestling history from time to time. It was just a year ago that Omos wrestled his first match, where he won the RAW Tag Team Championship, alongside AJ Styles. That’s a quick turnaround for Omos to now be working WrestleMania as a solo competitor, but it shows the value that WWE sees in the big man, but is it too much too soon.
By now, regular viewers have seen Omos work a number of squash matches on RAW, all with a very similar story. This match told the story of an Omos who had become too reliant, maybe a little too complacent on his own abilities. Bobby Lashley isn’t like anybody Omos has faced before, so Omos wasn’t prepared for Lashley to power out of a number of those moves and take the fight right back to him. To anybody who might’ve forgotten, this match reminded us that Bobby Lashley is a freak of nature. We’re reminded of how the former WWE Champion was dominating the RAW roster, just a year ago, and throwing men around like they were ragdolls. But, in this match, Lashley was Omos’s personal ragdoll at times.
The turning point came when Lashley powered out of a bearhug and then hit Omos with a major suplex. Lashley followed up with a Spear to the kidneys, and then another to the ribs for a three-count.
Winner: Bobby Lashley
Verdict: What was noteworthy for me was that Lashley came out without MVP. That suggests to me that we’re about to see a change in direction for Lashley, at a time when WWE isn’t oversubscribed with main event babyfaces, could Lashley be somebody who can fill that spot. Due to the way he had to be removed from the Elimination Chamber, Bobby has a legitimate claim to the World Championship and it makes sense for him to be the next date for Reigns or Lesnar.
Anything Goes Match – Johnny Knoxville vs Sami Zayn
For fans of the Hardcore division of the Attitude Era, this match was packed with that sort of nostalgia, as toys like trash cans, stop signs and tables came out to play. Frustration became the theme of the match for Sami Zayn as he was unable to easily put Knoxville away as he has presumed he would. An exploder suplex through a table only got Zayn a two-count. Party Boy invaded the ring and distracted Sami long enough that Johnny could roll up Zayn, but he only got two.
Zayn fought off Party Boy and looked under the ring for more toys, where Wee Man was hiding. Wee Man chased Zayn into the ring and bodyslammed the professional wrestler. Say what you like about that moment, but the crowd absolutely ate it up. Knoxville rolled a bowling ball into Sami’s open crotch and then kicked him in the crotch with a robotic leg. Knoxville pulled out a taser and Sami tried to run away but crashed into a giant hand. Sami was later thrown through a table covered in mousetraps before he was pinned via a giant gimmick mousetrap.
Winner: Johnny Knoxville
Verdict: That was an emphasis on the ‘entertainment’ part of sports entertainment. That match may have appealed to somebody out there but I wasn’t one of them. I think it’s tragic that somebody like Sami Zayn finds himself in a spot like that. Matches like that give ammunition to the lapsed fan who thinks the current WWE product is dumb and leaves the rest of us scratching our heads as to how there could be no plans on this show for the likes of Finn Balor, Damian Priest and Ricochet.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Fatal Four-Way Match – Queen Zelina & Carmella (C) vs Naomi & Sasha Banks vs Liv Morgan & Rhea Ripley vs Natalya & Shayna Baszler
We know by now that WrestleMania is often the time that Superstars break out a special themed attire. Rhea and Liv may have won the weekend here with their interpretation of Batman and Catwoman. Liv’s Catwoman was Michelle Pfeiffer inspired and was complete with a whip. Of course, those costumes should have served as a warning fast-paced action movie style of the match we were about to witness.
Liv Morgan and Sasha Banks, in particular, were like superheroes, as they each flew through the air, landing on the trios of women assembled at ringside. A subplot to this match was the ongoing reactions of Corey Graves at ringside. Of course, it’s no secret that Corey and Carmella are engaged, their relationship has hardly been kept on the subtle side. Carmella’s attire was like a Vegas wedding dress, one can only assume that their nuptials are getting ever closer. Beyond that, Carmella and Zelina didn’t show the chemistry required of Tag Team Champions.
In the end, Sasha and Naomi were able to dig in the deepest, tapping into their history as members of Team BAD, when they landed a double-team finisher on Carmella, enabling Sasha to pick up her first WrestleMania victory, and the duo took the Women’s Tag Team Championships in the process.
Winner: Sasha Banks & Naomi
Verdict: For any casual fan or first-time viewer, this was ideal. The action was fast and furious, it left little time to catch your breath, plus you didn’t need to know who anybody was or have any prior information to enjoy it. Kudos to everybody involved in that match. For eight competitors and just over eleven minutes, that’s not a whole lot of time to get all your spots in, but they managed it here.
Edge vs AJ Styles
It seemed to me that Edge had channelled his inner Undertaker for this match, especially with the dark lighting, the flames as part of his entrance, and a heavy balance of black and purple in his ring gear. The early portion of this match was a fine blend of slick and brutal that can only be pulled off by two masters like Edge and AJ. Styles seemed unhinged from the start, seething with rage, hungry for revenge due to what Edge had done to him in recent weeks. Yet every move seemed countered by the other man, showing that they are students of the industry that had clearly done their research, they knew each other so well, despite never squaring off before.
Not only are Styles and Edge two of the greatest to have ever done this, but we’re also reminded of that in the psychology behind that storytelling. Remember that Edge returned at the Royal Rumble in 2020. It was in that match that AJ Styles separated his shoulder. Of course, this darker, more sadistic version of Edge would remember that fact and therefore made a point of targeting AJ’s shoulder in this match. After all, that would certainly affect the way Styles is able to catapult himself and could potentially hinder his chance of pulling off a springboard attack such as the Phenomenal Forearm.
Even as time went on in this match and both men should have been well and truly fatigued, they were still slick and fluid in everything they did. There was a beautiful sequence where Edge ducked a Phenomenal Forearm attempt, Styles leapt out of the way of a Spear, but finally landed a Styles Clash, of which Edge barely kicked out. AJ then set up for another Styles Clash but was distracted by a brooding Damian Priest watching from ringside. The distraction was enough to buy Edge a little recovery time. As AJ attempted his springboard attack, Edge caught him midair with a Spear to seal his fate.
Following the match, Damian Priest entered the ring during Edge’s celebration. The two men looked at each other, shared an evil laugh and then left together.
Verdict: A simply amazing match, from beginning to end. For me, this was on the level of HBK vs Undertaker from ‘Mania 25. Personally, I didn’t need the Priest involvement, I’d have preferred a cleaner finish, but I think I understand what they’re trying to do here. Priest’s look has a similar feel to Edge’s new gimmick. It looks like Priest may be a sort of disciple to Edge, maybe we’re about to see a new faction with Edge as the leader. And if that is the case, what a brilliant position for somebody like Priest to be in.
The New Day vs Sheamus & Ridge Holland
In a changeup to what they’d usually wear, Kofi and Xavier wore singlets in homage to their injured partner, Big E, in the same colour scheme as when Big E won the WWE Championship last year. There’s not a lot to cover here. In the fight night style of Sheamus, this match had a jump start as Sheamus and co attacked New Day during their entrance. They also made use of the extra man advantage, with Butch distracting the referee so Sheamus – illegal at the time – could hit Woods with a Brogue Kick. Holland followed up with Northern Grit to pick up a win at his first WrestleMania.
Winner: Ridge Holland & Sheamus
Verdict: Short and sweet. We know that this match was cut from last night’s show due to time constraints, so it may be a case that we got a majorly abridged version of the match here. Still, that has to be better than not being on the show at all. At least Ridge Holland and Pete Dunne – sorry – Butch, got their first taste of WrestleMania.
Pat McAfee vs Austin Theory
This match was more fun than it had realistically any right to be. Following a video package that aired before the match, we learnt a little more about Pat McAfee and how he’s been a longtime fan of pro wrestling, more so, it seems, than he was really a fan of football. Following his retirement from the NFL, Pat had a wrestling ring fitting at his house and hired a trainer. McAfee showed great athleticism in pulling off a Hurricanrana and leaping to the top rope, meeting Theory, where he launched his opponent from the top rope with a superplex. Austin Theory played his role as the cocky young villain perfectly. Vince McMahon watched from ringside as his protege literally expected a victory without any real effort required. Theory thought he had the victory sealed when he set up for an ATL, but McAfee reversed into a rollup victory as the crowd went wild.
Winner: Pat McAfee
Verdict: I must admit, this was an absolute feel-good moment, soundtracked by Michael Cole cheering on from commentary. You get the impression that Cole and McAfee are genuinely friends. Pat soaked in the win and the adoration from the crowd, but it seemed that he was riding too high as he got ahead of himself and challenged Vince McMahon to get into the ring. It seemed that Pat wanted a second match of the night. Vince peeled off his jacket, shirt and tie, which then led us to…
Pat McAfee vs Vince McMahon
Yep, believe it or not, that is not a mistype. Vince McMahon genuinely wrestled a match at WrestleMania. Of course, it wasn’t without a big assist to Austin Theory. Theory took a cheap shot that allowed McMahon an advantage. Beyond that, the CEO didn’t have to do much as McAfee was thrown around, took the bumps and tried to make his boss look good. McMahon kicked an American football into the ribs of McAfee and then pinned the commentator.
Winner: Vince McMahon
Following the match, Vince and Theory celebrated like they’d won both matches and the crowd despised it, but then came out Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the Texas Rattlesnake delivered a Stunner to Theory. Austin and Vince shared a beer before Vince managed the biggest botch in receiving a Stunner of all time. His legs appeared to buckle before Austin even touched him. Austin also shared a beer and delivered a Stunner to Pat McAfee.
Verdict: On one hand, what an awesome night for Pat McAfee who got to live the dream of every WWE fan. Not only did he get to wrestle two matches, both at WrestleMania on the same night, but he also got to face off with Vince McMahon and drink beer with Stone Cold. That said, the two matches and all the surrounding moments ate up a lot of time. That seems like a slap in the face to New Day, Sheamus and co who were barely allowed two minutes.
Another case of history repeating. Austin and McMahon share a beer, 21 years following the end of WrestleMania X7. At least this time it had a different ending.
WWE Championship vs Universal Championship – Winner Take All Match – Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns
Here we are again. Following their first match at WrestleMania 31 (which Seth Rollins won) and their second clash at WrestleMania 34, which Brock won. Let’s not forget, they’ve also had encounters at the Greatest Royal Rumble, SummerSlam 2018 and Crown Jewel 2021. So these men know each other very well and this was never going to be a match for the faint-hearted. On top of that, none of those previous matches had the same stakes as this one, WWE Championship vs Universal Championship, yet it still seemed that something was missing. From the off, this match was a hard-hitting event from the opening bell between two powerhouse heavyweights.
Brock took early control of the match, flattening Roman with a series of suplexes before throwing the Tribal Chief out of the ring. Paul Heyman sucked Brock in, giving Roman recovery time before he was able to Spear the Beast through the ringside barricade. That allowed Roman to take the wheel as he nailed his longtime rival with a series of Superman Punches and Spears. Yet, every time Roman made the pin, Brock managed to kick out, much to the chagrin of the Head of the Table.
Roman made full use of having Paul Heyman in his corner. This is also only the second time that Roman has been the heel in this feud. Roman certainly makes for more of a natural in that role and tapped into that part of his character. Reigns gave Lesnar a deliberate low-blow when the referee was incapacitated and nailed Brock with the Universal title – thanks to Paul Heyman – yet still, Brock managed to kick out of the pin attempt. The next Spear was a mistake for Roman, as he ended up in the Kimura Lock. The hold looked brutal, but Heyman managed to help Reigns get a rope break. Heyman screamed like he was the one who’d been in the hold, terrified that Brock seemed to be getting stronger. Roman was overheard telling Heyman that the Kimura had pulled his shoulder out of joint. Brock set up for another F5, but Roman slithered out and nailed a final, decisive Spear to unify the titles.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Verdict: This match did not live up to expectations, for me, but it was crippled from the start when it was billed as the biggest WrestleMania match of all time. Considering the rich history of this event, those were always impossibly big shoes to feel. Especially when we talk about previous WrestleMania trilogies like Undertaker vs Triple H and The Rock vs Austin, this match wasn’t in the same conversation. To me, it felt like the match was just getting warmed up when Roman got out of the Kimura. So, the final Spear felt like an abrupt finish. With Roman defeating Brock Lesnar like that, it feels like there literally isn’t anybody on the roster who can dethrone the Tribal Chief, so where the hell do WWE go from here? In his commentary, Michael Cole has been leaning a lot into talking about the only men that have held World Championships longer than Roman, which include the likes of Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan at over 1,000 days each. Surely, WWE can’t be planning on having Roman join that club… can they?
Overall: Wrestling history is certainly circular and that’s the third time in twenty years that we’ve seen WWE unify the World Championships. With each time it feels increasingly meaningless and it feels like it’s only a matter of time before WWE has two World Championships yet again.
The matches on this show all seemed particularly short. Edge vs Styles, the longest of either night was 26 minutes. Sadly, on both shows, there seemed to be more time dedicated to video packages and other segments. Personally, this viewer would much rather have fewer matches but with a longer time bell to bell.
That said, even this show alone, sets up WWE well for the year ahead. I’m personally intrigued by how the Edge and Damian Priest partnership unfolds. Plus, as he has both World titles, there’s no doubt that Roman Reigns can call himself the Undisputed King of WWE. His ego has already been insufferable, so picture how much worse it can possibly get.
All Images and videos courtesy of WWE