Monday, April 12, 2021

WWE WrestleMania 37, Night 1: Sasha & Bianca Deliver Big

WrestleMania 37 is in the books, the first WWE shows in front of a proper audience in 13 months, and the second WrestleMania to be split across two nights.  Overall each night was an enjoyable affair with some good to very good matches, two excellent main events, some questionable booking (par for the course in this company), and the crowning of a couple of new stars.  Night 1 was the more successful show, more consistent and with better time management, but Night 2 was a solid outing in its own right.  But we'll get to that....

Night 1 opened, after a 30-minute rain delay (kinda shocking that this is the first time this has ever happened for an outdoor WrestleMania) during which numerous stars cut actual unscripted promos for the first time in forever, with the WWE Title match.  Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre were given 18 minutes and made the most of it, with a hard-hitting hoss battle.  Drew got all of his big moves in and went for the Claymore but MVP pulled Lashley out of the ring to save him.  Drew dove over the ropes onto both guys, broke out a kimura lock (homage to Brock Lesnar?), and eventually set up for the Claymore again, but MVP yelled from ringside to Bobby, which distracted Drew long enough for Bobby to duck the kick and apply the Hurt Lock.  Drew fought it for a while and tried to fall back on top of him for a pin, but Lashley rolled through and held on, pulling Drew to the mat and wrapping his leg over.  The ref checked on Drew and called the match for Lashley due to a pass-out.  This seemed like the wrong finish for the first match in a year in front of fans - if Lashley was going to retain they should've put this match somewhere else on the card.  Just a really odd, decisive finish for the heel champion if McIntyre is getting a rematch later (which I assume he is).  It was almost like The Rock losing to Triple H at WrestleMania 2000.  Plus it made Miz's brief title run utterly pointless.  But anyway the match was very good.  ***3/4

Match #2 was not so good, and it was the Tag Team Turmoil match.  I was fully expecting the surprise return of Becky Lynch with Charlotte Flair as her partner, but that didn't happen so we were stuck with the five announced teams.  Carmella and Billie Kaye beat Naomi and Lana with an assisted rollup, then tried the same tactic on the Riott Squad but the ref broke it up.  Ruby Riott pinned Billie Kay after a senton.  The Riott Squad also beat Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke after a rollup.  Then Tamina and Natalya won the whole match after Tamina hit a Superfly splash off the top rope.  Not much to this.  *1/2
Things picked up big in the third match (which really should've been the opener given how hot the crowd was for it), Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro.  This was Cesaro's first-ever singles match at WrestleMania.  These guys got about eleven minutes and packed everything they could into them.  The first several minutes were all about Cesaro trying to get Rollins in the giant swing, but Rollins kept avoiding it.  Finally Cesaro swung him about nine times but couldn't hold on for more.  Rollins came back with a corkscrew frog splash which the announcers said was the most spectacular thing they'd ever seen (Uhh, Phoenix Splash anyone?).  They traded finishers, Cesaro's neutralizer and Seth's pedigree, but neither man could get the pin.  Seth went for the curb stomp but Cesaro countered with an uppercut and followed with a fantastic-looking no-arm Airplane Spin.  Finally Cesaro got him in the giant swing for roughly 20 rotations, followed by another neutralizer for the pin.  The crowd went ballistic.  PUSH THIS MAN.  This was a super fun match.  ****

The RAW Tag Titles were up next as AJ Styles and Omos challenged The New Day, in a match where the babyface-heel psychology was precisely reversed.  But it worked here for what they wanted to accomplish.  The New Day dominated AJ for 90% of the match, AJ kept trying to escape and tag his gigantic partner but Kofi and Xavier kept cutting him off.  Finally after about seven minutes he made the tag and Omos destroyed both New Day guys, tossing them around like nothing and giving both a backbreaker.  AJ hit Woods with a Phenomenal Forearm off Omos's shoulders (a spectacular visual), and Omos hit a tree slam on Kofi, and put his foot on Kofi's chest for the pin.  New champs.  This wasn't amazing or anything but it was what it needed to be.  AJ and Omos will end up feuding down the line I'm sure, but for now they'll be dominant tag champs.  ***

The next two matches were ones I was dreading, but both actuall delivered, starting with Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon in a steel cage.  To give Shane some credibility, Elias and Jaxson Ryker attacked Braun as he was entering the cage, going after his knee with chairs.  Once the match started Shane targeted the injured leg and went for a quick escape win, but Braun stopped him.  Shane used one of the platform pieces from the top of the cage as a weapon, hit Braun with the coast-to-coast dropkick, and bashed him in the head with a toolbox.  Shane climbed out and stuck his hand through the cage on his way down, but Braun grabbed it, ripped part of the cage open, and pulled Shane back in.  They ended up atop the cage, and I expected Braun to powerslam him from there, but alas I suppose there's no safe way to do that.  Instead Braun just tossed Shane off the top and into the ring, a pretty crazy spot as well.  Braun hit a powerslam and pinned Shane to win.  This was alright.  **1/2

The most pleasant surprise of the night was Bad Bunny and Damian Priest vs. The Miz and John Morrison.  This match was so much better than it had any right to be.  Priest had a bad back and thus couldn't work most of the match, but Bunny had done his homework and looked fantastic.  I generally hate celebrity in-ring appearances but this kid earned his spot here.  He did a lot of big moves before the heels took over to build toward the hot tag to Priest.  Damian took both heels out with an outside dive, after which Bunny killed Morrison with a Canadian Destroyer on the floor.  The babyfaces did a Doomsday Device-type finisher except instead of a clothesline Bunny hit Miz with a cross body for the pin.  The crowd loved this.  Third or fourth-best match of the night.  ***3/4

The main event spot, most deservedly, went to Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair.  The announcers called attention to the fact that it was two women of color headlining WrestleMania for the first time, and both women were visibly emotional at the start.  These two worked their asses off to deliver a main event-worthy match.  Sasha repeatedly used Bianca's hair braid against her, whipping her around with it and at one point using it to assist a Bank Statement.  Maybe the most memorable spot was Banks hitting her with a suicide dive, but Bianca caught her, rolled through and stood up, pressing Sasha over her head, and walking up the ring steps before tossing her back in.  Another really impressive moment was Bianca hitting a standing shooting star press (I think she's the first woman I've ever seen do that), and then going for a 450 splash but landing on Sasha's knees.  The finish came after both women tried to use Bianca's hair for leverage.  Bianca yanked her hair free and whipped Sasha across the ribs, an incredibly loud WHACK sound that left a sick-looking welt, and then hit the Kiss of Death finisher for the win and the title.  This match delivered big and felt like a huge moment.  Easily the match of the night and both women should be extremely proud.  Bianca is a future cornerstone of the division.  ****1/4

So yeah, after a WrestleMania 36 that unfortunately suffered due to the pandemic but was also pretty atrociously booked, Night 1 of WrestleMania 37 felt like a breath of fresh air.  At a concise three hours and change, it was easy to sit through and for the first time in a very long while a WWE PPV left me wanting to see more.  It was bookended by two well-worked title matches, the latter of which was a pretty great main event, plus there was some fun stuff in the middle and only one match was bad.  For WWE circa 2021 that's a major win.  WrestleMania being split over two nights is definitely the way to go.

Best Match: Sasha vs. Bianca
Worst Match: Tag Team Turmoil
What I'd Change: I mean, I'd have added Becky and Charlotte to that turmoil match to make it good and memorable, and to set up a big match on Night 2.  I'd also probably book Drew to win back the title or move that match away from the opening slot.
Most Disappointing Match: Since I was expecting a Becky appearance, the Tag Turmoil match.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Bad Bunny
Overall Rating: 8/10

Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, Facebook and YouTube!

No comments:

Post a Comment