WrestleMania 38 is in the books. Let’s take a look back at the highlights from the two-night spectacle at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
Cody Rhodes is back
The prodigal son has returned.
Cody Rhodes, after six years away, is back in WWE, going from major star while with AEW to now being a major star in sports entertainment in WWE.
Rhodes received the star treatment in his entrance (including the music he used in AEW and on the independent scene) and then the audience gave him the star treatment in return, byway of an extremely positive reaction.
The match against Seth Rollins was a strong way to reintroduce Rhodes to a WWE audience that may have not been familiar with his work over the past six years. Now the question for Rhodes is, what next?
Rhodes told Variety that he considers himself, “the best wrestler in the world. And to go further with it, I actually don’t think there’s a close second.”
With that in mind, a road to the WWE Championship shouldn’t be too far away.
Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!
For the first time in 19 years, Stone Cold Steve Austin participated in a wrestling match. Before that, his last match took place at WrestleMania 19, in a losing effort against The Rock. He had stayed in and around WWE in that time, dishing out a Stunner every now and then, but there was never anything that brought him back to compete between the bells.
Until April 2, 2022… Stone Cold came out of retirement to take on Marieville, Que., native Kevin Owens.
Owens grew up a massive fan of Stone Cold, so it was undoubtedly a thrill of a lifetime for him to have a match with Steve Austin, and that’s not even mentioning that it was in the main event of WrestleMania on Saturday. The moment could have ended just in the peripheral description of the match, but it was so much more than that. The match, from bell-to-bell was spectacularly entertaining. Stone Cold took a few noteworthy bumps, such as a suplex on the concrete. The reaction that Austin received from the crowd when his music hit was as good as it’s ever been, and perhaps better.
Meanwhile, think about the fact that Owens was tasked with participating in a main event match of WrestleMania with the biggest star in WWE history who was coming out his 19-year-retirement. Owens is one of the biggest stars in WWE, and that won’t change for years.
The Tribal Chief reigns
Roman Reigns continues to dominate anyone and everyone and is now the new, unified WWE and Universal Champion after defeating Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 38.
The match had a big-fight feel thanks to the two behemoth wrestlers with personalities to match and the stakes involved. Was this match a whole lot different than their previous encounters, including at past WrestleManias? I’d say probably not but, again, because of the stakes and wrestlers involved, it still felt fresh.
As Michael Cole mentioned in the leadup to the match, in terms of lengthy title reigns, Reigns is now in the same breath as the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales. Not since the late 1980’s has a wrestler dominated like Reigns.
Lesnar felt like a legitimate challenger to Reigns, and even he fell to the Tribal Chief, so who else can challenge right now? Could you realistically say that someone else on the WWE roster would be better served as champion?
I think it’s Reigns and then a big gap to the rest of the competition. However, as mentioned above, there is a brand new, white-hot babyface on the roster, whose father just happened to portray one of the greatest underdog stories in wrestling.
Roman Reigns versus Cody Rhodes. It’s a matter of when, not if.
Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch was the best match of ‘Mania weekend
Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch delivered an instant classic.
It was an excellent bit of long-term storytelling on WWE’s part. It was either what WWE had drawn up the entire time – humiliation for Belair at SummerSlam in 2021 after losing to Lynch in mere seconds – or it was correcting that mistake from SummerSlam.
Whatever it may be, this match delivered, big time.
Lynch was spectacular, once again. While Belair has now conquered three-quarters of the Four Horsewomen, with wins over Becky, Charlotte and Sasha Banks. All that is left now is Bayley, who could be her opponent depending on her health.
Thanks to their incredible work with this match, Belair and Lynch confirmed their seats at pro wrestling’s head table.
Sami Zayn is a Jackass
Sami Zayn told Sportsnet ahead of his matchup with Johnny Knoxville that he was fired up.
“Our characters played off each other very well. He makes a fool of people and my character you want to see get made a fool of so there’s a natural connection there. I think the chemistry was good, and the reactions were good enough to get us to this point which is to face off at WrestleMania.”
Living up to his word, Zayn was made a fool of, as the characters played off each other extremely well.
The match was absolutely ridiculous, from start to finish, which included Sami getting slammed through a table flush with mouse traps, Sami taking a bowling ball to the nether-regions, Sami… well, you get the idea.
The closing of the match involved Sami getting crushed/stuck under a giant mouse trap, which actually didn’t work properly. But it didn’t matter. The match felt so naturally entertaining, and it was made even better knowing that Zayn and Knoxville both likely had a great deal of say of how to make it feel equally natural and entertaining.
Pat McAfee impresses again
Never say that Pat McAfee punts on an opportunity.
The former NFL punter has demonstrated that he is more than capable of handling himself in a wrestling ring, most notably when he participated in a War Games match against the likes of Adam Cole and the rest of the Undisputed Era. McAfee has impressed at every stop on his pro wrestling escapade thus far, and WrestleMania 38 is just another stamp in the passport.
In addition to some incredibly impressive athleticism, McAfee proved to be more over with the crowd than perhaps maybe even some of the full-time wrestlers on the WWE roster. It started with his entrance when he came out to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, which proved that WWE should be licensing more actual music because the audience loved that tune. McAfee eventually scored a victory on up-and-coming star Austin Theory, before things got wild…
Vince McMahon got in the ring, the bell rang and all of a sudden, the 76-year-old WWE chairman was participating in a match against McAfee. McMahon would pick up the win after some (naturally) underhanded tactics but things got even more wild…
The glass shattered and out came Stone Cold. The crowd, who was already loving every second of the moment, lost their collective minds as Austin walked down the aisle before delivering one the greatest Stunners (or worst, depending on how you look at it) on McMahon before enjoying a couple Broken Skull Lagers.
It was sheer lunacy, and it was fantastic.