WrestleMania 37 takeaways: Banner weekend for Canadian wrestlers

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens at Wrestlemania 37. (WWE Photo)

Wrestlemania 37 had no shortage of celebrity power, upsets, special guests and old favourites. Here are some observations from the event, and a look forward on what to expect in the next.

1) Two nights of ‘Mania should be here to stay

For a second straight year we’ve wrapped up a two-night WrestleMania. The two-night event has been a hit both years as it allowed all matches to breathe, particularly some undercard matches (think Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn & Cesaro/Seth Rollins), while also giving the audience room to breath.

Two years ago, when Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey headlined the main event for WrestleMania 35, it was tough to maintain enthusiasm for the match as the event was stretching well over six hours in length.

Spread across two nights, though, fans can appreciate different elements of the show a lot easier. A show that hovers around three hours is perfect, as it gives the talent ample time to showcase their talents, which is a win for the product and for the fans.

The two main events delivered this year thanks in part to the fact fans weren’t burnt out.

2) Night 1 and Night 2 had perfect main events

The Sasha Banks-Bianca Belair main event on WrestleMania Saturday will be showcased an example of what the best women’s pro wrestling on the planet looks like for years to come. Sasha and Bianca worked their tails off to get to that point and then they delivered in every conceivable way.

Banks was incredible in the match. She was smart, cunning, athletic and overall everything that you would want in a veteran wrestler in the main event of WrestleMania. Meanwhile, it was a coming out party for Belair. She showed off some incredible athleticism and in-ring awareness well beyond her experience level, new to the big stage of WWE.

Bianca Belair has been touted as the future of WWE, and she fits that mold perfectly.

Roman Reigns, Edge and Daniel Bryan all brought a big fight feel to Sunday’s main event and delivered in that aspect, as well. It was a match that lived up to the standard of a WrestleMania main event.

In the end, while it looked as though Edge was ready to reclaim the top spot on the WWE mantle, he ceded the position to Reigns, who continues his run of dominance at the top of WWE. Reigns now has the potential to hang on to the Universal Championship for another year, heading to WrestleMania 38 as one of the most dominant champions of the modern era.

There will be clamouring for an even bigger fight than this year, if Reigns is indeed the champ. Who is a big enough star to fill those shoes?

WrestleMania 38: Roman Reigns defends the Universal Championship against… The Rock.

3) It was great to have fans back

Thank goodness there were fans in attendance for these shows. I’m not sure the Banks-Belair match would have had the same effect without fans in in the crowd. In particular, there was a moment before the match started where the two wrestlers recognized the historic significance of the moment they were participating in, almost bringing both to tears.

There were also moments where it was great to have some affirmation on how a viewer at home was feeling. Late on Night 2, when The Bella Twins joined Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan on stage to push around Bayley, there was a feeling that the Bellas, Hogan and O’Neil were very much going against the grain. The crowd in attendance agreed, booing the segment, as fan-favourite Bayley was pushed aside.

There was a tangible effect felt by the fans at Raymond James Stadium, in that it was cathartic to see and hear the same reactions you at home were feeling. Fans in attendance brought a sense of normalcy back to wrestling viewing when, for over a year, pro wrestling has been nothing but normal.

4) It was a banner weekend for Canadian wrestlers

What a WrestleMania for the Great White North.

Orangeville, Ont., native Edge competed in the main event of WrestleMania exactly 10 years after he was forced to retire due to injury. Edge looked spectacular in the main event, bringing an aura of legitimacy to that spot on the card, elevating the already elevated Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan in the process.

Then there was Marieville, Que., native Kevin Owens taking on fellow Quebecor, Montreal’s Sami Zayn. The pair of 36-year-olds who quite literally grew up in the pro wrestling business together would have never dreamed of this 15-plus years ago when they were wrestling in small armouries together in front of 20 people.

Both Owens and Zayn put on an exceptional match, complete with all the awe-inspiring suplexes you’d expect from the two wrestlers with the most unmatched chemistry in WWE. Two former independent wrestlers from Quebec at WrestleMania… who would have thunk it?

Meanwhile, let’s not forget Calgary’s Natalya, who wrestled on consecutive nights. On Night 1, she won the tag team turmoil match, alongside Tamina, for the right to wrestle for the Women’s Tag Team Championships the next night. While she wasn’t victorious on Night 2, it was still nice to be reminded that one of the longest tenured wrestlers in WWE can still bring it on the big stage.

5) Don’t “Hop” to Conclusions

When the Bad Bunny & Damian Priest versus Miz & John Morrison tag team match was announced, I was not impressed. WrestleMania is known for incorporating celebrities into the event, and even having them wrestle, but this one did absolutely nothing to intrigue me.

However Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican hip-hop star, was able to hook me after all. Bunny, along with Priest, Miz and Morrison, was fantastic. It was evident that Bad Bunny had participated in serious training to get ready for his WrestleMania match, as he sold his injuries well, excellently moved around the ring, all while keeping the audience interested.

Meanwhile, Miz and Morrison put on a masterclass in how to elevate a non-wrestling talent. This is the perfect kind of match for Miz moving forward, as he doesn’t have to put on a technical masterpiece, but rather he can play to his other strengths, such as playing a hated villain.

6) The Fiend is almost burned out

At its ethos, pro wrestling is a ridiculous form of entertainment where viewers buy into the presentation. A wink and a nod, and all of the sudden the scripted entertainment becomes legitimate combat. But sometimes there are presentations where it becomes too difficult to suspend disbelief. The opening match of WrestleMania on Sunday was a perfect example.

Several months ago, Randy Orton murdered The Fiend by setting him on fire. But in the weeks leading up to ‘Mania, The Fiend’s new partner in Satanic rituals, Alexa Bliss, suggested that The Fiend was in fact not dead, but ready to return. And return he did, resembling what you might think Will Ferrell’s character in the first Austin Powers movie would look like if you got to see him after he said, “I’m very badly burned.”

But good news for The Fiend, he was able to use some sort of magic power to rid himself of his burn-victim status, and go on to wrestle Randy Orton without issue, at least until the end of the match.

That’s where Bliss, now sitting on top of a giant Jack in the Box at ringside, starting leaking black liquid from the top of her head, causing a long enough distraction to The Fiend where Orton was able to land an RKO and score the win.

A collective “What?” was heard from the audience followed closely by a moaning and groaning. And that’s why it’s great to have fans back!

The Fiend will intrigue you just momentarily, a quick spark of a lighter, making you think that his character may be going somewhere, but then the flame quickly flickers away, and now The Fiend/Bray Wyatt is running out of candle wick.

7) Bobby Lashley’s championship legacy is far from over

The first match in front of fans in over a year featured the WWE Championship, when Bobby Lashley successfully defended the title against Drew McIntyre.

Lashley told Sportsnet ahead of his title bout that he wanted to hang on to the championship for another year, leading into a WrestleMania 38 match against one of two dream opponents: The Rock or Brock Lesnar. The Rock may be busy with another match (ahem, Roman Reigns), but Lesnar could very well be available.

It will take some exceptional storytelling on WWE’s part to keep Lashley and his title run relevant long term if they determine that a Lashley-Lesnar WWE Championship match will work at ‘Mania in Dallas next year. However, Lashley has looked absolutely dominant for over a year now, so it just may be possible to keep Lashley interesting as he continues to write his championship legacy.

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