10 Of The Best- Mania Weekend Matches
By Mick Robson
WrestleMania is undoubtedly the biggest event on the pro wrestling calendar, and that goes for any promotion. As such, a number of independent promotions often gather at Mania's host city to put on their own events when WWE comes to town. As a long-time WWE fan who felt a little disenchanted with the product this year, I decided to get my hands on the FITE Fest Bundle and also purchased ROH Supercard of Honor. Needless to say, I had a lot of wrestling to watch, and I've only just caught up a week or so later as I write this article.
So here's the series I started over on Snap Mayors Media (forever grateful to Lord Andy Coyne for giving me that platform), it's 10 Of The Best. The best matches to occur on WrestleMania weekend. Some took place at the Showcase of the Immortals, and some took place in much smaller venues.
Let's do this!
10. Swerve Strickland vs. Alex Zayne- ROH Supercard of Honor
One of the more interesting parts of this WrestleMania weekend is that it saw several ex-WWE stars return to a spotlight following the massive amount of "budget cuts" in 2020/2021. Among those were two flashy competitors who were tasked with kicking off the main card of ROH's big return show, the first under the ownership of Tony Khan. Swerve and Zayne both had a swagger about them, a confidence that seemed like they were determined to prove WWE wrong for letting them go.
While the match wasn't especially long, it was chock-filled with jaw-dropping athleticism. Swerve- who is already signed with AEW- picked up the victory, but Zayne shined enough to where he could either make a splash with the Elite guys or be a featured star in the new Ring of Honor. He certainly deserves a bigger stage than 205 Live.
9. NXT North American Championship Ladder Match- NXT Stand And Deliver
Who doesn't love a big multi-man spotfest ladder match? It was a highlight of Manias of years past, from the TLC matches to Money In The Bank, and I was glad to see the match type return to Mania weekend this year. NXT 2.0 has carved out a nice space for itself in the WWE landscape, now that we've had enough time to get over losing Black And Gold NXT, and some of the brighter young stars of WWE developmental got to showcase their skills here.
Cameron Grimes got the big win, after first appearing in Black And Gold NXT and being one of the few to seamlessly transition into the new vision. Everything he's touched has turned to gold, and it was fitting for him to finally get his crowning moment here. That's to take nothing away from the excellent former champion, Carmelo Hayes, and it was also great to see the Arrogant Aussie, Grayson Waller, get big spots to shine in, including the crazy elbow drop of a ladder through another ladder. He legitimately convinced me that he was horribly injured, but ripped off the sling to reveal it was a ruse on this past week's episode of NXT. Sly bastard...
8. RK-Bro vs. Street Profits vs. Alpha Academy- Wrestlemania 38 Sunday
Speaking of multi-man matches... Raw's tag team division kicked off the second night of Mania with a banger. Randy Orton seems completely re-energised working with Riddle, and the younger teams of Street Profits and Alpha Academy made the most of their first major opportunity on the Mania stage- a few of them got to work WM36, but it's not the same as the real thing in a stadium.
Montez Ford provided immense energy all the way, and a shout-out to Angelo Dawkins, who has clearly put the work in physically to not be the "Jannetty" of the team (I still think Montez has a VERY bright future as a singles guy). Chad Gable is a beast and deserves all the great things- his character work has been a hoot in the Alpha Academy along with Otis, and the former Olympian can obviously go in the ring as well. Finally, a stellar finishing sequence of two super RKOs made this an incredibly crowd-pleasing opener.
7. Edge vs. AJ Styles- WrestleMania 38 Sunday
When the final card was in place for WrestleMania 38, Edge vs. AJ Styles was the one match I was looking forward to most. It's been a dream match of many for a long time, and personally I've wanted to see it since Edge and AJ first stared each other down during the 2020 Royal Rumble. Two Hall of Fame superstars, it was bound to be excellent. And indeed it was, although it wasn't completely the five star classic I was expecting.
A deliberate, cerebral pace with both men working body parts, it did ramp up down the stretch and bring high drama. The finish was also a little off for my liking at Mania- the distraction involving Damian Priest robbed us of a clear-cut winner and indicated future matches between Edge and AJ- perhaps a rematch at WrestleMania Backlash (ugh) can see them bring a little more intensity. Still undoubtedly one of the better matches WWE presented over the two nights though.
6. Bandido vs. Speedball Mike Bailey- Mark Hitchcock Memorial Show
Bandido was a true workhorse throughout Mania weekend. This battle with "Speedball", a man who has hit the States with something to prove since sorting out his visa issues, was high-octance to say the least. Bandido also exhibited impressive power, holding Bailey up in a vertical suplex for a good minute or so. High flying and acrobatics on both sides, Bandido would get the win, but the crowd showered both with applause and money! Plus the Meltz gave it 4 and a half snowflakes, so that's nice.
I've seen a bit of Bandido here and there over the last year or two, but this match especially made me want to see more of Bailey. I had vaguely heard the hype surrounding him, and this was the second match I've seen from him (the first being Impact Hard To Kil). Definitely two men with uber-bright futures.
5. Jonathan Gresham vs. Bandido- ROH Supercard of Honor
Like I said, Bandido killed it in Dallas. Jonathan Gresham was a very different style of opponent than Speedball Mike Bailey, but Bandido rose to the occasion masterfully, showing that he was adept at trading holds in addition to the lucha skills. Gresham is a unique cat, very proficient at tying his opponent in knots and going for rapid-fire pinfalls, so there was a true feeling throughout that the match could end at any moment.
Both showed incredible heart fighting through each other's biggest moves, but the biggest shock had to be Gresham kicking out of Bandido's elaborate and devastating 21 Plex. Ultimately, Bandido would be caught in a quick pinning combination, not losing much in defeat, but still allowing Gresham to display his skills and his savvy. The post-match antics with Samoa Joe returning to ROH were really the icing on the cake on this one.
4. Seth Rollins vs. Cody Rhodes- Wrestlemania 38 Saturday
It was the worst kept secret in wrestling this year. Seth Rollins vs. an opponent of Vince McMahon's choosing. Seth made his entrance first, awaiting his mystery opponent... and we hear "Wrestling has more than one royal family" blare from the speakers, and the American Nightmare, Cody Rhodes, makes his return to WWE, entirely retaining his AEW presentation, with the music, the gear, the pyro... it was a true WrestleMania Moment (TM).
Now the match just had to not suck. For whatever reason- maybe nerves, maybe a lack of familarity- it was a little clunky early on, with a few small botches and one ugly moonsault. Rollins and Cody were true pros, though, and got in their groove, and by the closing stretch had the crowd rocking. Cody hit three Cross Rhodes, with a Bionic Elbow for good measure, and he makes the very successful jump from AEW to WWE with a huge Mania victory. Lovely stuff.
3. Sami Zayn vs. Johnny Knoxville- WrestleMania 38 Sunday
This was a real unexpected delight. I had very low expectations for this, with Knoxville not being a trained wrestler and being 51 years old. I trusted that Sami was great enough to hold it together enough to be passable, but damn, it was the highlight of WrestleMania Sunday by a considerable distance for me!
Zayn and Knoxville heavily leant into the Anything Goes situation with a lot of Jackass-inspired tomfoolery, and it was insanely entertaining. Giant hands, mouse-traps, prosthetic legs, bowling balls, random pyro explosions, cameos from Party Boy and Wee Man... amazing. It wasn't the slightest bit a serious wrestling match, but it was a shit-load of fun.
2. Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair- WrestleMania 38 Saturday
For bell to bell wrestling action and drama, Becky and Bianca stole the two nights of Mania. After the debacle of Summerslam, with Belair losing in 26 seconds, WWE paid it off beautifully with a classic match on the grandest stage. One of Becky Lynch's best ever performances- right there with her Evolution match with Charlotte Flair- and a match that keeps Belair's Mania record perfect and shining bright, after last year's Mania match with Sasha Banks.
The flow of this match was immaculate, with both ladies on point and displaying great chemistry. They hit hard, and every move was crisp as hell. Bianca survived a Manhandle Slam on the stairs (had to hurt like hell), and soon after hit the KOD right in the middle of the ring to claim the Raw Women's Championship! Beautiful.
1. FTR vs. The Briscoes- ROH Supercard of Honor
The best match overall on Mania Weekend didn't even happen in WWE. There was a push for seemingly years to get a tag team dream match between the Briscoes and FTR. Polar opposites in characters and wrestling styles, it was a somewhat late addition to the Supercard of Honor line-up. When it was all said and done though, it was all anyone was talking about.
Briscos brought intensity as they threw themselves at the Top Guys with reckless abandon, and Cash and Dax met them with their old school smash-mouth style. We had a lot of blood, and some sick bumps, including a superplex to the floor. Finally, FTR claim the victory and the ROH Tag Team Championship with the Big Rig, but there were no real losers in this one. A tag team classic in every possible way!
Stone Cold vs. Kevin Owens- WrestleMania Saturday- Action-wise, not quite up to par with the other matches on this list. But hell, it's Stone Cold in a proper match after 19 years. Watch it with a few cold ones!
Jessica Troy vs. Rachel Ellering- USA vs. The World- one of the main reasons I bought the FITE Fest bundle was to watch this match. I regret nothing. Veda Scott went out of her way to give our Jess props on commentary, and Ellering did the same on Twitter after the show. Great technical battle!
Jay White vs. Speedball Mike Bailey- NJPW Lone Star Shootout- Jay White is the ultimate dickhead heel, and his more methodical style contrasts so beautifully with Speedball's crowd pleasing offense. Like Bandido, Speedball worked his ass off across the whole week in Dallas.
Until next time, take care.