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WrestleMania 40 Night 1 Review (07/04/2024)




By Mick Robson


Originally published on patreon.com/thearenamedia


For the first time on Patreon, we're fast-tracking this! Free to all, it's the coverage of WrestleMania Night 1. If you would like to support the venture- and get all reviews and articles in a timely fashion- please consider subscribing on the paid tiers of Patreon! Starting at $5 AUD a month (with higher tiers including content requests and merch), it all goes towards keeping everything running and putting food on the table here. Hope you enjoy it!


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Alright, it's the biggest weekend of the wrestling year! WrestleMania 40 is here (or WrestleMania XL for the Ancient Romans among us). WrestleMania has expanded over the years, with the event itself expanding from one night to two a few years ago, but WWE have often referred to the festivities of WrestleMania week, and I've certainly felt the hype with surrounding events going into the Show of Shows.


First, on an Aussie wrestling note, a big congratulations to Bronson Reed, who won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, a WrestleMania weekend staple, on Smackdown yesterday. He seems positioned to face the winner of Gunther vs. Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental title given his recent exploits on Raw. I first saw Bronson- then known as Jonah Rock- at MCW New Horizons 2018, battling Caveman Ugg. I then saw him in a much different, yet equally awesome match a couple of months later at PWA Diego's Last Show. Then I was fortunate enough to meet the big man in between WWE runs at the debut Renegades of Wrestling show. Hell of a guy.


Also a big part of WrestleMania weekend is the WWE Hall of Fame. They've started putting it on right after Smackdown, and it makes for a long show that definitely dragged, but the induction of the legendary Paul Heyman in Philadelphia, the home of ECW, made the time spent more than worthwhile. Heyman- as you would expect- gave a masterful speech, at times having me in manly tears of manliness as he spoke about his love for his children, who were sitting ringside. Then he had me laughing with risque lines such as "If you think ECW died in bankruptcy court in 2001, you can suck my f**king dick!" And also, to Stephanie McMahon (who chose to dress like she did circa 2001 as owner of ECW in the Alliance, making me feel some type of way!), "You married the wrong Paul!"


With the Aussie pride and my enjoyment of Paul Heyman and Stephanie McMahon out of the way, let's get into WrestleMania!


Let's do this!


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The show kicked off with a beautiful new "Then, Now, Forever" intro that gave me major Marvel cinematic vibes. Looked world class!


We get a wide shot from outside the stadium, then clips of Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and The Rock arriving for the big tag team main event.


The official intro video is narrated by Meek Mill, and includes shots of Philadelphia, as well as shots of the various Superstars involved in the matches on Night 1.


Back in the stadium, Michael Cole makes mention of the chilly weather 52°F (that's 11°C) and wonders how it will affect the wrestlers. He's joined on commentary by Corey Graves (who he calls "the heir apparent") and Pat McAfee.


Coco Jones performs the US National Anthem.


Triple H's music hits, and the CCO arrives to greet the WrestleMania crowd! The crowd roars, and The Game says, "Man, I live for this. Welcome to a new time. Welcome to a new era. Welcome to WrestleMania!"


A video airs on Becky Lynch. It uses excerpts from her new book, along with key moments in her career. This leads into Becky's entrance for the opening match. Not to be outdone, Rhea Ripley enters to a live band performance, as Motionless In White plays her to the ring.


Match 1: Women's World Championship- Rhea Ripley (c) def. Becky Lynch (at 17:05)


Thoughts: This was a great match. They made a point of saying Becky Lynch got sick this past week with strep throat- if true, she didn't really seem to show any ill effects. Rhea's had a recent wrist injury, which added a higher element of danger as Becky targeted the arm. They trade finishers, and there's an awesome spot where Rhea powers out of the Disarm-her and tumbles to the outside with Becky on her shoulders, ultimately dropping her on the floor with an electric chair. Wicked.


Much of this match saw Ripley display her impressive power, chucking Rhea around. Towards the end of the match, Rhea also took to the skies with a beautiful frog splash for a nice near fall. Ultimately, it was that power again, as Ripley slung Becky into the turnbuckles with a Riptide- almost like some insult to injury given that her hubby Seth is known for the bucklebomb- then another Riptide to send this one home.


Star Rating: ****. Rhea looked like a beast out there, and well, she is. This wasn't quite as great as Charlotte vs. Rhea from last year's WrestleMania, but it was better than Rhea vs. Asuka from WM37. The wrist injury (whether an angle or not) made the struggle more believable, as from a physical standpoint Ripley wins over Lynch on every level. Between the pageantry of the entrances to the action inside the ring, an excellent way to start WrestleMania!


We get a video from Pretty Deadly lamenting their lack of participation in WrestleMania, then making quips about all the tag teams in the upcoming ladder match.


Match 2: Undisputed Tag Team Championship Ladder Match- A-Town Down Under (Austin Theory & Grayson Waller) & The Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth) def. The Judgment Day, The New Day, DIY, and New Catch Republic to win the Smackdown & Raw Tag Championships respectively (at 17:25)


Thoughts: ^ That was a word salad. Commentary emphasised several times that both sets of tag belts needed to be retrieved to end the match, and they were hung up on very separate hooks, practically screaming at us, "we're splitting the titles!"


It certainly felt like Judgment Day had run its course being the tag team champions. I'm in favour of the stable continuing, but it wasn't doing a lot for the tag team division, especially since they largely left Smackdown alone for the longest time. So it was great to see Waller & Theory claim the blue belts on a couple of levels- I'm a huge fan of Waller, considering he's a fellow Aussie, fellow teacher, fellow 1990 baby, a PWA alumni- I'm basically Waller without the good looks and athleticism. He paid for his gloating upon retrieving the titles, though, as Bate and Dunne gave him a powerbomb through a ladder bridge for his troubles. Ah well. They're still champs!


The match continued and all the teams got to get something in. I appreciated the DX tribute from DIY and the huge No Limit elbow from Woods, as well as Kofi's massive trust fall. I feared the worst when a ladder was completely warped and buckling under the weight of Priest and Miz, but they somehow got out alive. And we finally wrapped up on the feel-good moment of R-Truth claiming the Raw tag titles for his team after an AA on Priest! Love to see it.


Star Rating: ***1/2. Had some good action and a very crowd-pleasing finish. Wasn't quite as wild as other big Mania ladder matches have been, and I do think it suffered from having too many wrestlers. A couple of teams could have been left out and the match would have been better for it.


We move onto faction warfare for our 3rd match!


Match 3: Rey Mysterio & Andrade def. Santos Escobar & Dominik Mysterio (at 11:05)


Thoughts: For some reason, the crowd really ran out of juice here. We had some good action, including some extracurricular activity from the LWO and LDF members at ringside, but Philly stayed quiet for most of it. The cold getting to them too much maybe?


We had a fun little callback where Rey took off his belt and was going to whip Dom's ass like he did last year, but Dom stops it. Andrade seemed fired up and on point with his offence, including the double moonsault on Dom. Cole mentioned that this was Andrade's 2nd WM appearance, but the first one was at COVID Mania, so really this was El Idolo's first time experiencing something like this. Things broke down with Vega moonsaulting onto Elektra Lopez, and Joaquin Wilde doing his springboard launch dive that went semi-viral on NXT. When Dominik looked to take a sneaky shortcut, two mysterious large masked men stopped him and allowed Rey to hit him and Escobar with a double 619. Beautiful top rope splash here, and score one for the good guys!


Star Rating: ***1/4. I'm not going to say it was a classic, but it deserved a little more crowd love than it got. Some good lucha things here.


The two large masked men turned out to be Philadelphia Eagles players. One of them is Jason Kelce, brother of Travis Kelce, who is dating Taylor Swift. And that's the extent of my sportsball knowledge!


We get a video package on Jimmy Uso vs. Jey Uso. Cole says that this is only the third time "real brothers" have faced off at WrestleMania. How dare he disrespect Kane and Undertaker like that?!


Lil Wayne is introduced as "the greatest rapper of all-time". I don't know about that... he does about 4 bars of "A Milli" before Jey Uso's music hits and they walk down to the ring together. Weezy said he would premiere his new song at WrestleMania.... so tomorrow maybe? He got paid to do a lot of nothing here.


Match 4: "Main Event" Jey Uso def. Jimmy Uso (at 11:05)


Thoughts: This was definitely the low point of the show. The crowd are quiet as hell for this one too, but I actually don't blame them here, as Jey and Jimmy didn't give a lot to get excited about.


Jimmy takes control to little reaction. When Jey fights back, there's some light "Yeeting". They do some superkick trading, then Jimmy begs off on one and Jey has an attack of conscience. Jimmy is sorry- psych, he cracks Jey with another big superkick then a top rope splash. Near fall. Jey rallies with the Spear and his own splash, and that'll do it.


Star Rating: **. Think of the Usos at their most formulaic, and that's what we got here. There was a point in the Bloodline saga where Jimmy vs. Jey would've been hot, but I think they jumped the shark on that a fair while back. Also, while Jey has shown promise as a singles star since the split, Jimmy has not, and I think that would account for why they "shit the bed" here, so to speak.


Some showy entrances take place for the six woman match. Dakota Kai looks insanely hot in her WrestleMania outfit. Cole, being a dad, talks about how cold she must be. I've been finding Dakota way more hot since she turned heel. I probably need therapy about that.


Match 5: Bianca Belair, Naomi & Jade Cargill def. Damage CTRL (Dakota Kai, Kairi Sane & Asuka) (at 8:05)


Thoughts: Relatively quick but flashy match. There were some early shining moments, including Kairi's InSane Elbow. Naomi got to hit a double cutter, and Belair got to show off her power as she press slammed Kairi onto the other Damage CTRL member. They all took the handspring moonsault. That's why Bianca's the EST, baby!


Again, crowd basically silent for this. Although it's clear what they're waiting for, and they come to life when Jade tags in. She's just a wrecking ball, tearing through the opposition with chokeslams and big boots, and a nice driver that I don't think she did previously. Dakota steels herself and runs at Cargill- right into Jaded for the 3 count!


Star Rating: ***. Could not tell you if the months of training in the PC helped Jade at all based on that performance. She didn't have to do a lot, but what she did was done well, and it made her look like a mega-star. Certainly a fun watch that never slowed down.


Backstage, Sami Zayn is shown talking to his wife and child. He is then approached by Chad Gable. Gable says he won't be going out there, because Zayn "has it in him". "You always did", says Chad. As Sami walks off fired up towards the Gorilla position, Kevin Owens is waiting for him. KO lets out a yell and gives him a hug.


Match 6: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Sami Zayn def. Gunther (at 15:30)


Thoughts: That's more like it! The last few matches- good or bad- didn't particularly feel like WrestleMania. This one felt like a big deal. Gunther carried himself like a smug, dominating prick, while Sami's wife sat ringside and actually did a great job enhancing the match with her reactions to seeing her husband get his ass beat.


The beauty of Gunther being established as not just a dangerous man, but a wrestler who can end matches in a variety of ways- as the champ kept hitting lariats and powerbombs and top rope splashes, it was believable at all those points that the match could be over. Commentary were calling on the referee to call the match off. But Zayn showed off his trademark heart and will, finding a way to get back up and ultimately hitting Gunther with a super brainbuster on the turnbuckles! Apparently that was an old El Generico move on the indies. A couple of Helluva Kicks later, and Sami Zayn has done the impossible- end the record setting reign of Gunther.


Star Rating: ****. A fantastic solo performance by Sami Zayn after main eventing last year in a thriller tag team match. The man can truly do it all. And credit to Gunther for his reign and the credibility he brought to both himself and the championship.


We get an appearance by Raw general manager Adam Pearce and Smackdown general manager Nick Aldis. They announce the attendance- 72,543.


Main Event: The Rock & Roman Reigns def. Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins (at 44:35)


Thoughts: That exceeded my expectations by a mile, and truly saved Night 1 of WrestleMania for me. I never expected The Rock to do so much! It started a little slow, devolved into bonkers around the stadium brawling (along with Rock threatening to fire the ref's ass if he did a countout).


The intensity elevated in the second half as everyone started hitting their best shots. The Rock gets put through the announce table with a Rock Bottom by Cody Rhodes! Seth gets wiped out with a massive Spear by Roman through the barricade. We get down to Reigns vs. Rhodes and Cody has Roman beat, but The Rock interferes and stops it from going down by whipping Cody with the belt. He tags in, hits the Rock Bottom, then the People's Elbow, to pin Cody for the 3. Right in front of Mama Rhodes.


Star Rating: ****1/2. An absolutely, brilliant, long epic. Rock bumped around and stayed involved in the action a lot. When Stone Cold made his WrestleMania return after such a long time away, being in his 50s, we were just happy to have him. With The Rock, he clearly put the work in and seemed physically able the whole way- truthfully, Reigns seemed to have more trouble with his wind despite being involved less. It was a delight for my childhood hero to be in top form here.


I expected the babyfaces to lose here to stack the deck for Night 2 with Bloodline Rules in the Reigns/Cody title match. But I never expected Cody himself to take the L. Figured it would be Rollins to keep Cody looking not TOO weak, but they're really going in before, I expect, the big moment of redemption (and maybe a turn back by The Rock?) to finish Night 2.


Overall Thoughts


Not the strongest start for WrestleMania. The crowd is such an important element of pro wrestling. For the fans in Philly to give very little reactions after like the 2nd match, even when the matches were good, it hurt the whole presentation. I know they were cold, but damn, it really felt like COVID Mania at certain points.


Luckily, the tag team main event was a real classic that even woke up some of the ice-cold fans. The only real bad match of the lot was Jimmy vs. Jey. Rhea vs. Becky and Gunther vs. Sami were other highlights. A mixed bag, ending on an incredible high. While the overall show didn't get to the heights I was hoping, I'm expecting something monumental by the time Night 2 ends.


Overall Score: 7.5/10


Until next time, take care.


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Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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