WWE WrestleMania 39 Night 1 Results & Review (01/04/2023)
By Mick Robson
Current local time- 4:23pm on the 2nd of April, just south of Sydney, Australia. I've been watching, Tweeting and reviewing wrestling since 2am this morning. You'd think I'd be sick of it by now... nah. And just to make things a little confusing- I'm adhering to the American date this took place in my article title, despite the local time being a day later... but still formatting it as DD/MM/YYYY, as Australians do. Realised that bit of weirdness earlier today after writing my NXT Stand & Deliver review, and I can't possibility deviate from that sacred tradition now! Okay, I may be a little over-tired. Anyways...
When they announced the match placement for Night 1 & 2 of WrestleMania 39, I decided I preferred Night 1 to Night 2. I believe that across the two nights, Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul had the best chance of stealing the weekend, we had emotionally-charged, long-running stories with The Usos vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens, and Rey vs. Dominik Mysterio. Also, one part of super shows like Mania that I really appreciate is the involvement of legends, which are prominently featured on this card with matches including John Cena, Trish Stratus & Lita (and of course, Rey, who was inducted as the headliner in the Hall of Fame yesterday).
While I believe that both nights are balanced fairly well and it's a strong card across the two nights, it was time to see if my predictions and feelings about the matches would hold true. Without any further ado... let's do this!
A pre-show happened, but unlike NXT, they didn't have any matches, just waffled and predicted and interviewed random people for 2 hours. Which brings us to the...
Becky G is the guest singer for America The Beautiful. I guess I'm getting old AF when I have no idea who these people are. She looked good and sounded lovely as well, so that's all well and good.
Our hosts The Miz & Snoop Dogg check in, standing in the middle of the WrestleMania ring. Miz brings up the similarities that he and Snoop have- Snoop is a musical mega-star, and Miz was in WrestleMania: The Musical. Worth checking out purely for the gusto with which Mike Mizanin belts out that WrestleMania is bigger than his balls. They make a couple more humourous "comparisons" before throwing to our opening match.
Match 1: WWE United States Championship- Austin Theory def. John Cena (at 11:20)
Thoughts: During Cena's intro, a Make A Wish video plays, and his entrance includes a group of Make A Wish kids actually on the stage with him in a lovely, classy gesture. Unfortunately, that's about where the positives for this match end. Theory gets the underhanded advantage by biting Cena's ear Mike Tyson-style and beats him down for a while, then Cena does his comeback sequence- with a slight bow to the crowd during the Five Knuckle Shuffle. The AA is blocked, leading to a ref bump. Theory taps to the STF, but the ref is out and misses it. Theory hits Cena in the nuts and hits A Town Down for the win. No problem with Theory winning at all, but this felt like such a basic, paint-by-numbers match, it could have happened as an undercard Raw match. No real drama or standout moments. Cena undeniably has his star power, so good for WWE and Theory for getting this to happen, but for entertainment value... meh. (**)
Match 2: Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) def. Alpha Academy (Chad Gable & Otis), Braun Strowman & Ricochet, & The Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar) (at 8:30)
Thoughts: This was more like it! Everyone in this match worked their ass off in a sprint with memorable spots. I wasn't looking forward to this match going in, and my main criticism that this match had no stakes or meaning still holds (I mean, how hard would it be to say that the "Showcase" matches were for the no. 1 contendership?). That said, for bang for your buck and the aforementioned entertainment value- Chad Gable hit a rolling German suplex on Strowman. Dawkins mowed over Braun when he was doing his choo choo train thing. Ricochet hit a mental springboard Shooting Star Press to the outside. And the team with the most upside won! Had the crowd rocking, and for what amounted to an inconsequential filler match, that's all you can ask for. (***1/2)
We had a little spot with Xavier Woods and the Up Up Down crew, simulating the upcoming Seth Rollins vs. Logan Paul match on WWE 2K23. Holy Tyler Breeze sighting! Seth won the simulation, but how would it go IRL? Time to find out...
Match 3: Seth Rollins def. Logan Paul (at 16:15)
Thoughts: It's said every time he has a match, to the point that it's almost redundant by now, but Logan Paul is scary good at this pro wrestling thing. Even more so that he's completely embraced being a dick heel. He gets a big grand entrance, coming in on a zipline ala' Shawn Michaels, accompanied by a mascot dressed as a Prime bottle. Seth also gets a "grand" entrance with a conductor leading the audience in the "whoa whoa" song for Rollins, but I don't think it really hit the way they wanted it to. They do the wrestles and Logan hits his big spots, all while avoiding the Rollins stomp. He also hits his "one lucky punch" for a great near fall. The Prime bottle mascot gets involved- it turns out to be Paul's friend and fellow YouTuber, KSI! Logan goes to Frog Splash Rollins through the announce table, but Seth pulls KSI onto it for the big "viral" spot of the night. Finally, Rollins with the Stomp for the feel-good victory. A mix of great wrestling and sports entertainment shenanigans. Logan Paul has said that this is the end of his WWE contract... I hope he re-signs. There's never been a celebrity as good as him, from character to timing to the moves, he nails it all. I didn't want to like him when he came in, but he's proven himself to be legit. (****1/4)
Entrances for the six woman tag. Standard stuff for Damage CTRL, but it's very cool just to see them on Mania, especially with the story of Bayley missing Manias due to injuries and other circumstances, and Dakota Kai was briefly released from the company last year. The tag champs/legends get a cool comic-book style entrance, with the story of Trish & Lita inspiring Becky, and they come out in black and white with CGI rain before switching back to colour. Trish is wearing an updated version of her WM21 attire (the last time WrestleMania went Hollywood), and she still looks delish!
Match 4: Becky Lynch, Lita & Trish Stratus def. Damage CTRL (Bayley, Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky) (at 14:40)
Thoughts: Becky takes most of the heat in this one, wisely saving the legends for shorter spots and the hot tags. The crowd was into it, so the psychology worked. Lita looked pretty slow and off, but she was still over and able to hit her moonsault. Trish was a bit smoother, and got ambitious with a Stratusfaction on Kai to the floor. Wasn't perfect but points for trying. And as much as Damage CTRL could have benefitted from a credibility-building victory, it wasn't to be. Nothing wrong with a babyface win at Mania, and we got it from the full-timer Becky, with a super Manhandle Slam on Bayley after Lita and Trish hit their signature spots. Not the strongest match on the show, but certainly played its role well. (***1/4)
The entrances for Dominik and Rey Mysterio were immense. Dom got an F'N cinematic of him being freed from prison, before being driven into So-Fi Stadium in a van from a correctional facility. The officers let him out, and he's wearing a Rey mask, along with a purple outfit that seems to be a hybrid of the Rey outfit from Halloween Havoc 97, and Eddie's Latino Heat gear, only with the word "MAMI" on his ass. Fantastic, although in the moment I couldn't help but be let down that Dom didn't come out in a low rider to Eddie's music... but not to worry, as that was saved for Rey, as Snoop Dogg drove him out there. Absolute greatness.
Match 5: Rey Mysterio def. Dominik Mysterio (at 14:55)
Thoughts: This thrived on the story and emotion built into it. Dominik revelled in being a glorious prick, throwing a drink at his sister and getting in his mum's face, only for Angie to slap him. Rey also took his belt off and gave Dom a hiding to the delight of everyone watching, including Michael Cole. We also had interference from Judgment Day and the new LWO in Legado Del Fantasma. All that aside, Dom acquitted himself well in-ring, and his last bit of dirtbag cheating backfired, as Bad Bunny (who was ringside doing Spanish commentary) stopped him from using a steel chain, allowing Rey to hit the 619 and the top rope splash for the win. Bad Bunny is hosting the next PLE, Backlash, in Puerto Rico, so it seems like things will continue there. Great match, not necessarily a technical classic, but chock full of great moments and story. (****)
Match 6: Smackdown Women's Championship- Rhea Ripley def. Charlotte Flair (c) (at 23:35)
Thoughts: These two ladies wrestled like they had something to prove. There was discussion during the week leading to Mania over what the main event of Night 1 should be- considering Cody vs. Roman for the undisputed championship was the pretty obvious pick for Night 2. The tag title match got the nod due to how over the Bloodline storyline is, so this was like Batista vs. Undertaker from WM23- two pros saying, "fuck that, it should have been us!" One of the hardest hitting matches I've ever seen in WWE's women's division, with both women chucking each other around the place with some devastating suplexes, Charlotte in particular came up bleeding after faceplanting on a German suplex. She guts it out and hits a moonsault to the outside after all that punishment, and after kill shot after kill shot landed on both sides, finally a super Riptide sees the Aussie crowned as the new champion. (****1/2)
Post-match, the cameras catch Charlotte absolutely beaming at Rhea's big moment. Kayfabe be damned, but screw it, it was a cool moment to see.
Backstage, Byron Saxton interviews Austin Theory. A cocky Theory asks if we believe in him now. Considering he had to boot Cena in the nuts to win, and clearly tapped when the ref was down, Imma say nah, bruh.
Miz & Snoop back in the ring to tout the WrestleMania attendance- 80,497. Snoop says Miz should have had a match on the show, Miz agrees and says he put out an open challenge but no one answered it. Suddenly, the music of Pat McAfee hits! Cole is giddy and Graves is beside himself.
McAfee offers to take on the challenge, and Miz balks, leading Pat to say Miz has tiny balls. Miz argues that he can't make matches, but Snoop says as the "Doggfather of WrestleMania", he can, so we get a ref, and it is on!
Match 7: Pat McAfee def. The Miz (at 3:40)
Thoughts: Miz takes off his suit jacket and is forced to wrestle in his fancy clothes, poor guy. Miz, for some stupid reason, shoves NFL star George Kittle at ringside. Kittle jumps the barricade and clotheslines Miz behind the ref's back. That gives me flashbacks to WM33, when Gronk jumped the barricade and a security guard stops him, not realising he's part of the show. Anyway, McAfee gets his shit in, hitting a big Swanton to the outside, followed by the Punt Kick in the ring to end it in dominant fashion! Fine, light hearted buffer before the main event. (*1/2)
Rapper Lil Uzi Vert performs for all of about 30 seconds before The Usos' music hits for the main event. Based on the amount of auto-tune used, he's not the kind of rapper I would like. Owens & Zayn get a standard, no-frills entrance- which Cole draws attention to, is by design.
Main Event: Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship- Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn def. The Usos (c) (at 24:15)
Thoughts: This crowd was rabidly behind Sami Zayn in particular, and he and Owens put on a tag clinic with the Usos. You see, Owens and Zayn have a on and off history in WWE, but prior to their WWE days- here in California- Kevin used to team with a guy called El Generico, who knew Sami pretty well. Cheeky nods to PWG aside, this match lived on the story built through the Bloodline with these 4, and had some really dramatic near falls. The Usos put KO through the announce table, then isolated Sami to hit the 1D... but Zayn kicked out of it, for the first time ever. They trade a few close near falls, but ultimately, the end comes after 3 Helluva Kicks... and the crowd explodes. The indy darlings, the guys who broke the traditional WWE mold, who travelled up and down the roads together for 20 years... just ended the longest tag title reign in history. Wrestling doesn't get much better than that. (****1/2)
This was a damn-near perfect show. When the quote-unquote worst thing on your show is a rare John Cena match, you can't be too mad about that. This had several logical and satisfying storyline conclusions, some excellent matches, and an unmatched level of spectacle. The stadium and stage looked every kind of amazing, and we saw a few really fun and creative entrances. The only thing lacking in the grandeur department to a point was pyro... I assume they're saving a majority of the budget for Cody Rhodes tomorrow.
Overall Score: 9/10
Until next time, take care.