WWE WrestleMania 39 Night 2 Results & Review (02/04/2023)
By Mick Robson
Well, we're in Hollywood for the sequel. Live in SoFi Stadium for Night 2 of WrestleMania (Night 1 Review here). A lot of the time, sequels don't live up to the originals, but we've got quite the card to get to, so let's see how this goes down.
The main event is centered around a man who needs to "finish the story". His name is Cody Rhodes. The American Nightmare. A man who started in WWE as a young man, a second-generation Superstar, the son of the legendary American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. After promising early days where he held the Intercontinental Championship and feuded with legends like Rey Mysterio & Big Show, he was relegated to the comedic Stardust gimmick, which ultimately led to him asking for his release in 2016.
Hardcore wrestling fans know what happened next. Cody made a name for himself on the independents, as well as notable promotions like NJPW and ROH. But it would be the creation of a new company that really makes his story stand out- All Elite Wrestling. AEW. Cody was an EVP of the company, along with the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega. For a good 3 years, he was a top level star in that company, but wanted more.
In early 2022, Cody Rhodes would opt to leave AEW, losing a thrilling ladder match for the TNT Championship to Sammy Guevara on his way out. He would resurface at WrestleMania 38, as the mystery opponent for Seth Rollins. From there, he would feud with Rollins for a few months, culminating in a Hell In A Cell match. Rhodes would tear his pec in training right before the match, but gutted it out anyway, winning and then going on the shelf until returning at the Royal Rumble, where he would win and earn the right to go onto the main event of WrestleMania 39.
Standing in Cody's way- The Tribal Chief, Roman Reigns. Roman has had a stranglehold on the top championship(s) in WWE for the better part of 3 years, the clear "chosen one". Supported by his family in the Bloodline, Reigns has been unstoppable. Cody is a man referred to as "from undesirable to undeniable"- would Roman deny him on The Grandest Stage?
Let's do this!
Jimmy Allen sang America The Beautiful. Not as good as Becky G in terms of look or performance.
The Miz and Snoop Dogg are our hosts for the show again this evening. Miz mentions some of the big winners from Night One, including Rhea Ripley, and Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn to big pops. Snoop says, "let's fire it up!" to throw to our opening match.
Match 1: Brock Lesnar def. Omos (w/ MVP) (at 4:55)
Thoughts: This was an interesting clash of monsters. I don't think anyone was claiming this would be a Match of the Year candidate, but there was a certain fascination to seeing Lesnar work as the underdog, with Omos targeting the back of The Beast, then hitting him with a chokeslam for a near fall. Lesnar goes for a F5 but his back gives out the first time. Lesnar does manage to take Omos on a trip to Suplex City, and manages to hoist the Nigerian Giant into the F5 to put it away rather quickly, but Brock did a great job selling that Omos gave him a fight. Genuinely enjoyed this a lot more than the Night One opener. (***)
Match 2: Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler def. Natalya & Shotzi, Raquel Rodriguez & Liv Morgan, and Chelsea Green & Sonya Deville (at 8:25)
Thoughts: All these ladies worked hard (well, except one), but this wouldn't hit the heights that the men's Showcase tag match hit on Night 1. Raquel was a star with her feats of strength, and Liv & Shotzi flew around the place with daredevil abandon. In the end, Ronda tagged in for the first time, soaked up the boos from the crowd, and locked in the armbar to get the quick tap. I get that Rousey was injured, but I honestly don't think she needed to be on the show at all. She's not the star she was in 2015, or hell, even the star she was in 2019, so her 'star power" didn't do anything for the show. But I guess WWE need to justify the large salary they're paying her by including her in events of this magnitude. (***)
Bobby Lashley walks out in a suit, poses with his Andre The Giant trophy and plays to the crowd. And that's it. He had been teasing an open challenge for WrestleMania on social media for weeks, and this was a major letdown. You're telling me he couldn't have beat down LA Knight in a fun little 5 minute match or something?
Xavier Woods with more of his Up Up Down Down crew to simulate Gunther vs. Drew vs. Sheamus on WWE 2K23. The real deal is up next.
Match 3: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Gunther (c) def. Drew McIntyre & Sheamus (at 16:40)
Thoughts: This was more like it! After two "just okay" matches and the Lashley letdown, these three tore the house down like many predicted they would. Physicality-wise, they stopped just short of shooting on each other, beating the absolute hell out of each other, leaving bruises, welts, and in Sheamus' case, some blood from the brutal chops. We got "this is awesome" and "holy shit" chants repeatedly as they held nothing back, and after Sheamus & Drew got near falls on each other after their finishers, Gunther got back involved to powerbomb them both and retain. An absolute war, and prestige is well and truly restored to the IC title. Oh yeah, Titus O'Neil was a guest commentator here, as he was on Night 1. Some people loved him, but he was very jokey throughout, which almost undercut this battle, but it was so good, I'm going to ignore Titus. (*****)
Entrances for the Raw Women's Championship match. Asuka had a cool group of people dressed like her, ala John Cena at WrestleMania 25 almost. Bianca had a girl's dance troupe with her called "The Divas of Compton", which was so adorable, it melted my icy heart.
Match 4: Raw Women's Championship- Bianca Belair (c) def. Asuka (at 16:05)
Thoughts: These two kept the standard high for Mania title matches. Bianca had the feats of strength, while Asuka had the wicked kicks and wasn't afraid to bend the rules a bit, using Belair's braid to drag her into a Codebreaker. The mist doesn't work for the challenger, but Asuka is able to turn a KOD attempt into an armbar, which the LA crowd goes wild for. The EST is able to power through, however, lifting her out of the submission into a successful KOD for the win. Excellently done. They gave the sizzle and the spectacle for the entrances, and came through with the STEAK for the match! (****)
Back to Miz & Snoop in the ring. They tout the night's attendance of 81,395, and then say it's a combined attendance of 161,892. A tad misleading- yes, that'd be the amount of tickets sold, but I'm sure there's a ton of people that bought tickets for both nights, there wouldn't have been 161,000+ individual people attending Mania. Anyway, Snoop drags Miz into another match... "Here Comes The Money" hits, and Shane McMahon is here! Didn't think he'd be in a WWE ring again after the drama he caused at last year's Royal Rumble! Shane thanks the crowd for the ovation and the match is on!
Match 5: Snoop Dogg def. The Miz (at 2:20)
Thoughts: Nope, not a typo. While Shane O Mac did start the match, he blew out his quad on a leapfrog about 30 seconds in. Snoop called an audible and jumped in, decking The Miz and hitting him with an awful-looking People's Elbow for the win. Absolutely bat-shit crazy, and awful. Even if Shane hadn't gotten injured, I don't love the way this was headed anyway. No room for Lashley or LA Knight, but Shane O Mac can get a Mania match? (DUD)
After some videos, we get the entrances for the HIAC match. Edge is listed as Brood Edge, but no Gangrel as rumored, and no Christian (I didn't actually expect the latter). No Brood music for Edge either- he comes through the ring of fire to Slayer's "South of Heaven", which does sound cool, before switching to the usual Alter Bridge. Finn comes out as the purple accented Demon.
Match 6: Hell In A Cell- "Brood" Edge def. "The Demon" Finn Balor (at 18:10)
Thoughts: A little shorter than I was expecting, particularly since we only had six advertised matches for this card. We get the classic steel Cell, but can't escape the colours totally, as Edge has a red chair and Balor has a purple kendo stick. Ladders and tables get involved. Edge launches a ladder at the Demon's face- busting him open- and they stop the match to close the cut. Can't possibly show blood during a HIAC match. Gotta keep the sponsors plastered all over the two nights of Mania happy. Really took me out of this heated grudge match. Edge hits the Edgeacution off the ladder for a cool near fall. Balor climbs up the side of the Cell and goes for the Coup De Grace through a table but Edge moves. Soon after, Edge hits the Conchairto to finish the Demon. Good stuff, but a little short and again the stoppage for blood really hurt the flow of this one- no pun intended. (***3/4)
EDIT: Just saw Finn Balor's "cut" on Instagram. It wasn't your average cut, it was a full on gash, his skull pretty much got split open up in his hair. So I withdraw my criticism of tending to it. Doesn't change the affect on the entertainment value, but it was a legitimate safety issue, not just "we can't show blood because PG".
Various "WrestleMania Goes Hollywood" trailers were shown. The Bloodline/Goodfellas one was cool- as was the Brawling Brutes "40 Year Old Virgin" one to a lesser extent- but all in all paled in comparison to the OG WrestleMania 21 ones.
Backstage interview with Bianca Belair and The Divas of Compton. This was heartwarming, even more so when Triple H mentioned in the post-show press conference that the main girl who featured in this had her mum pass away that morning. Seeing her smile and be happy amongst her friends here feels that much more special knowing that. They all chant "EST" to end the interview.
Video package to promote WWE Backlash (thank god they dropped the "WrestleMania" from the name) in Puerto Rico. Cole and Graves shill Puerto Rico tourism hard. At least Kevin Patrick's not out there...
The Hall of Fame class of 2023 are introduced. Of course, Rey Mysterio is the headliner and comes out last, but in what I thought was a real class act, goes out of his way to hug/shake hands with Stacy Keibler, Great Muta, and the families of Andy Kaufman & Tim White. Never seen a HOF headliner acknowledge the rest of his class like that. Very cool.
WrestleMania 40 video airs. It'll be in Philly. Really hoping to be able to go next year! They show some fans in Philadelphia watching this Mania and cheering.
We get a bunch more recaps and ads. Really stretching this out. Seriously, no room for Lashley or LA Knight? Hell, they could have put the whole Andre Battle Royal here instead of SmackDown and it would have been fine!
After a good half hour since the last match, we get entrances for the main event. Cody greets his family at ringside and gets his little baby Liberty to wave to the crowd. He also gives his weight belt to little Brodie Jr (AEW's Negative One), Brodie Lee's son. The Forbidden Door is open!!! Roman has some people on pianos playing him in, but otherwise, fairly standard entrances. Cody had some pyro, but not the budget-blowing bonanza many were thinking.
Main Event: Undisputed WWE Universal Championship- Roman Reigns (c) def. Cody Rhodes (at 34:35)
Thoughts: I did think this was a really hard match to call. They've been pushing Cody strongly, and WWE could really use that next huge babyface star. But, WWE are just a little shy of 1000 days since Roman first won the Universal title, so it looks like they really want to see that stat through.
Thoughts about the decision aside, this was a really compelling match. Looking up the match times, it really didn't feel that long, never any dull or boring moments, both Cody and Roman worked their asses off. Solo Sikoa got involved, hitting Cody with a chair and Rhodes' own weight belt, but the ref threw him out. After a ref bump, the Usos came in, but were ran out of town by Owens & Zayn. After a series of nail-biting near falls on both sides, Paul Heyman distracts the referee, allowing Solo to come back and hit Cody with the Samoan Spike while he's setting up Cross Rhoes, allowing Reigns to blast Cody with a Spear to retain. An absolute rollercoaster ride. (****1/2)
Was it the right call? I don't know. I'm not as raging angry as a lot of people I've seen online in the hour or two since the show ended, but I was definitely deflated when that 3 count hit. But I'm supposed to be, right? I was invested. Some say Cody hasn't met adversity- I would cite Cody's whole career trajectory with Stardust, being rejected by AEW fans, coming back to WWE the prodigal son only to tear his pec in his first main event match... I don't know, I'd call that a lot of adversity, but it is true that this Mania main event was the first time Rhodes has lost in an entire year.
I think the only real proof that it was right or wrong will be with time. How they follow up. Both Roman and Triple H said in the post-show press conference that this is a chapter in the story, not the end... so how does it end? Hunter gave the somewhat BS answer that stories in WWE never end- I get his point, but story arcs absolutely do reach their natural conclusion, and you don't want to drag it too long. Is the right end Summerslam, where the genesis of the Tribal Chief character occured 3 years ago? Is the right end WrestleMania 40, at that big milestone marquee show? And is Cody the right guy? Maybe crowning Cody now would have seen some fans turn against him. Maybe it would have been "LOLCodyWins". But if they do try and crown Cody later, and it doesn't take right, WWE might be kicking themselves that they didn't pull the trigger here. Time will tell.
As for the rest of the show- a mixed bag. Gunther, Drew & Sheamus absolutely f**king killed it. Match of the night and weekend in my book. Bianca vs. Asuka was also really good. I can't fault the melodrama and action in the main event. But Night One was more consistent. The early matches of Night 2 were just okay. The HIAC fell short for me. So much filler... and even if we take out the Shane O Mac injury, was seeing him run over Miz at Mania again in an impromptu match going to be anything special?
Night One was about as good as pro wrestling gets. Night Two wasn't up to that standard. I'd argue that two night Manias just don't work. Do a one-night 5 hours at most show and make some tough cuts as to who should be on the card. Then I might be less mad about the likes of Lashley and LA Knight missing out. As it is, I watched at least an hour of commercials and product placement, and a couple of really questionable cameos. Overall, I didn't hate Night 2, but I didn't love it either. 3 great matches and a general spectacle give it a higher rating than some of the lows might indicate.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
After this, we're back to the Aussie wrestling coverage. There might be a major WWE news story or two dropping shortly, but as far as reviews go, we're looking at Rock And Roll Wrestling's "Wrestling For A Cause" on April 15th in Wollongong. Tickets still available at rockandrollwrestling.com.
Until next time, take care.