The dream matches delivered the most memorable moments at a WrestleMania that used surprising outcomes to work around its missteps and matches that felt too short to reach their full potential.
AJ Styles left the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday still WWE champion, but opponent Shinsuke Nakamura may not be safe on Bourbon Street with all the heat he gained from his stunning heel turn. The King of Strong Style reacted to his loss via a Styles Clash countering a Kinshasa by getting on one knee to hand Styles the belt in a “show of respect.” Instead, a low blow and a beatdown followed.
The crowd gasped as Nakamura’s arm landed and boos reigned down. The decision breathes new life into Nakamura’s character and the rivalry, but likely eliminated the euphoria that would have ensued if he would have won the title as a baby face.
The match itself lived up to the hype. It was technically sound, as stiff as WWE will allow and saw each counter the other because of the familiarity you would expect from these rivals. The one small blemish was it didn’t end with a Phenomenal Forearm since the build was that versus the Kinshasa.
In even more shocking fashion, SmackDown’s other opportunity to crown a Japanese champion didn’t go well for the challenger.
Charlotte Flair went from being a random woman on the side of Triple H’s throne at WrestleMania 30 at the Superdome to entering on a golden thrown of her own with her dad’s, Ric Flair’s, music blaring. It gave chills before the biggest “Oh My God!” of the show.
Streaks continue to be sent to pasture in New Orleans.
Despite Asuka countering nearly every one of Flair’s signature moves, and the Queen having a hurt arm while bridging to her first Figure Eight, Asuka tapped — and rather quickly. What?
That’s how her transcendent undefeated streak of 914 days ends? Really? One Figure Eight and at less-than full strength? Asuka’s character deserved to put up a better fight.
Give WWE credit for having the guts to break Asuka’s streak here, but it is still questionable booking. The match itself didn’t quite meet expectations, and Charlotte only needs the streak-ending rub if she is facing Ronda Rousey, winner of her first WrestleMania match, at MetLife Stadium next year.
Roman Reigns’ Brock Lesnar beef not all about WrestleMania
Roman Reigns sees a win over Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania…
The company’s other former MMA fighter appears to be sticking around a little bit longer, even with UFC president Dana White in attendance to watch Rousey. In a terrible but physical match, Brock Lesnar used six F5s (including one through the announcers table) to put a bloodied Roman Reigns down. The events final scene was Reigns walking off in disbelief at what happened.
While Lesnar has flirted with leaving for the UFC, there is reportedly a clause in his WWE contract that can extend him into the summer. The fans chanting, “This is awful” during the match won’t be happy, but Lesnar’s tiresome reign continues.
Lesnar may own WWE right now, but Daniel Bryan is king of the Superdome. Another win in New Orleans keeps Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens unemployed — until they show up on Raw eventually. Bryan, wrestling for the first time in three years, did so with the same speed and gusto we remember.
After being taken out before the bell, Bryan kicked out of a Helluva kick and Pop-Up Powerbomb before dispatching Zayn with his signature Yes Kicks, the flying knee and the Yes Lock. It was a splendid return for Bryan.
WWE got their other big return half right with Cena starting as a fan, the rest was as good as to be expected for The Undertaker character that should have ridden into the sunset and stayed there. His appearance, while cool and nostalgic, was nothing more than a quick, show-us-your-signature-moves beatdown of Cena.
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
Ronda Rousey exceeded expectations at WrestleMania
Ronda Rousey won her first WrestleMania match, earned the respect…
It wasn’t a classic, but hit the right notes. Rousey handled herself well, mixed it up a lot with Triple H and won with an arm bar on McMahon. The former UFC star laid a good foundation for her new career.
Seth Rollins defeats The Miz (c) and Finn Balor for the Intercontinental title
Another Shield member, a third becoming a Grand Slam champion. The match, despite the limited time it was given, was high energy and high impact. It didn’t steal the show, but we did get to see new champion Rollins curb stomp Balor on top of Miz.
Jinder Mahal defeats Randy Orton (c), Bobby Roode and Rusev for the U.S. title
In another questionable decision, Mahal is your new U.S. champion in a match better suited for Main Event than WrestleMania. The only thing that can come of this is a feud with Rusev that ends with it finally being Rusev’s Day.
Nia Jax over Alexa Bliss (c) for the Raw women’s title
Jax finally got her moment. She and Bliss, real-life best friends, wrestled the match they should have. Jax looked powerful and like a million bucks squashing the bully Bliss. The true emotion Jax showed after the three count oozed through the television.
Braun Strowman and Nicholas defeat The Bar (c) for the Raw tag title
Who is Nicholas? A 10-year-old boy Strowman picked out of the stands. Though the kid got tagged in once and quickly tagged out, Strowman did all the work. It got a mixed reaction from the crowd. Even if Nicholas sticks around, the bizarre moment missed its mark.
The Bludgeon Brothers over The Usos (c) and The New Day for the SmackDown tag titles.
The best part of this may have been New Day’s entrance, each wearing prop clothing surrounded by little people dressed as stacks of pancakes while throwing them into the crowd. On a jammed card, this match wasn’t given the time it needed to be memorable.
Matt Hardy wins the Andre the Giant Battle Royal
It was great to hear Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jim Ross back on commentary for this match. Continuing the Matt Hardy and reappearing Bray Wyatt storyline made for a “What?” moment and questions that need to be answered. Moving forward, the promos Hardy is going to cut with the trophy will be golden.
Naomi wins the women’s battle royal
If you are reading that again, you are as stunned as the crowd was after it appeared Bayley had won by outsmarting frenemy Sasha Banks. The crowed then went silent when it, like Bayley, realized Naomi was still alive.
Cedric Alexander defeats Mustafa Ali for the cruiserweight title
The two had a fine match with an excellent work rate and some good storytelling at the end. Alexander can certainly lead this division. But note to WWE: If you don’t care about the match enough to run your own WrestleMania vignettes during it, why should we?
Biggest winner: Charlotte Flair
Biggest loser: Roman Reigns
Match of the night: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura