The dust has now finally settled after this year’s Wrestlemania, meaning this is a better time than any to look back on what was a truly special two night event at the start of April.
Despite the competition growing stronger for WWE, no one can quite replicate the special feeling and aura that ‘the showcase of the immortals’ brings. Over the past few years, that same feeling hasn’t quite been there. The global pandemic was a factor of course, especially in 2020, but even before that, WrestleMania had gone from fun blockbuster events to 7-hour marathons. They just never seemed to end and instead of feeling joy when the event concluded, you were left feeling relieved that it had finally come to an end.
WWE has gotten to the point where they can’t quite compete with other companies on a workrate scale, making a lot of hardcore wrestling fans tune out of their program. The match that was signaled as possibly turning into a mat classic by fans was Edge vs AJ Styles, and that ended up being one of the matches that the crowd cared least about. When both shows were all done, practically no one was talking about it. Now, this isn’t to say they can’t provide good or great matches, as we did see those, but more on that later.
Now, what WWE does best is making an event feel larger than life, and having your wrestlers (sorry, Superstars*) feeling like the biggest stars in entertainment. Combine that with celebrities who don’t make a fool out of themselves, and you’ve got something special. Logan Paul was the first celebrity to be involved in the show, and saying he was a natural isn’t a fresh take, but it’s simply the best way to describe him.
Still, the show hadn’t quite hit the level that you wanted it to yet, but that quickly changed when two of the biggest stars in the industry made their way out. While admittedly flawed, Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair had crafted a story that people cared about. They wanted to see their hero overcome the villain, a tale as old as time, and the magnitude of their entrances on this stage can’t be overstated.
While wrestling nerds like myself care about selling, limb work, and silly stuff like that, many just care about cool looking people doing objectively cool things. Well, that was certainly the case here. The entrances gave this an immediate big match feel which isn’t easily earned, and you just knew you were in for a special bout . No other company can quite replicate that feeling yet, watching 60,000 fans lose their minds, a stadium united in their support of a babyface during possibly the match of her life.
The show never lost track after that either, as Cody Rhodes then made his return to WWE. For as much as there’s been said about Rhodes, the one thing that’s undeniable is that he’s a star, and it’s still a star driven business. The recent AEW EVP’s whole presentation was unchanged, exactly as it needed to be, and Seth Rollins was the perfect foe to make Cody’s victory feel important. That match was also tremendous, but this isn’t a piece focused on giving out star ratings.
Finally Stone Cold Steve Austin made his return to the wrestling ring, and I just won’t be able to do that justice with words, honestly. Simply put, about as exhilirating an experience as wrestling can provide, thrilling from start to finish.
Admittedly, Night 2 didn’t quite provide those same levels of excitement. In some ways, that’s to be expected as you can’t quite replicate that first night feeling of seeing the stage for the first time, again reminding yourself of that familiar ‘Mania’ feel. That’s not to say it wasn’t a fun show though, because “fun” is probably the best way to describe it.
Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville is probably one of the weirdest, yet most entertaining matches that WWE has done in recent memory. Wee Man slamming Sami was legitimately incredible, and that’s not something I expected to type two weeks ago. There can’t be enough said about how big of a star Pat McAfee is, and he’s someone who quite frankly, just gets ‘it.’ From his entrance music, to his athletic moves in the ring, he came off looking like the biggest star on a show that featured Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles and Edge, that’s not an easy thing to do.
I’ve probably rewatched Austin giving Vince the worst stunner in the history of wrestling about 200 times, and it’s still hilarious. Vince beating McAfee is still an incredibly strange decision that they made, but getting to see Vince in the ring with his odd body, moving around like no human on Earth moves was another memorable experience, to put it lightly. For once, it felt like WWE was laughing along with us, instead of just being the butt of the joke.
Neither night was perfect, and you could come up with a million nitpicks for each show, but frankly that’s not the point. WrestleMania is supposed to be this exciting, wild ride that provides moments and memories that will be replayed for years to come, and this one managed exactly that. When both shows ended, I was left with a feeling of joy and frankly, it’s been a long time since that was the case after a WWE show, let alone WrestleMania.