Wrestlemania 38: A Two Night Event Forever Etched In History
Wrestlemania, the showcase of the immortals. The most stupendous two-night event in sports entertainment. Over 80 thousand packed AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to see the 38th annual Wrestlemania and it was one to watch. After the pandemic forced World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to hold its biggest show of the year behind closed doors in 2020 and with a reduced capacity of 25,000 in Tampa last year, the home of the Cowboys had the WWE universe back to their normal electrifying ways. One big thing was the same as the past two years, though. For the third time, WrestleMania took place over two nights. Breaking up the show into a Saturday portion and a Sunday portion has been a positive for fans, who no longer have to endure a seven-hour marathon night. It has also been a win for the wrestlers, who are afforded more opportunities to get on the WrestleMania card, and for WWE, which now just sold twice as many tickets. The trouble for WWE was being able to book separate nights of a show that are appealing enough that fans will want to see both, either in the stadium or at home. But the company has succeeded in that regard this year. With the card spread out over two nights, there were no matches during the pre-show. Instead, the two-hour kickoff show featured interviews and backstage segments. Those two hours flew by and Wrestlemania 38’s two-night thriller was ready to go.
The broadcast opened with a rendition of “America the Beautiful” sung by multi-platinum country artist Brantley Gilbert. Following him was the Wrestlemania introductory hype video, presented by Mark Whalberg with help from the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. This preamble lasted nearly ten minutes and the first match was set to begin.
The opening match was for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship where The Usos defended their titles against Rick Boogs and Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura got things rolling to start the match but The Usos quickly turned the table and isolated the former intercontinental champion away from Boogs. Later on, Boogs attempted to put both Usos up in a fireman's carry but his knee gave out. This gave The Usos momentum and Jimmy Uso nearly scored the win with a Uso Splash on Nakamura. The Usos soon retained their titles after hitting their version of the 3D, a finishing maneuver famously executed by hall of fame tag team, The Dudley Boyz. According to announcements following the match, Boogs is set to have surgery in the coming days to repair the injury.
Drew McIntyre has had his issues with Happy Corbin, a persona of Baron Corbin, and his partner Madcap Moss. The duo originally targeted Drew a month before Wrestlemania and ultimately woke a beast in McIntyre. As the chairman of WWE, Vince McMahon says, you settle your differences in the ring, and what better way to settle them than on the grandest stage of them all, Wrestlemania. Corbin was looking to end the match fairly quickly when he scored a near fall off a Deep Six, a spinning powerbomb maneuver. The momentum continued to swing before McIntyre set up for the Claymore Kick only for Moss to pull Corbin from the ring for the save. McIntyre would miss with a Claymore and fall right into Corbin’s finisher, the End of Days but McIntyre kicked out at two. A shocked Corbin would eat a second Claymore Kick moments later, giving McIntyre the win. After the match, McIntyre attempted to slash Moss with the sword he entered with, but only managed to cut through the two top ropes sending a message to both Moss and Corbin.
Both Rey Mysterio and his son Dominik have had their fair share of ups and downs since forming a tag team in WWE. One of those downs was being negatively criticized by The Miz on his show Miz T.V. a few weeks before Mania. Ultimately, Miz challenged the Mysterios to a tag team match at Wrestlemania with Miz having a mystery partner. This mystery partner turned out to be Logan Paul, an American YouTuber. During the match, Paul showed off some impressive athleticism early on, leapfrogging Rey Mysterio multiple times before hitting a split neck breaker. Paul continued to show off some impressive moves, including drilling Dominik Mysterio with a running power slam and a blockbuster. While Miz and Paul used several cheap tactics to keep control, the Mysterios kept fighting back, using a variety of DDTs and speed-based moves to continue to fight back. In a moment of cheap heel heat, The Mysterios responded by hitting Paul with a tandem 619 finisher but they missed a blind tag by the Miz, who was able to sneak into the ring and hit his finisher, the Skull-Crushing Finale on Rey to get the win. After the match, Miz turned on Paul and hit him with a Skull-Crushing Finale, showcasing Miz’s true character.
Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch, two former main eventers of Wrestlemania collided for the Raw Women’s Championship. This rivalry dated all the way back to Summerslam 2021, when Becky Lynch shocked the WWE universe by returning from 9 months of paternity leave. Since then, Bianca Belair has formed one of the biggest rivalries with Lynch over the last year and a half. The Texas Southern University marching band performed ahead of Belair's entrance, adding a big-match feel. Lynch hit a Manhandle Slam seconds into the match, calling back to her ultra-quick win at SummerSlam but, Belair was able to kick out this time. Lynch used this momentum to hit several big moves, including a guillotine legdrop as Belair was draped over the top rope. Belair came back after the early run for Lynch, hitting the double chicken wing slam and the rebound moonsault for a near fall. Lynch again went for the Manhandle Slam but Belair kicked off the turnbuckle into a backflip to escape before hitting the K.O.D. finishing move to get the win and become the new Raw Women's champion.
Coming into Wrestlemania 38, Seth Rollins was left without an opponent. Opportunities came, and Rollins fell short. This all led Seth to privately meet with Mr. McMahon to discuss Wrestlemania plans. Vince was very specific with the details, giving Rollins an opponent but no one knew who that was going to be until their music hit. It was Cody Rhodes, who took a big seven-year step away from WWE. Rollins reacted with surprise but not a complete meltdown as Rhodes was revealed as his mystery opponent. The crowd was also hot for the return and the two men mixed it up with some back-and-forth work as Rhodes stayed a step ahead early. Rollins was able to get back in control of the match, taunting Rhodes along the way by telling him, "Welcome back to the big leagues." Rhodes stormed back with a suicide dive on Rollins to the outside. The two continued to brawl before Rollins got rolling back in the ring, eventually hitting a falcon arrow signature for a near fall. Rollins kept fighting, and Cody kept countering. The match became a war of convincing near falls, with Rollins hitting a Pedigree and having Rhodes kicked out before screaming that Rhodes was in his house and his company. Rhodes would respond by hitting a finishing Cross Rhodes three times before a bionic elbow drop to pick up the win.
Ronda Rousey shocked fans by returning at Royal Rumble 2022 following a one-year leave of absence. Rousey won the women's royal rumble match and challenged “the queen”, Charlotte Flair for her Smackdown Women’s Title at Wrestlemania. Rousey came with fire, going at Flair with a big judo throw and then locking up a reverse triangle choke in the ropes before Flair was able to take over with an attack on the ring apron. Flair blasted Rousey with a right forearm to the side of the head and locked in a variation of a dragon sleeper before an arm throw by Rousey and a knee to Flair's face for a near fall. Flair picked up a near fall with a spear on a celebrating Rousey. Ronda managed to hit a finishing Piper’s Pit, almost eking out the victory. Rousey hit another Piper's Pit and Flair was able to get her foot on the bottom rope as the referee was counting the pinfall. As Rousey complained, Flair hit Natural Selection for a near fall. As Flair set up the Figure-Eight submission, Rousey kicked her off into the referee, who then missed Flair tapping out to an armbar executed by Rousey. As Rousey attempted to get the referee up, Flair hit her with a big boot to pick up the win and retain her title.
Kevin Owens surprised all when he called out one of the greatest WWE performers of all time to a match at Wrestlemania. The “Texas rattlesnake” Stone Cold Steve Austin was the name and he eventually responded to tell Owens that he has “one last can of whoop-ass with Kevin’s name on it.” The stage was set for the main event of night one, Austin versus Owens in a no holds barred match. The two men started off trading punches before Austin stomped a mudhole in Owens while he was down in the corner. Austin continued bringing the fight, tossing Owens from the ring and repeatedly calling for mid-match beers. The brawl continued outside the ring, with Owens getting the better of the brawl briefly before they went into the crowd, with Austin's punches and chops wearing Owens down. Owens put Austin down on the outside with a suplex on the concrete. Austin wouldn't be kept down, however, and stormed back, dumping Owens on the announce table and forcing him to retreat to Austin's ATV. Austin gave Owens a ride up the stage and punished him on the entrance stage, hitting multiple suplexes. The action returned to the ring where Owens hit a stunner out of nowhere after Austin chugged a few beers but Austin managed to kick out. Owens left the ring to grab a steel chair but missed Austin, hitting himself in the face as the chair rebounded off the top rope. Austin hit a stunner, scoring the pinfall to win the match to cap off a stupendous night of action.
After a wild Night 1 of WrestleMania 38, WWE returned to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas for Night 2 of the biggest event in pro wrestling. The “Game” Triple H kicked off the show by making an elaborate entrance to leave his boots in the ring, finishing off the recent news that he is officially retired from in-ring action after his recent cardiac episode. He then welcomed the crowd to WrestleMania to officially get the event underway.
The opening match for night two was a triple threat tag team match for the Raw Tag Team Titles. The defending RK-Bro (Matt Riddle and Randy Orton) faced off against the Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) and the Alpha Academy (Chad Gable and Otis). It took only seconds before all six men were involved in the match, ending with Otis as the last man in the ring before an all-out brawl broke out as everyone entered the ring again. Montez Ford hit a flipping dive to the outside, only for Chad Gable to hit his own top rope moonsault to the outside seconds later. Randy Orton eventually took a hot tag from Riddle and cleared the ring, leading to both RK-Bro members spiking the Profits with hanging DDTs. A huge near fall came when Ford hit Gable with a blockbuster as Gable was seated on Dawkins' shoulders. Riddle took out Ford with a springboard RKO as Ford was on the top rope. Moments later, Orton hit Gable with an RKO of his own as Gable came off the top rope, scoring the win letting RK-Bro retain their titles.
Following the tag match, it was the “All Mighty” Bobby Lashley taking on Omos. Two giants facing off on the grand stage. Omos easily knocked aside a Lashley kick before dropping Lashley with a forearm to the back. Lashley continued to fire back, though he was repeatedly overpowered by Omos, including when Lashley first attempted to apply a Hurt Lock. Omos locked Lashley in a bear hug, but Lashley fought out and after more attempts managed to hit Omos with a vertical suplex. Lashley then hit a spear to the back and another spear from the front to score the victory.
Later on, it was Sami Zayn facing off against Jackass icon Johnny Knoxville in an anything goes match. This match occurred due to Zayn having a controversy with Knoxville prior to Wrestlemania. Zayn immediately hit Knoxville with a Helluva kick as the bell sounded. Knoxville used a fire extinguisher to even things up, but Zayn stopped Knoxville from using any weapons from a trash can full of them. Zayn used a baking sheet and a crutch to hit Knoxville across the back. Zayn then found a table covered in mouse traps under the ring, which he pulled out and set up only to run into Knoxville, who used a pair of trash can lids only to end up being sent through a table in the corner with an exploder suplex. Zayn took out another Jackass star, Wee Man then attacked Zayn and hit a bodyslam to set up a Knoxville tornado DDT for a near fall. Wee Man was struck with a Helluva Kick and went down. Knoxville knocked Zayn from the top rope by pressing a button that set off fireworks from the ring post. This led to Knoxville throwing Zayn from the top rope through the mousetrap-covered table at ringside. Knoxville then used a giant mousetrap to slam Zayn through, ultimately picking up the win.
Next was a fatal four-way match for the Women’s Tag Team Championships. Carmella and Queen Zelina’s odds were not in their favor as they had to defend their titles against three other tag teams, (Sasha Banks and Naomi) (Natalya and Shayna Baszler) (Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan). Interesting early segments between Ripley and Banks, who failed to hit a backstabber when Ripley easily shrugged her off. Baszler paired off with Morgan and stomped her ankle before locking her in a footlock. Zelina hit Morgan with a code red, but Ripley broke the pin, setting off a stretch of everyone hitting big moves. Near falls continued to come one after the other, with all the women in the match hitting signature moves only to see pin attempts broken until Naomi hit a facebuster into Banks' knees to score the win and crowning Sasha and Naomi as new Women’s Tag Champs.
Edge claimed that the entire WWE locker room was “soft” and no one had the balls to face him on the grand stage. Then, came AJ Styles, who accepted Edge’s challenge, and were set to face off at Wrestlemania. Edge took a smug approach to the start of the match, disrespecting Styles before Styles hit a dropkick and several arm drags to get off to a hot start. Edge tried to come back with a spear, but Styles countered. Edge came right back to counter Styles' springboard 450, allowing him to take over control of the match. Styles hit a rack bomb for a near fall as both men continued to bust out some of their biggest moves to try and score the big win. Edge was able to secure a LeBell Lock, but Styles was again able to escape a submission that focused on his separated shoulder. Moments later, Styles hit the Styles Clash finisher, but Edge barely managed to kick out. Damian Priest made his way to ringside, distracting Styles as he was going for a Phenomenal Forearm. That delay allowed Edge to counter with a spear to score the win.
Then came Pat McAfee, an ex NFL punter who’s dreamt of headlining Wrestlemania since his early childhood. McAfee’s wishes were granted as he went up against Austin Theory, a prodigy of Mr. McMahon. McAfee got off to a hot start with spinning elbows and hurricanranas to keep Theory on the defensive. The theory got upset with the crowd for being firmly behind McAfee, working over the former NFL punter with suplexes while taunting and playing to Vince McMahon, who was seated at ringside. McAfee hit one of his trademark spots, landing on his feet on a backflip off the top rope before leaping back to the top rope and hitting Theory with a superplex. McAfee would score the win with a schoolboy pin counter to Theory's ATL finisher. Vince did not like what he saw, so he took his suit off, and the 76-year-old chairman was set to face off against McAfee. Vince toyed with McAfee while Theory interfered repeatedly. Theory then handed McMahon a football and McMahon lightly punted it into McAfee as he was prone on the canvas. After the punt, McMahon pinned McAfee for the win. After the match, Steve Austin's music hit, and "Stone Cold" marched to the ring to get in McMahon's face. Theory tried to jump Austin, only to eat a series of right hands and a stunner. That left Austin and McMahon alone in the ring together in a callback to an era-defining rivalry. Austin initially called for beers, sharing a toast before a kick to the gut and, after much trouble catching McMahon, who had completely lost his balance, a stunner. After sharing a beer with McAfee, Austin blasted McAfee with a stunner in a reminder of Austin's philosophy of "Don't Trust Anybody."
Then it was time for the grand main event, as the “Beast” Brock Lesnar faced off against the “tribal chief” Roman Reigns in a unification winner take all match. Both Lesnar and Reigns carried their respective WWE championships. Lesnar removed his MMA gloves once the bell rang, looking to go bare-knuckle with Reigns. Lesnar took the fight right to Reigns before sending him across the ring with multiple overheads, belly-to-belly suplexes. Lesnar allowed himself to be distracted by chasing down Roman’s advocate Paul Heyman, however, and Reigns drove Lesnar through the ringside barricade with a spear. Lesnar fought back to his feet and began laughing before countering another Superman punch into a series of German suplexes. Lesnar went for an F-5, but Reigns slid out and hit another Superman punch. Reigns tried to follow up with another spear, but Lesnar caught him and hit an F-5 for a near fall. Reigns hit two more spears but Lesnar grabbed Reigns' arm on the second and locked in a kimura, scissoring Reigns' body. Reigns crawled toward the ropes and Heyman pushed the rope forward so Reigns could grab it to break the hold. Lesnar went for another F-5 only for Reigns to slide out, shoving Lesnar into the ropes and allowing Reigns to hit one final spear for the finish. Reigns became undisputed Universal and WWE champion at the end of the night.
There’s nothing quite like WrestleMania weekend and now that WWE is sticking to their two-night plan, it just gives the fans of WWE even more entertaining and electrifying wrestling. One thing is for certain, the aftermath of Wrestlemania could have huge changes on sports entertainment.