WrestleMania 39 opened with a very entertaining first night.
All eyes remain on night two, but there were plenty of highlights from the Saturday show, including Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens winning the WWE tag team titles.
Rhea Ripley defeated Charlotte Flair in a hard-hitting clash, and Seth Rollins brought the absolute best out of Logan Paul.
The night was not perfect. An easy opening match was complicated when JohnCena lost to Austin Theory. That match featured a deflating, overused finish, especially disappointing considering that Cena rarely wrestles. There weren’t many missed opportunities, but that was one. Pat McAfee’s return also extended an already lengthy show, as he returned to defeat The Miz. Yet overall, there were far more positives than negatives, particularly with the final two matches.
Here are the results:
-- Austin Theory defeated John Cena to retain the United States championship.
-- The Street Profits won the men’s WrestleMania Showcase fatal four-way match against Alpha Academy, Ricochet and Braun Strowman, and The Viking Raiders.
-- Seth Rollins defeated Logan Paul.
-- Becky Lynch, Trish Stratus, and Lita defeat Damage CTRL’s Bayley, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai.
-- Rey Mysterio defeated Dominik Mysterio.
-- Rhea Ripley defeated Charlotte Flair to win the SmackDown women’s championship.
-- Pat McAfee defeated The Miz.
-- Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn defeat The Usos to win the WWE tag team titles.
The night opened with Theory defeating Cena, which was a real surprise. If the point was to make Theory, this fell short. Theory won following a low blow when the ref was down, a hackneyed finish that did no favors to either man. I’m happy to eat my words on this, but the forced Theory push on this particular night felt like Fandango going over Chris Jericho at WrestleMania a decade ago.
Cena had a fantastic entrance, accompanied to the ramp by a number of children representing Make-A-Wish. He hit his greatest hits in the match, and it was great to have him back at WrestleMania. Losing to Theory, especially when it could have happened on Monday, seems shortsighted.
The Street Profits shined in victory during the men’s WrestleMania Showcase fatal four-way match. This match put a spotlight on everyone involved, especially Ricochet, who makes a strong argument for the most spectacular high-flyer in all of wrestling. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins were a great choice to win, and hopefully this is the beginning of something significant for them before the team eventually splits.
A candidate for match of the night was Seth Rollins against Logan Paul. Accompanied to the ring by a Prime energy drink mascot (later revealed to be Paul’s business partner KSI), this was nonstop action. There was a solid build into the high spots, a frog splash onto the announce table by Paul onto the mascot- wearing KSI, and a pedigree from Rollins that resulted in a near-three. The finish was spectacular, with a superkick leading to a stomp. Paul is a consummate villain; he plays the role to perfection. Rollins deserved to win this match and he can now return to the main event, but it is incredible in the way that Paul never misses.
Becky Lynch, Trish Stratus, and Lita won a fun six-man tag against Bayley, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai. While all signs point to Stratus turning on Lynch and starting a program between the two, there were no indications during this match. Bayley is a star, and she works well with Sky and Kai, but Damage CTRL feels like it is reaching the end of their run.
In an unexpected finish, Rey Mysterio defeated his son Dominik. Rey and Dom were given time to tell a story, with Dom serving as a great agitator toward his father, mother, and sister (who had a drink thrown in her face) while Dom protected the family. At one point, Rey took off his belt and started to hit Dom with it, which drew a reaction from the crowd.
As perfect as the execution in this build has been, there were some imperfections in this bout. Cinnamon Toast Crunch sponsored the match, and its logo adorned the ring, which was stomach-churning in an important bout between father and son.
There was also too much outside interference, including from Bad Bunny, who helped Rey win the match–and sets up Dom against Bunny at Backlash in Puerto Rico.
Still, this is the best showing from Rey at WrestleMania in a long time, and he accomplished it with his son.
In the co-main event, Rhea Ripley defeated Charlotte Flair to win the SmackDown women’s title. This started slow, but it steadily picked up its pace and transformed into an extremely hard-hitting clash. Ripley hit a Riptide off the ropes for the finish, and her reign as champ now begins. Flair did everything possible to ensure
Ripley looked like the next major star, and this will stand as one of the best matches of their careers.
A championship battle for the ages. Welcome to the mountain top, @RheaRipley_WWE. #WrestleMania pic.twitter.com/l35YDTTFMC— Triple H (@TripleH) April 2, 2023
This could have closed the show, but it simply did not have the same build as The Usos-Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
Before the main event, WWE took their shot at a SportsCenter highlight when Pat McAfee defeated The Miz with an assist from George Kittle. This dragged on too long, but Kittle did hit a picturesque clothesline on Miz. After a long card, this would have been a much better fit on the preshow.
The main event saw Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens finally put a dent in The Bloodline by defeating The Usos, winning the WWE tag team titles. This marked the first tag match to close out WrestleMania since the original event, and the first time the tag titles were ever on the line in the main event of a WrestleMania. It also ended a remarkable run by The Usos, who won the SmackDown tag titles in July of 2021 before adding the Raw titles last May.
The match began with The Usos wearing down Zayn. It immediately picked up when Owens tagged in, as he delivered instant intensity in his offense. All four pros told an outstanding story, with Owens and Zayn overcoming the odds to beat
Jimmy and Jey Uso. And the finish was just as it should have been, with Zayn hitting the Helluva Kick three times on Jey Uso before pinning him for the win.
Night one, overall, served as a solid opening act. There were some letdowns–the Cena-Theory match in particular–as well as highs, primarily Flair-Ripley and Rollins-Paul. The main event sets the table for night two–is The Bloodline disintegrating? Will Roman Reigns be the next to drop his title?–and it was a well-earned moment for Owens and Zayn.
Owens was in the main event for the second year in a row, and the finest run of Zayn’s career continues with his first-ever WrestleMania main event.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com . Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.