The SmarK Rant for WWE WRESTLEMANIA 39 – Night One 04.01.23
By Scott Keith on 1st April 2023
The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania 39 Night 1 – 04.01.23
Live from Los Angeles, CA
Your hosts are Michael Cole & Corey Graves.
The Miz joins us to start with his friend Snoop Dogg, playing hype man for the show.
US title: Austin Theory v. John Cena
Oh man, Cena has his whole Make a Wish army watching on the ramp, so he’s probably not doing any jobs tonight. Cena grabs a headlock on Theory to start, but Austin overpowers him to escape. So Theory bites the ear in the corner and they trade suplexes, as Theory gets two. Theory rolls into a dropkick for two, but he tries another one and Cena counters him into the STF. Theory escapes that and slugs Cena down for two. Theory puts the boots to him, but Cena reverses into the AA and Theory DDTs him out of that for two. Corner clothesline as Theory wanders around posing before grabbing a sleeper. Austin fights out of that and the ref is bumped, allowing Cena to get another STF, but Theory pretends to tap and then goes low before hitting the A-Town Down to finish at 11:26 and retain. Eh, just kind of a match. **. Cena should have had the Make a Wish kids run in and beat up Theory or something! Worst stable ever.
Braun Strowman & Ricochet v. The Viking Raiders v. The Alpha Academy v. The Street Profits
Gable and Rick O’Shea trade headlock takedowns and Gable gets a backslide for two and a sunset flip. Over to Otis, who clobbers Ric, and the Alphas double-team Ricochet for a bit before Braun comes in and saves, which triggers a four-way showdown. The Vikings run wild and hit Ford with the double-team powerbomb and then stop to pose with Sarah Logan. Strowman runs through them, but Gable hits him with a Chaos Theory suplex for two with some impressive power. Gable goes up and misses a splash, as does Dawkins, and then Ivar comes in and misses a moonsault. This brings Strowman in with a flying splash for two before everyone saves. Everyone piles up in the corner and we get the big Tower of Doom spot. Everyone heads to the floor and Braun runs them over with the train spot, but the Raiders take him out and then Ricochet hits a crazy springboard shooting star press onto the pile. Back in the ring, Ricochet goes for the finish, but misses off the top and hits Dawkins’ knees, and Montez finishes him with From the Heavens at 8:25. Big fun spotfest but not much to it otherwise. It was fine. ***.
Meanwhile, Xavier Woods and his crack team of nerds simulate the next match on WWE2K23 and apparently Seth Rollins wins.
Seth Rollins v. Logan Paul
Logan has finally embraced his heel persona, ziplining to the ramp in an amazing douchebag entrance while a dancing Prime bottle escorts him to the ring. Seth is dressed like a drag queen for his entrance, hopefully in tribute to Rick Steiner, with an outfit that appears to be made out of red garbage bags. And then Logan yawning in the corner is the topper. So obviously someone is gonna be the stupid Prime suit because otherwise what are we even doing here? Logan works on a headlock and Seth boots him down and goes for the stomp early as the pinkness of his pants threaten to blow out my fancy new TV. Logan tosses him and then suckers him back in for a Buckshot Maverick lariat and slugs him in the gut to take over. He’s no Creed. Seth fights back, but Logan sweeps the leg and wraps him up in a headscissors on the mat. Seth slugs out of that, but Logan hits him with a gut wrench for two. Paul looks so smooth and natural in there even after only a few matches, it’s amazing. He goes up and misses a springboard moonsault after doing a standing leap to the top rope, and Seth fights back and slugs away in the corner and tosses him for the dives not once, not twice, but THRICE. Seth stomps the hand on the stairs as Chekhov’s Prime Bottle lurks at ringside. Back in the ring, Seth tries the Pedigree and they turn it into a reversal sequence for near-falls until Logan slugs him with the BIONIC PUNCH OF DOOM for two. He throws a better worked punch than most of the roster. Seth with a powerbomb for two to block a rana. But then we finally get the reveal of the energy drink and it’s someone named KSI who falls outside of my pop culture bubble. I’m sure he’s big with the kids but my YouTube playlist is TechMoan, LGR and 8 Bit Guy. So he puts Seth on the table and takes a selfie, but Seth pulls the bottle onto the table and Paul accidentally puts him through the table with a frog splash from the top rope. That was…unlikely. I have questions. Back in the ring, Seth gets his Pedigree for two. Logan pulls out a GTS but even he can’t top the douchiness of CM Punk. Frog splash gets two. Logan goes up and tries the coast to coast dropkick, but Rollins counters with a superkick and stomps him for the pin at 16:14. Logan Paul is amazing, I’ve never seen someone who just gets wrestling so clearly and completely in such a short time. ****1/2. Would have been even better but it was actually a little too short. Also the bottle reveal was hella lame.
Bayley, Io Sky & Dakota Kai v. Becky Lynch, Lita & Trish Stratus
So I haven’t seen Trish in a while but she appears to have put her implants back in after slimming down for yoga years ago. Or maybe it’s a miracle of compression tops. She looks way more like “classic” Trish than she did for her appearances a few years ago. Damage CTRL triple-teams Becky in their corner for a bit and Dakota gets two. Corner kick gets two. Becky comes in to mock Lita and gets thrown out as a result, but she takes out Trish to prevent the hot tag. Lita fights off Dakota on the apron and gets the hot tag, moving at a much slower speed, and she hits the neckbreaker DDT for two on Sky. She goes up and Kai kicks her off the ropes, and Sky gets two off that. Triple kicks from the heels get two and they work her over. Lita fights them off and Trish gets another hot tag and clears the ring before hitting Kai with a neckbreaker for two. Trish with the handstand in the corner but Kai blocks that and they all fight on the floor. Trish gets her handstand rana on the second try, sending Kai onto the pile outside, and back in for two. Lita comes in with a very sad Poetry in Motion on Kai and Becky tries for the Disarmher, but Bayley saves. Bayley and Becky slug it out and Io allows Bayley to hit the Rose Plant for two, but Lita saves. Trish with the Stratusfaction on Kai and Becky rolls up Bayley for two and they all hit the floor for Sky to moonsault. This is going way too long for what it is. So back in the ring and they brawl and I think they’re trying for the “this is awesome” reaction from the crowd but no one’s really into this. Lita makes the comeback with the moonsault on Kai and Sky, and Becky hits the manhandle slam on Bayley for the pin at 14:45. This was pretty bad aside from a couple of good spots with Bayley and Becky and Trish being awesome as usual. Lita in particular didn’t belong out there. *1/2
Rey Mysterio v. Dominik Mysterio
Dom getting escorted into the ring by the DOC, while wearing Rey’s mask, is next level heeling. Eddie would be so proud. Speaking of which, Rey gets the lowrider entrance, driven by Snoop Dogg, and uses “Lie Cheat Steal” for his entrance music before switching to his own. Rey is apparently being seconded by a giant piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, also like Eddie would have wanted. Maybe it’s Eddie’s ghost under the costume? Dom takes him down but Rey sends him to the floor and they threaten to get into a shoving match. Like Dom used to do out in the yard in prison while serving hard time and trying to bribe the screws to survive. But never mind that, what about the CEREAL? Tell me more about the cereal! Rey sends Dom into the corner and beats him with his belt, although it’s already been strongly implied that he enjoys when Rhea does the same thing to him. But then Dom gets into a thing with his family and the distraction allows him to catapult dad into the ringpost for two. Back in the ring, Dom with the abdominal stretch, but Rey fights out that, so Dom slams him for two. Back to the family drama outside, but this time Rey runs Dom into the post, the CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH ringpost, and back in for a crossbody that gets two. This corporate synergy is so skillfully entwined with the match that you can’t even tell that the entire ring is bathed in garish day-glo purple and anthropomorphic cereal pieces. This brings Judgment Day out to run interference while Dom alley-oops Rey into the corner for two. Rey makes a comeback but the Judgment Day goons cut him off and take him to the floor, which prompts a brawl with Santos Escobar and his guys. Back in the ring, Dom hits a 619 (which was his cell block number) and frog splash for two. Next up, Dom gets a chain, but Bad Bunny steals it and Rey gets the 619 and his own frog splash for the pin at 14:23. After all the months of buildup this was a major drag and the nonsense with the cereal kind of wrecked the match at times. But the entrances were fantastic and the match had tons of heat and wasn’t BAD or anything. **1/2.
Smackdown Women’s title: Charlotte Flair v. Rhea Ripley
They trade shoulderblocks to start and Charlotte wins that one, sending Rhea to the floor. Back in, Charlotte goes up with a crossbody and they slug it out in the corner, but Rhea drops her on the top turnbuckle to take over. Rhea with a bodyscissors on the mat and goes to work on the back. Rhea slowly works her over, but Charlotte fights back with clotheslines and the crowd boos her out of the building. She beats on Rhea with chops and goes after the leg, but Rhea catches a crossbody attempt and rolls into a Riptide attempt. Charlotte counters that with a DDT for two. Charlotte goes for the figure-four and Rhea cradles for two, and they exchange boots for the double down. Charlotte recovers first and goes up, but Rhea brings her down with a german suplex for two. They head to the floor and Rhea runs her into the stairs, and back in with a slam on the bad shoulder for two. Rhea with the Riptide attempt again, but Charlotte reverses to a german suplex, but Rhea gets her own and Charlotte takes a weird bump off it, flipping all the way over. Charlotte comes back with a big boot for two. Rhea bails and Charlotte boots her to the floor and follows with the moonsault out there. Back in, Charlotte tries to figure-four again, but Rhea escapes that and headbutts her into the Riptide for two. Really hot near fall there. Rhea tries it again and Charlotte cradles for two, so Rhea puts her in the scorpion lock and Charlotte has to climb the ropes in the corner to escape. Rhea bumps into the ref and Charlotte spears her for two off that. So then it gets nasty and they slug it out on the mat and trade kicks, with Charlotte showing some emotion for the first time in a while, but Charlotte gets the figure-four and Rhea immediately makes the ropes. Rhea retreats to the apron and Charlotte goes after her as they fight to the top, but Rhea drops her facefirst on the post in a nasty spot, as Charlotte goes limp, and Rhea hits the MEGA RIPTIDE to finally finish her off and win the title at 23:20. That was a hell of a deal, with Charlotte looking more engaged than I’ve ever seen her in years. Tremendously hard-hitting match to put Rhea over as a huge star, hopefully once and for all. *****.
Meanwhile, Austin Theory has apparently made John Cena believe now.
The Miz joins us again and issues an open challenge, so Pat McAfee comes out to answer him as Michael Cole declares that Pat is “undefeated at Wrestlemania”. I know we all want to forget about the Vince match last year but we can’t. So Miz totally would accept but he can’t make matches. But apparently Snoop Dogg has that power.
The Miz v. Pat McAfee
Pat with a spinebuster and they fight to the top, and Miz comes off and lands on a superkick. Corey tries to inspire him to fight on, but Miz decides to take out his frustration on a football player guy at ringside and that goes badly for him. Back in the ring, Pat with the punt for the pin at 3:27. Well I think that sufficiently cooled down the crowd after the all time classic women’s match.
Undisputed tag team title match: The Usos v. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
Jimothy DEMANDS that Jey start the match and take out Sami, and they fight over a lockup before Sami takes him down and pounds him out on the mat. Jimmy hauls Sami to the floor and runs him into the post to get the heat on him early. Jey with a suplex on the floor and he beats on Sami in the ring. Jey with a corner splash for two and he goes to a chinlock, but Sami escapes and clears the ring to set up the first hot tag to KO. He immediately cannonballs the Usos on the floor and destroys them with clotheslines, adding a frog splash from the apron on Jimmy, and a frog splash on Jey gets two. Jey fights back with a neckbreaker for two and the Usos manage to trap KO in the corner and hit him with a flying splash off a missed swanton, for two. Owens with superkicks on James and the cannonball follows, setting up a swanton for two while Sami takes out Jey on the apron. Sami with his own Uso splash on Jimmie for two. The announcers pull out El Generico references while Sami hits the Blue Thunder Bomb on Jimmy, but Jey is the legal man and he takes out Sami with a superkick for two. So the Usos trap Sami in the corner for an USOKICK PARTY for two, but KO makes the save. Double superkick gets two. Another one gets two. They set up the 1D, but Owens takes out Jimmy and Sami rolls up Jey for two. But then the Usos double-team KO and chokeslam him through the announce table and that’s certainly not looking encouraging for the challengers. Back in the ring, 1D on Sami…gets two. I almost thought they were gonna do that ending. So Sami fights up again and Jey gives him the trash talk and beats on him in the corner for the big passion play, and then Jey gives Sami a Heluva Kick for good measure. But Sami poips up with the exploder into the corner to shut him up while KO crawls to the corner, and it’s hot tag Kevin Owens. Pop up powerbomb on Jimmy and also for Jey, and Jey takes the stunner for two while Sami hits Jimmy with the Heluva Kick. So we get the final showdown and they slug it out, with KO superkicking them both, but the Usos get the double superkick on Kevin and then Sami, setting up the Double Uce splash, which gets two. Jey can’t figure out what more he can do to Owens, so they hit him with another double superkick in the corner and take him to the top rope, but Sami takes out Jimmy and Kevin brings Jey down with a top rope neckbreaker. And it’s time for one last hot tag to Sami, who comes in with one more Heluva Kick on Jey, not one, not twice, but THRICE, to win the tag team titles at 24:17 and get his revenge to end the storyline for the happy ending. Another one for the road? Sure, why not. *****
Clearly one of the best Wrestlemanias in years, probably one of the best ever. Tonight is going to be a hard act for Sunday’s show to follow, so I hope Cody Rhodes has his working cowboy boots on. Thumbs way up for a tremendously entertaining show.