After a year of no fans,opened in an unexpected way: With a weather delay. Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium is open-air, and experienced heavy rain and thunder in the hours preceding the show. Michael Cole opened the main show at 5 p.m. PT explaining that there was a delay to wait for the weather to clear up. It took about 30 minutes for that to happen, with backstage promos and interviews filling the time. A bizarre half hour.
Still WrestleMania is back in front of fans. WrestleMania 37, which takes place on Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11, is the first WWE pay-per-view to take place in front of a live crowd . No amount of rain can drown the excitement over that.
The main event of Night 1 will see Bianca Belair challenge Sasha Banks for the latter’s SmackDown Women’s Championship, as well as Drew McIntyre defending his WWE Championship. Other bouts include Braun Strowman versus Shane McMahon in a steel cage and, my personally most anticipated match, Cesaro versus Seth Rollins..
Check back to this page from 5 p.m PT/8 p.m. ET on Saturday as the main card of WrestleMania 37 Night 1 begins, as I’ll be updating it with results and analysis from the show.
Braun Strowman obliterates Shane McMahon
Braun Strowman defeated Shane McMahon in a steel cage match after throwing him off the very top of the cage, a gnarly looking bump, and then hitting a powerslam.
Before the match began, Strowman was ambushed by Elias and Jackson Rikker, who smashed him with chairs. They threw Strowman and a chair into the ring, allowing McMahon to continue barraging Strowman with chair shots. From here, the flow of much of the match was that Strowman would fight back from below, only for McMahon to find a new weapon and cut him off. At one point, McMahon retrieved a sheet of steel from the top of the cage and clocked Strowman with it. Later, as both were ascending the cage, McMahon found a toolbox up there.
The best spot of the match was when McMahon climbed atop the cage and began his descent down to the floor. He stuck his arm through the cage to flip Strowman the bird, but Strowman jumped up and grabbed his arm. He then ripped the cage apart and pulled him back in. They then scaled to the top of the cage — where Strowman threw him off in pretty brutal fashion.
Rating: 3.25 stars. The wrestling itself wasn’t much, as you’d expect, but it did its job. We got the memorable Shane McMahon bump and the cool moment of Strowman ripping open the cage. Importantly, it wasn’t a super long match so didn’t drag.
AJ Styles and Omos win Raw Tag Team Championships
Omos joins the club of wrestlers who’ve won a championship in their first match. He and AJ Styles defeated The New Day to win the Raw Tag Team Championships.
The story of the match was simple. Styles started out for his team, and The New Day did everything they could to to keep him from tagging Omos. They cut him off from his side of the ring, and the drama came whenever Styles would get close to Omos. This was kind of weird, because that’s tag team psychology 101 — except AJ and Omos are heels, not babyfaces.
In any case, once Omos eventually did get tagged in it was very much game over. He entered the ring and threw both Kingston and Xavier Woods around. Styles hit a sweet Phenomenal Forearm by springboarding off Omos’ shoulders. Omos planted Kingston with a double-arm chokeslam and pinned him with a single foot.
Rating: 3.25 stars. Simple but sensible story. The downside is that AJ Styles, the best wrestler in the match, was relegated to the role of selling rather than providing thrilling offense. But it did its job of introducing Omos. From what we saw here though, it looks like Omos is severely limited, as all he did was a few shoves, a few throws and one average-looking chokeslam.
Cesaro pins Seth Rollins
This wasn’t the classic match some (I) hoped it would be, but it was still a strong match. It ended with Cesaro swinging Rollins 23 times in the Giant Swing, then pinning Rollins after a Neutralizer.
The story of the match was that Cesaro was trying at every turn to catch Rollins in the Giant Swing, and that Rollins escaped each time in increasingly creative fashion. Rollins also worked over Cesaro’s arm. At one point, midway through, Cesaro got the swing but, after about 9 rotations, his arm gave out. Seth Rollins later showed off a new top-rope move, an awesome corkscrew splash.
Cesaro hit a surprise Neutralizer for a two count. Moments later, Rollins got a near fall with a Pedigree. The high point of the bout came when Rollins went for a Curb Stomp but Cesaro countered with an awesome uppercut. He then swung Rollins with a UFO firemans carry, got the 23-rotation Giant Swing and Neutralizer for the pin.
Rating: 4 stars. A very good bout, but not a classic. At just over 11 minutes, it would have benefited greatly for an extra 4-6 minutes of time.
Tamina and Natalya win tag-team turmoil match
In what will hopefully be the weakest bout of the night, Tamina and Natalya won a tag team turmoil match to become the number one contenders for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships. The rules of the match are that two teams start, and that once one team is defeated another takes its place, with there being five teams in total.
Naomi and Lana start the match off against Carmella and Billie Kay. After a minute or two of sloppy action, Kay pins Naomi with a rollup and added leverage from Carmella. The Riott Squad are in next and they almost immediately defeat Kay and Carmella with tandem finish,. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke are in next — with Brooke actually slipping on the stage on the way to the ring. Hate to see it.
After about five minutes of average-at-best wrestling, the Riott Squad elimianted Rose and Brooke with a cradle. The announcer actually got mixed up and said The Riott Squad was eliminated, but the referee corrected him. Natalya and Tamina were the final team. The most noteworthy spot was Tamina kicking out of the same double-team move the Riott Squad elimianted Billie Kay with.
Tamina and Natalya then hit a Hart Attack on Ruby Riott, and then Tamina scored a pin after a top-rope splash.
Rating: 2 stars.
Bobby Lashley retains WWE Championship
WrestleMania opens with a shocker: Bobby Lashley beat Drew McIntyre with the Hurt Lock. McIntyre didn’t tap out, Cole was eager to point out, he passed out.
It started slow, but the match ended up being very good. It began with standard stuff, exchanging moves in the ring with some brawling on the outside. It picked up about halfway through when McIntyre hit a trifecta of Future Shock DDTs for a two count. Moments later, McIntyre hit a very impressive over-the-top-rope dive to Lashley on the outside, like Undertaker’s famous dive at WrestleMania 25.
Back in the ring, Lashley locks in the Hurt Lock but McIntyre powers out. McIntyre gets a submission of his own, locking in a Kimura Lock — potentially signalling a return of Brock Lesnar. The announcers are selling that McIntyre has one last weapon to use in the Claymore Kick. Sure enough, after a big boot, McIntyre sets up the Claymore. Here’s where things get dumb. McIntyre has it set up but, as he starts running for the kick, he’s distracting by MVP yelling from the outside. Like, he stops in his tracks to look at MVP.
Again: MVP yelled at him from the outside. Not even from the apron. And it stopped McIntyre. So bad.
Lashley then takes advantage and, after some more action, successfully locks in the Hurt Lock and McIntyre passes out.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Shock finish with good action. Would have been better without the confoundingly stupid “distraction.” We’ll have to see how this plays out, as it could be leading to something worthwhile, but it feels like a bad move to cut off McIntyre like this. He was protected strongly for the past year, and it looks like an abrupt change of course to have him pass out clean to Lashley, who though protected has been a midcard star for the past few years.
Weather delay opens the show
The Tampa, Florida area that’s housing WrestleMania had heavy rain and storms in the hours preceding WrestleMania, and the main show opened with Michael Cole explaining they have to delay the action for a few moments due to weather concerns. Brutal.
They’re now stalling with backstage interviews. We hear from Shane McMahon, before Bobby Lashley comes into the backstage area to talk trash about Drew McIntyre. McIntyre then joins the set and they get into a confrontation. Lashley is sequestered off and McIntyre cuts a fiery promo.
WWE is clearly stalling on the fly here, transitioning from backstage interviews to the kickoff-show panel to the announcer’s at ringside. The promos are actually pretty good, way better than the scripted stuff we see each week, but this is still grim.
At 5: 25 p.m. PT, Cole tells us the weather delay will end within five minutes. After a brief Bianca Belair interview, a promo for the WWE Championship match opens. Here we go.