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8-Match Tag #1 – WWE Royal Rumble Show-Stealers



WWE John Cena Umaga Royal Rumble 2007

The most obsessively devoted professional wrestling aficionados following the Sport of Kings today tend to consume and dissect every facet of as many past and present promotions, styles and performers as humanly possible to an almost quantum degree of refined appreciation. To borrow from legendary manager Paul Ellering, you don’t need to split atoms in order to see why these rabid students of the squared circle’s lineage regard the WWE Network’s seemingly incalculable hours of archival video alongside the wheel, mastery of fire, antibiotics and the AKI engine powering the Nintendo 64’s “WWF No Mercy” alongside humankind’s most enduringly appreciable achievements.

Everyone else, on the other hand? Let’s all be reasonable. What virginally naive new initiate to our world of colossal, cartoonish, sweat-soaked gladiators with loins girded in spandex possesses the time or wherewithal to blindly scroll through such a mountain of media in search of something to validate a love affair with this absurd carny extravaganza?

That’s where I come in. I’m Sean Comer. You’re not. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my personal compendium of short-and-sweet curated playlists conceived as organized signposts denoting must-see landmarks across an intercontinental library of unforgettable moments in dramatized grappling. Welcome to 8-Match Tag.

Why only eight, you ask? Brevity is the soul of wit. The way I see it, a tidy octagonal centerpiece of matches or segments nails a bullseye in which a playlist should reasonably be able to say all it needs about a given subject before descending into monotony or unnecessary diversions from the heart of its message. After all, why do you think the 8-track tape was once the benchmark for any traveling audio experience? At their best, those musical plastic bricks delivered only the cream of an artist’s crop in a perfectly portioned dose that ran its course before the sonic flavor could wear out its welcome.

So it is with these easily digestible meals culled entirely from the WWE Network collection. I have nothing whatsoever against WWE’s own thoughtful anthologies, but some of those retrospectives include 20 or more clips. Even I typically can ill afford that kind of undivided time investment, and I work from home. Whether you crave your own nostalgic foray into one certain zone of interest or need a conservative beginner’s primer for a viewer fresh off the boat, each considerately sized sampler is piping-hot killer and no filler.

For my first such offering of recommendations, let’s salute an enduringly thrilling annual WWE tradition returning Sunday night to Philadelphia as the jumping-off point for the road to WrestleMania 34. The WWE Royal Rumble’s titular signature match is equal parts grueling, unpredictable gauntlet and every-man-for-himself marathon battle royal, a wild contest with varying pivotal WWE Championship implications dating back to the 1989 edition. Incredibly, the climactic clash’s propensity for shaping the course of the next Showcase of the Immortals has occasionally been overshadowed by at least one unexpectedly unforgettable showdown on the undercard. If you need a sampler platter of in-ring storytelling prior to this weekend’s endurance trial of an event, fill out your watchlist with these eight Royal Rumble show-stealers instead of listening to Booker T make “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s tenure as a color commentator seem like a “Best of Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan” highlight reel. I promise you won’t regret it, because each and every one stands memorably alongside top attraction itself.

One caveat, kiddies: I did my best to commend each performer only once for the sake of variety. However, I also added the matches tempting me to throw that rule out the highest window possible to a second volume ready and waiting for next year’s Royal Rumble. For the sake of argument, I categorized headlining championship matches as existing amid the “undercard,” simply because the Royal Rumble match is and always will be the undeniable focal point of the card.

Let’s rock. In no particular order…


You didn’t need a nuanced, meandering story to manufacture a restaurant-quality match involving these two firecracker duos. Just place all four men in the same ring.

Before reuniting as the second iteration of the Orient Express when Paul Diamond replaced Akio Sato by the side of Pat Tanaka in the World Wrestling Federation, the pair previously known as Badd Company captured their only American Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship from Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty in 1988 shortly before the Midnight Rockers would drop the first half of their name and jump ship to the WWF. Tanaka would meet Michaels and Jannetty again at WrestleMania VI alongside Sato in 1990 to produce a forgettable little encounter, but this match is a 20-minute slice of nimble maneuvers, a smoothly paced story formula and effortless rhythm. The 1991 Royal Rumble match was nothing to overlook in itself, but this is the reason I can always come back to my first Royal Rumble as a reminder of the wrestling styles that captivated me from the beginning.


Most fans will remember this Royal Rumble as the first of two consecutive editions in which fans tore WWE a new one for failing to punch Daniel Bryan’s ticket to headline WrestleMania. In 2014, the now-retired (for now) submission artist had spent his finest hours of the previous year waging war on Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and the rest of the Authority in pursuit of the WWE Championship stolen from him by Randy Orton at SummerSlam. At one point, his despair seemingly compelled him to accept the overtures of Bray Wyatt to end vicious weekly attacks by joining his creepy swamp cult, the Wyatt Family. Before long, Bryan would pull a fast one on Wyatt by laying in his own beatdown inside a steel cage after shucking the Wyatt Family’s signature coveralls and leading the live audience in a thunderous “Yes!” chant.

Hence, it was decided that Wyatt and Bryan would collide at the Royal Rumble in an opening match every man, woman and child in the audience was convinced was but a prelude to Bryan entering and winning the Royal Rumble match later that night.

It wasn’t. Bryan didn’t win. He never even entered the match. Instead, he and Wyatt tore the house down and relieved themselves on the ashes in a brutal brawl that would have felt right at home on a vintage card booked by such realism-worshipping minds as “Cowboy” Bill Watts, Jim Crockett Sr. or Jim Cornette anywhere from 20 to 30 years prior. Not only did this match once more declare that there wasn’t much Bryan couldn’t accomplish between the ropes, but it merits consideration as proof that Wyatt may one day go down as a can’t-miss performer handcuffed at every turn by horrendous booking and some simply abysmal luck.


You will never convince me this match had any right being as outstanding as it was.

Triple H has previously claimed that he told privately John Cena during the buildup to their WrestleMania 22 main event the previous year that the anointed new face of WWE “sucked” and had a lot to learn as headlining champion. Watch this all-in donnybrook, and tell me Cena didn’t take that criticism to heart.

The late Eddie Fatu broke out as a singles competitor in WWE immediately after the aforementioned WrestleMania with an initially laughable, stereotypical “island savage” gimmick. With patience, a capable mouthpiece in stylish loudmouth Armando Alejandro Estrada and stubbornly protective booking, he grew into his role as a monstrous hard-hitting heel to the point of earning a feud with Cena for the WWE Championship. Even more impressively, their interactions convincingly painted the Samoan Bulldozer as a physical force capable of demolishing the unbreakable former Doctor of Thuganomics.

To punctuate their months-long war, the two met in a combustible Last Man Standing match which yanked Cena from months of formulaic main-event performances and allowed them to cut loose in a plunder-filled riot of a match. Pay no resentment to Cena’s inevitable win. Umaga lost absolutely no credibility in defeat. Rather, he took a full measure of the champion and forced him into deep waters and newly desperate measures to retain his title. Cena might have won, but he knew he had survived a fight like no other presented to him up until that point.


The late, one-of-a-kind “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was well past his last days as a full-time WWE performer. As this short-but-sweet gem demonstrated, it would be a drastic mistake to declare he was necessarily also past his prime.

Quite the opposite. Hot Rod and the Mountie told an astoundingly entertaining back-and-forth tale in just under 10 minutes and delivered the legendary Piper’s first and only singles championship victory in the company where he became an icon and impactfully shaped an entire formative era in the 1980s with Jimmy Snuka, Hulk Hogan, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Paul Orndorff and even Mr. T.

Former tag team division mainstay Jacques Rougeau had returned fairly recently to the WWF as the Mountie in 1991, a cartoonishly conniving Canadian lawman who had transitioned from an amusing feud with the Big Boss Man to chasing the Intercontinental Championship won at SummerSlam that year by Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Days before this tilt, the Mountie had shockingly won the belt from Hart at an untelevised live event after Hart apparently entered the match with a reported 140-degree fever – a twist Rougeau would later bitterly dismiss as Hart’s concocted way of refusing to cleanly drop the title to him. President Jack Tunney would then insist the Mountie defend his shiny new strap against Piper at the Royal Rumble.

For some of the questionable opinions painting him as an obnoxious pain in the ass backstage, Rougeau merits consideration alongside Mark Calaway (the Undertaker), Matt Borne (the evil take on Doink the Clown) and Mike Rotunda (wrestling accountant) among astute wrestlers who could also spin an initially moronic gimmick into solid gold. Throw in “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart prattling away at ringside for added heat. Finally, let Piper display a timeless gift for keeping the crowd in the palm of his hand with infectious energy and always-entertaining charm. The resulting match never really lets up and swings just enough times between the two before going home. Need a few minutes between half-hour masterpieces? Look no further.


Timing rarely treated Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s individual championship reigns entirely kindly. His first Intercontinental Championship run unceremoniously concluded with an asterisk-bearing loss to the Mountie during negotiations for a new contract. After regaining the title, the epic Wembley Stadium duel with brother-in-law “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was complicated when the coke-addled Bulldog completely forgot the structure of their match minutes into it and had to be guided through it by Hart, one spot at a time. His initial WWF Championship abruptly terminated with a surprisingly decent WrestleMania IX main event in which he dropped the belt to Yokozuna, Hulk Hogan immediately coming out and squashing Yoko in under a minute and the Immortal Orange Goblin then allegedly reneging on a promise to lose the title to Hart.

Huh. I feel like I’m missing an ugly ending to a championship push somewhere. Oh, well. I’m sure it’ll come to me.

When the Royal Rumble rolled around in 199, Hart was a three-time WWF Champion after winning the title from Diesel in a fantastic match at Survivor Series months earlier. Sadly, Hart’s workhorse run of title defenses was constantly overshadowed by the WWF’s full-throttle babyface push elevating the inimitable Heartbreak Kid toward an inspiring eventual WrestleMania XIV collision with him. With that in mind, you could be forgiven for allowing this tense, down-to-earth stiff struggle to be overshadowed by Michaels winning his second Royal Rumble. Nevertheless, these two never shared a poor match, and this particular highlight stands up appreciably next to their earlier encounter. Say what you will about Kevin Nash being comically injury-prone far from a dazzling mastermind of creativity. When sufficiently motivated, his intimidating presence, sharp psychology that never receives its due appreciation and varying shades of charisma could more than make up for a conspicuous lack of triple-jump moonsaults or unorthodox submission holds.


Whatever your opinion of Dean Ambrose’s more cartoonish shenanigans as a watered-down blend of Terry Funk and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin circa 1996, his wild ride as Intercontinental Champion defending his title against a still-sadistic Kevin Owens doesn’t need great exposition behind it. This is professional wrestling storytelling at its simplest and best:

CHALLENGER: “I want a belt.”

CHAMPION: “I have a belt.”

CHALLENGER: “I want your belt. Give it to me.”

CHAMPION: “You can’t have my belt. It is mine.”

CHALLENGER: “Give me your belt.”

CHAMPION: “Fight me for it.”


What is goddamn difficult to understand about why that works?

Combine two notoriously violent individuals. Let hatred rise to a rolling boil over medium-high heat until a one-fall-to-a-finish match hasn’t a hope in Hell of settling anything conclusively. Realize that no traditional ring will contain their loathing for each other. Accept that the surest means of stemming the tide of violence involves allowing them to simply beat the piss out of themselves until one man cannot reach his feet before a count of 10. There isn’t an era in professional wrestling history when Ambrose and Owens wouldn’t be two walking, talking sacks of money. At their best, both can make a match feel as “real” as any street-corner or barroom throwdown. Zod Almighty, can you imagine these two working under Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler in Memphis? The Von Erichs in Texas? “Cowboy” Bill Watts?

This particular bout absolutely levels one perpetual bullshit claim among wrestling fans who view the Attitude Era as an apex of creativity: with the right commitment, anybody can elevate even a barn-burning melee with no holds barred without blood or outlandishly graphic content. Anyone who cannot manage that should never set foot inside a wrestling ring. Is the match a car-wreck? Yes, in the best possible way. Could you show it to a 12-year-old without a moment’s hesitation after the obligatory “do not ever try this at home” warning? Certainly. Will it prove just as entertaining to a 35-year-old fan who began watching wrestling just after WrestleMania VII, witnessed the entirety of the Monday Night Wars and still contributes to three fan sites today?

Categorically, yes.


Stop. Right now, stop what you’re typing. I realize future editions will force me to repeat this disclaimer, but I’m getting this out of the way right now in hopes you will all prove me wrong.

Nothing anybody has said or ever will say could begin to condone or explain the late Chris Benoit’s actions. He murdered his wife and child. He then hanged himself. Only three people will ever know exactly what happened in those final hours or days, and they are all dead. I refuse to discuss that tragedy here or in any other space dedicated to this column any further than this: few performers in more than a century have exhibited Benoit’s uncanny talent, conditioning or obsession with being the finest professional wrestler on Earth. That is a matter entirely apart from his collapse into such unthinkable acts as the ones that concluded his life. My appreciation for his body of work remains untainted and reserved in a context with which I am unquestioningly comfortable. That is how I always have and will continue to filter my perceptions. If that is enough of a deal-breaker that you won’t resist centering your remarks on your bones of contention with my views, then while I respect your entitlement to your opinion, I strongly recommend you do us both a favor and partake in another commentary.

That being said…

In the nearly two years after his return from career-altering neck surgery, Benoit scraped and rip and tore his way toward WWE Championship contention. When he renewed his fierce rivalry with WWE Champion Kurt Angle at the Royal Rumble in 2003, he was a man with plenty to prove. An untainted world championship had eluded the 18-year length and breadth of his career, from his beginnings in Calgary Stampede Wrestling through his storied tenures in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling and finally his 1999 arrival in the World Wrestling Federation. Meanwhile, Kurt Angle remained the WWE’s closest equivalent to Benoit’s technical brilliance every step of the way, including a three-way classic including Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 2000 and a one-on-one masterpiece at WrestleMania X7.

I would not waste a moment of regret showing this masterclass in straightforward psychology to anyone curious as to what keeps me coming back to a form of entertainment. For these two men, victory meant something else on an equal plain with a championship. This was a proving ground for two men who lived to pour every iota of blood, sweat and tears their bodies could produce onto a canvas for only one reason: to be nothing less than the undisputed best wrestler on the planet. Leading into the match, Benoit held two victories in as many months over Angle. Before that, Angle had gotten the better of Benoit more than once. This match steadily ratchets up the urgency and culminates in five minutes of deft mat wrestling every student of the game today should strive to one day equal. Even Michael Cole and Tazz were in undeniably rare form on commentary. Assuming you share my filter for reflecting on Benoit as a person and performer, you may find yourself sharing in the stunned Boston crowd’s unforgettable standing ovation.


I knew when I began this list that I would end it here.

Yes, Triple H backdropping Cactus Jack through the top of the cage during their blood-drenched Hell in a Cell encounter at No Way Out the next month might find its way into more WWE retrospective packages. However, anybody who tells you this all-out mutual assault isn’t objectively superior may not have even seen it. The two years between 1999 and 2001 should be remembered for all time as the summit of Triple H’s career in terms of match quality. For all the valid criticism levied The Game’s way since the early 1990s, every classic and classically terrible match in wrestling history has involved at least two people. During this stretch, he simply didn’t seem physically capable of delivering a patently “bad” match, whether paired with Tazz, Big Show, Jeff Hardy or The Rock. Meanwhile, Mick Foley was entering the twilight of his own full-time career and looking to…”retire.” First, he wanted one last taste of the WWF Championship and to claim it at the expense of a mortal enemy who had plagued him for years. Both men demonstrated a willingness to brutalize, maim and cripple anyone in their path. However, there was only one WWF Championship.

Mankind would not be depraved enough to inflict the necessary violence. This was no country for Dude Love. Mick Foley himself could not go to the places needed to exact vengeance on the Cerebral Assassin.

On this night, Mrs. Foley’s baby boy chose the nuclear option. He unearthed Cactus Jack.

The psychopath who left blood on multiple continents. He left an ear in Munich. Explosions and barbed wire broke his body in Japan. The parts that came home, the Undertaker nearly obliterated by flinging him first off of and then through a massive roofed cage – after which, he rose to his feet with a smile.

This 30-minute bloodbath is a gore aficionado’s dream come true, but it also happens to be a well-structured narrative of both men’s stakes. Triple H wants Mick Foley out of his life, once and for all. Cactus Jack wants to be the misfit king one last time. Evidently, Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler simply don’t want either man to be carted away on a stretcher. Nothing that year’s 30-man Royal Rumble roster could have done had a fair fight to eclipse this. It isn’t the blood, the props or the violence alone that sets this match apart. It was simply the place where a feud encompassing the most compelling wrestling of the Attitude Era reached its apex. No Royal Rumble marathon is complete without this one.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for coming along on this first journey through the annals of the WWE Network archive. If you have a future list you would like to see, let me know by following me on Twitter @ComerCodex or sound off in the comments below.

I’m Sean. You’re not. Until next time, never dull your colors for someone else’s canvas.

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Greg DeMarco’s Top 5: The Final Opponent For John Cena In WWE

It’s obvious that John Cena is nearing the end of his legendary career, and he’s suggested ending it at WrestleMania 41. Who should be his final opponent?



John Cena Last Match Randy Orton WWE WrestleMania 41

It’s obvious that John Cena is nearing the end of his legendary career, and he’s suggested ending it at WrestleMania 41. Who should be his final opponent?

John Cena recently appeared on the Pat McAfee Show, the Monday after his surprise (but mostly expected) WrestleMania 40 appearance during Cody Rhodes’ win over Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Championship. During that appearance, he confirmed what many expect, that he is nearly done with his in-ring career. But Cena even tossed out the idea of a time-frame, detailing that his acting schedule will likely take him through Christmas, and maybe Hollywood could “pump the brakes” to allow for one final run.

That run could easily begin at the Royal Rumble with a surprise entrance (or entering himself via TV appearances as part of the build), with a tease for his 17th world title win before finally settling in on his final match.

Fantasy booking and storytelling aside, the goal here is the final match–more specifically the final opponent. With a John Cena, you’ve got a ton of options. As such, it’s hard to narrow it down to 5, and one of your favorites is likely missing–be warned!

Greg DeMarco’s Top 5: The Final Opponent For John Cena In WWE

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Miz – A feud with John Cena gave The Mix a WrestleMania 27 main event–and a WrestleMania  main event victory on top of it. Miz has been receiving more love than ever lately, and a match with John Cena would not be misplaced. Maybe he can use their WrestleMania 33 contest (and Cena’s personal aftermath) as fodder for it, too.
  • AJ Styles – The man who once made it popular to “BEAT UP JOHN CENA” is also nearing the end of his run, and could be the one candidate on this list that could realistically give us a double-retirement match. He would also be the guy who retired both The Undertaker and John Cena (and would probably end up being the guy who lost in both).
  • The Rock or Cody Rhodes – Both great options, but you have to figure their dance card for WrestleMania 41 is already full, potentially standing across the ring from one another. Either is an amazing option (including “Thrice In A Lifetime”), but I just don’t think it’s in the cards.
  • Trick Williams – Potentially a surprising addition to the Honorable Mentions, but the comparisons are there in terms of in-ring style/ability, promo skills, and the interplay they had in NXT (remember, it was Cena who is credited with encouraging Trick to not be afraid to go for it himself despite his relationship with Carmelo Hayes).

5. CM Punk

The fifth spot on this list was nearly interchangeable between several of the honorable mention names, but it really came down to Punk and Seth Rollins for me (with a hint of AJ Styles). The 2011 feud between CM Punk and John Cena was legendary, and is a moment that will forever be seen by me as the one that truly cemented CM Punk as a member of the growing list of all-time greats in WWE.

Punk is uniquely qualified for this match as he would make it mean more than a showboat for John Cena’s career and final match. It’s entirely believable that CM Punk would want to put John Cena’s career into the ground, and WWE has the video archive to support it.

Despite being #5, this could actually be a dark-horse for the match we get, and I can’t see anyone reasonably being upset about that.

4. Roman Reigns

John Cena and Roman Reigns have had two separate legendary programs. the first saw Cena, at times, embarrass Roman in promo exchanges in a feud that took place in the “pre-Tribal Chief” era. The second is more fresh and likely more memorable, as John Cena put Roman Reigns over in a football stadium in Las Vegas at SummerSlam (although it might be more remembered for the return of Brock Lesnar).

Reigns, a legend himself at his point (he’s featured alongside Steve Austin at the top of the “Forever” portion of the Then/Now/Forever/Together video that recently debuted) would provide a pairing akin to The Undertaker serving as Shawn Michaels’ retirement opponent at WrestleMania 26 9notice I didn’t say “final opponent). The end of Roman’s 1316 day world title reign has brought about a new appreciation for Reigns, which would further enhance this pairing at WrestleMania 41.

3. Bron Breakker

Bron Breakker is the picture-perfect definition of a juggernaut in WWE, a fast rising star who almost seems like a lock to main event WrestleMania one day (you never know–Seth Rollins JUST got his first WrestleMania main event last weekend). Breakker recently said farewell NXT as the natural in-ring competitor makes a transition to full-time main roster competition.

Breakker also fits the category of who “needs it.” Bring the man to retire John Cena would be quite the feather in the cap of Breakker’s early career, and would give him a moment that would be relived for generations to come. The only question mark is WWE “trusting” Breakker with this moment, as a sudden change of character could mean that Cena’s final match wouldn’t be seen or discussed as much. Breakker, to me, has given no reason for anyone to suspect that might happen, regardless of any controversies his father and uncle have been linked to.

2. R-Truth

Despite being 5-years older than John Cena, and making his in-ring debut in the same year (1999), R-Truth’s childhood hero hanging up the boots will undoubtedly be a hard-hitting moment for the  man who has basically become the WWE Mascot. Truth emulating Cena in his matches, and of course the RawAfterMania moment with Cena, Truth, and The Miz hitting a Fifteen Knuckle Shuffle (thank you, Michael Cole) on The Judgment Day makes this a near can’t miss final match for both John Cena and the WWE Universe.

R-Truth himself is equally deserving of this match, as it would be a reward for all of his years in the ring as part of a career that seems age defying while proving that age is not only a number, but also a number that can be ignored (see Child Hero, John Cena).

While a rematch of their 2011 WWE Capital Punishment main event is an unlikely WrestleMania 41 match-up, it’s one I believe everyone would love to see.

1. Randy Orton

I mean, is there anyone more perfect? John Cena and Randy were inseparably linked for a good portion of their careers, and have shared the ring more times than Big Show has turned babyface/heel. Both are far into legendary status at this point, and Orton specifically is obviously focused on enjoying this stage of his career.

But Orton is still delivering great performances inside the ring, too.

Randy Orton vs John Cena was an exciting proposition many years ago, became a punchline for WWE booking a few years ago, but is now coming full circle as the perfect match-up to end the amazing career of John Cena. It has my vote, and should have yours, too.

Even if R-Truth would be the most fun option.

What say you? Who is the best candidate to stand across the ring from John Cena in his final WWE match, potentially at WrestleMania 41? Who did I leave out?

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Greg DeMarco’s WrestleMania 40 Saturday Results & Review

It’s the Granddaddy Of ‘Em All, WrestleMania! Night 1 of WrestleMania XL and Greg DeMarco has your results and review!



Sami Zayn WrestleMania 40

It’s the Granddaddy Of ‘Em All, WrestleMania! Night 1 of WrestleMania XL and Greg DeMarco has your results and review!

It all comes down to this–at least for the first night! A loaded card in front of a packed house, and I’d expect everyone to deliver one hell of a performance.

Women’s World Championship – Becky Lynch vs. Rhea Ripley (champion)

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Rhea Ripley retains

In my opinion, this match should be the main event of Night 1, but The Rock is back and that was going to take precedence (even if I disagree). Becky won this title shot at the Elimination Chamber, even though they were already building the feud before that event in Perth. Ripley herself main evented that event in a stadium, defeating Nia Jax.

  • It was revealed during her entrance that this is Becky Lynch’s “Flu Game,” as she has temperatures as high as 102 degrees throughout the week.
  • Rhea Ripley enters to a life performance of her entrance theme, which you can tell she dug.
  • Prime logo is center ring, just the black outline with “Prime” in the middle, and it is not at all bothersome. I can’t believe people made such a big deal out of bitching about that.
  • The stage looks dope, not at all “too small” as some had said. The whole environment looks great, honestly.
  • Rhea Ripley has been dealing with a wrist injury. She said on the Pat McAfee Show she didn’t expect to work with the wrist brace on tonight, but there it is.
  • Corey Graves points out that Becky’s training was likely impacted by her illness, and Pat McAfee scoffs at him for stating the obvious. I hope that isn’t what we get all night.
  • Commentary notes that is is 52 degrees and windy in the stadium, and I am reminded of Nick Khan’s comments about moving an outdoor WrestleMania to late April in the future, if they don’t get an indoor building (he did say “2026” when talking about that, which likely means the 2025 venue is indeed set).
  • Rhea’s Prism Trap is a fell of a submission finisher. Add in the body lock the way she did, and it’s even more impressive.
  • I just noticed the “Prime” turnbuckle pads and it’s…weird. I just didn’t expect it and can’t think of the last time we didn’t have the WWE/WWF logo on the buckles outside of Black and Gold NXT. WrestleMania 2?
  • I am also noticing that Dude Wipes seems to have sponsored the ring posts. Kudos to WWE (and the wrestling industry behind them) for being so damn desirable to sponsors!
  • That combo to get into the Riptide was fantastic–and the kickout was even better.
  • During the DisarmHer you can clearly see the commentary position, and Michael Cole is legit reclined all the way back. Love it–Cole is living his best life.
  • Rhea’s Riptide into the buckle before the proper Riptide was pretty sweet as well. Made Becky look insanely strong in defeat.

Winner via pinfall AND STILL your Women’s World Champion: Rhea Ripley

Hell of an opener, and if you didn’t know Becky was sick, you wouldn’t have known. Props to them both. That would have satisfied as a main event, but can now go down as one of the best openers in WrestleMania history.

Ladder Match for the Raw Tag Team Championships and Smackdown Tag Team Championships – DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. Awesome Truth (The Miz & R-Truth) vs. New Catch Republic (Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate) vs. A Town Down Under (Austin Theory & Grayson Waller) vs. The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) vs. The Judgment Day (Finn Balor & Damian Priest, Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions)

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Awesome Truth (Raw titles) and A-Town Down Under (SmackDown)

As many expected, the belts are hanging separately, meaning we are most likely splitting the tag titles here. Triple H and company have put some serious work into building up the tag team divisions of both brands, and even though I expect the two winners to not be actual “teams,” but either way I actually like the way they didn’t make a big deal out of splitting the titles up, they’re just doing it. They have been defended separately since being unified, albeit rarely.

  • R-Truth makes a joke about DIY being DX and that’s now taken off. I love it.
  • The Miz is very under appreciated. Can literally do anything.
  • Someone is struggling with the “Titan Tron” videos tonight.
  • Not gonna lie, I am the biggest Pat McAfee fan, but he’s actually quite annoying right now.
  • Sign of the night: SANTA DESERVED IT.
  • Lots of green in this match, half of the teams wearing their “WrestleMania Green” gear.
  • Also, loving the Consequences Creed gear for Woods.
  • God Bless Finn Balor for taking that Airplane Spin into the ladder.
  • 205 combined years of experience in this match. That’s an average of 17 years (Waller has the least with 7, Balor and Miz are tied for the most with 23).
  • “Dunne Mountain?!?!” Thank you Michael Cole for fixing that.
  • Poor Finn Balor, not he takes the AA to the ladder after John Cena’s Five Moves Of Doom
  • Hilarious.
  • A-Town Down Under gets the SmackDown tag titles!
  • And Grayson gets tossed through a ladder, still holding a title!
  • The match does continue until the Raw tag titles are also retrieved.
  • If Theory also got the Raw tag titles down, I will laugh my ass off.
  • Birminghammer is a fantastic name for a tandem (somewhat) Burning Hammer.
  • Tornado DDT through a table!
  • Air Raid Crash from the ladder!
  • And we still have more tables set-up.
  • JD McDonagh trying to get Finn–who has taken a beating–to get the Raw tag titles.
  • McDonagh through the tables!
  • PERFECTLY placed Razor’s Edge onto that chair.
  • Dude, that ladder is trashed. (And very unsafe.)
  • AA sends Damian outside!
  • I think everyone wants R-Truth to get this. EVERYONE.
  • YES!

Winners via belt retrieval, AND NEW:

  • SmackDown Tag Team Champions – Grayson Waller & Austin Theory
  • Raw Tag Team Champions – R-Truth & The Miz

Really good Ladder Match, but it’s hard to have a bad one. The tag team titles are split and it was really well done. It made perfect sense to do it that way, not make a big deal out of it and just let it happen. I am excited to see both teams win–not because I picked both, but because I think one team (Waller/Theory) have amazing futures and the other (Miz/Truth) will be a lot of fun, even if their run will probably be short lived.

Santos Escobar (with Legado Del Fantasma members Angel, Humberto, & Elektra Lopez) & Dominik Mysterio vs. Rey Mysterio & Andrade (with The LWO members Carlito, Joaquin Wilde, Cruz Del Toro, & Zelina Vega

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Dominik and Santos win, giving Dominik “revenge” for his loss at WrestleMania 39.

Look, this match doesn’t make a lick of sense–Dominik shows up two weeks ago and finds his way into another WrestleMania match with Rey? Definitely shoehorned. But Dominik is outstanding, so if this gets him on the card, I’ll take it.

  • More green in this match, and I am here for it.
  • Innovative Double Cross Body by Rey & Andrade.
  • Dominik showing experience beyond his years, making sure the ref sees his tag with Santos.
  • At this moment, I am wondering who turns–Carlito or Andrade. Gotta assume it’s one of them.
  • Three matches in and I don’t even notice the Primo logo in the center of the ring or on the turnbuckle pads.
  • Santos Escobar trying to unmask Rey Mysterio, as if we don’t all have Google.
  • Corey Graves making a great point about Rey taking some responsibility for the issues in his life, and Michael Cole immediately dismissing it.
  • It’s so hard to do a really good Dragon Screw Leg Whip, and Andrade (along with Dominik and Santos) just pulled off two to perfection.
  • Camera shot of Rey’s cross body shows the heaters above the ring. Good–keep ’em warm!
  • This could have easily been an 8-man tag team match. Maybe we get that Monday on Raw (which can also be where the turn happens, making my prediction here likely wrong).
  • Joaquin Wilde gets to do his NXT spot at WrestleMania, and that’s probably more important than officially being in the match.
  • Two masked men–definitely the Kelce Brothers–are here.
  • My bad, it was Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. Good call, honestly. Great pop for them, too.
  • Looking at the reply, Dominik sold that ringpost spot like a champ.

Winners via pinfall (Rey on Santos): Rey Mysterio & Andrade

Fun tag team match that served its purpose. Needed? Maybe not, as I really wanted to get Liv Morgan vs. Nia Jax onto this card. But when you can get Rey & Dominik on the card, everyone will be happy. and of course the Jason Kelce & Lane Johnson appearances.

Brother vs Brother: Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Jimmy Uso follows in the footsteps of Owen Hart and Matt Hardy and beats the “more talented brother.”

They’ve wanted this match all their lives–and the preview video was insane. Very well done.

  • Jey in the WrestleMania whites tonight.
  • And we get a hot start to the match!
  • “Big Brother Jimmy” is always a fun thing to hear.
  • More Dude Wipes sponsorship on this one–you have to wonder if having Dude Wipes on the posts for the opener was in error.
  • Superkicks. Lots of Superkicks.
  • Very enjoyable YEET/NO chants from the crowd.
  • Jey just kicking the hell out of Jimmy, including a Jumping Super Kick.
  • This has “Fight Without Honor” feels from old school ROH, where the winners have respect after. We will definitely see these guys together again.
  • Jimmy apologizing to Jey. Crowd is not buying it.
  • Of course it was BS, and Jimmy gains the advantage.

Winner, via pinfall: Jey Uso

Jey breaks the babyface curse by beating his heel brother. Thought we might get an embrace between them, instead we faded out. A good match that was more about the story than the in-ring action. I can see some feeling like this hasn’t “lived up to expectations” because of the high expectations you’d have for an Usos match. Their best work will always be as a team, but I know this is a lifelong dream come true for both.

As for all the Superkicks, I mean….it’s an Usos match.

Six-Woman Tag Team Match – Damage CTRL (Dakota Kai, Asuka, & Kairi Sane) vs. Naomi, Bianca Belair, & Jade Cargill

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Bianca, Naomi, & Jade win when Jade scores the pin (probably on Kairi, who always seems to eat the fall)

This match is all about getting Bianca Belair on the card (she had to be), and Jade Cargill’s debut. It also got Damage CTRL on the card, which they truly deserve–even if it is to lose.

  • Respectfully, Dakota Kai. (Good thing the ring and surrounding area is heated)
  • Not gonna lie, Jade looks nervous. But this is a six-woman tag, and her portion is likely highly choreographed. Gonna be all good.
  • As I watch and enjoy the match (but am not typing much lol), this seems like a match where we’re all just waiting for Jade to come in and win.
  • No one has told Jade about the tag ropes yet, apparently.
  • And now Jade is in, and Damage CTRL makes her look like a million bucks.
  • Dakota Kai nicely gets herself into position for the finish, and Jade gets her WrestleMania win.

Winners via pinfall (Jade on Dakota): Jade Cargill, Naomi, & Bianca Belair

We knew what this one was about going into it, and that’s what it should have been. Jade still ain’t ready. I know it might be an “ego hit” for her to go to NXT, but she needs it. If Giulia can go to NXT, so can Jade.

Intercontinental Championship – Sami Zayn vs. GUNTHER (champion)

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Sami Zayn pulls off the major upset and is the one to dethrone Gunther

Gunther has had a stranglehold on the Intercontinental Championship, defending it like crazy in 2023 but slowing that down here in 2024. It’s not fair to say he’s outgrown the title, but that might actually be the case. It’ll be really interesting to see what happens with Imperium leading up to the draft, and at the WWE Draft itself.

  • Sami Zayn was the perfect wrestler to have their journey form backstage to the ring followed by the cameras. From his family to Chad Gable to Kevin Owens, it was all so perfect–maybe too perfect? (Not in that someone will screw him, but in that it might be too heavily foreshadowing his win?)
  • Gunther looked oddly nervous standing on that stage.
  • You know, the Intercontinental Championship is basically a third world title at this point. And we could see the end of a legendary reign. I think this deserved the Samantha Irvin In-Ring Introductions (aka “Japan Style”) treatment.
  • Gunther is smiling confidently now, we’re good.
  • Crowd is ON FIRE for these guys (and evenly split with their chants for each guy).
  • This is the 21st time the Intercontinental championship is defended at WrestleMania, and it makes you wonder what in the hell they were thinking for the other 11.
  • Looks like Dude Wipes is back on the ringpost!
  • Hell of a nearfall, followed up by a Helluva Kick from Gunthcr, and one from Sami!
  • That finish….AMAZING.

Winner via pinfall, AND NEW Intercontinental Champion: Sami Zayn

The athletes… the moments… the storytelling… professional wrestling is such a beautiful business. Sami Zayn’s win over Gunther was everything I had hoped it would be when I picked Sami to win. Absolutely beautiful.

Cody Rhodes & World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins vs. The Rock & Undisputed WWE Champion Roman Reigns

Greg’s pre-show prediction: Seth & Cody get the win after tons of interference and surprise appearances, making Roman vs Cody on Sunday a match where The Bloodline is banned from ringside.

So much involved in this one. As you know, If Rock & Roman win, Sunday’s WWE Championship match will be held under Bloodline Roles. If Seth & Cody win, then that mach will see ZERO Bloodline involvement. Personally, if Cody is winning the title, I’d rather it be straight up. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I am wrong.

  • Honestly, after the introductions, I realized I was just watching!
  • This was very much Steve Austin vs The Rock inspired, with them fighting all over the stadium, and pushing the envelope.
  • I loved The Rock basically neutering the referee–normally I hate that, but here it works.
  • That finish and the condition of Rollins both lay perfectly into night 2, I would imagine.

Winners via Rock pinfall on Rhodes: The Rock & Roman Reigns

Per rule, Sunday’s main event will now be Bloodline Rules. And given that, my prediction of Roman retaining might be harder to pull off. This was a good return for The Rock, and perfectly played into the whole story. Job well done.

Greg DeMarco’s Overall Thoughts for WWE WrestleMania XL, Saturday (Night 1)

in a vacuum, this was  highly enjoyable show. Night 2 might end up being legendary if both Bayley and Rhodes win, and it could overshadow Night 1. But the scene was fantastic, production was top notch as always, and the fans went home having enjoyed one for the ages. The Triple H Era s well underway, and will likely kick into a higher gear with Night 2.

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