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Cook’s Top 5: 2004 Wrestling Memories

Steve Cook continues his journey by stopping in 2004–an impactful year for wrestling, but more importantly an impactful year for Steve Cook.



Chris Benoit Eddie Guerrero WWE WrestleMania XX 2004

Steve Cook continues his journey by stopping in 2004–an impactful year for wrestling, but more importantly an impactful year for Steve Cook.

Looking back on it now, 2004 wasn’t quite the monumental year in pro wrestling that we thought it might be at the time. Some major events went down. Some were lasting. Others weren’t as lasting as we thought. It was an eventful year though, and there was quite a bit going on in your humble correspondent’s life too. 2004 is a large part of why you’re reading this right now.

This is a long one, so let’s continue my Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration with a look at 2004.

5. TNA makes an Impact still being felt today

TNA had spent the first two years of their existence almost exclusively on weekly PPV television. They also had a syndicated show called Xplosion, but its availability was quite limited. Weekly PPV was a fun concept, but TNA needed something more in order to grow their brand. They needed a real television deal. They got one…kinda.

TNA Impact made its debut on Fox Sports Net on June 4, 2004. It aired at 3 PM on Friday afternoon, not exactly a time slot ideal for drawing a large audience. It was what they could get though, and they could get viewers like me that didn’t have anything else going on at 3 PM on a Friday. I enjoyed the show. Monty Brown squashes were always great entertainment, and it gave me the chance to see folks like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and America’s Most Wanted on a weekly basis. I always need a new wrestling show to come along every few years to keep me interested in the industry, and Impact did that for me for a good bit of the 2000s.

I never would have guessed the show would still be airing in 2020. 5 cable channels and a whole bunch of time slot & day changes later. There’s at least one other thing I was doing in 2004 that I never thought would still be going on in 2020…

4. Me write? That’s unpossible!

I mentioned joining 411’s Fan Forum in 2003, which led to all sorts of things happening in 2004 & years afterward. One involved a 411 spin-off forum with a character that pops up again later in this article, the Voodoo Penguin. Known as The Wrestling Talks Franchise, it also involved the late, great Larry Csonka and other folks that had designs on being famous Internet wrestling writers.

One was Dave Schilling, who actually went on to websites that people outside of the wrestling bubble know about. I don’t think he liked me all that much, my being a white boy from Kentucky, but one week in early 2004 he asked me if I wanted to fill in for his wrestling news column on TWTF’s main page. I agreed, largely because I wanted to help Penguin’s site and it seemed like fun. I didn’t think I would be any good at it, and, frankly, after digging up a couple of my news columns from 2004…I WASN’T ANY GOOD AT IT.

I know every writer hates their old stuff. But I’m telling you, the stuff I found from early in my Internet wrestling writing career…that stuff can never see the light of day again. I was in a pretty depressed mood through most of 2004, which is pretty obvious in every single article I found. And if we’re being honest, that cloud’s only lifted occasionally since. I’ve just gotten a lot better at hiding it.

For whatever reason, some people wanted to read it. My writing was more popular than Dave’s at that site, which is the last time that ever happened. So I started doing the weekly news column thing. Then Larry became a bigger deal on 411mania’s main site & his Impact recaps had to be exclusive to them. Since I was actually able to watch the show, I could recap it for TWTF. Which eventually became me recapping it for 411 after the 411/Inside Pulse split, which I still think is Greg DeMarco’s favorite thing for me to talk about.

I was in the right place at the right time. 411 needed warm bodies, and whether I was ready for the gig or not, August 14, 2004 was my moment. I guess it went well enough, since I’ve been writing there for most of the past sixteen years.

Man, I’m freaking old.

We’ll get to other writing happenings in later years I’m sure. And some we won’t cover because I don’t want to make myself look too bad. Gotta protect the image, yo. I do still wonder if the ol’ career peaked about three weeks after starting on 411 when I got an e-mail from a TNA Knockout. I wouldn’t say it’s been all downhill from there, but it did get my hopes up way too much for my writing future.

3. The WrestleMania Ending That Never Happened

Back when it happened, it was going to be one of those moments that hardcore wrestling fans looked back to with joy forever. Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero had been favorites of the Internet before I started reading columns. WCW was blamed for holding them back. WWE was blamed for being too slow to push them to the top. When they finally got there, fans couldn’t be happier. The ending of WrestleMania XX reminded a lot of us why we watch this stuff. Two guys that worked hard to get to the top, having classic matches wherever they went, finally being recognized by WWE & pushed the way they should have been.

As Larry Csonka & I discussed in a podcast on WM XX, the Raw the night after, & Backlash 2004, you can’t look at it the same way now. We’ll discuss reasons why more here in the next couple of weeks. At the time, Benoit & Guerrero celebrating in the confetti at the end of a WrestleMania in Madison Square Garden was such a feel good moment. It doesn’t make me feel the same way now, but it’s still a moment I won’t forget.

2. A Raw Road Trip

Some things you can only do when you’re young. Today, even if there wasn’t a pandemic going on, I wouldn’t be able to just pick up & drive five hours to an odd land I’ve never been in before to meet up with somebody from the Internet. Not even if it involved Tinder!

Those of you more than a little familiar with my work know about the Voodoo Penguin, my favorite living podcast partner & Internet BFF. (Jeremy Lambert doesn’t read my stuff, so I don’t have to worry about hurting his feelings.) We first crossed paths on the 411 Fan Forum in 2003, took part in some 411 spin-off sites, and somehow I thought it was a good idea to drive down to Cape Girardeau & watch some wrestling with the Penguin. As it turned out, the Penguin wasn’t a creepy sexual predator and the visit went well. We went to a Raw house show on a Saturday night, I was able to find the card on the History of WWE site.

WWE (Raw) @ Cape Girardeau, MO – Show Me Center – March 27, 2004 (3,400)
Jonathan Coachman was the guest ring announcer for the event
Tajiri pinned Matt Hardy by holding onto the ropes for leverage as Hardy attempted a sunset flip into the ring (Tajiri’s debut on the Raw brand)
Garrison Cade pinned Eugene (Nick Dinsmore) with an elbow drop off the top

Cade vs. Eugene is memorable for one reason: Eugene was a new character we hadn’t seen before. I told Penguin that he kinda looked like a fat, dishevled Nick Dinsmore from OVW. Turns out that’s exactly who it was: a fat, disheveled Nick Dinsmore from OVW. I was not expecting “Eugene” to be Dinsmore’s WWE gimmick, but that was a thing that happened in 2004.

Chuck Palumbo pinned Rob Conway with a fall away slam (Palumbo’s debut on the Raw brand)
Shelton Benjamin pinned Horshu with the superkick (Benjamin’s debut on the Raw brand)
Kane pinned Rhyno with the chokeslam

We felt kind of bad for Rhyno’s defeat, as we broke out into a GORE chant just before Rhyno started sizing the Big Red Machine up. He looked over and nodded, then ran right into a chokeslam. And that’s why I’m not a wrestling manager.

WWE Women’s Champion Victoria & Nidia defeated Molly Holly & Jazz when Victoria pinned Molly with the Widow’s Peak after pulling off her wig (Nidia’s debut on the Raw brand)
Batista pinned the Hurricane with the sit-down powerbomb
Christian pinned Chris Jericho with a roll up after Jericho became distracted by Trish Stratus
World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit defeated Triple H via submission with the Crippler Crossface after avoiding the Pedigree, despite interference from Batista

Penguin likes to point out that we were the only people in the arena cheering against Chris Benoit on this evening. Hey, I always root for a world title change when I’m in the building. That means that history has been made! I also bought an inflatable Triple H sledgehammer because…well, I’m not really sure why, to be honest. Penguin bought a Chris Jericho bobblehead that he got signed by Jonathan Coachman in the parking lot. Coach was amazed that the Penguin had his own bobblehead.

It was an eventful evening, but my weekend of wrestling wasn’t over. I schlepped my way back to Louisville on Sunday, then went up to Cincinnati for Raw with my real life BFF. I remember even less about this show, as I was pretty well burnt out at this point. Here’s what happened:

WWE @ Cincinnati, OH – US Bank Arena – March 29, 2004
Sunday Night Heat:
Garrison Cade pinned Rosey at 5:29 with a flying elbowsmash
Rob Conway & Sylvian Grenier defeated Bret Albright & Mike Mondo at 4:54 when Grenier pinned Mondo with a spinning spike DDT
Val Venis defeated Steven Richards via submission with the figure-4 at 8:49
Raw – included an opening segment in which Randy Orton accepted a challenge from Mick Foley to face him at Backlash in a streetfight for the IC title; featured Eric Bischoff adding Triple H to the HBK vs. Chris Benoit main event at Backlash; included Trish Stratus as a guest of the Highlight Reel in which she was verbally harassed by Chris Jericho:
Nidia pinned Molly Holly at 2:50 with a roll up as Molly attempted to get her wig back from the referee after it was taken off by her opponent
Rhyno pinned Lance Storm with the Gore at the 35-second mark
WWE Raw Tag Team Champions Ric Flair & Batista defeated World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit & Shawn Michaels via disqualification at 16:10 when guest referee Johnny Nitro called for the bell after being struck by Michaels, the result of him giving Michaels a fast 2-count; the challengers originally won the bout and championship at 14:33 when Michaels pinned Flair with the superkick however the match continued due to Flair being the illegal man in the ring; after the bout, Nitro was locked in Benoit’s Crippler Crossface

Speaking of rooting for title changes, I remember this being a really good match. The false finish was a pretty good one, but the chances of it holding up weren’t great.

Tajiri defeated Kane via count-out in a No DQ match at 1:44 after spraying green mist into his opponent’s eyes as Kane attempted to reenter the ring; after the bout, Kane hit the chokeslam on Tajiri before Edge made the save and hit the spear
Shelton Benjamin pinned Triple H (w/ Ric Flair) with a splash in the corner and roll up at 19:52 after Triple H became distracted by a confrontation between Chris Benoit and Flair at ringside; Benoit came ringside to watch Flair mid-way through the bout

The Shelton vs. Triple H match was easily the highlight of the show. I always thought Benjamin had the potential to be a top guy if he could get the charisma part together. He certainly had it in the ring, but never quite got to that next level. He’s still working today, and is actually getting a push in WWE now. Good for him.

I took a couple of months off from live wrestling before going back into the fray…

1. Some Bad Blood

This time, it was Columbus. Or Flavortown, as I like to call it. I had yet to attend a pay per view event, and I had never seen a Hell in a Cell match live. I got to kill two birds with one stone at this event. Shawn Michaels & Triple H were going to enter the Cell in order to end their longstanding riva-ok, I can’t even say that with a straight face. To be fair, they have been friends again on-screen for like fourteen years now. I was pretty hyped up about it, along with two Chris Benoit matches,

Bad Blood (Raw) – Columbus, OH – Nationwide Arena – June 13, 2004 (9,000; 7,500 paid)
Sunday Night Heat – featured Lillian Garcia conducting a backstage interview with WWE Raw Tag Team Champions Sylvian Grenier & Rob Conway regarding their title defense later in the show; included Garcia conducting a backstage interview with Trish Stratus and Tyson Tomko about their matches later in the night:
Batista pinned Maven with the sit-down powerbomb at 3:44 after clubbing Maven in the face as he came off the top (Bad Blood 04)

Batista was always an impressive looking individual. You could tell he was going to be a big deal, even when he was relegated to destroying Maven before the PPV started.

Pay-per-view bouts – featured Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler on commentary; included a backstage segment with Eric Bischoff and Jonathan Coachman about Coachman’s match later in the night against Eugene; after Coachman walked off, Bischoff spoke with Eugene after he found him overhearing their conversation and tried to talk him out of wrestling but Eugene said no; featured a backstage segment with Matt Hardy and Lita in which Bischoff arrived with security to remove Hardy from the arena so he wouldn’t interfere in the Benoit vs. Kane match; Hardy eventually agreed to leave when Bischoff threatened to take Lita out of the women’s title match:
World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit & Edge defeated WWE Raw Tag Team Champions Rob Conway & Sylvian Grenier via disqualification at 10:14 when Kane interfered as Grenier was caught in the Crippler Crossface, kicked Benoit in the face, kicked Edge in the face, hit the chokeslam on both challengers, and then threw Benoit into the ring steps
Chris Jericho pinned Tyson Tomko (w/ Trish Stratus) at 6:06 with a running enzuiguri after Tomko collided with Trish on the ring apron
WWE IC Champion Randy Orton pinned Shelton Benjamin at 15:05 by grabbing the tights for leverage after the momentum of a crossbody off the top by the challenger put Orton on top for the win; late in the bout, Benjamin easily fought off Orton and an interfering Ric Flair, who appeared ringside early in the match; the bout was to have taken place later in the card but following an impromptu in-ring promo from Orton, responding to boos he received during a backstage promo, Benjamin came out as Orton attempted to leave and forced him to have the match then

I remember being pretty excited for this match since Orton & Benjamin were two of the young up & comers at the time. It lived up to the hype.

Trish Stratus (w/ Tyson Tomko) defeated Lita, Gail Kim, and WWE Women’s Champion Victoria to win the title at 4:44 by pinning Lita with a roll up immediately after Lita hit the DDT on Kim and made the cover
Eugene pinned Jonathan Coachman with the Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow at 7:39 after Coachman collided with an interfering Garrison Cade on the ring apron, who appeared late in the bout; mid-way through the match, Coachman had a woman in a bikini bring a plate of cookies to ringside to distract Eugene; after the bout, Eugene hit the Stunner on both Cade and Coachman; William Regal was barred from ringside for the duration of the bout but led Eugene ringside before the match and returned to celebrate with him afterwards

This reminds me of an interesting subplot to this whole show. Around this time I was involved in one of those “Internet relationship” things with someone I had met via the 411 forum. They lived in the Columbus area, and were nice enough to invite me to this event. The hitch in that plan, of course, was that my real life BFF I mentioned earlier was interested in going too, and he was interested in getting some really good seats. Third row ringside.

So I could go with him and sit closer than I had for any wrestling event before, or I could meet up with this woman I’d never actually met before and sit up in the cheap seats. I certainly had no interest in explaining that situation to my real life BFF, because back in 2004 everybody thought that meeting people online was weird. Of course, nowadays it’s the only way to meet people.

Should I have blown my friend off for the girl? Nah. There’s the old saying of “bros before internet girlfriends”, and the seats were really good. Also, I did end up meeting her in the concourse at the show, and let’s just say that no love connection was made. Worked out well for her anyway. After we split she ended up marrying the next guy she dated. I had a pretty good streak of that happening for awhile. If any of you ladies are looking for a man, date me and then you’ll find one!

Why in the world did I get off on this tangent? Oh yeah, because for some reason she was absolutely crazy about the Eugene character. It was a thing in 2004. I didn’t get it, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was out of her mind. At least not on that topic of conversation.

World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit pinned Kane with an Oklahoma side roll at 18:14 after Kane fought out of the Crippler Crossface; moments later, Todd Grisham conducted a backstage interview with Benoit on his victory and Kane surviving the Sharpshooter and Crossface

I remember the post-match interview being interesting. Had that real sports kind of feel with Benoit breaking down his moves. Not sure why they didn’t do that more often afterwards.

Triple H pinned Shawn Michaels in a Hell in a Cell match at 47:25 after hitting the Pedigree three times within the final minutes of the match; after the match, WWE IC Champion Randy Orton, Ric Flair, and Batista appeared, rolled the bloody Triple H out of the ring, and helped him backstage; after Evolution left ringside, referee Mike Chioda helped Michaels to his feet to end the broadcast (Hell in a Cell)

Two main problems with this match:

1. They did way too much
2. They took so long that “way too much” wasn’t really enough.

I mean…47:25? What on Earth were they thinking? The crowd was into it pretty good at first, but after awhile you could just feel the energy exiting most of the arena. I was pretty into the match, but I was in the third row ringside. It’s a different feeling when you’re within spitting distance of the Cell than when you’re sitting up in the rafters. And when you’re sitting at home…well, once I watched the match on DVD I understood why people online absolutely hated it.

At the time? I was content. It was a good night at the matches and I got a Bad Blood chair out of the deal. Is there a better souvenir from a show than a chair? I think not.

Thanks for reading an eventful year for me! Come back next time when we take a look at 2005!

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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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