Bianca Belair captured Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 37’s Night 1 main event on Saturday and won the SmackDown Women’s Championship in an instant classic. Both women showed career-defining achievements, with Belair definitely positioning itself in the top group of WWE Superstars.
On a night when Bobby Lashley and Cesaro also scored victories that could completely change the course of their careers, and Bad Bunny raised the bar for celebrity appearances to an incredibly high level, Belair and Banks set off a night of WrestleMania action, which has been surpassed on many fronts. Perhaps most importantly, it happened in front of the WWE’s first live stadium crowd in over a year at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
When the first bell rang, it felt as big as any major WrestleMania event that had preceded it. Duel chants for both women could be heard throughout the stadium. The match started with thrusts, moves, and countermovements, but the roles were clear from the start: Banks was the established, albeit legitimate, champion defending her territory, and Belair was the meteorically fast-rising star with raw vigor that broke through all smarter Banks’ move turned them on.
Every move brought the emotionally charged match to a new level. Banks was linked to an outward suicide dive, but Belair rolled back with Banks in his grip, hugged Banks over the head, went up the stairs, and tossed Banks back into the ring over the top rope.
In search of her own offense, Banks grabbed Belair’s long ponytail and used it on Belair to increase the potency of her running knee, followed by several significant blows. But Belair, who was never down long in the fast-paced, energetic showdown, had a counter for Banks plan.
Belair again showed off her brute strength with a blocking vertical suplex in which she bounced Banks twice off the top rope and dipped her knees twice before finally bringing Banks to the ground.
While Banks consistently had a high proportion of high-flying crime, Belair dug deep into her own arsenal and kicked off before throwing herself into a standing shooting star press.
This high-flying crime turned against Belair when an attempt to get a 450 splash from the top rope was thwarted when Banks lifted her knees. But Belair ripped Banks out of the air, folded Banks with a power bomb, then added a second before piling Banks for a pinfall. But as has been the case throughout the game, Banks pulled a counter out of nowhere when Belair tried a third power bomb and somehow turned it into its own facebuster.
Banks paired with Belair in the corner in a large running boot, followed by a tornado DDT, but Belair stepped out at two. After a mess, head scissors prepared Banks for their statement finisher. Banks first brought Belair’s braid into play and choked Belair with it, but eventually locked Belair on a proper bank statement.
Even when Belair was in danger, the movement and dynamics continued to shift from moment to moment. Banks tried to roll back to the center of the ring to hold the template in place, but Belair rolled both of them back to the bottom rope.
Belair sent Banks to the corner and ran her shoulder several times in the middle of Banks. She climbed to the top rope, but Banks pushed her down. Belair was caught on the top rope, but avoided two typical Banks movements from this position – a flying double tamper off the top rope and then double knees towards the corner.
Belair successfully landed the 450, but Banks resigned at the last possible moment. Banks flipped out of Belair’s finisher, the KOD, and Banks grabbed Belair’s braid one last time. Belair dug into her bag of tricks from her past, using her braid as a whip to send a sickening crack through the Tampa night that clearly marked Banks’ midsection.
One final mess had made the crowd nervous when Banks decided to use the backstabber to do the Banks settlement just so Belair could go nuts, hit the KOD, and pick up the 1-2-3.
– WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021
What’s next: Belair’s win is a chance for a complete reset of the women’s sections on Raw and SmackDown. Preparation for this great match has been jerky and chaotic, and the women of WWE deserve better storytelling to match the quality of the in-ring performance shown. If Becky Lynch is back soon, there will be more than enough talent in both shows to tell separate stories for the women’s singles and tag team titles. This is the bare minimum of what should be done in the future.
If there was any doubt about Bank’s status as one of the best in-ring performers in WWE – period, no qualifications – it should be after Saturday night. Again, have Banks and Belair entangled with reasonable build for the immediate future.
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) def. Drew McIntyre
For those expecting a feel-good moment to start WrestleMania 37, they did it – but only to a certain extent. Even after a weather delay of more than 30 minutes in Tampa, the response to Drew McIntyre’s entry – the first in WWE to hold in front of a stadium-packed crowd since March 2020 – was electrifying.
But Bobby Lashley made this a fleeting moment and scored a surprisingly clean and decisive victory over McIntyre, the former WWE Champion, in the opening bout of the night.
Lashley and McIntyre each fired their opening salvo, only for their opponent to reappear, stabbed but not injured. Lashley largely suppressed McIntyre and held fast to the momentum until McIntyre was able to return to the match after a crash landing in the ring post.
The exchange of strokes and swing moved back and forth, and McIntyre briefly took control with suplexes and throws. But Lashley landed the first big move with a Dominator, even though it only resulted in a two count against McIntyre.
McIntyre got his first two count with a reverse Alabama slam that knocked Lashley face first onto the mat.
A clash and superplex attempt by McIntyre on the top rope turned into a Kimura lock for McIntyre as both men sat on the top turnbuckle. McIntyre eventually showed up to throw Lashley across the ring, but Lashley thwarted a claymore’s first real attempt with a pop-up spinebuster.
McIntyre took his first real advantage with a belly-to-belly overhead suplex, followed immediately by three consecutive Future Shock DDTs. Lashley stepped out at two and when Lashley went outside to take a breather, McIntyre dived over the top rope and immediately got Lashley and MVP out.
What’s left of The Hurt Business has two for one sale. #WrestleMania
– WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) April 11, 2021
A double hammer fist off McIntyre’s top rope missed when Lashley threw McIntyre with a creative suplex and a flatliner immediately followed him. Lashley put the hurt lock on, but McIntyre didn’t let Lashley lock his fingers. McIntyre headed for the corner to smash Lashley’s head on the center turnbuckle and break the handle.
A spinebuster from Lashley was countered by McIntyre for a punch and a deep Kimura attempt, but Lashley eventually got the ropes. A big shoe and signature McIntyre headbutt seemed to set the stage for a claymore and a triumphant win, but it wasn’t meant to be.
McIntyre managed to get distracted by MVP for a split second, and that delayed his Claymore attempt just long enough for Lashley to thwart it. Lashley then closed the hurt lock completely, bringing McIntyre to the ground with it. McIntyre rolled his feet with the center turnbuckle, but Lashley refused to let go and brought it back to the ground.
McIntyre didn’t guess and when the referee looked closely, McIntyre passed out and lost the match by submission.
What’s next: This is hands down the greatest win of Lashley’s WWE career. It prepares him for a great summer regardless of his opponent. The distraction could give McIntyre cause and inspiration to watch a rematch, or he could start over and find himself to rebuild. The most likely scenario is likely to be a heavily built rematch at SummerSlam in August.
Raw Tag Team Championships: AJ Styles & Omos def. The new day (c)
The 7-foot-3 Omos debut was built as a major event, and his debut in the ring at WrestleMania did not disappoint in terms of build or execution.
Omos and AJ Styles won The New Day Raw Tag Team Championships because Omos was supposed to look like he was the unstoppable giant he has portrayed so far.
New Day dominated Styles early on with many of their signature offenses, and Woods even got cocky playing a trumpet in the middle of the game. With the way the match was being prepared, the beloved New Day took on some heelic moves and tendencies in a strange twist, albeit in a playful way. They cut off the ring and did everything possible to keep Omos out of the ring.
For his part, Styles fully took on the role of the dejected outsider, taking in every element of the new day’s crime imaginable. But when Styles pulled Kingston out of the match for a moment while Woods was frozen on the top rope, Styles finally got the day for Omos. From that moment on it was pure destruction.
None of Woods’ offenses made any difference. Omos effortlessly turned the arm of former world champion Kingston. Omos splashed Woods in the corner and then Kingston in the opposite corner. With a big smile on his face, he hit Woods with a backbreaker and then set a claw on Woods face. Another backbreaker landed on Kingston with a disgusting bang.
When Woods started showing signs of life, Styles slapped a phenomenal forearm off Omos’ shoulders to take Woods out of the match.
Omos slowly brought Kingston up and then hit a releasing power bomb. In a final moment of sheer domination and disrespect, Omos Kingston got one foot stuck standing up as he and Styles won the Raw Tag Team Championships.
What’s next: Nobody is going to beat Styles or Omos anytime soon. They will rule the division for as long as they want. Kingston and Woods could be fighting for the titles again soon, but it might be a good moment to re-examine the possibility of a solo effort.
Bad Bunny & Damian Priest def. The Miz & John Morrison
There is a long history of celebrity involvement with WrestleMania, but only a handful of examples of these big names from outside the WWE world actually taking part in the match.
Grammy-winning musician Bad Bunny entered the world of WWE a few months ago with limited physicality in the ring. But his performance in his tag team match with Damian Priest versus The Miz and John Morrison is likely to go down as one of the most formidable shows of a celebrity in the ring.
Bad Bunny spent most of the game in the ring, taking constant damage to both Miz and Morrison while trying desperately to get Priest into the game. But along the way, Bad Bunny showed how much work he put into learning wrestling at the WWE Performance Center, from a solid double leg and floor and pound to a deep arm drag to a drop toehold.
Bad Bunny even had counters for many of the moves Miz and Morrison had to offer. The match reached another level when Bunny pulled out a Lucha Libre staple on Miz with spinning head scissors and made several turns before turning Miz over.
But even when Miz and Morrison regained control and got cocky – Morrison even offered a spin-a-roonie to mock Booker T, the main subject of a Bad Bunny song that was commented on – Bad Bunny never looked too far wrong on the place. A spinning tornado DDT from the top rope finally gave Bad Bunny enough space to get the hot day on Priest.
But even when Priest balanced the score and got support and enthusiasm from the Bad Bunny fans in the crowd, Bad Bunny wasn’t finished. The teammates simultaneously beat Bell Claps and Falcon Arrows on Miz and Morrison. Bunny helped Priest jump up, and then Bunny jumped out from the top rope and splashed Miz and Morrison.
– WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021
Priest apparently won the line, but his attempt to settle Miz was countered to a final with skull destruction. But Bad Bunny stopped the count at the last possible moment.
Morrison grabbed Bad Bunny from his apron and then, in the game’s most breathtaking moment, Bad Bunny hit a Canadian destroyer who threw a stake driver at Morrison on the outside. Priest put Miz on his shoulders and Bad Bunny jumped off the top rope and hit a cross-body to ensure victory for his team.
What’s next: Bad Bunny may be through with WWE after Saturday night, but he would certainly be welcomed with open arms again anytime after his performance. If WWE can find the right moment, it would be stupid not to bring it back. Priest looked great and got a great showcase in his first WrestleMania match too.
Miz and Morrison were far from Miz winning the WWE Championship a few weeks ago, but they perfectly fulfilled their roles in that match. The tag team department needs to be reshuffled, and maybe a fresh start at SmackDown could help.
Cesaro def. Seth Rollins
A promo aired between Seth Rollins’ entrance and Cesaro’s entrance indicating that Cesaro had been with WWE for 10 years and had not yet had a singles WrestleMania match. It was supposed to make Rollins look like an idiot, but it didn’t make the statement any less true.
But on Saturday night, Cesaro – widely recognized as one of the most talented technical performers of his generation – took full advantage of his chance against Rollins and not only showed a performance that stole the night, but also scored the biggest win of his career.
Cesaro-Rollins was everything from the opening bell. A stepping stone uppercut from Cesaro was quickly offset by a Buckle Bomb from Rollins. When Cesaro seemed to orient himself and climbed to the top turnbuckle, Rollins jumped like a cat from the floor to the top rope to meet Cesaro there. He linked up with his Superplex-Falcon Arrow combo which earned him two points.
Cesaro and Rollins tried to move, countering each other at a dizzying pace, and then the Rollins nightmare scenario began. Cesaro only made nine turns before his arm gave way. A quick sniper attempt was unsuccessful when Rollins quickly got on the ropes.
Rollins slipped out of a neutralization attempt, and when Cesaro flew an uppercut at Rollins in the corner, he missed and went arm first into the corner. Rollins attacked with a diving board, flying knee and slingblade, shocking the crowd with a twisted corkscrew splash, which only resulted in a two count against Cesaro.
In another dizzying sequence, Cesaro tore Rollins out of the air and landed a lightning neutralizer, although his last move didn’t quite end the night for Rollins. He turned Rollins around and used the top rope as a jump post, but Rollins turned into a pedigree and another two count.
Rollins got cocky. The four-time world champion, who maintained his superiority while preparing this game, boasted: “Survived the neutralizer. Survived the swing. I am a god!”
Rollins quickly connected himself to the back of Cesaro’s head with a swinging forearm, and while missing his signature kick, Rollins stopped his swing and hit a scorpion kick on a kneeling Cesaro.
– WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021
Rollins took another kick, but Cesaro, with no angles and no space, countered him with a huge European uppercut. Cesaro then cracked a deep cut, a UFO – his rotating torture rack in which he used no hands. That was converted into a standard Cesaro swing with a record 23 revolutions. A second neutralizer gave Cesaro the victory, to the delight of a crowd who had seen two vicious victories up to that point in the night.
What’s next: Cesaro briefly teased a conflict with Roman Reigns in the months leading up to WrestleMania, but he could benefit from another big win in the meantime – and perhaps a move to Raw. As for Rollins, that loss is just a minor flaw on the radar, and the combined performance between the two men can only benefit both of them. If Big E holds up, Rollins-Big E could be a sneaky good program.
Steel cage match: Braun Strowman def. Shane McMahon
The expectations for the cage game between Braun Strowman and Shane McMahon were simple. Strowman would destroy things, including his opponent. McMahon would fly from high places – sometimes on the offensive and sometimes as a receiver.
By these standards, the cage match delivered much of what it promised to be. McMahon met his signature coast-to-coast on Strowman in the cage and was tossed off the top of that cage in the final moments of the game as Strowman stormed to victory. In between, Strowman literally ripped off part of the cage to keep McMahon from winning.
Without Elias and Jaxson Ryker stepping into the picture to balance things out in front of the bell with multiple chair shots at Strowman, and then returning late, the imbalance would have been staggering. But after an occasionally enigmatic and silly pile-up, Strowman and McMahon both got away with keeping it simple.
McMahon hit Strowman with anything he could get his hands on – a chair, a toolbox, and even part of the cage. Strowman took some time to recover each time, but was never completely out of the game.
The action picked up pace after McMahon hit Strowman coast to coast. After Ryker and Elias tried a pinfall, they returned and climbed outside while trying to help McMahon escape, but Strowman splashed into the side of the cage and sacrificed himself to ricochet them both off and McMahon fell from above Help on the cage.
McMahon finally found himself free and clear and climbed down the outside of the cage, but his arrogance was his downfall. He waved at Strowman by sticking his hand through the cage, and Strowman grabbed it and brought McMahon back by ripping part of the cage from its clamps.
Strowman and McMahon fought on the cage again. Strowman grabbed McMahon and tossed McMahon back into the ring from the top of the cage. He shouted, “Who’s stupid now?” “This is for every person who has ever been called stupid.”
Strowman picked up McMahon again, landed the ongoing Powerslam and took the pinfall win.
What’s next: If the roster stays largely the same as on Raw and SmackDown, Strowman would be a prime contender as Bobby Lashley’s next challenger. McMahon is unlikely to have another match for some time. Not only is he in his fifties and taking significant damage in this match, but McMahon also tends to save his appearances for big shows. Maybe he’ll be back in Dallas next year.
Tag team turbulence in the determination of the No. 1 participants in the women’s tag team championship: Natalya & Tamina def. Lana & Naomi, Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose, The Riott Squad and Billie Kay & Carmella
Natalya and Tamina had a chance at the women’s tag team championships on the line and last entered the No. 1 contender fighting game. They took advantage to win and last defeated The Riott Squad.
The fight began with Lana and Naomi against last-minute newcomers Carmella and Billie Kay. Naomi and Lana dominated the early game, but Kay earned a flash roll-up pinfall on Naomi when Carmella used the ropes as leverage to help outside.
The Riott team was the next team in, and Carmella tried to repeat the exact same arrangement when Kay covered Liv Morgan for the pin. This time the referee caught Carmella.
With a codebreaker and a senton from the Riott Squad, the combo move earned them a pinfall win over Kay. Carmella has overtaken Morgan or her way out and further penalized her. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke came in next, and Rose hit a big shoe followed by a blockbuster from Brooke to Riott. Morgan resolved the attempted pinfall just in time.
After a spinning neck breaker for Brooke, Morgan eventually fought his way back into the match, tagging Riott, who decimated Rose with a series of attacks. A Morgan Codebreaker-Riott kick combo hit Rose, but Brooke was quick enough to break the count. A blind day from Brooke got her to hit a Swanton, but it was only a two count.
Morgan reversed the roll-up and got the three so quickly and chaotically that even ring announcer Greg Hamilton was fooled. But Morgan and Brooke were actually eliminated.
Tamina and Natalya were the last team, and Morgan rolled up Natalya at once, but only for two. Natalya and Tamina regained control and dominated Morgan as Riott continued to recover from the outside. After a power bomb from Natalya, the pinfall was broken up by Riott at the last possible moment.
– WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021
Tamina threw Riott back from the ring. Riott went blind and landed a dropkick followed by an assisted spear as Morgan Riott drove into Tamina’s midsection. You did the Codebreaker-Swanton combo on Tamina, but only got two points.
Tamina avoided a Riott kick and kicked Riott herself in the super kick. She tagged in Natalya and the couple ran a Hart Attack double team on Riott. Natalya prepared for a sniper but used Tamina after a break, and Tamina prepared for a Superfly Splash, earning her team the victory.
What’s next: Natalya and Tamina get a shot at Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler by WrestleMania on Night 2, but given the five teams involved in the fight, this seems like a puzzling choice. The rest of the division is overdue for a major overhaul to WrestleMania.