To read the review of WWE WrestleMania 39’s night one at SoFi Stadium, click here.
In the wake of WrestleMania 39’s beloved night one, a tangible excitement hung in the air for night two at SoFi Stadium — not just to see if the advertised six-match card would top the near-impeccable showing of the previous evening, but if there would be an official announcement regarding WWE being purportedly sold to Endeavor, the parent company of the UFC (Note: the $9.3 billion deal became official the morning of Monday, April 3rd).
Notwithstanding the latter’s earth-shaking implications, 81, 395 members of the WWE Universe had more than enough to sink their teeth into. Over the duration of more than three-and-a-half hours, Brock Lesnar, a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, demonstrated that his literally biggest challenge to date wasn’t too formidable after all; Ronda Rousey, likewise a former champion in the UFC (Women’s Bantamweight) had her hands full in a women’s showcase fatal four-way tag match; the adversarial Intercontinental Champion Gunther was tasked with defending his prized possession against two powerhouses; the mythical Edge waged war against a “Demon” inside a colossal cell; Bianca Belair and Asuka tangled for the Raw Women’s Championship; and, No.1 contender Cody Rhodes did his best to “finish his story” against the preternaturally dominant boss-champion, Roman Reigns. In the end, although night two didn’t quite match night one’s cohesion and consistency, the Sunday affair indisputably belongs in the pantheon of spectacularly dramatic and unpredictable events.
Once country music singer Jimmie Allen sang a rousing rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and the Miz and Snoop Dogg, hosts of WrestleMania, welcomed the audience to night two, Lesnar and the mammoth Omos traded blows in a spirted five-minute contest. Like Cena 24 hours prior, Lesnar’s star-power was used wisely here to engage the crowd without delay. Though Lesnar found himself flustered early by Omos’ forearms and repeated body-slams, the mayor of “Suplex City” summoned the energy of the sea of thousands in attendance, German-suplexing Omos’ back into the mat to adoring cheers before lifting the 7′ 3″ “Nigerian Giant” for his signature finishing move, the “F5,” for the three count. This match, albeit short in length, never meandered and hit all the right notes.
Following the battle of the behemoths was the fatal four-way women’s showcase bout involving Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez, Shotzi and Natalya, Sonya Deville and Chelsea Green, as well as Rousey and Shayna Baszler, who particularly has her own notable MMA background. The professional fighters, not surprisingly, received the loudest reaction. The match had quick tags to begin, and highlighted Rodriguez’s strength. Things moved into a higher gear when the ladies helped powerbomb Baszler. Shotzi, a diminutive but dynamic aerialist, then flew through Natalya’s legs to the outside, landing on the other female competitors. Natalya, a Canadian and niece to the renowned Bret Hart, subsequently wowed the crowd by putting not one but two women in a “Sharpshooter” (leg grapevine) submission hold. As the action progressed, Rousey took corporeal advantage of Shotzi, who had no choice but to tap out or risk having her arm broken. The victors, Rousey and Baszler, left to mostly jeers in a match that regaled the fans and never wore out its welcome.
Bobby Lashley, who like the aforementioned similarly enjoyed some success in MMA, came out to celebrate becoming the Andre the Giant Battle Royale winner on WWE’s March 31st episode of SmackDown before Gunther, a German antagonist who is known for his toughness and grit, was tasked with fending off two men: the sword-wielding Drew McIntyre and the pugnaciously Irish Sheamus. Drew’s entrance, accentuated by blasts of fireballs, symbolized a hard-hitting clash which didn’t feel any less vehement due to being partly sponsored by Mike’s Harder Lemonade. Needless to say, the three men didn’t disappoint as they chopped and pummeled each other into oblivion, fighting in pairs and as a divided trio. Throughout the almost 17-minute barnburner, each man found himself heartily appreciated by the diverse audience who gasped with every near fall, chanting “this is awesome.” Despite Sheamus landing multiple pump kicks — one of his trademark maneuvers — and McIntyre somersaulting over the top rope, Gunther’s resourcefulness paid off as he first powerbombed Sheamus onto McIntyre’s back before driving the latter nearly through the canvas for the win. The edge-of-your-seat triple-threat match had nary a misstep and is deserving of an unambiguous acclamation for being one of the best triple-threat matches in history.
In the unenviable position of trying to outdo the prior classic were Bianca Belair, the Raw Women’s Champion who arrived with a group of fellow African American girls who danced onstage, and Asuka, a face-painted Japanese veteran who was determined to unseat her opponent. Following a rush of dropkicks and strikes, Asuka had the early advantage when she forcefully powerbombed Bianca onto the ringside mat — which has almost no give compared to the ring. Asuka then focused on Bianca’s legs with multiple submission attempts; still, Bianca tried to use her core strength to counter Asuka as admirers of both shouted as loudly as they could. Asuka’s strategy, while seemingly bulletproof, backfired when Bianca was able to faceplant the “Empress of Tomorrow” with her vaunted finisher, the KOD (Kiss of Death), and retain her championship. Undoubtedly, the women were not deterred by the men before them, rising to the occasion with a compelling in-ring tale as two combative heroines, one of whom emerged from the fray.
The next segment, designed to add some levity to the proceedings, not unlike the exchange with Pat McAfee on Saturday, saw the Miz and Snoop Dogg be joined by a returning Shane McMahon, the son of Vince and a part-time wrestler. However, when another impromptu match again involving the Miz started, McMahon suddenly incurred a severe injury, tearing his quadricep. As “Shane-O-Mac” laid nursing his leg, Dogg ostensibly pivoted on the fly, throwing haymakers in the Miz’s direction before performing a “People’s Elbow” (The Rock’s distinctive move) — inclusive of throwing his sunglasses into the audience and landing an exclamatory elbow-drop — for a pinfall at the Miz’s expense . What could have been a discomfiting moment was salvaged in real time, as Dogg endeared himself to the fans who felt deeply connected to the hip-hop star’s charisma.
The penultimate confrontation saw the battle-scarred Edge, who rediscovered a brooding persona of his from the late 90s, ascending from monstrous flames on the rampway in a skull-shaped mirror mask, and Finn Bálor, who accessed the “Demon” side of himself as he slinked out, only stopping to raise his arms in harmony with his galvanizing theme music. This wasn’t just any mere tribulation for either gladiator, but rather one that was to see an elevated tier of savagery inside a hellish, 15-foot-high silver cell. And like the triple-threat I.C. match earlier in the night, a sponsored partnership with the upcoming film, The Pope’s Exorcist, including a targeted speech about WrestleMania from its leading star, Russell Crowe, did not undermine the live fan immersion.
The match, as one might expect, was a spectacle in every sense of the word. The grating mesh of the cell came into play, as did kendo sticks, chairs, and ladders. Once a “we want tables” chant was happily obliged by Edge, who pulled one out from under the ring only to be kicked through it, the fans continued to boisterously react to every move and became quiet only during a lull when Bálor was attended to by medical personnel. This was quickly forgiven when Bálor harnessed his vitality and met Edge at the top of a ladder, only to be greeted with a “DDT” (a front headlock-impelled faceplant). Nonetheless, the “Demon” found his footing, albeit briefly, when he launched himself toward Edge, who barely escaped, leaving Bálor with wooden splinters (from a table underneath) affixed to his soles. When all else failed for Edge, including his patented spear, he used two red chairs to compose his “Concerto,” a head-smashing finale, that incapacitated the younger Bálor who fell to his senior. Not dissimilar from most “Hell in a Cell” contests, this one had all the barbarism one could wish for and was tremendously entertaining as a result. The brutality of this match-type is to wrestling what Titus Andronicus is to Shakespeare.
Finally, the main event of WrestleMania 39 weekend was to be realized between Royal Rumble winner Rhodes and Reigns, who has been the commanding Undisputed WWE Universal Champion for 945 days and counting. Rhodes arrived with his patriotic gear before kissing his wife and child at ringside; thereafter, Reigns followed, flanked by his cousin Solo Sikoa and his loquacious manager, Paul Heyman. Not even the bell had sounded yet when the headliners made a measurable impact with their decibel meter-breaking pyrotechnics alone.
Fans were simultaneously hushed and fervid, frothing at the mouth to witness Reigns’ historic reign stamped out by the “American Nightmare” Cody, a working-man wrestler, not markedly different from his legendary and late father, the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. After all, this once-in-a-lifetime title shot was dedicated to Dusty by Cody whom many believed a shoe-in to win. In the midst of nearly 35 scorching minutes, Cody and Roman took turns usurping the momentum from each other. At one point, Cody was caught and powerbombed by Roman, who was then on the receiving end of a “back-body drop” (a hurl of the opponent’s body using the upward force of the back) through an announce table. As the drama evolved, fans remained under the impression the fight would be a clean one until Sikoa meddled and was kicked out. However, that didn’t nip the interference in the bud, prompting Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, newly crowned tag champions, to even the score. As Cody torqued Roman’s head into the mat multiple times, via an ace in his repertoire called the “Cross Rhodes,” Sikoa returned and defied the ref’s orders, striking Rhodes, who succumbed to a body-wrecking spear by Reigns who, against serious odds, held on to his prestigious championship.
The theatricality and affectations in the bout fueled an unceasing hysteria in the stands, as attendees found themselves losing their collective minds at some of the near falls involving Roman’s “Superman Punch” and Cody’s knee-to-face-driving “Pedigree” (a finisher inherited from WWE Executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque). While some will inevitably criticize WWE’s decision to keep Reigns the champion, the unpredictable denouement is exactly what every WWE follower should want as there is nothing more engrossing than being kept on your toes. As the dramatics of the match crescendoed with each passing second, it became clear that, at least from a live perspective, Cody versus Roman held the masses in its thrall, reaching a multitude of fever pitches. This is an accomplishment that shouldn’t be overlooked.
All in all, while not quite on the level of night one, which was truthfully a near-impossible task, night two of WWE WrestleMania 39 delighted in its own way, raised to impressive heights by a vibrant live atmosphere and key matches such as Gunther vs. Sheamus vs. McIntyre, Rhodes vs. Reigns, Belair vs. Asuka, and Edge vs. Bálor. The shock and awe coming out of the main event will influence months of prospective storylines involving the Bloodline and its leader Roman Reigns who must invariably be acknowledged. From a commercial standpoint, WrestleMania “Goes Hollywood” is the most successful iteration of its kind, surpassing global viewership records, sponsorship revenue goals, and earning a whopping $21.6 million at the gate. This news, in tandem with the bombshell that WWE will merge with the UFC, will sustain fan interest for years to come.
For more information and news about night two of WWE WrestleMania 39 at SoFi Stadium, please visit wwe.com.