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Wrestlemania 38 Review: The Good, The Bad & A Can of a Whoop Ass

Written by Michael Dworkis & Bill Bodkin

Wrestlemania 38 Night 1

The Usos defeated Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs

Mike: Rick Boogs has grown on me tremendously. The guy looks like a wrestler, and his ring gear (and mustache) had me thinking he was paying homage to Dr. Death Steve Williams. Unfortunately this didn’t get off the ground, Boogs sustaining a horrible injury attempting one of his physical feats of strength. I was so bummed. Usos were likely to retain regardless. 

Bill: This match a big whatever for me and I don’t understand why this opened as opposed to Bianca and Becky to get the crowd hot. Boogs and Nakamura’s “Mike Hard Lemonade Half and Half” gear was about as inspiring as the build to this match – nonexistent. Sadly, the Boogs injury was such a bummer as this guy has worked hard to get to the main show. 

Drew McIntyre defeated Happy Corbin

Mike: I really like McIntrye. He’s come a long way to establish himself as a true main eventer. His comeback following the End of Days struck the right chord, sending “Happy” Corbin in a downward spiral of despair. I’m glad McIntryre gets another Mania victory.

Bill: This was fine. The highlight of McIntyre kicking out of End of Days, which no one has ever kicked out of, was a really, really nice touch.

Miz & Logan Paul defeated the Mysterios

Mike: Not feeling the father/son duo. Rey is always good and Dominick has his moments where he’ll either look solid, or on a bad day comes off as a green rookie. Tonight wasn’t one of those rookie moments, but I can’t lie in saying I leaned towards the heels. 

Paul embraced the fact he is universally hated, which is what happens where you were a Gem Mint 10 Pokemon care around your neck which nearly six-million was paid for. By the way, not worth the amount, but Paul seems to have a weird fetish about driving up the aftermarket value just because he can. He solidified uber-heel by stealing and successfully hitting all of Eddie Guererro’s moves.

It looks like Miz and Paul will now continue working together, but on opposite sides of the ring. I am intrigued. 

Bill: Logan Paul was wildly impressive. He could easily be an everyday WWE Superstar if he chose to be. He was fluid, crisp and understood psychology. Very impressed with him. As for this match, the only shocking thing here was Los Mysterious didn’t win as I figured a loss would lead to Miz turning on Logan Paul. Of course, he did turn on him and now Logan Paul is the face, I guess? As for Los Mysterios, they just don’t do it for me.

Biana Belair wins the RAW Women’s Championship against Becky Lynch

Mike: The best wrestling match for night one. This should have been slotted for the main event championship match instead of Charlotte/Rousey. I thought this was great, two of the best women in the company fighting for a championship. Lynch is gold, Belair is gold. This was one of the few matches which had the appropriate build, leading to Belair once again standing tall as the true women’s champion. Lynch did a perfect job of foiling so many pinfall attempts, causing many to wonder if Bianca could lose. I believed it. 

Lynch, even in defeat, came out a winner.

Bill: Bar none, the best wrestling match on this show. Bianca Belair is becoming the “can’t miss” wrestler at Mania. Yes, she’s only had two Wrestlemania matches, but they’ve both outshined everything else on the cards by a country mile. Becky Lynch has been on another level in “The Big Time Becks” heel role and she’s been genuinely amazing to watch. Belair, meanwhile, just gets better and better (and better) every time she’s in a big time match. This was one of the only matches that had a true, organic “big fight feel” and legitimately should’ve been in the main event as opposed to Charlotte and Ronda. Regardless, this match was absolutely excellent, run don’t walk to check this one out.

Cody Rhodes defeated Seth Rollins

Mike: It’s hard to take announcers seriously when 70,000-plus fans are chanting for Cody, but when his music hits Corey Graves shouts out “no one saw this coming!” Unless he was being cynical and sarcastic. Cody coming out to his AEW entrance? That was cool. Cody doing a quick cartwheel into his Stardust pose? Again, cool. 

This was a “good” match. Was it great? Debatable. Rhodes, in WWE was never a main event guy, and it was only through involvement through Ring of Honor, New Japan, and his role in developing All Elite Wrestling pushed him to be considered at the level. Some scary early spots with a suplex to the outside were certainly eyebrow raising, but overall, this didn’t have the “main event feel” I expected it to have. 

Cody’s method of victory had the emotion we’ve come to appreciate from his AEW promos. The series of punches leading to Dusty Rhodes’ Bionic Elbow was a sweet exclamation mark, as Cody finally got what he wanted. His WrestleMania moment. Hopefully he finally felt the closure he needed to make his father proud. 

Bill: I could write an essay about this match. I did like WWE introducing the elements of Shane McMahon, Elias, Goldberg, The Fiend and others being Rollins’ opponent. We all knew it was going to be Cody, but given WWE’s atrocious record of doing things at big PPVS (like Jon Stewart costing Cena the title, Shane-O-Mac’s Rumble run in 2022, Braun winning the titles with a kid, etc.) one had to wonder. 

The match itself was rough. You could tell Cody was in his emotions and it seemed like Rollins was really trying to reel him back in. The ending sequence with the Flip, Flop and Fly and the multiple Cross Rhodes was great, but overall this was not the best re-introduction (minus the opening pageantry) for The American Nightmare.

Charlotte defeated Ronda Rousey to retain the SmackDown Women’s Championship

Mike: This felt awfully sluggish. I admit I couldn’t stay awake. Reading how Charlotte won off a boot was strange. The clip of the closing moments of the match just felt so awkward. Not sure if this is a situation where someone is blamed for phoning it in, but to be fair, I had zero interest from the moment it was announced. 

Bill: This match felt like two people who did not like each other and did not want to cooperate with each other having to put on a match because they were told to … and it showed. This was rough, awkward, uncomfortable and overall just a chore to get through. Charlotte winning was a weird choice, and sadly this feud has to continue.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeated Kevin Owen in a No Holds Barred Match

Mike: The last segment of the night wasn’t going to be a talk show. We all knew it. But to see it unfold into a match is still fantastic. Owens couldn’t help the smirks and smile, the dude was enjoying every moment of it. Dude’s living the dream. You have got to love it. I have no doubt Austin was enjoying it too. He never got a true send-off in the ring and what better way than to go out against another wrestler whose own dream is to have a one-on-one with the Texas Rattlesnake. Any true wrestling fan had to smile and feel a sense of joy with Owens and Austin. It had the right notes – The glass shattering, the stunners, and a suplex on the arena floor?!

Where Owens goes from here is irrelevant. This is a moment he will cherish for a lifetime, and that’s all which matters. 

Bill: Perfection. Absolute perfection. I’ve been watching Steve Austin since 1990 when he was feuding with “Gentleman” Chris Adams on World Class/USWA live from the Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas. To see him, essentially, close out his career against one of my favorite wrestlers in the world, who is an unabashed Steve Austin fan was the stuff that makes you romantic about pro wrestling. Austin kicking ass, eating up the crowd reactions, and most importantly taking bumps and a Stunner from Owens, was the magic that makes Wrestlemania …. well, Wrestlemania.

Wrestlemania 38 Night 2

RKBro retains the RAW Tag Team Championships against The Street Profits and Alpha Academy

Mike: I really thought this was the moment for Alpha Academy to win. RKBro has been enjoying one hell of a run, I am certain Orton is actually enjoying himself for once. I figured The Academy would get the win, which would have started the end of RKBro. However, this may mean RKBro might have a longer shelf-life than I anticipated. This was the right match to kick off the second night. It was fun, fast, and amped the crowd up. 

Bill: This way more fun than it had any right to be. It’s a bit of surprise RKBro won and will be staying together as if there was ever an odd couple team to split, it’d be them. Yet, they’re an undeniably fun team. Chad Gable is an unsung hero in the company as he took the requisite heel bumps for newcomer Gable Steveson (who they’re already shoving down our throats).

Bobby Lashley defeated Omos

Mike: I couldn’t have cared any less about this. Building up Omos to be fed to Lashley shows WWE never had a plan for Omos at all. I would have been shocked if Omos actually got a win.

Bill: The point of building Omos for a year plus only to have him to lose to Lashley, in a “feud” built in a weeks time is the epitome of everything wrong with WWE. Listen, I’m not an Omos guy, but the logic here is out the window.

Johnny Knoxville defeated Sami Zayn

Mike: There was a piece of myself hoping Zayn could have won. Of course, it’s WrestleMania, and we’re all about “the moments.” We got our clowning around moment for sure. Zayn took everything like a champ. This was the token comedy spot match, and it worked. But I don’t want to see it again. Ever.

Bill: The less I say about this the better. God bless Sami Zayn. He took all the bumps and shenanigans and made it believable. I’m glad everyone had fun here, but I’m also glad this is over.

Sasha & Naomi defeated Liv Morgan & Rhea Ripley, Natalya & Shayna, and Queen Zelina & Carmella to become the new Women’s Tag Team Champions

Mike: Not exactly the best showing, a few cool spots, the dual-double-decker Tower of Dooms came off well, but also scary there would have been a mid-ring collison if not done right. Banks and Naomi made the most sense. Both had their hero stories to culminate, and since neither were in the running for singles championships, this was the next best option. Nattie and Shayna are likely there to help others get over, Morgan and Ripley would have been my runner-up choice of winner. Carmella and Vega were a horrible pairing (sorry Corey Graves).

Bill: Light years better than last year’s match, but still a bit rough in spots. I’m surprised Sasha and Naomi won, but let’s face they’re the right call. Both are wildly over with the audience and WWE needs to capitalize on Sasha before she leaves them and returns as a high-priced part-timer.

Edge defeated AJ Styles

Mike: Slow start, but the last five minutes kicked it up to where my expectations were. The suplex off the turnbuckle onto the apron caused me to cringe hard enough I may have inflamed another section of intestine. I can’t believe Edge took the harder brunt. Guess he’s not done. 

My biggest gripe was the outcome. Edge could have hit the mid-air spear without Damien Priest appearing at ringside, but now they can say AJ’s loss was due to distraction. I hate when WWE feels their guys need protection. They didn’t. AJ would still have looked like a million bucks even with a clean loss. 

Bill: This is a trend for both men. AJ has yet to have that killer Mania match and Edge is just too methodical for his own good in matches. This, for me, never got out of first gear. Damien Priest remembering he’s a goth boi and joining Edge’s New Brood will be fun.

Sheamus & Ridge defeated The New Day

Mike: A match which got bumped from Day 1 to Day 2 to end in less than ten minutes. I absolutely despise this “Butch” garbage. Having commentary call him “pugnacious” and a “spark plug” is demeaning and downright stupid. I refuse to discuss this any further. 

Bill: Hands down, this will go down as one of the worst Mania matches of the decade. Not to the fault of anyone in the match, but it was just awfully booked. First, you make Pete Dunne act like Scrappy Doo, which is embarrassing. Second, and most important — The New Day’s tribute to Big E is brushed off for a squash for a unit that’ll be disbanded by this time next year.

Pat McAfee defeated Austin Theory

Mike: Dude. McAfee killed it. The montage prior to the match was the best one out of all. His victory meant something. Theory played up the villain as villain can be, and when McAfee got on a roll, boy did he do it. From wrestling, to charisma, tonight, once again proves he has “it.” 

Bill: You know what, just put a title on Pat McAfee. When he fought Adam Cole I was like “WTF is going on?” Since then, he’s proven to be one of the best, most consistent, most entertaining people in the entire company. He made an Austin Theory match feel important. He knew how to work the crowd, he made us CARE. That’s the stuff of a champion.

Pat McAfee versus Vince McMahon

Mike: Textbook cringeworthy. I have no idea what the hell this was for. Was this improved? Vince McMahon wanted his own WrestleMania Moment? McAfee running into Vince’s slightly decaying arms and overselling like HBK did for Hogan. Of course, added interference from Theory helped rationalize Vince winning this “match.” Glass Shattering brought the crowd to its feet, we knew what was coming, and poor Vince for losing his balance when trying to either take or avoid the Stunner. McAfee ate one too but clearly enjoyed finishing his beer while half unconscious on the arena floor.

Bill: This was painful and downright embarrassing to watch. This did not need to happen to get us to Steve Austin giving one last Stunner to Vince (who took it awfully, but he’s almost 80 so I get it). However, the Austin stuff was terrific.

Roman Reigns defeated Brock Lesnar to become Undisputed Unified WWE World Champion

Mike: It started off with the “WrestleMania fight” feeling, but something, at some point it faded. This isn’t their first match, and I doubt it will be their last encounter. The expected suplex, superman punch, spear, and F5 spots took place. In the past we’ve come to expect a series of finishers which become the main moves of the match. We got a bit more of an exchange for establishing dominance. Once the ref went down, so did the match. An injury or timing issue were likely the culprits for shortening the match where the championship celebration felt lackluster.

Bill: This had the big fight feel, but it also had the feeling of “we’ve been here before.” Yet, going into the match the new presentations of both men made it feel like they get one more egg from the golden goose. Sadly, I believe due to an injury or miscommunication, we did not get that. There were flashes of brilliance here, but overall this felt like an abrupt, unsatisfying end to the feud and the night itself.

Mike’s Overall Thoughts: While at a glance some of my remarks might seem to give a low grade, I enjoyed Mania this year. The matches which hit, hit big. Not every match was “Wrestlemania-level” and they didn’t have to be. Just give me some good wrestling. Other matches relied heavily on creating “the moment.” That being said, this was probably the best Mania since the last arena-filled show since the pandemic. 

Bill’s Overall Thoughts: Many of my thoughts on this show seem negative. However, when this show hit, it hit big time. Austin and Owens, Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch, and the Pat McAfee star being born made Wrestlemania 38 was easily one of the best, most entertaining Wrestlemanias I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Wrestlemania 38 Night 1 & Night 2 are now streaming on Peacock.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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