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WrestleMania 37: Belair wins; Bad Bunny flies

wrestlemania-37-belair-wins-bad-bunny-flies

Bianca Belair pinned Sasha Banks in the main event of Night 1 of WrestleMania 37 on Saturday, winning the SmackDown women’s championship in an instant classic. Both women put on career-defining performances, with Belair putting herself definitively in the top echelon of WWE superstars.

On a night where Bobby Lashley and Cesaro also earned wins that could completely reshape the trajectory of their careers, and Bad Bunny raised the bar for celebrity appearances to an impossibly high mark, Belair and Banks put a cap on a night of WrestleMania action that overachieved on many fronts. Perhaps most importantly, it happened in front of the first live stadium crowd the WWE has had in over a year, at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

As the first bell rang it felt as big as any WrestleMania main event that had preceded it. Dueling chants for both women rang out throughout the stadium. The match started with shoves, moves and counter-moves, but the roles were clear from the beginning: Banks was the established, if entitled, champion defending her territory, and Belair was the meteorically fast-rising star with raw power breaking through every savvy move Banks threw at her.

Each move took the emotionally charged match to a new level. Banks connected with a suicide dive to the outside, but Belair rolled backward with Banks in her grip, pressed Banks over her head, walked up the stairs and dumped Banks back in the ring over the top rope.

Searching for her own bit of offense, Banks grabbed Belair’s long signature ponytail and used it against Belair to increase the potency of her running knee, following it up with several significant strikes. But Belair, who was never down for long in the fast-paced, high-energy showdown, had a counter for Banks’ plan.

Belair again showed off her raw strength with a stalling vertical suplex, during which she bounced Banks off the top rope twice, and dipped her knees twice before finally bringing Banks to the ground.

While Banks had her fair share of high-flying offense throughout, Belair dug deep into her own arsenal, getting a running start before flipping herself into a standing shooting star press.

That high-flying offense turned against Belair, as an attempt at a 450 splash from the top rope was countered when Banks got her knees up. But Belair snatched Banks out of midair, folded Banks with a powerbomb and then added a second before stacking up Banks up for a pinfall. But as was the case throughout the match, Banks pulled a counter out of nowhere as Belair attempted a third powerbomb, somehow flipping it through into a Facebuster of her own.

Banks connected with a big running boot to Belair in the corner, followed by a tornado DDT, but Belair kicked out at two. After a scramble, a headscissor spin-around set Banks up for her Banks Statement finisher. At first, Banks brought Belair’s braid into play, choking Belair with it, but eventually locked Belair into a proper Banks Statement.

Even as Belair was in peril, the movement and momentum continued to shift, moment by moment. Banks tried to roll back toward the middle of the ring to keep the submission locked in, but Belair rolled them both back toward the bottom rope.

Belair sent Banks into the corner, and drove her shoulder into Banks’ midsection multiple times. She climbed to the top rope, but Banks pushed her down. Belair got trapped on the top rope but dodged both of Banks’ signature moves from that position — a flying double stomp from the top rope, and then charging double knees toward the corner.

Belair successfully landed the 450, but Banks kicked out at the last possible moment. Banks flipped out of Belair’s finisher, the KOD, and Banks grabbed Belair’s braid one final time. Digging deep into her bag of tricks from her past, Belair used her braid as a whip, sending a sickening crack sound through the Tampa night that significantly marked Banks’ midsection.

One final scramble had the crowd on edge, as Banks went for the backstabber to set up the Banks statement, only for Belair to spin through, hit the KOD and pick up the 1-2-3.

[email protected]’s time is now!!#WrestleMania pic.twitter.com/n0kV0Zwuft

— WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021

What’s next: Belair’s win is a chance at a complete reset of the women’s divisions on both Raw and SmackDown. The buildup for this great match was choppy and messy, and the women of WWE deserve better storytelling to match up with the quality of in-ring performance on display. If Becky Lynch is soon to return as well, there’s more than enough talent on both shows to sustain separate stories for the women’s singles and tag team titles, which is the absolute bare minimum of what should be executed going forward.

If there was any doubt as to Banks’ status as one of the best in-ring performers in WWE — full stop, no qualifiers — that should be done after Saturday night. As to the immediate future, let Banks and Belair tangle again with a proper buildup.

Results:

WWE championship: Bobby Lashley (c) def. Drew McIntyre

Bobby Lashley defeated Drew McIntyre to retain the WWE championship at WrestleMania 37. WWE

For those expecting a feel-good moment to kick off WrestleMania 37, they got it — but only to a certain degree. Even after a 30-plus minute weather delay in Tampa, the reaction for Drew McIntyre’s entrance — the first in the WWE made in front of a stadium-filled crowd since March 2020 — was electric.

But Bobby Lashley made that a fleeting moment, pulling off 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 of offense, only for their opponent to pop back up, stung but not hurt. Lashley largely stifled McIntyre and held onto the momentum early on, until a crash landing into the ring post allowed McIntyre to claw back into the match.

The exchanges in punches and momentum shifted back and forth, with McIntyre briefly taking control back with suplexes and tosses. But Lashley landed the first big move with a Dominator, though it only led to a two-count on McIntyre.

McIntyre got his first two-count with a reverse Alabama slam, which sent Lashley flying face-first into 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 ultimately popped up to toss Lashley across the ring, but Lashley thwarted the first real attempt at a Claymore with a pop-up Spinebuster.

McIntyre grabbed his first real advantage with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex immediately followed by three back-to-back-to-back Future Shock DDTs. Lashley kicked out at two and when Lashley went to the outside to take a breather, McIntyre dove over the top rope and took out Lashley and MVP at once.

What’s left of The Hurt Business has a two for one sale. #WrestleMania

(via @WrestleMania) pic.twitter.com/uwj73PZju0

— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) April 11, 2021

A double hammerfist from the top rope by McIntyre missed when Lashley tossed McIntyre with a creative suplex, and followed it up immediately with a Flatliner. Lashley lined up the Hurt Lock, but McIntyre wouldn’t let Lashley lock his fingers. McIntyre drove towards the corner to smash Lashley’s head on the middle turnbuckle to break the hold.

A Spinebuster by Lashley was countered into a roll-through and a deep kimura attempt by McIntyre, but Lashley eventually got to the ropes. A big boot and a signature headbutt by McIntyre seemingly set the stage for a Claymore and a triumphant victory, but it was not to be.

McIntyre managed to get himself distracted by MVP for a fraction of a second, and that delayed his Claymore attempt just long enough for Lashley to thwart it. Lashley then locked in the Hurt Lock and took McIntyre to the ground with it. McIntyre used his feet to roll through using the middle turnbuckle, but Lashley refused to let go and brought it back down to the ground.

McIntyre didn’t tap out and as the referee looked on closely, McIntyre passed out and lost the match by submission.

What’s next: This is undeniably the biggest win of Lashley’s WWE career. It sets him up for a big summer regardless of his opponent. The distraction could give McIntyre grounds and inspiration for chasing a rematch, or he could start from square one and find himself again to build himself back up. The likeliest scenario should be a majorly built-up rematch at SummerSlam in August.

Raw tag team championships: AJ Styles & Omos def. The New Day (c)

AJ Styles and Omos defeated The New Day to become the Raw tag team champions at WrestleMania 37. WWE

The debut of 7-foot-3 Omos was built up as a major event, and his debut in-ring match at WrestleMania did not disappoint in terms of build-up or execution.

Omos and AJ Styles won the Raw tag team championships from The New Day, as Omos was made to look like every bit of the unstoppable giant he’s portrayed to this point.

New Day dominated Styles early with lots of their signature offense, and Woods even got cocky by playing some mid-match trombone. With the way the match was set up, in a weird twist, the beloved New Day adopted some heelish moves and tendencies, albeit in a playful way. They cut off the ring, and did everything they could to keep Omos out of the ring.

For his part, Styles fully embraced the role of the beaten-down underdog, absorbing every imaginable element of the New Day’s offense. But once Styles got Kingston out of the match for a moment, while Woods was frozen on the top rope, Styles finally got the tag to Omos. From that moment on, it was pure destruction.

None of Woods’ offense made a whiff of difference. Omos spun former world champion Kingston effortlessly by the arm. Omos splashed Woods in the corner, and then splashed Kingston in the opposite corner. With a big smile on his face, he hit a backbreaker on Woods, and then engaged a claw on Woods’ face. Another backbreaker landed with a sickening thud on Kingston.

As Woods started to show signs of life, Styles hit a phenomenal forearm off the shoulders of Omos to take Woods out of the match.

Omos slowly brought Kingston up, and then hit a release, standing powerbomb. In a final moment of pure domination and disrespect, Omos pinned Kingston while standing, with one foot, as he and Styles won the Raw tag team championships.

What’s next: No one is going to beat Styles or Omos anytime soon. They’ll have reign over the division for as long as they want it. As for Kingston and Woods, they might challenge for the titles again soon, but it might be a good moment to re-examine the possibility of some singles action.

Bad Bunny & Damian Priest def. The Miz & John Morrison

Bad Bunny lands a flying crossbody on The Miz during their match at WrestleMania 37. WWE

There’s a long history of celebrity involvement at WrestleMania, but only a handful of examples in which those big names from outside the world of WWE actually participated in the match.

Chart-topping, Grammy-winning musical artist Bad Bunny stepped into 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 against The Miz and John Morrison will likely go down as one of, if not the, most impressive showings by a celebrity in the ring.

Bad Bunny spent most of the match in the ring, taking consistent damage from both Miz and Morrison while desperately trying to tag Priest into the match. But along the way, Bad Bunny showed off the level of work he’s put into learning wrestling at the WWE Performance Center, from a solid double leg and ground and pound, to a deep armdrag, to a drop toehold.

Bad Bunny even had counters for a lot of the moves that Miz and Morrison had to offer. The match reached a different level when Bunny pulled out a lucha libre staple with a spinning headscissors on Miz, going around for several rotations before flipping Miz over.

But even as Miz and Morrison regained control, and got cocky — Morrison even offered up a Spin-a-roonie to mock Booker T, the feature subject of a Bad Bunny song, who was on commentary — Bad Bunny never looked too far out of place. A spinning tornado DDT from the top rope finally got Bad Bunny enough room to get the hot tag on Priest.

But even as Priest evened the score, and picked up some support and buzz from the Bad Bunny fans in the crowd, Bad Bunny wasn’t done. The teammates hit simultaneous Bell Claps and Falcon Arrows on Miz and Morrison. Bunny assisted Priest with his step-up leap, and then Bunny hopped from the top rope to the outside, splashing Miz and Morrison.

BUNNY DESTROYER!! 😱😱😱#WrestleMania @sanbenito pic.twitter.com/Ot1EE2tSuO

— WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021

Priest seemingly had the victory lined up, but his attempt at the Reckoning on Miz was countered into a Skull-Crushing Finale. But Bad Bunny broke up the count at the last possible moment.

Morrison grabbed Bad Bunny off the apron, and then Bad Bunny, in the most stunning moment of the match, hit a Canadian Destroyer flipping piledriver on Morrison on the outside. Priest put Miz on his shoulders and Bad Bunny jumped from the top rope and hit a cross-body to earn his team the win.

What’s next: Bad Bunny may well be done with the WWE after Saturday night, but after his performance he would certainly be welcomed back with open arms. If WWE can find the right moment, it would be silly not to bring him back. Priest looked great and got a great showcase in his first WrestleMania match, too.

As for Miz and Morrison, this was a long way from Miz winning the WWE championship a few weeks ago, but they fulfilled their roles to perfection in this match. The tag team division is going to need some reshuffling, and perhaps a fresh start on SmackDown could help.

Cesaro def. Seth Rollins

Cesaro managed 23 rotations of the Cesaro Swing against Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 37. WWE

Between Seth Rollins’ entrance and Cesaro’s entrance, a promo aired which pointed out Cesaro had been with WWE for 10 years and hadn’t yet had a one-on-one WrestleMania match. It was meant to make Rollins look like a jerk, but it didn’t make the statement any less true.

But on Saturday night, Cesaro — widely recognized as one of the most gifted technical performers of his generation — took full advantage of his opportunity against Rollins and not only put on a night-stealing performance, but earned the biggest win of his career.

Cesaro-Rollins was all-action from the opening bell. A springboard uppercut by Cesaro was quickly balanced out by a Buckle Bomb from Rollins. As Cesaro seemed to get his bearings, and climbed to the top turnbuckle, Rollins hopped up like a cat from the ground to the top rope to meet Cesaro there. He connected with his superplex-Falcon Arrow combination, which earned him a two count.

Cesaro and Rollins attempted moves and countered one another at a dizzying pace, and then the Rollins nightmare scenario began. Cesaro managed only nine swings before his arm gave out. A brief sharpshooter attempt led to little, as Rollins quickly got to the ropes.

Rollins slipped out of a Neutralizer attempt, and when Cesaro flew toward Rollins in the corner with an uppercut he missed, flying arm-first into the corner. Rollins attacked with a springboard flying knee, a Slingblade and shocked the audience with a twisting corkscrew splash, though that also only led to a two-count on Cesaro.

In yet another dizzying sequence, Cesaro snatched Rollins out of mid-air and landed a flash Neutralizer, though his finishing move couldn’t quite end the night for Rollins. He flipped Rollins over using the top rope as a bouncing post, but Rollins reversed into a Pedigree, and another two-count.

Rollins got cocky. The four-time world champion, who maintained his superiority throughout the buildup to this match, bragged he had, “Survived the neutralizer. Survived the Swing. I am a god!”

Rollins quickly connected with a swinging forearm to the back of Cesaro’s head, and while he missed his signature stomp, Rollins stopped his momentum and hit a scorpion kick on a kneeling Cesaro.

🛸🛸🛸🛸🛸#WrestleMania @WWECesaro pic.twitter.com/I211PYqL9p

— WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021

Rollins went for another stomp, but Cesaro, with no angle and no space, countered it into a huge European uppercut. Cesaro then cracked out a deep cut, a UFO — his spinning torture rack in which he used no hands. That was transitioned into a standard Cesaro Swing, with a record-breaking 23 rotations. A second Neutralizer gave Cesaro the victory, to the delight of a crowd who had seen two villainous victories 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, this loss is merely a small blip on the radar and the combined performance between the two men can only benefit them both. If Big E retains, Rollins-Big E could be a sneaky good program.

Steel cage match: Braun Strowman def. Shane McMahon

At one point during his match at WrestleMania 37, Braun Strowman reached through the steel cage and grabbed Shane McMahon. WWE

The expectations for the cage match between Braun Strowman and Shane McMahon were simple. Strowman was going to destroy things, including his opponent. McMahon was going to fly from high places — sometimes on offense, and sometimes as the recipient.

By those standards, the cage match delivered plenty of what it promised. McMahon hit his signature Coast-to-Coast on Strowman inside the cage, and was tossed from the top of that cage in the closing moments of the match as Strowman charged to victory. In between, Strowman literally tore down a section of the cage to keep McMahon from winning.

If it weren’t for Elias and Jaxson Ryker, who entered the picture to balance things out before the bell with multiple chair shots to Strowman right off the bat, and then returned late, the imbalance would’ve been staggering. But after an occasionally puzzling and silly buildup, Strowman and McMahon both came through by keeping it simple.

McMahon battered Strowman with whatever 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 never fully fell out of the match.

The action picked up after McMahon hit his Coast-to-Coast on Strowman. After attempting a pinfall, Ryker and Elias returned and climbed up the outside as they tried to help McMahon escape, but Strowman splashed into the side of the cage, sacrificing himself to bounce them both off, and McMahon fell from the top of the cage without assistance.

McMahon eventually found himself free and clear and climbing down the outside of the cage, but his arrogance was his downfall. He waved at Strowman by putting his hand through the cage, and Strowman grabbed it and then, by ripping part of the cage from its brackets, brought McMahon back in.

Strowman and McMahon fought atop the cage once more. Strowman grabbed McMahon and, from the top of the cage, flipped McMahon back into the ring, screaming, “Who’s stupid now?” “This is for every person that’s ever been called stupid.”

Strowman picked McMahon up once more, landed the running powerslam, and picked up the pinfall win.

What’s next: If the rosters stay largely as is on Raw and SmackDown, Strowman would be a prime candidate as the next challenger to Bobby Lashley. McMahon is unlikely to have another match for some time. Not only is he in his 50s, taking significant damage in this match, but McMahon tends to save his appearances for big shows. Maybe he’ll be back in Dallas next year.

Tag team turmoil to determine women’s tag team championship No. 1 contenders: Natalya & Tamina def. Lana & Naomi, Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose, The Riott Squad and Billie Kay & Carmella

Natalya and Tamina advanced to face Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax for the WWE women’s tag team championships on Night 2 of WrestleMania 37. WWE

With a chance at the women’s tag team championships on the line, Natalya and Tamina entered the No.1 contender’s gauntlet match last and took advantage to win, last defeating The Riott Squad.

The gauntlet started with Lana and Naomi vs. last-minute additions Carmella and Billie Kay. Naomi and Lana dominated the early going, but Kay earned a flash roll-up pinfall on Naomi as Carmella utilized the ropes for leverage to assist from the outside.

The Riott Squad was the next team in and Carmella attempted to repeat the exact same arrangement when Kay covered Liv Morgan for the pin. This time around, 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 superkicked Morgan or her way out, putting them further at a disadvantage. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke entered next and Rose hit a big boot which was followed by a Blockbuster from Brooke on Riott. Morgan broke up the attempted pinfall just in time.

After a spinning neckbreaker for Brooke, Morgan finally fought her way back into the match and tagged in Riott who decimated Rose with a flurry of attacks. A Morgan Codebreaker-Riott Kick combo hit Rose, but Brooke was in quickly enough to break the count. A blind tag by Brooke set her up to hit a Swanton, but it was only a two-count.

Morgan reversed the roll-up and got the three-count so quickly and chaotically that even ring announcer Greg Hamilton was fooled. But Morgan and Brooke were indeed eliminated.

Tamina and Natalya were the final team, and Morgan immediately rolled Natalya up, but only for a two count. Natalya and Tamina regained control and dominated Morgan as Riott continued to recover on the outside. Following a powerbomb by Natalya, the pinfall was broken up at the last possible moment by Riott.

#TagTeamTurmoil comes down to @YaOnlyLivvOnce & @RubyRiottWWE vs. @NatbyNature & @TaminaSnuka for a HUGE opportunity tomorrow night on #WrestleMania Night 2!

Stream @WrestleMania on @PeacockTV ▶️ https://t.co/Wp5S57WLnr pic.twitter.com/nYTjZabMDb

— WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2021

Tamina knocked Riott back out of the ring. Riott tagged in blind and landed a dropkick, followed by an assisted spear as Morgan drove Riott into Tamina’s midsection. They did the Codebreaker-Swanton combo on Tamina, but only got a two-count.

Tamina avoided a Riott kick, and superkicked Riott herself. She tagged in Natalya and the pair executed a Hart Attack double team on Riott. Natalya set up for a sharpshooter, but instead tagged Tamina in after pausing, and Tamina set up and hit a Superfly splash, earning her team the victory.

What’s next: Natalya and Tamina get a shot at Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler on Night 2 of WrestleMania, but considering the five teams involved in the gauntlet, this seems a puzzling choice. As for the rest of the division, it’s overdue for a major post-WrestleMania overhaul.

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Melinda Martin