WrestleMania 38 is in the books, and what an event it was. The grandaddy of them all, Mania has always been an intersection of wrestling and pop culture designed to be the one show out of the year that even lapsed fans tune in for.
From top to bottom I’ve got to say it was good. This wasn’t an all-time Mania in my mind — but it was a mostly fun eight hours of sports entertainment. That’s a feat in itself.
When I normally do a winners and losers I’m breaking down moments inside of games or individual performances. Obviously wrestling is different. I’m not really caring here about who won or lost, because otherwise the biggest winner would be Roman Reigns — despite he and Brock Lesnar having a bit of a bizarre, rushed match. Instead we’re looking at who achieved the goal of creating an entertaining match that lived up to the billing of a WrestleMania card.
Winner: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
It’s impossible to talk about WrestleMania 38 without Austin. The close to night one gave us a hell of a surprise. We all knew “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was booked for a talking segment with Kevin Owens on “The K.O. Show,” but morphing that into a no holds barred match was a bold decision.
I’ll be honest: I was super concerned about this happening. My fear ahead of WrestleMania was that we’d get this nostalgic moment ruined by the realization Austin can’t go, like Goldberg and Undertaker in Saudi. Instead, Austin seriously looked just as good as he did when he left the ring almost 20 years ago.
Yes, it was a short burst — but this really didn’t feel like it was lacking. It was mostly brawling, as Austin has kind of done his entire career, but he owned the moment and even took a damn suplex on the floor. It was all smiles in my house.
The night 2 hit, and we got the trio of stunners to Austin Theory, Vince McMahon and Pat McAfee — and it was the perfect finale to what is unquestionably Austin’s last chapter. Even if Vince’s attempt at taking the stunner was the world in wrestling history.
Winner: Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair
Just go watch this. There’s so much to talk about when it comes to this match, but anything I say won’t do it justice. The only shame about Becky vs. Bianca was that it was buried in the mid card of night one, when it really could have headlined the night.
Yes, I know they wanted to end on Austin vs. Owens, so that wasn’t happening — but it could, and should have gone on later in the card. There might have been some internal drama over the two women’s title matches and who would follow who, but when the dust settled this was the one worthy of Mania.
Bianca established herself to a global audience as the future of the women’s division in WWE, and everything she did in the ring was a delight. Becky kept the psychology of the match moving and the two gave us something special. I loved every second of it, and it might be in my Top 5 women’s matches of all time.
Losers: New Day vs. Seamus and Ridge Holland
I super don’t get this. New Day were bumped from night one due to time constraints, which happens, I get it. Then they come out on night two for a completely meaningless one-sided match against the cast of Peaky Blinders. Sorry, I mean Seamus and Ridge.
What have they done to Pete Dunne (sorry, Butch)? Poor guy went from being this fierce, brawling wrestler — to basically an actual child who needs to be restrained by his parents. At this rate they’re going to have him on a leash like a sugared-up kid at Disney World by Summerslam.
Winner: Logan Paul
I’ll be the first to admit that I hate celebrity matches. Always have, always will. I know they’re part of the WrestleMania fabric, but there’s something I find offensive about knowing how much a mania match means to the actual talent, a goal they work over a decade for — then see a spot go to someone who decided in February that it might be fun to have a match at WrestleMania.
Anyway, Logan Paul should have absolutely sucked in the ring … he didn’t. I can try and hate on this as much as possible, but it would be a lie. Clearly Paul looked like someone who actually gave enough of a shit to learn a few things in the ring and pull off a good match, unlike the heady days of Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone in WCW looking like Dollar Stone actual figures whose joints didn’t move.
This was a very big deal for WWE. Having Paul look someone legitimate, and even weave in a potential feud with The Miz down the line is exactly what they wanted, and Paul totally pulled it off.
Losers: Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey
I’m not going to dwell on this too much because I’m sure stories will emerge — but nothing about this match felt right. It was sloppy, and not in a way that felt like it was natural or spontaneous as part of trying to tell a story. . Honestly, it felt like these two didn’t talk for five minutes before the match, got in the ring, and tried to wing it.
This was either a case of poor production or lack of production all together. Both can do far, far better and it was a shame this stayed in one gear and let us all down.
Loser: Overwrought entrances
The big, wild, bombastic WrestleMania entrance used to be reserved for one or maybe two stars a show. You knew HHH was going to get one, and probably Undertaker, and other than that it was really just about the scope of the stage.
This year continued the 2021 tradition of damn near everyone having a special entrance. Becky arrived in a limo, Seth had a choir, Cody did his whole Cody thing, Pat McAfree got the Cowboys cheerleaders, Bianca got the Texas Southern marching band … which honestly, was so damn cool and one of the best ever.
That’s the problem though, right? Because everyone got a big wild entrance you totally forgot that Bianca’s was even that good. It just dragged out an already long show, and this is seriously a case of “less is more.”
Winner: Cody Rhodes
I don’t think there was anything the least bit remarkable about Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins. Honestly, it was the same bog-standard Cody match he’s been having on weekly TV with AEW for the last two years — but that’s not the point.
Rhodes is a winner because people appreciated him. That pop in Dallas, the reception he got on his return to WWE — those days were dead for him in AEW. It’s been a precipitous drop in his popularity since his legendary match against Dustin Rhodes at Double or Nothing 2019, and as incredible as his first year was with AEW, his second was equally underwhelming.
It reached a point where nothing was clicking for him. Cody went through a series of rivalries nobody cared about, with a smattering of the cheapest pop attempts of his career from invoking some weird USA vs. England rivalry against Anthony Ogogo, to having a faux retirement after losing to Malakai Black. Nobody was buying any of it, and the boos he was met with were deafening — especially for a wrestler who refused to turn heel.
The reset was needed, and returning to a fanbase who have largely not seen his work in the last two years, made him feel fresh again. Fans were excited, Cody was loving it, and I think this is a great thing for everyone.
Winners: Wrestling fans
WrestleMania weekend is most important part of the wrestling calendar, not just for WWE, but everyone. Independent promotions and smaller corporate organizations all gather to run shows around mania, knowing how many wrestling fans are in town.
Tribalism is beyond stupid, especially in such a niche form of entertainment as pro wrestling — but we are absolutely living in the golden age. Look back on the Attitude Era with fondness all you want, it was NOTHING compared to the breadth of talent across multiple companies offering something for everyone.
Whether you’re a self-professed WWE fan, and AEW fan. If you watch mostly New Japan, or Impact — or even a smaller promotion, there is one absolute truth: A rising tide lifts all ships. Competition has pushed every company to be better, and we are the benefactors.
Wrestling is great, just enjoy what we’re seeing instead of fighting over who’s better.