Roman Reigns hits scary level as WWE plays risky WrestleMania 37 game

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The second night of WrestleMania 37 couldn’t have been more different than the first.

Saturday gave fans numerous joyous and memorable moments – wins by Cesaro, Bad Bunny and Bianca Belair. What we got Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa was WWE playing the risky game of sacrificing fans’ immediate gratification for either some puzzling booking or a meaningful long-term investment in characters. Nothing displayed that better than Roman Reigns’ win and worse than The Fiend’s loss. Only one true babyface – Kevin Owens — earned a win in front of another sellout crowd (25,675).  

Here are six takeaways from Night 2 of WrestleMania:    

Long May He Reign

The best heels are the ones who tell you what they are going to do to the babyfaces and then go out and do it. That’s exactly what Roman Reigns did to retain his Universal championship in the main event by making good on his claim that he was going to stack Edge and Daniel Bryan to pin them both for the win. He did so by using the triple-threat-match rules to his advantage as Jey Uso basically served as his partner in the match. Uso, after take a spear from Edge and needing medical assistance, returned to ensure his cousin got the win.

All of this took Reigns’ character to an even higher level of badass and furiousness. In his first time in front of a crowd since his heel turn, Reigns was thoroughly booed. What will it take to finally move him from the head of the table? Edge may have more to say moving forward and likely Cesaro, too. Whoever gets it done will have to outmaneuver Reigns physically and mentally, and that’s a scary task.

The match itself was everything you’d hope for from three WWE grand slam champions. Edge’s entrance got one of the biggest pops off the beautifully told story of being driven to regain the title he never lost. Bryan, in what could be his last WrestleMania as a full-time performer, was the nuisance Edge feared. He constantly spoiled clear opportunities for Edge to win the championship. Edge snapped after Bryan pulled the ref out of the ring mid-three count after Edge hit Reigns with a spear. The Rated-R Superstar would hit both Reigns and Bryan with con-chair-toes.

Earlier in the match the crowd chanted “Roman Sucks” and he proceed to powerbomb Bryan through the announce table, only to be speared by Edge off the steps. The best moment came when Edge had Reigns in a crossface with a broken piece of chair in the champ’s mouth. Bryan proceeded to put in the Yes Lock on the other side, leading to he and Edge headbutting each other in frustration. There was so much to like about this match.

Firefly Stun-house

Until proven otherwise, WWE has little clue on how to book “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. What started out like a perfect reboot for the character became a heavily booed train wreck. The pre-match spectacle was great, Alexa Bliss walking down the ramp to pop The Fiend out of a giant jack-in-the-box next to the ring to open the show. The crowd reacted big to Fiend, who magically healed all his burns and returned to his more traditional mask. He also paid tribute to Brodie Lee at one point.

Then the bell rang and Fiend continues to disappoint nearly every time he steps in the ring. The red lighting was back and it should stay because it adds to the character’s visual presentation. He looked like an unbeatable monster early until Orton wore him down a little bit. Still, Fiend was ready to beat Orton with a Sister Abigail when Bliss came out of the jack-in-the-box wearing a crown. The black goo that Orton has coughed up several times began running down her face to the crowd’s delight (“Holy s–t!”). Then it all went south.

Bliss’ distraction allowed Orton to hit an RKO and pin Fiend clean in the middle of the ring. He has now lost two of his last three matches. This felt like a giant promo to watch Raw to find out what this was all about. Did Bliss betray Fiend and why? WWE will need to do a lot to save this.

‘Nightmare’ Scenario

Rhea Ripley went from catering to Raw women’s champion in a matter of weeks. The result and Bianca Belair becoming SmackDown women’s champion on Night 1 gave WWE’s entire women’s division the makeover it needed. It marks the first time since March 2019 (Asuka, Ronda Rousey) that at least one member of the Four Horsewomen didn’t hold one of the titles.

The match itself wasn’t the classic Belair vs. Sasha Banks was, but it did enough to establish Ripley as a worthy champion. Her power eventually proved to be too much for Asuka’s technical prowess. The finish seemingly came our nowhere – a Riptide after ducking an Asuka kick. This sets a good precedent moving forward but caught the live crowd off guard.

WWE botched Asuka’s entire reign, so it was smart of them try to reset the division and give the fans fresh matchups. “The Nightmare” didn’t take a second straight loss at WrestleMania and has all the skills to be a badass champ.  

Put That On YouTube

Kevin Owens didn’t get to jump off the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium, but got to beat Sami Zayn and deliver a stunner to YouTube sensation Logan Paul. There was no wasted motion in this match, just two friends trying to put the other away with big move after big move – Owens’ fisherman’s buster suplex off the top rope may have been the highlight. He eventually dodged a Helluva Kick, hit two superkicks and then a stunner on a dazed Zayn for the win.

Paul came into the ring to check on Zayn, who continued to talk about conspiracies before flipping out on his guest of honor when Paul went to congratulate Owens. Paul pushed Zayn and raised Owens’ arm in victory. Owens did a superb job sucking the crowd in for the stunner with the puzzled and annoyed expression on his face as he stared at his forearm. All of it was just simple, fun pro wrestling. Hopefully both continue to be used in meaningful ways.  

Apollo Rules

WWE wouldn’t even let Big E win in his hometown, but it may be for the best long-term despite the Nigerian Drum Fight just being a silly version of a hardcore match. Think Symphony of Destruction match, but with drums – which were used once in the contest. Big E slammed Crews on the steel steps from the ring apron and Crews later ended up splashing from the top rope through a table.

Then things got weird. As Big E was about to deliver the Big Ending, he was attacked by Raw Underground’s own Dabba Kato – dressed in Nigerian guard garb. Michael Cole and Corey Graves acted like they had never seen Kato before — please stop insulting the audience, WWE – calling him a giant and “this colossal superstar.” Kato picked up Crews and placed him on Big E for the pin and the title. While this was not a great moment on this night and stunned the crowd, it gives Crews a heater to further establish him as a heel and Big E something far greater to overcome.            

Talent Show

WWE mostly used its 2021 Hall of Famers well throughout. The highlight being RVD, alongside The Great Khali, providing Riddle with some rolling papers before his United States championship defense. Eric Bischoff got a few fun podcast plugs in while interacting with Bayley backstage.

The payoff to the former SmackDown women’s champion’s beautifully annoying two-day “co-hosting duties” was anti-climactic, however. It ended with her being beat up and thrown down the ramp by the Bella Twins after running her mouth and making a low-hanging-fruit John Cena joke. The real hosts, Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan, showed a few moments of chemistry over the two days but mostly delivered forgettable and cheesy scripts that added very little. Hogan, who was dressed like a pirate with O’Neil, was booed by the crowd when opening the show.      

Other Matches

Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax over Natalya and Tamina to retain the women’s tag team championships

The physically of this match proved to be exactly what the crowd needed after the Fiend debacle. The cut on Natalya’s lip from a Baszler knee will tell you just how rough it was in the best of ways.

Also, Tamina is over!

The crowd kept chanting her name as they told the story of her finally slamming Jax. It wasn’t pretty but it happened. WWE may have found itself a good babyface team despite Baszler, after a blind tag, putting Natalya in the Kirifuda Clutch for the submission win. The crowd wasn’t happy with this, but WWE needs to tell a good story for whoever ends their reign.  

Sheamus over Riddle to win the United States championship

This match had one of the best finishing sequences and visuals of the night. Riddle attempted a moonsault off the middle rope and Sheamus hit him midair with a Brogue Kick. The former UFC star came up spitting blood. This felt more like a fight with some super-athletic spots from Riddle mixed in. WWE didn’t do a stellar job with Riddle’s reign, a feud with RETRIBUTION and two losses to Sheamus. Putting the belt back on the Celtic Warrior just feels like a return to the safe and familiar.   

Biggest winner: Rhea Ripley

Biggest loser: The Fiend

Best match: Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Edge

Best Entrance: The Fiend

Predictions: 3-4 (8-6 overall)

Grade: B-

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