History was made in the main event of WWE WrestleMania 35 when a trio of women headlined the show of shows for the first time in company history. Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair squared off in a triple threat for both women’s championships, which fan favorite Lynch took home to cap a tremendous seven months in her career.
Elsewhere on the card, Kofi Kingston became just the second African American to capture the WWE championship when he beat Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins slayed the beast by taking down Brock Lesnar for the universal championship.
In fact, seven of the nine titles defended at WrestleMania 35 changed hands, and fan favorites overwhelmingly went over the heels on Sunday night.
Cruiserweight Championship — Tony Nese def. Buddy Murphy (c) via pinfall to win the title (Kickoff Show):
Talk about a perfect way to get things started on the kickoff show with this high-energy opener. The match perfectly melded the aerial artistry of 205 Live and the cruiserweight division with the stiff striking often seen in Japan. Murphy suffered a cut above his left eye early and Nese nearly scored an early pinfall following an impressive springboard moonsault from the apron.
Nese continued to impress corkscrew moonsaults and a 450 splash, each of which could only draw a two count. The finish came after Nese was able to extend his foot to the rope to avoid losing following be hit by Murphy’s Law. Nese came right back with a German suplex of Murphy into the second turnbuckle and a running knee in the corner for the 1-2-3.
Carmella wins the Women’s Battle Royal (Kickoff Show):
For as little fanfare or expectations this match had coming in, the good news is that the match wasn’t a train wreck. Ember Moon successfully returned from a six-month injury break and connected with an Eclipse off the top rope on Mandy Rose along with a couple other cutters. The Riott Squad received strong booking throughout and teamed up for a series of eliminations until Dana Brooke rallied to eliminate Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott.
Logan appeared to have the match won after eliminating Sonia Deville and Asuka in succession, but Carmella dove back into the ring from where she was hiding and eliminated Logan with a super kick.
Raw Tag Team Championship — Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins def. The Revival via pinfall to win the titles (Kickoff Show):
This may not have been Brock Lesnar upsetting The Undertaker five years ago, but Hawkins’ epic streak of a different kind came to a dramatic end in his backyard. Hawkins, whose gimmick losing streak had extended to 0-269, joined his fellow New Yorker in Ryder to create quite the WrestleMania moment.
Wrestling from underneath throughout as Revival relied on old school tactics to double team and distract the referee, the underdog duo was able to rally following a series of big moves that led up to the finish. A suplex attempt from Ryder on Wilder sent both tumbling over the top rope with Ryder hitting his head on the apron.
Dawson then hit Hawkins with a brainbuster onto the floor. But after a series of near falls late, Hawkins rolled up Dawson for the pin as the duo formerly known as the Major Brothers recaptured tag team for the first time in over a decade.
Braun Strowman wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (Kickoff Show):
Despite a somewhat uneasy build to this match, featuring a feud between Strowman and a pair of “Saturday Night Live” stars, the payoff turned out to be high comedy and a fun piece of business. Colin Jost and Michael Che, hosts of the NBC program’s “Weekend Update” segment, ran out and hid under the ring at the opening bell.
The preceding match was a good mix of spots and hard-bump eliminations, including Strowman kicking Luke Harper and Ali off the apron as Harper, who had his first televised match in seven months, was attempting a suplex. Late in the match, Andrade landed a hurricanrana on Apollo Crews off the apron that accidentally eliminated both.
As Strowman then tangled with the Hardy Boyz, the SNL stars returned to unsuccessfully eliminate him from behind. Strowman, who set a match record for eliminations, dumped Matt and Jeff Hardy before stopping a fearful Che from a self-elimination only to punch him off the apron. Jost, who played the heel role well by wearing a Cleveland Browns jersey of former New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr., was hoisted up and thrown onto a crowd of wrestlers outside to end the match.
Universal Championship — Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar (c) via pinfall to win the title:
Once the opening segment ended, Paul Heyman power walked to the ring and said if Lesnar was not main eventing, he was fighting first and getting out of New York so he could jump on a plane to Las Vegas where he’s “ultimately appreciated.” This surprise opening match was as violent as it was short. It was also well booked. Lesnar jumped Rollins before he even reached the ring and delivered an extended beating before the match began, which included an F5 on the floor and multiple tosses into the ringside barrier and over the announce table.
Rollins, whose back was covered in swollen red blotches, eventually used a low blow to change momentum following three straight German suplexes after the bell finally rang. Rollins rallied to hit a trio of Stomp finishers to get the upset win as Lesnar sold the injuries in the center of the ring for an extended period. Just like in the WrestleMania 31 main event four years ago, Rollins exited by swinging the title at the top of the ramp.
AJ Styles def. Randy Orton via pinfall:
Styles may have been forced to wait until age 38 to make his WrestleMania debut, but the “Phenomenal One” continues to build an impressive resume on the brightest stage. While not necessarily an instant classic, this matchup between all-time greats told a heck of a story. Styles was lucky to avoid a trio of RKO attempts throughout the match until Orton finally landed his vaunted finisher only for Styles to kick out in dramatic fashion.
Styles landed the spot of the match when he connected with a stiff springboard Phenomenal Forearm onto the floor. On his way back into the ring, Styles attempt at one more forearm was initially countered by an RKO attempt by Orton. Styles, however, countered him back with a chin-breaker on the ropes and followed with a perfect forearm finisher.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship — The Usos (c) def. The Bar (via pinfall), Ricochet & Aleister Black and Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the titles:
Booked as an afterthought in order to get a number of big names on the card, this one turned out to be a frantic and fun affair. Not only were there a number of well-handled comedic spots built in, including an insanely long Cesaro swing in the center of the ring on Ricochet as Sheamus landed 10 Beats of the Bodhran on the remaining five competitors in succession.
Former NXT standouts Ricochet and Black appeared to be headed toward a title win after Black cleared out the ring with kicks and Ricochet landed his 630 splash on Sheamus until the remaining four members dove in at the same time to break the pin. After a wild sequence of strikes late in the center of the ring, Sheamus ate a pair of double super kicks from The Usos until Jey and Jimmy landed their tandem splashes from opposite top ropes to defend.
Shane McMahon def. The Miz via pinfall (Falls Count Anywhere):
As far as car wrecks go, this one was an artistic masterpiece. Not only did The Miz bring enough hatred and aggression to match the angle of protecting his father from McMahon, the creative use of the stadium for the match stipulation turned out to be brilliant. An early spot saw Miz’s father George Mizanin jump the barricade to stand over his son to prevent McMahon from coming off the top rope.
Mizanin also entered the ring to get into McMahon’s face and, after being mocked, he was stomped and punched in the corner. The action moved exclusively to outside the ring from there as McMahon could only get two after a DDT on a lighting platform. The two brawled violently through the crowd and into the international announce table area with McMahon being tossed over a railing and onto the top of a golf cart behind it. After the duo climbed a scaffolding, McMahon kicked out of a Skull-Crushing Finale.
The finish came with McMahon begging for mercy and apologizing after the two climbed up atop a large camera platform. Miz picked up McMahon for a suplex off of the scaffolding rig and onto what appeared to be a padded area below. Not only was the spot one of the most visually impressive in WrestleMania history, the impact of the move resulted in The Miz being on the bottom of the two, allowing the referee to count a pinfall for McMahon.
Women’s Tag Team Championship — The IIconics def. Boss ‘N Hug Connection (c) [via pinfall], Beth Phoenix & Natalya and Nia Jax & Tamina to win the titles:
Fun spots and a surprise finish made this match a sneaky good one while creating quite an “Iconic” moment in the process for Billie Kay and Peyton Royce. There were plenty of fun moments including Natalya placing Sasha Banks and Bayley in the sharpshooter at the same time. Later on, Snuka and Jax combined for double Samoan Drops on the Iconics.
But it was the finish that made this match somewhat chaotic match so good, including good attention to the tiny details. After Phoenix hit an incredible Glam Slam on Bayley off the top rope, Royce ran in to break up the pin and knock Phoenix out of the ring. Kay, who had tagged in by slapping the rear end of Phoenix just as she jumped off the top rope, came sliding in to steal the pin as the crowd popped huge for the young Australian duo.
WWE Championship — Kofi Kingston def. Daniel Bryan (c) via pinfall to win the title:
After 11 long years, there is no trouble at all for Kingston, only paradise. The WWE veteran and one-third of The New Day pulled off an inspiring victory for the ages to cap off an amazing bit of storytelling following an unlikely and organic bid. Crowning Kingston as just the second male African-American WWE champion in the promotion’s history certainly wasn’t on the books as recently as two months ago but the combination of Kingston’s in-ring performances and the undying support of the crowd made it the right thing to do.
From the irony of Kingston getting a 2014 Bryan-like storyline against Bryan himself to the old-school manner in which this match was booked, the crowd lived and died with each dramatic twist.
Kingston ultimately fought out of a long and debilitating LeBell Lock attempt from Bryan to work the crowd into a frenzy. He reversed Bryan into a ground-and-pound sequence before returning the favor from moments earlier by holding Bryan’s arms and ruthlessly kicking him to the face. Kingston lined up and hit his Trouble in Paradise finisher to set off fireworks in the stadium shortly after the pin.
The celebration sequence was one of the most memorable in recent history as Kingston’s two sons joined him, along with Xavier Woods and Big E, in the center of the ring.
United States Championship — Samoa Joe (c) def. Rey Mysterio via submission to retain the title:
The short match was full of action as Mysterio landed a 619 and set up a splash off the top rope. But Joe was able to catch him in mid-air and sit Mysterio down. He applied the Coquina Clutch and sat back for the quick tap. Recent injuries to Mysterio likely created the need for a quick match.
Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre via pinfall:
While the match was physical, it was certainly nothing special. The booking could also be questioned considering the heat McIntyre entered the match with and how he appeared ready to make the leap to the main event title level on Raw. Instead, WWE chose to give Reigns a win his character didn’t necessarily need, even with the remarkable nature of his real-life comeback from leukemia last month. On a card already filled with feel-good stories and inspiring moments, this one felt gratuitous. Reigns rallied late to package a Superman punch with a spear for the win.
John Cena returns as “Doctor of Thuganomics”:
Elias entered the ring with his guitar for a WrestleMania performance and tossed to video of separate versions of himself playing guitar and piano. His performance was eventually interrupted by a video package of Babe Ruth calling his own shot for the New York Yankees in the 1932 World Series. Out came Cena, returning back to his former heel gimmick as a rapper. Cena delivered a number of bars burying Elias, including a few that were anything but PG rated. He then floored Elias with a clothesline, a five-knuckle shuffle and the return of the FU, the former name of his Attitude Adjustment finisher.
Triple H def. Batista via pinfall (No Holds Barred):
If Triple H lost, he would have retired. It’s almost unfortunate this match came in hour six of an already grueling WrestleMania for fans because both guys told a hell of a story and endured tremendous punishment throughout. Was the match too long and booked into the wrong spot on the card? No doubt about it.
But it’s hard to overlook how brutal and good it was as the pair of WWE legends, both at or pushing 50, emptied the tank at a level far beyond what was needed for the importance of the match. In the end, Triple H avoided a forced retirement due to the stipulation and took home a grueling victory after Ric Flair ran in to hand him a sledgehammer to offset the one held by Batista. Triple H followed with a running sledgehammer strike off the top of the ring stairs to get the pin.
Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle via pinfall (Farewell Match):
Consistent with history, the man leaving the territory must go out on his back. Even if said match is against a wrestler as unliked by fans as Corbin. Luckily for fans, the match was short and largely painless (aside from the result). Angle landed four consecutive German suplexes and appeared to have the match won until he missed badly on a moonsault from the top rope. Corbin followed with End of Days for the anticlimactic finish. After the match, Angle thanked the fans and excited to his theme song one final time.
Intercontinental Championship — Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley (c) via pinfall to win the title:
Saddled with “popcorn match” placement before the main event, Balor returned as “The Demon” and packed in a good deal of action into match that was rushed so close to midnight on the east coast. Lashley delivered the spot of the match when he speared Balor through the ropes and off the apron before the two crashed onto the floor. A second spear, however, saw Lashley only get two. Balor then packaged a power bomb with his Coup de Grace finish for the pin.
Winner Take All — Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships — Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey (c) [via pinfall] and Charlotte Flair (c):
The historic WrestleMania closer, featuring women in the main event for the first time, ended somewhat anticlimactically as Lynch countered a Piper’s Pit from Rousey into a rollup. The abrupt ending, however, couldn’t overshadow what was an incredible performance from all three performers who were repeatedly willing to risk it all in an extremely physical match. Lynch, who called her self “Becky Two Belts” ahead of Sunday’s match, captured both women’s titles in a match that used violence to cover up for sloppiness throughout.
The real shame in this one was that it didn’t begin until midnight ET on the tail end of a show that reached seven and one-half hours in length. The crowd was understandably dead despite an almost insane amount of intensity shown by each wrestler, who laid in each strike seemingly as stiff as possible. Rousey was bleeding from her elbow and had nearly grotesque bruising on her inner legs.
Flair, meanwhile, favored her right knee and was also bleeding from her arm. The spots were both insane and often with Flair landing a Spanish Fly from the top rope and Lynch later breaking up a Figure 8 Leg Lock attempt on Rousey by landing a leg drop off the top rope.
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