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5 Talking Points From WrestleMania 38

WrestleMania 38 has finally come and go and made another entry into the pantheon of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals.’ WrestleMania 38 might not trouble the leader board for the greatest ‘Mania’s of all time, but it was a decent effort, an entertaining event with a strong first night followed by a weaker second evening.

Like any WrestleMania, though, there were certainly many talking points coming out of this past weekend’s big show.  Here are what I feel are the top 5 talking points coming out of WrestleMania 38.

1. Cody Rhodes Has Officially Returned to WWE

Finally, after much gossip and rumourmongering, the speculation is finally over as Cody Rhodes emerged on Night One as Seth Rollins’ surprise opponent.

Even though it was only January that we last saw Cody wrestle on TV, it was still a sight that caught me off guard in a lot of ways. This wasn’t the same Cody we last saw in WWE scraping the bottom of the gimmick barrel as Stardust. This was the ‘American Nightmare’ Cody that we had come to love from New Japan, ROH and of course, AEW. WWE appeared not to have messed with Cody’s presentation at all. He still came out to ‘Kingdom’, he had very similar gear, if not the same, to what he wore in AEW, and he looked and felt like the superstar that he was in AEW.

Whether any of that continues remains to be seen, but at WrestleMania, his return came across as a major Mania moment, from the lights dropping and the ‘Wrestling has a new royal family’ soundbite dropping, to the genuine, heartfelt road of approval from the crowd, to Cody’s genuinely emotional reaction to being back in a WWE ring. Everything felt big and did Cody justice.

Whichever way Cody’s WWE career goes now, they’ll never be able to take that Mania Moment away from him.

2. Becky and Bianca Had the Match of the Night

WrestleMania is known for its big moments, but it’s just as well known, when it gets things right, for its legendary matches as well.

At WrestleMania 38, it was Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair who, for me, stole the show in the ring. The pair wrestled a fast-paced, heated and extremely entertaining match-up that told a genuine story: Bianca’s desire to overcome the previous setback of Becky shockingly defeating her at SummerSlam last year and to prove that she has become a better wrestler; Becky, meanwhile, became more desperate as the match went on as she realised she wasn’t going to beat Bianca so easily this time.

When WWE gets storytelling right, it really nails it out of the park, and while that seems to happen less and less these days, Bianca’s redemptive title win over Becky was a glorious, emotional piece of storytelling. Whether they had this in mind when they had Becky win at SummerSlam last year is another matter, but as it is, this moment is worth celebrating.

3. Edge and AJ Styles Can’t Live Up To The Hype

In something of a low key dream match for a lot of people, AJ Styles and Edge clashed for the first time on Night Two of WrestleMania 38.

Expectations were that the match would be a solid, athletic encounter at the least. That it wasn’t is as much a disappointment as it was a surprise. Neither man usually disappoints on the big stage, especially at WrestleMania, but over 24 minutes that felt a lot more like 24 hours, the pair ground out a match that, while by no means awful, just seemed to be ‘there’ for the most part.

There was no heat, no energy and no excitement, in particular when Edge was in control. I’ve seen criticisms online that AJ Styles looked like he was losing a step, but I didn’t necessarily think so. It just appeared that Edge and AJ couldn’t generate the chemistry needed for a good match.

A shame, but if the union with Damian Priest is leading to Edge and Priest feuding with Styles, then they might get another chance in future to put on the match we know they’re capable of.

4. Stone Cold Brought the Fun to the Show

There were quite a few eyes rolled when the news was announced that ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin would be being brought out at WrestleMania 38 against Kevin Owens for his first match in 19 years. I understood the lack of enthusiasm: WWE tends to lean toward nostalgia as a solution to its inability to build new superstars, and a lot of fans would rather see something fresh than a reheated version of the past; so would I, so I definitely get it.

Saying that, what a visibly physically struggling ‘Stone Cold’ failed to bring in wrestling quality (as someone who grew up with the Attitude Era, I really felt quite sad at how difficult it was for Austin to stomp a mudhole), he more than made up for in presence and fun. While his no holds barred match with Kevin Owens wasn’t a classic of the genre, so to speak, it was a lot of fun. Hats off to Owens: he bumped like a trooper for Austin, giving it some Mr Perfect-style leaps and bounces to Austin’s limited offence. Austin driving Owens up to the stage on his quad bike made me laugh, and Austin ending it with a ridiculous number of beers and a stunner to Bryan Saxton was a humorous moment.

In fact, what was great to see was that Austin really looked like he was really enjoying himself. Case in point: night two. While the Pat McAfee-Austin Theory match was nothing to write home about, and the sight of the elderly Vince McMahon pinning McAfee after ridiculously weak offence wasn’t great, the sight of Austin clearly cracking up after McMahon took the worst Stunner in history, apparently McMahon’s fault, was infectious. The more Austin laughed, the more I laughed.

Sometimes that’s all you need.

5. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns Did Not Feel Like a Main Event

If there were another match fans were cynical about going into WrestleMania 38, it was the headline attraction. By this point, we’ve seen Lesnar vs. Reigns several times and it felt played out. Because of that, it no longer felt like a feature match—not for WrestleMania this time, anyway. Yet, WWE had booked themselves into a corner. They really had no other options, not after throwing Lashley vs. Lesnar away on the Royal Rumble.

WWE could have gotten around this by having Reigns and Lesnar go out and defy expectations by having their best match to date. As it happened, this match was certainly a far cry from their WrestleMania 31 headliner, a match people looked down on at the time but has actually aged quite well with time.

I’ll give it to Roman. From his entrance to his shout of “Acknowledge ME!” to the audience, he tried to give the occasion a sense of gravitas. It was Lesnar that was the problem for me. While his laughing cowboy schtick has been semi-amusing on TV recently, it didn’t lend itself to the occasion for the WrestleMania 38 main event. While it was meant, I’m sure, to make Lesnar seem overconfident and freak out Roman, it just made Lesnar look like he wasn’t taking the match seriously. When you tie that into fact that the match fell into the typical suplex and F5 model and lasted only 12 minutes (due to possible injury), it did give a sense of anti-climax to the end of WrestleMania 38. Still, the right man won. Where he goes from here is another matter…

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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