WrestleMania 37: Reigns wins, Paul stunned

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Tim FiorvantiESPN.com

The first night of action at WrestleMania 37 brought live fans back into the picture for the first time in over a year on Saturday. Tampa's Raymond James Stadium had over 25,000 fans in attendance and the same will be the case on Sunday for Night 2.

Night 1 came out of the gates hot with two tremendous world title matches, as Bobby Lashley successfully retained the WWE championship against Drew McIntyre, and Bianca Belair beat Sasha Banks in a monumental main event to capture the SmackDown women's championship. Cesaro earned the biggest win of his career in a show-stealing effort against Seth Rollins, and Bad Bunny set a new bar for celebrity participants in the WWE with his performance in his tag team match alongside Damian Priest against The Miz and John Morrison.

Sunday's seven-match card, which airs on Peacock in the United States and WWE Network internationally, features five title matches, headlined by Roman Reigns' Universal championship defense in a triple threat match against 2021 Royal Rumble winner Edge and Daniel Bryan. Asuka defends the Raw women's championship against Rhea Ripley, who recently joined the Raw roster but will compete in a title match for the second straight year at WrestleMania. The Intercontinental, United States and women's tag team titles will all be defended on Night 2 of WrestleMania 37 as well.

A pair of non-title singles matches round out the card. Long time allies and rivals Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens go one-on-one, with internet personality (and occasional boxer) Logan Paul in Zayn's corner. In what's certain to be the most unusual match of the night, "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt returns to in-ring action against Randy Orton.

Follow along throughout the night as Tim Fiorvanti breaks down the action, match by match.


Results: Universal championship: Roman Reigns (c) def. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan and Edge had seemingly career-ending injuries and offered retirement speeches in the ring to commemorate their careers. Roman Reigns walked away from the WWE in 2018 with the second leukemia diagnosis of his life, uncertain of his future.

The fact that Sunday's WrestleMania 37 main event between those three men even happened is incredible. What Reigns, Edge and Bryan did with that opportunity was even more so.

Reigns walked out of Tampa's Raymond James Stadium with his Universal championship intact, but each of the match's three participants had a moment in which the audience was convinced they would walk out as the champion. It lived up to every bit of expectation, as Reigns, Bryan and Edge put it all on the line and marked career highlights for each man in the process.

Full recap to come.


Raw women's championship: Rhea Ripley def. Asuka (c)

Both nights of WrestleMania 37 sent a clear message, at least when it comes to the women's singles picture on both Raw and SmackDown: it's a new era.

After Bianca Belair defeated Sasha Banks on Night 1 to win the SmackDown women's championship, Rhea Ripley similarly thrust herself into the spotlight by defeating Asuka to win the Raw women's championship on Sunday.

With two opponents that had never been in the ring with one another, few knew what to expect in terms of how the match would play out, but expectations were nonetheless high.

Ripley imposed her size advantage early, absorbing a lot of early offense from Asuka and shaking it off with kicks and strikes of her own. Ripley slowed the action down briefly by locking in body scissors on the ground, using that advantage to slap Asuka around the head to clearly establish an edge to those in the audience unfamiliar to Ripley.

There were counters aplenty throughout the match, as Asuka slid seamlessly into an ankle lock with body scissors, only for Ripley to transition into a deadlift German suplex.

Asuka and Ripley's movesets played well off one another, as they exchanged release German suplexes and dropkicks. Asuka hit a particularly impressive spinning backfist, backfist, spinning wheel kick combination to send Ripley reeling and prone, setting her up perfectly for a flying hip attack to a kneeling Ripley.

— WWE (@WWE) April 12, 2021

Asuka rarely stopped moving, even when she was sent face-first into the apron, and added the pair to the WrestleMania highlight reel with a flying DDT from the apron to the floor. She seemed to take control of the match when she hit Asuka with a rapid series of Kawada kicks, but when she went for the sliding knee, Ripley caught it.

Ripley easily lifted Asuka off the ground and showed off her strength with her elevated standing inverted cloverleaf submission, the Prism Trap. But Asuka rolled it through into a cross armbreaker. Ripley had more answers, including an outside-in vertical suplex, but undeterred, Asuka slid her way into an Asuka Lock in short order. Rhea flipped over into a pinfall attempt -- what's become the standard counter to the Asuka Lock -- and there was a scramble back to the feet.

And then, in a flash, it was over. Ripley snatched Asuka up into the air, and in the blink of an eye dropped the champion with her signature Riptide slam. With the 1-2-3 of the referee's count, Ripley beat Asuka and became the new Raw women's champion.

What's next: With Ripley, Belair and NXT's Raquel Gonzalez completely reshaping the power structure in WWE's women's divisions in the last week, what's next for each of them is a tough call. Asuka could get a return match, but a quick title flip-flop seems unlikely. What might be best for Ripley is to meet one of her former NXT compatriots right of the gate to have a few big, impressive, familiar matches to get her legs underneath her.


Intercontinental championship: Apollo Crews def. Big E (c)

The no holds barred match between Big E and Apollo Crews was set up as the final stage to settle what had become an intensely personal rivalry.

Instead, with some outside interference, Crews snatched the Intercontinental championship away from Big E by nefarious means and likely set them up for another clash down the line.

Crews and Big E wasted little time after the bell rang, as they slid underneath the bottom rope, grabbed kendo sticks and battered each other back and forth with reckless abandon. Big E speared Crews through the ropes and sent both of them crashing to the ground.

A Crews Death Valley Driver to Big E on the apron evened the score, and in the most violent attempt of the match, with Big E draped over a set of steel stairs, Crews grabbed a second set of stairs to try to squish Big E between them. Big E got out of the way of the thrown stairs just in time, as the clang of metal on metal rang out through the stadium.

Big E quickly used the same setup to his advantage with a Uranage from the apron onto the stairs that were still sitting on the ground.

Big E set up a table in the ring, but Crews grabbed a kendo stick and unleashed another flurry of attacks. But as Crews climbed to the top rope and missed a frog splash, sending himself flying through the aforementioned table empty-handed, it all went to chaos.

As Big E set up for the win after nailing the Big Ending, a giant most recently known as Dabba-Kato (as part of Raw Underground) charged into the ring, punched Big E in the side of the head and then chokeslammed Big E effortlessly. He dragged Crews back onto Big E for the pinfall, and Crews had become Intercontinental champion.

What's next: Big E is not a character who easily lets things go, as we've seen in recent weeks. A rematch will certainly be in order, but Crews' newest asset will be tough to overcome.


United States championship: Sheamus def. Riddle (c)

Sheamus set the tone for a big year in his rivalry with Drew McIntyre in early 2021, and he took another step towards that career resurgence Sunday by defeating Riddle to win the United States championship.

The match was a well-blended mix of intense physicality and acrobatics, allowing both Sheamus and Riddle to show out. The match hit a different level when Riddle connected with a modified top-rope Spanish Fly that landed like an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. In a nod to WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg, Riddle followed up with a Jackhammer on Sheamus, though it wasn't quite enough.

— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) April 12, 2021

As often as Riddle had an answer for Sheamus, Sheamus was quick with a counter of his own. A Bro Derek slam went sideways, and as Riddle attempted to flip over the top rope, he flew directly into a big knee from Sheamus. That was a small taste of what was to come.

The two men battered each other with the best each of them had to offer. Sheamus with an Alabama Slam. Riddle with an apron German suplex, followed by a twisting flip to the outside and a twisting Senton from the top rope.

Sheamus even went to the top rope himself, hitting a flying knee to a grounded Riddle. His first attempt at a Brogue Kick went awry, as Riddle rolled through. But Sheamus blocked the ensuing knee, leaving both men scrambling. And as Riddle floated for a springboard moonsault attempt, Sheamus caught an floating, upside down Riddle flush with a Brogue Kick to win the United States championship in one of the most memorable moments of the weekend thus far.

What's next: Sheamus has been United States champion before -- this is his third reign, and second US title win at WrestleMania -- but he's in a position to elevate that title in any number of different showcase matches against a deep Raw roster. Riddle will likely get his shot at a rematch, and if this match is the baseline, the second time around will have high expectations. He could benefit from a slightly sharper focus and edge.


Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn

After a shaky start to the night, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens lit a fire under the WWE Universe with a high-impact, high-energy clash between two guys who have been in the ring with one another countless times for the better part of the last 20 years.

Owens ultimately won the match, and even made the celebrity sidenote to the clash, Logan Paul, a positive factor by hitting him with a crowd pleasing post-match Stone Cold Stunner.

The action moved at a blistering pace from the opening bell, as Owens connected with a pop-up powerbomb in the opening seconds. Zayn fought out of an apron powerbomb attempt as Owens tried to follow up, but when the action spilled back into the ring, Owens bounced Zayn off the top rope and then hit a cannonball in the corner.

The match flowed back and forth, hitting all of the right notes as each man got their chance to shine with big moves. Zayn got himself back in the match with a flipping suplex to Owens on the apron -- so effectively so that he shocked the crowd momentarily.

Zayn followed that up with a Michonoku Driver to Owens, getting a two-count, and Owens fought his way back with a big frog splash for a two-count of his own.

Owens' Ushigaroshi Neckbreaker was followed by an oft-teased, never hit in WWE package piledriver attempt, which was countered into an exploder suplex by Zayn that sent Owens into the corner.

A Helluva Kick was countered by Owens, a Stunner attempt was countered by Zayn, and that fed directly into a Blue Thunder Bomb, which earned Zayn another two-count. A second exploder into the corner, a half-and-half suplex and a Brainbuster got Zayn even more frustratingly close to a win, but Owens once again kicked out.

A twisting Fisherman's suplex off the middle rope to Zayn fed into a scramble and a successful Helluva Kick to Owens. But as Zayn set up for a second kick, he ran into a superkick from Owens, and then a second. With a shake of his head and a Stunner, Owens locked up the win.

Paul, who to this point had done little other than make over-the-top faces for the camera, shoved Zayn to the ground post-match, embarrassing him. Owens briefly raised Paul's hand, but as the crowd continued to boo, changed his mind and knocked Paul silly with the Stunner.

— WWE (@WWE) April 12, 2021

What's next: The door is wide open. Owens could try to break through to Zayn and his conspiratorial thoughts, and the pair could partner up. It would offer something simultaneous fresh to the tag team division and familiar to Zayn and Owens.


Randy Orton def. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt

The second night of WrestleMania 37 opened up in a significantly different form than Night 1, to say the least. Randy Orton defeated "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt cleanly in a one-on-one wrestling match, although the special effects surrounding the match drew all of the attention.

During his entrance, The Fiend was "healed" from his burned state and regained his original masked form, emerging from a giant Jack-In-The-Box after Alexa Bliss twisted the crank to let him out.

Rather than a cinematic, potentially campy presentation that likely would've suited such a match, Wyatt dove off the top of the Jack-In-The-Box onto a standing Orton in the ring, and the match got underway. Even more frustratingly, the glowing red lights that Wyatt had unpopularly adapted early on in his time as "The Fiend" were back for the entirety of the match, hampering the viewing experience.

Orton slammed Wyatt on the commentary table, but Wyatt immediately locked in the Mandible Claw.

Orton hit three hangman's DDTs over the course of the match, but Wyatt popped up every time. Wyatt failed in his first attempt at the Mandible Claw, but the second time was the charm, as Wyatt successfully countered an RKO into an advantageous position.

But as Wyatt set up for Sister Abigail, and fire shot forth from each of the ringposts, Bliss re-appeared, sitting cross-legged on top of the Jack-In-The-Box. She started "bleeding" black goo from her forehead, like she had "forced" Orton to choke up multiple times in the lead-up to this match. And as she "bled", she motioned to Wyatt and beckoned him towards her.

Orton took advantage of the distraction, hit an RKO, won and sprinted from the ring.

Bliss continued to "bleed" from her forehead, staring on otherwise emotionlessly as Wyatt got up. The lights went out, and when they came back on, both had disappeared. Fans booed amidst the uncertainty and the puzzling choice for an opening bout.

What's next: Orton escapes Wyatt's orbit, finally, and does his own thing. Wyatt gets an opportunity to go back to square one with "The Fiend" and figure out how Bliss fits into that picture.


WWE women's tag team championships: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler def. Natalya and Tamina

The first title match of Sunday's WrestleMania 37 action saw Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler successfully defend their women's tag team championships against Natalya and Tamina.

After a night of fresh starts and big shifts, maintaining the status quo in this match was a shift, to be sure. Natalya and Tamina, who won this opportunity in a gauntlet match on Night 1, had their moments, and even managed to draw significant support from the crowd. But after a puzzling choice for the opening match, all four participants faced an uphill climb to bring the audience back up.

Tamina and Natalya had chances in the match, and stepped up in a major way after not featuring for long stretches of time on WWE TV. Between their tag team moves, which took down Jax, and Tamina's scoop slam and Superfly Splash attempt on Jax, she got arguably the biggest reactions of anyone in the match.

But ultimately, Baszler won the night for her team. A blind tag at just the right time allowed her to stand pat while Natalya locked Jax into a Sharpshooter. Baszler crept up from behind, locked in the Kirofuda Clutch, and Natalya held out until she passed out, sealing the match for the champions.

What's next: Baszler and Jax simply aren't gelling, and most of their matches seem choppy. Fresh blood and a massive overhaul of the division is in order, but it may take a while to get it done. It's also hard to see Tamina and Natalya continuing to team up, another major issue in terms of the lack of depth in the tag team title picture.

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