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Pantoja’s WWE WrestleMania XL Night One Review

April 6, 2024 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Dwayne Johnson The Rock Wrestlemania 40 Image Credit: WWE
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Pantoja’s WWE WrestleMania XL Night One Review  

WWE WrestleMania 40 Night One

April 6th, 2024 | Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Attendance:

There is a LOT of wrestling to cover this weekend. I’ll be getting a review done here and am planning ones for Stand & Deliver (was at the women’s college basketball All-Star Game when it aired live), Sakura Genesis, STARDOM American Dream, and maybe night 2 of Mania (have a friend coming over for it so I won’t be focused on reviewing it).

There’s a new “Then, Now, Forever” opening signature. Triple H started the show by simply welcoming everyone to the event.

Women’s World Heavyweight Championship: Rhea Ripley [c] vs. Becky Lynch

Becky’s entrance included excerpts from her book. Rhea had a live performance by Motionless in White. They announced the time limit for this and used the 8K cameras for introductions as the presentation on this show feels slick and fresh. Rhea used her power to gain control early on with things like a Northern Lights Suplex and turning an inside cradle into a suplex. Commentary talked about how Becky has been battling strep throat over the past few days. It made sense then that she went for bigger impact offense like a tornado DDT and Bexploder on the outside to try and get a win as early as possible. Rhea could just catch her with something using her strength though and turn the tide from a trio of powerbombs to a press slam into a knee. However, as this passed 10 minutes, Rhea grew frustrated that Becky wouldn’t stay down. Becky survived the Prism Trap and got a near fall with the Manhandle Slam before kicking out of a well setup Riptide that should’ve been the finish. Rhea powered out of the Dis-Arm-Her with an Electric Chair but Becky flipped them both to the outside, only for Rhea to land on her feet and finish the Electric Chair Drop. It was the coolest spot of the match. Rhea blocked an avalanche Manhandle Slam, hit a Riptide into the corner, and then finished with another Riptide in 17:10. Hell of a match, especially considering the illness that Becky was dealing with. Though I didn’t love every finisher kickout, I thought this was a fantastic match. [****¼]

WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: Judgment Day [c] vs. Awesome Truth vs. Austin Theory & Grayson Waller vs. DIY vs. New Catch Republic vs. New Day

DIY had a DX style entrance. New Day dressed as Rocky and Creed (Woods just looked like he was wearing his old Consequences Creed gear). The titles are separated so it’s likely that one team will pull down one and another team will grab the other, splitting the belts. Everyone went after the champs to start but then we got the expected spots from this kind of match. Teases at winning, people knocking ladders over, and ladders being thrown into people. New Catch Republic got to shine with stereo moonsaults off a ladder and Bate doing a BIG STRONG BOI airplane spin using a ladder. As Miz was getting beaten up, Truth stood on the apron waiting for the hot tag. He eventually got in and did Cena offense but he pinned instead of climbing. We also got DIY doing DX spots. Surprisingly, in only about 7 minutes, Theory and Waller pulled down the Smackdown titles.  That led to Waller taking a powerbomb through a ladder though. They kept up the action, complete with Dunne and Gargano taking a wild spot through a table and Ciampa hitting Bate with an Air Raid Crash off a ladder. Truth got close to winning only to be interrupted by JD McDonagh, who then got destroyed through a table by New Day. Priest battled for the titles with Miz but got stopped by Truth, who then retrieved the belts in 17:21. A total clusterfuck and I mean that in a good way. [****]

Andrade and Rey Mysterio vs. Dominik Mysterio and Santos Escobar

There was a good pace to this from the start. They called back to last year with Rey attempting to beat Dom with a belt but it was cut off this time around. That led to Rey taking the heat, which was entertaining for two reasons. One, Rey is a great underdog and two, Dom has been nailing the little character things throughout matches. He stopped to be a douche with poses or smack talk, always getting them done right at the ideal team. The hot tag to Andrade worked well because the match is so goddamn good at pro wrestling. Hopefully, things are finally set to play out right for him. Everyone got involved at ringside from Zelina taking out Elektra to multiple dives to the big Joaquin Wilde spot where he gets LAUNCHED deep into the aisle. Then, two dudes in Eagles themed Rey Mysterio masks interfered and hit Dom, allowing for the double 619 and a win in 11:02. The masked men revealed themselves to be Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. I think they didn’t need the mask. The crowd was lost and would’ve popped hard for Kelce. That was a pretty good match though the crowd was dead for a lot of it. [**¾]

Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso

Lil Wayne performed ahead of Jey’s entrance. Jey took Jimmy out with a dive before the bell, gaining the upper hand. I missed the actual opening bell so my time at the end of this match might not be accurate. Jimmy took control soon after, stopping to taunt his brother in between offense, which cost him as it opened the door for Jey to nail a superkick. From there, they traded shots to dueling responses from the crowd and then threw a bunch of superkicks. This was lacking the heat that it needed given what they’ve been through. It reminded me of the Jeff/Matt matches during their 2009 feud. They weren’t bad but they also didn’t click the way they should. Jey had Jimmy lined up for a big superkick but Jimmy begged him off and apologized for everything. That, of course, was just a ploy for Jimmy to get his signature stuff in. Jey survived, drilled Jimmy with a Spear, and won with the splash in 11:07. That was rather dull and cemented that this didn’t really need to happen. Keep Jimmy in his goofy role and push Jey to the moon. Just not against each other. [**]

Asuka, Dakota Kai and Kairi Sane vs. Bianca Belair, Jade Cargill and Naomi

DAMAGE CTRL had geishas in their entrance. There was a pretty grand entrance for Bianca, Jade, and Naomi too and all three looked like major stars. The Kabuki Warriors acted like they weren’t rattled on the outside and early on, they weren’t as they worked over Naomi using quick tags. It was a case of DAMAGE CTRL’s teamwork being better but the individual actions of their opposition being stronger. Bianca got the first hot tag and did her thing. She’s like, unbelievably good. Bianca teased a tag to Jade but Dakota cut it off, giving us our second heat segment. They didn’t take long there, allowing Jade to give the people what they want and hit her high impact offense that received pops each time. She even busted out a Michinoku Driver. Bianca and Naomi got their spots in following Asuka accidentally spitting the mist at Kairi. Then Jade beat Dakota with Jaded in 8:03. Exactly what it needed to be. A good six-woman tag capped by Jade dominating. [***]

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Gunther [c] vs. Sami Zayn

Before the match, we saw Sami Zayn with his wife and son backstage, then he had a chat with Chad Gable, and lastly, he got a quick hug and hype-up from Kevin Owens. PERFECTLY done. The production level has stepped up in a major way. Sami got his ass kicked from the start but he got his licks in, evidenced by Gunther’s chest being red. Gunther threw vicious chops back, which has to suck in 40 degree weather (commentary has given us so many weather updates tonight). Sami found a way to throw some suplexes yet he couldn’t muster a lot of momentum against the champion. Sami survived the powerbomb but was still barely standing, except when he busted out the Helluva Kick for a near fall. Gunther delivered two more powerbombs, yet Sami again kicked out and Gunther wasn’t sure what to do. Nobody really ever survives that much. I liked Gunther talking smack to Sami’s wife in the crowd and her response was “it’s over for you.” That’s a top-tier level of confidence. That triggered Gunther to go off and spam powerbombs. He wouldn’t cover though, continuing the assault and even hitting a top rope splash. Sami fired up and delivered a Helluva Kick followed by a BRAINBUSTAAAAA from the top. He added another Helluva Kick and ended Gunther’s legendary reign at the 15:26 mark. An outstanding match that built and only got better. The emotion from Sami’s wife, his comeback, Gunther being an asshole, and that finish with the BRAINBUSTAAAA was phenomenal. [****½]

Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins vs. The Rock and Roman Reigns

The presentation for The Rock’s entrance was slick as hell though him having a Brahma Bull Title was weird. Roman and Seth opened this though it quickly went to Cody vs. Roman before we got the Rock against Seth. Many were waiting to see how Rock would do in the ring. He overpowered Seth but was lost in the quickness department. Rock was getting strong babyface pops too. Seth and Cody worked well together, showing off surprising tandem offense. That sparked a brawl with Seth and Rock going into the crowd as Cody and Roman fought on the stage. Once we got back to the ring, Seth got isolated and the target became his leg. I thought they were setting up Rock’s ugly Sharpshooter. That segment took a LONG time and it felt like the crowd was kind of over it. This needed to be more of a sprint and not a slog tag. Oh wait, they did lead to the Sharpshooter. Seth survived and hit the Curb Stomp, setting up the hot tag to Cody. He did a bunch to Roman, including busting his nose open, and ate a series of big moves capped by a Cross Rhodes only for Rock to pull the referee out of the ring. Cody survived a Spear as we passed the 30 minute mark. This continued to drag until Rock grabbed the big weight belt and yelled at Cody’s mom for a while. Cody stopped him from using it and then they badly mistimed a spot where Cody cut off the People’s Elbow with a Cody Cutter. A big spot came when Roman missed his intended Spear and hit Rock by accident, leading to stereo Pedigrees for two. Everyone got taken out when Cody hit a Rock Bottom on Rock through the announce table and Roman Speared Seth through the barricade. Once Roman and Cody got back to the ring, Cody hit some Cross Rhodes but before he could finish the trifecta, Rock whipped him with the belt and Roman delivered the Spear in a callback to last year. Tag to Rock for the Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow, ending this in 44:29. This was like a New Japan main event. Pretty dull for about 20 minutes, then super hot for 20 or so minutes. Overall though, I think the callbacks to the past and that finish worked really well. [***½]

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Nowhere near the 10/10 night one from last year. That said, this was still a good first night even if it was missing something to make it special. The Rock was better than expected, Sami’s moment and match was incredible, Jade looked like a million bucks, and we got two great matches at the start. The middle section, especially the Usos match, dipped a bit in quality but it was a strong show overall.

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Wrestlemania 40, Kevin Pantoja