By John Crowe

It’s WrestleMania Week my friends. Let’s get right to it. This is the week where memories are made on the grandest stage of them all. After all, this is the showcase of immortals and this year, it has extra meaning with the WWE welcoming back fans for the first time in over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It sure will be nice to see a crowd of up to 25,000 a night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, hosted by Hulk Hogan and Titus O’Neill. Will there be surprises? Sure, there will be one or two we didn’t expect. Can you say Becky Lynch and The Man returning? And oh yeah, Bayley and Charlotte Flair still don’t have any thing set to do yet.

WrestleMania will open Saturday night with the WWE Championship match between Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre that will surely have the crowd popping. Plus, Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks will close out night one for the SmackDown Women’s Championship.

But first, we have a lot to get to from this week. Not only do we have RAW and SmackDown’s go-home shows, but we’ve also got the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony as well as the first ever two-night NXT:TakeOver event as Stand & Deliver brings action not only to the USA Network, but also to Peacock for the first time ever.

WrestleMania 37 – Updated card:

Night 1:

  • WWE Championship Match: Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre
  • Bad Bunny & Damian Priest vs. The Miz & John Morrison
  • Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro
  • Steel Cage Match: Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon
  • RAW Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day vs. AJ Styles & Omos
  • WWE Women’s Tag Team Turmoil #1 Contender’s Match: The Riott Squad vs. Natalya & Tamina vs. Lana & Naomi vs. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke vs. Carmella & Billie Kay
  • SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair

Night 2:

  • RAW Women’s Championship Match: Asuka vs. Rhea Ripley
  • The Fiend vs. Randy Orton
  • Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn with Logan Paul
  • United States Championship Match: Matt Riddle vs. Sheamus
  • Intercontinental Championship Nigerian Drum Fight: Big E vs. Apollo Crews
  • WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs. TBD
  • SmackDown Championship Match: Roman Reigns vs. Edge vs. Daniel Bryan

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RAW

RESULTS

  • Xavier Woods defeated AJ Styles
  • 2-on-1 Handicap Match: Braun Strowman defeated Elias & Jaxson Ryker
  • WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Non-title Match: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler defeated Asuka & Rhea Ripley
  • WWE Championship Non-title Match: Bobby Lashley defeated Cedric Alexander
  • United States Championship Non-title Match: Riddle defeated Mustafa Ali
  • Drew McIntyre defeated King Corbin

Watching Kofi Kingston throw a mic straight at Omos was laugh out funny and let Xavier Woods sneak another win over AJ Styles. Is there any question that Styles and Omos are winning the tag team championship at WrestleMania?

Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon is built basically to see Shane fly off the top of the cage and for Strowman to get a victory. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to see this storyline come to a fitting end.

Poor Asuka. She gets thrown into a tag team match against the tag team champs with her opponent at WrestleMania. So of course, Rhea Ripley takes out Asuka and feeds her to the wolves of Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler. Predictable but effective and adds some edge for Sunday’s title match. As for the tag champs, they finally have opponents as the Fatal Four Way is finally announced for Saturday night with The Riott Squad, Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke, Natalya & Tamina and Lana & Naomi fight it out with the winner getting a championship match on Sunday. Why not throw Bayley & Carmella into the match too although it looks like it may be Carmella and Billie Kay instead.

I’ll give Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin credit. They tried to take down Bobby Lashley. Try of course being the operative word as the WWE Champion solidified his spot as a main eventer heading into his Saturday match with Drew McIntyre by taking them both out, submitting Alexander to The Hurt Lock for the victory. The question now is will the ex-THB members cost Lashley the title at Mania?

If Bad Bunny needed any extra motivation for his match with The Miz, he got it when The Miz and John Morrison vandalized his $3 million white Bugatti with red paint and nailed him from behind to boot. Bunny and Damien Priest will get their revenge in Tampa except now it’s a tag team match instead on the previously announced one-on-one match. I give Bunny a ton of credit. He’s come in, done the hard work and performed a high level. He even cut a good promo Monday night to seal the deal. It was heartfelt, personal and bilingual as well. I totally disagree with The Miz, Bad Bunny does belong! Anytime!

Riddle may be a misunderstood and slightly not all there Bro outside the ring, but in it, the United States Champion is a bona fide Bro. His matches with Mustafa Ali have been really good and the latest left Riddle looking good for his title defense against Sheamus this weekend.

Give credit where credit is due. Over the past year, Drew McIntyre has simply brought it week in and week out during this historic year for the WWE. The former WWE champion did the same Monday night, besting King Corbin on his final match before WrestleMania. Now, can he get the job done Saturday to regain his championship and end the All Mighty Era?

All and all, RAW did a very good job bringing things together to help sell the PPV.

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NXT

RESULTS

Night 1

  • Pete Dunne defeated KUSHIDA
  • Bronson Reed wins NXT North American Championship Gauntlet Eliminator Match
  • NXT UK Championship Match: WALTER defeated Tommaso Ciampa
  • NXT Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Match: MSK defeated Legado del Fantasma and Grizzled Young Veterans to win the titles
  • NXT Women’s Championship Match: Raquel Gonzalez defeated Io Shirai to win title

Damn Nita Strauss is good! That was one helluva Star Spangled Banner! Plus, more fans LIVE at the Capitol Wrestling Center!

KUSHIDA and Pete Dunne was damn good to open things up.

LA Knight and Dexter Lumis being eliminated early in the North American Championship Gauntlet Eliminator Match was disappointing for me, but it accomplished setting them up for a feud ahead which will be good to see play out. Bronson Reed pinning Isaiah “Swerve” Scott was a pretty good story too making both guys look strong sending Reed up against Johnny Gargano for night 2 and the title.

It wasn’t your conventional TakeOver match, but that was an epic from WALTER and Tommaso Ciampa. Pacing, psychology and all out fight made this one of my favorites of night one. This one turned back and forth so many times, it was delightful. WALTER, with that injured right arm, proved why he’s been NXT UK Champion for almost 740 consecutive days.

MSK as the new NXT Tag Team Champions should be fun. That triple threat was non-stop from the sound of the bell ringing to start the match. There’s no shortage of where, who or what will be next for Wes Lee and Nash Carter, whose NXT run has been phenomenal so far as Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winners and now tag team champs.

Flying. Off. A. Skull. #&$(! Io Shirai flew off the NXT Skull nearly 20 feet high on the entrance ramp and took down Raquel Gonzalez. She simply is out of her mind as Wade Barrett said on the broadcast. Yet still through everything Shirai had, Gonzalez still had enough to come back with a huge lariat and one-arm powerbomb to end Shirai’s reign as champ. We’ve got a new NXT Women’s Champion and her name is Raquel Gonzalez to cap a mind-blowing night one.

Night 2:

  • NXT Cruiserweight Championship Unification Ladder Match: Santos Escobar defeated Jordan Devlin to win Unified Title
  • NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart defeated Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell to retain titles
  • NXT North American Championship Match: Johnny Gargano defeated Bronson Reed to retain title
  • NXT Championship Match: Karrion Kross defeated Finn Balor to win title
  • Unsanctioned Match: Kyle O’Reilly defeated Adam Cole

Night two started off with a high-flying car wreck of a ladder match to unify the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. I didn’t think that Santos Escobar needed the help of his Legado del Fantasma teammates, but it definitely helped his cause against Jordan Devlin. Devlin’s Spanish fly off the top of the ladder was inspiring but it was Escobar’s headbutt to Devlin’s dome that sent him flying through a ladder in the corner to give him the unified title.

I thought The WAY was on their way to winning the NXT Women’s Tag Team Title but low and behold, Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart held on to retain the belts. Solid, but not amazing.

You have to hand it to Johnny Gargano. When it comes to NXT TakeOver, he’s been one of its best performers. That didn’t change Thursday night as he fought off a game Bronson Reed to retain the North American Championship. No shame here for Reed in this loss.

In a battle of heavyweights, Karrion Kross becomes a two-time NXT Champion with his victory over Finn Balor. Balor took Kross to new heights in perhaps his best match in NXT. Tick. Tock. The time is now for Kross & Scarlett. The question is who’s next?

It was fitting that the Unsanctioned Match between Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole finished out the two-night event. Sure, was it a bit long? You could say that in this attention-starved year of 2021 where people can’t focus for more than a nano-second. But it told an amazing story! Mr. Nice Guy O’Reilly brought that chain into the match early and it helped him take out his former BFF with a knee wrapped in that chain from the top rope as he stretchered out Cole to end the night. But first, how about Cole putting O’Reilly through the ramp and pulling him out the side. Damn, they both put their bodies on the line in this one. The Undisputed Era is truly over after this fight.

You could say that night one top-to-bottom was a better show but night two’s co-main events put it right there on par with night one’s proceedings. If NXT was looking to set a tone for the main roster, it surely did as I’m not sure they can match the physicality and brutality of the black-and-gold brand.

Finally, kudos to the broadcast team of Vic Joseph, Beth Phoenix and Wade Barrett. They are quickly becoming the best announcing crew in WWE. Plus, I love the microphone from the rafters, reminiscent of the old MSG days.

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SMACKDOWN

RESULTS

  • SmackDown Tag Team Fatal Four-way Match: Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler defeated Otis & Chad Gable, The Street Profits & The Mysterios to retain the titles
  • Tamina defeated Nia Jax via DQ
  • Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale – Jey Uso

WrestleMania SmackDown was all about the hype. Plenty of pre-produced segments to pump up the matches which is expected the night before WrestleMania begins.

Big E taking us around Tampa, his hometown, was pretty cool and gave us a different look.

The Fatal Four-Way for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles was pretty entertaining with every team getting their chops in. That frenetic finish gave Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode the win to keep the championships and I like it, they’re a solid team that can stir the drink week in and week out.

Daniel Bryan is such a good story. His impassioned promo to start the night is just one more reason I wouldn’t discount him walking out with the Universal Championship at the end of Sunday night.

But it’s his competition with the best line of the night – Edge to Roman Reigns: “You’re Samoan Edge.” Brilliant.

Tamina vs. Nia Jax predictably ended in DQ fashion with Shayna Baszler & Natalya. I will say Tamina continues to be a better in-ring performer than Jax these days. We can now make it five teams in the night one tag team turmoil match as Billie Kay & Carmella are added to the mix. The winner gets a tag team title match on Sunday night. Where’s Charlotte Flair and Bayley? Why not just throw them in as well?

Congrats to Jey Uso, the winner of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale. Nice to see Angel Garza and Ricochet get some run too! Heck, I almost forget Tucker was still around. Now, can The Head of the Table get a big time win this weekend as well?

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Parting Shots:

WrestleMania picks:

Night 1: Drew McIntyre (new WWE Championship), Bad Bunny & Damian Priest, Cesaro, Braun Strowman, AJ Styles & Omos (new RAW Tag Team Champions), Lana & Naomi, Bianca Belair (new SmackDown Women’s Champion)

Night 2: The Fiend, Kevin Owens, Rhea Ripley (new RAW Women’s Champion), Big E (retains Intercontinental Title), Riddle (retains US Title), Lana & Naomi (new Women’s Tag Team Champions), Edge (new Universal Champion)

I liked the edited route for the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony for this year. There were so many inductees over two years due to the pandemic that it lent itself to shorter speeches but I sure did miss the stories. Plus, it would’ve been cool to see The Undertaker induct Kane or maybe Paul Heyman induct Rob Van Dam.

Don’t forget that the fun isn’t done with WrestleMania. Chris Jericho joins Stone Cold Steve Austin on an historic edition of the Broken Skulls Podcast.

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Coming up this week:

RAW:
WrestleMania fallout

NXT:
NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver fallout

SMACKDOWN:
WrestleMania fallout

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Thanks for letting us share our thoughts! Shoot me an email at jcrowe567@gmail.com. We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions! You can also check out my blog, The Crowe’s Nest as we delve into more pro wrestling, sports entertainment and the World of Sports. My apologies ahead of time – I AM a Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins fan! If you’re not down with that, I’ve got TWO WORDS for you… NEW ENGLAND