EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.— WrestleMania 35 added to the legacy of wrestling’s signature event, delivering two iconic matches that will forever remain etched in WWE history.
Becky Lynch shined in the first-ever women’s main event at WrestleMania, pinning Ronda Rousey to emerge victorious—and giving Rousey the first defeat of her WWE career.
Let the era of “The Man” begin.
The second unforgettable moment took place when Kofi Kingston conquered Daniel Bryan to win his first WWE world championship. Kingston is an 11-year veteran and one of the company’s most spectacular performers, but even as recently as this January, it appeared there were no plans for him to ever win the world title. Yet that all suddenly changed, ultimately thanks to Kingston’s unrelenting pursuit of greatness.
The show served as the centerpiece to this past week’s collection of wrestling in New York and New Jersey, and featured a handful of moments—including Shane McMahon and The Miz’s fall from atop a camera platform, a surprise return from John Cena, as well as Seth Rollins finally slaying Brock Lesnar—that will live on in WrestleMania lore.
Here are the results:
· Tony Nese defeated Buddy Murphy to win the Cruiserweight championship on the preshow
· Carmella won the Women’s Battle Royal on the preshow
· Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins defeated The Revival to become the new Raw tag team champions on the preshow
· Braun Strowman won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the preshow
· Seth Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Universal championship
· AJ Styles hit the “Phenomenal Forearm” to defeat Randy Orton
· The Usos successfully defended their SmackDown tag titles in a four-way against Aleister Black and Ricochet, Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev, and The Bar
· Shane McMahon defeated The Miz in a “Falls Count Anywhere” match
· The IIconics won the women’s tag team titles in a match against Sasha Banks and Bayley, Nia Jax and Tamina, and Beth Phoenix and Natalya
· Kofi Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan to win the WWE championship
· Samoa Joe defeated Rey Mysterio
· Roman Reigns defeated Drew McIntyre
· Triple H defeated Batista in a no holds barred match
· Baron Corbin defeated Kurt Angle
· “The Demon” Finn Balor defeated Bobby Lashley to win the Intercontinental championship
· Becky Lynch defeated Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair in a “Winner Take All” to win both of WWE’s women’s championships
And here are my takeaways from the 2019 edition of “The Showcase of Immortals:”
1. Becky Lynch made history, winning the first-ever women’s main event at WrestleMania.
Lynch became the first person to defeat Ronda Rousey, pinning her to win the match and become the undisputed top woman in all of pro wrestling.
Fortunately for Lynch, she will have talented opponents to continue her surging popularity. Charlotte Flair can now claim she was not defeated and is owed a title shot, and a singles match—at some point in time—between Lynch and Rousey will be a considerable draw.
Lynch’s rise to headlining WrestleMania is one of the best moments in wrestling history, and she delivered a match worthy of the occasion.
2. Kofi Kingston fulfilled his wrestling destiny by winning the WWE championship.
Kingston and Bryan wrestled the most emotionally compelling match of the entire night, filled with near-falls, a well-defined hero and villain, and incredible storytelling.
Kingston-Bryan was not the original plan for WrestleMania. Kingston made the most of an opportunity on SmackDown Live when he filled in for an injured Mustafa Ali in February, and hasn’t looked back since.
An 11-year veteran in WWE, Kingston had appeared to hit his peak with New Day. There were no long-term plans for him to one day capture the WWE championship at WrestleMania, but the change in plans is part of the sublime nature of pro wrestling. In a business known for its predetermined finishes, there is a preponderance of value in the reaction of the crowd. Wrestling fans have consistently enjoyed the hard work and constant entertainment from Kingston, and that ultimately paid off on wrestling’s biggest stage.
Lost in the celebration for Kingston was the work of Daniel Bryan.
Bryan sold for Kingston better than anyone else did for their opponent throughout the marathon show, and it is incredible to watch, in real time, Bryan regain his spot as one of the top wrestlers in the world.
Kingston-Bryan not only ranks as WrestleMania 35’s best match, but belongs on the list of greatest matches in ‘Mania history.
3. Kofi Kingston’s journey to the WWE championship highlighted the beauty of the chase.
In addition to a series of rematches with Daniel Bryan, a new opponent is needed for Kingston to bring his title reign to the next level.
Enter Shane McMahon.
McMahon delivered another memorable WrestleMania moment, this time with The Miz, when he was superplexed off a camera platform. The finish was brilliant, as Miz hit the move to inflict pain on McMahon. But it also proved costly, as McMahon landed on top of him for the pinfall.
McMahon is now the perfect opponent for Kingston. He proudly boasts he is “The Best in the World,” and he would fit perfectly into the story of Vince McMahon doing anything and everything possible to hold down Kingston. Is the wrestling world ready for a Shane McMahon run with the WWE title?
The inclusion Bryan and Miz, who have their own issues with one another, would only add to the story.
4. Kurt Angle’s farewell match was not a legendary punctuation mark to place at the end of his storied career, but instead another act of selflessness from the Olympic gold medalist.
An integral part of Angle’s legacy is his willingness to establish younger talent. He flourished in that role during his run in TNA, where AJ Styles and Samoa Joe were major beneficiaries of his greatness. More recently, Angle went out of his way to put over Drew McIntyre in WWE.
So it was only fitting that Angle ended his career by doing everything possible to help further establish Baron Corbin.
Even if Angle never wrestles another match, he has secured his place among the all-time greats in the business.
5. Imagine if someone told you in 1996 that Paul Heyman was going to interrupt Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania?
That is exactly what happened at WrestleMania 35, as Heyman boldly proclaimed that if Brock Lesnar wasn’t going on last, then he was fighting first.
Lesnar opened the show by dropping the Universal championship to Seth Rollins, who was willing to play dirty to win. Rollins represents the WWE every week on Raw, never misses a town and is one of the best in the world in the ring. Lesnar’s future should now shift into a special attraction role for WWE.
The decision to open with the Universal championship match added some electricity to the show, as well as continued the idea that the night will be full of surprises.
6. Speaking of surprises, John Cena returned at WrestleMania to reprise his role of the Doctor of Thuganomics.
Cena has perfected the craft of holding the crowd in the palm of his hand. The crowd responded with joy as he verbally tore apart Elias, and Cena even acquiesced his older fan base, if only for a night, clamoring for years to see an edgier character.
The lesson, as always, was clear: WWE is a better place when Cena is around.
7. The Usos earned their WrestleMania moment, successfully defending their SmackDown tag team titles in a four-way match.
Jimmy and Jey Uso have been loyal soldiers within WWE, and just signed extensions with the company. They have reinvented themselves as heels after a successful run as facepainted babyfaces. Their matches are consistently some of the best of SmackDown each week, and there is no reason to think, if given the opportunity, The Usos could main event a WWE pay per view.
Which begs the question…
Where do The Usos rank among the best tag teams in the world?
Wrestling is a subjective art form, but they certainly belong on an elite list with the Hardys, the New Day, the Young Bucks and New Japan’s Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.
8. The finish to the women’s tag team title match was perfectly booked.
The IIconics won the tag team titles, using old-school heel tactics to capitalize on an injured opponent, and then steal a victory.
WrestleMania needs a balance of legends and emerging stars in order to resonate at the highest level possible. This match served as a perfect example of how to use stars to help enhance younger talent, and giving the titles—which are a phenomenal addition to the women’s division—to Peyton Roce and Billie Kay hopefully helps catapult those two talents into a new realm in WWE.
9. With help from “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Triple H defeated Batista in a no holds barred match. The match added some nostalgia to the event, and while it did not break new ground, it certainly added to the card.
The match reminded me of the Roman Reigns-Drew McIntyre affair, and at the risk of outdating myself, also reminded me of the 1993 SummerSlam match between Shawn Michaels and Mr. Perfect (which was set up at WrestleMania IX, so there is a ‘Mania connection).
Opposites attract in pro wrestling. And it can be very challenging to create an epic without that clash of styles.
Batista and Triple H were smart to add the no holds barred element into their match, but especially at this point in their careers, they work a similar style. Another match that featured similar styles was Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre, two monsters who look even more menacing against smaller opponents.
AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton earlier in the card, and he is the rare talent that could have worked a different style against any of the aforementioned stars—and made it a success.
10. WrestleMania 35 did not disappoint, but the show would have been considerably enhanced if it shaved an hour off the show.
Incredibly, despite a 16-match that lasted over seven hours, WrestleMania highlighted the vast pool of talent in WWE and completed multiple storylines.
WWE remains the undisputed king of pro wrestling, with WrestleMania 35 serving as its latest success.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.