It was symbolic that WrestleMania 37 opened with a delay–and ended in spectacular fashion.
Just over a year after WWE ceased shows in front of live crowds due to the pandemic, WrestleMania 37 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., marked the company’s triumphant return to normalcy–but only after a brief weather delay. Extending the night did not affect the crowd’s energy, which helped carry the show. And the match of the night was the main event, where Bianca Belair defeated Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. This was the rare type of bout that put a spotlight on both performers, giving Belair a signature win and showing off the brilliance of Banks.
Belair and Banks told an outstanding story of a champion desperately seeking to hold on to her title against a hungry opponent looking to make her mark. The win cements Belair among WWE’s elite, a direct result of Banks using her star power to help create a new larger-than-life force in Belair.
The entire night was solid, even though there was far too long a break in action following Braun Strowman’s cage match victory against Shane McMahon. But a WrestleMania in front of a hot crowd just felt right, setting the table for night two on Sunday, and it will be forever carried by its transcendent main event.
Here are the results from the opening night of WrestleMania 37:
- WWE Champion Bobby Lashley defeated Drew McIntyre
- Natalya and Tamina won the tag team turmoil match, putting them in a tag title match on night two
- Cesaro defeated Seth Rollins
- AJ Styles and Omos defeated The New Day to win the Raw Tag Titles
- Braun Strowman defeated Shane McMahon in a steel cage match
- Bad Bunny and Damian Priest defeated The Miz and John Morrison
- Bianca Belair defeated Sasha Banks to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship
And here are my takeaways:
Following a fantastic main event, Bianca Belair is the new SmackDown Women’s Champion.
This was the right call to main-event the night. In the WWE realm, winning the Royal Rumble match is supposed to merit a chance to close out WrestleMania, so having Belair, who won the Rumble, challenge Banks, made sense. Banks has also been WWE’s top performer over the past year, adding value to every single segment she has had on Raw, SmackDown, and NXT. She saved some of her best work for WrestleMania 37, selling for Belair to the point where it became impossible not to believe in her. Banks finishes her title reign in fashion, helping build a new star in Belair.
In addition to Banks’ selling, Belair did an outstanding job executing as the underdog. She found her way out of the Banks Statement, answering Banks every step of the way. The match also presented Banks as a proud champion, fighting with every inch of her spirit to keep her title. Following a K.O.D., Belair pinned Banks, ending WrestleMania in spectacular fashion.
Belair now starts her run as the SmackDown Women’s Champion (a title which, along with the Raw Women’s Champion, is long overdue for a gender-neutral rebrand, as with the WWE Champion and Universal Champion). She can go in the ring and is extremely charismatic, and now needs the right first opponent to establish herself as champion.
In something of an upset, Bobby Lashley retained the WWE Championship against Drew McIntyre.
Lashley won the match after he locked McIntyre in the Hurt Lock. McIntyre could not break the hold, ultimately leading to referee stoppage. Michael Cole sold the narrative that McIntyre passed out, which wasn’t the case, and Lashley’s title reign is set to extend.
It is a surprise that McIntyre did not regain the belt. He helped carry WWE over the past year as the premier babyface on Raw, and this was a chance to have him win in front of a live crowd. Instead, Lashley retained—and cleanly. This presents a great opportunity for both men—for McIntyre to eventually put himself back in position to regain the title, and for Lashley to have a dominating, year-long reign as champ.
My enthusiasm for that prospect was tempered later in the evening. As the broadcast team was reviewing highlights from the night, Michael Cole noted that Lashley looks unstoppable and he is set to hold the belt for a long time. That might as well be the kiss of death for a champion in WWE, so we’ll see if he can leave Monday’s Raw with the belt.
Following the Lashley-McIntyre match, Bayley had a brief backstage segment with the NWO and Titus O’Neil. There is no question that Bayley is charismatic, but it is mind boggling that there wasn’t a place for her on the card.
Outside of a brief feud with Bianca Belair, the WWE creative team seems to be lost on how to present Bayley when she doesn’t have a championship or isn’t in a program with Sasha Banks. Considering that Bayley is one of the best in the world at her craft, as well as coming off one of her best years as a performer, it is hard to believe that she does not have a bigger role at WrestleMania.
The tag team turmoil match served as a reflection of WWE’s struggle to build a consistent mid-card in its women’s division.
Natalya and Tamina won the match, which gives them a tag title match on night two of WrestleMania 37 against Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax. But Natalya and Tamina are already established entities, and both have likely hit their ceiling in WWE. So why not use this opportunity to build Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott?
WrestleMania is a massive platform to build new stars. That opportunity was presented here, but it didn’t happen. Morgan and Riott—who received a solid reaction from the crowd throughout the match—winning the tag titles on Sunday had the potential to be a star-building moment.
Seven years after it appeared he was poised for a singles run, Cesaro had another WrestleMania moment.
Cesaro defeated Seth Rollins in an entertaining match. The turning point took place after Cesaro transitioned a Rollins stomp into a European uppercut, then fired up the crowd with the Cesaro Swing and a neutralizer for the win.
The crowd responded for Cesaro. Incredibly, this is his first singles match at a WrestleMania. He appeared poised for a big run after winning The Andre Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX, but that run fizzled out. Ever since, he’s worked in tag teams and given life to the middle of the card.
Without a crowd again until late this summer, the odds continue to be stacked against Cesaro–but hopefully this is the start of a meaningful run. He would benefit from a move to Raw, where he could work a compelling program with Bobby Lashley.
His screen time was quick, but it was very meaningful to see Big E introduce Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods before their tag title match. The New Day has reached heights unlike any other group in WWE history, and it was great to see a brief reunion on screen, especially at WrestleMania.
As for the match, AJ Styles and Omos defeated Kingston and Woods to win the Raw Tag Titles. This is Styles’s first run as a tag champion in WWE, and Omos’s first run with a WWE title. They make a fantastic team—Styles is among the most elite performers in the world, and Omos is correctly presented as an unstoppable giant.
Omos destroyed Kingston and Woods. Personally, I would have had him pin Woods for the win instead of Kingston, who needs to be better protected as a former WWE Champion. Omos made the pin while standing with one foot on Kingston’s chest—shades of the Ultimate Warrior pinning Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII—quickly establishing himself as an important piece to the WWE landscape.
The other tag team match of the night pitted Bad Bunny and Damian Priest against The Miz and John Morrison.
This was the Styles/Omos match in reverse. Unlike Omos, who waited on the apron for Styles to make the tag, Bunny received the majority of the in-ring action while Priest looked on. The narrative was Bunny’s resilience, as he took punishment from Miz and Morrison, yet continued to fight.
Bunny hit all of his high spots, including a Canadian Destroyer, and he was especially fortunate to work with someone as talented as Morrison, who sold for him in convincing fashion. The finish came after Bunny hit a high crossbody on Miz, lighting up the crowd and picking up the win.
In addition to a fun celebrity crossover, this partnership has also been beneficial for Priest. Moving forward, he would be a great fit for the United States title.
Shane McMahon and Braun Strowman built a program around name-calling. If you’re wondering, I don’t know what this was doing on a WrestleMania card, either.
A year after winning the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 36, Strowman defeated McMahon in a steel cage. This match featured a call-back to the greatest hits, from outside interference (from Elias and Jaxson Ryker), as well as a coast-to-coast from McMahon. The action picked up when Strowman ripped a piece of the cage open to prevent McMahon from winning, and the highlight occurred when Strowman threw McMahon off the top of the cage and into the ring.
Strowman deserves credit for turning this match into something, but moving forward, he also deserves a better program.
Night one of WrestleMania 37 built even more anticipation for night two on Sunday. There were highlights, but none more magical than the match that saw Belair win the title from Banks.
As a whole, the Sunday card—which includes Kevin Owens v. Sami Zayn, Asuka v. Rhea Ripley, Fiend v. Randy Orton, and the Roman Reigns v. Edge v. Daniel Bryan main event–is the better of the two. But the opening night set an entertaining pace, and the crowd served as the secret ingredient to a successful show.
This night will be forever remembered in wrestling lore for its main event. As champion, Belair will receive the bulk of the attention, and deservedly so—but the brilliance of this match is a testament to the skill, psychology, and storytelling of Sasha Banks.
On the biggest platform possible, Banks and Belair used WrestleMania 37 to carve their names into the history of the Showcase of Immortals.