Charlotte Wilder reacts to a Bliss-ful, fan-filled, Bad Bunnied WrestleMania 37
By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist
WE’RE BACK, BABY!
A year after WrestleMania 36 took place in front of zero people in a small room in Florida, the WWE’s biggest event has somehow once again rolled around.
This time, there seems to be a light at the end of this awful pandemic tunnel: The vaccine is going into millions of people’s arms, wrestlers are performing in front of fans again, and I’m no longer disinfecting every piece of fruit I buy.
Last year’s recap was the first thing I ever wrote for FOX Sports, and this is the fifth recap I’ve done. I originally wrote about WrestleMania 33 in 2017, having never seen a moment of WWE in my life. Wrestling fans seemed to enjoy it, so I’ve made it a tradition to pop in each year.
Although I haven’t watched many matches since last April, I have been lucky enough to interview some of the WWE Superstars making history this weekend – Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, Sasha Banks, Bray Wyatt and Alexa Bliss. Some of them were in kayfabe, and some were being their true selves, but each of them made me realize just how impressive it is to be able to perform wild athletic feats while selling a character.
And it’s all a lot easier to do when there’s a crowd to provide energy.
I’m not going to go over every match because I don’t think you want to read 10,000 words. I’ve picked what I thought mattered the most — as always, shout-out to the fans who suspend their disbelief and take delight in this glitzy, stretchy, wild and visceral world. You know how to tap into the really fun part of your brain that a lot of people lose access to as they grow up.
Thanks for letting me come hang out in it every once in a while.
We’re still rocking with the pirate theme from last year’s WrestleMania, which was supposed to be in Tampa but had to take place at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. This time, the theme is much cooler because we’re actually in Tampa. And there are people here. And enough pyrotechnics to power the electrical grid of a small town.
Hulk Hogan is one of the hosts, and he looks even Hulk Hoganier than usual. Titus O’Neil is his co-host, and I’m going to be honest: I don’t know who he is. But apparently, he’s from Tampa. I’ve had to think about Tampa a lot these past 12 months (*sobs into Tom Brady jersey*).
BOBBY LASHLEY vs. DREW MCINTYRE
Bobby Lashley always reminds me of a super-jacked Wayne Brady. Drew McIntyre sounds like the name of a kid you went to elementary school with whom you thought you saw at the grocery store last time you visited your parents. Drew looks like he has worked at Guitar Center since you guys graduated, and he has started lifting too much "for endorphins."
Anyway, the two go back and forth for a while, and Drew seems to be ready to end this thing with a million body slams. But then Bobby kicks out of a hold, the crowd goes nuts, and eventually, Bobby puts Drew in a headlock.
Would it shock you to learn that Drew is rendered unconscious, and Lashley wins the match? This is the biggest win of his life and puts him on track to be featured in a big way going forward. I'm psyched to see where he goes from here.
OK, so apparently Bad Bunny is here?????
If you don’t know who Bad Bunny is (this is mostly for my mom), he’s a very famous musical artist who just performed at the Grammys, has won Grammys and has released a ton of bangers.
Mr. Bunny has teamed up with Damian Priest to go up against The Miz and John Morrison. The Miz is that guy from MTV, and John Morrison is not the guy from The Doors (Jim), but I can’t hear his name without wondering if they’re related. They have a similar vibe.
At first, I’m like, "Why is this very cool musician in the ring at WrestleMania?" But then I see what this guy can do. He has learned a thing or two training at the WWE Performance Center.
Mr. Bunny is actually really good at wrestling. Throwing yourself off a top rope seems terrifying, but Mr. Bunny just does it. He launches himself off the top rope onto the ground outside the ring and bodyslams The Miz and Morrison.
He and the Priest guy win.
I’m in awe.
BIANCA BELAIR vs. SASHA BANKS
Bianca Belair walks — sorry, saunters — out in her cool crop top with a pair of blue lips on it. She’s wearing blue spandex to match. Did you know she makes all her own costumes? Her hair is Rapunzelian in length.
Simply put: She might be the greatest thing that has ever happened to WWE.
I spoke to Bianca this summer. She was open about how she wants to be the best in the WWE, but she managed to come across as humble at the same time. She’s a very genuine woman who just wants to reach her full potential because she knows how good she is.
And here she is, living her dream on wrestling’s biggest stage. I’m thrilled WWE put her in this position.
The problem is that Bianca is facing Sasha Banks, and Sasha is ... Sasha.
Sasha is not someone you want to cross. I spoke to her last year, too, and even though there was a computer screen between us, I was intimidated.
The match is an instant classic. The raw talent between these two women is almost blinding. It’s pretty even, but all of a sudden, Bianca Belair is walking around with Sasha held up over her head as though she’s a pillow.
And now Sasha has Bianca in some sort of pretzel around the post as she stands on the rope above her?
Oh boy, it’s not looking good for Bianca. But then Bianca squirms her way out of it and now SHE’S on the top rope! Bianca does like 14 FLIPS OFF OF IT, lands on Sasha and somehow doesn’t break her back or Sasha’s back.
A few minutes later, Bianca wins!
Bianca looks like she can’t believe it. She’s now the SmackDown Women's Champion.
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
RANDY ORTON vs. THE FIEND
Randy Orton opens Sunday night in his little tighty whities. He has to face The Fiend, Bray Wyatt’s terrifying alter ego.
If you want some background on The Fiend, check out this interview I did with Bray:
OK, so Alexa Bliss appears to be stuck in Bray’s Firefly Fun House. Remember that psychedelic skit they did last year with John Cena?
No? Read this quickly.
Alexa walks out with this scary dark eye makeup, but she’s dressed like a little girl. She looks straight out of a horror film, and somehow, the Firefly Fun House music is even more horrifying when it’s pumped into a stadium.
She starts winding this giant jack-in-the-box until The Fiend pops out of it. I'm gonna be honest: A guy in tight, striped pants fighting a guy in tighty whities isn’t as scary as Alexa.
Randy wins this match, and we quickly cut to Alexa, who looks like Billie Eilish in the music video for "When the Party’s Over" but, like, times 40.
I’m not sure about the backstory here, but I’m getting the sense that Alexa is going to be stuck in the Firefly Fun House for a while. Or maybe not. I really have no idea what the deal is, and I’m not that into it. Judging by fans’ reactions — they seem to hate it — I’m not alone.
WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
The only thing I really want to say about this match is that Nia Jax is magnificent. She always has this amazing presence, you know? She knows what she’s doing when it comes to the performance — I was pretty bored during Randy and The Fiend’s match, but I was riveted during this one. I theoretically want Nia to punch me in the face as a badge of honor. But I don’t actually want that at all.
Does that make any sense?
Anyway, Nia and Shayna Baszler beat Tamina and Natalya and retained their belts.
SAMI ZAYN IS A CONSPIRACY THEORIST NOW?
Sami Zayn has gone down some weird conspiracy theory hole since I last saw him, which is timely, I guess, given *gestures at everything.*
Also concerning? I don’t know who he thinks is conspiring against him, but he’s fighting with Kevin Owens about it, and it doesn’t really matter.
Because the only thing that really matters is that Logan Paul shows up.
Let me caveat this: If you’re a die-hard WWE fan, the Logan Paul thing doesn’t matter at all, and the frantic, physical match between these two wrestlers who’ve been facing off for two decades does.
I don’t know how to explain who Logan Paul is except to say he’s a YouTuber with 50 bajillion followers who has somehow become a boxer. And his brother, Jake, knocked out former Knick Nate Robinson once.
We live in truly messed-up times.
So anyway, here we are. Sami has an incredible amount of energy, and I think his chest hair got dyed orange by his fake tan, unless he’s just that much of a redhead. Sami and Kevin Owens wrestle for a while, but again: not the point.
The point is that Kevin Owens stuns Logan Paul.
The crowd seems to love this.
Alright, I’ve been out of the WWE loop for a while because I don’t know who this surfer guy is. He looks like a mix of Pete Davidson and Steve-O.
Fortunately, our social team has my back.
This is The Original Bro, AKA a guy named Matt Riddle. He’s taking on Sheamus, who is Irish. I love when they get Irish guys up here. Nothing fires me up more than an Irish tune (can you tell I grew up in Boston?). I miss Becky.
I kind of love this bro guy, but judging by the crowd’s reaction, I don’t think I’m supposed to.
What’s not to love, though? He wrestles barefoot, he talks like he’s stoned on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, and he looks like he should be in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."
Maybe that’s what’s not to love.
Not surprisingly, Sheamus kicks the bro’s butt. This is brutal. They’ve been wrestling for years at this point, everyone’s bleeding, and I’m relieved when Sheamus wins because it means it’s over.
And just like that, Mr. Ireland is officially the United States Champion.
ASUKA vs. RHEA RIPLEY
I remember Ripley’s first WrestleMania match last year against Charlotte Flair. People loved it — it was a really old-school, technical match.
But Rhea has since turned into this goth queen of darkness. She comes out to heavy metal wearing a black studded vest, black lipstick and leathery tights. She is ready to ROCK.
I’m a little scared of it. I’m not trying to get in her way or anything.
I’m also not trying to listen to this metal band playing a song that sounds like a chainsaw ripping through a steel trash can.
Asuka appears in this majestic, brightly colored robe. She’s the empress for a reason, and she swaggers out wearing the RAW Women’s Champion belt. She’s got a great entrance — Asuka’s energy is out of control. These ladies are both pretty rad; if Asuka is a fun frozen margarita, Rhea is a shot of Fireball.
The match starts, and Asuka comes out with a vengeance.
[Cut to four hours later]
... these two have more energy than an original Four Loko, but somehow Rhea Ripley wins!! It’s truly a new day (wrestling fans, see what I did there?) in the WWE when Rhea and Bianca defeat two of the biggest Superstars in WWE’s universe.
Fans seem to be happy about this, but I’m bummed. I like Asuka.
BAYLEY FREAKS OUT FOR A SECOND
Bayley has spent all of WrestleMania playing this annoying little sister role, where the hosts and the Hall of Famers just disrespect her the whole time. In the weirdest and shortest moment of the whole show, the Bella Twins come out and throw her down the ramp to the ring.
That’s it. That’s the whole tweet.
THE MAIN EVENT
This is a truly incredible match. The fact that it’s happening at all is mind-blowing — both Edge and Daniel Bryan (two crowd favorites) suffered what seemed to be career-ending injuries years ago, and Roman Reigns left WWE in 2018 after his leukemia returned. Now, they all have a feud against one another.
They show a promo from a few months ago in which Daniel Bryan walked into the ring wearing his signature T-shirt and underpants, as though he got up to pee in the middle of the night. In the promo, Daniel Bryan was almost pinning Roman Reigns, but then Edge showed up with a chair and hit Bryan. So they’re all facing off at WrestleMania, where they’re competing in a triple-threat match for the Universal Championship.
EDGE IS SCARY!!!! He walks around the outside of the ring tossing random metal cubes everywhere. He looks like a guy who can’t find his leaf-blower in the garage even though he swears he put it there. Did one of you guys move it?
But then he pile-drives Roman’s Reigns’ cousin, Jey Uso, into one of the metal blocks, and I’m like ............
....... that can’t be good for a person.
Then Roman throws Daniel onto a table like he’s making pizza. Edge is red, veiny, and his eyes are bulging so much that he looks like one of those angry shrimp from the Muppets.
What I do appreciate deeply about this match is that every guy could walk away with the belt at any time. I have no idea whom they’re going to reward with a win because all three deserved it so much. There is no clear redemption story because, well, how can you put these narratives up against one another and know what to do?
But someone has to be the victor, and Roman finally wins with some help from Jey Uso, and the crowd hates it.
This seems to me like WWE finally has made Roman Reigns happen. He has won people over by playing the ultimate badass that he is. They originally pushed him on fans too soon, but now he really is at the head of the table, filling the role he was born to play.
Like him or hate him, Roman’s here to stay.
Kind of like these recaps ;).
Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and co-host of "The People's Sports Podcast" for FOX Sports. She's honored to represent the constantly neglected Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog in a ballpark or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.