WWE's must-watch post WrestleMania shows - essentially an extended New Year's Day celebration - have come and gone. We're heading into what should be a fascinating summer with newly debuted stars finally getting their chance on the main roster, along with returning legends thrust into prominent positions. The Undertaker is gone, The Hardy Boyz are back, and Kurt Angle is the general manager of Raw (it's true).
Here are seven things we learned about WWE in the aftermath of WrestleMania 33.
Roman Reigns is the future of WWE whether you like it or not
One of the biggest and most beloved stars in WWE history is gone, and Roman Reigns retired him. Fortunately for WWE fans, he followed up that resoundingly unpopular result from WrestleMania 33 with a fantastic promo to open Monday Night Raw the following night, standing silently in the center of the ring and soaking up the often-vulgar chants from an outraged crowd before finally declaring “this is my yard now.”
At this point, fans who hate Roman Reigns are just going to have to deal with the fact that he will likely be one of the most important figures over the next decade. The more he embraces and thrives in his role as a super-villain, the more he'll gradually earn the respect of the half of the audience that despises him.
AJ Styles is the best in the world
Raw commentator Corey Graves publicly blasted the idea of an AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon match prior to WrestleMania, echoing the sentiments of many fans who felt that Styles’ talent was being put to waste.
All Styles and McMahon did Sunday was deliver the best match of the entire card, and Styles made McMahon - who is now 47 years old - look incredible in the process.
Many fans are dreading the prospect of Styles moving to Raw in the upcoming superstar shakeup, and for good reason. Even with SmackDown’s post-‘Mania additions, the show needs Styles to lead the way with John Cena set to take a leave of absence to film a movie, and no one from Raw can replace his all-around ability.
Any comeback is possible
The Hardy Boyz wrestled the Young Bucks in a ladder match at a Ring of Honor show Saturday night in Florida, and less than 24 hours later made a shocking return to WWE and became champions after more than a half-decade away in one of the biggest moments of the night. This happened on the same WrestleMania weekend that Kurt Angle entered the Hall of Fame and returned to weekly programming become the Raw general manager.
Given the list of stars WWE had snagged from all over the world in recent years, I’m not ruling out any potential return or debut in the future.
Goldberg and Brock Lesnar can both still deliver
Goldberg’s 86-second evisceration of Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series was a classic moment for the shock value alone, but after his bite-sized appearances at the Royal Rumble and Fastlane, many viewers weren’t sure a 50-year-old Goldberg could hang in the ring for more than a minute at a time.
Brock Lesnar, meanwhile, had a dud of a match against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32 and left the crowd bewildered and disappointed at SummerSlam against Randy Orton before reuniting with Goldberg late last year.
At WrestleMania 33, however, Goldberg and Lesnar wrestled the match we’d been waiting for. The bout clocked in at just under five minutes, but it was a stunningly intense and high-impact few minutes inside (and outside) the ring, with compelling back-and-forth action. Goldberg bid WWE farewell after Raw the next night, and he couldn’t have asked for a better final match.
Shinsuke Nakamura is going to be a megastar
The WrestleMania crowd still in town for SmackDown on Tuesday was always going to be boisterous, but the reaction to Nakamura’s long-awaited debut felt like a religious experience. SmackDown is the perfect place for Shinsuke Nakamura to thrive, and it’s not unconceivable that he could arrive at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans as the most popular wrestler in the world.
SmackDown is still the show to watch*
*That is, assuming the blue brand doesn’t lose AJ Styles, The Miz or Becky Lynch in the roster shake-up.
The Revival is a phenomenal team and a great addition to Raw, but SmackDown got both Tye Dillinger and Shinsuke Nakamura in the biggest heist since Seth Rollins won the title at WrestleMania 31. Hopefully Asuka isn't far behind.
WWE has a lot of faith in Bayley as the face of the women’s division
Not only did Bayley snap Charlotte’s pay-per-view undefeated streak a month before WrestleMania, she retained her title in the biggest match of her career in Orlando, pinning Charlotte in a one-on-one situation to score yet another victory over The Queen. Raw had been heavily criticized over the last year for the frequent title changes between Sasha Banks and Charlotte, but Bayley’s win at WrestleMania solidified her position as the leader of the division.