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WrestleMania 35 main event ranked among the best

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(Editor’s note: We were a bit late getting these out, but you can get caught up on the last two entries in the series with WrestleMania 33 and WrestleMania 34 main event rankings here and here.)

FIRST FIDDLE

(The one where The Man was made)

The year was 2015.

Becky Lynch was a moderately popular midcard star in NXT. In the lead-up to Takeover: Unstoppable, she was several rungs on the ladder below the real stars of the NXT women’s division, Sasha Banks and Charlotte. A few months earlier she’d competed in a fatal four way with Sasha, Charlotte, and Bayley, and turned more than a few heads in the process.

Months before that, Sasha had challenged Becky—then a characterless competitor with solid in-ring skills but not much else—to look in the mirror and make a decision about what kind of a performer she wanted to be; someone willing to do what it takes to get ahead or someone content to stay in other wrestlers’ shadows.

Heads up to those who didn’t watch NXT back in 2015: Sasha Banks had character and depth too back then. She was a three-dimensional person with motivations, development, logical actions, etc. She wasn’t just a purple haired suicide-diver. She was a legit boss whose own storyline rise is worthy of a thousand word article or two. Sasha convinced Becky to join her dastardly team and for a time they were a dominating force in NXT.

Throughout the fatal fourway, Becky and Sasha worked together and for a time it looked like Becky might help Sasha retain the belt. Instead, Becky chose to follow her mentor’s advice and force her way to the top. She attacked Sasha, nearly stole a pin, and made everyone believe she belonged on the level of the other three (never mind the fact that she already had the most in-ring experience of all of them).

In the aftermath, Becky officially turned babyface and challenged Sasha for her championship. The contract signing featured Sasha cheap-shotting her and standing on her head with her title held high. The heat this feud generated in a short amount of time was unreal and for my money it was the real main-event of the night (Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn actually closed the show). I fell in love with Becky Lynch during this feud; she was such an easy underdog to root for and Sasha such a perfect villain to boo. There wasn’t a title challenger I wanted to see win more than her.

And when the match was ended Sasha’s hand went up, still the champ; Becky was second-fiddle.

She sat in the ring as Banks’ music played; she was crying, overcome with kayfabe emotion over how close she came to win, and overcome with legit emotion over how high she’d risen so quickly, perhaps wondering if she’d just experienced her one and only taste of the top. She needn’t worry: This was the match, a loss, where she made it. She became a true NXT superstar on the level of the other three women, and though she never won the title (unlike the other three), she won the hearts of the fans: The NXT crowd, fully behind her after the match—in love with her as much as I was—suddenly and unprompted began singing her theme song. It was a surreal moment; the sort of thing that happens a lot in WWE shows now but at the time was extremely rare.

One year later, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch were called up to the main-roster to inject some of NXT’s magic to the main-roster women’s division.

Immediately it was apparent to my jaded and cynical eyes that my favorite of the three would be the odd (wo)man out: Sasha had the over the top look and charisma that Vince McMahon loves in his cartoon characters. Charlotte had the pedigree and the build; despite being the least-experienced of the three (and of the four if you counted the still-NXT Bayley) and despite being the clumsiest on the mic, it was obvious that Charlotte was pegged as the alpha of the trio and that Sasha would be her “forever rival;” her Bret to Charlotte’s Michaels, her Rock to Charlotte’s Austin, etc.

Where would that leave Becky? She’d be the ever-doomed “workrate one.” She’d be the one you’d count on to put on great matches and lose. She’d be the one who you could insert into a feud and generate some interest because she was so well liked…and then lose.

She was essentially a glorified jobber to the stars.

The brand split happened and Charlotte and Sasha moved to Raw; Becky went to SmackDown. She won the women’s title but played second fiddle to the continuing adventures of Charlotte and Sasha. Even as a champion she was the odd (wo)man out.

At WrestleMania 33, Charlotte and Sasha and the newly-called-up Bayley all competed in a twelve-minute match for the Raw women’s title. Becky was stuck in the death slot between Brock’s victory over Goldberg and Roman Reigns’ shooting of Old Yellertaker; she worked a six-woman match that lasted all of five forgotten minutes.

A year later, at WrestleMania 34, she didn’t even make the main card. On the other hand, Charlotte defeated the undefeated Asuka for the SmackDown women’s title—the title Becky inaugurated—and a new face of the women’s division burst onto the scene too: Ronda Rousey turned every head with an incredible debut performance. Where was Becky? She competed in a Battle Royal on the preshow.

Her standing with the company was slipping more and more into obscurity. All the while, she maintained her fanbase; her tweets showed a personality that was simply not (allowed to be) explored on TV. While SmackDown the title picture that Spring focused on Carmella, Charlotte, and Asuka, Becky was nowhere to be found.

Finally, in the lead-up to SummerSlam, Becky Lynch got her chance. She defeated Carmella in a non-title match, earning the right to challenge her for the belt on the PPV. Fans were shocked at the development but nonetheless overjoyed: Finally, her hard work and toiling were going to pay off. Everyone knew Carmella’s time as a transitional champ was coming to an end and everyone was excited to see the belt back on Bex.

One week later Carmella attacked Becky and Charlotte made the save. That’s fine. Good for her, I guess. But then Charlotte earned a match with Carmella for her trouble and then, by winning it, was also added to the title match.

In the match, Becky had the champ dead to rights. She was three seconds away from a redemptive victory. And what happened next? Well, in Whoville they say, that Charlotte’s black heart, darkened three shades that day. She hit a Natural Selection on Becky (from behind, because that’s how you hit that move; it’s a dirty sneaky heel move), pinned Becky and won the title in Becky’s match that she horned her way into.

After that Becky snapped and brutally attacked Charlotte to the ABSOLUTE DELIGHT OF EVERYONE. Because, everyone knew, Becky was 100% justified. She’d been cheap-shotted and had her victory taken from her. Oh sure, it was a match where everyone woman was for herself, but everyone knows the difference between the rules and the code: Charlotte kept the rules but broke the code. Bad form. Bad Flair.

The next month featured a frustrating tug of war between Vince and the fans, as he kept trying to push Becky as a heel and the fans kept cheering her for being (A) awesome, and (B) right, in that order. Becky won the title from Flair at Hell in a Cell and then at the women’s only PPV, Evolution, she beat Charlotte again. Although their match was overshadowed by Ronda Rousey, it was soon after revealed that Lynch vs Rousey would be the top women’s match at Survivor Series, an honor Becky certainly earned.

You know what happened next.

The SmackDown invasion of Raw was the first time since the WCW invasion in 2001 where it felt like an actual invasion. The fact that it was Becky Lynch leading the party, cocky and smug because they were still trying to make her a heel, only made the moment more surreal. Six months ago this woman was invisible. Now? She was the alpha coming to clean house on the company’s flagship show.

Booking her as a heel, combined with her own personal swagger, mixed with the fans going orgasmic for her every move made her the second coming of Stone Cold right then and there. The similarity doesn’t end there: Austin’s defining superstar-making moment was arguably the shot of his bloody face at WrestleMania 13. From then on the writing was on the wall: You knew Austin was the next big thing and it was only a matter of time before they pulled the trigger and ran with him.

Becky’s bloody face, celebrating as she took on all-Raw-comers was likewise her superstar-making moment. From that point forward the writing was on the wall: You knew Becky was the next big thing and it was only a matter of time before they pulled the trigger and ran with her.

Of course Nia Jax is reckless and bad at her job so Charlotte had to sub-in for Becky at Survivor Series, and though they tried to turn Charlotte into a rage machine like Becky, the fans didn’t bite. In fact, every attempt to shoe-horn Charlotte into what quickly became a very personal and WrestleMania worthy feud between Becky and Ronda was met with indifference and annoyance by the WWE fans. This was the hottest one-on-one feud in ages. It didn’t need any help getting hotter and hotter.

So naturally WWE tried to help by smothering it with a wet blanket.

Nevertheless, Becky persisted. She main-evented TLC against Asuka and Charlotte, and though she lost, fans only shrugged, knowing that she had Ronda’s belt to go after. If anything this was good, fans thought, because it set up Charlotte vs Asuka II at WrestleMania 35.

*deep sigh*

It’s here where we enter the “Becky Lynch has a nagging leg problem that won’t go away” phase of the story. Nevertheless, despite WWE’s “creative” team doing what it does, Becky persisted. She remained hot as fire. She won the Rumble exactly as fans wanted Daniel Bryan to do in 2014. She challenged Ronda Rousey the next night and with that we were set.

Of course it wasn’t that easy. This being WWE in 2019, no one knows how to tell a simple story anymore (except for on NXT, where simple stories are precisely why the show is so perfect), Vince and co. kept adding one layer of stupidity after another. Becky lost her title opportunity, lost her job, regained her job, watched Charlotte horn-in once again on her match, and fought her way back into her own match. All of this, coupled with meteoric rise of Kofi Kingston, threatened to finally buckle the popularity that Becky had shouldered since August.

Nevertheless, Becky persisted. She broke through the stupidity by using her mic skills, carrying herself like she belonged, and leaning into the love of the fans to make everything she did and said seem like the most important thing on the show. It’s for those reasons she is the next Steve Austin and because she does them in such a “Becky Lynch” sort of way, she’s also the first Becky Lynch.

One year before this she was on the WrestleMania preshow, eliminated with little fanfare to the supreme disappointment of the few fans watching. One year later, she was in the main-event, being the first WWF/E superstar ever to go from preshow to main-event in a single year. She became the first European superstar to main-event WrestleMania since Andre the Giant. And, of course, she was the first of three women to main-event the most important wrestling show of the year, every year.

The match needs no breakdown. It was what it should have been: Charlotte hit her high spots and used her great facial expressions to carry the dramatic portion of the match. Ronda hit her unusual (to pro wrestling) judo-influenced spots and took a great amount of punishment for someone who was still just a rookie. And Becky did what she always did: She was the glue. She called the match, guided the action, worked everything through her, and when the end came, she got what she came for.

When the match was ended Becky’s hand went up, the champ; second fiddle no more.

Yes it was a bit sloppy in places and the ending was either intentionally controversial or botched, it’s unclear. But that’s minor stuff; in years to come it’ll be small potatoes when the whole story of Becky Lynch’s rise to the top is discussed. What matters is the place it will have in history, not the way some minor hiccups caused distress in fans for a few days after the event. In that case, history will be very kind to it: It’s the story of a woman’s determined quest to rise from the bottom to be the undisputed, most important player in the game. She overcame ethnic stereotypes, early presumptions against her, the preference of other wrestlers over her, the name-power of Flair and the starpower of Rousey.

When the main-event began, Charlotte entered the area via her father’s helicopter and the remixed refrains of her father’s theme. Ronda was treated with a live performance of her theme song as she came down the ramp. Becky’s music hit and she simply marched forward, serenaded by the fans, just as she had been when her story started, when she sat in the ring crying, second fiddle to a favored performer.

When WrestleMania 35 ended, only one song was played and only one woman stood tall, second fiddle to no one ever again.

The man had been made.

Where does this WrestleMania main-event rank among the show’s best?

10th

It’s a great one, propped up by the personal story at the heart of it and held back by the lack of tremendous wrestling on display. And as historic as it was to have women in the main-event, I would expect that’s an accolade that will happen again in the future, meaning it’ll be a less-significant accolade as time goes on.

It feels like a top ten show-closer to me. What about you, Cagesiders? Where do you rank the main-event of WrestleMania 35? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

See you next year and catch you in the comment sections!

Oh and follow me on twitter: @bigpaleblog. (I write ten articles a month for cultofwhatever.com, covering comic books, TV, movies, wrestling, video games and more!)


The completed list, now updated to include the above match:

- Ranking Mania main events #1: Steve Austin vs. The Rock II
- Ranking Mania main events #2: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker
- Ranking Mania main events #3: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
- Ranking Mania main events #4: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista
- Ranking Mania main events #5: Hulk Hogan vs. Macho Man Randy Savage
- Ranking Mania main events #6: Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H
- Ranking Mania main events #7: Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior
- Ranking Mania main events #8: Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
- Ranking Mania main events #9: Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle
- Ranking Mania main events #10: Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
- Ranking Mania main events #11: Triple H vs. John Cena
- Ranking Mania main events #12: Steve Austin vs. The Rock
- Ranking Mania main events #13: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
- Ranking Mania main events #14: John Cena vs. The Rock
- Ranking Mania main events #15: Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena
- Ranking Mania main events #16: Undertaker vs. Edge
- Ranking Mania main events #17: Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels
- Ranking Mania main events #18: Batista vs. Triple H
- Ranking Mania main events #19: Mick Foley vs. The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Big Show
- Ranking Mania main events #20: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna II
- Ranking Mania main events #21: John Cena vs. The Rock II
- Ranking Mania main events #22: Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase
- Ranking Mania main events #23: Hogan & Mr. T vs. Piper & Orndorff
- Ranking Mania main events #24: Triple H vs. Chris Jericho
- Ranking Mania main events #25: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy
- Ranking Mania main events #26: Triple H vs. Randy Orton
- Ranking Mania main events #27: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
- Ranking Mania main events #28: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice
- Ranking Mania main events #29: John Cena vs. The Miz
- Ranking Mania main events #30: Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid
- Ranking Mania main events #31: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
- Ranking Mania main events #32: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter
- Ranking Mania main events #33: Roman Reigns vs. Undertaker
- Ranking Mania main events #34: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna
- Ranking Mania main events #35: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow