The Social Network
The first and only time I got chills down my spine from wrestling was Chris Jericho’s WWF debut. Something about that moment just ran through my soul and created that physical reaction. And since it never happened after that, I figured it never would.
Then came Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs. The Usos.
I got a little water in my eye, felt the tingle up and down my spine, and actually sat back in my chair smiling. When wrestling works, I mean really works, it creates emotional moments through character. It defines their struggle, it makes them persevere, and then eventually rewards them with an often hard fought victory. I can’t think of another match in recent history that accomplished that better for me than WrestleMania 39’s first main event. Sami made his overtures to The Bloodline almost one year ago exactly. And everything that happened between April 2022 and April 2023 bled over into this match.
It started with Sami and Jey Uso, as it should. While Jimmy Uso felt betrayed, Jey’s pain runs deep. Every punch, elbow, or kick from Jey felt different. Sami hurt him and The Bloodline overall, so they made sure they isolated Sami from KO early. In fact, most of the match featured Sami getting Superkick after Superkick from both Usos and never staying down for a 3-count. Any time it looked like Kevin might make a save, Jimmy & Jey shut it down. They even slammed the man through the main commentary table just for more time with Sami!
But Sami never stayed down. He withstood Superkicks, Uso Splashes, and became the first man in WWE history to kick out of the 1D. That’s as the 1D or the 3D, he’s the first. While that might not mean a whole lot separately, it means a whole lot in context. By that point, Sami looked like a dead man barely walking. He kept kicking out of things on pure instinct and looked awful as the match progressed. The more punishment he survived, the harder Jimmy & Jey went at him. It was professional with KO but extremely personal with Sami. Jey even screamed at Sami that he should’ve never left The Bloodline and he called him brother. That’s real emotion!
I always praise this Bloodline saga because of the humanity. Yes, the wrestling works well and it's often above average, but it’s the wrestling combined with the emotion and character that truly make these matches memorable. They tell complete stories from beginning to end with giant emotional swings that work completely because of all the work done prior. That’s why Jey yelling at Sami between kicks works. That’s why Jey nailing Sami with a Helluva Kick elicited an audible gasp in my house. Jey didn’t do the kick to mock Sami; he did it because he’s hurt and he wants Sami in as much pain if not more than he is at the moment.
But around the third act, things shifted for Sami and KO because KO found himself on that ring apron right after Sami found an opening. Jey let that emotion get the better of him and took too much time for a follow up attack after that Helluva Kick. Sami nailed an Exploder into the turnbuckle, and gave KO the tag he so desperately craved. It looked like, for a moment, that Sami & KO might walk out of L.A. at that moment with the tag titles in hand, but Jey kicked out of KO’s Stunner. That threw everything in disarray and more emotion bubbled over as the four men squared off in the ring on wobbly knees. After taking all that punishment, KO & Sami showed they still wanted a fight when they started throwing fists at Jimmy & Jey. But even that didn’t give the Canadian best friends the advantage because The Usos handed out more invitations to their Superkick Party, then followed with a double Uso Splash afterparty on KO.
AND HE KICKED OUT!
Only in a match like this can we have so many false finishes and kicking out of finishers. Sure, the tag titles on the line helps, but it goes back to the emotion. The wrestlers earned the ability to play with the art form in this way and defy expectations for the sake of great storytelling. That’s why Kevin kicked out and that’s why The Usos went for a home run and possibly got greedy in the process. They put Kevin on the top rope for what I assume was a big 1D. But they ignored Sami. Actually, they forgot about Sami. They got so frustrated with their opponents’ resilience that they lost sight of the Sami Zayn problem. True to his word, Sami became a problem for Jimmy & Jey. He pulled Jimmy out of the ring, launched him over the oh so reliable Spanish announce table, and got his third wind. Once Sami got the tag from KO, he went to work.
And finally, the story ended the only way it should: Sami vs. Jey.
Sami nailed Jey with not one, not two, but three Helluva Kicks. But the way he took his time, it clearly hurt him. He even apologized to Jey after the first one. Sami never wanted this and there’s a part of him that still dreams of that day when he, Jey & Jimmy can ride together and die together again. But in this moment, he did what he had to do to fulfill his mission: eradicating The Bloodline.
After the third Helluva Kick, Sami finally pinned his former brother in the middle of the ring and we got new Undisputed Tag Team champions.
I don’t know what else to say. If WrestleMania night one is a perfect sundae, then this match is the ripe cherry on top. It’s the art form working at its highest level and sets an incredibly high bar for anyone who dares follow it.
Wow. That’s it, just wow. Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley made WrestleMania Night 1 theirs. I’m still in shock and utter awe from what I saw and the show these two women provided. Which is a weird thing for me because I’m rarely at a loss for words and I get paid for said words.
These two put on a heavyweight fight. And I mean that in the most literal sense. They fought stiff, they both walked away with bruises, and they threw bombs. They made poetry in the ring together and, if you follow this site’s Bird app account, took it personally that someone else got the main event spot. It came down to who needed the match more and that was Rhea Ripley.
Seriously, I got nothing else other than these two tore it up, deserve all the props in the world, and put on one of the best matches in WrestleMania history.
I knew the Make-A-Wish kids showing up meant bad things for Austin Theory but I didn’t know how. Turns out, John Cena was right: Win or lose, Theory loses.
WWE protected Cena in several ways during this United States championship match. Theory bit Cena to escape the STFU, we got a ref bump, Theory tapped to that same move with no ref in sight, and then Theory set up the A-Town Down with a low blow. It’s the kind of ending that leaves me indifferent. Cena takes the very questionable L while Theory doesn’t really disprove anything Cena said about the man many weeks ago. Plus? If you watched Stand & Deliver you saw this finish almost verbatim.
While the match itself had its moments, it also met the bar (but it wasn’t the Bar) for what I expected from a John Cena match in 2023. I just wish WWE fully committed to giving Theory the W rather than providing Cena—and the fans—several excuses and reasons to not believe Austin’s theory of the case.
Anyone thinking Michael Bay is all Transformers needs a serious education. Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, Pain & Gain, and Ambulance prove he’s more than robots in disguise. But if there’s one movie that truly illustrates Bay’s particular brand, it’s The Rock. An action movie that ramps up the pressure and stakes scene-by-scene, with interesting characters, clear motivations, and even a few choice quotes.
What happened between The Street Profits, Ricochet & Braun Strowman, Alpha Academy, and The Viking Raiders is the wrestling equivalent of The Rock. The spots started slow but whew they ramped up and seemingly topped themselves. Strowman jumped from the top rope, Ricochet hit an impossible Shooting Star Press, and Angelo Dawkins showed the Strowman Express isn’t unstoppable. Which is a Tony Scott movie, not Michael Bay.
I say all that to point out that you should watch this. It was spot after spot after spot and just a lot of fun. The Street Profits won and get their shot at the tag team champs, but on the real, we all won.
Rebel Without a Cause
Logan Paul is a phenomenal professional wrestler. Straight up and down, he only gets better every time we see him. Imagine if he really did this as a full-time gig? Of course he doesn't have to with things like Prime, his very own sports drink.
Speaking of Prime, someone dressed in a Prime bottle sauntered down the ring with Logan before his match with Seth Rollins. We in the Cageside offices figured Jake Paul wore the disguise but as this amazing match went on, we got our answer: KSI.
Now, full disclosure, I had no idea who that was before Sean informed me. I go to YouTube for very few things and Logan Paul content isn’t on that list. But KSI involved himself and helped Logan create a streaming viral moment. Logan placed Seth on the Spanish team’s commentary table while KSI pulled out the phone for a livestream.
KSI talked his trash while Logan climbed the top rope. Problem? KSI did too much talking and Logan took too much time. Seth switched positions with KSI and Logan went airborne then crash landed on top of his boy.
That’s one of several moments worth remembering from this match that told the story I assumed: Seth may not feel Logan belongs but Logan proved he does.
Seth got the win after countering Logan’s Coast-to-Coast attempt with a hellacious Superkick, followed by a Curb Stomp.
Watch this match as soon as you can. And if you watched it live? Watch it again. If you watched it in Cali? I hope you caught your breath.
Blast from the Past
First off, “back to the future” doesn’t mean what WWE thinks it means when they keep repeating it. It’s not about bringing the past to the present or future. Even within context of the film it doesn’t mean that; it simply means sending someone back to the future. That’s it.
Okay, rant over.
Trish Stratus still handles her business in the ring. That and the fact that Damage CTRL might be redundant at this point. But yeah, Trish looks like she retained all her steps. Grant it, it’s a small-ish sample size, but she looked really impressive. Hopefully we see more of her going forward even if it’s limited.
I like that the match started as a match but turned into something else thanks to Becky and Bayley. Their beef took the match to another level and, of course, created an environment for several all out brawls. During one of those brawls, Lita & Becky gave Trish a boost that made it possible for Trish to put Dakota Kai in a beautiful head scissors takedown that launched her onto her teammates.
In the end, it came down to Bayley and Becky after Lita & Trish dispensed Dakota & IYO SKY from the ring with their patented moves. Bayley went for a Bayley-to-Belly on the top rope but Becky countered into an emphatic Manhandle Slam. The faces walked off victorious while I wonder what happens with Damage CTRL. They can withstand this loss but I’m not sure how many more they can take before losing all credibility.
Dom is incredible. The opening for this match rocked my world. The short video featuring Dom behind bars, getting into a police van, and then getting a police escort to the ring? Put all of that in my veins. I talk about this every Monday but the character work and progression for Dom is a thing of beauty and often the most entertaining thing in the territory.
Rey almost topped that entrance showing up in a Low Rider with Snoop Dogg behind the wheel and “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” bumping through SoFi Stadium. Look, if you want to win my heart, just play some well-honed ‘90s Hip Hop. Rey then transitioned to Eddie Guerrero’s theme as he and Snoop entertained the crowd and showed love to his fallen friend. All seamless, all logical, and all great.
But then the match lived up to the very high bar the opening set. We got action with Dom and Rey going back and forth in the ring. We got emotion when Dom disrespected his moms and sister at ringside by spitting water in his sister’s face and getting in his moms’ face. We got drama when Judgment Day showed up and tried tilting the scales in Dom’s favor. We got excitement when the LWO (YES!) saved Rey and evened the odds for Rey.
And, we got a last second twist when Bad Bunny, who joined the Spanish commentary team, interjected on Rey’s behalf when Dom grabbed a chain big enough for a dinosaur and sat his sights squarely on his father. The WrestleMania Backlash host snatched the chain out of Dom’s hands, and Rey finished off his son with a 619 and a Frog Splash.
So much fun, great storytelling, and a finish that sets the stage for the next big event as I foresee Bad Bunny, Rey, and Dom involved in some tag match configuration.
The Longest Yard
Two things: Pat McAfee’s surprise showings never get old and the DX chop will never go out of style.
The Miz “wanted” a match and Pat McAfee answered the call. George Kittle, 49ers Tight End for those of you who don’t watch the NFL, sat in the front row and got involved when Miz got in his face. Pat Mac beat Miz with help from Kittle, and they celebrated with a couple DX chops. A nice breather after Charlotte and Rhea tore down the house. Plus nobody takes a beating quite like Miz.
This was an incredible night. Just like 2022, WrestleMania Night one set an example for the rest of the weekend. Even the match lineup was perfect!
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn. Although I doubt many will disagree with that.