By Chuck Carroll
(CBS New York/CBS Local) — WWE made history Sunday night, as women headlined WrestleMania for the first time in the event’s 35-year history. You could sense that was the direction the company was heading, but the buzz reached a fever pitch once WWE officially announced that Ronda Rousey would defend the RAW’s Women’s Championship and Charlotte Flair would defend her SmackDown Women’s Championship in a Triple Threat Match against red-hot fan favorite Becky Lynch, who wrapped up the night by taking both titles.
The main event was the culmination of years of progress for women in WWE, who have been aggressively pushing to level the playing field with their male counterparts. Their charge was spurred by the demands of fans who kick-started the entire movement with the #GiveDivasAChance social media campaign. WWE officials would listen, and the women would excel with every opportunity presented to them. There were plenty of firsts: the first women’s Hell In A Cell match, the first women’s Royal Rumble, and the first all-women’s pay-per-view among others. On top of that, there was also the debut of the women’s tag team titles.
Yet, not once had women main-evented WWE’s biggest show of the year. But in the words of John Cena, their time was now.
Speaking of Cena, he returned to WWE as someone we haven’t seen in ages. Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect went old school and dipped back to his Doctor of Thuganomics, freestyling hip-hop gimmick. If you’re unfamiliar, think Mark Wahlberg back when he was still Marky Mark. Cena verbally shredded Elias after interrupting his performance, which also included pre-taped pieces of him on drums and piano. His words were far from the usual PG-fare in WWE, and the crowd loved it. You can expect memes of this segment to live on for years.
The night also featured the return of Hulk Hogan to WrestleMania as well as cameos by his NWO brothers, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
MetLife Stadium, in the shadows of New York City, was filled with 82,265 fans from all 50 states and 68 countries there to witness the event. That makes it the third-highest attended WrestleMania in history and represents a two percent increase from the last time the event was held there in 2013. This year’s show also grossed $16.9 million, which is an all-time best for any event at the venue. The card took nearly seven and a half hours to complete.
Here are the full results.
Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar
It was an interesting choice for WWE to begin the main card with the Universal Championship match, but it was the right decision that captured fans’ attention straight away with a huge title change. Seth Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar to capture the Universal Championship. How did it all begin? Paul Heyman climbed into the ring and said if Lesnar wasn’t going on last then they weren’t going to wait around all night. He then alluded to Lesnar returning to UFC and said they had a plane to Las Vegas to catch.
The reigning champion orchestrated a vicious beatdown on Rollins outside the ring before the match began, but Rollins refused to forfeit. Once the bell rang Lesnar maintained control until Rollins was able to mount a quick comeback. Three curb stomps later, we have a new champion and a shocking start to the show.
AJ Styles def. Randy Orton
If this match proved anything, it’s that sometimes you don’t need an elaborate storyline to deliver an entertaining match. Still, this feud lacked the emotional intensity of AJ Styles’ row with Samoa Joe prior to their showdown at SummerSlam. Given a better build, Styles and Randy Orton could have undoubtedly garnered a greater investment from fans. But the match itself was as solid, as you would expect from two veteran Superstars, and they had the crowd eating out of their hands before long. Styles would improve his WrestleMania record to 3-1, courtesy of a Phenomenal Forearm.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship – Fatal 4-Way Match
The Usos def. Ricochet & Aleister Black, The Bar, Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev to retain SmackDown Tag Team Titles
The Usos retained their titles in a really fun match! The proprietors of the Uso Penitentiary hit a double splash on Sheamus to pick up the victory. Even though they didn’t win, the future is bright for Ricochet and Aleister Black, who were just 48 hours removed from tearing down the house in their swan song at NXT Takeover. It will be worth watching to see whether they become exclusive to RAW or SmackDown or whether they continue pulling double duty.
Falls Count Anywhere Match
Shane McMahon def. The Miz
Shane McMahon is a WrestleMania treasure. He never fails to give that “oh wow” jaw-dropping moment on the biggest show of the year. This year it was a suplex off camera scaffolding a good 15 feet off the ground. The pair went crashing through tables below, with McMahon landing on top leading to the Shane O’Mac win. Also, give credit to The Miz’s father, who tried to save his son by coming out of the crowd and getting physical with Shane earlier in the match. It didn’t work out too well for him, but he still deserves an “atta boy” for his efforts. Something tells me that this feud isn’t over.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship – Fatal 4-Way Match
The IIconics def. Bayley & Sasha Banks, Beth Phoenix & Natalya, Nia Jax & Tamina to become the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions
WrestleMania 35 was IIconic! Billy Kay and Peyton Royce stunned the WWE Universe to dethrone incumbent champions Bayley and Sasha Banks to become the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Toward the end of the match, Peyton opportunely tossed Beth Phoenix out of the ring after the Hall of Famer hit a Glam Slam on Bayley. Peyton then covered her for the 1,2, 3 and a shocking win. The Australian duo were visibly emotional following the victory.
Kofi Kingston def. “The New” Daniel Bryan to become the WWE Champion
Just like the journey to get to this point, the WWE Championship match was an all-out battle. Kofi Kingston had been fighting and clawing his entire career for this shot. In big matches, he would always shine bright, leading to the question of why he hadn’t been in a major-title picture until now. The entire stadium rallied around Kingston, as did other Superstars who were shown gathered around a monitor in the back cheering him on. He and Daniel Bryan would battle back and forth, while taking fans on an emotional roller coaster and putting on a wrestling clinic. Every time it appeared victory was within reach for Bryan, Kingston would muster up enough strength to kick out and fight back. He would not be denied. This was his night, and the sound of his victory was deafening as it should have been.
United States Championship
Samoa Joe def. Rey Mysterio to retain the US Championship
This match was pretty much blink and you miss it. Samoa Joe downed Rey Mysterio in very short order with the Kokina Clutch to retain the title. The brevity was likely due to Mysterio’s tender ankle, which he injured while wrestling Baron Corbin in the main event of last Monday’s RAW.
Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre
Coming into the night, both men had vowed that this one would be physical. There would be no taking it easy on Reigns for his first major match since returning from a battle with leukemia. As a member of the legendary Anoaʻi family and as a former NFL player, he wouldn’t want it any other way. He was born tough. The match itself wasn’t long, but it was bruising as promised. It mirrored the very real life-and-death battle he and millions of others have fought against cancer. And like his own war, once again he came out on top.
No Holds Barred Match – Triple H’s Career On The Line
Triple H def. Batista
When this match was first put on the card, few thought that Batista stood a chance. After all, there had been some scuttle that this would be the final match in WWE for the wrestler-turned-Guardians of the Galaxy star. But then a little seed of doubt was planted. Could Triple H lose? After all, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of Degeneration X the previous nigh,t and his father was sitting ringside for the match. There isn’t a much better way to go out when you think about it. The bout became a kitchen sink affair, with a little bit of everything finding its way to the ring. There were chains, tables, stairs, tool boxes, and of course sledgehammers. We also saw Batista get power bombed onto steel steps and both men crash through an announcers table. But really, this one will be remembered for one thing: Triple H yanking out Batista’s nose ring with a pair of pliers. Indeed, with his career on the line, “The Game” resorted to out-and-out sadistic violence in an effort to win. And win he did, surviving to fight another day.
Kurt Angle’s Farewell Match
Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle
This match was also a bit of a head-scratcher when it was announced. Many thought there was no way Baron Corbin could actually be Kurt Angle’s final opponent. This had to be an elaborate swerve, and even if it wasn’t, the WWE brass would have to listen to the fans and make a change. They listened with Kofi Kingston, right? So, why wouldn’t they listen here? I don’t know, but they didn’t. Angle went for a moonsault off the top rope, Corbin rolled out of the way and then hit him with The End Of Days to send the Olympic champion off into the sunset. After the match, he got on the mic and asked the crowd to chant the two words that epitomized his career: you suck. They did so with great gusto, as a way of saying two other words: thank you.
“The Demon” Finn Bálor def. Bobby Lashley to become the new Intercontinental Champion
This match was kept relatively short, as the show was already well into its sixth hour, including the pre-show. Witnessing 82,000+ fans mimic Bálor’s entrance in unison was something to behold. The highlight of the match came when Lashley speared “The Demon” off the ring apron and onto the floor below. But Bálor would not be kept down, as the record of his demonic alter-ego pretty much tells the impressive tale. A double stomp off the top rope, and Lashley’s championship reign came to a close.
Women’s Championship – Winner Take All Triple Threat Match
Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair to become the new RAW and SmackDown Women’s Champion
“The Man” is the RAW and SmackDown Women’s Champion. There was no other ending possible for this one. It just had to be this way. There was too much momentum for Becky Lynch not to become champion, or “double champ” in this case. If this was Ronda Rousey’s final match in WWE, she left it all in the ring, and some outside of it as well. The former UFC champion was unceremoniously dumped over the top rope and onto her head on the floor below by Charlotte and Becky early in the match. It was a move that would set the tone for the rest of the physical match, as the women reinforced why they were in the main event. They made it clear they belonged there and would be there again. Within minutes Rousey was bleeding from her elbow, and Flair’s would open up shortly thereafter. Rousey’s calf would also become battered and swollen from the toll of the match. This entire fight was the WrestleMania moment of the year. In the end, Lynch would capture both titles, after stunning Rousey by rolling through Piper’s Pit and scoring the pinfall. Rousey protested the call, signifying that we may not have seen the last of her in WWE. So, stay tuned.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Kickoff Match
Tony Nese def. Buddy Murphy to become the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion
For the first time this year, someone other than Buddy Murphy is carrying the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Tony Nese defeated the Australian in front of a sparse crowd to earn his first title in WWE. For the third time in as many years, the cruiserweights were put on the pre-show and were the opening contest this time, which accounts for the empty seats. The cruiserweight title has yet to be defended on the main card since its resurrection in 2016.
WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
As the number of entrants remaining in the ring dwindled, it looked like Nikki Cross had pulled off an improbable win, but it wouldn’t be WrestleMania without a good swerve. Carmella was hiding just out of the ring and hopped back in as Cross was celebrating. After a brief battle, The Staten Island Princess took home the trophy in front of her hometown crowd.
RAW Tag Team Championship
Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins def. The Revival to become the new RAW Tag Team Champions
Curt Hawkins’ streak made The Undertaker’s seem like small potatoes. The Dead Man rattled off 21 straight wins at WrestleMania before a shocking defeat at the hands of Brock Lesnar, but Hawkins entered Sunday having lost 269 consecutive matches, according to his Twitter bio. He hadn’t won at WrestleMania, and there wasn’t a single win on RAW or SmackDown or live event during that time. Whenever Hawkins stepped in the ring, you knew he was going down in defeat. But not this time. A simple rollup led to the improbable victory, and the counter has now been reset. Hawkins can boast of having a streak of 1-0 and his first title since 2008, when he and Zack Ryder won their first championship together.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Braun Strowman wins
This match was built around Braun Strowman and Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che and Colin Jost. And wouldn’t you know that those were the final three men left in the match? Che and Jost camped out under the ring for most of the match only to resurface at the most opportune of times. Jost tried to broker a peace treaty with Strowman by bringing his alleged therapist to the ring to hash out the deal. But in the end, everyone would “get these hands.” Jost gets bonus heel points for wearing an Odell Beckham Cleveland Browns jersey to the ring in the home of the Giants. There was also a scary moment in the match as Mustafa Ali took a nasty bump off the ring apron and smashed his head into the side of the announce table. He would lay immobile for a number of minutes while doctors attended to him but was able to walk out under his own power following the match. The match also marked the return of Luke Harper, who has been sidelined for months with a wrist injury.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.