WrestleMania will be a two-night event for the second straight year. Except this time, WWE has released the cards beforehand for each day of WrestleMania 37 (April 10-11, 7 p.m., Peacock), which will be hosted by Hulk Hogan and Titus O’Neil. Here are five things to watch for on Night 1 of WrestleMania as around 25,000 fans descend on Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Moment of truth
There is little doubt who the two main-event stars are on “Monday Night Raw,” and we will see them collide as WWE champion Bobby Lashley defends his title against Drew McIntyre. There has been thought that WWE wants to get McIntyre the crowd-pop moment he couldn’t last year when he completed his long journey to become WWE champion for the first time. If this match opens the show, you can expect that to be the direction we are heading. McIntyre has operated on a different level than most people in the company over the past year, carrying it through the COVID-19 pandemic with excellent pay-per-view matches, stories with depth and his natural charisma.
But a title win and third reign that felt so certain not too long ago doesn’t anymore thanks to Lashley. He beat The Miz to become WWE champion for the first time after helping the A-lister successfully cash in his Money in the Bank contract on McIntyre at Fastlane. Lashley, like the Scotsman, has finally reached his full potential in WWE with the help of MVP, The Hurt Business and his well-protected full-nelson finisher. He has only lost twice in singles matches since June, to McIntyre and Matt Riddle.
WWE can’t go wrong with either guy leaving as champion in this match between two superstars who also wrestled for the TNA Impact championship in 2016 (Look how far we’ve come). Lashley leaving with the belt gives you a monster, unbeatable heel to move forward with or McIntyre gets the moment the pandemic took away from him and further solidifies himself as the face of the company. It’s not out of the question that Brock Lesnar awaits the winner at some point.
You’re Not The Boss of Me
WWE has fumbled the creative a bit, but Sasha Banks versus Royal Rumble winner Bianca Belair is a big damn deal. The match feature two of the strongest female characters in WWE and great representation with both being African-American. Banks is in the middle of the longest singles title reign of her career on the main roster at more than 165 days as SmackDown women’s champion and this will also be her first singles match at WrestleMania. A win would further cement her spot at the top of the women’s division and could mean we are in for a very long reign.
Belair is the newcomer, the fresh face up from NXT with plenty of star power and potential getting set for her first WrestleMania match. WWE has properly set up this feud in the last two weeks – after some convoluted storytelling involving a wine expert, the women’s tag team champions and both Banks and Belair taking pins. Banks has begun belittling Belair as the “rookie” to position herself as more of the heel. It certainly feels like a storyline setting up Belair, who has delivered some great babyface promos, to overcome and give us someone new at the top of the SmackDown women’s division.
The other women’s match on the card will see the teams of Lana/Naomi, Mandy Rose/Dana Brooke, Natalya/Tamina, Ruby Riott/Liv Morgan and likely Billie Kaye and Carmella (one can hope for Peyton Royce) square off to earn a shot a facing women’s tag team champions Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler on Night 2.
Grammy-winning artist Bad Bunny makes his in-ring debut teaming with Damian Priest against The Miz and John Morrison. The story has been percolating since Bad Bunny leaped from the top rope onto Miz and Morrison at the Royal Rumble. Bad Bunny is a big wrestling fan and worldwide celebrity with 31.6 million followers on Instagram who give WWE the crossover publicity it craves. He is also a former 24/7 champion.
WWE has done a good job slowly crafting this story with Bad Bunny standing up to The Miz’s bully attempts and demand for respect. Miz is the perfect foil for Bad Bunny because he’s great at making people want to see him get beat up no matter what, whether it’s with a ridiculous parody music video or putting paint all over Bad Bunny’s Bugatti.
The times Bad Bunny, who has been regularly training for this match, has gotten physical have also looked good. Making this a tag team match also gives him more protection in the ring than the originally booked singles match. It’s up to Bad Bunny to deliver now.
The remaining Night 1 bouts may not have the big-match buildup, but they certainly have a chance to steal the show. Seth Rollins and Cesaro are two of the best pure wrestlers WWE has. Cesaro, who is getting his first WrestleMania singles match, has taken things to another level in all areas of his performance lately, too. Will it finally be Cesaro’s time or will Rollins be working his way back to the top of the card? Expect a big push for whoever comes out of this victorious.
Braun Strowman against Shane McMahon in a steel cage has had a pretty silly build. McMahon, who has brought in Elias and Jaxson Ryker as muscle, keeps calling Strowman stupid and demeaning him. Expect plenty of outside interference, even in a cage, and McMahon taking at least one crazy bump.
The Raw tag team championship match between A.J. Styles and a debuting Omos versus The New Day has really flown under the radar. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods keep doubting Styles and Omos’ ability to work as a team, so look for that story to play out. These are three of the top in-ring performers WWE has and we don’t know what we have in the gigantic Omos. This could be fun.
It’s going to be great to have fans back at a WWE event for the first time in more than a year (please everyone stay safe). It’s going to give us a real sense of who is over and just bring an energy back that’s been missing. It will be interesting to see how the fans are spread out around the stadium, how close they are to the ring and how loud they sound. The best part of all of it will be seeing and hearing the wrestlers’ genuine reactions and interactions with the crowd they’ve and we have missed so much.