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Wrestlemania XL matches ranked: The Rock, Roman Reigns ensure Night 2 will follow Bloodline rules

The Rock ensured that Night 1 of Wrestlemania XL was nothing but fan service. Every match was won by someone they wanted, or didn’t know they wanted. Vinu Syriac writes on WWE's marquee event

Wrestlemania XL matches ranked: The Rock, Roman Reigns ensure Night 2 will follow Bloodline rules
Paul Heyman, The Rock and Roman Reigns | Credit: WWE/X

Last Updated: 07.36 PM, Apr 07, 2024


The Roman Numerals for 40 is XL. I wonder when some executive in WWE realized this and couldn’t control his excitement. After all, in Sports Entertainment, Xtra-Large is definitely the way to go!

The sordid McMahon saga has left the WWE brand in real danger of being cancelled. The merger with UFC happened and a massive conglomerate was born. The two names that would come to mind whenever anyone said professional fighting came together. The sky would be the limit. Or so it was thought, until the extent of Vince McMahon’s sexual depravity was exposed in a very public lawsuit.

WWE needed a win. Attention had to go away from Vince for the brand to survive. Also, for Vince’s legal team to set up a half-decent defense. The Royal Rumble in January came immediately after Vince McMahon stepped down and there was no time to make any major storyline changes other than removing Brock Lesnar from the Rumble. Lesnar, though not directly named in the suit, was widely thought to be a key player in the shenanigans.

However, after the Rumble, there were rumblings. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who was a board member, assumed a much more public role. He sided with his cousin – Roman Reigns – and added fuel to the story that Cody Rhodes was being dealt a hard hand despite being the one who was next in line. The fanboys had a very public meltdown. They were far too gullible (I am using a very generous term here) to realize they were being played. The anger they felt was cleverly manipulated and this led to more support for Cody and the inevitable ‘turning heel’ of the People’s Champion.

Wrestlemania was always WWE’s flagship event. The plans that were redrawn after the Rumble would come to fruition on the grand stage. The two-day event was going to be the comeback of the brand, the definitive move away from Vince McMahon’s legacy. The fans would show up no matter what, but they should get what they wanted. This was the theme of Day 1.

WWE Women’s World Championship: Rhea Ripley vs Becky Lynch

Rhea Ripley had walked the fine line between good and bad to be a very popular champion. The Australian with unusual makeup choices connected with the crowd in a way that few had, even if her actions were not always appreciated. In ‘The Man’ Becky Lynch, she had a formidable opponent, not only in skill, but also in crowd support. The 37-year-old Irishwoman was a decade older than Ripley, but that didn’t hold her back.

The match followed a rather predictable pattern with a lot of almost count-outs. Ultimately, Ripley prevailed. The crowd had their share of excitement, even though the match could have been a little less theatrical. My biggest grouse about the match was they forced both the participants to wear fishnets. We are a long way away from the Diva days in WWE, but the wardrobe guys didn’t get the memo.

Ranking – B

WWE tag team titles: Six-pack tag team ladder match

A six-team ladder match for the Raw and Smackdown tag team titles? This was destined for the dustbin, and no one disappointed in that aspect. The ladder match is an insult to any viewer, even the ones that are not smart enough to know it. Add to it six teams and two championships, you have a method to fall asleep that will better counting of sheep.


I am not not going to bother listing out the participants, as that will be just a waste of space. Suffice to say that Austin Theory and Graham Waller won the Raw championships in the most boring manner possible. Thankfully, the crowd booed them all the way. The Miz suddenly became popular since he was teamed with R-Truth and became the Awesome Truth. And when they took the titles, the crowd went ballistic. The defining moment of the ridiculous spectacle was Miz and Truth on top of two ladders celebrating their win, while below the referees were trying hard to keep the ladders from toppling over.

Ranking – C-

Rey Mysterio and Andrade vs Santos Escobar and Dominik Mysterio

It is not often that dad and son both compete at the same time. The legendary Rey Mysterio and his son Dominik started off as a tag team and then broke up as the storylines wanted Dominik to be a heel. The matters came to a head in a Latino showdown. Rey and Andrade against Dominik and Santos Escobar.

There was a lot of high-flying action as you would expect when Mexican luchadores go against each other. But it had a predictable ending when the beloved Rey 619ed both his opponents. The audience got what they wanted as the referee counted three. But the match was not over yet. Two masked men had prevented Dominik from using a chair. During the celebration they took off their masks. The record Philadelphia crowd went bonkers as they saw two members of the Philadelphia Eagles football team Lane Johnson and reigning America’s Sweetheart Jason Kelce.

Ranking - C+ (mostly for the cameos)

Jey Uso vs Jimmy Uso

Family feuds are big in WWE storylines. They invent wrestling brothers – remember Undertaker and Kane? But sometimes real brothers get together to duke it out. You have to be incredibly lucky to get twins. Yesteryear wrestler Rikishi’s twin sons – Jimmy and Jeh – were initially wrestling together under the moniker The Usos. Somebody had the wise idea to split them up. Jimmy stayed with Roman Reigns and the Bloodline, while Jay struck out on his own. Then it became personal.

When Lil’ Wayne sings and introduces you to the crowd, it means the organization is leaving no stone unturned as they push you as the next big thing. Jeh Uso had the crowd eating from his hand. Jimmy got the short end of the stick. Let’s hope he doesn’t go the Marty Jannetty way. That would be a waste of talent.

The match went on just as we expected it to. The two were supposed to be two sides of the same coin, they could read each other’s minds. To the writers’ credit, they didn’t try to make an entire match out of that. Jimmy tried a reconciliation, but it was too good to be true. Jeh couldn’t be stopped. The crowd couldn’t be stopped.

Ranking - B

Bianca, Naomi and Jade vs Damage CTRL

Bianca Belair and her long locks had a stellar few years in WWE. She has the longest reign as a Raw Women’s champion. Naomi returned to WWE in 2024 and had been rapturously welcomed back. Asuka of Damage CTRL was in the news in the past week being talked about disparagingly by Goldberg. But let’s keep it all aside. The main reason this match was eagerly awaited was that it was the Wrestlemania debut of Jade Cargill.

Jade made an impactful entry to WWE in the 2024 Royal Rumble. With incredible skills, enviable power and undeniable charisma she was going to be a huge player in the Women’s division. WWE didn’t want to rush her, hence a three-woman tag team match. Rarely has the first tag made to participant been so wildly cheered. Jade finished the match in no time. The storyline was centered around Bianca, but it was evident who the actual heroine was.

I don’t remember the last time I was thrilled about a new entrant in WWE. I just hope they don’t screw up her career.

Ranking – B-

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn vs GUNTHER

I started watching wrestling over four decades ago. Over the years, I have played out a lot of matches and invented new moves – in my head. My favourite character was a tall lanky guy who had no intro music and was boring as hell. He would just wrestle and win. He didn’t really care about winning, but he cared about wrestling. The powers-that-be didn’t know what to do with him, but people warmed up to this guy whose shtick was no shtick.

Sometime last year, I saw the wrestler Gunther in a match. What a boring guy, I thought. How did he even get to the main roster for WWE? And he was winning. It took me a few matches. Then I suddenly started believing that Inception was true. I mean, WWE never gave me credit!

Sami Zayn is a decent bloke. He has been around for a while, but never had too much success. The storyline was how he was almost completely washed up. He needed redemption. Would wrestling give it to him. Gunther had the longest reign as an Intercontinental champion – 666 days. He would comfortably go on for many more.

This counted as the biggest surprise of the day. Zayn’s was an underdog story. But he looked too jaded to seriously counter Gunther. WWE had given Gunther the nickname of Ring General and a couple of sidekicks. In other words, they didn’t want him to be shtick-less. When the count was over and the referee lifted Zayn’s arm, the noise almost broke down the arena. The crowd wanted Zayn to win, but they didn’t dare hope that it would happen. Ultimately, 666 was too good a number not to take advantage of.

Ranking – A-

The Rock and Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes and Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins

The main event of the day. Probably, of both days.

Cody was going to go for Roman’s belt and complete his story. There were a lot of people willing him to. But were there? I have said it before, Cody Rhodes is where he is because of nepotism. Actually, because of the people’s need for him to be there because of nepotism. There is no way he would be the main draw if he were not Dusty Rhodes son. He had neither the physique nor the screen presence to be an imposing champion. Yet, here he is.

Seth Rollins finds himself almost an after-thought. He is a good wrestler, going to defend his title against Drew McIntyre, yet no one talks about that. It’s all about Cody and Roman. He needs to get people behind him. He shouldn’t have to do this. He is a champion. Yet, here he is.

Roman Reigns first came into limelight as the third and quietest member of Shield, behind Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. WWE realized this was someone they could put their weight behind. And they did. Roman came from the famous Anoa’I family of Samoan wrestlers who have been omnipresent in WWE since decades. He is charismatic, powerful and committed to his craft. He is also a cancer survivor. He should be taking down wrestlers much bigger than him. Not someone puny. Yet, here he is.

Dwayne Johnson left wrestling almost a decade ago. He conquered Hollywood, the Internet and pretty much half the planet. He charges top dollar for his films. He is almost 52 years old. He should not be risking his aging body in this youngsters’ game. He is probably the most popular wrestler ever to grace WWE. He has no business creating an evil alter ego. Yet, here he is.

The intros were probably as long as some of the matches. The people wanted each person to have a drawn-out entrance. The people got what they wanted. The match was never going to be up to the expectations; it needed to do a few things. It needed to hype the Roman-Cody showdown to impossible levels. It had to get people interested in Seth’s match. It had to give the people their people’s champion in all his past glory. The match achieved all these. Cody had to lose it so that it would be Bloodline Rules on Sunday. All the odds would be stacked against him. And he would get to complete his story. Who will come to even the odds for him. Will the glass break? Will the bell toll? Will an animal get out of a cage? If you smell what the Final Boss is cooking?

Ranking – B

Night 2 of Wrestlemania XL, which will feature the main event of Cody Rhodes battling Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship as well as Seth Rollins defending with WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Drew McIntyre with CM Punk on commentary will be streaming live on Sony LIV from 4.30 am IST on April 8

*The author, Vinu Syriac, is a part-time reader, part-time writer, part-time armchair critic, and full-time nostalgiamaniac.

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