0 of 4
Bad Bunny and Damian Priest defeated The Miz and John Morrison Saturday night.Credit: WWE.com
Night 1 of WWE WrestleMania 37 brought with it a few surprises, but none bigger than the quality of performance out of Grammy Award-winning celebrity guest star Bad Bunny.
The Latin rapper teamed with Damian Priest to take on John Morrison and The Miz in a much-publicized tag team match that saw Bunny deliver a crossbody to the floor and a Canadian Destroyer en route to victory. The performance eclipsed those of every celebrity before him and set a seemingly impossible bar for others to try to surpass.
Bunny’s performance was but one of the talking points on a newsworthy first night of WrestleMania action that also saw Sasha Banks firmly entrench herself in the conversation regarding the greatest female wrestlers of all time, Braun Strowman finally benefit from lucid booking and a win by Bobby Lashley that will help Drew McIntyre in the long run.
1 of 4
Before Saturday night, the title of “Greatest Celebrity Wrestling Appearance” most likely resided with either legendary New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, pro football punter Pat McAfee, or television’s Stephen Amell. Both of those men approached the industry with respect, took the training leading up to their matches seriously and exceeded all expectations.
They now take a backseat to Grammy winner Bad Bunny, who turned in a brilliant performance in a 15-minute match that was better than it had any right to be.
Amped up and excited for the opportunity, the rapper was energetic and loose, never allowing the moment to appear too big for him. He hit his marks, listened to the professionals he was in the ring with and executed his spots to perfection.
He never appeared overwhelmed or unprepared. Instead, he worked like a guy a few dozen matches into his wrestling career, carried by his opponent but able to hold his own and never shying away from the high spot.
Bad Bunny was nothing short of fantastic, even drawing on a clear passion for lucha libre for some of his most memorable moves and moments.
So many celebrities find it difficult to make the transition into the wrestling industry, where there is no Hollywood safety net if they flub up, miss a line or blow a take. Fresh off a year that saw him become one of the most recognizable faces in pop culture, he built on his star, appealing to an audience that may not have been familiar with him initially but is all too eager to see him come back for another cameo or guest spot down the road.
Not only was he respectful of the industry and performed up to the moment at WrestleMania, but he also helped get Damian Priest’s main-roster career off to a hot start, something that must be taken into consideration when judging his effectiveness.
Too often, celebrities come in, do their thing and go without providing any long-term benefit to the company beyond a buy rate or some new viewers. That Bad Bunny could bring in those and help elevate a fresh star in the process is unheard of and only strengthens his case for being WWE’s celebrity GOAT.
2 of 4
Bianca Belair may have won her first championship in WWE Saturday night in the main event of WrestleMania Night 1, but it was Sasha Banks who cemented her legacy in the classic match as the best women’s wrestler in the company’s long history.
Yes, Trish Stratus was great. Ditto Lita. Charlotte Flair elevated the status of women in WWE as a legacy and Becky Lynch was arguably the biggest star of the bunch. But there is something to be said about showing up big when the lights are brightest, the stage the grandest and the pressure the greatest.
Sasha Banks has repeatedly done that, solidifying her status as the best big-match performer in WWE women’s wrestling history and eclipsing even her most respected and celebrated peers.
There was the all-timer in Brooklyn with Bayley, the 30-minute Iron Woman match that followed, the historic Hell in a Cell match with Flair, her 54-minute performance in the first women’s Royal Rumble match and the cell match against Lynch. All of which are near-flawless examples of her extraordinary skills.
When you take into account the historic significance of those encounters, their overall quality strictly from an in-ring perspective and her selflessness when it comes to putting over others in those moments, you have a performer who has repeatedly proved she excels regardless of whether the spotlight is on her that given night.
If it is meant to shine on Bayley or Flair, Lynch or Belair, Banks grabs it and makes it her own. Not out of some insatiable need for attention but because she is so damn good you don’t have a choice but to sit up and take notice.
Her professional wrestling fandom allows her to look outside of the restrictive WWE Universe to Japan and Mexico for inspiration. More importantly, she uses what she discovers in those rings in a company that isn’t always accepting of other styles.
She is creative, something that was on full display Saturday as she found new and inventive ways to utilize Belair’s trademark ponytail in the match, leading to the crowd-pleasing finale.
She is passionate, strong, confident and fierce, and that was on full display in the biggest match of her life. Those who fail to sniff the GOAT conversation falter under pressure. They crumble when faced with a situation too big for them. Not Banks. She has repeatedly risen to the occasion, stared down expectation and laughed in its face.
No, she didn’t win Saturday. But it didn’t matter.
She lived a childhood dream, soaking in the moment and, when the bell rang, did what she has time and time again: delivered at the highest level of any female performer in WWE history.
Before all is said and done, that title may be hers on the grandest scale regardless of the promotion or era.
3 of 4
Had Drew McIntyre rolled into WrestleMania, defeated Bobby Lashley and won the WWE Championship, he would have been rejected by fans in a fashion similar to John Cena and Roman Reigns by June.
Today’s fans don’t particularly like when a babyface is positioned as the golden child and shoved down their throats by the machine. A win would have marked his third WWE Championship win in a year and firmly established him as just that.
While McIntyre’s loss Saturday night may have surprised fans expecting a hero to walk out of the first match in front of a live audience in over a year with his arm raised in victory, it spared The Scottish Warrior backlash and set him up to prosper in the long run.
Saturday’s match was booked in a fashion that allows fans to recognize McIntyre probably would have won were it not for MVP’s late-match distraction, continues Lashley’s acclaimed run and sets up a rematch with more adequate build behind it for another WWE pay-per-view extravaganza (Money in the Bank?).
McIntyre as the determined babyface who chases the gold rather than holds on to it, conquering every heel in his path to the point of audience exhaustion, is exactly where he should be at this point in his main event run.
Did either The Rock or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin have long title reigns that define his career? No, because they were better as the babyface who chased the gold than the hero who successfully defends it every single month to the point fans no longer feel invested.
Lashley’s win at WrestleMania keeps things fresh, lets him grow in his role as the lead heel on Monday nights and puts McIntyre in a position to be a hot babyface rather than a dominant one, a role he filled for far too long in 2020.
4 of 4
For the first time in what felt like an eternity at WrestleMania, Braun Strowman was booked like the main event badass that he should be.
Fueled by rage stemming from Shane McMahon’s blatant disrespect and humiliation of him, Strowman overcame an early steel chair attack to literally tear apart a steel cage so he could get his hands on McMahon.
Along the way, he thwarted interference attempts from Jaxson Ryker and Elias, never once falling into the same tired traps that have plagued his character’s development for years.
The irony of the entire storyline is that, in regard to Strowman’s on-screen persona, he has very much been treated like he was stupid. Often too emotional, he doesn’t think and winds up falling into some trap that costs him a match.
We saw it a year ago in his feud with Sami Zayn and again in the way-too-long program with Bray Wyatt. Not Saturday, though. At WrestleMania, he was a dominant badass who punished McMahon and finished him off with the running powerslam that earned him his first Universal Championship at last year’s event.
And the future is bright for Strowman—if WWE Creative wants it to be.
Sure, there will be the nagging urge to extend the McMahon feud. That will only unravel everything accomplished at WrestleMania, if only because Shane-O-Mac would inevitably get his win back. Avoid that. Let Strowman be this reawakened beast of a competitor who can easily step into a title feud with Bobby Lashley or target the United States Championship if need be.
There are so many new and interesting directions to go with this newly refocused Strowman. Continuing a feud that served its purpose is not one of them, especially when the blowoff was booked as perfectly as it was Saturday.
Original posted at bleacherreport.com