While Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey was certainly the main event of Saturday night, the headlining affair of the evening belong to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and his confrontation with Kevin Owens on “The KO Show.”
Austin, as only he can, played all the hits in front of his home crowd. He had on his 3:16 tee, knee braces and of course took a ride to the ring on a four-wheeler. He thrived — as he always did — during a tense conversation with Owens, verbally cutting down his opponent with ease.
Pairing Austin and Owens one-on-one for a tense conversation is similar to Austin vs. The Rock ahead of WrestleMania 17 or even Austin vs. CM Punk ahead of a WWE ’13 release. Owens, who berated Austin and exchanged barbs with the Hall of Famer, challenged Austin to a no-holds-barred contest. Austin, who reminded the world that his first ever match was in the Sportatorium in nearby Dallas, would be down to have his last match in the same area.
A ref was brought into the ring and after 19 years, Austin was back in a fight. Austin began stomping a proverbial mudhole into Owens, replete with beers tossed in from those at ringside. Austin and Owens would take advantage of the “no-holds-barred” rules, as easels and tables were used to inflict damage. The fight was taken into the crowd at AT&T Stadium and Owens was getting the best of his opponent, hitting him with a slam which resulted in Austin’s back hitting the concrete floor.
Austin would not be outdone. The match would momentarily be brought back to the ring and this time Owens found himself on the defense. Fueled by multiple more beers, Austin sent Owens running to the ramp and KO tried to hop on the four-wheeler to escape. With no key in ignition, Austin caught up, bruised Owens and then drove him up the ramp. He landed two suplexes on Owens directly on the stage floor.
Austin forced Owens back into the ring and went for a few more beers. Owens rallied, and found the opening to land his version of the Stunner on Stone Cold. Austin kicked out at the last second and Owens grabbed a chair. Owens attempted to hit Austin’s head — but Austin ducked, the chair bounced off the ropes and it hit himself instead. With Owens rattled, Austin landed his own Stunner to perfection and earned the win and a victory celebration complete with more beer.
What’s next: For Stone Cold, an ice bath and more beers. For Owens, it’s probably time to find a new target to pick on for the next episode of “The KO Show.”
SmackDown women’s championship: Charlotte Flair (c) def. Ronda Rousey
The old fighting proverb is that styles makes fights, and that’s what was anticipated as the pro wrestling exploits of Charlotte Flair would have to counter the grappling excellence of Ronda Rousey. Instead, we got a highly enjoyable, nasty and tense street fight — with the SmackDown women’s championship on the line.
Kudos to Rousey, who early on in her career was still trying to find her way as a professional wrestler. On the biggest stage, she showed a much deeper toolkit with an explosive and varied offensive attack. And credit to Flair, for being able to carry the match with impressive combinations and a constant ability to continue the trash talk throughout.
In fact, the star of this match was the wickedness both were able to display both physically and emotionally. Both women put their bodies on the line as Flair and Rousey continually one-upped each other with impressive slams, submission attempts and athletic feats both inside and outside the ring.
However, it would be Flair who would emerge victorious, as she channeled her father’s ability to win by any means necessary. Rousey finally locked in a vicious armbar on Flair, but the referee had been knocked out by a Flair spear. When Rousey attempted to resuscitate the official, Flair put her boot on Rousey’s face and pinned her for the win and to retain her title.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
What’s next: Rousey seems destined for a matchup with some of the stronger superstars in WWE. Could we see Rousey vs. Belair for the SmackDown women’s title in the future? For Flair, like Lynch, she’s one of the biggest talents in the sport. Whoever needs the biggest push, put them in front of Flair so we can get a drama show only she can deliver.
Cody Rhodes def. Seth Rollins
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
“The American Nightmare” helped give us the dream matchup we didn’t know we needed.
It had been six years since Cody Rhodes stepped into a WWE ring, and his match against Seth Rollins served as a reminder of what two dynamic personalities with technical in-ring excellence can do when paired together.
It felt like Rollins would be set up in a throwaway match, due to the unknown quantity of who he’d face Saturday night, but in being paired with Rhodes, the two put on a match that looked like something out of The Attitude Era of the late ’90s. Less aerial exploits, more counters and bear hugs. Compared with Belair-Lynch, the pacing of Rollins-Rhodes was slowed, but the drama remained high and tense.
To be fair, the pacing might’ve been the thing that gave us the true tension of the contest, as an ironman match broke out between two of the best performers in a generation of professional wrestling. Rollins broke out an inverted suplex from the top rope and linked it with a second slam, only for Rhodes to kick out. Then Rhodes landed a flying DDT from the top rope, only for Rollins to kick out.
The combination of the night went to Rhodes, who linked back-to-back Cross Rhodes on Rollins, and then decided to channel “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes with multiple jabs and that iconic Bionic Elbow to make his dad proud. A third Cross Rhodes would end Rollins’ night, scoring a debut win for the former three-time AEW TNT champion.
What’s next: It feels like Rhodes is ready for a run with the big dogs, right? Maybe. But pairing a well-seasoned Rhodes with Finn Balor or Ricochet would help continue to raise the profile of all involved. For Rollins, there’s a story to tell with Reigns, depending on how this weekend’s festivities play out.
Raw women’s championship: Bianca Belair def. Becky Lynch (c)
Between the VIP, ready-for-the-paparazzi style pull-up and Texas Southern’s “Ocean of Soul” band performance entrances, this felt like superstar prize fight disguised as Raw women’s championship match between Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair.
The drama started early, as the handshake of doom from Lynch that derailed Belair’s championship reign four months prior was offered by The EST to Big Game Becks. Lynch, stunned by the offering, countered with a punch to the face. The action didn’t stop from there.
Lynch stayed on the offensive for much of the match, being the aggressor and quickly stamping out any momentum Belair tried to build at various points. But Belair would not stay down, as her ability to power out of various holds helped keep the match nearly level.
That power always stands out, but her athletic feats hit another level as her 450-degree splash on Lynch left mouths agape. Lynch would not be outdone, as her rolling Thunderkick from the top rope on Belair was equally impressive.
Belair looked doomed late in the match, as Lynch hit her with a Manhandle Slam on the steel steps, leaving her outside the ring and nearly counted out. Belair scrambled back into the ring at the count of 9, with Lynch ready to finish off the challenger. However, Belair summoned the last of her strength, hoisted Lynch up on her shoulders and landed the KOD to dethrone the champion.
The standard has officially been set, as Belair and Lynch arguably put on the best match of 2022 thus far, leaving the rest of WrestleMania cards of the weekend a high bar to clear.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
What’s next: There’s still plenty of meat left on the bone between these two, and if they want to set up more between the two, then let them. Belair is a worthy heir to the throne, but could we see Rhea Ripley step up for a challenge in a display of strength for the belt? For Lynch, she’s earned a Nate Diaz-like status in WWE, where she can earn top billing with or without a belt on the line. She’s that good.
The Miz & Logan Paul def. Dominik Mysterio & Rey Mysterio
There was one big question coming into the tag-team match between The Mysterios versus The Miz and Logan Paul: We know Logan Paul can fight, but can he wrestle?
Paul represented himself well, flashing athleticism and strength, along with some underhanded tactics worthy of someone performing in front of a crowd not on his side. In fact, the duo from Cleveland displayed an immediate tag-team chemistry while controlling the match for a lengthy period of time.
However, the father-son duo would rally back as the senior Mysterio would eventually get in the ring to save a damaged Dominik and establish heavy offense on The Miz. Rey’s flying Hurricanrana along with an impressive 619 paired with a tornado DDT helped re-establish control for the Mysterios. And then, a game of one-upping each other broke out.
First, Rey’s failed attempt of hitting the Three Amigos was one-upped by Logan Paul hitting the combo move along with the Frog Splash and a shimmy. Then, Dominik countered with a Frog Splash of his own to setup up double 619’s by The Mysterios.
Through all of the madness, The Miz tagged himself in and landed a Skull Crushing Finale on Rey to cash in on the victory.
Then, to one-up himself, The Miz decided to remember the beef he had with Logan from last August and delivered a Skull Crushing Finale to his teammate.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
What’s next: For a brief moment, the thought of Miz and Paul being a legitimate tag team seemed like a real possibility. And then Miz sent his partner’s face to the canvas. A likely split and future solo success seems like the move here. Especially for Paul, who not only held his own for an extended period, but displayed the charisma needed for real success in WWE.
As for The Mysterios, their place amongst the top tag teams in the company is secure, and they should challenge for the straps again in the near future.
Drew McIntyre def. Happy Corbin
Drew McIntyre has been out for vengeance ever since he was attacked by Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss at WWE Day 1. On Saturday night McIntyre finally got his revenge, although it took a Swanton dive over the top rope and kicking out of an End of Days to get it done.
It’s a bit of a shame that McIntyre and Corbin got pitted against each other this early in the card, along with the stakes being nothing more than their personal feud, because both men were agile and clinical in the ring while putting on a show. Moss, usually interjecting with witty jokes, instead interfered with his teammate, causing him to take heavy damage due to the distraction.
McIntyre, who just recently returned to action after recovering from a neck injury, finally connected with the Claymore on Corbin to earn the victory. During his celebration, Moss tried to butt in, but was thwarted by McIntyre who wielded his massive sword “Angela” and chopped two of the ring ropes in half while missing Moss in the process.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
What’s next: McIntyre’s feud with Corbin and Moss should be over now, and he could be in line for a title shot depending on how things shake out between Reigns and Lesnar on Sunday night. For Corbin and Moss, how about a legitimate run at a tag-team title? They’re big, they can move and each can hold their own on the mic. Maybe they’re up next for The Usos?
SmackDown tag-team championships: The Usos (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs
Fewer tandems could’ve been better choices to serve as the opener of WrestleMania 38 than the rock-and-rolling duo of Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs, along with high-flying, swaggering seven-time tag-team champions The Usos.
Boogs displayed his versatility both inside and outside the ring with his impressive guitar skills and display of strength by deadlifting Jey Uso to a vertical suplex position. Unfortunately, Boogs succumbed to injury as his right knee buckled — the same knee he feigned injury with a few weeks prior — while attempting to shoulder the load of both Uso brothers in the middle of the ring.
The Usos eventually finished off a now-solo Nakamura with a 1D and earned the pinfall victory.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
For Jimmy and Jey, retaining the titles early in the weekend means they can keep their focus toward all things related to The Bloodline and assisting their cousin Roman Reigns in the Sunday main event against Brock Lesnar. For Boogs, a rising star who momentarily shined brightest to start the show, hopefully has a speedy recovery ahead of him.
What’s next: The Usos’ win helps reset the bar for the SmackDown tag team roster post-WrestleMania. Depending on how well The New Day performs Saturday night with Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston holding it down without Big E, another battle between the two future Hall of Fame tag teams seems like a real possibility. For Nakamura and Boogs, a split and a singles run for both seems likely in their future.