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WWE WrestleMania 34: Ronda Rousey wins debut; Daniel Bryan returns; Brock Lesnar beats Roman Reigns in dud main event

Ronda Rousey at a news conference in March in advance of WrestleMania 34. (Marko Georgiev/The Record via AP)
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  • Ronda Rousey, crossing over after an illustrious UFC career, won her debut match in the WWE. Rousey, fighting alongside Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, was showered with cheers by the WrestleMania crowds as soon as she arrived at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. [Read more]
  • The Undertaker came out of retirement to defeat John Cena in an unscheduled match that included some misdirection before it began.[Read more]
  • “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Daniel Bryan has returned to the WWE ring. After a three-year hiatus, the much-beloved wrestler was medically cleared to return and won his comeback match despite an early setback.[Read more]
  • AJ Styles defended his WWE Championship belt against Shinsuke Nakamura, but before the wrestlers had exited the arena, it was Styles, not Nakamura, who was left writhing on the ground after a pair of cheap shots from his opponent. [Read more]
  • Braun Strowman was in need of partner for his Raw Tag Team match and ventured into the crowd to find one. He selected a young boy — and still won. [Read more]
  • Brock Lesnar defeated Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Universal Championship in a match disinterested fans hijacked.

Brock Lesnar defeats Roman Reigns after delivering six F-5’s in anticlimactic event

In a remarkably disastrous end to what was otherwise one of the most entertaining WrestleMania’s in recent memory, Brock Lesnar defeated Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Universal title. Reigns was widely expected to be come out victorious, given the fans’ perception of him as the company’s chosen one.

Despite being presented as a hero, Reigns is often booed, and that was the case Sunday, as a disinterested crowd hijacked the main event, chanting, “This is awful,” and tossing around beach balls. Lesnar finally won after delivering a sixth F-5 to a bloodied Reigns. The announcers did the best they could to present the match as legitimate, but the New Orleans crowd made it clear the main event was not what they wanted.

Braun Strowman and random kid from crowd defeat The Bar to become Raw Tag Team champions

Braun Strowman had no interest in teaming with a fellow WWE wrestler against The Bar, so instead he ventured into the Superdome crowd to find a partner for his Raw Tag Team Championship match. He emerged with a young boy named Nicholas, who briefly tagged into the match before immediately tagging out to the 6-foot-8, 385-pound Strowman. The “Monster Among Men” nailed Cesaro with a running powerslam for the win. Nicholas struggled to lift the title belt above his head in celebration, but he left WrestleMania a champion all the same.

After winning a tag team battle royal by himself several weeks ago, the 6-foot-8, 385-pound Strowman had resisted pleas from General Manager Kurt Angle to find a tag-team partner against The Bar.

AJ Styles retain WWE Championship, but Shinsuke Nakamura takes out frustration afterward

In a rematch of their 2016 Japan classic, AJ Styles defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the title. The match was surprisingly slow and plodding, with the intensity only reaching its expected level toward the end, when Styles put away the challenger with a Styles Clash. It was what happened afterwards that stood out, though. Nakamura hugged Styles and presented him with the belt in a show of respect, before shockingly striking the champion in the groin. As the fans booed the twist, Nakamura hit Styles with his trademark knee to the face outside the ring.

Nia Jax defeats former ally Alexa Bliss, capturing WWE Raw Women’s Championship

Jax finally got her revenge on Bliss, who had body shamed and manipulated the larger Jax in the lead up to the match. Bliss put together some offense against Jax, but it wasn’t long before the challenger overwhelmed the champion and picked up the pin. Jax, a cousin of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, burst into tears as she was handed the belt for the first time.

Daniel Bryan overcomes early attack, comes out victorious in first match in nearly three years

After a prematch beatdown from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn that seemed to knock Bryan out of the match, Bryan appeared out of nowhere to rescue Shane McMahon from what had turned into a handicap match. Bryan, making his first appearance in nearly three years due to a history of concussions, had the crowd in the palm of his hands. The match ended with Zayn tapping out to Bryan’s Yes Lock, and Bryan climbed to the top rope and performed his famous “Yes!” chant. Per the match’s stipulation, Zayn and Owens remain will remain fired from Smackdown Live.

Bryan, perhaps the most popular wrestler of the past decade, was powerbombed by Owens on the side of the apron before the match began, and medical personnel had to attend to Bryan. McMahon began the match solo against Owens and Zayn.

Bryan last fought at WrestleMania in 2015. Bryan spent months attempting to return to the ring after a concussion sidelined but was forced to say farewell to WWE in February 2016. He had already made a comeback after undergoing neck surgery in 2014, six weeks after climbing to the top of the sport by defeating Triple H at WrestleMania 30 for the World Heavyweight Championship. He was cleared to return for WrestleMania 34 in March.

The Undertaker returns, quickly defeats John Cena

John Cena came down to the ring and the lights went out, seemingly signaling the much anticipated return of The Undertaker. Instead, Elias strolled out and proceeded to run down Cena and the New Orleans crowd with his guitar and his singing voice.

Cena briefly retreating back to the crowd but reentered the ring and defeated Elias. He then proceeded up the ramp toward the exit. That’s when the lights went out once more, and Undertaker finally appeared. He quickly defeated a shellshocked Cena with a Tombstone and moved to 24-2 at WrestleMania.

Undertaker hadn’t appeared since losing to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33, which many thought was his last match. Cena has been calling out Undertaker for months asking for a match at WrestleMania.

Bludgeon Brothers claim first WWE Smackdown Championship

In a short triple-threat match, Luke Harper and Erik Rowan defeated The New Day’s Kofi Kingston and Big E and Jimmy and Jey Uso. Rowan and Harper were by far the biggest team in the match, and in the end, their size and strength proved too much for the pair of dynamic teams.

Ronday Rousey wins debut match, forces McMahon to tap out

Fans didn’t know what to expect of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey’s WWE debut, which saw the former UFC star team with a past-his prime Kurt Angle against Triple H and non-wrestler Stephanie McMahon. The match exceeded expectations, with fans firmly behind Rousey, even breaking out into “Yes” chants at points.

Midway through, Rousey unloaded on Triple with a series of strikes, eventually putting him in an arm bar. McMahon broke up the submission, but would tap out from a Rousey arm bar herself minutes later. Angle looked good in limited action against longtime opponent Triple H, who along with the pesky McMahon, did a good job of generating boos from the crowd. McMahon raked Rousey in the eyes at one point, choking Angle at another. After the bell sounded, the cameras panned to UFC President Dana White, who is in attendance supporting Rousey.

The reaction online was equally positive of the match, with plenty on Twitter remarking how surprised they were at the high-level coordination and quality of wrestling. Even those who were not agreed the match was entertaining.

Triple H, McMahon make quite an entrance, but ‘Rowdy’ Ronda steals show

The first couple of professional wrestling turned heads with their entrance, riding down the stage on personalized motorcycles behind a fleet of women on bikes of their own. After entering the ring, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon stood in the middle as flashing green lights decorated the arena.

Of course, the married couple’s moment only lasted a moment before “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey and partner Kurt Angle entered to a warm response from the crowd.

Jinder Mahal ruins ‘Rusev Day,’ wins United States championship

Mahal pinned fan-favorite Rusev to win a “fatal-four way” match that also included Bobby Roode and Randy Orton. Mahal hit Rusev with the Khallas after Sunil Singh distracted Rusev from the apron. Fans at the Superdome, who were firmly behind Rusev, booed the result. This marks the second singles championship for Mahal, who enjoyed a nearly six-month WWE championship reign in 2017.

Cena flees arena; Undertaker speculation ramps up

John Cena, who had been sitting with the crowds, sprang over a barricade, ran up a ramp and into the backstage area after a referee told him something. The official appeared to say, “He’s here,” which can only be in reference to The Undertaker.

Charlotte Flair ends Asuka’s undefeated streak

Asuka entered what was billed as the most anticipated women’s match in WrestleMania history with a 914-day undefeated streak, going back to her NXT days. The match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship title lived up to that hype, with Flair making Asuka tap out with a Figure 8 lock. Afterwards, Asuka got on the mic and proclaimed “Charlotte was ready for Asuka!” before embracing her opponent in a hug.

Seth Rollins claims Intercontinental Championship title

Seth Rollins, “The Architect,” became a career Grand Slam champion with the win, nailing The Miz with the Stomp to capture the victory in what was a fast-paced opener. It seemed as if Finn Balor had the match won, having hit Miz with a Coup de Crace, but Rollins interrupted Balor’s pin with a Stomp before hitting Miz with another to seal the victory.

Finn Balor makes statement ahead of triple-threat match

Part of the allure of WrestleMania is the creativity with which wrestlers make their entrances. Finn Balor made a political statement with his, as members of the “LBGTQ community from New Orleans” appeared on stage to cheer him on. “Finn spreading his message of inclusion, that Balor Club is for everyone,” color commentator Cory Graves added. Balor’s black trunks and boots have rainbow color trim.

Preshow results:

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal winner: Naomi

The former Smackdown women’s champion picked up the win after eliminating Bailey, who thought she had won after eliminating longtime ally Sasha Banks. Tension between Bailey and Banks has been simmering for months, with Banks often taking advantage of Bailey in the name of competition. But when Banks extended her hand Sunday, Bailey turned the tables and tossed her over the top rope. Naomi soon eliminated Bailey, but it was what the runner up did to her (former?) best friend that’ll spark conversation.

Cruiserweight title tournament finals: Cedric Alexander def. Mustafa Ali

Alexander finally won the “big one,” earning the fall victory after nailing Ali with the Lumbar Check and marking an end to the tournament made necessary by former champion Enzo Amore’s real-life firing.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner: Matt Hardy

The “Woken” Hardy eliminated Baron Corbin to win the over-the-top-rope battle royal, but not without the help of former rival Bray Wyatt, who hadn’t been seen since losing to Hardy in an “Ultimate Deletion,” match. Afterwards, Hardy and Wyatt posed together in the middle of the ring.

Oh, and John Cena wasn’t lying about purchasing a ticket. The 16-time world champion doesn’t have a match on the card, but is expected to call out The Undertaker at some point.


There’s no offseason in professional wrestling, but in many ways WrestleMania annually feels like the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another.

Some years that’s more obvious than others. Take WrestleMania 30, for example, when Daniel Bryan completed his months-long chase for the WWE Undisputed Championship by beating behemoths Randy Orton and Batista in a triple-threat match. Confetti flew from the ceiling. The Authority had been defeated. A new era of professional wrestling was upon us.

Sunday, professional wrestling’s Super Bowl returns to the site of Bryan’s greatest achievement — the Superdome in New Orleans — for WrestleMania 34.

And indeed, that new era is in full swing. Though Bryan hasn’t donned his trademark maroon wrestling trunks in more than two years because of health concerns from repeated concussions, more athletic and less muscle-bound grapplers in the same vein as Bryan are featured prominently on WWE programming.

Two of them — AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura — will do battle for the WWE championship. Two more, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, will team up to challenge Shane McMahon, and — you guessed it — Bryan, who will make his long-awaited return to the ring after finally getting cleared by WWE’s medial staff last month.

But that’s just scratching the card’s surface. Brock Lesnar will defend his WWE Undisputed Championship against the polarizing Roman Reigns, and former UFC superstar Ronda Rousey will make her WWE debut teaming with Kurt Angle to take on Stephanie McMahon and Triple H.

And of course, we’ll get the answer to John Cena’s challenge to The Undertaker.

Follow along here for updates, analysis and any other interesting tidbits that surface during the big show.

What you need to know

Date: Sunday, April 8

Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

Start time: 7 p.m. Eastern

Watch live: WWE Network or pay-per-view

Fight card:

  • Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
  • WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H
  • The Undertaker vs. John Cena
  • SmackDown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka
  • Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax
  • Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
  • Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
  • U.S. Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev
  • SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers
  • Raw Tag Team Championship: The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman
  • Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. TBD
  • Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
  • WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

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