WWE WrestleMania 40 Night 1: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s annual review of WWE WrestleMania (of which there have now been 40), specifically Night 1 (of which there have now been five). And judging from the conversations we here at WINC have been seeing, both amongst ourselves and online, the single word to describe Saturday's event might end up being "divisive." Some of us thought Night 1 was very nearly perfect from start to finish; others thought it was rotten to the core. Some people hated the main event tag team match; some people loved it. And there were other things throughout the show that could easily have generated wildly different opinions depending on the perspective of the individual viewer.


You want to know everything that happened, match by match? Go to our Night 1 results page. You want to know if we approve of the tag title split, if we cared about the Philadelphia Eagles cameos, if we cried when Sami Zayn beat GUNTHER, and whether we enjoyed or despised Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns and The Rock? This is where you want to be. Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about WWE WrestleMania 40 Night 1.

Loved: The WWE tag titles were split, and it actually made sense

It feels like as soon as the "WWE Raw" and "WWE SmackDown" Tag Team Championships had been unified – kind of – there had been a discussion about how to get them split up or changed in some form or another. The belts became a plot device for The Usos within The Bloodline lore, and the signs for tonight's split were actually shown from the get-go, with the belts defended individually as well as in their unified form, but the need for an Undisputed Tag Team Championship was rendered moot after The Usos dropped them in the main event of WrestleMania 39. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn dropped them to the Judgment Day, who then dropped them to Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso before getting them back. By the time WrestleMania 40 rolled around, there wasn't much left to the Undisputed claim.


That's where tonight marked a refreshing departure from the norm. WWE got to have their cake and eat it, crowning new "SmackDown" Tag Team Champions in A-Town Down Under, who have certainly – for all of their misdemeanors – made their mark on the blue brand. But also giving R-Truth a deserved crowning moment at WrestleMania, riding the current of the fan support to clasp the red belts. The night began with tag team champions one could argue were spread thin, and the night ended with two representative titleholders for the two brands. WrestleMania could and should mark a reboot for WWE's deep tag team division.

Written by Max Everett

Hated: Philly or not, no need for the Eagles

On a night where I struggled to find anything to not be happy about, "hate" was hard to come by. But my goodness, was I ever annoyed by the forced inclusion of Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, in lucha masks, in the tag match featuring Santos Escobar and Dominik Mysterio vs. Andrade and Rey Mysterio. I get it, it's Philly. Cool. But how in the f*** was that necessary, and short of that, how did it provide value beyond the local audience, even in the least?


People know Jason Kelce now, thanks to his brother and (mostly) his girlfriend. Beyond that, who has ever cared about a football center? Be honest with yourself and name, like, three, ever. On your own team, Hall-of-Famers, whatever. I'm a New York Jets fan, and granted, we suck, but Nick Mangold was one of the greatest centers of all time and I do not want him having anything to do with a WrestleMania match. In fact, if I ran into him in an airport bar, I might be like, "Hey, Nick Mangold. Cool, man. Nice to meet you. Anyway ..."

I don't like smashing square pegs into round holes, and usually WWE crushes it with celebrity infusions in WrestleMania interactions, but this wasn't needed at all. Further, I think it took away from the Mysterios, Escobar, and Andrade, at least a little. The only pop for this interference came from the Philadelphia faithful, and I bet if you asked a handful of them, they'd tell you "Yeah, that was whatever." Kelce just retired anyway; good gravy, who cares?


Written by Jon Jordan

Loved: Domination for Cargill and Belair

I knew I was hype for Jade Cargill's debut match going in to tonight, and the short but sweet six-woman tag team match did not disappoint. Cargill being teamed with veteran Naomi and Bianca Belair, who is now on a four-win undefeated streak at WrestleMania, was absolutely the best thing for her. The Kabuki Warriors, WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Asuka and Kairi Sane, and Dakota Kai were also great opponents for Cargill's first big match. Both teams looked amazing, the entrances were amazing and WrestleMania-caliber, and the match itself was solid. Commentary kept reiterating how cold it was in Philadelphia, but like Belair said in the press conference, these ladies brought the heat. It's amazing to see how far women's wrestling has come, especially when it comes to representation in the ring.


Cargill getting the pin was exactly what needed to happen to completely solidify her as a megastar within WWE. With the little in-ring work we've seen, you can also tell that she's getting much stronger and more confident in herself compared to her run in AEW. I don't think the Women's Tag Team Champions losing really hurt them, as they weren't defending the titles on WrestleMania anyway; the fact Cargill got her first win in WWE, and at WrestleMania no less, overshadowed Damage CTRL losing. A few years from now, we're not going to remember that the champions were the one to lose, or that Asuka and Sane were even champions at this point. We're going to remember that Cargill looked like a million bucks in victory, and the team of her, Belair and Naomi was absolutely iconic.


The Kabuki Warriors and Damage CNTRL will be fine moving forward on weekly TV, and I'm interested to see where their next feud takes them, but I'm more excited to see where Cargill goes, and wouldn't mind seeing her in a trios team with Naomi and Belair maybe through SummerSlam to strengthen her even more.

Written by Daisy Ruth

Hated: WWE pulled the rug on greatness between The Usos

This has to start with the following: Jey and Jimmy Uso staged an excellent piece of in-ring storytelling to go alongside their already compelling feud. This is by no means an attack on their work. But WWE fumbled a potential instant classic here. While the likes of the Young Bucks or the Guerillas of Destiny get thrown about as dream matches with The Usos, the dream match without a question was the maiden singles match between the twins. Night 1 of WrestleMania 40 gave us that moment, but with such little time to work with it was somewhat underwhelming considering the emotional build-up thus far.


You always remember the first time, and there will never be another first time for this match. There's a chance a continued feud could deliver future classics (though there will be a clamor for the brothers to have a clean break so they can move on with their solo journeys) but it may well be the case that WWE missed the boat on making Uso vs. Uso the pinnacle of brotherly battles. Alas, Owen vs. Bret this was not — because it was never given the chance to be.

Written by Max Everett

Hated: Waste of a WrestleMania main event

The WrestleMania 40 main event was 45 minutes long. According to John Pollock, it was the second longest match in WrestleMania history only behind the Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in 1996. Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes on Night 2 has a shot at breaking that record — but why go that long on Saturday? It was obvious that we were getting a "Bloodline Rules" stipulation for Night 2, so 45 minutes on Night 1 was unnecessary. Rhodes is either going to overcome absolutely ridiculous odds, or he's getting screwed again and this story is getting yet another chapter.


Another reason this match didn't need to go 45 minutes is because Reigns, Rhodes, and Rollins all have matches on Night 2. Despite the fact that everyone involved was working slowly so as not to get injured, Reigns's nose was bloodied and possibly even broken. Rollins, meanwhile, has a recent injury history and, in storyline, appears to be in rough shape. Rhodes might be a bit better off, but not by much. And for what? When The Rock threatened to fire the referee for doing his job, he essentially made the Night 1 main event a "Bloodline Rules" match also; if you add the end of this week's "Raw," we're basically getting three matches with the same stipulation in less than a week. What a waste of a main event.


As I've written before and will continue writing, the match should've been Bayley vs. IYO SKY. As the women's Royal Rumble match winner, Bayley earned that spot, but WWE is catering to TKO board member Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He wanted the WrestleMania match with Reigns, but he was a year or two late, and WWE got bullied into course correcting, which screwed Bayley and SKY. This tag team match never should've happened in the first place; it certainly didn't need to go on as long as it did, and we could've easily gotten to the same destination in half the time.

Written by Samantha Schipman

Loved: The spirit of El Generico

(Not to make this all about me, but I thought we should end on a high note. Also WWE are taking their sweet time uploading high-quality photos for the main event, so sue me.)

It wasn't a world championship match, and it wasn't in Montreal, but Sami Zayn's awe-inspiring victory over GUNTHER on Saturday night for the Intercontinental Championship still felt like a cleansing, a purging of any remaining demons left over from last year's Elimination Chamber. So many elements were the same — an utterly dominant champion enjoying a historic title reign, beating Sami down mercilessly while taunting his wife, who was sitting ringside. It was clearly meant to be an echo of that other match, just over a year ago, when Sami came so close to dethroning Roman Reigns.


Only this time, Sami did it. Sami survived the beating, ended the historic reign, validated the faith of his family and his fans. Sami won.

But how? What was different? What did he have in Philadelphia that he didn't have in Montreal?

Late in the match, after Sami had suffered seemingly innumerable clotheslines, powerbombs, and splashes off the top rope, his fate was apparently sealed. Even Sami Zayn couldn't take that many finishers and still kick out; if GUNTHER had just pinned him, his title reign would have remained intact. But while GUNTHER was wasting time running his mouth at Sami's wife, something happened. Sami's lifeless body began to twitch. His arms and legs began to flail around wildly — not the kind of thing Sami usually does, but vaguely familiar to some of us, the people who were watching ROH or PWG or any number of other indie promotions in the late 2000s and early 2010s.


GUNTHER climbed to the top rope for another splash, but Sami sprang to his feet, suddenly rejuvenated, and nailed the champion with a Helluva Kick. He climbed up to the top rope, joining the staggering GUNTHER. And then, he hit a move that he has never performed in WWE — not once: a top rope turnbuckle brainbuster. It was once the finisher of a masked wrestler named El Generico, who vanished from the indie scene in 2012 and appeared the following year in "WWE NXT," maskless and bearing the brand new moniker of Sami Zayn.

Ever since Sami Zayn came into existence, El Generico has been a ghost, a phantom, banished back to whatever mystic Plane of Wrestling he came from. Saturday night in Philadelphia, the spirit of El Generico inhabited Sami Zayn's body once more, willing him to his feet, giving him the weapon he could use to win. Sami Zayn is entering his fourth reign as Intercontinental Champion; in a very real way, El Generico is entering his first.

And yeah, this might just be the psychotically happy ravings of a longtime Sami superfan, and the IC title wasn't exactly what I wanted for him at WrestleMania 40. But it's important to recognize that Sami really did achieve something on Night 1. His previous reigns with this particular title came as a heel, a bitter, lowly version of himself; at the time, Sami holding the gold was less an indicator of his elevated status and more a sign of how far the IC title had fallen. That persona eventually led him to The Bloodline, which ultimately led him to the massively popular babyface status that was always his destiny, but that version of Sami had still never won a main roster singles title. He couldn't beat Reigns in Montreal because he hadn't completed his journey — El Generico was unable to possess him because he wasn't his true self. It was only after he reunited with his eternal wrestling soulmate, Kevin Owens, winning the tag team titles in last year's Night 1 main event, that the version of Sami that could become Generico was truly whole.


On Saturday, as he prepared for his match with GUNTHER, Sami got encouragement from his coach, Chad Gable; he got encouragement from his wife and child. But right before he walked through the curtain, he got encouragement from Kevin Owens, who he hadn't seen since they were separated in a draft trade last year.

Then he walked through the curtain. He slayed the giant. He won the title. As Sami Zayn, but also as El Generico — finally, at long last, the complete version of himself. In that moment, he was unstoppable. And while we don't know what the future holds for Sami, we don't need to know anymore. We already know the only thing we need to know: that Sami has El Generico again. That's enough.

We believe.

Written by Miles Schneiderman