After two straight years of having no crowds then limited-capacity crowds due to COVID-19 restrictions, WrestleMania 38 brought WWE’s flagship event back to normalcy with a full crowd packed inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The highly anticipated two-night event kicked off with a bang, with the return of two of the biggest names in wrestling. WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin made his return to the wrestling ring after 19 years and looked like he had so much more left in the tank. Seth Rollins’ opponent was revealed to be former-AEW star Cody Rhodes, whose career skyrocketed since he left WWE in 2016.
Night one also showcased the best of the women’s division. Bianca Belair had a repeat performance of WrestleMania 37, winning the WWE Raw Women’s Championship by defeating Becky Lynch in spectacular fashion. On the other side, Charlotte Flair came up with a sneaky victory against Ronda Rousey to retain the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Here are the biggest takeaways from night one of WrestleMania 38:
Stone Cold Steve Austin gets back in the ring, stuns Kevin Owens
Nineteen years later, same old “Texas Rattlesnake.”
Stone Cold Steve Austin had the crowd buzzing as he entered the stadium for Kevin Owens’ “The KO Show.” But what was meant to be just a show appearance quickly became a no-holds-barred match, Austin’s first match in over 19 years.
But there was little rust in the Hall of Famer.
Austin showed he was still very capable of being in a match, even taking multiple douses of beer during the match as it went out into the crowd and the main stage. Owens did terrific playing the heel, and even delivered Austin’s signature Stone Cold Stunner.
It wasn’t enough. Austin kicked out and countered Owens to deliver the stunner back at Owens and win in his return. And if one stunner wasn’t enough, Austin made sure to deliver another before he got to celebrate with his brother with multiple beers.
Given the build-up, it was the perfect finale for night one, and the wrestling legend got to have one last shining moment in his home state.
“It’s good to be back here in Dallas, Texas, and that’s the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so,” Austin told the crowd.
Cody Rhodes returns to WWE
The “American Nightmare” has returned.
After helping launch and become the face of All Elite Wrestling, Cody Rhodes made his highly anticipated return to the company his father, Dusty, made a name for himself in. It was much speculated, but the crowd erupted into a frenzy when Rhodes’ music hit the speakers of AT&T Stadium and he walked down to the ring.
It was a reunion a long time coming.
After the realization of Rhodes’ return sunk in, the match between him and Rollins showed how Rhodes had made a name for himself. It was clear the wrestlers got tired after performing so many intense moves, but Rhodes paying homage to his father late in the match was something all wrestling fans could love.
Rhodes took the victory, which seemed inevitable. Now, we see how if Rhodes will quickly be inserted into the title picture given his status.
Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch put on a show
What a match.
The build-up for the Raw Women’s Championship match was great, but what Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch did on Saturday was icing on the cake. The match had an electric feel to it from the start, and both superstars showcased why they are both two of the biggest names in the women’s division.
At any given moment, it felt like each star would pull off the victory. The crowd was into it the entire match, but Belair hit the K.O.D. to pull off the victory and send the crowd into a frenzy. With two straight WrestleMania title victories, Belair could soon be the face of the women’s division.
It’ll be hard to top this performance the entire weekend.
Logan Paul plays heel role perfectly in tag-team victory
After rapper Bad Bunny raised the bar of celebrity wrestling last year, the expectations were high for Logan Paul to perform well alongside The Miz, especially with his boxing background.
The viral star had some early botches, but he made up for it later against the father-son duo of Rey and Dominik Mysterio. He hit the Three Amigos against Rey Mysterio, and in true heel form, did the late Eddie Guerrero’s shimmy before landing a frog splash. The Miz wound up getting the win for the duo, but Paul had some bright moments and certainly has a future in WWE should he wish to pursue one.
Even if it’s your tag team partner turning against you.
Charlotte Flair defeats Ronda Rousey, retains title
It may have been due to Belair’s win going into Rhodes’ return, but the following SmackDown Women’s Championship match felt like a dud.
Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair have had some of the most successful careers in mixed martial arts and WWE, respectively, but the match was slow to start and didn’t really have much of a flow to it. Rousey looked destined for the victory by making Flair tap out to the armbar, but the referee was knocked out. By the time referee Charles Robinson was back on his feet, Flair delivered a kick to Rousey and secured the victory.
This likely won’t be the end of this storyline, but they’ll have to deliver more explosive, less sloppy moves if they want to keep fans interested.
Drew McIntyre ends Happy Corbin’s unbeaten streak
Ever since his storyline took him from rags to riches in August, Happy Corbin hadn’t lost a match. It looked like it would stay that way against Drew McIntyre after Corbin hit the End of Days, but it quickly turned into McIntyre’s favor, hitting his signature Claymore Kick to defeat Corbin. The win was a much needed boost for McIntyre and it could boost him toward a WWE title picture in the coming months.
We also learned that McIntyre’s sword is in fact quite sharp, courtesy of the ring.
Usos make quick work of Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs
We’ve seen little of Rick Boogs in the ring since his call-up to the main roster last year, and the chance to see if Boogs could dazzle in the ring was short-lived.
Boogs’ right leg gave out as he tried to pick up Jey and Jimmy Uso, and him never returning even on the side of the ring indicated the injury was serious. With Nakamura on his own, the Usos quickly capitalized on the advantage to retain the SmackDown Tag Team titles.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: WrestleMania 38: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Cody Rhodes steal night 1