The first WrestleMania of the post-Vince McMahon era is in the books, and the graps-inclined among us here at ComicsBeat are here to reflect on the 40th edition of WWE’s annual extravaganza broadcast from Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field this past weekend.

WINNER: Paul “Triple H” Levesque – Despite some ludicrous accusations of humility from Cody Rhodes at the show’s close, it was abundantly apparent that Triple H wanted us all to know that this was the first WrestleMania of the Paul Levesque era. But truly, props to him – we know that he’s been behind so much of WWE’s best work over the last ten or so years, building bridges, building talent, and building stories. Seeing Levesque’s first Mania play out so well in both build and execution was a wonderful thing. – Adam Karenina Sherif

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 7: WrestleMania 40 at Lincoln Financial Field on April 7, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by WWE/Getty Images)

WINNER: Bayley vs. Iyo Sky – This singles match, somehow Bayley’s first at WrestleMania, was a beautiful reminder of how good an in-ring storyteller she really is. Her promo and segment work with Iyo Sky and the rest of Damage CTRL over the past year has been excellent, but the match still had to deliver. And it was really no mean feat for these two performers to draw in a crowd that threatened to be more involved in the self-indulgent singalong chant (for which British crowds are to blame). Hearing a stadium of people gasp when Sky countered Bayley’s finisher with the headstand pop-up was amazing. The second-to-last spot on a long card can be difficult, but Bayley and Iyo Sky nailed this assignment. – Adam Karenina Sherif

WINNER: Puerto Rico, thanks to Damien Priest – When Priest cashed in his briefcase and took Drew McIntyre’s freshly won Heavyweight title away from him, Puerto Rico’s national anthem immediately kicked in in every household in the Island (this is unconfirmed but who’s to say it didn’t happen). Not since Pedro Morales back in 1971 has the WWE had a Puerto Rican Heavyweight champ. Priest leaned into the moment, proclaiming “Yo soy boricua, pa que tu lo sepas” in interviews after the match. It was an historic moment that means a lot to a whole nation that has wrestling coursing through its blood. –Ricky Serrano

WINNER: The Rock – The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment proved why he’s known as such in the first night tag team main event. He came out with true Final Boss energy, like M. Bison at the end of the Street Fighter II story mode. The Rock’s physicality was imposing, his banter was menacing, and his signature moves were delivered with every ounce of hate he could muster. This heel turn has to go down as one of the best in wrestling, and it more than paid off in WrestleMania. Quote of the night? When the referee started counting out the wrestlers outside of the ring, The Rock said “You count, you’re fired. I don’t fuck around.” The ref stopped counting. -Ricky Serrano

LOSER: Philly crowd, day 1 – No matter how amazing the action in the ring is, it’s the crowd that ups the intensity and the viewing experience. Philly came out strong day 2. Day 1, not so much. There was a lack of energy from the crowd, only picking up in the final two matches of the night. Gunther losing his title and The Rock beating Cody were among the two loudest pops of the night. And that was it. It certainly colored the first half of the event. The matches did lack a bit of force to ramp up excitement, but it did feel like the audience didn’t help by holding back on the noise. -Ricky Serrano

LOSER: Rey Mysterio/Andrade vs. Escobar/Dom Mysterio – This match did not feel like it belonged in Wrestlemania, not by a long shot. There had been some build up for it, but never felt like a high stakes fight that would move any kind of needle one way or another. There was a double body press to the outside that was pretty cool, and we did the get Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson as interference for a bit of fun. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as it got in terms of excitement. The Pride vs The Final Testament was way more inventive and it had Bubba Ray as a guest referee, which led to him coaching the Street Profits on table warfare to great effect. -Ricky Serrano

WINNER: Samantha Irvin – Over the course of the two nights, Samantha Irvin’s performance cemented her as my all-time favorite ring announcer. The power and tonal control she has with her voice is astounding, but what makes her so good is her capacity to convey emotion and have it come across as authentic rather than performed. The tremors in her voice calling Cody’s victory further elevated that moment – the same way Jim Ross has done so many times over the years on commentary. – Adam Karenina Sherif

Adding to this – this kind of performance would almost certainly have earned her a verbal shallacking or some form of petty punishment under the eye of Vince. The ability for workers and performers, in all areas of the craft, to feel comfortable enough to display the genuine emotion and freedom Irvin did all weekend without fear of retaliation is an enormous win in and of itself – William Quant

LOSER: “Main Event” Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso – I’m still not entirely sure why this bout felt so flat, but I think the in-ring story needed to be much, much clearer from the opening bell. The commentary team raised questions about whether Jey would have the killer instinct to take down his brother, but they also completely missed the point of the superkick party – which I think was meant to be an adaptation of a puroresu slap exchange. The Usos had a great moment on Night 2, but it’s a real pity that this one didn’t quite come together for them.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 7: WrestleMania 40 at Lincoln Financial Field on April 7, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by WWE/Getty Images)

WINNER: Seth “Freakin’” Rollins and Becky Lynch – With the magnitude of WrestleMania weekend over and both of them having taken the last year to help elevate various championships across the company, this wrestling couple should be in for some well-deserved time off. For Becky, she achieved some great promotion for her memoir and was able to give back to the women’s division with a big-stage loss to Rhea Ripley – something she expressed frustration at not being able to do a few years ago with Shayna Baszler.

As for Seth, the sheer depth of the storytelling and character development he displayed over the weekend deserves an entire article in itself. After spending the last 316 or so days establishing the prestige of the new World Heavyweight Championship, openly discussing the knee and back problems that have been barking across the entire reign, and having two main event level matches across both nights of Wrestlemania, he became one of the only men to need four Claymore kicks to stay down. To round it all off, he was given major props by Triple H himself in post-show interviews. Levesque mused that he needed “someone to make that strap of leather and gold mean something,” and there was no one he looked to but Seth. These MVPs of the company have earned some rest. – William Quant  

WINNER and LOSER: Me, from 14 years ago – Back in the wrestling message board days, I remember making the argument that we’d see an El Generico/Sami Zayn BRAINBUSTAAAAHHHH in the WWE before we’d ever see a CM Punk Pepsi Plunge – each man’s respective finishers on the independents – and was passionately chided for it. Take that, other wrestling supernerds I’ll never meet. – William Quant

WINNER: Jade Cargill made a spectacular entrance with Bianca and Naomi, and while they are momentarily teaming up, you know a feud is coming. While Jade may be booked like Goldberg or The Ultimate Warrior for now, she might just have more charisma and sheer star power than either. – Heidi MacDonald

LOSER: Vince McMahon. Eff that monster. Good riddance. – Heidi MacDonald

WINNER: Stephanie McMahon’s appearance – alongside husby wearing an ECW cap at the Hall of Fame and opening Night 2 in the ring, was the ultimate sign that this is a new era, and a deserved victory lap for someone who was a huge difference maker even during the dark days of Vince. – Heidi MacDonald

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – APRIL 7: WrestleMania 40 at Lincoln Financial Field on April 7, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by WWE/Getty Images)

WINNER: The Rock’s White Elvis Pants. Everything about the Rock, actually. When his return was first foretold, there was some eye rolling here, since at age 51 he’s arguably even more brittle than when he suffered an ab tear during his Mania 29 match with Cena. What the Rock wants the Rock generally gets, unless it’s a Black Adam sequel, yet his interfering in finishing the storyline was met with immediate disdain by the fans, and Dwayne Johnson (and Paul LeVesque) were smart enough to know they had something potentially even bigger on their hands. Something that used real life multi generational sagas of wrestling and made the story take on an epic quality no one could have seen coming at this level. Roman, Seth, Punk, Drew and Cody would all go on to have amazing promo work, but when The Rock entered the scene….the true greatest and biggest star of them all held us mesmerized. Recovering from a (to be fair) pretty poor outing against Jinder Mahal, The Rock got his live audience chops back and treated us to one psychotic, electrifying moment after another. On the iconic March 26, 2024 episode of Raw The Levesque Era officially equalled the Attitude Era and maybe even surpassed it because gone is the juvenile fart humor and sadistic humiliation that was the undertone of the Vince days. When The Rock kept saying “Mama Rhodes, look at him!” I thought at first he was just on auto pilot, but then I realized he was building his sadistic Final Boss character….and it worked. 

Anyhoo, on night 2, The Rock came out in those flared white Elvis pants and damn, everything he wore was so perfect the whole run, but that just got me. The drama that played out between him and Cody, Seth, Cena and Undertaker (subbing for a Steve Austin who just wanted too much money, boo) called back to events of a decade – or a generation ago – and Cody’s story finished not only with the victory against Roman – who we’d been expecting  – but this previously unknown and terrifying Final Boss. Just the best stuff. I love wrestling. They are only people, but they sure make us think they are larger than life…and maybe they are. – Heidi MacDonald


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