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What’s another 30 minutes, after waiting more than a year to attend a WWE event.
The first rain delay in WWE history did not stop the company nor fans from having a good time as WWE conducted two nights of WrestleMania 37 in Tampa before a sold-out crowd of 25,000-plus each night.
Fans in the stands at Raymond James Stadium made the highlights -- the history -- the WrestleMania moments of Night 1 and Night 2 of WWE’s annual extravaganza WrestleMania that much more memorable, special.
The WWE Superstars feed off the energy of a live crowd, and they’ve missed that greatly.
WWE knows how to make an entrance
The crowd erupted as the WWE Superstars appeared from Gorilla position onto that rampway in front of the giant pirate ship. Raymond James Stadium is NFL home of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Arrr.
As excited as the fans were to see WWE Superstars inside a venue for a show, the WWE Superstars were just as excited to see them -- acknowledging and waving to them, leading and joining the chants and cheers.
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon stood front and center at the top of the rampway flanked by his WWE Superstars and talent to drop kick-off the show. He thanked fans and then welcomed them (in his distinctive, energetic voice) to WrestleMania.
Then Grammy-nominated recording artist Bebe Rexha sang the “America The Beautiful” with a jet flyover, and the audience popped its approval.
You could feel the energy. It seemed all systems go ... but wait.
Hearts dropped as the public address announcer told fans to leave their seats and seek shelter in the concourse because of a weather tracking alert.
To ride out that stoppage, WWE interviewers Kevin Patrick (if you ask Seth Rollins, it’s Mike Patrick) and South Florida’s own Sarah Schreiber conducted some good, interesting and fun interviews on the fly backstage with Shane McMahon, WWE Champ The Almighty Bobby Lashley & Miami’s own MVP, Drew McIntyre, Raw tag champs The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) and Intercontinental Champ Big E, Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens, The Miz & John Morrison and Rollins.
After a 30-minute rain delay, the first in WWE history, the audience received word from said PA announcer to return to their seats. The WWE crew did an outstanding job weathering the storm, making it safe for fans and the superstars.
Finally, time for the history making opening match. It featured WWE Champ The Almighty Bobby Lashley with Miami’s own MVP against former champ Mr. WWE Drew McIntrye.
WWE Back in Business, for sure, with The Hurt Business.
The crowd enjoyed this battle of two aggressive, intense, physical combatants, leading to their first “This is Awesome” chant in sometime.
Lashley won with a second Hurt Lock. Superstar Billy Graham could be proud. Reminded me of Graham beating the legendary Bruno Sammartino for the title, when Vince McMahon Sr. ran the company.
WWE SmackDown women’s champ “The Boss” Sasha Banks versus Royal Rumble winner “The EST” of WWE Bianca Belair made history by main eventing Night 1. It marked the first time two Black women main evented for the title at WrestleMania.
Belair made more history by winning the WWE SmackDown women’s title.
While celebrating in the ring with her proud husband, WWE Superstar Montez Ford of the Street Profits, an emotional Belair acknowledged the fans and her family, including her equally proud parents.
Plenty of smiles, cheers and tears.
This time Belair’s dad did not fall, like he did trying to hurdle the couch at home after Belair (ironically a standout track hurdler in high school and college) won the Royal Rumble.
He stood ringside, not trying to scale the barricade to congratulate his daughter. Belair walked to them, hoisting the title high in the air and then hugging him and all family members.
Just before the start of the match, Belair also displayed her emotions. The personas of WWE Supertsars are larger than life, and this loomed as a larger than life moment -- Banks and Belair breaking barriers, making history for Black men and women.
The match, exceptional. Banks delivered once again, and Belair proved worthy of the task. Her power moves extraordinary. Each talent used Belair’s extra long ponytail as a weapon. Belair, who designs and makes her own ring gear (and ring gear of The Street Profits), debuted a new look for the historic match.
Omos at home in Tampa
The 7-foot-3 Omos made his WWE main roster wrestling debut in his college hometown, teaming with the Phenomenal One AJ Styles to defeat The New Day (Kofi KIngston & Xavier Woods) for the WWE Raw tag team titles.
The Nigerian-born Omos (Tolulope “Jordan” Omogbehin) is a former University of South Florida basketball player discovered by CWF alum Steve Keirn, a versatile pro wrestler during his illustrious career.
Omos looked good as the unstoppable force and immovable object. New Day did a great job, selling for him and putting him over. Their expressions of awe and concern just outstanding. The crowd reacted to Omos. Good to see.
The win means AJ Styles became a WWE Grand Slam Champion (WWE or Universal champ, Raw or SmackDown Tag Team champ, Intercontinental champ and United States champ).
Bad Bunny impresses
Well-known rapper, singer, songwriter Bad Bunny, proud of his music and Puerto Rican heritage, also did a good job in his pro wrestling debut. He teamed with fellow Puerto Rican Damian Priest against the entertaining, talented heel tag team The Miz & John Morrison. “Hey Hey, Hop Hop”
Bunny, who moved to Orlando and trained at the illustrious WWE Performance Center, actually opened the match. He needed a little time to feel it, but after taken a few shots, he did very well. Same can be said for Miz working with him several minutes.
Bunny dove off the top rope onto Miz & Morrison outside the ring. He even executed a Canadian Destroyer on Morrison there, which saw Miz and Priest’s jaws drop. Good camera work all-around on that move and the reactions of Miz and Priest.
Braun Strowman earned a giant reaction from fans by ripping open a portion of the steel cage near the top to Get These Hands on Shane McMahon and then toss McMahon from the top of the cage onto the mat.
In his first WrestleMania singles match, Cesaro gave the fans what they wanted and more, He executed his fan favorite Cesaro Swing (20 times) and added a very cool looking Cesaro Airplane Glider Spin (no hands) to secure a victory over former multi-time WWE champion Seth Rollins.
Past, present & future
Because of Covid, last year’s WrestleMania 36 unfortunately moved from Raymond James Stadium to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando with no crowd.
WWE allowed Tampa to host WrestleMania 37 after moving WrestleMania at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood/Hollywood, California to 2023.
With the success of the NFL Super Bowl with 25,000 fans in attendance at Raymond Jame Stadium in February, WWE opened WrestleMania 36 to 25,000 fans each night (April 10 and 11) at Raymond James Stadium.
WWE filled seats with 25,000 fans each night, two more WrestleMania sellouts, and utilized cardboard cutouts (ala MLB and NFL) of random faces in the stands, too, for further visual effects.
WWE crew, staff, talent, just all those working in front of the camera and behind it should be proud of their efforts. Fans, too. Everyone did a great job.
WrestleMania 38 will occur April 3, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington/Dallas. Ticket information will be announced later this year.
WrestleMania 37 Night 1 and 2 Results
For results of Night 1 and Night 2 of WWE WrestleMania 37 Tampa, here is a cool report/story from Miami Herald pro wrestling writing alum Scott Fishman of TV Insider.
Adhering to local health guidelines, a limited number of tickets were sold for each night of WrestleMania 37 Tampa, with all in attendance seated in socially-distanced pods.
Additional safety measures included health screenings and temperature checks prior to entry into Raymond James Stadium, mask requirements, social distancing, mobile ticketing, cashless concessions and enhanced sanitization throughout the venue.
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