Stale Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar Match Gives WWE Wrestlemania 38 Flat EndingApril 4, 2022
In a strange twist, when fans look back on WrestleMania 38, they will remember much about it before the main event ever comes to mind.
That's assuredly not what WWE set out to do on Sunday night when Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns collided in a title unification bout the company dubbed "the biggest WrestleMania match of all time."
But a sudden, downright bizarre finish somewhat fittingly capped off a main event with odd-feeling chemistry that simply rehashed a greatest hits of a well-trodden feud.
Granted, the main event has obscured the fact that No. 38, besides the finale, is probably top-10 material ever among Manias. For some fans, maybe top five.
Night 1 really didn't have a weak point and was highlighted by a classic between Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch and Cody Rhodes' jaw-dropping return and win. Oh, and that time "Stone Cold" Steve Austin returned to the ring for the first time in nearly two decades and kicked the tar out of Kevin Owens, surpassing the modest expectations pretty much everybody set for him in an actual match.
Night 2? Stellar stuff across the board, with Vince McMahon himself even getting involved in a slugfest with Pat McAfee before eating a Stunner from Stone Cold. And even silly things like celebrity involvement from the likes of Logan Paul and Johnny Knoxville were...surprisingly apt and fun.
No, when thinking about 38, it's just that pesky main event that sticks out.
It hardly squeaked past the 12-minute mark. It featured the usual suspects for a Lesnar-Reigns fight, loading up on Superman Punches, Spears (and a back-spear by Reigns to mix it up?), German suplexes and the usual spots like a downed referee and a head shot with a title.
Maybe the absolute top gem from the whole ordeal was Paul Heyman pushing the rope to Reigns in order to break a hold that almost had Lesnar on the cusp of making his opponent tap out. It was a subtle, genius moment the referee didn't see that swung the match.
But coincidentally enough, in that moment and right after, Reigns could audibly be heard telling Heyman "it's out," while clutching his shoulder. So that's going to spawn plenty of theories about how and why this one got cut short.
It's worth considering, of course, but The Tribal Chief seemed mostly fine in the post-win celebration while raising his now-unified titles. It is admittedly tough to tell the difference between Reigns' elite-level selling and something serious, of course.
That fans will want to even search to find reasons for the abrupt end to the main event says it all, though. It fell flat in a lot of ways before the weird finish.
The selling point to this whole feud getting a main event slot again was the fresh dynamic of the characters. Reigns is finally a heel and Lesnar has been the goofy, lovable good guy; frankly, it's been a blast. But when they got in the ring this time, it was just the same old thing.
There's also that Heyman factor. This felt like a dangling thread WWE just didn't pull. He's bounced back and forth between both guys, but he was with Lesnar first and for much longer. That moment he pushed the rope toward Reigns could've been him slapping The Tribal Chief's hand instead, for example.
It's pretty unfortunate that WWE derailed both men's divisions and major landmarks like the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber to set this up, only for the 'Mania main event to just slip past the 12-minute mark while feeling downright strange. Maybe there really was a reason it was called off early. Maybe they were hoping for a UFC-styled feel to the fight like some of those initial classics between Lesnar and Goldberg.
Whatever the reason, it also puts a damper on what's to come. Sunday night was a chance for WWE to signal to fans something fresh would happen over the course of the next year while it inevitably waits on the Reigns-The Rock matchup in California one year from now.
Instead, The Beast went down to one quick Spear after holding all the momentum, and nobody on the full-time roster has been built up enough as a believable challenger to Reigns.
It's pretty telling that's the first mention of The Rock, right? The match itself ended so quickly it set up an apparently unreasonable expectation that maybe the post-fight scene would feature some groundwork-laying for Reigns' next opponent. They've done it at major events over the last year with surprising returns like John Cena, so why not The Great One?
It turns out that was...just the match and the finish as we understand it in the immediate aftermath. It was—despite the investments pumped into it, the other Superstars pushed aside for it and the innovative character twists—largely indistinguishable from almost any other Lesnar-Reigns encounter.
Maybe some of this is the fault of the otherwise amazing WrestleMania 38 card over both nights for setting the expectation that the main event would keep pace or provide something different. Perhaps there was a chance it never could, but the fact that it felt like it didn't even try is the biggest problem.
So while the right guy probably won, Reigns and the company now have an uphill battle to keep fans engaged after a flat-feeling finale that needed to be anything but.
WWE has thrived on moments and getting reactions, but that finish created more of an indifferent shrug, which is the last thing the WrestleMania main event should do.