WWE WrestleMania 38 sure doesn’t feel like the most important pay-per-view for the biggest wrestling company in the world, but marquee moments for stars like Steve Austin, Bianca Belair and Drew McIntyre could change that.
While WWE should be able to prevent fan burnout with a shorter WrestleMania stretched out across two nights, sluggish ticket sales and poor fan reaction to this mediocre WrestleMania build have set the stage for a potentially forgettable WrestleMania show. Then again, maybe not. WWE has shown time and time again in recent years that, despite any disappointing pre-PPV build, its flagship events themselves are typically very good from an in-ring perspective.
Will that hold true at WrestleMania 38? It should—as long as the booking is on point. Here are five smart booking moves WWE must make at WrestleMania 38, Night One.
Cody Rhodes Returns And Beats Seth Rollins
Unless WWE throws fans a massive curveball, Seth Rollins is going to face the returning Cody Rhodes, who will be Vince McMahon’s handpicked “surprise” opponent at WrestleMania 38. Rhodes’ return to WWE is, of course, a massive moment for pro wrestling that could have long-term ramifications for WWE, AEW and the pro wrestling business as a whole.
There is reportedly a push within WWE for the company to present Rhodes’ character just as it was portrayed in AEW, and anything less than—or different from—that would drastically affect the potentially huge impact Rhodes will have when he officially jumps ship from AEW to WWE. Likewise, if Rhodes actually loses? That would be a booking blunder of epic proportions. Despite the amazing character work Rollins has been doing, he has no business beating Rhodes, who needs to be portrayed as a massive star right out of the gate.
Logan Paul Picks Up The Win
Like him or not, Logan Paul is one the world’s most recognizable and financially successful YouTube stars as well as a major name in pop culture. Based on the snippets of his training we’ve seen so far, it also looks like he has a lot of potential as a wrestler and could be doing more with WWE moving forward.
Thus, Paul’s tag team match alongside The Miz, much like Bad Bunny’s performance alongside Damian Priest at WrestleMania 37, should be a way to give Paul some credibility in his first ever pro wrestling match. That means that Paul needs to pick up the win, even if it’s in dirty fashion, to cement himself as a heel and potentially set the stage for WWE to do more with him in the future.
Ronda Rousey Beats Charlotte Flair
Despite the star power involved here and the potential for the two to deliver a strong match at WrestleMania, Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair has fallen flat thus far—and badly so. Flair’s heel shtick is tired, and Rousey hasn’t exactly come across as a likable babyface, making this star-studded match one that doesn’t feel nearly as big as it should.
There is, however, a lesser of two evils when it comes to possible outcomes in this bout: Rousey needs to win and do so decisively. She is still in WWE primarily to be used as a special attraction, but she shouldn’t be losing after falling short in her last match way back at WrestleMania 35. Rousey needs to make Flair tap out to set the stage for a dominant run as champion that rebuilds her credibility, and ideally for WWE, reestablishes her as a potential TV ratings draw for the company.
Bianca Belair Dethrones Becky Lynch
As is the case with Rousey vs. Flair, something appears to be missing with the build to Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch. On paper, this should be a match that has the whole pro wrestling world abuzz, but the fact that this match has already happened a handful of times has taken away much of its luster, which is a shame given the obvious talent involved.
Perhaps the best way to salvage this feud, though, is for Belair—arguably WWE’s most popular female star right now—to avenge her loss to “Big Time Becks” at SummerSlam 2021 and hand Lynch her first title match loss in roughly three years. That would go a long way toward helping Belair wash away the stench of that SummerSlam loss while also making this dragged-out storyline worth some of the unnecessary twists and turns fans have had to sit through to get to this point.
Kevin Owens and Steve Austin Set Up Night Two Match
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin has had almost 20 years to come out of retirement for the right match. He could have done so against Hulk Hogan, Goldberg, John Cena or even CM Punk. So, the fact that Austin is coming back for his first meaningful angle for a talk show segment based around Kevin Owens’ hatred of Texas sure feels like an underwhelming way to set the stage for the return of arguably the greatest star in WWE history.
There is, however, a way to make it all worth it. If the money is right and it can be done in a way that protects Austin’s legendary legacy, the best booking of The KO Show segment—which has been confirmed as the main event slot on night one—is for it to be used as a means to an end. That end? Austin returning to the ring for a match against Owens on night two, a potential blockbuster bout that could draw big time viewership for night two on Peacock and potentially pave the way for Austin to wrestle more moving forward.
Better than a brief brawl, right?