For pro wrestling fans, WrestleMania weekend is the Super Bowl, Christmas and your best birthday party all rolled into one. The four-day extravaganza includes Friday Night SmackDown; the WWE Hall of Fame; NXT Stand & Deliver; WrestleMania Nights 1 and 2; and WWE Monday Night Raw. Plus there are other wrestling events and shows happening around the city, so it’s a week-long party. With WrestleMania 39 taking place in my hometown of Los Angeles, there was no way I was missing the Showcase of the Immortals. This year’s card was full of notable matches, but many of the weekend’s best moments came from Black stars such as Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair, new NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes, and rap legend Snoop Dogg, who all had standout moments.
Without question, there was one superstar that most fans were there to see–and it wasn’t John Cena or Roman Reigns. Throughout the weekend, the name on everyone’s lips was Bianca Belair.
On Sunday, in a hard-fought battle, the EST of WWE retained her Raw Women’s Championship against Asuka. She was able to use her power to counter Asuka’s submission moves. As awesome as the match was, it was her entrance that had everyone talking. Before she hit the stage, the local youth group the Divas of Compton came out and danced to her music, setting the stage for an unforgettable WrestleMania moment.
“During rehearsals, when I first got to meet them I was tearing up and crying. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can watch this before my match. I’m just gonna be bawling, crying,’” Belair said during Sunday’s WrestleMania press conference. “My favorite thing is to come out and see these little ESTs that see themselves in me and to be able to inspire them. They were amazing. I just wanted to give them the stage, let them shine bright and be little ESTs. Representation is so important. I always want to bring that to the table. Walking out as Raw Women’s Champion means so much, but to be able to inspire them, they’re my whole reason why.”
It’s not clear where the champ goes next, as she’s been so dominant, she’s run through all her competitors. However, on Friday, during press interviews, she told me that it would be a “dream match” for her and her husband, fellow WWE Superstar Montez Ford, to face off against married WWE Hall of Famers Edge and Beth Phoenix in a mixed tag match.
Sadly, it wasn’t all good news, as the young contortionist who danced with Bianca during her entrance lost her mother on Sunday morning. She was praised for delivering such a powerful performance despite her unimaginable grief.
Rap legend and unapologetic wrestling fan Snoop Dogg co-hosted WrestleMania with WWE Superstar The Miz. On both Saturday and Sunday, Snoop facilitated a surprise match for Miz, with the Miz & Mrs star losing both times. However, on Sunday, things didn’t quite go according to plan, and the “Drop It Like It’s Hot” artist became the MVP of the night.
While executing a leapfrog during his match with The Miz, Shane McMahon collapsed from a torn quad. But instead of allowing the segment to falter, Snoop improvised and stepped in to punch the former WWE Champion a couple of times. Then, at referee Jessika Carr’s guidance, hit a People’s Elbow a.k.a. The Rock’s finisher. It wasn’t exactly perfect, but everyone did their jobs and the moment was actually better received than another match between Shane and Miz was.
The Death Row Records mogul also got a huge pop on Saturday as he drove new WWE Hall of Famer Rey Mysterio to the ring in a lowrider. There is nothing like being in a stadium in LA with 80,000 people as “Nuthin But a G Thang” hits. It was electric.
On Saturday, the future was on display at NXT Stand & Deliver at Crypto.com Arena. This is WWE’s developmental brand, where the next generation of wrestlers learns the ins and outs of the business. And on this night, the cocky Carmelo Hayes took on Bron Breakker for the NXT Championship.
You need to have a special level of confidence to have your entrance feature your name in Los Angeles Lakers font and wear the No. 8 on your gear in Kobe Bryant’s house. But of course, if you walk around for two years calling yourself “The A Champ,” you probably don’t have a problem backing it up. Melo defeated Bron, becoming the new NXT Champion. He and his partner, Trick Williams, are making waves throughout WWE. On Friday, during press interviews, legendary wrestler/manager MVP told me that he’d like to work with the pair. MVP currently appears on Raw with Omos, Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander. It would be pretty awesome to see him pop up in NXT to hype Trick and Melo.
Though WrestleMania 39 weekend didn’t wrap up the way a large part of the audience wanted, it was still a crazy, nonstop party with fans from around the world. Recent news of WWE’s merger with UFC has fans on edge about the company’s future. At this moment, there’s no telling what direction things will go in, but if the stories and matches get uninteresting and repetitive again, at least we got one last amazing Mania.
If you missed any of the action, WrestleMania 39 and NXT Stand & Deliver are available on Peacock.