Celebrating The British (& Irish) Successes at Wrestlemania – by Mike Sanchez

Hello everybody. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well in these unprecedented times. I’ll start out by saying that I was wrong, and even though I wanted WWE to postpone Wrestlemania, the show they put on over two nights was very good and did what it promised to do – provide an escape from the world around us, even if but for a short time. WWE takes a lot of criticism over the decisions they make and their continual insistence on putting on a show no matter the circumstances should be applauded in some respects. Though it must’ve been difficult for the superstars to perform in an empty Performance Center, they all did great and put on good matches for us to enjoy. I have to admire WWE’s commitment, even though the world is in such a tumultuous place right now.

I’ve previously written articles here about British wrestling and my love for the successes of my fellow countrymen and women. I’ve no shame in doing so and I enjoy reading similar things from authors across the globe who take national pride in their own stars, regardless of their sporting achievements. Though WWE may be primarily a USA-focused business, people from all walks of life have achieved success there, and I believe it’s a good thing that people from outside of the States aren’t portrayed as the aggressive foreigner and can be popular in their own rights. Gone are the days of the Iron Sheik and the dreaded communists from Russia and Eastern Europe who dared to voice unpopular opinions in the Land of the Free. Now diversity is celebrated in many forms and WWE does showcase a lot of that, it has to be said.

Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross celebrate WrestleMania victory: WWE Exclusive, April 4, 2020

Onto my home country and Britain. We’ve been spoiled over the years by a plethora of talent that have succeeded in the biggest wrestling organisation the world has ever seen. From the British Bulldogs to Paige, Sheamus to Wade Barrett, many Brits have crossed the pond to be successful in America and Wrestlemania added another two and cemented the status of another.

I’ll start with the diminutive Scot, Nikki Cross and her Women’s Tag Team success alongside Alexa Bliss, recapturing the belts once again. I’ve liked watching Nikki evolve on the main roster and especially alongside Bliss in recent months.  I worried that the crazy and frantic style she had alongside Sanity had been curtailed too much, but in hindsight, perhaps that gimmick would be too difficult to carry long-term. That being said, it’s good that she shows flashes of that former persona during her matches to remind us of what she is capable of.  Many tag teams work well only for the inevitable split and feud, perhaps that crazy part of Nikki Cross will be seen again at some point in the future?

Becky Lynch shares a post-WrestleMania message with Shayna Baszler: WWE Exclusive, April 4, 2020

Onto another champion now and I may be cheating by claiming Ireland to be part of my homeland. True, the Republic of Ireland isn’t part of the British Isles, but as someone born and bred in Liverpool, UK, a huge percentage of us in this city have Irish heritage (66% for me, actually), so I feel safe in acknowledging this as a ‘home’ win. Two words; Becky Lynch.

Lynch defeated – with relative ease, I must say – her latest challenger for her Raw Women’s Title, Shayna Baszler. I wrote a couple of weeks ago how this match could be a litmus test for their chemistry and possible chances of a long-term feud. I think it’s too early to tell right now, but one thing is for certain; Becky Lynch is without doubt one of, if not the, most dominant Women wrestlers in recent memory.

Lynch has led this division for over a year. She was catapulted to the top after the now infamous stiff punch from Nia Jax in November 2018, although I’m sure she would’ve got there anyway. One year ago, Lynch won the Women’s Royal Rumble and took on both Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair in the main event at Wrestlemania, defeating both to become the first undisputed Women’s Champion and created the moniker ‘Becky Two Belts’. Though the Smackdown Title didn’t stay around her waist for long, Lynch has now held the Raw Women’s Championship for over a year and looks to be in no immediate danger of losing it any time soon. Becky Lynch has demolished all comers and stands alone on the pinnacle of women’s wrestling. She’s over with crowds, sells a lot of merchandise and is a hugely popular figure among fans everywhere. I cannot see her reign in any danger at all and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her hold the title for another year.

Drew McIntyre can't believe he's WWE Champion: Raw, April 6, 2020

Back to north of the border, and another Scottish Champion; Drew McIntyre. I didn’t expect a classic at Wrestlemania match between Drew and Brock Lesnar, but it was a believable victory, which is hard to do against such a brute like Lesnar. I echo many other wrestling pundits by saying WWE booked McIntyre perfectly from the Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania. He was the unstoppable force focused on Brock and took every opportunity to unsettle the champion en route to victory. A key aspect of Drew’s persona going into WrestleMania for me was that he wasn’t intimidated by him one bit. This came across very well on screen. McIntyre respected Lesnar, knew he was dangerous but never once became intimidated – indeed he was filled with self-belief that he would emerge victorious.

I thought WWE also did some wonderful videos of McIntyre behind the scenes (WWE Chronicle about Drew on WWE Network was fantastic), training in Scotland etc. and these gave fans a chance to see more of the man rather than the character. Drew himself has recently said he really enjoys working with Brock and that he learned a lot from him during this feud (I also imagine Paul Heyman would’ve been a massive influence on this too).

I’ve gone on record to say that McIntyre looks like a champion. He’s big, powerful and dominates in the ring. He has a great presence and killer finishing move in the hard-hitting Claymore Kick. His mic work is very good and he shows no fear at all – an essential component for any champion I think, just look at Becky Lynch to see the same. His ‘3-2-1’ count for the Claymore was getting over with fans prior to the lockdown, and I hope to see it again. I think it’s different and interactive, which is always a bonus.

With the growth of NXT UK, I feared that UK stars would be limited to that brand only and would struggle to break onto the main roster. After Wrestlemania, I now have no such fears. Broken dreams are now a reality.

Stay safe, everyone. Mike S.