WrestleMania 39 is now behind us and the wrestling world is once again divided over whether or not the biggest Hollywood spectacle of the year deserves to be given its 5 stars. Certain results and returns may be drawing ire from the ever-critical WWE fanbase, but ultimately it was a huge weekend for wrestling as a whole, with many companies and wrestlers reaping the benefits of the world’s attention.
WrestleMania weekend is more than just WWE’s content though, as it spans across the independent scene. Promotions such as Ring of Honor, GCW and other indie brands host major events in the local area in an attempt to draw fresh eyes to their product and to celebrate the biggest weekend of the year in style.
This year was no exception. For those fans like myself who seek out as much wrestling content as possible over Mania weekend, you would probably agree with me when I say there were plenty of bangers to be found outside of WrestleMania itself. We’re going to run down five of the biggest stars to come out of WrestleMania weekend, both inside and outside of WWE.
1. Rhea Ripley
‘The Nightmare’ of Judgment Day made good on her promise to even the score with Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania and capture her first SmackDown Women’s Championship. The 2023 Royal Rumble winner arguably stole the show on the first night of WrestleMania this year, putting on a classic against ‘The Queen’ in one of the night’s main-events.
Unfortunately, Ripley/Flair did not live up to the usual Rumble-reward of headlining one of the two nights, but it did get a good amount of time to put on a great story and show why these two women are considered two of the roster’s best. Rhea absolutely needed to win this match to capitalise on what has been a fantastic run since joining Balor’s Judgement Day, and this is probably going to be the boost that the faction needs in order to stay relevant, especially after Finn’s loss to Edge on Night 2.
Rhea and Charlotte dug deep into their playbooks and strung together a match that left both women looking great. But ultimately, it was Ripley that came away the victor and thus received a lot of the credit for what was a stellar, competitive bout. Rhea will likely be a shining star of the rest of the year thanks to her WrestleMania performance. Did someone say rubber match?
2. El Hijo Del Vikingo
The luchador taking the world by storm right now and a huge highlight of WrestleMania weekend is none other than El Hijo Del Vikingo. Son of an equally standout wrestler, Vikingo has had quite the year so far as AAA Mega Champion, wrestling on AEW Dynamite in a long-anticipated dream match against Kenny Omega and then defending his title against Komander at ROH Supercard of Honor.
Vikingo and Komander absolutely killed it in the show’s opener. The two delivered some of the most insane high spots of the entire weekend and put some respect back on lucha wrestling. It’s been a while since we’ve had some mainstream luchadores doing the good work on the global scene, I’m sure that Vikingo will be a household name in no time because of his efforts.
AAA will certainly reap the benefits of Vikingo’s work this weekend, and for those impressed by he and his opponent’s work, make sure to catch Komander against Sammy Guevara on this week’s Dynamite.
3. Sami Zayn
Even though the former Honorary Uce wasn’t in the championship main-event with Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn felt like the headline attraction. Closing out Night One with his BFF Kevin Owens against The Usos, the Sami-Bloodline saga was brought to a satisfying end with the new Tag champs defeating one of the greatest teams of the current era.
The crowd were naturally fully behind Sami Zayn, receiving one of the biggest pops of the entire night. Zayn’s popularity dwarfed that of KO’s, which is crazy to think considering the difference between them this time last year. Sami’s success story may not have warranted him the big headliner on Night 2, but it was certainly given the credit it deserves in an epic tag title match.
Sami Zayn has come away from WrestleMania as a certified main-event star. It may not be yet, but I’m sure that sometime within the next year, Sami Zayn will once again challenge for the World Championship and perhaps even pick up the win as we edge towards WrestleMania 40.
4. Mark Briscoe
At ROH SuperCard of Honor, Mark Briscoe challenged Samoa Joe for the Television Championship and unfortunately came away with a loss. In doing so, Briscoe solidified himself as one of the brand’s top babyface stars, even in defeat. Briscoe’s spotlight has only shone brighter since the unfortunate news of his brother’s death and his signing to AEW.
Briscoe has that underdog factor which fans love to latch onto, this will undoubtedly carry him through to an eventual championship win either in ROH or AEW. Without doubt, Jay was looking down with pride for his brother over WrestleMania weekend. The fans were fully behind Mark and the match with Joe played out exactly as it should have. Joe looked dominant and Mark displayed flurries of hope throughout. The name Briscoe may be best associated with tag wrestling, but after Mark’s performance this weekend, I don’t think any fan could deny him a huge singles run this year.
5. Dragon Lee
NXT’s biggest new acquisition, NJPW and ROH star Dragon Lee made quite the impression in his debut match at Stand & Deliver. It was tempting to include all five of the combatants in the NXT North American title match as they all put together a showcase of different wrestling styles and high spots. Dragon Lee however stood out as someone to watch going forward, being presented like a major star in the making.
Fans were hot for Dragon Lee from the get-go. His entrance echoes the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura’s original debut in terms of it’s drama and the commentary team put him over in a huge way. I’m sure that by the end of the year, Dragon Lee will find himself in the championship circle.
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