The Rock pins Cody Rhodes in smashing in-ring return to cap stellar WWE WrestleMania 40 Night 1

PHILADELPHIA — If Night 1 of WrestleMania 40 is just the start of a teased movement into a new era, what does WWE do for an encore?

Triple H and WWE had a nearly flawless night Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in a great mix of action, surprise, pageantry and great stories.

Exactly what WrestleMania should be. 

Cody Rhodes will face Bloodline Rules in his main event clash for Roman Reigns’ Undisputed WWE Universal championship on Sunday after he and Seth Rollins lost to the Tribal Chief and The Rock to close the show Saturday night. 

The longest Intercontinental championship reign ended with Sami Zayn pinning Gunther. But Rhea Ripley’s dominance did not.

WWE creatively split up the Undisputed tag team championships while giving R-Truth his WrestleMania moment.

We even got a surprise appearance from Eagles great Jason Kelce. 

With plenty in the books and plenty to come on Sunday, here are five takeaways from Night 1 of WrestleMania 40:

Bossed Around

The Rock’s role in this story feels even clearer after Saturday night. The Final Boss filtered all of his real-life power from sitting on the TKO board and brought it into this story. 

He told the ref not to call a count-out or he was fired as the action spilled all over the stadium and the ref was too scared to call a disqualification when Rock hit a low blow later on. 

The Final Boss also saved his cousin Roman Reigns multiple times. He pulled Cody Rhodes off a pin after Seth Rollins and Rhodes hit stereo superkicks, a Stomp and a Cross Rhodes on the champ. 

Rhodes also had control late in the match and was going for the Triple Cross Rhodes on Reigns, but Rock smashed the “American Nightmare” with his weight belt. 

The Rock pins Cody Rhodes to win the Night 1 main event. WWE

The weight belt with Rhodes’ blood on played a big role with Rhodes’ mom Michelle in the front row. She and The Rock had a lot of back and forth. (She needs to deck The Rock on Sunday.) 

At the end, it was Rock — who is now carrying the People Championship given to him by Muhammed Ali’s widow at the Hall of Fame — who after Reigns delivered a spear to Rhodes tagged in and finished him off with a Rock Bottom and a very deliberate People’s Elbow.  

With how much control Rock had over this match and how much of his help Reigns needed, someone will have to stand up to him now on Sunday with it being Bloodline Rules where anything goes.

Who will it be is the question.

A slimmed down and tone Rock looked great in this match. He brawled with Rollins in the crowd. Thanks to Rollins coming to Rhodes’ aid multiple times, he took two big bumps a Rock Bottom from Rhodes through the announce table and a spear from Reigns after The Visionary pushed his partner out of the way. 

All four of them really brought it tonight and Reigns and The Rock’s win has to make fans feel good about Rhodes winning on Sunday.    

Yo Adrian, Sami Did It!

Before Sami Zayn went out for his match with Gunther they showed him backstage with his wife and son, with trainer Chad Gable and then friend Kevin Owens hyping him up for the final time.

This match had a big Rocky feel. 

Zayn was showing he was the contender he talked about for months with his wife playing Adrian in the front row cheering on her husband as Gunther beat down and mocked him and the family throughout the match.

But the frustration of the champ, who had held the title for 666 days, kept growing as Zayn kept kicking out. First it was one powerbomb, then two. 

Just when it looked like Gunther had finally finished Zayn off with a splash from the top rope and going for another, the challenger started firing up in the ring. 

Zayn countered with a Helluva kick and gnarly-looking brainbuster that staggered Gunther to the opposite corner. Two more Helluva kicks and Zayn was a champion again.

Sami Zayn pinned Gunther to end his 666-day reign as IC champ. Getty Images

Yes, this is an all-time reign he is ending, but Zayn has been the Intercontinental champion before and this isn’t his first world championship and maybe the moment would have been better used to make someone else. 

But there are some cool things WWE can do after it. Gable said Zayn owes him a favor after training him. 

Maybe we get a Gable heel turn out of this so he gets a new interesting direction for him. Also, with the title off Gunther, the only thing he should be doing next is being Rhodes’ first feud if he should be Reigns on Sunday.

Clean Split

What a fantastic piece of booking and storytelling in the tag team championship ladder match as WWE was finally able to split up the championships and match this had tremendous, fast-paced action with some great moments for DIY and New Catch Republic, even if they didn’t win. 

R-Truth and The Miz are the new Raw tag team champions. Getty Images

Grayson Waller and Austin Theory pulled down the SmackDown championship midway through the match — giving the blue brand some tremendous heel champions

With the Raw championship still hanging it was time to pay off the months-long story around R-Truth’s loose membership in The Judgement Day before he was officially kicked out. 

JD McDonagh came out to help his Judgment Day mates Finn Balor and Damian Priest by making sure R-Truth didn’t climb the ladder right away.

By the end, it was Truth pushing Priest off the ladder and dumping him out of the ring. It was the opening he needed to finally bring down the titles to a big pop. 

It was the first WrestleMania win of Truth’s career and he and Miz shared a nice moment on top of the ladder. 

The Judgment Day story with Truth and Miz should hit a new chapter now with Rhea Ripley being the only one in the group now holding gold. 

The more Truth on your TV is never a bad thing. The dude did his John Cena hot tag and went for a pin and counted it in during a ladder match. National treasure.

Face of a New Generation

Rhea Ripley and Becky Lynch gave us a heck of a story to open things up. Lynch continually worked the champion’s injured arm and set up multiple Dis-arm-hers. 

Rhea Ripley slams Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 40. Getty Images

But each time it felt like Ripley countered with her power, including a double powerbomb. Her frustration showed each time she wasn’t able to put away The Man, including her first Riptide attempt. 

The two pulled off a pretty incredible spot when Ripley lifted up Lynch from a Dis-arm-her and put her on her shoulders. They flipped over the ropes with Lynch somehow staying on her shoulders before getting dropped backward to the outside. 

It finally took Ripley giving Lynch a Riptide into the turnbuckle, catching her on the bounce back and giving her another Riptide to get the 1-2-3. She has now beaten all four of the Four Horsewomen.

We found out later in the match that Lynch was dealing with a 102 fever and strep throat, so bravo to her for still going out there and performing at that high level

Taking care of business 

The rest of the card was very business-like with a few short matches. The most disappointing was Jimmy Uso vs. Jey Uso, because it felt like they deserved a chance to tell a greater more layered story. 

The match consisted of Jey being super aggressive early and pummeling Jimmy — who had cost him two championships — to the point where he had to beg forgiveness from this brother. The crowd seemed to be booing Jimmy’s cowardice, but it also felt like they didn’t love the vicousness of Jey, who was brought to the ring by Lil’ Wayne. 

Jimmy Uso defeated brother Jey at WrestleMania 40. Getty Images

Things turned as They shook hands and Jimmy suckered him into a superkick and splash, but Jey kicked out.

Jey then counted Jimmy’s spear try with a counter spear. An Uso splash later and it was over.

Jade Cargill, Bianca Belair and Naomi made the most of their time with one of the best entrances of the night as they were in light-up, super hero-themed attires being lifted up on a platform on the side of the stage before facing Asuka, Kairi Sane and Dakota Kai.

Bianca Belair, Jade Cargill and Naomi celebrate their win at WrestleMania 40. Getty Images

The babyfaces pretty much had their way in this match with a big build-up to Cargill finally getting in the ring for her first true WWE match. The former AEW star looked like he belonged in the little she did and it appears she will be used in more of a powerhouse role. She fended off all three with a choke slam and a backbreaker.

Belair came to her aid when the numbers became too much with a KOD to Asuka. Cargill followed with Jaded and her signature pin to Dakota Kai to get the win.

It was a tremendous showcase for three powerful women on the babyface side, but Damage CTRL never felt weaker after this. 

WWE’s big surprise for the night was former Eagles center Jason Kelce helping out Rey Mysterio and Andrade.

Kelce and current Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson jumped out of the stands with green Rey Mysterio masks on when Dominik was trying to bring a chair into the match. 

Rey Mysterio celebrated with a shirtless Jason Kelce at WrestleMania 40. Getty Images

Kelce threw Dominik into the ring post and rolled him into the ring.

Andrade delivered The Message to Dom and Rey hit a top-rope splash onto Santos Escobar to finish things off. 

While there was a thought Carlito or Andrade would turn on the LWO and Rey Mysterio here, WWE chose not to.

Biggest Winner: Sami Zayn 

Biggest Loser: The Judgment Day 

Best Match: The Rock and Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes 

Best Entrance: Jade Cargill, Naomi, Bianca Belair

Predictions: 4-2-1  

Grade: A

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