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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Ronda Rousey makes impressive WWE start and Roman Reigns falls short again: WrestleMania 34 talking points

Graham Caygill, our man in New Orleans, takes a look at some of the key moments to come from Sunday’s event

Ronda Rousey manhandled Stephanie McMahon for much of the action in New Orleans. WWE
Ronda Rousey manhandled Stephanie McMahon for much of the action in New Orleans. WWE

Great start for Ronda Rousey

As debuts go Ronda Rousey’s first match in the WWE could be chalked off as mission accomplished.

The former UFC star won the mixed tag match for herself and partner Kurt Angle with an armbar on Stephanie McMahon to pop the crowd of more than 78,000 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

She looked good when on offence and her facial expressions, especially in the early stages when frustration seeped through as McMahon kept eluding her grasp, were good, too.

The match probably went five minutes too long, but it did its job of showing Rousey as a credible figure who has definitely got a lot of potential.

Credit must go to McMahon, who continues to shine as a heel and she can be proud of her efforts, along with husband Triple H, in helping promote Rousey.

What is next for Rousey will be fascinating. Ideally an experienced hand like a Natalya or a Mickie James would be good for her first singles feud. Someone to guide her further, while providing a good foil to her likeable character.

WWE need to change Roman Reigns up

Only Hulk Hogan had main-evented four successive WrestleManias prior to Roman Reigns on Sunday, but the booking of Reigns continues to baffle.

He has been treated as the WWE’s main man since January 2015 and the crowd have rejected him, particularly at WrestleMania.

Sunday was no different. As he was being manhandled by Brock Lesnar in their Universal title match, fans were more interested in some beach balls that had made it into the stadium and were being thrown around.

The WWE need to ask themselves why fans reacted that way.

The Reigns character is horribly stale and too overprotected. He is a face with little personality or redeeming features, and he nearly always wins.

The WWE need to change things up with him and fast. Reigns is great in the ring but his current character is not working.

It has been said before, and probably will be again, but a heel turn is what he desperately needs, at least for a short time.

Sunday’s loss to Lesnar could be the start of it. Frustration at falling short, and being rejected by the fans, sets him on a path of nefarious behaviour.

Monday’s edition of Raw should tell us more.

Charlotte and Asuka steal the show

Match of the night belonged to Charlotte Flair and Asuka, who thrilled the crowd with their clash over the WWE SmackDown women’s title.

The upset was that Flair ended Asuka’s unbeaten stint in WWE, which stretched back to NXT, as she made her Japanese opponent tap out.

It was an exciting match, with a shock climax. It also resonates as it achieved everything it had aimed to do.

It made Flair look strong. Not just in terms of a great performance in the ring, but in the context of her having the honour of breaking the streak.

In many ways actually losing may help Asuka. It certainly makes things more unpredictable for her now that in storyline mode she is not having to hold onto an unbeaten record every time she sets foot in a ring.

John Cena’s quick loss

Shortest match of the night was the return of the Undertaker. The Deadman squashed 16-time WWE world champion John Cena in less than three minutes.

It was what it needed to be as Taker proved he can still go, albeit in a short time, in the ring.

But, it was remarkable to see Cena lose so quickly and it continues a downwards trajectory for him in terms of results.

Hopefully these more frequent, and sometimes quick, losses can send Cena’s character in a different direction as he wonders going forward if he still has what it takes.

Daniel Bryan’s popularity as high as ever

If he is fit and healthy for the rest of the year, then WWE would be crazy not to have Daniel Bryan in the main event at WrestleMania 35 in New Jersey next April.

His first competitive match in the WWE in almost three years showed he had not lost any of his speed or courage as he bounced around the ring.

The crowd were white hot for him. A feud with the Miz over the summer is likely, but if Bryan can keep his body strong there is every chance his popularity will make it impossible for WWE to ignore him.