WrestleMania 36 saw a radical change for WWE’s flagship Premium Live Event (PLE), as the company decided to move to a two day event instead of the traditional single night format.
Like it or loathe it, having a couple of nights allows for more time and more opportunities for the roster to get on the biggest show of the year. It also offers two chances to main event WrestleMania. The past three years have never really provided any more than two candidates for those coveted spots, so the company haven’t really had a difficult decision to make.
But in 2023, there are some questions on exactly what or more accurately, who should main event the first night in Los Angeles. The closing match of the weekend will undoubtedly go to Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes, but there are currently two options that WWE must decide between.
Here, Andy Spoors mulls over the candidates and looks to answer why one deserves it more than the other…
Rhea Ripley vs Charlotte Flair
Ordinarily the route to decide the main event of WrestleMania has traditionally been a perk attached to winning the Royal Rumble.
That isn’t a hard and fast rule, more of a guideline.
But since the introduction of both a men and women’s Rumble match, as well as two nights of Mania, it seems fairly logical and tidy that the two winners get to headline each night.
That would be the case at WrestleMania 39, which is all but guaranteed to be closed out with the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match.
And there are certain clues that Ripley vs. Flair is indeed being scheduled as night one’s main event.
Charlotte’s Hall of Fame and wrestling royalty, Ric Flair, recently tweeted as much by congratulating his daughter on main eventing.
Then there is the WrestleMania Goes Hollywood promo packages where WWE Superstars reenact famous movie and television scenes with a slight twist.
In one of the more straight-laced videos, Rhea channels her inner Eleven and goes full on Stranger Things by crushing a can with her mind.
During the send up, John Cena speaks to the challenger on an intercom asking “Feeling the pressure huh? Of main-eventing WrestleMania.”
It may be a throwaway line recorded and edited before any other plans had been brought to the table.
Or it could be a clear and outright statement of who is going to get the honour of closing a night at the biggest show of the year.
The biggest argument for Rhea vs Charlotte is the message it sends out to the wider audience.
WWE cares about women’s wrestling and will do what it can to help progress it further in any way they can.
The stats speak for themselves and so far it is fairly damning.
Of the six main events that have occurred since the two night format was introduced in 2020, only one has been a women’s match.
That match in 2021 featured Bianca Belair vs Sasha Banks and went on to gain a lot of plaudits and even awards for the work both women put in that night.
Fast forward to 2023 and we have some similarities, a young up and coming Superstar challenges a member of the Four Horsewomen for a championship.
That night Belair was catapulted into stardom, something Rhea is also more than capable of.
She has in fact won every title possible in WWE, with one exception. The SmackDown Women’s Championship. The very one currently held by Flair.
It’s not like there isn’t history here either. Back in 2020, Flair won the Royal Rumble and chose to fight Ripley who at the time was NXT Women’s Champion.
That night it was to be Charlotte who picked up the win, but it also set Ripley on a three year odyssey to gain her retribution.
Their rivalry has started to pick up in recent weeks too, with an all out brawl erupting just a couple of weeks ago.
In a bigger sense, it is important for the women’s division to be recognised and showcased on the biggest stage possible.
Has the rivalry been the hottest angle in the company? Quite frankly, no.
However it does have history, stakes and can act as a shining beacon for any young female wrestling fans with the message that one day you too could be the main event of WrestleMania…
Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs The Usos
Of course the winner of the Royal Rumble will always have their tilt at the title.
Nothing should ever change that. However…It doesn’t mean you get to main event a WrestleMania too.
That honour needs to go to whatever is generating the biggest buzz in the WWE Universe.
Sure there are two opportunities to main event, but in the past year nothing in the entire industry has generated as many special moments as The Bloodline.
From Roman Reigns finally perfecting his character, Sami Zayn as an Honorary Uce, to The Usos dominating the tag division.
It has been cinematic at times, arguably Emmy Award worthy.
The emotions that Royal Rumble ending elicited from the WWE Universe will go down as one of the greatest of all time.
Now that we are starting to reach what feels like the endgame for all the players involved, it only seems right to give them the biggest stage possible.
This story has never just been about Roman Reigns, sure he has been the Tribal Chief, but without his tribe the legs would have fallen off months ago.
The real MVPs have been Jey Uso and Zayn.
The latter has finally reconciled with longtime frenemy Kevin Owens in a bid to bring The Bloodline down once and for all.
When fans look back on 2022 and at least the first part of 2023 in the future, it is important that the biggest talking point in that time is allowed to finish with a flourish.
Although Sami was afforded a shot at the company’s biggest title and in his hometown of Montreal, a win in the main event of WrestleMania with his best friend would surely come as an amazing consolation prize?
What kind of message would WWE be sending the rest of the roster if they didn’t reward the hottest angle in the company?
In the 38 previous WrestleManias only the very first saw a tag team match close the event. It’s about time that changed and never have four men been so deserving.
For years The Usos could barely get on the card for Mania, often being bumped to the pre-show or even off completely.
There is a long history between The Usos and Kevin Owens too.
Back on December 25 2020, Jey Uso cost Owens his Universal Championship shot by handcuffing him to the steel cage encasing him and Reigns.
If popular opinion is anything to go by, not putting the tag match on last could provide something of a headache to the company and derail the rest of the show.
Placing it first or on the midcard could burn the crowd out early, such is the emotional attachment shown to this match. Just listen to the pop from the crowd when KO and Zayn finally embraced.
For all those reasons, night one of WrestleMania 39 simply has to be Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens vs The Usos.
Anything else will simply fall flat and even cause Charlotte Flair vs Rhea Ripley a mountain to climb before it’s even started.
To find out who headlines, you can watch both nights of WrestleMania 39 on the WWE Network and BT Sport Box Office.