Tampa Bay Times

A moment in WWE history

- BY PAUL GUZZO Times Staff Writer Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTime­s.

Bianca Belair, above, defeated Sasha Banks in the Smack-Down Women’s Championsh­ip during Wrestleman­ia 37 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Saturday. It was the first title match between two Black women.

TAMPA — In profession­al wrestling, performers and fans refer to the live crowd’s reaction as a “pop.”

A pop measures the popularity of a wrestler. How loud are the cheers and boos? Or are the fans apathetic?

A wrestler can pop the crowd with a specific move, promo or catchphras­e But the loudest pop typically comes when theme music hits and a wrestler emerges.

As wrestling’s biggest event, performers go all out to receive a loud pop during WrestleMan­ia entrances.

At past WrestleMan­ias, The Rock used a flamethrow­er to light a cutout of his name, Shawn Michaels dropped into the ring via zip-line and The Undertaker was led down the aisle by an army of torch-bearing druids.

Who had the best ring entrances on Night 2 of WrestleMan­ia 37?

Here is our ranking of entrances that went above and beyond for WrestleMan­ia to pop the crowd:

7. Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan

The WrestleMan­ia hosts sought what is called a “cheap pop,” which is receiving cheers by promoting something for which the host city is famous. Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan — both Tampa Bay area residents — walked to the ring and opened the event while dressed as pirates and speaking buccaneer. The crowd appreciate­d the pandering.

6. Riddle

A former UFC fighter, Riddle’s wrestling persona doesn’t match that real life, tough guy bio. Instead, he portrays a carefree, barefoot fighting skater dude.

For his match with Sheamus, he zipped to the ring on a scooter. Once inside the ring, Riddle was welcomed with a short burst of fireworks.

Riddle lost the match, but because Sheamus just walked to the ring with theme music, won the battle of entrances.

5. Rhea Ripley

Gothic fighter Rhea Ripley — nicknamed the Nightmare — had the triple threat while walking to the ring for her match against Asuka. Pyro shot into the air. The entrance stage spewed fire. And the band New Years Day belted out Ripley’s theme song, Brutality. For a few moments, WrestleMan­ia was a rock concert.

In the sixth match of the night, Ripley broke a WrestleMan­ia 37 trend. She was the first wrestler with a special entrance to win a match.

4. Sami Zayn

An over-the-top loudmouth conspiracy theorist, Sami Zayn always dances to the ring to ska music. He did just that at WrestleMan­ia. But for his match against Kevin Owens — the third of the night — Zayn also provided the event’s first celebrity appearance when he had YouTube star and fellow loudmouth Logan Paul in his corner. The crowd reacted with thunderous boos to Paul’s entrance.

After Owens defeated Zayn, the crowd implored him to perform a “stunner” on Paul. Owens did and the fans cheered.

3. Big E

Tampa area resident Big E has been among the WWE’s most popular performers in recent years, eliciting laughs with gimmicks such as taunting opponents with in-ring hip gyrations and carrying boxes of his Booty O’s cereal.

For his WrestleMan­ia entrance for his match against Nigerian royal Apollo Crews, Nigerian American rapper Wale performed Big E’s theme song as fireworks exploded above.

But Crews had the last laugh by winning with outside interferen­ce from wrestler Dabba-Kato.

2. Edge and Roman Reigns

This ranks second because two of the participan­ts in this triple threat match between Roman Reigns, Edge and Daniel Bryan had elaborate ring entrances.

Edge entered the stadium through a cloud of smoke, a laser light show and an extended pyrotechni­cs.

The last time live fans watched Tampa area resident Roman Reigns perform, he was a sympatheti­c good guy who had defeated cancer in real life. Since then, he has turned to the dark side. A question going into WrestleMan­ia had been whether fans would go with the script and boo him, or rebel and cheer his edgier character.

The boos rained down as he emerged from the entryway to a laser show, then a 15-second fireworks display backed by spewing flames. Reigns won the main event that was easily the match of the night.

1. Bray Wyatt

The first match of the night had the most memorable entrance.

In this reality-driven era of profession­al wrestling, Bray Wyatt is a throwback to the WWE’s cartoonish days. He is a demon who can appear in the ring from nowhere, then disappear in a cloud of smoke.

Wyatt’s entrance for his opening match against Randy Orton was in that vein.

The Tampa-area resident was first seen on the video screen, wearing his demon mask and walking a hallway lit red to insinuate he was coming from hell. He then emerged from a giant ringside jack in the box wound by his disciple, the Harley Quinn-like Alexa Bliss.

The crowd murmured excitedly in anticipati­on of his entrance, seemingly knowing it would be outlandish.

Wyatt did not disappoint.

And, after losing a short match, the lights flickered and he was gone.

 ?? LUIS SANTANA | Times ??
LUIS SANTANA | Times
 ?? Photos by LUIS SANTANA | Times ?? Bray Wyatt makes a leaping entrance into the ring, with the perfect mood lighting.
Photos by LUIS SANTANA | Times Bray Wyatt makes a leaping entrance into the ring, with the perfect mood lighting.
 ??  ?? Hosts Titus O’Neil, left, and Hulk Hogan fully embrace Tampa’s pirate past on the second night of WrestleMan­ia 37.
Hosts Titus O’Neil, left, and Hulk Hogan fully embrace Tampa’s pirate past on the second night of WrestleMan­ia 37.
 ??  ?? YouTube celebrity Logan Paul, left, is introduced by Sami Zayn. Let’s just say Paul was not a fan favorite.
YouTube celebrity Logan Paul, left, is introduced by Sami Zayn. Let’s just say Paul was not a fan favorite.

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