In a way, it was fitting. The journey to WrestleMania 35’s first ever women’s main event was so twisty and overly complicated, of course the ending of the match itself would follow suit.
Ronda Rousey went for her Piper’s Pit finisher on Becky Lynch, in the wee hours of Mon., April 8 local time in New Jersey. But due to damage to her leg inflicted by Lynch and Charlotte Flair throughout their “Winner Takes All” Triple Threat – and a reportedly legitimate broken hand – Lynch was able counter into a crucifix pinning predicament and pick up the win.
Problem was, Ronda’s shoulders weren’t on the mat for the referee’s entire three count. Michael Cole initially announced it as if they were, but when Rousey argued with the official on camera, he and his announce partners Corey Graves & Renee Young discussed the possibility it wasn’t a clean pin before quickly shifting to focus on Becky winning.
Cole: Shoulders down… SHOULDERS DOWN!
Graves: She did it! Becky Lynch!
Cole: Ronda Rousey doesn’t think her shoulders were down.
Graves: I mean, I would think it would be worth a replay, but Ronda Rousey was looking for Piper’s Pit, to her credit it looks like Becky Lynch was able to shift her weight and pin Ronda’s shoulders to the mat.
Young: I think Becky got her there!
Cole: Well Ronda Rousey has suffered her first pinfall loss in WWE. Becky Lynch takes it all tonight! The Raw and SmackDown Women’s titles!
A replay aired which confirmed Rousey’s shoulders are both off the mat when the ref first slapped the mat, and her right one might be up when his hand hits for the third time. But Cole & Graves casually acknowledge it before again focusing on the official outcome.
Immediately after the show, word hit Twitter from several sources that the finish was botched. Some of those reports seemed to put the blame on the referee, and some even claimed Rousey wasn’t supposed to be involved in the decision. Most agreed Ronda wasn’t pleased with how it went down:
More from @colohue:
Match ended too abruptly, Becky was still meant to win.
“Accident’s happen. The ref’s continued a count after a kick out. He hasn’t delayed between the 2 and 3 like they’re supposed to and Becky hasn’t let go in time for Ronda to kick out.”#WrestleMania
— Kristen Ashly (@KristenAshly) April 8, 2019
The finish didn’t happen as planned. Rousey wasn’t happy after, either. Thought the situation made her look bad, apparently.
— Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com (@SeanRossSapp) April 8, 2019
According to a source in #WWE, the ending to the WrestleMania main event was not the planned finish. The end was a botch, and the referee thinking Ronda’s shoulders were down counted to 3. Ronda was not happy. #WWE #WrestleMania #WomensEvolution
— Brad Shepard (@TheBradShepard) April 8, 2019
But on Wrestling Observer Radio, Bryan Alvarez and Dave Meltzer claimed that wasn’t the case at all. The only snafu was Rousey not being able to get her shoulders down for the entire count:
Alvarez: … as Ronda goes for her Piper’s Pit and Becky turns it into a crucifix – with Ronda’s shoulder up by the way, which was the only botch in the match, or the only botch in the finish. And pins her!
Meltzer: … what was happened was not a botch in the sense of, that was the finish. Because people were out there going, ‘The referee screwed up, counted when he wasn’t supposed, Ronda’s mad’ – none of that’s true. But she wasn’t supposed to get the shoulders up. That was just – it just happened. You know, it wasn’t like she was – I don’t believe for a second that she was trying to play a game like some of the old time guys used to do where they didn’t want to do a job and they’re kinda like pressured into it so they’ll kinda raise their shoulder up to kind of tell everyone, ‘Oh I’m doing a job I don’t wanna do.’ I don’t believe for a second that she’s doing that.
But whatever it was, her shoulder ended up coming up and they called attention to it which I thought was really weird. Which – backstage I know that because people did not know the commentary. I know people who were not even aware of this. Because I was going like, you know: ‘They called attention to the fact that her shoulder wasn’t up,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh. Well…’ And I don’t know if that’s Vince’s call. I don’t know if Corey Graves did it on his own because that’s what the replay showed, but the fact that they did the replay to show it makes me think it was that they in the production, that production called for it. But, you know, that was the screw up. The screw up was that she was supposed to be pinned, like really pinned, as opposed to this thing…
My personal theory in the aftermath was that the finish was intentionally ambiguous so that WWE and Rousey could play more “work or shoot?” games like the ones which occurred after Lynch tweeted a picture of Ronda’s husband Travis Browne and reports flew that the then-champ was actually upset and might try to hurt The Man the next time they were in the ring together. The question in this case would be whether or not Rowdy had played “game like some of the old time guys used to do” which Meltzer suggests.
But I was probably overthinking it/giving WWE too much credit.
What really happened? We’ll likely never know, which is part of the beauty of this weird, wonderful thing called pro wrestling.