Brock Lesnar won the WWE Championship at Day 1 – just hours after Universal Champion Roman Reigns was pulled from the show for Covid-19.
Lesnar had been due to meet Reigns for the Tribal Chief’s title in the likely main event of WWE’s first big show of the year.
Those plans had been thrown into chaos after the company confirmed Reigns’ absence – swiftly re-writing the show to include Lesnar in the WWE title bout instead.
“I yearn to perform tonight at #WWEDay1 to defend my Universal Championship,” Tweeted Reigns, who had also been absent from live events in the build-up to Day 1.
“However, unfortunately, earlier today I tested positive for Covid-19.
Due to the proper protocols I am unable to compete as originally scheduled.
I look forward to returning to action as soon as possible.”
A long-running champ on WWE’s SmackDown show, Reigns has always shown caution in respect of Covid-19.
After returning to the wrestling ring in 2019 following a successful battle against leukaemia, he withdrew himself from action prior to the following year’s WrestleMania, citing health concerns as the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold globally.
Since making a comeback from that hiatus he has been WWE’s top performing superstar, winning his title back in August 2020.
His feud with Lesnar looks now to be heading towards Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, with Sunday nights twist making things even more intriguing for when the 36-year-old returns.
Lesnar now holds the WWE title after company officials scrambled to piece together the ending to Day 1 – he effectively gate-crashed what would have been a fatal four-way between WWE Champ Big E, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Bobby Lashley to make it a five-way.
A short but explosive match saw Big E sustain a monstrous frog splash from Seth Rollins and, eventually, an F5 from Lesnar to see his reign as champion come to an end.
Day 1 was, overall, a fairly brisk and energetic show – Lesnar’s’ win was the only title change, but that didn’t stop the crowd in Atlanta, Georgia being heavily invested in most of it.
There was a surprise return to ‘active’ action for Beth Phoenix, the former multi-time champion and wife to Edge, who won out in a fine contest against The Miz.
Phoenix recently called time on her WWE commentary career, and appeared to help Edge overcome Miz and his wife, Maryse, who had been teaming up to thwart the Rated-R Superstar, who eventually secured a pinfall win thanks to a Spear.
Elsewhere, Liv Morgan came up marginally short in a hard-fought contest with Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch.
Morgan has enjoyed a marvellous last few months on the rise in WWE and has gained the support of fans – while this looked her best shot at grabbing the gold from Lynch, it still never quite seemed sure that they were ready to call time on The Man’s reign just yet.
SmackDown tag champs The Usos collided with long-time rivals The New Day and managed to keep hold of their crowns after Kofi Kingston succumbed to a 1D.
Scot Drew McIntyre saw off Madcap Moss in their match but later fell victim to a backstage attack from Moss and Baron Corbin.
McIntyre has likely been written out of television to manage some reported injury issues, according to Fightful.
Yet another wonderous RKO helped RK-Bro see off the challenge to their Raw tag titles from the Street Profits in a great bout, while the Kick Off show saw Sheamus and Ridge Holland defeat Ricochet and Sheamus.