By Kristopher Thomas
In a world with the entire sports world is put on hold due to the global pandemic, the WWE didn’t let that stop them from still holding their biggest showcase of the year WrestleMania 36. Only for the first time in history it will be held in the performance center without a live audience in attendance and the “Showcase of the Immortals” will be split into two nights. For the first night, the featured matches would be the Universal Title Match between Goldberg vs. Roman’s replacement Braun Strowman, Shayna Bayzler vs Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Title and a Boneyard Match between Aj Styles vs. Undertaker. We have 8 matches and a pre show match to review. Let’s get it started.
Kickoff Match: Cesaro vs. Drew Gulak
To start off the Saturday portion of WrestleMania, we start off a match between two of wrestling’s purist Cesaro and the South Philly Stretcher Drew Gulak. The match was very short. In fact it was 4:25 seconds. If given more time this would been a better showcase of each other’s talents. However for what it was it showed Gulak’s expertise in reversal wrestling and Cesaro’s power and stiff’s shots. Cesaro pulled out an UFO airplane spin to win the first match of the night. Cesaro finally gets his first Mania win.
Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross: Women’s tag team titles
The biggest thing I was looking forward to the most of this match was Kairi Sane’s potential pirate theme entrance in front of 80,000 fans. I was robbed of it however the show must go on. WWE had made a consistent effort to give build to all their matches but this match in general…. didn’t do much of anything to get me excited. Alexa & Nikki just doesn’t work as a face team and seeing them work as a face team against a team like Asuka and Sane who are high impact strikers than can get the crowd going doesn’t do them justice. Nikki Cross instinctively looks to get the crowd going after every move. The last acts of the matchup picked up. Sane and Asuka pulled off a doomsday device on Cross & she kicked out. Cross would then him hit Sane with a neckbreaker and Bliss followed with a twisted bliss to end the match and we would crown new and 2X tag team titles.
However when Michael Cole said that may have been Nikki Cross best match she had a WWE… main roster? Absolutely but I still remember the classic last man standing she had in NXT with Asuka for the Women’s title. Sad to see Asuka and Sane reign end especially during the end when they didn’t have much for them to do as champions in the end. Maybe it’s for the best. Bliss is great with the title and knows how to play with the fans heel and now face. Asuka and Sane although a great team, could be build up as solo stars and legitimate contenders to take on the Raw or Smackdown women’s title.
Match time: 15:05
Elias vs. King Corbin
King Corbin would come out grab a mic. He would then would gloat &show why Elias is questionable to compete at WrestleMania. Corbin would then demand the referee to count to ten. Then Elias’ guitar would strum and would make his way to the ring. Corbin would then jump out of the ring to attack him but Elias would hit Corbin in the back with his guitar and continue to the outside assault. They would then get in the ring and process with the match.
I don’t care what anyone says Corbin is a great heel. In a event with no crowd, Corbin directed his heel berating towards Elias in rest holds, to the commentary team and the referee. That being said, this match didn’t belong on the main card. It offer nothing more than what you would get from this match on a episode on Smackdown. Elias pulled off a win via the most devastating moves in wrestling history, the roll-up grabbing the tights. Elias along with Cesaro gets their first singles win at WrestleMania.
Match Time: 9:00
Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Bayzler: Raw Women’s Title
Shayna’s rise to the top card of the women’s division match seems realistic given her dominance in NXT and her MMA background. Which is why when she eliminated every competitor in the Elimination Chamber it made sense however they wasn’t a need for that match to make her the #1 contender. Becky’s title reign at this point has lost all of it’s steam. It’s the Austin effect. The money is in the chase not the title reign. So it would make sense for Shayna to win and have Becky back on the chase right? Wrong.
This easily was the most disappointing match of the weekend on several aspects. Not enough time to showcase Shayna on a big stage. Becky’s title reign continues and she has officially beaten everyone that is a serious contender for the title. Shayna ran through the entire Raw women’s roster only to lose and the fact that one of the most prolific matches on the card ends in a roll-up. Now where doe this leave Shayna? The momentum you build up for her to take title off Lynch is gone. For Becky as a champion, where’s the incentive of giving Shayna another shot. No signature moments, nothing noteworthy to take from this match. Just let a bad taste in my mouth.
I thought Corbin vs. Elias was sub-par but there was competent bad and forth between the two. Shayna dominated only to lose via roll-up? To coined an old saying “Who booked this crap?”
Match Time: 8:30
Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan: Intercontinental Title Match
After the poor taste the women’s match left in my mouth, one of the more consistently build matches heading into mania takes place as Zayn vs. Bryan takes place. If they allowed Bryan and Zayn to work, it could be a classic however given Zayn’s character over the past several months, I doubt they would let him work.
They proved me right with the first 5 minutes of the match they have Zayn running away from Daniel Bryan and hiding behind Cesaro and Nakamura before Drew Gulak had enough and took them both out and finally their match can truly behind. Bryan would dominate the early going and most of the match. The match ended with Cesaro and Nakamura coming back and taking out Gulak. Bryan would then use a suicide dive to take them both off. Bryan would go to the top rope and get hit with a Helluva kick by Zayn and pull off the upset win. Bryan gave the much needed rub to Zayn to continue his reign, however if the reports are true that Zayn can’t take consistent bumps in a match then they need to do something to take the title off of him and get him back as a manager role. Maybe…give the belt to Cesaro? Just a suggestion.
Match Time: 9:20
Kofi Kingston vs. John Morrison vs. Jimmy Uso: Triple Threat Ladder Match for the SD Tag Titles
The Ladder match is my favorite gimmick match in all of wrestling. When this match was set as a triple threat tag team match, they had the potential to rival the TLC triple threat matches that the Dudley Boyz, Edge & Christian and the Hardy Boyz at WrestleMania 17. However with Miz having to miss the match due to illness they set the match to just a regular triple threat at mania which mean Jey Uso could go to Xavier Woods limited guest watch party and Big E could go watch mania with Natayla’s sister. Even with the numbers cut in half, these are the guys you want to have go at it to get the fans back in the match.
Usos and New Day rivalry has been prominent on Smackdown for years now so you know Jimmy and Kofi are going to go full throttle. Add in John Morrison and his added parkour spots and you have a great match and the three of them delivered. The high spots, the athleticism everything you want from a ladder match you got it. The best moments of the match for me was Morrison’s tightrope walk to the Spanish fly and Kofi’s jumping off the ladder and delivering the double stomp to Morrison. This match felt like a #1 contender’s for the Intercontinental title. The match ended with all three grabbing the title and Morrison getting double head butted by Kofi and Jimmy off the ladder with the title in his hands. So far the best of the match of the night. The trash talking between Jimmy Uso and Kofi were great layers to add to their rivalry. Morrison was able to showcase himself as a single star and get his first WrestleMania singles win.
Match Time: 18:30
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
A feud that has been going on since November which now ends with a giant payoff match at WrestleMania. Such a rare concept in this day in age. No backup for Rollins, which is good considering how good Seth is in the ring and doesn’t need to be hampered with outside interference. Rollins coming into the Mania has a 6-1 record whereas, Owens has a 1-2 record.
I’ll say this now I love the Monday Night Messiah gimmick, so when he came out in all white shades of Shawn Michael’s WrestleMania 25 I enjoyed it. Seth is much as a heel and it show by ring psychology and mic work. Owen’s work as the unfiltered face for the past several months has been enjoyable as well. The match was beginning to pick up steam and then Seth Rollins would get himself DQ’ed with a ring bell shot to Owens. As soon as I was going to voice my displeasure for the ending the match restarted as a no disqualification match.
Owens then delivered the highlight of the night which was a cannonball off the WrestleMania sign through the announce table. The damage was done and Owens ended the match with a stunner which gives Owens his second singles win at WrestleMania. What’s next for Owens? Hopefully after this a title shot for the WWE title after WrestleMania.
Match time: 17:20
R-Truth vs. Mojo Rawley: 24-7 Title.
R-Truth would interrupt the host of Wrestlemania Gronk and Mojo Rawley asking if he could hide out with them as he gets hunted for a title he needs to defend any and everywhere. Gronk would then take a shot at Truth to the chest and pin Truth for the title but then be pulled off by his friend Mojo and claims the win over truth to become a 2 time 24-7 champion. Mojo would taunt to his friend Gronk potentially teasing a match between the two down the line considering Gronk has signed a deal with WWE a while back.
Match time: N/A
Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg: WWE Universal Championship
With Roman pulling out of the match Braun Strowman gets a golden opportunity to once again become Universal champion. As far as the actual match goes, remember when you used to play the old Smackdown vs. Raw games and turned on unlimited finishers? Yeah this was the match.
Goldberg hit Braun with 5 spears and as soon as Goldberg went with the jackhammer, Braun countered with a barrage of Powerslams. The 5th one did the trick and we crowned a new Universal champion. The win felt hallowed.
Sure we are glad Braun got the ultimate rub and is finally champion but with Braun replacing Goldberg for a high profile match with only 48 hours notice it didn’t feel like a big deal like a big title match changing hands should at Mania. However Roman and Braun great chemistry in the ring so a match between the two down the line will be a hard hitting slobber knocker to pay attention to. Congrats to Braun still but this still feels like a hollow victory.
Match Time: 2:10
AJ Styles vs. Undertaker: Boneyard Match
When this stipulation got announced, I thought it going to be a gimmick based no holds barred match. However this is a buried alive match with an ultimate deletion touch. Basically everything Matt Hardy wanted but didn’t get. AJ would show up in the back of Hearst mocking the Undertaker, whereas the Undertaker would give us a throwback to big evil and show up in one of his custom bikes looking to throw hands. The two would trade banters before trading hands.
The match is basically a buried alive so there’s no referee or rules for this match. Taker would dominate the early going raining down shots to Aj and eventually beating down on Aj on top of the Hearst saying “this is what you get for bringing my wife into this.” Gallows and Anderson would eventually come into to the picture with a barnyard full of druid to assault the Deadman.
Taker would eventual fight them off but still face a 3 on 1 beat down and gets thrown into the open grave. As Styles gets on the dump truck to put the dirt in the grave, Taker would pull his supernatural powers and pop up behind Styles. AJ and Taker would then take the fight to the top of the shack along with Gallows and Anderson which would end with Taker throwing all of them off the roof and Styles getting a choke-slam through crate wood.
Taker would then drag Styles to the grave and even though Styles pleaded his case to Taker to not bury Taker humors him before kicking him in. Taker would get on the truck an bury Aj Styles alive. Taker then raise his fist which set a fire on the shack and his symbol would burn.
The beauty of wrestling can only be grasp is how much are you willing to give up for suspension of disbelief. This match from the pyschology, the back and forth the music, camerawork and production was the perfect way to end the first night of Wrestlemania. This match was far better than a regular match. The Boneyard match was indeed and pun intended…Phenomenal.
Match time: 35:00
Overall the first night at Mania was enjoyable. As always WWE would have its blunders (the Woman’s title match, Universal and Intercontinental matches) but it would fine a way to give up some gems (the opening match the ladder match).
The Boneyard Match was better than anything produced by WWE Films and now has set the bar that if Taker continues to wrestle this is the set up we want from now on.
Overall I will give the first Night a C+/B-. Half of the matches where less than 10 minutes and didn’t do a good job showcasing all parties involved. The match that got time to work delivered. Night 2 is stacked pretty heavy so hopefully it will deliver a lot more than what we saw from Night one.