In a show too big for one night, welcome to Night One of WrestleMania 36! With all the events happening in the real world, what kind of show could we expect WWE to put on for what is supposed to be the biggest spectacle in sports entertainment of the year? Let’s find out!
Due to the current pandemic sweeping the nation, WrestleMania 36 was pre-taped from the WWE Performance Center over the course of the past two weeks. Nonetheless, this show surpassed my expectations by delivering some great matches, amazing moments, and a main event segment that we’re sure to remember for years to come!
Corey Graves and Pete Rosenberg give us a rundown of what to expect from night one of Wrestlemania. They recap all of the buildup for each of the big rivalries, including AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker in a Boneyard Match, Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg for the Universal Championship, and many others. We also see a match between Drew Gulak and Cesaro that was short, albeit entertaining. I would have loved to see that match go a few minutes longer, but it was good for what it was, with Cesaro picking up the victory after a no-hands airplane spin.
WrestleMania 36 – Main Card, Night One
If you didn’t watch the lead-in to begin the show, you missed out on some hilarious promotion for a unique show. I honestly couldn’t tell if this was the plan all along, or if they were trying to give us a lighthearted lead-in to get us settled in for the main card. I highly suggest watching it. Lots of fun.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship – Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Asuka has been one of the most entertaining things to watch on the “main roster” shows lately, with her wild antics and childlike demeanor. Kairi Sane really didn’t look like she wanted to be there for this match, though. Something was off about her.
This was a surprisingly hard hitting match between these four women, with some big spots peppered in throughout. Bliss and Asuka exchange stiff forearms at the start, and things really don’t slow down from there. Nikki Cross getting the hot tag really ramped up the action, as she hit a spot where she dove from the corner onto a dazed Kairi Sane.
Asuka and Sane gain the upper hand on Cross by taking her down with a combination powerbomb and diving forearm spot. After recovering and getting the tag, Cross and Bliss both hit their finish, including the second Twisted Bliss of the night, which allowed Alexa to pin Kairi to capture the Women’s Tag Championships for the second time.
Winners and NEW WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions – Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
I expected a change here, as the titles have been all but forgotten for the past year. There just doesn’t seem to be a high enough level of competition to warrant having them around. Maybe having the change will bring more focus to them in the future. Remains to be seen.
King Corbin makes his entrance, and demands that he be announced as winner by forfeit, since Elias hasn’t been seen since his fall on Smackdown eight days ago. However, The Drifter still makes it to ringside, and attacks Corbin before the match even begins, smashing the guitar over his back before rolling him into the ring to officially start the match.
King Corbin vs. Elias
Give credit where credit is due, Corbin has done a great job of settling into his character of berating his opponents and claiming that he is the best in the business. Corbin’s constant trash-talking is on full display throughout the match, even seeing a moment where he gets into it with the referee for not doing her job properly.
After trading counters, near-falls, and power moves, Elias ends up picking up the victory with a roll-up while holding the King’s belt, much to the chagrin of Corbin.
Winner – Elias
This match was okay, but nothing that blew me away. It’s a standard “cocky heel vs. underdog face” match, and with Elias getting the win with underhanded tactics, expect this rivalry to continue.
RAW Women’s Championship – Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler
After all the build for Shayna Baszler, portraying her as a vicious, unrelenting killer, we get this match. And let me tell you, it was a major letdown. The match starts with a flurry of punches from each woman, as Becky tries to stand toe-to-toe with the MMA expert.
Eventually, the pace slows down to a more methodical speed, allowing Shayna to attempt to lock in the Kirifuda Clutch several times. In the end, Becky is able to counter the submission attempt to roll up Shayna (a la Bret Hart vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII) and sneak out with the victory to retain her title.
Winner and STILL RAW Women’s Champion – Becky Lynch
I just don’t get how you build up Baszler to be this unbeatable force, and have her lose in this fashion. After her showing at Elimination Chamber, the writing was on the wall for this to be the crowning moment for Shayna. However, in hindsight, I can see that perhaps the plan is to have the title change be in front of an actual audience, which would allow the return of Ronda Rousey, setting up a rivalry between two former MMA stars.
WWE Intercontinental Championship – Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan
Bryan gets this opportunity after his coach Drew Gulak won a match against Shinsuke Nakamura recently on Smackdown. Zayn is accompanied by Cesaro and Nakamura, while Bryan has Gulak at ringside for support. Zayn spends a lot of the opening moments running away from Bryan, not wanting to lock it up with the ring technician.
Daniel finally gets Sami to lock up in the middle of the ring, and he dominates the champ until Sami rolls away to regain his composure. Cesaro and Nakamura attempt to cause a distraction, to which Gulak replies with a senton off the ring apron. As Bryan flies off the top rope, he is met with a crushing Helluva Kick from Zayn, who rolls on top of the challenger to pick up the win.
Winner and STILL WWE Intercontinental Champion – Sami Zayn
I fully expected Daniel Bryan to come out on top to capture the title, but I can’t say I’m surprised by Sami retaining. This gives Bryan and Gulak an opportunity to go back to the drawing board to figure out where the kinks are in their planning, and continue the chase for the gold.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Ladder Match – John Morrison vs. Jimmy Uso. vs. Kofi Kingston
Due to an injury to The Miz, the tag titles are defended in a highly unique situation. One member from each team represents both members in a show-stealing match. All the expected high spots are presented, with most of the action being too fast-paced to call.
In typical fashion, Morrison showcases his parkour styling by tightrope walking from one corner to another, before taking down Kingston with a Spanish Fly. Then the ending segment comes as all three men are atop the ladder, reaching for the titles. They manage to unhook the title rig from the hook, and all three men are tugging at the titles. Ultimately, Morrison is knocked off the ladder, but not before grabbing and unhooking the belts as he falls onto a ladder.
Winner and STILL SmackDown Tag Team Champion – John Morrison
Wow, what a showing from all three guys! This was easily the “match” of the night (I’ll clarify that statement later). All three competitors put on an amazing display of high-flying attacks that would have had a live crowd popping huge. Hats off to everyone involved in telling a great story in the ring.
Mojo Rawley and Rob Gronkowski are shown from atop the perch at ringside, celebrating Gronk as host of WrestleMania. R-Truth interrupts, asking the men to help him hide, as being 24/7 Champion is wearing him out. Gronk decks Truth and attempts a pin, but Rawley pulls his friend off of Truth, gets the pin, and leaves as the new 24/7 Champion.
Winner and NEW WWE 24/7 Champion – Mojo Rawley
Gronk looks on in disgust as Rawley leaves the perch. This looks like it will be the way WWE gets Gronkowski in the ring, as he can chase down his friend for the title.
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
The opening moments of this match are a downright brawl, as both men are avoiding traditional wrestling moves and are just trying to knock the snot out of one another. The match is told in two parts, though, as Seth Rollins get himself disqualified after knocking Owens out with the ring bell. KO is declared the winner, but he isn’t satisfied. He demands Rollins get back in the ring, so they can finish it in a No-DQ match.
Rollins reluctantly obliges, and the ref rings the bell for the restart. From there, the physicality ramps up, as both men trade stiff shots and throw each other around ringside. Owens ends up getting the advantage by clocking Rollins with the aforementioned ring bell. Rollins lays prone on the announce desk, and Owens climbs to the top of the WrestleMania sign, then comes flying down through Rollins and the table. Owens eventually recovers, and he tosses Rollins into the ring, downs him with the Stunner, and pins him for the victory.
Winner – Kevin Owens
This match was two stories in one. First, it was Rollins using his dastardly tactics to cause the DQ finish and try to sneak out of the show unscathed. Second, after the match was restarted, it was KO getting his “WrestleMania moment” by flying from atop the sign and crushing Rollins through the announcer’s table. Everything in between was a lot of fun, as having an empty arena allowed us to hear the back and forth banter between the competitors.
Universal Championship – Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg
It was quietly announced on SmackDown and on WWE’s website and social media that Braun Strowman would be taking the spot of Roman Reigns, as Reigns is playing it safe and staying home due to health concerns.
The match starts as most recent Goldberg matches have, with the champ getting the upper hand and downing the Monster Among Men with a series of spears. However, as Goldberg attempts the Jackhammer, Braun reverses and downs the Hall-of-Famer with FOUR powerslams! Strowman pins Goldberg, and wins the title in exactly two minutes and ten seconds. As JBL put it on commentary, “These men don’t get paid by the hour!”
Winner and NEW Universal Champion – Braun Strowman
Two years too late. That’s how I feel about Strowman winning the belt here. He should have been in this spot long ago, but WWE seemed to be too afraid to put him at the top. Obviously, the original plan was for Reigns to take the title from Goldberg, but circumstances changed that, and now we have a Monster as champion.
Remember what I said earlier about the ladder match being “Match of the Night”? That’s because it was an actual match; the following was an EXPERIENCE. And boy oh boy, did it far exceed my expectations!
Taker’s music plays as a hearse pulls into the graveyard, but instead of the Deadman climbing out of the casket, it’s Styles. AJ taunts Taker to come out and fight, then we hear Taker roll up on his motorcycle with Metallica’s “Now That We’re Dead” blaring. The two exchange “pleasantries” before brawling through the cemetery to start this fight.
Undertaker vs. AJ Styles – Boneyard Match
Gallows and Anderson show up with a horde of druids to take down the Deadman, allowing Styles to blindside Taker with a tombstone across the back. The O.C. gang continue to dominate Taker, breaking a shovel over his back and dumping him into an open grave plot.
As Styles climbs onto a waiting tractor, Taker appears from behind and attacks the Phenomenal One. They make their way atop the shed nearby, and the Deadman disposes of Gallows and Anderson while Styles continues to retreat. Taker catches up to Styles, then chokeslams him off the roof and through a wood pile on the ground.
Styles begs for forgiveness from the Phenom and begs for the Undertaker to not bury him. Taker tells Styles that he respects him, and that no one has brought that kind of fight to him in a long time. He pats Styles on the head, embraces him, and turns to walk away, before turning back and kicking Styles into the open grave. Taker climbs aboard the tractor and dumps a mound of dirt into the plot, effectively ending the “match”.
As Taker surveys his work, he pulls off a growth of moss on the headstone, revealing “AJ Styles – 1977-2020”. Taker mounts his motorcycle and rides off as Metallica plays again and the show ends.
Winner(?) – The Undertaker
Wow. Just…wow. Never in my life have I witnessed such a cinematic experience as this match was. Everything was done so perfectly, fitting of the aura and mystique that the Undertaker has brought to WWE over the last 30 years. This was produced in such a way that it didn’t allow Taker’s downfalls to be so evident, as he has definitely slowed down in the ring, and can’t sustain a grueling contest within the squared circle. Amazing production overall, one that will surely be remembered for years to come.
We really didn’t know what to expect going into tonight, but for my money, WWE delivered a superb show by giving us a mix of high-profile matches, jaw-dropping spots, and a main event segment that will be etched in my mind forever.
I know a lot of people clamored for WWE to postpone the show altogether, but they made the most of the situation and gave us a show that helped take our minds off of what was going on in the real world, and submerse ourselves in some great storytelling. And that’s just night one!
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