During a global pandemic without major sports on television, and with Rob Gronkowski guest hosting, WWE’s WrestleMania 36 had extra eyes on it Saturday night. The WWE Network – the company’s streaming service – was free for new subscribers.
Pre-recorded, split into two nights and emanating from their Performance Center in Orlando (and a couple of other offsite locations), this year’s WrestleMania was sure to be unique.
So, how would night one of WrestleMania 36 fair? Well, let me tell you something, Mean Gene…
Cesaro defeated Drew Gulak
This was a pretty good technical wrestling match for a kickoff show, if that’s what you’re into. I was largely bored by it. I’m not invested in either character, and the match was thrown together without a build. Cesaro did a fun airplane spin, so there’s that.
Stephanie opened the main show by noting this year’s WrestleMania would be different from year’s past, and she hopes it will offer a distraction from world events.
They showed a clip of celebrities singing America the Beautiful from previous WrestleMania’s, and guest host Rob Gronkowski welcomed everyone to the show, before introducing his friend and fellow WWE Superstar Mojo Rawley.
Bliss Cross Applesauce (Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross) defeated The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) to win the Women’s Tag Team Championships
Normally, you would want WrestleMania to start out with a bang, to set the tone for the show. If that was the idea here, it was a swing and a miss. I wanted to get Bliss Cross AppleSAUCED just watching this match.
The match went on forever and was loaded with inferior in-ring work. The Kabuki Warriors oddly giggled like Japanese schoolgirls and pandered to a non-existent crowd.
Elias defeated King Corbin
Corbin cut a promo before the match about hurting Elias on SmackDown and demanded the referee declare him the winner by forfeit.
Elias appeared to Corbin’s surprise and hit him with his guitar, before the match began.
The match was brief, and ended when Corbin was arguing with the referee, and Elias – the babyface – rolled Corbin up and grabbed his tights.
This was an odd finish, and both men – who are among the best characters on the roster – deserved better.
Becky Lynch defeated Shayna Baszler to retain the Raw Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch arrived for her match in her custom made 18 wheeler truck – which was originally reported by PSE’s Brad Shepard weeks ago.
It was a pretty physical match and it ended when Lynch rolled through a Kirifuda Clutch for the pin fall victory.
I wasn’t a fan of two women’s matches in the first three of the night. This match was a stark reminder of how WWE is in love with Becky Lynch, who has proven she can’t move the needle as a low grade ‘Stone Cold’ knock off. I get it, Rousey…etc., but what was the point of briefly making Baszler so strong – eliminating eight women in the Royal Rumble, beating everyone in the Elimination Chamber – only to be knocked down.
Sami Zayn (w/ Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro) defeated Daniel Bryan (w/ Drew Gulak) to retain the Intercontinental Championship
This was a typical WWE match that I would normally see on weekly TV. Being able to hear Bryan smack talk Zayn without a crowd to drown that out was a nice bonus, but this match contained a lot of interference and Gulak, Gronk and Rawley awkwardly doing the ‘Yes’ chant. Zayn looked a bit unkempt and out of shape.
John Morrison defeated Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso in a Ladder Match to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
With Miz’s illness preventing him from wrestling, WWE made the decision to move forward with the match, for the tag team championships, in a singles capacity.
The match itself was good – easily the best of the night up to this point – although the ending itself was campy and overproduced, when all three engaged in a tug of war with the rung the championship belts were on and they came down with Morrison as he was headbutted off the ladder.
Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins
This was a physical match and contained a dangerous spot by Owens. It’s fair to question if that was a good idea considering the circumstances, but it was a WrestleMania moment, and it’s the only thing I remember besides the two agreeing to re-start their own match after Rollins was initially disqualified – which is ridiculous.
This was the ninth time the two have faced off in one-on-one competition, and considering this match also had no build, I wasn’t invested in this match in the least.
Braun defeated Goldberg
If you went to the bathroom, you may have missed this match. It was a pretty typical Goldberg match.
Four spears, four powerslams, match over.
Braun, who only had 7 televised matches in all of 2020 before this – including a loss to Sami Zayn in his last match – was presented like the monster among men that many thought he would be years ago.
For Goldberg, it’s the end of a historical but brief run, and for all of us, the beginning of a very boring championship era on SmackDown.
The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match
This ‘match’ was the main event of night one. It took place in another location and was produced as WWE meets Hollywood – as first reported by PSE’s Brad Shepard weeks ago.
This was likely to be something you loved or hated. I loved it! This was my favorite match of the night and although it wasn’t for a championship, I believe it was evident why it earned the right to main event night one over Braun Strowman and Goldberg.
AJ appearing out of a casket in a hearse. Undertaker speeding to the boneyard on his motorcycle – an entrance first reported by PSE’s Brad Shepard – with Metallica blasting, and dressed like the American Bad Ass of old.
Gallows, Anderson and the druids appearing and attacking the Undertaker to no avail, and AJ begging Undertaker not to bury him as he told AJ he put up a good fight and proceeded to kick him into the grave. Just fantastic.
Final Thoughts: I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the main event, but I don’t believe it made up for the rest of the show, which was largely underwhelming for a WrestleMania. WWE put forth a pretty valiant effort considering the circumstances, but night one of WrestleMania 36 was a disappointment.