WWE WrestleMania 36 aired from the Performance Center on the first night of the first-ever two-night WrestleMania. The show which was taped last week from the Performance Center featured several high-profile matches in front of an empty arena, which has been the staple for WWE programming for weeks now.
WrestleMania 36 was originally scheduled to take place from the capacity arena at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL, but it was moved to the Performance Center due to the COVID-19 concerns.
Including the hour-long pre-show, the event had a total of nine matches, and each of them delivered in their own way. Despite the bizarre situation of an empty arena, WWE managed to put on a good show with some quality matches.
Let’s look at how the first night of the Show of Shows went down, with our grades and analysis for the matches.
Pre Show: Drew Gulak vs Cesaro
Cesaro dominated the early proceedings of this last-minute addition to the card and used his size advantage to full force. Gulak tried to work on Cesaro’s arm and use his submission-based game to his advantage, but Cesaro continued to dominate.
Gulak tried to apply the Dragon Sleeper but was instead slammed by the Swiss Superman. Cesaro delivered an uppercut followed by an airplane spin to win the matchup.
Result: Cesaro defeated Drew Gulak
Analysis: Cesaro and Gulak are two terrific in-ring competitors and got their chance to shine even though it was in the preshow of an empty arena WrestleMania. Cesaro winning a match is rather rare, and hence it is good to see him pick up a clean pinfall victory.
This match was basically a warmup to the eventual Sami Zayn vs Daniel Bryan matchup and didn’t have many stakes attached to it. However, it ended up being a decent encounter.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships: The Kabuki Warriors(c) vs Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss
After an introduction from Stephanie McMahon and WWE’s latest signing Rob Gronkowski, the two teams entered for the first main card match of the unique event. Asuka and Bliss kicked things off, but the champions looked to play mind-game with their challengers early on in the matchup. Asuka and Sane had the upper-hand for most of the match, with Bliss and Cross trying their best to find the momentum and topple the Japanese duo.
Eventually, Bliss and Cross hit their respective finishers on Sane for the win, becoming champions for the second time.
Result: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross becomes the new Women’s Tag Team Champions
Analysis: This was a quality tag-team match to start things off with two good heels complementing the two underdog babyfaces. The match had the right result to it, as Asuka and Sane had no challengers left in the already-thin tag-division.
With two babyfaces on the top, new heel duos can look to make their mark in the Women’s Tag Team Division.
Elias vs King Corbin
King Corbin tried to win the match by forfeit as he expected Elias to not show up, after pushing him off the perch on SmackDown last week. Elias did make his entrance and beat up Corbin relentlessly before the match could even begin.
After the bell rang, Elias had control of the match before Corbin slowly got back in. Corbin slowed the pace down and did his usual antics by getting in the face of the referee and the commentators.
A sneaky pin attempt by Corbin with his feet on the ropes was seen by the referee, and Elias took advantage of the argument between the King and the referee to roll him up for the three count.
Result: Elias defeated King Corbin
Analysis: This was a rather standard match with no major storyline implications. Corbin and Elias randomly started their feud a few weeks ago, which made this match feel less important than the others on the card.
Elias winning was the right move, and hopefully, WWE starts using him in bigger storylines going forward. Corbin remains one of the top heels in the company, and his reputation wouldn’t be damaged at all with this loss.
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch(c) vs Shayna Baszler
The highly anticipated match for Becky’s title, which she has held for over a year now, took place third on the card. Baszler took control in the early part of the match and looked to end it early with the deadly Kirifuda Clutch. The action moved to the ringside with both the competitors trading stiff blows throughout the match.
Baszler tried to apply a Dis-Arm-Her of her own but was unsuccessful. In the end, Baszler successfully applied her submission maneuver, but Becky took advantage of the lock and pinned her to retain the title.
Result: Becky Lynch defeated Shayna Baszler to retain the Raw Women’s Championship
Analysis: This match was surprisingly good, and had a good tempo to it. Baszler and Lynch had nice chemistry which made this an entertaining matchup. Baszler has been deemed boring at times by several fans, but she produced a stiff and entertaining encounter with the equally talented Lasskicker.
The result leaves a lot to desire as Baszler was built up as an unstoppable force, but ended up losing in rather tame fashion. This feud will undoubtedly continue in the coming weeks, as Lynch has no other credible challengers. Can we expect a Ronda Rousey return soon?
WWE Intercontinental Championship: Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn(c)
Sami Zayn wrestled his first singles match in quite some time, and his ring-rust was rather evident. Zayn was destroyed mercilessly throughout the match by Bryan who landed a plethora of deadly strikes on the champion.
Nakamura and Cesaro were taken out early in the match by Gulak but eventually returned to distract Bryan, who jumped straight into a Helluva Kick to end the match.
Result: Sami Zayn defeated Daniel Bryan to retain the Intercontinental Championship
Analysis: The match was rather dull given the quality of the competitors involved. If Sami Zayn is not ready for in-ring action, WWE must refrain from putting him in singles matches. Bryan carried most of the matchup while Zayn merely looked like a chump throughout.
The heel-work from the team now known as The Artist Collective was good, but the in-ring action left a lot to be desired.
Ladder Match for Smackdown Tag Team Championships: John Morrison(c) vs Kofi Kingston vs Jimmy Uso
With Miz not in action, WWE changed the triple-threat tag-team ladder match to a triple-threat singles ladder match, with the three men representing their respective tag-teams. The match started off with all three individuals bringing their own ladders into the mix leading to a stalemate.
All three competitors traded blows throughout the match, using ladders as their method of destruction. At one point, Morrison delivered a beautiful Spanish Fly to Kofi Kingston and received a splash from Jimmy Uso following that.
The finish saw all the three members jostle for the belt together, and a headbutt from Jimmy saw Morrison fall to the floor with the titles in his hand.
Result: John Morrison defeated Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Analysis: Three high-flying individuals step inside the squared circle for a ladder match, what could go wrong? In a rather unique match-up due to the circumstances, WWE did a good job and let the three men do their thing. All the three superstars took massive bumps and displayed their athleticism, and the finish was a rather clever way to end things.
Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins
The long-standing rivalry between the two top stars of Raw finally came to a head at the Grandest Stage of Them All, and the two didn’t shy away from a brutal matchup. It was a total chaotic matchup with both trying to hurt each other as much as possible from the first minute itself.
Rollins hit Owens with the timekeeper’s bell for the DQ finish, but Owens immediately challenged him to a No DQ match. Rollins accepted and delivered steel chair shots to the Prizefighter. Kevin Owens got on top of the WrestleMania sign and delivered a huge senton onto Rollins on the announce table and dragged him to the ring for the pinfall victory.
Result: Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins
Analysis: The two had the perfect singles match after months of having deep hatred towards one another. With no members of their respective teams involved, these two demonstrated exactly why they are considered as the best in WWE currently.
Owens winning the match was a brilliant decision and sets him up to be the top babyface of WWE going forward, along with the likes of Drew McIntyre, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman.
WWE Universal Championship: Goldberg(c) vs Braun Strowman
Goldberg took control early in the match, delivering multiple spears but couldn’t keep the Monster Among Men down. Goldberg tried to hit the Jackhammer but Strowman countered with three power slams followed by a running power slam for the win.
Result: Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg to become the new Universal Champion
Analysis: The grade isn’t much for the match, which was short and destructive as it had to be, but largely for the perfect decision of crowning Strowman at WrestleMania. Even though it took place in an empty arena, Strowman finally received his big moment, which should’ve been years ago.
Strowman winning the title opens up so many possibilities on the roster, and it will be interesting to see if Bray Wyatt comes back for his title, which is now in possession of his own protege.
Boneyard Match: The Undertaker vs AJ Styles
Styles entered the graveyard, inside a coffin, with Undertaker’s music while The Phenom returned with his American Badass gimmick on his motorcycle. The two brawled all over the ‘boneyard’ as the Good Brothers joined the fray with an army of druids. Undertaker took them down but Styles capitalized on the distraction.
Styles taunted Taker for several months before finally pushing him into the grave. Styles was about to complete the burial but Taker seemingly used his supernatural powers and appeared behind him out of nowhere. Taker went on to destroy all the three members of the OC and buried Styles inside the grave.
Result: The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles
Analysis: This match was perfect in all aspects, with the camera-work, the acting, the background score, everything adding to the absurdity of the boneyard match. WWE put out a Final Deletion-Esque match as the main event for the night, and it hit the mark (no pun intended).
It was Undertaker’s best WrestleMania match since his streak was broken at WM 30, and possibly one of the greatest WrestleMania matches ever. More than wrestling, the uniqueness of the concept will make it go down in history as a picture-perfect matchup.