By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WrestleMania 36 Night One
Taped March 25-26, 2020 in Orlando, Florida at the WWE Performance Center and various settings
Aired April 4, 2020 on WWE Network and pay-per-view
Kickoff Show result: Cesaro defeated Drew Gulak in 4:25.
Stephanie McMahon stood in a studio and said each WrestleMania has its own personality and has been different from the rest. She said this one will be most different than all. She said the show won’t take place in front of 80,000 fans and instead would be from a closed set and other locations. She said it is WWE’s commitment to you to provide a diversion during these hard times. She thanked the fans and closed by saying, “Welcome to WrestleMania”…
A montage of “America The Beautiful” featuring past WrestleMania performances aired… A video package aired and played up the pirate theme. AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” was included in the video…
Michael Cole checked in briefly and introduced WrestleMania host Rob Gronkowski, who stood on the WWE Performance Center perch and said tonight he is Gronk, the host with the most. He said WWE picked the right man for the job because the knows how to start a party on a Saturday night and end it 30 hours later. Gronk introduced Mojo Rawley, who joined him on the perch. Mojo had Gronk chop him and they said simultaneously that it all starts right now…
1. “The Kabuki Warriors” Asuka and Kairi Sane vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles. Ring announcer Greg Hamilton introduced the teams. Gronk and Rawley watched from the perch, and Michael Cole and JBL were on commentary. Bliss slapped Sane and then taunted Asuka by mocking her dance, then tagged in Cross, who worked over both opponents.
The champions came back and Bliss was strung up in the ropes when Sane performed a double stomp onto her that led to a near fall. Bliss was isolated by the heels. Cross eventually took a hot tag and unzipped her top, yelled, and then performed a cross body block on Sane, which led to a two count. Asuka distracted the referee while Sane raked the eyes of Cross.
A short time later, Cross had Asuka pinned, but Sane performed an Insane Elbow onto Cross to break up the count. Asuka placed Cross in the Asuka Lock, but Bliss broke it up with Twisted Bliss. Sane speared Bliss. Cross ended up in the Kabuki Warriors corner. Asuka hoisted up Cross, then Sane leapt from the ropes and hit her with a flying forearm, which led to a near fall. Cross came back with a spinning neckbraker on Sane and then tagged in Bliss, who hit Twisted Bliss on Sane and pinned her to win the match…
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross beat Asuka and Kairi Sane in 15:05 to win the WWE Women’s Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: A well worked match. The empty studio did them not favors and that’s obviously going to be an issue for most of these matches. Still, the match held my interest and all four women brought good energy.
Kayla Braxton interviewed Sami Zayn, who was accompanied by Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. Zayn said Daniel Bryan may not even get his hands on him because they always have a plan. He said he will do what very few men have done by walking into WrestleMania as Intercontinental Champion and walking out still Intercontinental Champion…
After some advertising, Shayna Baszler was shown shadowboxing backstage…
King Corbin made his entrance for his match against Elias. Corbin set up footage of his attack on Elias, then laughed about it. Corbin told the referee to raise his hand in victory. The Elias guitar strum played. Elias walked out with a guitar in hand. Corbin ran to ringside, but Elias got the better of him and broke the guitar over his back. Elias worked over Corbin at ringside, then rolled him inside the ring.
2. King Corbin vs. Elias. The referee checked on Corbin, then called for the bell when he was ready to start. Corbin went on the offensive and ran Elias through the ropes, then covered him for a two count. JBL spoke about Corbin isn’t interested in selling t-shirt. Cole said the experts say they see a lot of JBL in Corbin. JBL said he appreciates that.
Later, Elias beat Corbin down and then went up top and went for a move, but Corbin rolled out of the way. Corbin landed on his feet, but Corbin performed a Deep Six that led to a near fall. Elias rallied with a leaping knee, then teased going to the top rope again, but Corbin rolled away so he thought better of it. Elias went after Corbin, who caught him with a punch and then went for a pin with his feet on the ropes, so the referee stopped her count. Corbin protested and then Elias caught him in an inside cradle and scored the pin…
Elias defeated King Corbin in 9:00.
Powell’s POV: Wait, Elias his theme music when he wins? Anyway, this looked like a television match on paper and it felt like a television match despite the WrestleMania signage.
After an ad, Cole touted that they were at the WWE Performance Center while a few clips of the building were shown. Cole set up a video package on the Raw Women’s Championship match…
3. Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler for the Raw Women’s Championship. Lynch was shone arriving in the parking lot in “The Man” semi-truck (again). Baszler made her entrance, then Lynch followed. Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton were on commentary. Mike Rome delivered in-ring introductions for the match. Baszler went for an early Kirifuda Clutch, but Lynch avoided it and rolled to ringside. Baszler followed and roughed up Lynch on the floor. Lynch came back and slammed Baszler’s head into the broadcast table, then ran Baszler into the ring steps.
Back inside the ring, Baszler picked up a couple of near falls, then Lynch fought back, which led to the wrestlers trading punches on the ring apron. Baszler went for a clothesline, but Lynch caught her and performed a uranage on the apron. Lynch brought Baszler to the middle of the ring and covered her for a two count. Baszler bounced right back and caught Lynch in an armbar. Lynch rolled on top of Baszler, causing Baszler to counter into Lynch’s Disarmher finisher briefly. Baszler caught Lynch with a knee to the head and covered her for a two count.
Baszler went for the Kirifuda Clutch, but Lynch avoided it and applied her finisher over the ropes. Lynch released it and then Baszler put her in the Kirifuda Clutch over the ropes and broke it once the referee’s count reached four. Baszler to to ringside, picked up Lynch, and flung her head into the broadcast table twice. Baszler flashed a sinister grin, then rolled Lynch back inside the ring. Phillips said Lynch was hurt and it was probably only a matter of time. Lynch went for her finisher, but Baszler flipped her over and applied the Kirifuda Clutch. Lynch rolled on top of Baszler while in the hold and scored the pin…
Becky Lynch defeated Shayna Baszler in 8:30 to retain the Raw Women’s Championship.
Powell’s POV: The best of the matches thus far. I’m not a fan of the finish. They fed the rest of the Raw women to Baszler in the Elimination Chamber and it felt like the right time to make her champion with the long term plan of giving Lynch something to come back from. Instead, the badass heel lost to Lynch clean in their first meeting, so where do they go from here?
After some advertising, Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak made their entrance. Rob Gronkowski and Mojo Rawley stood on the PC perch and did their Yes! bit along with Bryan and Gulak. Sami Zayn and his crew made their entrance…
4. Sami Zayn (w/Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro) vs. Daniel Bryan (w/Drew Gulak) for the Intercontinental Championship. Cole and JBL were back on the call. The bell rang while Zayn was conferring with Nakamura and Cesaro in the corner. Zayn stalled to start the match by rolling to ringside. The referee started his count and Zayn returned to the ring, then went right back to ringside when Bryan moved toward him. Bryan tried to chase Zayn, but Cesaro blocked his path. Rinse and repeat with Nakamura blocking Bryan’s path the second time.
Gulak ended up diving from the apron onto Cesaro and Nakamura. Gulak cleared both men over the barricade. Bryan finally got his hands on Zayn on the ramp and then brought him back to the ring where he worked him over with punches and kicks. Bryan performed a missile dropkick on Zayn, then dragged him back to the middle of the ring and delivered more punishment with shots to the side of Zayn’s head. Bryan asked Zayn if he still thinks Gulak is a nobody, then slapped Zayn and told him that he’s the nobody who hasn’t done anything.
Bryan threw kicks at Zayn in the corner and then gave him a running dropkick. Zayn tried to leave the ring. Bryan stopped Zayn, who caught him with an elbow and then went on the offensive with a clothesline. Zayn threw chops and forearms that Bryan no-sold. Bryan knocked Zayn down and then delivered a series of kicks to the chest and head of Zayn. Bryan delivered a series of stomps to the head of Zayn.
Gulak chanted “yes” from the floor. Cesaro and Nakamura returned and ran Gulak into the ring steps. Bryan took them out with a suicide dive. Bryan went up top and jumped into a Helluva Kick from Zayn, who scored the pin…
Sami Zayn defeated Daniel Bryan in 9:20 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
Powell’s POV: Zayn leaned into his weasel heel role rather than going for the classic match that some fans were anticipating. As much as I’d love to see these two attempt to steal the show, Zayn’s performance was consistent with his character and I enjoyed it more than I expected to.
WWE related and a candy bar company’s advertising aired…
5. John Morrison vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jimmy Uso in a Triple Threat ladder match for the Smackdown Tag Titles. Cole and JBL were on commentary for the Smackdown match. The respective tag team partners were not at ringside. All three men brought ladders into the ring and set them up. All three men climbed up their ladders and fought. Morrison pushed Uso’s ladder over and he took a safe bump by the ropes.
At 4:25, Kingston tried to springboard and perform a dropkick on both opponents through a ladder, but they caught him, then carried him to the other side of the ring and dumped him to ringside. A short time later, Uso was on a ladder propped up between the ropes when Morrison hit him with a nice Starship Pain. Kingston returned to the ring with a huracanrana from the ropes that pulled Morrison from a ladder. Morrison ended up at ringside, then Kingston dove over the top rope and onto him at ringside.
Kingston yelled at Uso that he knows he has heart, then kicked him in the ribs. Kingston placed a ladder over the ring and the ringside barricade. Kingston slammed Usos’s head off the ladder and then placed him on top of it. Morrison climbed to the top rope, but Kingston cut him off. Kingston went to the other side of the ring and climbed the ropes. Morrison tightrope walked his way across the ropes over to Kingston and then performed a Spanish Fly into the ring. Uso returned with a top rope splash on Morrison.
Uso made a play for the belt, but Kingston climbed up the other side and stopped him. Kingston slammed Uso’s head onto the ladder, causing Uso to fall to the mat. Kingston got his fingers on the title belts, but Morrison climbed up the other side to stop him. Kingston knocked Morrison into the ring and ended up double stomping him from the ladder. A ladder was wedged over the standing ladder in the middle of the ring and the middle rope.
Uso ran Kingston face first into the ladder and said he made his face a pancake. Morrison leapt off the wedged ladder and into a superkick from Uso, who then placed Morrison on the same ladder. Uso set up another ladder in a corner of the ring. Morrison recovered and pushed Uso’s ladder over. They pulled an Elias by not showing Uso’s landing and instead cutting to a shot of him lying at ringside at 16:30.
Morrison made a play for the title belts, but Kingston headed up the other side of the ladder and stopped him. Uso returned and all three men fought at the top of two ladders with their hands on the title belts. They ended up unclipping the title belts and continued to fight. Morrison was headbutted by both opponents and he fell onto the wedged ladder, but he had the title belts and was named the winner…
John Morrison defeated Jimmy Uso and Kofi Kingston in 18:30 in a Triple Threat ladder match to retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: This was really fun and easily the best match of the night. There was clearly some creative editing and there probably has been for each match, which is fine as long as they don’t go too overboard with it. WWE would be foolish not to take that approach given the unique circumstances.
A WWE Network ad aired, then Phillips and Saxton pushed WWE Network briefly and set up a video package for the Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens match…
6. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens. Phillips and Saxton were on the call. Rollins wore white gear and a white jacket and didn’t wear the single black glove.
Owens wore his KO Mania IV shirt. The referee called for the bell. Rollins opened his arms and said, “This is what you wanted, Kev.” Owens lunged at Rollins, who ducked between the ropes and then hit Owens with a cheap shot. Owens avoided an early Stomp attempt and then worked over Rollins with punches.
Owens set up for a cannonball, but Rollins rolled to ringside. Owens went after him and ran Rollins into the barricade. Owens grabbed Rollins and tossed him into the barricade on the other side of the ring, then rolled inside the ring to break the count. Owens went for a piledriver on the apron, but Rollins backdropped him instead. Rollins followed up with a falcon arrow on the apron. Rollins jawed at Owens and asked him how it was working out for him, then performed a suicide dive at 3:40.
Rollins barked that when the lights shine brightest, he becomes a god. Rollins followed up with another suicide dive and then told Owens that he’s making it too easy. “Come on, Kev, come on,” Rollins said. Rollins said Owens was a disappointment and questioned what his kids would think. Rollins went for another suicide dive, but Owens hit him. Owens returned to the ring and was put down by a sling blade clothesline. “What did you say on Raw, that you were going to be the one to burn it down at WrestleMania?” Rollins asked. Rollins went for a Stomp, but Owens avoided the move twice and DDT’d Rollins at 5:35.
Owens superkicked Rollins and then performed a cannonball in the corner. Owens went up top and performed a senton bomb for a good near fall. Owens went for a Popup Powerbomb, but Rollins leapt over him. Rollins avoided a Stunner. Rollins caught Owens with a kick, then Owens put Rollins down with a clothesline. “Come on, Messiah,” Owens said. “Come on, god.” Owens tried to superplex Rollins, who blocked it. Rollins hoisted Owens up and performed a Buckle Bomb, then knocked him down with a superkick. Owens avoided a Stomp and then hit a Popup Powerbomb for a near fall at 9:20.
Rollins went to ringside. Owens followed. Rollins ended up hitting Owens with the ring bell and was disqualified. Saxton said Owens got himself intentionally disqualified at 10:00.
Kevin Owens beat Seth Rollins by DQ in 10:00.
Rollins started to leave, but Owens took the mic and said Rollins doesn’t get to end this. Owens recalled saying that Rollins is a god at WrestleMania, but he was a little bitch. Owens challenged Rollins to continue the match as a No DQ and no count-out match. Rollins returned to the ring and called for the bell.
6A. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens in a No DQ, No Count-out match. Rollins went on the offensive and put Owens down at ringside. Rollins asked the referee if he could do whatever he wants. Rollins picked up a piece of the ring steps and slammed it into the head of Owens. Rollins grabbed a chair near the broadcast table and slammed it repeatedly onto Owens. The referee told Rollins to get back in the ring, but Rollins told him that he could do whatever he wants.
Owens grabbed the timekeeper’s bell and hit Rollins twice. Rollins ended up on the broadcast table. Owens headed to an area behind the stage and then climbed up the WrestleMania sign. “How’s this for a WrestleMania moment?” Owens asked. Owens leapt from the side and drove Rollins through the broadcast table. Owens used the barricade to pull himself back to his feet while Rollins moaned while selling. Owens picked up Rollins and rolled him back inside the ring. Owens limped before picking up Rollins, who begged off. Owens kicked Rollins in the gut, gave him a Stunner, and pinned him…
Kevin Owens pinned Seth Rollins in 17:20.
Powell’s POV: For those who care, the time was running time from the opening bell of the first match to the pinfall. This was well done. Rollins and Owens made up for the lack of fans in attendance by making a lot of the noise themselves by jawing at one another and through their audible selling of moves. The jawing worked because what they said played into previous comments that were made and made things feel heated and personal. I really enjoyed this match.
After an ad, Gronk and Rawley were douching it up on the perch when R-Truth showed up and asked if he could hide with them to avoid having someone take his title. Gronk elbowed Truth in the chest and then covered him. Rawley pulled Gronk off Truth and then pinned him to win the WWE 24/7 Championship. “Come get it, I ain’t running, playboy,” Rawley told Gronk…
More ads aired, including one for the Drew McIntyre Chronicle that will follow the the show. Phillips told viewers they can learn more about McIntyre before the biggest match of his career. Phillips hyped McIntyre challenging Brock Lesnar on night two…
Backstage, Paul Heyman interrupted Charly Caruso. She said he scared the hell out of her. Heyman said McIntyre is the one who should be scared because he thinks he can fill the shoes of Lesnar and he can’t. Heyman said Lesnar isn’t one amongst us, he’s a super being. Heyman said McIntyre can go into the match dreaming, but he will crawl out of the match beaten, victimized, and conquered by the greatest titleholder to ever bless a WWE ring with his mere presence…
Powell’s POV: A good promo from Heyman. I thought WWE might hold off on having McIntyre beat Lesnar due to the fans not being present, but the fact that it’s on night two and appears to be the main event has caused me to change that prediction.
Phillips and Saxton ran through the night two lineup…
7. Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship. Cole and JBL were on the call. Goldberg has two security guards accompany him from his locker room as part of his entrance. He received a small pyro display on the stage that was basically just a bunch of fog or smoke. Greg Hamilton delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Charles Robinson was the referee.
Strowman told Goldberg that he hasn’t been in the ring with anybody like him. Goldberg kicked Strowman and then charged him in the corner. Strowman moved and Goldberg stopped short. Strowman hoisted up Goldberg, who slipped away and then speared Strowman three times and covered him for a near fall. Goldberg waited in the corner and speared Strowman a fourth time.
Goldberg set up for the Jackhammer, but Strowman countered into a powerslam. Strowman performed two more powerslams and then barked at Goldberg to get up. “You’re nothing,” Strowman barked. Strowman placed Goldberg over his shoulder and gave him a running powerslam and scored the pin…
Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg in 2:10 to win the WWE Universal Championship.
Powell’s POV: Independent wrestlers everywhere just cringed at Strowman winning the title. Anyway, they kept it short and went with the usual approach of having the babyface replacement winning a big match. This is the one match that actually benefitted from not having a crowd present, as I can’t even imagine how tough the WrestleMania crowd would have been on both men.
A video aired for WrestleMania Hollywood for March 28, 2021…
Powell’s POV: Sorry, Tampa, you won’t be getting a make good show next year.
A video package set up the Boneyard match…
8. Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match. The footage picked up from inside a graveyard. Undertaker’s music played and a hearse arrived at the cemetery. Two druids opened the back of the hearse and pulled out a coffin. They opened the coffin and Styles was inside. Styles laughed and called for Taker. A Metallica song played while Taker was shown driving a motorcycle to the graveyard. Taker was in biker Taker mode.
Styles said he didn’t think Taker would show up. He pointed out that he took the liberty of digging Taker’s grave for him. Taker said Styles dug his own grave. “Come on, old man, you think you’ve still got it,” Styles said. Taker said he had enough for Styles. Taker blocked Styles trying to hit him with something and then hit him with several punches and slammed his head into the casket from the hearse.
Taker picked up a pipe from the ground and tried to hit Styles, but Styles moved and Taker broke the back window of the hearse. Taker looked at his bleeding arm. Styles threw some punches at Taker, who threw him onto the windshield of the hearse, which cracked. Taker asked if he still wanted some of this old man and then questioned where he was going. Taker and Styles fought on top of the hearse with Taker getting the better of it and firing down repeated punches at the head of Styles.
Styles threw dirt in Taker’s face and then kicked him in his dead balls. Styles threw punches at Taker as they fought near the open grave. Taker fought back and knocked Styles into the grave. Taker asked Styles how it felt down there. “Hey, jackass, we’re just getting started,” Karl Anderson said while standing next to Luke Gallows. Taker approached them, but they pulled some board down of a building they were next to a bunch of men dressed in black and wearing hoods stepped forward.
Taker fought the hooded figures off with ease, then was attacked by Gallows and Anderson. Gallows held Taker. Anderson grabbed a pipe and tried to hit Taker with it, but Taker kicked him and then roughed up both men. Taker gabbed a shovel handle and started to hit them with it, but Styles suddenly hit him from behind with a tombstone. Styles worked over Taker and talked shit to him about being a broken down old bitch. Styles picked up a shovel and said he was doing the world a favor by burying him. Taker got to his feet and Styles broke the handle of the shovel over Taker’s back, and Taker fell into the open grave.
Styles sprinkled some dirt over Taker and said, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Styles climbed onto a tractor that was next to the open grave. Suddenly, Taker appeared behind Styles on the tractor and started working him over. Styles started to run away. Taker told him that he can’t run. He said you don’t last 30 years “around here” without taking an ass kicking. “This is what you wanted, right?” Taker asked while both men climbed to the top of a barn or some type of shelter. Taker raised his hands and some pyro shot off.
Taker caught Styles with a big boot. Gallows and Anderson tried to help Styles, but Taker fought them off. Eventually, Taker chokeslammed Styles off the top of the structure and onto some debris below. Taker climbed down and asked Styles if he still wanted to talk. “What’s my wife’s name, do you remember?” Taker asked. Taker asked if Styles remembered how old he was and if this will affect his legacy. Taker said they were just getting started (God, I hope not).
Taker hoisted up Styles on his shoulder and said he’s not going to last as long as he did. Taker told Styles that he’s a lot tougher than he gave him credit for. Styles said he was sorry. Taker asked him what he was sorry for. Styles told Taker not to bury him. Taker had Styles by the throat and told him that he fought his ass off. Taker hugged Styles and said there’s a lot of people who didn’t give him that much. “You’re good, brother,” Taker said. Taker turned as if he was going to walk away, then turned back and kicked Styles into the open grave.
Taker started the tractor and dumped a load of dirt on top of Styles in the grave. Taker turned off the tractor and the gong sounded. Taker climbed off the tractor and then walked over and pulled a covering back to show a Styles tombstone in front of the grave. The camera showed Styles’ hand sticking out of the dirt. Taker walked over to his motorcycle, put his bandana on, and raised his right arm. Fire shot off and the Undertaker symbol appeared on the barn. Taker drove away while the Metallica song played and the WrestleMania sign appeared in the bottom corner of the screen to plug night two…
Undertaker beat AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match in roughly 35:00.
Powell’s POV: Is it too late for Matt Hardy to get a WrestleMania check even though he’s working for the rival company? There was none of the Broken Universe comedy, but this felt like something inspired by the BU style, including the musical score that played throughout. It was well done for what it was. It’s not for me, but I understand the need to do something unique this year. I thought they would use this match and the Firefly Funhouse match to break up the string of empty arena matches. I didn’t actually expect this match to close the show. I suspect this will be polarizing. The quick sampling on social media seemed to consist of everyone who collects a paycheck from WWE raving about it as if it’s Oscar worthy, with a fairly mixed reaction from those not employed by the company.
Excluding the Taker and Styles movie because it’s so different and not traditional pro wrestling, night one got better as the show went on. It was rough early and it never did feel like WrestleMania, but I enjoyed the ladder match and the Rollins vs. Owens match quite a bit. And while I can’t say the boneyard match worked for me, I must admit that I am even more curious to see what the company has in mind for the Firefly Funhouse match on night two. Jake Barnett and I will be getting together for our audio review of night one for Dot Net Members coming up shortly. Let us know what you thought of the show by giving it a letter grade and voting for the best match in our post show polls. Stay safe and thanks for reading.
Join me for my live review of WrestleMania 36 Night Two on Sunday.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...