By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Join me for live coverage of WrestleMania 36 Night Two beginning with the one-hour Kickoff Show at 5CT/6ET. Dot Net Members are listening to the WrestleMania Night One audio review hosted by Jake Barnett and I, and they will also hear our Night Two audio review later tonight. Join us on our ad-free website via PWMembership.net.
WWE WrestleMania 36 Night One Hits
Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match: The cinematic approach isn’t for me. Yet while I enjoyed this short film less than most, WrestleMania needed something that felt like a spectacle and this was it. They got the show out of the WWE Performance Center and closed with something truly memorable. There were some good traditional matches on the show, but this was the real WrestleMania moment that night one will be remembered for.
Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens: The in-ring trash talk and audible selling isn’t something that wrestlers can do to this degree under normal circumstances. So Rollins and Owens essentially turned the negative of not having fans in attendance into a positive by using the lack of crowd noise to their advantage. The match quality was strong and they told a good story in what was my favorite match of the night.
John Morrison vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jimmy Uso in a ladder match for the Smackdown Tag Titles: A strong effort from all three wrestlers. This match seemed to benefit as much as any on the show from editing and presumably some stops and restarts. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as the circumstances allowed them to do it, and it helped make for the best match and show possible. This was the best performance that Morrison has had since returning to WWE. My only gripe is that they didn’t use some of the Kickoff Show to do an angle to come up with a good explanation for why the match was allowed to become a singles match for the tag titles once Miz was “injured on Smackdown.”
Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan for the Intercontinental Championship: Zayn and Bryan are talented enough that they could have had a classic back and forth match, but that would not have made any sense given the pest heel character that Zayn is playing. I like the idea of keeping the title on Zayn. He just won the title and there’s still fun to be had with him getting flukey wins or cheating to retain his title.
Asuka and Kairi Sane vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: A soft Hit for the hard work of the wrestlers. Unfortunately, Vince McMahon clearly doesn’t care about the women’s tag titles. They were introduced with a lot of fanfare and quickly became an afterthought. As such, it was hard to get invested in a title match when the titles feel so meaningless.
Overall show: The fact that I’m not dreading WrestleMania Night Two is a win. No, it didn’t feel like WrestleMania and the pay-per-view prices were absurd especially given the state of the world, but the show built nicely for the most part and had enough good moments that it felt like a worthy time investment. On a side note, kudos to the production team for their work on the “America The Beautiful” compilation video.
WWE WrestleMania 36 Night One Misses
Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship: Meh. They kept the match brief despite having the ability to go longer with restarts and creative editing. And that’s fine, but the presentation left so much to be desired. Strowman had zero momentum going into the match and there’s no buzz over him winning the WWE Universal Championship. Roman Reigns pulling out of the show for logical reasons created a tough situation, but the company could have done better. Speaking of which…
Roman Reigns: No, this isn’t an attempt to extend any streak that may or may not exist in terms of Reigns being in the WrestleMania Miss section. And it’s sure as hell not a criticism of Reigns doing the right thing for his health and the safety of his family by pulling out of the match. The Miss is on WWE for not just telling their audience the truth and turning it into a positive. WWE clearly doesn’t want the words coronavirus or Covid-19 used during their programming, but they should have made an exception in this case. They didn’t have to get specific about how Miz’s illness reportedly triggered all of this, they could have done a Skype interview with Reigns from his home explaining that his leukemia battle left him with a weakened immune system that made wrestling in this match a real threat to his health and the health of those in his household. He could have expressed frustration and disappointment over not being able to challenge for the championship on the biggest stage. He could have wholeheartedly endorsed Braun Strowman as his replacement and leaned into the story that Strowman is also a full-time wrestler who is more deserving than part-time legend Goldberg. In turn, Strowman could have spoken about the honor of Reigns endorsing him and feeling pressure to bring home the title to live up to Roman’s expectations. Reigns typically comes off manufactured and overly scripted. This was a chance for the company to let Reigns be real and to set the table for their makeshift title match.
Rob Gronkowski and Mojo Rawley: I loved watching Gronk on the football field. And I got a kick out of the random stories about his partying antics during the offseason. But I have no desire to watch him and Rawley act like douchey frat boys on WWE television. It’s painful to watch, but one can only assume that WWE will be going for notoriety by having Gronk win the WWE 24/7 Championship on tonight’s show.
Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler for the Raw Women’s Championship: A well worked match with an outcome that just didn’t work for me. I get the idea that WWE wanted to have a mostly fan friendly show with babyfaces going over more often than not, but I don’t have to like it or the way it hurts Baszler’s badass heel persona. And while it’s only one match and Baszler is not permanently damaged, it’s not like Vince McMahon has a great track record when it comes to getting the most out of the readymade stars that he’s handed from NXT.
King Corbin vs. Elias: A strong case can be made for WWE eliminating the undercard matches and simply going with a one night event, especially considering that it would have limited the number of people who were at the WWE Performance Center when these shows were taped. In this case, the match felt like it belonged on Smackdown and just didn’t feel WrestleMania worthy in any way.
Cesaro vs. Drew Gulak: This was the most frustrating match of the night. Cesaro and Gulak could have put on a clinic, but they were given less than five minutes of match time. The approach seemed to be to keep the pre-show match brief to avoid exposing the dreary feeling of the empty WWE Performance Center. With more time, I’m actually confident that these two could have shown the audience that it’s still possible to get caught up in a good match despite not having fans in attendance. So the match was good while it lasted, it just didn’t last long enough.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ring of Honor's PJ Black discussing the ROH Pure Title tournament beginning on ROH Wrestling TV this weekend, ROH's COVID-19 safety precautions, his run in WWE as Justin Gabriel with The Nexus, wrestling as The Bunny, and more...