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WWE Wrestlemania 36 (Nights 1 & 2)
by Scrooge McSuck
- I honestly contemplated for far longer than I want to admit whether or not I was going to cover WrestleMania via live watch. Part of it has to do with the recent pandemic that has sent the world (and mostly the US) into a confusing haze of incompetent governing and media panic, but no one needs to read a paragraph long rant on current events. Honestly, I've been ice cold on WWE for a while now. Even before the switch to taping shows in the empty Performance Center, I stopped watching Raw and Smackdown regularly by the end of 2019 and haven't bothered to watch any of the PPV/Specials since the Royal Rumble. I feel like I did in 2006-07, quickly falling out of love with wrestling, but thankfully there's other options keeping that fire lit, so might as well set aside a few hours for two nights and see if WrestleMania is still the showcase of the immortals, or a really bad idea.
- For the first time ever, WrestleMania is "TOO BIG FOR ONE NIGHT!" (and available on the Fox Sports app). Cesaro pinned Drew Gulak at 4:26 in the Kickoff Match, winning it with an unusual torture rack swing, at one point releasing his grip and still doing rotations.
- Stephanie McMahon opens the show to let us know that tonight's WrestleMania will be different and have its own identity due to outside circumstances.
- Montage of the various celebrities performing "America, the Beautiful" from past WrestleMania's. OK, that's pretty cool.
- Rob Gronkowski is a waste of space. Mojo Rawley is an even bigger waste of space.
- Michael Cole and John Bradshaw Layfield calling the action for Smackdown matches, Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton for Monday Night Raw.
WWE Women's Tag Team Championship Match:
The Kabuki Warriors vs. Bliss-Cross:
It was a few weeks ago where I quizzed myself on the short-lived history of the belts and couldn't remember who Bliss and Cross lost the titles to. I don't think Sane has been the most active since her concussion at TLC, but I may be wrong. Lots of dancing from Asuka. At least she's having fun in recent weeks. Bliss and Asuka start. Asuka avoids a lockup and dances some more. Kairi tags in and pushes Bliss around. Bliss responds with some taunting of her own, a leg sweep, and double knees. Cross runs in with a basement dropkick for barely a one-count. She hops on Sane's back with a sleeper, but Asuka manages to tag in. She puts the boots to Cross and takes her over with a snap mare. Cross fights back from her knees with rights. Bliss with the blind tag as Cross sends Asuka out of the ring. Cross pounds on Sane until Bliss knocks her from the apron with a baseball slide, followed by a senton from the apron onto Asuka. Cross, not to be upstaged, comes off the apron with a body press. Back inside, Bliss covers Asuka for two. Cross tosses Sane out again. Sane blocks a wrecking ball dropkick and lights her up with chops. Bliss saves, knocking Asuka into the barricade. Asuka quickly recovers, sending Bliss into the post as Kairi takes Cross down with a spinning head-scissors. Back inside, the Warriors with some double-team action. I half-expect Cole to tell us "WrestleMania will roll on". Cross with a surprise sunset flip on Sane for two. Bliss tags in and runs wild with clotheslines. Sane avoids a charge in the corner and uses a distraction from Asuka to trap her legs. Sane climbs the ropes and hits a double stomp for two. Kairi with a series of kicks and sliding forearm for two. Asuka with a choke across the middle rope, followed by a running hip attack. Bliss avoids a bulldog but is caught in the face with a knee for two. Bliss brings up the knees to counter the hip attack but is no match for Asuka in a striking contest. She luckily lands close to her corner, making the tag to Cross. She runs wild on Sane, hitting a corner avalanche and running bulldog. Cross to the top rope with a flying body press for two. Asuka attacks from behind and unloads with a series of strikes. Cross blocks the backhand and hits the swinging neck breaker. Cover and Sane comes off the top with the In-Sane Elbow to break the count. Asuka escapes an O'Connor Roll and hooks the Asuka-Lock, but now it's Bliss making the save with Twisted Bliss. Sane with a spear to take out Bliss. Code Breaker by Asuka. Cross recovers in time to cut off another In-Sane Elbow. Odd powerbomb/flying forearm from the Kabuki Warriors for a near-fall. Asuka meets the post on a failed charge. Cross with the neck breaker on Sane and Bliss finishes with Twisted Bliss for their 2nd reign as Tag Team Champs at 15:02. Probably should've been shaved down a few minutes, otherwise a solid effort. ***1/4
Elias vs. King Corbin:
Corbin demands a forfeit. Elias shows up and KABONG across the back. The match starts officially, with Corbin as the underdog having to get to his feet for the bell to ring, because WWE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE F*CK BOOKING HEELS AND BABYFACES IS. Elias with a goofy swinging neck breaker for two. Corbin comes back with a Hot Shot that sends Elias all the way to the Performance Center floor. Back inside, Corbin sends Elias into the post for two. Whip to the corner and Corbin does his in-and-out lariat for two. Corbin targets the injured shoulder and yells at Cole and JBL to let everyone know how great he is. Elias fights back but is cut off with a knee to the midsection and sent to the post again. Elias returns fire, sending Corbin's shoulder into the post. Elias with an elevated mule kick and a flurry of strikes in the corner, risking disqualification. Elias with a twisting DDT for two. Corbin rolls away from a splash and hits Deep Six for two. Elias counters the lariat with a jumping knee strike for two. Corbin tries to use the ropes, but the referee sees it. Elias with a roll-up and handful of tights for three at 8:54. This was 10-minutes too long. *
WWE Raw Women's Championship Match:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler:
Woah, early in the night for this one. So, Baszler debuts, chewing on Becky's neck, then steamrolls the crappiest Elimination Chamber match in history. If this is indeed "Rocky III", then Shayna needs to win in 3-minutes or less, but this is Vince's retelling of Rocky III, so it'll be 15-minutes of Becky dominating. "The Man" pulls up the Performance Center in a BIG F'N RIG because... reasons. Slugfest out of the gate until Shayna goes for the Kirifuda Clutch. The action spills to the outside, with Shayna working over the Champion. Becky takes control, slamming Shayna on the floor and throwing her into the steps. Back inside, Becky with a missile dropkick. She charges into the corner with a forearm and puts the boots to Baszler. Baszler counters a step-up dropkick with a knee to the face. Becky goes for the Disarm-Her, but it's blocked. Lynch counters another Clutch attempt with a sunset flip for two. Baszler pops right up with a spine-buster, followed by a double under-hook drop for two. Becky avoids a knee and goes to the arm again. They trade blows on the apron, with Shayna in control until Becky hits a Rock Bottom on the apron ("that's the hardest part of the ring right there!"). People make fun of Kenny Omega over-dramatizing things, but seriously, WHAT THE F*CK IS BECKY DOING? Shayna cuts off her climb to the top rope and slams her down. Double under-hook into the arm bar. Becky stacks her up, but Shayna rolls through into the Disarm-Her. Becky counters, but is caught in the face with a knee for a near-fall. Lynch hangs Baszler up across the top rope and hooks a Disarm-Her with the top rope. Baszler escapes and hooks the Kirifuda Clutch but is forced to release with them in the ropes. Shayna swings Becky head-first into the announcer's table. Back inside, Becky goes for the arm, but Shayna blocks. She hooks the Kirifuda Clutch but Becky rolls over with the Bret Hart counter to get the three count and retain at 8:31. I'm tired of that spot in all of Shayna Baszler's losses. **1/2
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
Sami Zayn (c) (w/ Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro) vs. Daniel Bryan (w/ Drew Gulak):
Last week on Smackdown, Gulak defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to give Bryan this shot at the title. Zayn won the Intercontinental Title at Elimination Chamber in a ridiculous 3-on-1 handicap match where the 1 (Braun Strowman) was pinned clean by the least active worker in the match. Zayn looks like he's auditioning for "Von Kaiser" in the live-action feature film on Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. Zayn stalls to start, telling the referee to work his count. Bryan finally gives chase but is cut off by Cesaro. One more chase and Nakamura runs interference. Gulak finally has enough and dives off the apron, wiping out the Artist Collective (yes, that's the real name of this group). Bryan FINALLY gets his hands on Zayn at 3:55 of the match and throws him into the ring. Zayn begs for mercy, but Bryan picks the leg. Bryan with kicks and a tope suicida, hitting his head at an ugly angle on the barricade. OH MY GOD, please don't do that again. Back inside, Bryan comes off the top with a missile dropkick. He traps the leg and unloads on Zayn with forearms. Bryan with some frustration-fueled jaw jacking and the running dropkick. Zayn surprises Bryan with an elbow. Whip to the ropes and he hooks Bryan with a clothesline. Bryan shrugs off the chops and forearms, coming off the ropes with a diving clothesline. Bryan with the Yes-Kicks, including the roundhouse. He continues the punishment with stomps to the face. Nakamura and Cesaro come back to life and take out Gulak. Bryan hits them with a tope suicida. He goes to the top but is met with a Helluva Kick, and that is good for Zayn to retain at 9:19. I'm not sure I like "heel manager Zayn" as a long-term Champion. Match was disappointing if you expected it to be more than "Zayn playing chicken-sh*t" heel. *1/2
WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship; Ladder Match:
John Morrison (c) vs. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston:
This was originally intended to be Miz and Morrison vs. New Day vs. The Usos, but The Miz backed out of the show for undisclosed reasons (and justifiably so, considering the circumstances), so we get this odd-ball 1-on-1-on-1 for the Tag Team Titles. Why does Kofi have rainbow-braids? All three men waste little time in their off-the-chart athleticism showcase. All three grab ladders and start climbing. PSYCHOLOGY. They trade strikes within reach of the belts until Morrison pushes over Uso, Uso pulls down Morrison, and Kofi hits Uso with a flying body press. Morrison climbs again, unsuccessfully. He takes Kofi over with a snap mare and nails a running knee strike. Morrison avoids the SOS and Trouble in Paradise but misses a big move of his own. Kofi fights Uso off a ladder, then Morrison does the same to Kofi. Kofi launches himself through the ladder and gets dumped over the top rope. Morrison avoids being clotheslined by the ladder and thumbs Uso before throwing the ladder back at him. Morrison sledges the left ankle of Uso with the ladder. Uso fires back with chops and slams Morrison face-first into a ladder. Morrison somehow bridges Uso across a ladder and somehow hits Starship Pain (or what looked like a variant of it). Kofi comes back to life, springboards in and taking Morrison off the ladder with a hurricanrana (or Franken-Steiner, you call it what you want). Uso gets dumped and Kofi hits Morrison with a tope suicida. Uso tries to run the length of the barricade but is nailed with a ladder. Uso continues taking the brunt of the abuse. Morrison does a tight rope walk from one corner to the other and hits Kofi with a Spanish Fly. Uso comes back to life and hits Morrison with a splash. Uso and Kofi climb (with Kofi on the INSIDE of the ladder). Kofi has his hands on the belt, but Morrison cuts him off. Kofi gives up another attempt for the belts to hit Morrison with a flying double stomp. Uso sends Kofi into the ladder, threatening to flatten his face like a pancake. Morrison springboards off a ladder and eats a Super-Kick. Uso climb a ladder for the sake of a dangerous spot and gets dumped over the top rope, to the floor. Morrison casually climbs but Kofi stops him at the last possible second. Jimmy Uso is back from the dead, AGAIN, for another 3-way brawl at the top of the ladders. They all unclip the belts and fight for possession. Uso and Kofi double headbutt Morrison, who falls onto another ladder, WITH THE BELTS, and he retains for himself and the Miz at 18:32. DUMB. This was a match that didn't need to be on the show. They clearly tried to put on a big-time match, but it felt emptier than anything else on the show without a crowd to play to. **1/2
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins:
Rollins new nickname is the "Monday Night Messiah", but his stable is already disbanded thanks to an injury to one of the members of the AOP and Murphy out with an undisclosed illness. Rollins comes out looking like a scumbag Jesus Christ. Owens' ridiculous KO-Mania IV shirt is all kinds of awesome. Rollins cheap-shots Owens from in the ropes to start. Owens gives chase to the outside, but Rollins manages to escape. Owens avoids the Stomp and unloads with right hands. Whip to the ropes, Owen no-sells a kick, lays Rollins out with a clothesline, and hits a pair of sentons. Back to the floor, Owens sends Rollins into the barricade. He teases a Powerbomb on the apron but Rollins counters with a back body-drop. THAT'S THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, DAMMIT. Rollins with a Falcon Arrow on the apron. GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY, THAT KILLED HIM! Rollins wipes Owens out with a tope suicida. He yells at Owens about being a God when the lights are their brightest, then hits another tope. He tries one more time but is met with a forearm. Back inside and Rollins comes right back with a sling-blade. Owens avoids the Stomp again and spikes Rollins with a DDT. Owens with a Super-Kick followed by the cannonball. He goes to the top rope and hits a flying senton for two. Rollins avoids the Pop-Up Powerbomb and a series of counters leads to Rollins hitting an enzuigiri, only for Owens to bounce off the ropes with a lariat. Rollins fights out of a Super-Plex attempt, raking the eyes and hitting a sunset flip Buckle-Bomb. Rollins with a pair of Super-Kicks but the Stomp is countered with a sit-out Pop-Up Powerbomb for a near-fall. Rollins tries to bail and whacks Owens with the ring bell for the cheap Disqualification at 10:02. Well, that was pointless. Good match until the bullsh*t finish.
BUT WAIT! Post-match, Owens calls Rollins a little b*tch and dares him to get back in the ring and finish it, NO DQ, NO RULES. Rollins catches Owens with a running high knee. He calls Owens a fat piece of crap as he tosses him out of the ring. That poor barricade is working overtime. Rollins uses the ring steps, as if that's ever a DQ under normal circumstances, then uses a chair, which is a DQ maybe 15% of the time. Owens fights back with shots to the head with the bell. Owens wanders off and emerges atop the WrestleMania sign. He takes a leap of faith and crashes through Rollins and the announcer's table. Too bad this isn't Falls Count Anywhere. Rollins sells by acting like he's stupid drunk and choking on his own vomit. I don't care if that's a tasteless joke. Rollins begs for mercy but it's KICK WHAM STUNNER to finish at 5:22. That was a good match until the Dusty Finish and restart for the sake of random weapon shots and needlessly doing a huge dive in front of 0 people in attendance. **3/4
- 24/7 Champion R-Truth shows up to remind us how hellacious it is to be the Champion. Gronk lays him out, but Mojo pulls him off and covers Killings to win the 24/7 Championship. Should've stayed in quarantine, Truth.
WWE Universal Championship Match:
Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman:
This was originally scheduled to be Goldberg vs. Roman, but COVID-19 and Roman need not be there for the sake of this sh*t show, so here's Braun, who likely got the nod for making fun of poor independent workers on twitter, because everyone in wrestling should be given the keys to the kingdom without experience and look down on the remaining 99.99999% of the people who work in the industry. Goldberg needlessly beat The Fiend for this at the last Blood Money show, because 55-year old World Champions is a good look for the sake of a one-week rating spike. Remember WCW? I don't mean because of Goldberg; I mean to hot shot stuff for the sake of a one-week ratings increase. Setting the over/under at 135 seconds. Smart money says "under." Shouldn't a Hall of Famer forfeit his status if he returns to action AND wins a Championship? Goldberg strikes first with a boot. He avoids hitting the post, slides off Strowman's shoulders, and hits a Spear. Goldberg with a second Spear. Third Spear for two. Fourth spear. Braun counters the Jackhammer with a Powerslam. Second Powerslam. Third Powerslam. Fourth Powerslam for three at 2:11 to become the NEW Universal Champion. Whatever. ¼*
Boneyard Match: The Undertaker vs. A.J. Styles:
We still don't know what a "Boneyard Match" is. It's the Phenom vs. The Phenomenal One, but we're likely getting "Normal" Undertaker here, based on recent appearances. You want to know what's a "WCW" move? Referring to talent by their real names (A.J. calling Taker out several times by his real name to hype this feud). We're on location in a graveyard, and A.J. pops out of a coffin, daring Undertaker to do something. We hear an engine revving, so that must be him. Metallica's "Now That We're Dead" plays, and here he is, THE AMERICAN BADASS. "Does Michelle know you're out this late?" Taker says A.J. dug his own grave. Styles grabs a brick, but Taker beats him to the punch. Taker barks at Styles, calling him "Alan", because IT'S A SHOOT, BROTHER. Because WCW. He slams Styles into the coffin he arrived in. He punches out a window by accident, slicing his arm, but no-selling it. Taker continues to punish Styles, throwing him across the windshield of the hearse. Taker follows him onto the vehicle and mounts him with a flurry of right hands. Styles with a fistful of dirt in the eyes to finally get Taker to sell. Then a kick to the nuts to really make him sell. Taker comes back and knocks A.J. into the open grave. Suddenly, Gallows and Anderson, with musical cue, arrive to escalate things. Suddenly, the shed lights turn on and out come a group of hooded figures. Taker fights the hooded geeks off with ease but it's Gallows and Anderson that show him a tough time. Taker makes his own comeback, because fighting off 9 guys in one match is just another day at the office for him.
Styles returns from his nap and smashes a tombstone across Taker's back. Styles throws punch after punch and sells breaking a finger (I know because he said so). Styles urges Taker to his feet and spears him through a nearby fence. Taker's gasping for air makes Rollins' over-selling seem tame in comparison. "I thought you were the American Badass. What you look like right now is a broken down bitch." Styles grabs a shovel and whacks Taker across the back, knocking him into anther empty grave, conveniently located next to a piece of construction equipment that could easily dump a ton of dirt on him in one shot. SUDDENLY, The Undertaker shows up from behind Styles and beats the piss out of him. WHA?! Styles runs and climbs to the top of the barn, with Taker in hot pursuit. Suddenly, Taker sets off Kane's pyro and lays him out with a big boot. Gallows and Anderson return to take another beating, with Gallows being thrown off the building and Anderson taking a Tombstone Piledriver. Taker no-sells some right hands and Chokeslams Styles off the roof, through a crash pad. Good thing it wasn't on the ring apron, that would've killed him for at least 7-minutes. Taker talks endless trash with Styles in a compromised position. Taker fakes showing mercy before booting Styles into the grave and burying him alive, before revealing the headstone indeed reads "A.J. Styles". We get one last shot of Styles' hand sticking out of the grave before Taker rides off to washed-up Metallica. Seems symbolic. This was unlike anything ever done at WrestleMania, and I wouldn't be able to give it a match rating. Hell, was it really an official match? This was over-the-top, campy, and at times, enjoyable, but my goodness, this was Hardy Compound levels of polarizing.
WWE WrestleMania 36 - Night 2
- Last time (or above) on WrestleMania 36, Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg to become the new Universal Champion, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross won the Women Tag Team Titles from the Kabuki Warriors, Kevin Owens pinned Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, Sami Zayn, and John Morrison retained their respective titles, Elias and Baron Corbin had a match, and oh yeah, The Undertaker buried A.J. Styles in the ridiculously over-the-top Boneyard Match.
- In the 2nd Kickoff Match of the weekend, Liv Morgan pinned Natalya at 6:23 in easily the most meaningless WrestleMania match since the days of loading the card with everyone possible.
NXT Women's Championship Match:
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair:
Flair won the 2020 Women's Royal Rumble and chose Ripley after a few weeks-worth of being egged on. I don't know the point of this, since the attempts at expanding the NXT TV audience hasn't improved minus a few weeks boost around Survivor Series. Flair toys with Ripley, sweeping her off her feet, but not following up. Waist-lock and Flair counters with an ankle pick. Lockup into the corner as I BEG the commentary team to NOT STOP TALKING. Flair lights Ripley up with chops. Whip is reversed and Ripley nails Flair with a boot. Ripley with the Rip-Tide for two. Flair powders out, giving Ripley center stage for trash taking. Ripley gives chase and gets stomped down for it. That was quite the dumb babyface move. She takes a weak bump into the steps and comes back with a senton from the apron. Back inside, Ripley drives a series of shoulders into the midsection. Ripley with a series off kicks across the back before locking on a body-scissors. Flair avoids a big boot and snaps the leg across the top rope. She targets the leg and has some more choice trash-talking. Flair wraps the leg around the post but goes to the well too many times and is pulled face-first into the post to "create separation." Flair quickly recovers and clips the knee with a chop block. Flair rolls through a roll-up attempt but is caught with a face-first slam. Ripley sells the knee the entire time, allowing Flair to her feet first. They trade blows, with Flair taking a cheap shot at the knee. Ripley fires back with knee strikes from the good leg and lands a standing roundhouse. Ripley with a basement dropkick and series of short clotheslines. Flair back-drops Ripley to the apron and kicks out the knee, sending Ripley to the floor. Flair climbs the ropes, but Ripley cuts her off.
Back inside, Ripley hits a face-first Electric Chair Drop for two. Flair backs Ripley up with an elbow and knocks her into next week with a forearm. Ripley avoids a knee breaker and comes off the top with a missile dropkick for two. Charlotte blocks a boot and clips the knee again. She sandwiches the knee, driving it into the canvas. Ripley rolls through a Figure-Four attempt, stomps a mud-hole in Charlotte, and hooks the standing Cloverleaf. Flair counters and lands a boot to the face. Ripley blocks the Figure-Four again. Charlotte with a rolling bridge for two before trapping Ripley in the Walls of Jericho. They go back-and-forth with a series of pin attempts, all for two counts. Ripley pops up and hits a running boot for two. She struggles to get Flair straddled across the top rope. Flair blocks the Super-Plex, dropping Ripley face-first to the canvas. Charlotte meets a boot on a moonsault attempt but has enough in her to nail Ripley with a spear for a near-fall. Flair with the Figure-Four turned into the Figure-Eight, and Ripley taps at 20:27, giving Charlotte her 2nd reign as NXT Women's Champion, almost 5-years since losing her original reign. Started rough, but they told a good story, and by the end, everything was clicking. ***1/2
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley (w/ Lana):
I take it back; THIS is a meaningless WrestleMania match. I can't think of anyone in WWE history who interests me less than Lashley. No storyline here. Might as well be Ronnie Garvin vs. Dino Bravo. Too bad Jimmy Snuka isn't with us to make a random appearance before the bell. Lashley has switched to long tights, as if it matters. He's still more bland than low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt. They jockey for position, with Lashley tossing Black into the corner. In any other era, the ringside valet would be hollering or doing something, but Lana is a waste of space in a company filled with dozens of attractive women. Lashley charges and gets dumped over the top rope. Black boots him down, but a moonsault finds nobody and Lashley tosses him with a belly-to-belly suplex. Lana, this isn't a library, it's OK to make SOME noise. Back inside, Lashley drives a knee into the throat. He lands a charging shoulder into the midsection and takes Black down with a swinging neck breaker. Black counters a suplex with knee strikes to the top of the head. He misses another attack from the top and is captured with a powerslam for a near-fall. Lashley hits a suplex on the 3rd try and gets another two-count. Black counters a charge with a knee to the face for two. He sweeps Lashley off his feet, boots him out of the ring, and hits the springboard moonsault. Back inside, Lashley surprises Black with a running body press for two. Lana barks at Lashley to go for a spear instead of the Dominator, and of course Black Mass finishes at 7:16. They had it match that was neither outstanding nor awful. Matches like this reminds me of Mania's 2-7 where we got some filler with guys who weren't featured in a top spot, and maybe it's not a bad thing. **1/2
- Gronk is upset that Mojo Rawley stole the 24/7 Championship from him last night, and teases he'll walk out of WrestleMania with the belt. Make sure you sanitize that thing first.
Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler (w/ Sonya Deville):
Cole says it's a story of "Beauty and the Beast." I don't know how this will play in front of an empty building, but we'll let it play out. We thankfully recap the saga, where a teased relationship between Otis and Mandy Rose was squashed by the conniving Dolph Ziggler and Sonya Deville, a twist we only found out on the go-home episode of Smackdown thanks to the 2020 equivalent of GTV. People who complain that Otis came off as a jilted stalker don't get storytelling and need to f*ck off about complaining about everything in the world. JBL says that someone used Running Man technology to manipulate the footage. Dolph tries and fails at playing cat and mouse, getting squashed in the corner. Ziggler side-steps a charge and knocks Otis out of the ring with a Super-Kick. Dolph follows, sending Otis into the post. Back inside, Dolph mounts Otis with a chin-lock. Ziggler with a dropkick for only a one-count. Neck breaker and jumping elbow drop for two. Ziggler stomps at the knees but is caught going for a dropkick and takes a ride into the turnbuckles. Otis starts to dance to pump himself up. He hits Dolph with a pair of clotheslines and plants him with a slam. JBL compares Otis to Ivan Putski, if he ate Bam Bam Bigelow. Otis sends Ziggler from corner to corner, WITH AUTHORITY, and tosses him over the top rope. Now it's Dolph's turn to get a taste of the post. Back inside, Otis with a pop-up Powerslam. Sonya hops on the apron, interrupting the Caterpillar (a.k.a. The Worm). Dolph hits Otis with a blatant low blow. Before he can make the cover, Mandy comes to ringside and slaps the taste out of Sonya's mouth. She runs in and hits Dolph with a low blow, allowing Otis to hit the caterpillar for three at 8:11. Post-match, Otis lifts Mandy off her feet and they share a kiss. THE BABYFACE WON, AND AVOIDED EMBARASSMENT? Holy crap, COVID-19 is the antidote to McMahon's poisoned mind. I'd say 8 million stars for that, but alas, it was a decent match with the right finish. **1/2
Last Man Standing Match: Edge vs. Randy Orton:
I would've accepted this as the "Main" Main Event, going on last. I'm surprised it's positioned BEFORE the meaningless Raw Tag Team Title Match. Edge made his return to the ring at the Royal Rumble, almost 9-years since injuries forced him into retirement, and the next night Orton attempted to end it again. They've gone back and forth with great promos, and the empty building actually lends itself to this match in my eyes. Edge's intro feels naked without Tony Chimel. Orton attacks from behind with an RKO, disguised as a ringside camera operator. The bell rings and Orton with another RKO. Edge rolls out of the ring, using that as a cheap way to get to his feet. Orton follows and whacks him with the camera, knocking Edge over the barricade. Orton knocks Edge down the hallway and into the gym. Orton chokes him with some equipment in a spot I'm surprised was given the greenlight, especially with the "I'm always going to love you" dialogue. Seriously, why? The referee doesn't count, drawing the ire of Orton. Orton grabs a weight, but Edge uses the nearby weight-bar to swing and hit Orton with a pair of boots. Edge unloads with a series of right hands and a fury ROAR. Remember when that was Edge's thing, back when he debuted as a silent enigma? Edge props Orton up in a chair and pounds away some more. He again uses the surroundings and uses it to launch himself onto Orton. Orton reverses a whip, sending Edge into the wall. He scopes the room for his next attack and chooses the sled as his weapon of choice. He charges at Edge with it, but Edge moves out of the way at the last second. Edge gets the better of a slugfest and slams Orton face-first into a packing crate. They go through the production area and further backstage, with Orton getting thrown into a steel door.
They make it back to the "main ring area". Orton throws Edge into the LED board and tosses him into the barricade. Edge barely makes it to his feet at 9. Orton is in hot pursuit again and slams Edge's head against a window. They enter a meeting hall, and there's a surprising lack of action. Edge with more creative use of the environment, using the most conveniently placed chain-fence hanging over the table and falls on top of Orton with an elbow. The cameraman gets wiped out in our 45th hallway brawl. We get an OBVIOUS edit to them in a "digital storage facility", trading blows. Orton regains control but this is dragging badly. This is a taped show, and I have a bad feeling it won't end by 10. I have to work in the morning, Vince. Edge sells the neck and gestures with his hands something might be wrong. No, you're not allowed to do that with this turkey. The WWE Network crashes on my Roku TV at this point, so we'll resume after the following message: DON'T DO THE BENOIT HANGING IN A WRESTLING SPOT, EVER. Now, back to the action: Edge pounds away on Orton as he lays across a table. Good, there's a ladder RIGHT THERE. Edge climbs the ladder, and unfortunately the brass ring has been moved. He audibles and jumps off the platform, driving an elbow through Orton and the table. Both men are up at 9 (boo) and do some more stumbling around. If you thought the fight scene in "They Live" was deliberately paced and borderline unwatchable, we have a new champion. Orton with a draping DDT from the hood of a truck, but Edge has GRIT. Orton teases the punt, but it's countered with a Spear. Edge goes for it again but this one is countered with an RKO. Edge gets up for a millisecond and that counts?! In Boxing, that's called a TKO because the fighter clearly doesn't have his legs, you dumb twits. Here come the chairs. Edge wakes up to avoid the con-chair-to and hooks a sleeper/choke. Edge struggles with the choice he needs to make, and smashes Orton's head with the one-man con-chair-to for the victory at 37:00. THANK GOD.
Oh boy, where do I begin with this? In what should've been a hotly contested match between former friends turned bitter rivals, they were able to convey their hatred for each other, but that didn't translate into a good professional wrestling contest. This not only went too long (WAY too long, maybe 20-minutes too long), but there wasn't that much action between spots, and not many remarkable spots to even get hyped about. The commentary was a complete disservice, whispering the entire time like they were calling Golf or Tennis. This match made me wish we had 3-4 other meaningless filler matches, because it would've been time better spent. Don't get me started on the weight room hanging and monologue from Orton, either. Just a complete turd in what should've been a match of the night contender. DUD
- Gronk wins the 24/7 Title. Who cares?
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match:
The Street Profits (c) vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory (w/ Zelina Vega):
This is such a thrown together nothing match, but anything is welcome after that last pile of crap that wasted 40-minutes of my life. Andrade (the reigning US Champion) was originally penciled in as the teammate of Garza, but he's put. Dawkins and Theory start. Lockup and Dawkins with a side headlock, followed by a shoulder tackle. Whip and Ford with a dropkick. Garza runs in, eats a flapjack, and the ring is cleared with synchronized dropkicks. Whip to the corner and Dawkins hits a soft spinning avalanche. Theory avoids a charge, sending Dawkins out of the ring, where Garza meets him with a cheap shot. Back inside, Garza removes his pants and lands a knee to the face. We don't waste time for Ford to get the hot tag. He comes off the ropes with a high angled clothesline on Garza, followed by a standing moonsault for two. Ford with a DDT for two. Ford takes out Theory and his own partner with a flying senton to outside. Garza joins the party and hits a moonsault onto the Street Profits. Back inside, Garza with the Lion-sault for two. Ford rocks Garza with an enzuigiri and tags in Dawkins. His comeback is cut off with a TKO, but Ford saves with a splash on Theory and Dawkins covers for three at 6:25. Post-match, Garza and Theory do a beatdown on Ford until Bianca Belair attacks Vega. Oh God, is her call-up being paired with the Street Profits? That makes no sense with her gimmick. This was a match for the sake of a match. *
- Titus O'Neil assumes responsibilities as the Host of WrestleMania. Is that a dumpster I see ablaze?
- WrestleMania has set a NEW indoor attendance record: 0.
WWE Smackdown Women's Championship Elimination Match:
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi:
This was originally scheduled for six women, but Dana Brooke is out with an undisclosed illness. Why is Tamina still on the roster? Eh, who cares. I'm in Harry Doyle, mid-season of Major League 2 levels of not giving a crap at this point. You know what, screw it, let Tamina win. I want the ship to go down as hard as possible. Sorry, that Last Man Standing Match broke me. It depresses me as a wrestling fan to see how badly WWE squandered Bayley. Watching her as a heart-sank heel is borderline miserable. This match is spitting in the face of social distancing. Everyone targets Tamina, because she's the biggest threat... HAHAHAHA. Santino or Harvey Wippleman in drag is more likely to win the match.
Tamina runs wild on everyone, a sure shine of a quick exit. Double basement dropkick from Sasha and Bayley to send Tamina out of the ring. I'm so sick of the "horse-faced sad face" on near falls. Lacey and Naomi work together to fend off Bayley and Sasha but find themselves alone in the ring while the fatigue meter slowly fills for the rest of the field. Tamina comes back to life to play the world's least impressive Godzilla. Imagine how good this would be with Dana Brooke involved. Oh my GOD, Tamina vs. Sasha vs. Naomi is a callback to Team B.A.D. from the "Women's Revolution" in 2015. Everyone runs the train on Tamina with high flying spots to get her out at 6:25. I didn't think 4 people were allowed to pin someone at once, but whatever, we live in a world where someone in the editing room approved Orton hanging Edge with weightlifting equipment. Bayley avoids a div from Lacey and sends her to the steps. Naomi gets worked over as I'm surprised by the length of time they're getting here. Somehow Sasha, who comes across like the biggest bitch in the world, seems fake trying to catcall and be a bitch in the confines of a match. AMAZING TALENT. I love Cole stumbling to call the Disaster Kick anything but that. Back Stabber into the Bank Statement and Naomi is gone at 10:12. Insert angry tweets that African-Americans are held down in WWE. Bayley accidentally hits Sasha with a running knee. Lacey with cradle after cradle, but Bayley survives. Sasha and Banks bicker, allowing Evans to nail Sasha with the Women's Right and eliminate her at 13:26. Evans makes her comeback on Bayley, hitting our 76th swinging neck breaker of the weekend. Bayley sends Evans to the apron and rams her shoulder-first into the oversized post. Sasha is still playing dead at ringside. Bayley ties Evans to the top turnbuckle via the tag rope. That was a crappy knot, because Evans escaped it in about 3-seconds. Evans with a salute before hitting the big moonsault for two. Was that necessary on a kickout spot? Sasha comes in, hits a Bank Statement, and Bayley hits a face-buster for three at 19:17. Wow, that was a dumb finish. Stuff happened and another match that needlessly went long. Match wouldn't have been any better with an audience. *1/2
Firefly Fun House Match: John Cena vs. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt:
The hype video uses their encounter from WrestleMania XXX
as fuel for the Fiend to take control of Wyatt's personality. Wait... the match is taking place IN THE RING? I feel like we need some odd teleportation into another dimension, like in Mortal Kombat. The video glitches out during Cena's entrance, and we indeed are thrown to a video of Bray Wyatt at the Firefly Fun House. I love the creepy stock music playing in the background. Suddenly, Cena has teleported to the Fun House (YES!). One of the puppets urges Cena to follow Wyatt through the door, and he willingly obliges, no questions asked. Suddenly, Cena is face to face with the Devil Vince puppet, getting chewed out about Ruthless Aggression™. Cena is suddenly shown in the ring gear he wore in 2002, recreating the moment he had with Kurt Angle in his debut. He comically (with sound effects) misses a slap as Wyatt continues to taunt him. Cena gives chase as we throw it to Saturday Night's Main Event, complete with Animotion's "Obsession" playing. WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING? Wyatt shows up for a promo behind a steel cage, obviously inspired by Hulk Hogan. Cena shows up, pumping iron and cutting a ridiculous 80's style promo. He overdoes the workout and now we're transported back to the Smackdown set where John Cena is the Doctor of Thuganomics. Do I need to drop acid for this? Cena's rap takes a shot at Husky Harris and his weight problems. Wyatt lets Cena know the truth, that he's a bully that makes jokes at other people's insecurities. THAT'S DEEP, BRO. Fast forward to Bray Wyatt rekindling his earliest appearances, chastising Cena for letting everyone down and giving him his biggest failure (at WrestleMania XXX). Now it's time to rewrite the story. Wyatt squashes Cena in the corner with an avalanche and dances around the ring. Cena avoids Sister Abigail, but that's not enough to end it, Superman. Wyatt hands him a chair, letting Cena know he made the wrong choice, and tells him to fix it. Cena swings, but Wyatt disappears into thin air. In our next bizarre cutaway, now we get flashes of Monday Nitro and Wyatt doing his best Eric Bischoff impression. He introduces us to the coolest guy on the wrestling earth, and out comes n.W.o. Cena. THIS IS SUCH GOOD SH*T. The F*CKING PUPPET SAID IT. Cena takes out years of frustrations with the WWE Universe, only for the Fiend to arrive and grab the Mandible Claw. We get a soundbite of Cena's harsh words for Wyatt before he goes crashing to the canvas with a Sister Abigail. Now it's Cena who disappears... and we cut to Titus O'Neil looking on in shock. "I don't know what I just saw." Join the club. This was all over the place, but the Vince puppet is going to be a fan favorite spot for years to come. The Boneyard Match was much more amusing, but this had its moments peppered around a lot of "what the hell is going on?"
WWE Championship Match:
Brock Lesnar (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Drew McIntyre:
Final match of WrestleMania, and what a trip it has been to get here. McIntyre won the 2020 Men's Royal Rumble to earn this spot and was also responsible with eliminating Brock from the match (with an assist from Ricochet, but who cares about him, right?). Brock attacks immediately, backing McIntyre into the corner and driving shoulders into the midsection. Whip is reversed and Brock hits the Claymore for a two-count. Brock avoids the second attempt and throws Drew with a German Suplex. Now Phillips and Byron decide to TALK AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. Thanks guys, a little late. Brock continues to take McIntyre to Suplex City. Can you believe it was 5-years ago where that became a thing? Brock with an F-5 for only a one-count. Brock with a 2nd F-5 for two. F-5 #3 for another two-count. McIntyre fights off the shoulders and hits Claymore #2, #3, and #4 for the three-count and WWE Championship at 4:28. Couldn't they come up with a different layout for a match than ripping off Goldberg/Braun from Night 1? At least we didn't get LOLbrockwins. *1/2
Final Thoughts: WrestleMania 36 cannot be fairly graded the same as a show held under regular social circumstances. At the same time, the level of effort put forth into the show, from the wrestlers, to the agents, to the production team, have put in the same level of effort as you possibly could for a major wrestling event, so that is fair game. Across two nights, we had 18 matches (including 2 on the Kickoff Shows), and for the most part, matches were paced well, even if that seemed a bit bloated for the sake of throwing people on the card. Two of those matches were experiments, taped matches on location with varying levels of insanity. One worked out incredibly well, while another was hit and miss. Some of the finishes were headscratchers, and my God, Edge/Orton was so highly anticipated, and it laid the wettest, nastiest fart imaginable. For the most part, I was entertained, though watching wrestling without an audience isn't something I can do comfortably and will likely never revisit this show again. Cherry pick the good stuff (mostly from Night 1), and let the rest be lost in time, then brace yourselves for WWE to pat themselves on the back with a 24 Documentary sometime within the next 12-months.
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