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Wrestlemania 36 Review - A Showcase Like No Other


Before I jump into a review of Wrestlemania 36, I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to address what the WWE has done for all of us - those of us quarantined in our homes around the world - during these times of dealing with a worldwide pandemic. Yes, they never - not once, ever - mentioned the term "Coronavirus" or "COVID-19" leading into the "alternative set-up" for their recent television shows, or for the biggest wrestling show of the year in Wrestlemania. That in itself, I believe, is a very, very odd decision.

However, the debate rages on among fans on what should have been done with this show, or for some, that the company should align themselves with just about everyone else that produces original content television and cease operations. Regardless, WWE continues on with its mission of entertainment and their effort still should be applauded. Yes, Wrestlemania 36 will forever be a footnote in the history books and in conversations forever. But despite the criticism, you know what? I needed these two nights. And maybe you did, too.

As someone who is in New York City, and is stuck at night hearing the oddly deafening silence of a city that is never this quiet, only to be reminded over and over again of the current state of our world by the constant emergency sirens, this pro wrestling fan appreciates the several hours of entertainment to be removed from reality.
So, is it the big crowds, the large sets, the excessive pyrotechnics, and the elaborate presentation that is Wrestlemania? No. But you know what, nothing that is normal or usual, is just that at this time. But, in an environment where no one is producing fresh events and content (other than AEW), this still felt like a big event.

As long as the health of the staff and talent were not at risk, to the WWE, thank you. Pro wrestling has always been an escape, and for the past two nights, it was just that. Thank you to everyone who was a part of making this happen. 

With that said, here are my thoughts on Wrestlemania 36, both nights. 


TOO BIG FOR ONE NIGHT
(HASN'T IT BEEN?)

Call me crazy, but I've been saying it for a while now - Wrestlemania needs to move to two nights. There was something nice about not having to devote 6+ hours to one night, and one event. It's been a minor complaint of mine over the past few years, and really, one of the biggest reasons I don't find myself ever attending another Wrestlemania in the future - they're just so damn long! 

Regardless, I enjoyed the two-night affair. And yes, the "Too Big For One Night" slogan is cheesy...and stupid. Really, it's insulting. We all know what happened - again, it's amazing they refuse to acknowledge the obvious. With NXT seemingly being treated as a third brand and less of the "development brand", there is no need for TakeOvers on Wrestlemania weekend. Just make it two nights going forward - get the big gate on both nights. 

But, I doubt it ever happens. 


LIPSTICK ON A PIG

As for the performance center, of course, it didn't feel like Wrestlemania. Especially, since we've seen the last few Raw and Smackdowns from the same atmosphere over the past two weeks. 

Again, WWE did what it could. No complaints here. 

WWE once again showed why they are tops in event management and production. They slapped lipstick on a pig, and you know what, it wasn't ugly. And that in itself is a win.

PS - I know the WWE isn't acknowledging the current climate, but the least they could do is have the announcers a few feet apart. Watching all of them so close was a bit cringe-worthy under the current social climate. 


NIGHT ONE

After the initial interest of what it would look like, feel like, and seem like, eventually wore off as a viewer, it was just nice to settle in and enjoy some wrestling. 

- I have no idea what the opening video package was, is, or should be. I even rewatched it, and I found myself even more lost and bored the second time. I didn't hate it. It just didn't move me.

Thankfully...

- The compilation of singers and clips from previous years of America the Beautiful to open up the show was awesome. Again, an amazingly creative idea to make the show feel special and in line with tradition and the confines of what is possible. 

- Not a fan of "Wrestlemania hosts". Never have been. I'm even less interested in Rob Gronkowski in the role. By the way, all of a sudden Mojo Rawley is "Hyped Up" once again after staring into mirrors and being all dark? It doesn't make sense. Plus, their frat boy act wasn't endearing at all. Mojo just got set back all of the months they spent trying to shake this very gimmick from him. 

- Hour number one was just there for me. I enjoyed the Women's tag team match. Elias and Baron Corbin started giving me doubts about this show, and foreshadowing a scenario where Wrestlemania IX may have company for the "what was that?"kind-of-Wrestlemanias. Luckily it picked up. 

- Yo, Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch was stiff and honestly, was a great story told. I actually liked the reversal finish-pin of the chokehold to get Lynch the win. It's obvious that this one isn't done, and really, it shouldn't be. This may sound a little off, but I think Becky Lynch needs this feud to continue. Something about her character that was once white-hot, has been knocked off. That "it" feeling just isn't there right now. 

- I understand there are crazy limitations due to talent pulling out for health reasons - as they should. Initially, a triple-threat ladder match for the tag-team titles just seemed so odd, and a stretch by WWE. But then the match began, and like most things in the current pondering environment - I couldn't have cared less - the match was awesome. The ending was sort of cheesy - actually, really cheesy, but overall, very entertaining. 

Little note for all empty arena matches, for the time being, the trash-talking done by Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso during the match - and especially, after hitting big moves - very much helps in the environment of no fans. It just feels like we're now privileged to things we wouldn't otherwise hear when there is an audience. 

It's a small thing that makes such a tremendous difference. 

- Sammy Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan was also a good match up. Sami Zayn really has found his stride in this new role. It's kind of crazy to think he is indeed Intercontinental Champion. 

- I'm struggling to buy into Rollins ever since he returned from his injury. That's just this fan's perspective. I do believe heel Rollins is so much more interesting than babyface Rollins, but even the "Monday Night Messiah" gimmick just isn't moving it for me. Regardless, the guy can still go, and both he and Owens gave us a match with a tremendous story, and yes, a moment at Wrestlemania. 

- The 24/7 title is stupid. I really do despise the idea of it. If that makes me not-fun, then so be it. It's so contrived when a group suddenly runs of the back collectively after one person. I very much loved the only "Hardcore Championship" rules from the past. But this...this, is lame. 

- I liked the psychology of the Strauman vs. Goldberg contest. I loved the idea of these guys dropping bombs and heavy blows - and just going for it. It fit their style, especially the history of the Goldberg character. It felt very much like a video game with both wrestlers starting the match with a couple of finishers stored. It wasn't pretty, and really, no one expected this to be. Heck, no one expects any Goldberg match to be at this stage of his career. Good to see Strauman finally get the strap. 

By the way, anyone else chuckle a bit when Goldberg had security still escort him down the hall? It seemed rather silly when, well, the building is empty, and the staff is limited. Plus, they were awfully close - social distancing, bruh. 

- I loved everything that was the Boneyard Match. I did, I did. I raise my hand in admitted guilt - this was tremendous. Yes, the style isn't original to WWE (see: Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground). However, I am going to give props to WWE for reaching beyond their usual style and playbook and knocking it out of the park. The Boneyard match was entertaining and helped both Undertaker and AJ Styles walk away with much more than before the night started. 

Obviously, AJ Styles is an all-time favorite of mine so maybe I am biased. But really, is there a better deliverer in pro wrestling over the past fifteen years? 

The match not only gives The Undertaker another "realm" to his character going forward but possibly an avenue to finally - FINALLY!! - pull off that much-anticipated Stings vs. Undertaker program that pro wrestling needs. 

Nonetheless, so much props to all involved in the shooting of that match, the creativity of it, and of course, the execution of it. Night one ended on a tremendous note, and the memorable match really did make it feel like a special night. 

But to be fair, the Final Deletion is still the king of them all. There, I said it.


NIGHT TWO

- Ummmm, so we got the same weird intro again. I'll repeat, I just don't get it. WWE usually are phenomenal with these things. The video production was indeed great, maybe I just don't get it? Whatevs...

- Please, no more Gronk. Just no more.

- I loved everything about Charlotte vs. Rhea Ripley. Quite frankly, it was the kind of match, filled with tremendous story, logic, and psychology, that you literally forget that it was happening before an audience of none. And yes, I'm a sucker for an old-school logical match with body-part targeting, good pacing, and a believable finish.

Again, the constant audible nature from both competitors not only helps fill the void of the silence, but also aids in the competitiveness of the contest. I cannot stress this simple tactic enough. The same goes for the referees in sounding legit.

Again, great stuff from both. Maybe not a popular opinion, but this was the best match of Wrestlemania 36.

- It really pains me to see where Bobby Lashley is in the WWE. I was a BIG fan of Lashley's persona in Impact wrestling prior to his return to the WWE. Quite frankly, Lashley legit looks like a badass, and his athleticism and strength back up the appearance. I pegged his match with Aleister Black to be the sleeper match on the card, but it wasn't even close. Blah.

By the way, the Fade to Black is easily one of the coolest finishers in pro wrestling right now. I miss the art of the finisher. Not enough good ones that are legit these days.

- It's crazy to say, Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler was textbook. The good guy won and got his girl. And honestly, you can't help but root for Otis. I'm pretty sure Tucker Knight should start making plans to repackage his career. With a big win at Wrestlemania, there might be big plans for Otis going forward.

- I was tremendously disappointed with Orton vs. Edge. It was by far the most anticipated match by yours truly heading into Mania. The build-up was tremendous, as the story was fantastic - a protagonist returning that you want to see prevail, and an antagonist who has validity in his cause, yet, must be defeated.

Something just didn't click here. I'm not sure what it was. The fellas busted their ass, and that definitely came across. I just found myself occasionally looking away, checking Twitter, or something else, during the match. The commentary team with their whispering - WHY WERE THEY WHISPERING?!  - didn't do the match any favors.

Again, within the creative confines of what they had to work with, I understand the restrictions and what is possible. I just feel bad because it was just there. I guess it just didn't fit what the build-up anticipated and projected.

BTW - as someone who operates an athletic facility, I cringed for Triple H as they fought, slammed, and rammed into various equipment and parts of the building.

Nonetheless, overall, VERY happy for Edge. It wasn't the major payoff in front of 70,000+ fans, but the redemption of doing what he did must be super rewarding.

- The Raw tag team match was just there. It was at this moment I thought that maybe Wrestlemania 36 could have easily cut some of the "filler matches" and possibly have made this all one night. I wonder how the overall feel of the show would have been, then?

- I very much enjoyed the elimination five-way match for the Smackdown Women's championship. Lacey Evans continues to be VERY underrated in my opinion.

And yes, I liked that we didn't get the "turn" by Sasha or Bayley. Not the time, and the "best friend turn" needs to lay low in pro wrestling for the time being. Just bloggin...

- Okay, soooooooooo, the Firefly Funhouse Match...yah, I know. At first, I was like, "Why?! "What am I watching?!" And the more I thought about it during the Lesnar vs. McIntyre match, the more it grew on me. I appreciate the craziness, and of course, the wackiness, Though, the "match" part was a bit misleading.

However, in an odd way, was Wyatt comparing Cena's career to that of Hulk Hogan's? Obviously, we're not done with this one. If we are, then this was a waste of time. If this is just the beginning of something deeper and bigger, then alright, I'm interested.

All of the segments were really cool - good stuff all around. And yes, once again, give the WWE some props on having to move outside of it's "playbook" and try new things such as the Boneyard Match" and this piece.

My fear is that after getting lucky with another version of the awesome character that is Bray Wyatt, this thrown together feud with John Cena after a Goldberg loss, might begin Bray's downward spiral to irrelevancy once again. I hope I'm wrong.

- And finally, Lesnar vs. McIntyre felt like Strauman vs. Goldberg, when it needed to be more. Two big beasts dropping big move bombs several times until they got the pin. It was eh. Especially when we say it the night before. I definitely wanted more from this. But, oh well. Maybe it was my expectation?


WRESTLEMANIA AWARDS

It's simple, if I'm giving out awards for Wrestlemania 36, I bestow the following honors:

  • Wrestlemania MVP - The Undertaker (I know, right)
  • (In-Ring) Match of the Night Event - Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley
  • Wrestlemania Moment - Undertaker appears Behind AJ Styles (Boneyard Match)
  • This Will Shock/Confused Me in Seven Years When I Rewatch WM36: There was a triple threat ladder match for Tag Team titles?! 

It's crazy to think, but in 2020, I'm walking away from Wrestlemania thinking, damn, the Undertaker is cool. I wanna see more matches like this from him.

2020 is all screwed up.


HISTORICAL REVIEW

So, where will this Wrestlemania rank among the others? I don't think you can make a fair comparison considering the terms and conditions of this year's big show. Honestly, I'm not sure if Night One outperformed the low expectations, or if it really was a good show. Regardless, Night two really struggled to carry the ball to the finish line for the event.

With that said, as mentioned above, I have nothing but love for everyone at WWE who provided some entertainment - regardless of my opinions. And we forget many of the staff, talent, and performers themselves, who risked their health in order to pull this off. My hats off to all of them.

History surely will dictate the perception of this Wrestlemania more accurately than I can place into words. Heck, the same goes for the time we're living in - I can't wait to see how this looks in a textbook.

If anything, this Wrestlemania truly has given me an appreciation for just enjoying pro wrestling.

And really, once we return to normal, I wouldn't care if we never saw an empty arena match - from any company - until at least 2040. 

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