wrestling / TV Reports

Rob Stewart’s WrestleMania 36 Review

April 6, 2020 | Posted by Rob Stewart
AJ Styles Undertaker WWE WrestleMania 36 Bone Yard Match
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Rob Stewart’s WrestleMania 36 Review  

Well, that was a weird-ass WrestleMania.

Credit to WWE for doing, honestly, the best they could under the circumstances. Actually, I am not sure that is true. They did pretty well under the circumstances. Prior to the event itself, I had hyped myself up that the whole thing was going to be a misdirect, and we’d only get one or two actual matches before the show descended into a plot-driven cinematic narrative, with either zombies or an alien invasion or a terrorist threat. Have the wrestlers using guns on each other. Big explosions. A cliffhanger to end night one. Just go proper BERSERK with it. That would have been there BEST they could have done.

To be fair, they leaned into that idea slightly at points. We’ll get to it. I just wanted them to basically forego the wrestling entirely. Ah well.

In a COVID-19 world, WWE was backed into a corner for their show of shows, and they looked at all of their options and said “screw it, we’ll do it anyway!”. That is the better part of Vince McMahon in play; the part of him that actually has to face adversity every once in a while and get creative.

It’s easy to rag on McMahon in recent years (decades?). He is complacent and bitter and out-of-touch. He seems inflexible on his opinions and doesn’t want to be challenged. But this year’s WrestleMania, to me, showed that when a threat rears its head, there’s still just enough Vince Classic left in the tank to make some lemonade. For at least ONE night (foreshadowing!).

And so we had a two-night WrestleMania in front of no crowd, and with a stripped-down… everything. Did it FEEL like WrestleMania? Of course not. It was never going to. But there was some creativity in play that still made it feel special.

Let’s get into it…

WrestleMania started off with Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss taking on The Kabuki Warriors, and this was… a mixed bag. The good was that the eerie quiet allowed the always outstanding Asuka to just yell and rant and generally continue to prove there is no language barrier when it comes to real charisma. The bad was… a lot of the rest. Both teams seemed to forget the arena was empty a times, with Nikki trying to get a crowd-energy clap going at multiple points, and Asuka and Kairi yelling out into the Big Empty when they would normally taunt a crowd. There were some ridiculously obvious editing cuts in this match that I worried would paint the rest of the show, but luckily that wasn’t so.

It was… all right. This, as much as anything else, felt very Not WrestleMania to me. But it wasn’t a chore, either. Bliss and Cross won, a result I disagree with because Asuka and Sane should really be buzz sawing everyone in their path (and why has Asuka seemingly forgotten her green mist attack lately?) until a prominent women’s team is formed.

Like I said… just “all right”.

Following that was the battle between Elias and King Corbin, and BOY was ‘Mania off to an underwhelming start. I don’t imagine many fans on the planet were especially hyped for this match, and I certainly wasn’t personally. It was a bit early in the night for a “let’s refresh the snack tray” bout.

There’s not much to say here. It happened. Elias won, which was another result that left me lukewarm. This was never going to be Osprey vs Okada or anything, so it wasn’t necessarily “disappointing”. It was just there.

The third match of the night was an ocean’s breadth of an improvement over the first two, with Becky Lynch taking on Shayna Baszler for the Raw championship. Now is where I say many things that will be controversial and make you angry at me!

First, Shayna not dominating the match was a good thing. There’s no reason on Earth she should have gone all Lesnar/Cena on the champion who has bested all comers for a year. That would be silly. Sure Becky may have grown cocky and self-assured, but the whole lead-up to this match was Shayna literally taking bites out of her attitude. By the time the match stared, Becky should well have been back in Man Mode.

Secondly, Becky winning was also the right call. Shayna has been a champion for most of the last TWO-PLUS YEARS. She did not need to go straight from the NXT Title to the Raw Title. Also, this is the book of Shayna: she shows up, she’s cocky as hell, and her relative inexperience costs her. Then she regroups, studies the tape (or gets underlings to help out), and comes back stronger. It happened against Ember Moon. It happened against Kairi Sane. I have no doubt she wins the next match against Becky. She needs to lose first to scout her foe.

So come on… don’t trash this story. It’s honestly what needed to happen. You know it to be true. Besides… things would be MUCH WORSE later on.

Sami Zayn defended the Intercontinental Title against Daniel Bryan in a very enjoyable match, made moreso by all the audible chatter. Cesaro remarking “He’s already getting tired” when Sami kept stalling Bryan to start made me laugh. Pathetic villain Sami was also a joy from bell to bell.

I know the basic sentiment is “What have they done to Sami?”, but… this is his character now. It doesn’t allow him to show off his wrestling chops, but it’s giving him character work for days. And this was a solid Everyone-Looks-Good spot. Bryan DOMINATED Zayn–whooping him handily–Zayn won the match through his cunning and the collective he has assembled, and Cesaro and Nakamura were effective henchman. Gulak laid out both Nam and Cesaro for a while to look potent.

Zayn is just 2017-2018 The Miz at this point. Nothing wrong with that.

Kofi Kingston, John Morrison, and Jimmy Uso went out next for the Tag Team Title Match (and yep, that is still weird), and only beat the absolute snot out of each other for literally no live reaction. This was a fantastic match that would only have been wildly improved upon if they had a crowd to pop for them.

These three are all fascinating athletes and are willing to do anything it takes to put on a spectacle, so this was an early contender for Match Of The Show[s]. I loved every aspect of the ending, too, because it is controversial (meaning we have plenty of reason to see more battles between these three teams which is… yes, please), and it kept Morrison and Miz from being a flash-in-the-pan championship team. All positives here!

Seth Rollins‘ new character is an absolute treasure. I know everyone turned pretty hard on him in the last year, but if you don’t love–or at least APPRECIATE–his work as The Monday Night Messiah, you are just letting bitterness run your life. You’re the kind of person Snickers commercials talk about.

Rollins was a joy throughout here, taking the audible trash talk aspects of the previous matches and turning it up to fifteen. He was delightfully smarmy and awful from beginning to end, and the death rattle he was making after Kevin Owens put him through the announce table was no less than brilliant. He sounded like he legitimately had a rib sticking through his lung.

I’ve seen some light negatives thrown at this match for the restart halfway through, but you know what? I liked it. It let the match build in tenacity from a regular affair to a brutal weapons match without introducing plunder right off the bat. It was a slow, steady climb of brutality that gave Rollins some comeuppance, delivered the promised KOMania Moment, and was high marks all around. By this point, those opening matches were a distant memory, and WrestleMania was on a roll.

In what is the very definition of “strike while the iron is… ice cold?”, WWE gave Braun Strowman a world title about two years too late.

But I have no issue with it, because Braun as champion is better than Goldberg as champion by literally any measure. But bear with me here…

Braun Strowman DESTROYED Bill Goldberg…

who DESTROYED The Fiend…

who DESTROYED Seth Rollins…

who beat Braun Strowman.

So that’s a bit weird.

In “I’ll Take Ten More Of These, Please” matches… The Boneyard Match!

Yes, I know this was just a less tongue-in-cheek version of The Ultimate Deletion, but it is also the ONLY kind of match Undertaker should be wrestling for the rest of time. And not only was he not a detriment, he thoroughly carried this contest. He was absolutely enjoyable from beginning to end, whether it was smashing his arm through a car window just to look at it and annoyingly spout “son of a bitch” or telling a bunch of druids that if they want to do it, they should get it over it or asking AJ “what’s my wife’s name now? You ‘member?”. This was the best Undertaker match in at least six years.

If you told me you hated this, I’d get it. I’m not going to convince you this was objectively good. AJ Styles came across like a useless punk here, to be honest. But I laughed. I laughed a lot. This was kind of what I wanted ALL of WrestleMania 36 to be. There was a background score! Special effects! Bad acting! Surprise camera reveals and cuts! Look, if you can’t do REAL WrestleMania, this was a fine replacement.

To start off Night Two, Charlotte defeated Rhea Ripley to win the NXT Women’s Championship, and… nope. I don’t like that at all.

With Becky beating Shayna, there were more mitigating factors as to why that was the right call. Becky was defending, and Shayna’s loss keeps her as a contender. Shayna has been a champion for what feels like forever and didn’t need another belt right away. But this result? Asinine. Look at what Charlotte did to Asuka with a WrestleMania loss. Asuka has never recovered. Is this what Rhea has to look forward to? A career of “Remember when she was red hot before Charlotte devoured her soul”?

This was abjectly the wrong call, and Rhea hasn’t been on top long enough to deserve this loss. My passion for ‘Mania went from 60 to 0 here.

Aleister Black versus Bobby Lashley was the second match of night two, and how nice of WWE to follow up that putrid Charlotte/Ripley result with a match no one cares about so we can stew in our anger a bit!

This was the Night Two equivalent to the Corbin/Elias match from night one. It was fine. It was acceptable. Nothing was abhorrent. The right man won, at least, which the Charlotte win had me worried about.

Did anyone else notice that Lashley basically no-sold the finish of the match? Immediately after the three-count, he was sitting up and pouting about the result. Way to sell that vicious KO kick to the head, Mr. Lana!

The Mandy Rose Love Rhombus Match was up third, Dolph Ziggler against Otis of Heavy Machinery. I guess Sonya DeVille is a valet now? That’s a huge waste of her talents. Hopefully this was just a one-night thing because she had issues with Otis.

Dolph bumping around for the bigger, stronger Otis was a great use of his talents. Otis’ endearing personality and just general joy of life are fun to watch, too. This was a good match with the heartwarming finish it needed where Mandy helped Otis overcome the cheating 2-on-1 odds and win the match.

Otis and Mandy is the Savage/Miss Elizabeth-From-WrestleMania-7 moment that we needed now, ha!

The Last Man Standing match between Edge and Randy Orton got the middle-of-the-card treatment, which… I mean, okay. Between it, Drew/Brock, and the Funhouse Match, only one could go on last. This has been a well-established feud, but they really want us to buy that Rated-RKO was some legendary, long-term tag team rather than just two singles stars who teamed up for a few months fifteen years ago but had a rad team name.

The problem with Last Man Standing matches is that they are Last Man Standing Matches. By that I mean that they have a lot of standing around counting when they should have wrestling. And 90% of the counting is pointless waiting. We all know no one is losing a Last Man Standing Match just for being thrown into the barricade, so every time we stop to count for something like that, it’s awful.

Still, the Performance Center being the playground for this, we had a creative visual for the battle around the building. Rather than just going into the crowd like every other LMS match, they brawled into a meeting room! And into a gym!

That’s all the positivity I have here. This match was terrible. I honestly can’t recall the last time I wanted a match to end as badly as I did this one, but it just kept going. If you liked it, man… you are a better person than I. I thought it was a slog, and the definitive low-point of either night.

I can’t find it in me to be objective about The Street Profits defending their Raw Tag Titles over Austin Theory & Angel Garza. It was fine and bouncy, but between recovering from the coma Edge/Orton put me in and the fact that the contest felt like just a vehicle to get to the post-match angel where Bianca Belair joined up with the Street Profits… I don’t know.

It was nice to see Belair get a deserved spot at ‘Mania since she has had such a hot start to 2020. Is she on the main roster now and forming a group with the Profits? I could be here for that.

The Women’s Title Fatal Five-Way was next, and it was the second high-point of a Night Two that was shaping up to be a lot weaker than Night One. Bayley retained, and WWE didn’t blow their load on the Sasha/Bayley storyline, instead choosing to merely continue slowly building to it with some miscommunication.

Bayley retaining was the right call; unless they went with Sasha, no one else in this match really deserved the belt at the moment (I could see an argument for Naomi, though). The match was a bit over-choreographed at points, but was mostly quick-paced and fun.

John Cena and The Fiend had their Firefly Funhouse Match, and it was… a thing that happened! It wasn’t a MATCH such as the Boneyard Match from Night One was; it was just a collection on nonsensical skits and callbacks.

I guess the premise is that, inside the Funhouse, Bray controls reality? Haha, all right. They still need to explain how Goldberg beat him. This is why this character never should have been in the title hunt.

I will say two things here: First, like the Boneyard Match, I’m glad they did this because you might as well throw everything at a wall and see what sticks. Second, there were parts of it that worked. Bray referencing Nikki Bella got a chuckle. The “Ruthless Aggression!” and Dr. of Thuganomics bits were entertaining. The visual throwbacks to both Bray and Cena’s individual failures to paint how they got to where they are gave aspects of it life.

All in all… it was a bit over-zany for me since it existed in a bubble. If the WHOLE SHOW had been stuff like this, I’d get it. But even against the Boneyard Match, this stuck out as a weird acid dream. I appreciated it, but I don’t know that I particularly loved it.

Drew McIntyre WrestleMania

To close out WrestleMania, Drew McIntyre won the WWE Title to no applause in a very Brock Lesnar match. It lasted a few minutes, featured a combined, what, four different “moves”, and was basically a Big Shot fest. I am well-past over the whole Brock Lesnar Match formula at this point. It was also the EXACT SAME MATCH as Strowman/Goldberg. Why did we need two of that?

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that Drew won, and with both he and Strowman as champs, we will at least see the big titles on a weekly basis!

Brock Lesnar feels like Bowser from Super Mario at this point. He is the big boss, but he just loses over and over. And somehow he still manages to be the big boss next time. Is there ANY DOUBT that Lesnar will be either Universal or WWE Champion at WrestleMania 37? And we’ll have a new “conquering hero” to beat him again? It’s inconceivable to me that this won’t be the case.

So… wow, I guess the theme is that for as excited as I was about Night One, I was that disappointed in Night Two. I maybe never got over Charlotte tapping Rhea out, and then the Edge/Orton match was visual Ambien, and then the Funhouse match more abstract art than anything.

Night One was a solid 8/10 for me–I had a blast with it–but Night Two… man, Night Two. I want to call that, like, a 3/10? It was rough.

Anyway, I’m sure you disagree heavily with my thoughts, so give it to me! How did you like WrestleMania 37? Which night was better? What was the best match? Which was the worst? Go to town in the comments; as always, I am eager to see what you think!

Until next time… take care!

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Overall, an 11/20 with a great start and a thud of a second half.

article topics :

WrestleMania 36, WWE, Rob Stewart