WrestleMania 36 Night 1
April 4, 2020
WWE Performance Center
Meet our reviewers:
Steve Case: Here and excited for whatever this show ends up being! Whether it’s surprisingly passable or a dumpster fire, no doubt this WrestleMania will be hard to forget. If we want to or not. Follow on Twitter @Coachcase44.
Ricardo Gallegos: Looking forward to witnessing history when the WWE Superstars™ take part in the first of the two-day historic Showcase of the Immortals™ event, live from an empty WWE Performance Center™. Also, I’m rating matches with Mexican candies instead of stars. You can follow me @wallyrgr
Jeff Andrews: Here and significantly less excited than Steve is for whatever this show ends up being. On the bright side, his mother has decided to provide fashion takes for the show, so you all have something to look forward to. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @Ika_LIJ.
Jon Hernandez: Scrolling down this document is the first I’ve heard that half these matches are even happening. I have no idea what the hell is going on, and I can hardly wait. I talked my neighbor into watching this and texting me about it, so don’t forget to see what my neighbor thought @fatmansalright on Twitter.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross def. The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) (c)
Steve Case: Apparently Kairi made the trip. Not sure how they pulled that off, but here we are. Asuka is an absolute delight and her and Kairi picking on Alexa is fun. Did Alexa just do the Kylie Rae pose? Nikki Cross still does her best to try and fire up the crowd to no avail. Asuka and Kairi screaming in Japanese to no one is always a highlight. After a sort of wild start where, with some out of the ring brawling leading to the Warriors getting the advantage, this turned into a fine tag match. Asuka and Kairi worked Alexa over most of the first half of this match. Nikki would eventually get a hot tag and run wild. In an odd moment, Nikki would unzip her top revealing her sports bra and let out a yell, to which Cole deadpanned, “To each her own.” Dead. We had some hot back and forth from there, until the Warriors regained control. They even hit a nice looking Doomsday Device variation on Cross for a near fall. The finish saw Nikki regain control and get a tag to Bliss, who would hit the Twisted Bliss on Kairi for the pin. This was a fine tag match to open the show where all four women worked hard. ***
Ricardo Gallegos: JBL is on commentary and I’m already regretting my decision to do this review. Thankfully Asuka and Kairi Sane’s quality made this somewhat entertaining and the tag teamwork was totally fine. Things got fun in the last five minutes with Nikki working hard to push the finale. Alexa got the win with a Twisted Bliss and Cole exclaimed that his was Nikki Cross’ best match in WWE. That’s a low bar. Rating: ‘Palanqueta de cacahuate’, a crunchy peanut and honey traditional candy that is always okay: it’s tasty but nothing out of the ordinary.
Jeff Andrews: Three seconds into the entrance and I’ve already started contemplating the meaning of life. I didn’t remember how awful this was and I have lots of regrets. This match is an interesting case-study into how bad wrestling is without fans in attendance, especially when it’s produced up close like this. Nikki just screamed let’s go baby WrestleMania and I don’t know if I can do this for four more hours. My mother is casting concerned looks across the room, my father is glaring in disgust. THEY’RE PLAYING TO A CROWD THAT DOESN’T EXIST. THE HOT TAG, AND THE CROWD GOES WILD! I can already tell the Kabuki Warriors are going to lose and it pains me, because this is a genuinely great pairing sans the shit name. This match is better than it has any right to be, a genuinely pleasant surprise all things considered. That Flying Forearm into the powerbomb should’ve been the finish, and the missed Twisted Bliss was pretty awful. I’ll go 3* on the premise that Asuka and Kairi carried it kicking and screaming. ***
Jon Hernandez: I think the best way to view WrestleMania is through a child’s eyes. If you can’t have that, the next best thing is through my girlfriend’s horrified eyes at seeing (and hearing the name) the Kabuki Warriors for the first time. Now she’s checking if Alexa Bliss has workout videos online, this may or may not qualify her as a fan. The Kabuki Warriors dancing and taunting toward the empty bleachers is making me miss the part where Gronk and Mojo Rawley were yelling at me. I don’t have to tell you that Sane and Asuka are fantastic professional wrestlers, but did you know I’m also an Alexa Bliss apologist? No one’s going to read this right? Okay, listen — Bliss gets an unfair rap as an in-ring presence and here she and Cross are both charmingly enthusiastic contributors to surprisingly fun little bout. When things ramped up and they had no time to do doofy poses to an empty warehouse, that was delightful, even if Alexa kinda doofed up the finish. I imagine that could be a recurring theme tonight. ***
Elias def. King Corbin
Steve Case: And now for our Smackdown segment for the evening. King Corbin has somehow regressed since he started. And let’s be clear, he was NEVER good. He cut an embarrassingly bad promo on Elias to start, and showed him knocking Elias off the PC balcony Scar style. Until, shock of all shocks, Elias is here and jumps Corbin with a guitar! Unfortunately, the match still began after this. Corbin would take advantage shortly after the bell and do a lot of 80’s big man offense and even more incoherent yelling. I’ll give Elias some credit, he actually brought some fire to this. Unfortunately, this was not very good and we got a roll up with the tights finish from Elias for the win. This will probably for some reason continue. Fortunately, I won’t be watching it. *1/2
Ricardo Gallegos: I liked Elias’ intensity at the start. He jumped Corbin during the entrance and looked very angry… I wished they would’ve done a quick 5 minute brawl. But no, we endured a dull back and forth match that went on too long. Baron kept complaining to referee Jessica Carr and eventually Elias took advantage of it by rolling him up for the three count. Good job by Elias showing some fire and thus, giving some life to the first act of the bout. Rating: Oblea de pepitas, a bland candy made from a thin biscuit with some nuggets and brown sugar. It’s only good when bite the pepitas and brown sugar, but otherwise they’re easily forgettable.
Jeff Andrews: I’m apologizing profusely to my father for putting him through this. He’s undoubtedly counting the days until I graduate College and leave the house for good. I don’t think I’ll be allowed back at this rate. HOW. HOW DID ELIAS RISE UP FROM THE PADDED FLOOR. BY GOD KING. Anyway, Elias has somehow found a way to become likable recently, and his work looks a lot more crisp than it was when I first watched him. So far a genuinely pleasant surprise. For those of you in this for the fashion takes, my mom hates Corbin’s ear tattoo and thinks he looks like a “dork.” Do with that what you will. Corbin is having a mental breakdown in the ring, a touching tribute towards mental health awareness in 2020. Nonetheless JBL says it best, “This is a travesty.” *1/2
Jon Hernandez: I’m glad the girlfriend gets to watch Corbin cut a promo in dead silence. There’s no better primer for this stuff, and I’m happy to see that not even a global pandemic could take that away. There aren’t enough apps in the world to idly scroll through instead of watching this match. Elias has fun offense and the match hurts less when he takes control. A Carrie Heffernan-esque performance from referee Jessica Karr was really starting to win me over right about when Elias scored the fall with a handful of tights, so there’s that. *1/2
WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch © def. Shayna Baszler
Steve Case: Becky still doing the semi entrance with no audience is high comedy. “We paid for the semi, we’re using it pal!” Shayna didn’t get the total Black Swan treatment like Ronda with her makeup, but man, who does that to these poor women? This was easily the best match so far. They has a really physical back and forth brawl. Shayna very much is hit and miss with me and her style doesn’t mesh well with everyone. Luckily, Becky was much more on the Kairi Sane side and less the Mia Yim side. I was really thinking this was going to turn into a very good to great match until the finish saw Becky roll backward out of the rear naked choke to pin Shayna out of nowhere. This finish feels like it came out of the circumstances and that this feud will continue. The problem with that is that no one knows when circumstances will change. This was good, but these two have great in them. ***1/2
Ricardo Gallegos: Before I gave up on NXT, I loved Shayna Baszler. Her character work was tremendous and there was a real aura of danger when she walked to the ring, so I was happy to see some of that intensity here. Becky and Shayna worked a smart fight that relied in aggression rather than crowd energy. I enjoyed Baszler smacking Becky’s head in the announce table, a spot that was in tune with the vibe of the match. Unfortunately, we got a WWE trademark dumb finish to protect Shayna but keep the belt on Becky. Rating: Pelón Pelo Rico, a tamarind pulp candy that is quite popular with children. It’s pleasant to eat but quite artificial. It sucks to finish it because you have to open it and scratch your way to the remaining pulp. So yeah, solid candy/match, disappointing finish.
Jeff Andrews: I am not a member of the Becky Lynch fan club. I think “The Man” moniker is demeaning and I don’t even think that I’m particularly woke for having that take. Her work on big shows has never inspired much confidence in me, and an optimal finish in my mind would be Baszler by shoot KO in 12 seconds. I demand Inokism in the Women’s division. Shayna looks very green when she sells, but that’s probably to be expected. Becky’s disarm-her has never looked fluid for me, and in general she feels like she’s the same wrestler she always has been. Apron spot attempted but looks pretty bad. Shayna loses on a fluke roll-up I’ve already seen and don’t care about. Others will like this match a lot better than I do. *3/4
Jon Hernandez: The pre-match video package ends with Shayna Baszler saying “shit”, which is the show’s most thrilling moment to this point. Hey, this match was kinda killer. Minimal mugging toward empty bleachers, and a nice brawl-y fight vibe that was totally lacking from the prior match. Becky did a great job playing into Shayna’s strengths, matching her in physicality but also allowing Baszler to bully her around some. The finish felt abrupt, Becky rolling into a pin before we were even treated to a neat little Kirifuda Clutch struggle, and it’s a shame because we could have had something real nice here. ***1/4
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Sami Zayn © def. Daniel Bryan
Steve Case: Now we are talking! This is the one I’ve been looking forward to. This started with Sami in full troll mode, continuously going to the outside to frustrate Bryan. A highlight was Cesaro yelling, “He’s getting tired!” Cesaro and Nakamura would continuously stop Bryan from getting to Zayn until Gulak finally took them out. Bryan then finally tackled Zayn on the ramp and got him in the ring and proceeded to absolutely destroy Zayn while Sami cried for mercy. This included a way too dangerous for the situation dive from Bryan to the outside where he bashed his head into the barricade. Bryan would essentially squash Zayn for the entire match and it was glorious. Cesaro and Nakamura then came back to take out Gulak, leading to Bryan hitting a dive out to them. He would then climb to the top for presumably a dropkick to Zayn, only for Zayn to hit a Helluva kick out of nowhere for the win. I was really loving this until the finish. Zayn was great in his role here, but if only this were super worker Zayn. I can’t help but be disappointed. ***1/4
Ricardo Gallegos: So, Sami Zayn is Che Guevara now. Okay. After a dumb start with Nakamura, Cesaro and Gulak brawling outside of the ring, Bryan straightened the match and started owning it. Sami was playing his coward heel act until Bryan stopped him and started punching and elbowing his face. Bryan smacked Sami for a little while and I almost forgot there was no crowd involved. It was beautiful. Nakamura and Cesaro attacked Gulak, so Bryan wiped them out with a tope suicida. With this minuscule distraction, Sami caught Bryan with a Helluva kick and pinned him. Another brainless ‘out of nowhere, MAGGLE’ finish. Rating: Muégano, a weird honey and flour candy that looks like a hive and is very tasty, but unfortunately it’s difficult (and even annoying) to chew, which makes for a mixed experience.
Jeff Andrews: THE ARTIST COLLECTIVE. THE GREAT LIBERATOR. WHAT THE HELL DID I MISS. Anyway, beyond my genuine confusion regarding what this match is, I’ll be honest and say this match makes me pretty sad. I think Sami Zayn is wasting the end of his prime, and Daniel Bryan is a legend and arguably still the best wrestler in the company. The fact that these two high level workers are playing tag as opposed to wrestling is genuinely depressing. Now that Daniel is putting some offense on Sami the match has picked up pretty quickly, that Suicide Dive from Bryan in front of no fans scared the holy fuck out of me. Why the fuck did he do that. Why. What the fuck is this man thinking. Of course all the babyfaces win except for Bryan, who was wrestling a great match. This was a ***3/4 match with a .5* flat as hell finish.
Jon Hernandez: They gave this match an exhausting opening cat-and-mouse segment and a fart of an ending, and they still couldn’t keep Sami Zayn and Daniel Bryan from having a good, compelling wrestling match. I didn’t need three people outside the ring to show me Sami was a heel, Sami’s a pro, he did it over the course of the match. Zayn capitalized on the silent venue, pleading and whining through the match’s duration, and Bryan predictably played the perfect straight man counterpoint. It’s a bummer this couldn’t get more time, but if they keep feeding me fun, compact TV matches, I won’t complain. ***½
Triple Threat Ladder match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
John Morrison © def. Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso
Steve Case: I feel so bad for all three of these guys for what they are about to do to themselves for our entertainment. Despite the ridiculousness of this match being a triple threat singles match for the tag titles, these three had a tremendous match to the surprise of no one. John Morrison was tremendous in this match. He had a funny spot as Jimmy tried to throw the open ladder at him, but he fit perfectly in the gap. So he smiled and poked Jimmy in the eye. He hit a beautiful starship pain like move off the ring post onto Jimmy laying on a ladder draped over the ropes. He then tightroped from one turnbuckle to Kofi on the other and hit a huge Spanish fly. Kofi had a few nice spots as well with some nice dives and springboards. Unfortunately for Jimmy, he drew the short straw from his team being in this match and to take the majority of the big spots, including falling from a ladder in the ring to the floor. The finish came when all three battled for and unhooked the title hanger. Jimmy and Kofi headbutted Morrison, and as he fell onto the draped ladder he took the titles with him. Creative finish, albeit contrived. This was about as good as it possibly could have been. ***3/4
Ricardo Gallegos: Three talented guys destroying their bodies with ladders in a completely unnecessary match in front of no one. The entire show has been sad, but this was borderline depressing. What was sadder? The announce team comparing Morrison to Mr. Perfect, the fact that these men bumped numerous times in steel ladders, the sound of the mat when Jimmy Uso landed on the floor, or the super WWE finish in which the three men unhooked the thing with the belts at the same time, but Morrison felt to a ladder with a belt on hand, therefore winning the match. Man what a waste of energy and time. Rating: Bocadín, a generic, tasteless and somehow very popular brand of chocolate. Having so many delicious chocolate in the world, why in the hell did someone create a Bocadín? Its existence is as necessary as this match, and it tastes as dry as the ending.
Jeff Andrews: I can’t wait to watch these guys do dangerous career threatening bumps in front of no one. Why the hell anyone would agree to a ladder match in front of no fans is beyond me, but that’s their business. If I hear the word parkour used in reference to John one more time I might scream. For those of you keeping track at home, these guys are killing themselves for no applause, no pops, no nothing. Overall very stupid match that I’m reluctant to rate. The work itself is fine but not special, the beating they’re taking is real, and yet I couldn’t possibly care less. My mother mentioned earlier that Kofi always has a fun outfit on, but that’s all she’s willing to say. Uso just fell 20 feet and is back in 12 seconds. *** work, -* match.
Jon Hernandez: I love dumb spotfests, and I’ve got love for anyone doing big idiot bumps whether they’re a good idea or not, I really do, but this feels silly. Two positives: Kofi swinging through the ladder for an attempted kick was a step toward the Jackie Chan-esque ladder combat I’ve longed for in these matches. The other is watching my girlfriend take in her first ever ladder match. “Why are they pretending they can’t reach the belts?” **3/4
Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins via DQ and then in a No DQ Match
Steve Case: I have no idea how to rate that match. It was WWE in a nutshell. It had the two ultra-talented performers having a helluva pro wrestling match. It was physical, the work was smooth and snug, and both demonstrated real hate towards each other. But because WWE, there was the cringey scripted trash talk through the second half. If Seth never opened his mouth to speak again I would be okay with it. Then you had Seth purposely getting DQ’d, leading to Owens prompting a restart. Then the two brought it again. Seth was vicious with the chair after the restart until Owens got the upper hand with the ring bell and laid Seth out on the announce table. But again, WWE having to push the in-match story with AWFUL dialogue. Owens then climbed to the top of the Wrestemania logo, and before doing an incredible dive onto Seth, had to yell down, “This is my WrestleMania moment!” UGH. Owens would then drag a grunting Seth into the ring, hit a stunner and pin him for the win. I loved a lot of this match, and hated a bit of it as well. I learn more towards liking it, but the WWE cringiness keeps it off my spreadsheet. ***3/4
Ricardo Gallegos: I don’t know what to do with this match (or matches?). The work was solid and besides Rollins’ cringe trash talk, I can’t point to anything bad about it’s first part. I strongly disliked the DQ finish and the mic work that followed, but my patience was rewarded with a nice follow-up of a match. The brawling, nasty ringbell shots and Owens diving from the WrestleMania sign were good fun and it was refreshing to see an actual finish: after the dive, Owens pushed Rollins to the ring, hit a stunner and won the match. Finally. Rating: Dulce de camote (sweet potato candy), a treat that can be a pain in the ass to get. Traditionally, it’s sold by a guy that makes a horrible, obnoxious sound from his street cart. If your eardrum manages to survive this diabolical sound, you will get rewarded with a delicious candy. Just like this match: after enduring the painful arc of the match, we were treated to a cool finale.
Jeff Andrews: So Owens killed himself in this match for some reason. I’m not his biggest fan but I’ll never accuse him of not working his ass off. Rollins seems to have really regressed as a worker, but this helped to mask those flaws. Very fun spot-fest, lots of cool moves they probably shouldn’t have done in front of no crowd. A surprisingly good match, and easily my match of the night. God is Dead, Neitzsche was right all along. ***3/4
Jon Hernandez: I’m having a hard time here. These two came out the gate doing every cool move in their respective arsenals, and somewhere around when Rollins hit a gnarly-looking Falcon Arrow on the apron, I was certain we were about to get a wild PWG-esque banger. I went and got a beer and everything! Then everything got dark. Listening to these two talk through every plot point, run through every strange memorized line, made me feel like an idiot. Like my television was calling me a fat, worthless idiot. And that says a lot, because I was already a 33-year-old dude holding a 16 oz. Bud Light, watching four hours of professional wrestling taking place in an empty warehouse headlined by something called a “Boneyard Match”. Even Owens’ killer senton from the WrestleMania sign crop-dusted my living room with that dumb line he yelled out before it. In fairness, this probably would have been my favorite match on the show if they just could have shut the hell up and let me enjoy it. As it ended my girlfriend yelled over from the kitchen, “What are WrestleMania moments and why do they want me to care about it so badly?” ***1/4
WWE Universal Championship
Braun Strowman def. Goldberg (c)
Steve Case: Four spears. Four power slams. Braun wins. Hosses doing hoss things. It was short at least. *1/2
Ricardo Gallegos: This was exactly what I thought it would be. A basic old-man Goldberg match that I enjoyed because it was short. Rating: Alegría, an amaranth and honey candy that is just there. You rarely want to eat one but they’re cheap and enjoyable.
Jeff Andrews: This is a technical masterclass. Eat your heart-out Tanahashi-Okada, this match had everything. You want callbacks? This had callbacks for days. You want technical athletically sophisticated wrestling? I watched flippy-doos I’ve never even seen before in this match. Will Ospreay and Okada will probably try to incorporate aspects of this into their next classic, but I have to think it’ll fall short of living up to the technical precision and mystifying athleticism of this match. I’m of course kidding, this match went two minutes, Braun Strowman finally gets his world title when no one could possibly care, and it was something I could do in the yard with my friend. *
Jon Hernandez: Just before the match JBL warns, “Don’t blink, these two don’t work by the hour.” That’s exactly what I’m counting on, chief. Okay, so it looks like we have a — oh, wait it’s over. **1/2
The Undertaker def. AJ Styles
Steve Case: WOW. What a ride that was. That was not good, but boy did I enjoy the hell out of it. I really don’t know what to even say. This was not to the level of any of the TNA Broken Matt match-movies, but this was easily the best thing WWE has ever done in that realm. As soon as it began I smiled because I knew they went all in with this, and the smile never left. Again, it wasn’t good. But I loved it. I’m not going to micro-analyze it. If you watch one thing from this show, watch this. It’s likely the only thing anyone will remember from Wrestlemania Night 1, and possibly the whole two-day event. Just because I think it’s must see. ****
Ricardo Gallegos: So MANY things to dissect here. Easily the most entertaining match of the night, and maybe of 2020 in WWE. Doing it ‘Final Deletion’ style was totally the right call. Of course, if they were trying to be serious this was a monumental failure, but as a whacky C-level short film with fire blasting out of barns, hands sticking out of the dirt and redneck Taker trash talking AJ before burying him, this was tremendous fun. I got a lot of laughs, Twitter was on fire with the jokes and the VOW slack was definitely having a great time with it.
Sad thing is this (and I’m being completely serious): Undertaker’s best match since WrestleMania 29 was a short film that looked like it was directed by an intern trying too hard to emulate his hero, Robert Rodríguez. Rating: Borrachito, a soft, very sweet candy bathed in wine. Borrachito means ‘small drunk’ because this was planned and directed by someone that was probably intoxicated with alcohol.
Jeff Andrews: If AJ doesn’t try to fuck Undertaker’s wife then he’s doing it wrong and there was no clear progression from his feud with Samoa Joe. This match should open with a headlock from the Undertaker and a stern, “C’mere you,” but we’ll see what’s in the plans. AJ’s mock entrance inspired a smile, Biker Taker not so much. Undertaker’s strikes look pretty good, this is weirdly shot but so far I don’t hate it, but watching AJ do this is pretty disheartening. AJ’s selling and general character work is a genuine highlight in this match I wasn’t expecting. I’ll be the only person on earth enjoying this, I’m sure of it- and it just got weird. Why did I ever assume this wouldn’t be weird. Needing major handicaps to beat up fifty-five year old men is pretty obnoxious but he’s dead or whatever so I guess that’s fine. Listening to AJ call anyone old man at this stage is a trip. What is this. This man just got hit in the head with a shovel. I hate this. Why is he up. What is this magic horseshit. He was half-dead a minute ago. This is 2020 please stop this. Goddammit I hate this. All in all, pretty bad show, but I’m happy to finish this review. Rich, please give me my wife and son back, I did the review, WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!
Jon Hernandez: As this segment was starting my girlfriend sat back down and asked, “Do kids still watch this stuff, or is it just people like you?” Don’t worry, I pretended I couldn’t hear her. Hey, I don’t know if this was good or not, it’s tough to say, but I do know I absolutely love that this is the approach they took. Here’s the thing: I think it’s a disservice to call Wrestlemania a wrestling show. It barely tries to be one. I used to liken Wrestlemania more to something like the VMAs than a wrestling show; a flashy spectacle we were supposed to gather around the TV and watch, and talk about at school the next day. This was completely ridiculous in every single way, just like Wrestlemania is supposed to be. (and weirdly compelling, starting around the point ‘Taker asks, “What’s my wife’s name?”) I don’t want to say much else, and I certainly don’t want to try and give this a star rating, I just think if you have even the slightest bit of curiosity about it you should go watch it. If kids DO still watch this stuff, they won’t soon forget this, and one way or another it’s nice to feel that way about WrestleMania again.