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‘WrestleMania 36’ Recap: Results, Highlights, Analysis

UPDATE: Night 1 of WrestleMania 36 is in the books. It went about as well as WWE could have hoped, given the circumstances. Below you will find our live analysis of the show, as it unfolded.

The most surreal version of WWE’s annual WrestleMania showcase begins Saturday night. 

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, WrestleMania 36 was forced to move from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Instead, the event was pre-taped last week, mostly at the WWE Performance Center, the company’s Orlando training facility. Other matches were filmed on location, like AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker in a “boneyard match.” It will air over two nights, a WWE first, and will be hosted by Rob Gronkowski.

WWE’s decision to proceed with the event, even behind closed doors, was a controversial one. The company says it took steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved but an epidemiologist told Sports Illustrated that those measures were insufficient. 

Here is the full card for Night 1 of WrestleMania 36

  • Pre-show match: Drew Gulak vs. Cesaro
  • Elias vs. King Corbin
  • Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
  • WWE Raw Women’s Championship match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler
  • WWE Intercontinental Championship match: Sami Zayn (c) (with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura) vs. Daniel Bryan (with Drew Gulak)
  • WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship match: John Morrison (c) vs. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston (Triple Threat ladder match)
  • WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match: The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
  • Boneyard match: The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
  • WWE Universal Championship match: Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman

While the show isn’t technically airing live, it’s still live to us, damn it! Stay tuned for updates once the show gets underway at 7 p.m. ET. 

***

And we’re live! A montage of past WrestleMania national anthems gets things going, followed by a video package with a pirate theme (clearly produced before the show was moved from Tampa). 

Intro

Rob Gronkowski gets things started and is joined by Mojo Rawley. 

Match 1: The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

First up is the women’s tag title match. 

It was as good a match as you could expect given the circumstances. Usually the first spot on the card is an opportunity to get the crowd amped. With no crowd, the calculus is a bit different but the women did a good job setting the table. 

No matter the setting, it’s always a treat to see Kairi Sane hit the Insane Elbow. 

In the end, it was the team of Bliss and Cross that came away victorious, via Alexa’s patented Twisted Bliss. 

Match 2: King Corbin vs. Elias

Corbin starts things off with a promo (always a good decision for him) talking about the damage he inflicted upon Elias on SmackDown and saying Elias won’t be able to make it to their match. But lo and behold, the familiar chords of Elias hit and the match gets going. 

Corbin, the consummate heel, uses the silence of the empty arena as an opportunity to directly berate the commentary team of Michael Cole and JBL. 

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And it’s Elias who wins the match with a rollup. A TV-quality match. 

Match 3: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler

It’s a far cry from Becky Lynch’s WrestleMania moment last year, but this is still a huge opportunity for Baszler. Is a full-time move to the main roster on the horizon?

Odd choice to put this match—the only women’s singles match on the card—in the third spot. 

One benefit of the empty arena is the way Baszler’s strikes can be heard clear as day.

Becky retains the title with a clever transition from a submission to a pinning combination. It’s an unsatisfying finish that means we’re probably seeing this feud extended to SummerSlam. 

Perhaps the lackluster finish is the reason the match went on third. The pre-taped nature of the show allows WWE to reorder the card after the fact. If the match didn’t go as well as the company hoped for, it could simply put it in a less significant spot on the card. 

Match 4: Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn

Daniel Bryan’s entrance wouldn’t have been right without the “Yes!” chants, so Gronk and Mojo fill that void. 

No match so far tonight has used dialogue as much as this one. Plenty of banter between Bryan, Zayn and Gulak.

Bryan and Zayn told a great story and Sami retains the title. 

Match 5: John Morrison vs. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston

This match changed at the last minute to a one-on-one-on-one match due to an “injury” to The Miz. In reality, he reportedly showed up to taping with an undetermined illness.

This is another match that sounds even more brutal in an empty venue. Every spot with the metal ladders sounds incredibly painful.

This hurricanrana from Kofi on Morrison might have been the spot of the night thus far. 

Followed immediately by Morrison walking the tight rope and hitting a Spanish Fly. 

You know to expect fireworks when Kofi and Morrison get in the ring together. 

Really good match (it’s tough for a ladder match to disappoint) but such a strange finish. All three men were at the top of the ladders, fighting for control of the titles. Morrison fell backwards off the ladder and too the titles with him, earning the victory. 

Match 6: Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins

These guys started meting out punishment right from the jump. 

It’s another schmoz finish, ending in a disqualification after Rollins hits Owens with the timekeeper’s bell. 

But wait! Owens grabs a mic and says he wants to start over, this time with no disqualifications. That’s a clever idea, but I can’t help but think how much more effective it would have been with an engaged crowd. 

Now they’re really leaning into the no DQ stipulation. Seth wallops KO with a chair. Owens uses the bell on Rollins. 

Owens throws caution out the window and leaps off the WrestleMania sign, sending Rollins through a table. 

Then he hits Seth with the Stunner and gets the 1-2-3 for the victory. 

Match 7: Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman

This means that the AJ Styles-Undertaker “boneyard match” is going to close out the show. Definitely the right call. 

Roman Reigns was supposed to be in the spot of Strowman here but pulled out due to concerns about the coronavirus

And it’s over in the blink of an eye. Strowman makes quick work of the champ and takes the title. 

It’s the rare WWE match that can be described in one sentence: Goldberg hits four spears, Strowman hits four powerslams and that’s it. 

It’s incredible that they had “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt drop the belt to Goldberg and this is the result. 

Match 8: The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles

I think I speak for everyone when I say this is the most anticipated match of the night. It’ll be fascinating to see how WWE presents this one. 

The return of ’Taker’s “American Badass” persona is a great start. 

The cinematography definitely lives up to the hype. It looks unlike anything WWE has produced in a long time. The most WrestleMania-worthy part of the night for sure.

One weird thing is how sound effects appear to have been added in after the fact to make the strikes sound stronger. With ’Taker throwing some weak punches, it definitely stands out. 

The strength is definitely the creativity and presentation, as in this chokeslam from the roof.

Of course Undertaker comes away victorious, burying Styles in the grave Styles had dug for him. He picks up his bandana, hops on his chopper and rides off into the night, putting a bow on the first part of WrestleMania. 

Thanks to everyone who followed along here. The show was definitely better than many people expected it to be. Let’s see if they can keep the momentum going tomorrow night.