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KELLER’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA 36 REPORT
APRIL 4, 2020
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT PERFORMANCE CENTER & WWE STUDIOS
AIRED ON TAPE DELAY ON PPV AND WWE NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, JBL
-Stephanie McMahon stood in front of a studio background and said WrestleMania is always different year to year, but tonight’s and tomorrow night’s WrestleMania will the most different of all. She said there won’t be 80,000 screaming fans “due to current circumstances.” She said tonight they emanate from a closed set as well as other locations. She said “other locations” with that patronizing wry smile that is her specialty. She said their goal is to provide a diversion during these hard times and deliver a sense of hope, determination, and perseverance, and most of all entertain you and your family.” She welcomed everyone to WrestleMania.
-A montage aired of past celebrities who sang the National Anthem at WrestleManias in the past. They began with Aretha Franklin, then John Legend, Boys II Men, Ray Charles, Michelle Williams, Fantasia, Little Richard, Aloe Blacc, Gladys Knight, Nicole Scherzinger, Boys Choir of Harlem, Franklin again, Willie Nelson, Charles again.
(Keller’s Analysis: Really nicely done. Those are some big names from past years.)
-A video package aired with a Jack Sparrow style voiceover with some humorous twists and a light-hearted tone. Then AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock We Salute You” (from 1981 when REO Speedwagon were big) then played.
-Rob Gronkowski then stood on the platform at the studio setting above the ring. He welcomed fans and said tonight is too big for one night. He said they picked the right man for the job because he knows how to start a party on a Saturday night and not end it until 36 hours later. He asked Mojo Rawley to join him.
(1) ASUKA & KAIRI SANE vs. NIKKI CROSS & ALEXA BLISS – WWE Women’s Tag Team Title match
Augmented reality graphics appeared of Asuka’s masks as Gronk and Mojo made noise from their platform. They showed Cole and JBL on the screen. Nothing really hugely different in the set other than a gigantic WrestleMania logo to the left of the stage at ringside. It looks like what they hang from the roof in arenas. After some action at ringside, Kairi and Asuka controlled Nikki in the ring. Bliss tagged in, but Asuka and Kairi worked her over, too. Nikki then got a hot-tag and leaped at Kairi for a two count. Kairi raked the eyes of Nikki as Asuka distracted the ref. (What if the ref saw it? What would happen? A good scolding?) Asuka tagged back in and worked over Nikki with rapid-fire strikes, but Nikki blocked her and gave her a neck breaker. Kairi broke up the pin with a top rope elbow. Asuka put Nikki in a sleeper seconds later. Bliss landed a Twisted Bliss to break it up. Sane then hit Bliss. All four were down. Asuka and Kairi double-teamed Cross on the top rope, leading to Sane hitting Nikki with a flying forearm to knock her off of Asuka’s shoulders for a believable near fall. Asuka and Kairi yelled in frustration. Nikki tagged in Bliss, who landed Twisted Bliss on Kairi’s legs and then scored a three count. Cole said that was Nikki’s best performance yet in a WWE ring.
WINNERS: Bliss & Cross in 15:00 to capture the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. (**1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: A solid match, though, with good execution and solid pacing. Opening with a title change is probably good. Maybe the match would have been better trimmed by around 3-5 minutes as it’s just tough without a crowd to work the same type of match that would otherwise work in front of a crowd.)
-Kayla Braxton interviewed Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Cesaro backstage. Sami said he’s The Great Liberator and he knows everybody wants Daniel Bryan to get his hands on Sami and shut him up. He said people think that’s inevitable, but it’s not. He said he’s walking in and walking out of WrestleMania as Intercontinental Champion.
-A commercial aired for WWE t-shirts.
-They showed Shayna Baszler warming up backstage.
(2) KING CORBIN vs. ELIAS
Corbin did some arrogant mic work. Elias came out. C0le acted surprised Elias was cleared to fight. He beat up Corbin at ringside. The ref asked Corbin could go. When Corbin stood, she called for the bell. Cole said some people have compared JBL to Corbin. JBL said he was flattered. Cole listed some bad traits. JBL said he was thinking more about the athleticism. Cole said Corbin is a better athlete than JBL. Corbin took over control shortly into the match. JBL said Elias’s injuries are catching up to him. Corbin complained to the ref about not counting fast enough. She told him to get back to the match and stop complaining. Elias took over until a throat strike. Corbin put a leg on the middle rope to gain illegal leverage. The ref scolded him. As he complained, Elias rolled him up for the three count.
WINNER: Elias in 9:00. (*1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Does Elias win the 24/7 Title by scoring the three count with a roll-up? That was what you’d have expected it to be… unless you were optimistic it’d be really good. Most of energy came from Corbin yelling at the ref over and over. Elias’s rarely heard theme music played after he won. It’s so strange that someone with so much TV time has theme music so unfamiliar to our ears.)
-A video package aired on Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler. They aired Baszler saying she’s going to “kick the living shit out of” Becky and calling her “bitch.” That probably startled a few infrequent viewers checking out WrestleMania with their families who are used to hearing how “PG” WWE is.
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton
(Keller’s Analysis: I appreciate Saxton social spacing from Phillips to set a good example, even though there’s no examples of a human catching COVID-19 from a robot.)
(3) BECKY LYNCH vs. SHAYNA BASZLER – WWE Raw Women’s Title match
Becky drove up to the venue in her semi-truck. Then Baszler’s ring entrance took place. I was thinking this would be the final match on night one. The bell rang and they circled each other, then they swung at each other and slapping noises could be heard. Baszler quickly went for a Kirafuda Clutch, but Becky jumped through the ropes. Baszler went after he at ringside and rammed her into the ringside steps. Becky took over and landed a flying dropkick. She kicked away at Baszler in the corner. They fought on the ring apron a few minutes in. Becky slammed Baszler onto the ring apron edge. She climbed to the top rope. Baszler kicked Becky off balance and yanked her hard to the mat. Baszler applied a Disarm Her, but Becky rolled out of it. Baszler kneed Becky and scored a two count. She applied a Kirafuda Clutch in the ropes, but had to break right before the five count. Baszler swung Becky by her legs into the ring apron. Then she applied the Kirafuda Clutch in the ring. Becky flipped over and bridged Baszler’s shoulders down for the three count.
WINNER: Lynch in 9:00 to retain the Raw Women’s Title. (**3/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m not sure this is the setting to crown new babyface champions, but I don’t think it works as much against a heel winning. Curious how they get Baszler going again since that was a pretty clean loss. It was intense and good from the very start.)
-A commercial for a car company aired with Roman Reigns. Remember him?
-A video package aired on Undertaker and wrestlers talking about “father time” catching up to Taker with his wife, Edge, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels all commenting on knowing when is when. It was a plug for “Undertaker; The Last Ride” limited series coming to WWE Network. A “first look” preview premieres tomorrow night after WrestleMania 36 Night 2.
(4) SAMI ZAYN (w/Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro) vs. DANIEL BYRAN (w/Drew Gulak)
Bryan came out first and was cheered by Mojo and Gronk from the platform. Then Sami made his entrance. Cole said Sami might be the most annoying man in the history of WWE. Chaos early with Cesaro, Nakamura, and Sami all playing mind games early and creating distractions. Cole said you have to wonder when frustration is going to set in for Bryan. Lots of noise early from those at ringside. Cole said he had to expect this was going to happen, though. Sami bailed out of the ring and crawled away. Bryan chased after him, but Nakamura and Cesaro blocked him. Drew leaped off the ring apron and knocked Cesaro and Nakamura over. He backdropped a charging Cesaro over the barricade. He knocked Nakamura over the barricade, too. Sami and Gulak faced off at ringside. When Sami tried to retreat and get counted out, Bryan chased him down and tackled him, then dragged him by his hair back into the ring. Sami made a pitch to Bryan that this wasn’t supposed to happen and he should just join them. Bryan mounted Sami and punched away at him. Bryan seemed amused. Sami caught Bryan with an elbow and took over. He punched away at Bryan’shead and then landed a hard leaping clothesline. He recovered a bit and yelled in pain and also excitement over finally taking over. JBL said he’s never heard anyone talk as much as Sami during a match. Bryan came back with his own clothesline and then a series of Yes kicks a minute later. JBL called it “a full on assault.” As Drew chanted “Yes!” Nakamura and Cesaro attacked him and threw him into the steps. Bryan dove through the ropes and tackled them. He then climbed to the top rope and leaped, but Sami caught caught him out of mid-air with a Helluva Kick for a three count. Cole credited Cesaro and Nakamura for giving Sami the edge. JBL said Sami is the ultimate survivalist.
WINNER: Sami in 10:00 to retain the IC Title. (**1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Solid match, but it wasn’t aiming to be a classic or anything. Lots of energy generated by the wrestlers at ringside and a lot of yelling by Sami. Bryan seemed genuinely amused by Sami’s antics at times. I’m glad to see Sami keep the IC Title as he needed a big win to gain some credibility, although it might also be a sign WWE sees Bryan looking at exiting by the end of the year when his contract expires.)
-Commecials aired including the Edge special on WWE Network.
(5) JOHN MORRISON vs. KOFI KINGSTON vs. JIMMY USO – Ladder Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles
They each set up ladders mid-ring early. Uso took an early spill and sold a leg injury. Morrison beat him down as soon as he stood, then turned back to Kofi. A few minutes in, Uso went for a suplex on Morrison while the ladder was bridged in the corner, but Morrison blocked it and landed Starship Pain on Uso on the ladder. A few minutes later Morrison landed a Spanish Fly on Kofi. Kofi and Uso climbed a ladder mid-range minute later. Kofi knocked Uso to the mat and then climbed the ladder higher. He got his hand on the belts, but Morrison met him up there. The knocked each other over. Kofi kicked Morrison out of the ring to the floor, then blocked Uso jabbing him with the ladder. The ladder was bridged from the middle rope to the other ladder mid-ring. Uso threw Kofi face-first into the ladder. Kofi took a hell of a bump. Morrison leaped off the ladder at Uso, but Uso kicked him out of mid-air. Uso then set up a ladder in the corner and looked at Morrison who was lying on a bridged ladder. Morrison popped up and tipped Uso off the ladder to ringside. All three ended up climbing ladders mid-ring and all three pulled the title belts down. JBL said he’s never seen that. Uso headbutted Morrison off the ladder and he bumped onto the bridged ladder, then rolled to the mat with the belts in his arms, so Morrison technically won. Cole called it an incredible ladder match that stole the show. JBL touted how amazing it was, too.
WINNER: Morrison in 19:00 to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles for him and Miz. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: Nicely done, all in all. Three good athletes kept the pace up and took some big bumps without go overboard with diminishing returns. The highlight of the night so far, but I’d rather come to that conclusion myself as a viewer rather than have Cole and JBL be quite so heavy-handed with their immediate declaration of how great it was.)
Given the format and execution of #WrestleMania on night one, are you overall happy they didn't cancel or postpone the event?
— Pro Wrestling Torch (@PWTorch) April 5, 2020
-A video package aired on Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens.
(6) SETH ROLLINS vs. KEVIN OWENS
KO took early control at ringside and tossed Seth into the ringside barricade. Owens set up a powerbomb on the ring apron, but Seth backdropped out of it and took over. He gave KO a Falcon Arrow on the ring apron. Seth tackled KO with a running dive through the ropes, then yelled at him. “I warned you what happens when the lights are brightest, Kevin,” he said. “I become a god.” He dove at KO again and then said he’s making it too easy. He said he’s a disappointment and asked what his kids are going to think of him. Back in the ring Seth landed a slingblade. A couple minutes later they went back and forth mid-ring. Both went down, but KO got the better of it. “Come on, god!” KO said as he set up Seth for a superplex. Seth escaped with a sunset flip buckle bomb in the opposite corner. He landed two quick superkicks and then went for a Stomp, but KO hit a Pop-up Powerbomb for a two count. Both were slow to get up. KO pursued Seth at ringside. Seth hit KO in the head with the ring bell. The ref DQ’d Seth. KO was declared the winner. KO’s music began playing as Seth smiled. Phillips said Seth was a trying to intentionally get himself DQ’d.
KO took the mic and yelled, “Seth, no no no. It won’t end this way. I thought at WrestleMania you were god. Those weren’t the actions of a god, those were the actions of a little bitch.” He told him to finish it once and for all with a no DQ stipulation. Seth agreed to it.
Seth went after KO a ringside. He asked the ref, “I can’t do whatever I want?” He picked up the ringside steps and bashed KO in the head with it. (That was nasty and unacceptably stiff. Maybe they added a sound effect and it wasn’t as bad as it looked.) Seth then bashed KO with a chair across his back and shoulder. Seth tore apart the announce table as they replayed the chairshots. Then KO bashed Seth with the ring bell himself. The he hit him with the wood base of the bell, too flush in the head. KO plead off of the WrestleMania sign with a flying elbow drop onto Seth on the announce table. “How’s this for a WrestleMania Moment?” asked KO before he leaped. Seth gasped for air and moaned in pain. Back in the ring, Seth told KO he’s done enough. KO kicked him in the gut and gave him a Stunner, then scored a three count. “Kevin Owens has burned it down at WrestleMania,” Phillips said. They replayed it from a few angles.
WINNER: Owens in 17:00. (***1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: This was as good as you’d expect these two to produce under these circumstances. That big move off the sign was a great visual, and I’m glad they finished it right afterward in the ring with a Stunner.)
-Phillips hyped the Drew McIntyre special on WWE Network after WrestleMania tonight.
-As Charly Caruso was introducing a backstage interview, Paul Heyman came up behind her. She said he “scared the hell out of him.” Heyman said Brock Lesnar isn’t one amongst us, but is a super-being, another species. He said Drew is going to learn this first-hand tomorrow night. He said he will crawl out of the ring victimized by the greatest title holder who has ever blessed the WWE ring with his mere presence.
(Keller’s Analysis: Heyman almost channeled Goldust there, especially with the deep breath at the end.)
(7) GOLDBERG vs. BRAUN STROWMAN – Universal Title match
Braun came out first. Cole called it an incredible opportunity tonight. JBL said this is one of the best opportunities he’ll have. No mention of Roman Reigns here, which is just bizarre. It’s like they’re mad at him and pretending he never existed. Goldberg walked out of his locker room with the Universal Title over his shoulder and a gray beard growing in. JBL compared him to George Foreman, Muhammed Ali, and The Rock as one of the greatest of all time because he made a comeback and won big. Goldberg was chomping on gum during his ring entrance. He let out a big yell. Braun didn’t flinch. JBL said, “Don’t blink, neither of these men get paid by the hour.” They trash-talked mid-ring. Goldberg got in the first kick to the gut. Strowman side-stepped him and picked him up and set up a running powerslam. Goldberg slipped out and speared Braun. Then he hit a second spear. Braun got up. He hit a third spear. Braun kicked out. (Not as big of a moment without a crowd pop.) Goldberg waited for Braun to stand, then speared him a fourth time. He stomped the mat and let out a yell. Cole said Goldberg “is in a zone here at WrestleMania.” Braun countered a Jackhammer attempt into a powerslam. Then a second powerslam. “Just bomb after bomb after bomb,” said JBL. And a third powerslam. Cole said Braun was man-handling the Universal Champion. Braun then hit a running powerslam for the 1-2-3. Strowman showed real fire as he yelled “This is my time!” and his music played.
WINNER: Braun Strowman in 3:00 to capture the Universal Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: You knew that’d be quick, and it was just a matter of who would win quickly. You have to wonder if that was essentially the script for a Roman Reigns win if he had participated. I get moving on from Goldberg, but it does seem now that Reigns won’t have that Goldberg moment to add to his list. Although at this point, who knows if Roman even ever existed, right? I think the crowd would have popped for Strowman beating Goldberg like that, if there was a crowd.)
-A video package hyped the A.J. Styles-Undertaker feud.
(8) UNDERTAKER vs. A.J. STYLES – Boneyard Match
A hearse backed into a graveyard. Druids opened a casket out of the back and out popped Styles. He was all smiles and said it was a great ride and it wan’t scary at all. He yelled out for Undertaker and said he was ready. He heard a motorcycle in the background. They added “Now That We’re Dead” by Mteallkica as Taker drove up with multiple camera angles of his arrival on a road outside the graveyard. Styles smiled and rubbed his hands together with anticipation as Taker walked into the graveyard. Styles said, “Come on, old man, let’s see what you’ve got.” They kept with music in the background that gave it a cinematic fight scene vibe. Taker called him “Allen” and asked, “Where are you going, son?” They added sound effects for punches like in TV and movies. He threw an elbow at Styles against a car window. Styles ducked and Taker cut his arm on the window. He threw Styles onto the windshield next. Taker told Styles, crawling on the roof, “There’s nowhere else to go, son.” Taker knocked Styles into a grave. He looked down and asked how it feels down there. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows showed up. Anderson said, “We’re just getting started!” Taker walked over to them. Then there were suddenly bright lights behind a fence.
Druids showed up and pushed over the fence. Taker said, “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it.” He fended off the druids, but was overwhelmed by Anderson and Gallows. Taker fought back with a handle of a shovel. Styles then hit Taker from behind and crashed a vase over his head. Styles beat on Taker, then told him to just give up and retire “and let me bury you.” Styles speared Taker through a fence. Taker moaned in pain. “You just don’t have it anymore, old man,” Styles said. Then sad music played as Taker sat up, gasping for breath. Styles called him a broken shell of what he used to be. Styles said Taker isn’t a American Badass, he’s a broken down old bitch. Styles broke a shovel across the back of Undertaker, who then fell into the grave. Styles dropped dirt over him and said, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Styles started up a digger and was about to pour dirt on Taker, but Taker showed up behind him. Cue the dramatic comeback music. Styles got wide-eyed as Taker punched him to the ground. Taker raised his arms as Styles tried to run and suddenly there were flashes of light. Styles ran to a roof. Taker fought off Anderson and Gallows on the roof. He gave Anderson a Tombstone on the roof, then chokeslammed Styles off the roof. The back of Styles’s head crashed through some wood boards.
Taker walked over to Styles and asked if he remembers his wife’s name. He leaned over and said, “Why don’t you tell me how old you are? Hurt my legacy? Stay with me, boy. I’m not done yet. We’re just getting started.” He dragged Styles up by his arm, but Styles was just out of it. Taker lifted Styles and carried him over to the grave. Styles said he’s sorry. Taker asked him to tell him what he’s sorry for. He leaned over and said, “Your ribs hurt, don’t they?” Styles begged Taker, “Don’t bury me.” Taker picked up Styles and asked if he still thinks he’s an old man. Styles said, “I’m sorry.” Taker said he put up a hell of a fight. Taker said he just fought his ass off. He cradled him in his arms and appeared to be showing signs of respect. “There’s a lot of people who haven’t given me that kind of a fight. We’re good, brother.” Taker turned his back and began to walk away. Then he kicked Styles in the chest and sent him into the grave. Styles was flat on his back in the Elias position as Taker stared down at him. Taker started up a dirt digger and poured dirt over Styles’s body. His gong sounded. He got off the vehicle and wiped away some weeds and a gravestone said, “A.J. Styles: Rest in Peace: 1997-2020.” Taker limped away, picking up his head scarfs and putting it on, then riding away on his motorcycle. Metallica played again as Taker sped off and a graphic plugged part two of WrestleMania tomorrow night.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was really really well done for what they were going for. It’s so far off the beaten path of what pro wrestling is, but if you are willing to accept under these circumstances and with the Taker gimmick something out of the ordinary, that was well produced and satisfying.)