Welcome to the first part of Sports Obsessive’s WrestleMania 36 coverage! Night 1 consisted of 8 matches on the main card, which I’ll be looking at here and then Neil will take over with the Night 2 coverage. The show opened up with several all time great performances of “America the Beautiful” from previous WrestleManias edited together, including performances from Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Gladys Knight and more. It was well put together and gave a definite “Mania vibe” to kick things off. Which is a lot more than can be said for the goody pirate themed video package that followed and was bad WWE comedy at its worst.
Match 1: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross defeated The Kabuki Warriors to become the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions
All four women gave a solid effort here. Michael Cole and JBL, who would be the announce team for the first four matches, went out of their way to put over how this was the biggest win and best showing to date for Cross. They weren’t wrong. This match was good, not great but had it been in front of a live crowd would’ve felt like a much bigger deal and win for the new champs.
One match in and I’m already considering muting the commentary. JBL’s commentary is bad tonight. Hoping for a high energy second match to really get things going and maybe get JBL to step his game up.
Well damn, King Corbin is on his way out to the ring. So much for high energy. Corbin demands that the ref declare him the winner, saying there’s no way Elias will show up after Corbin pushed him off a balcony recently, which means Elias is getting the red hot babyface treatment.
Match 2: Elias defeats Baron Corbin
Before I get on a tangent here, I’ll be complimentary first. Corbin, despite being the recipient of “X-PAC Heat”, is steadily improving and he was great tonight. Elias has always been an entertaining character who connects well with crowds but here tonight he showed true babyface fire, an ability to play the sympathetic underdog, who would’ve had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand when he was selling like his name was Ricky Morton and it was 1987 – had there been a crowd.
That being said, why the hell was Elias happy to win this match with a rollup? Not a decisive win, not inflicting pain on the man who pushed him off a balcony. They did a great job selling this match as a fight between two guys who genuinely didn’t like each other, who wanted to hurt each other, only for it to end with a simplistic finish that was more fluke than decisive. Bad booking to end a really good match.
Match 3: Becky Lynch retains the Raw Women’s Championship, defeating Shayna Bazler
It wasn’t Savage vs Steamboat from WrestleMania 3 but this was really, really good. These two women had an intense, snug, hard-hitting match that wasn’t pretty at all. It was realistic and seemed like two prizefighters during it out for the ultimate prize in their sport. One can’t help but wonder if the outcome would’ve been different had this been on a traditional show. This felt like the right time to crown a new champion but in this setting, it also makes sense for WWE to want to send fans home happy. Becky escapes with the title here with Shayna still looking strong. A rematch is inevitable. Will the outcome be different next time?
Match 4: Sami Zayn retains the Intercontinental Championship over Daniel Bryan
This match should’ve been a show stealer or at least had the potential to be. An indie wrestling fan’s dream, seeing the former Ring of Honor standouts Bryan, Zayn and Caesaro, along with former CZW standout Drew Gulak and NJPW legend Nakamura all a part of the same match, wound up not getting nearly the time it deserved. The match furthered Gulak’s build as a rising star, fighting off Zayn’s backup on the outside which has been great to see, as he’s as talented as they come. The match ended when Bryan came off the top and Zayn caught him with his trademark kick, allowing for a quick 1,2,3. Really hoping this feud continues because this was merely a tease of what could be something great.
Match 5: John Morrison defeated Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles for himself and The Miz
Out of all of the matches on this card, this one suffered the most from not having a crowd. These guys gave it their all, doing their best to live up to a long lineage of great ladder matches at WrestleMania but a thrill ride of a match needs someone to react to the thrills. The ending was a little cute for my liking but ultimately fine as everyone came out looking strong.
Match 6: Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins in a No DQ Match
Kevin Owens wanted a WrestleMania moment and that’s exactly what he got. After Rollins tried to end the match with a DQ finish, Owens called him back to the ring with the No DQ stipulation added. This turned out to be a really fun brawl that saw Owens fly from the top of the Wrestlemania sign, in what will likely be the most talked about moment from both nights. Hopefully this is the beginning of a major babyface push for Owens. That guy is money.
Match 7: Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg to become the new Universal Champion
This one was short and sweet. 4 spears from Goldberg and then an equal amount of power slams from Braun and just like that, a new champ is crowned. Obviously this was supposed to be Roman Reigns walking out with the title so one has to wonder how long Braun will carry the gold. This was a great way to use Goldberg though. Short, sweet and hard-hitting. For as quick as it was, it was one of Goldberg’s better outings.
Match 8: The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match
For those at home that were placing bets on what a Boneyard Match would be, if you guessed filmed like a slasher movie, complete with a running score throughout the whole match that gave off similar vibes to both Matt Hardy’s work in Impact from the Hardy Compound as well as your favorite 80s slasher films, you would be right. It’s hard to grade this one. It was fun, I’ll say that. AJ, Anderson and Gallows were great, as was The Undertaker. Kudos to WWE for knowing the limitations of filming a show in front of an empty arena and taking the chance to essentially film a mini movie here. The Undertaker, now a hybrid of both his deadman persona and his American Badass persona, got to debut this evolved version of his character in a unique manner, with the Night 1 ending with AJ buried alive and Taker riding off on his bike into the night.
So that’s Night 1 of WrestleMania! A fun night of wrestling overall that made the most of the situation the company has found itself in. We’ll be back tomorrow looking at Night 2 of WrestleMania 36!