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WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night 1) Review

Pro Wrestling

WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night 1) Review

The first half of a no-fans WrestleMania has come and gone. Did they pull it off?

Cesaro vs. Drew Gulak: The opening match was quick, sudden, and abrupt. I thoroughly enjoy Cesaro and was disappointed when we got so little. I felt like the match had just fallen into its groove when it ended. Other than the length of the match, the little bit of it that there was was solid. But it was the pre-show match, so I suppose it wasn’t going to be a 30 minute slug fest.

Kabuki Warriors (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship): Sane and Asuka taunting people and shouting in Japanese will never not be entertaining. That being said, the first five minutes of the match relied on that perhaps a bit much for one match. As that transitioned though, there were some extremely solid tag moves from the champions. The Warriors were in control for most of the first half of the match, however despite that it felt slow and a bit lackluster. The back half picked up as the momentum swung back and forth. However, that ending with the Twisted Bliss was rough. I’m surprised they didn’t do another take. I don’t think it was a terrible match overall, just not one that got me excited for the rest of the matches to come.

King Corbin vs. Elias: Elias was not beat up enough after having fallen on concrete. I felt like there were no lasting effects really at all from what was an extremely grisly fall, and I was very disappointed that didn’t play into the match at all. They could have had Elias get a lot more hits on Corbin before the match started to even the odds. The match itself was solid, though. Nothing stood out to me, but I had no qualms with it whatsoever. It was entertaining enough to keep me off Twitter for it, so all around, it was a good match.

WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night 1) Review

Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler (Raw Women’s Championship): The two ttarted off with strikes and honestly they looked pretty silly, but transitioned within seconds to solid, strong, hard hits. There were some extremely cool reversals from both women and every hit felt hard and brutal. I was surprised there wasn’t as much grappling for a Shayna match, which while I’m not usually a fan of extended grappling sequences, is a bit disappointing. The flow of the match was a constant back and forth, trading impressive blows, which did in a way play into the ending coming out of seemingly nowhere. Hopefully it will be used as a reason for a rematch. 

Becky winning was a huge surprise and maybe not the best move for her long term booking — I don’t know who else they could throw at Becky at this point. The only option I see is Shayna gets a rematch and wins soon at an upcoming PPV. The momentum for Shayna from Elimination Chamber might have been killed completely from this match, but she could regain it. But if they don’t try anything directly after this weekend they will have Shayna stuck in the mud.

Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan (Intercontinental Championship): The first bit had some good comedy spots but I don’t like giving Sami the complete cowardly heel schtick. Daniel Bryan wailing on Zayn almost seemed heelish, not attempting a pin for a while and just looking to squash Sami’s head. I would be interested to know how a crowd would have reacted. 

I am a bit worried that they are establishing Zayn as someone who can’t hold his own. His return was a chance to establish him as a capable contender. I’m worried that this title run will not be a jumping off point for Sami and after it’s done he’ll go back to just losing mid card feuds. 

John Morrison (c) vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jimmy Uso (SmackDown Tag Team Championship): The lack of a crowd really emphasizes how much time is spent setting up ladders. There were some amazing spots though. I especially liked Jimmy slamming Kofi into the ladder and then following up by insulting Kofi. It was a good way to provide some sort of pop with a crowd absent. If there had been a crowd there to react I am sure that the crowd would have been hot the entire time. 

WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night 1) Review

The ending was pretty solid as well. I was hoping that one of them would grab one belt and another one of them grab the other belt, thus forcing a new tag team to be made. However, this was still a solid ending and had me laughing. This was the best in-ring match of the night (the best match overall of course being the Boneyard match).

Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens: I loved Seth’s entrance gear, and I want to see Seth lean into the Messiah gimmick as much as possible, except for that Sami-like cowardly heel aspect of it. He doesn’t do it as much as Sami, but it is there and doesn’t really make sense that Seth would take on a cowardly trait, no matter how minimal.

The match itself had great sequences, they had a good flow to them as each one built up to end in either a reversal or a huge move. The pacing of the match was done extremely well, pulling me in more and more after the exclamation mark at the end of every sequence. The banter between the two was extremely good as well. We need more stuff like that now that we have quiet arenas. This match should be a reference for how to do in-ring banter.

The subsequent match seemed odd and tacked on, however. It could have been interesting but it was just an additional five minutes. It added nothing. Honestly, the match should have ended with Seth getting DQed. Seth losing really kills his legitimacy as the Messiah, he needed to win this. And the DQ finish was good enough.

Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman (Universal Championship): Eh, it was just as I expected: short and boring. I didn’t except Braun to win, but it makes more sense for him to — he’s the better person to have defend the title until Reigns gets back. I honestly didn’t care about this match in any way going in, and don’t care about it now going out. 

WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night 1) Review

The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles (Boneyard Match): I loved this from the moment it started. It felt very much like one of the more cinematic elements of Impact, such as Rosemary or, of course, The Final Deletion. The cheesiness of the whole thing is wonderful. The music, the key changes at the dramatic points throughout the match. I absolutely love when wrestling embraces the fact it is a way of telling a story; that it’s theater. 

I don’t want to see this sort of thing done a lot — wrestling is first and foremost a live event to take place in front of fans. But an occasional segment like this, once or twice a year would add so much more to WWE. I’m hoping that this will encourage the WWE to step back into this realm of cinematic matches after that terrible attempt with the House of Horrors match a few years ago.

This was an amazing match and I absolutely loved it. I have high hopes for the Firefly Funhouse match and for exploring different genres of wrestling in the future.

WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night 1) Review
WWE WrestleMania 36 (Night 1)
Is it good?
The unfortunate truth is, WrestleMania 36 night 1 would have gotten a higher score from me if there was a crowd. It is absolutely no one's fault that there wasn't, but it's hard to imagine what it would have been like with a crowd, so I'm going to have to rate it with how I experienced it and not trying to guess what the score would have been with the crowd.

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