Heniff’s WWE WrestleMania 36 Review: No Man’s Land

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WWE’s 36th installment of WrestleMania took place Saturday and Sunday night at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida for the first time ever. The event took place with zero fans in attendance to take in the spectacle (if you don’t count Mojo Rawley and WrestleMania host Ron Gronkowski standing on a nearby perch). Night 1 was main-evented by a Boneyard Match between AJ Styles and the Undertaker, while Night 2 was highlighted by the clash between Royal Rumble winner Drew McIntyre and the WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar.

NIGHT ONE:

Kabuki Warriors (C) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross

There was a lot of taunting and jaw-jacking from the champs throughout this match. I thought it was pretty funny when Kairi knocked Bliss down and fussed with the bow in the latter’s hair. Although the challengers are former champions themselves, I was surprised they got as much offense in this match as they did, specifically because Asuka and Kairi have been booked over the last few months to be able stand toe-to-toe with the top of the women’s division in Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. But, all of the offensive moves from all four women looked believable and helped build up the drama in this match. Kairi focused a lot of her offense on Bliss by doing usual heel tricks like pulling Bliss’ hair and stomping on her head from the top-rope. Asuka utilized a lot of knee-based strikes, especially to Bliss’ mid-section. After several minutes of Alexa receiving attacks from the Warriors, Nikki tagged in full of fire and fury, highlighted with a big cross-body on Kairi (which resulted in a close two-count). Nikki hit a spinning neck breaker on Asuka and went for the pin, but it was broken up by Kairi flying out of the sky with an elbow drop from the top rope. Asuka countered a waist-lock into an Asuka Lock, but that was interrupted by Bliss reentering the match with a Twisted Bliss landing on-top of the two women. But as soon as Alexa rose to her feet, she was quickly dealt a full-force spear from Sane, leaving all four women on the mat momentarily. We saw a modified power bomb from Asuka with Sane hitting a clothesline on an elevated Cross (kind of like a Doomsday Device into a power bomb) that again only resulted in a two-count. With their frustration mounting, Kairi got caught in Cross’ clutches and was delivered a swinging neck breaker of her own. Follow that up with a Twisted Bliss (that mostly hit Kairi’s knees), and you have new Women’s Tag Team Champions. A good match to start the show.

Winner: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross           Time: 15:05          Rating: 2 Stars

Elias vs. King Corbin

Despite thinking he had disposed of WWE’s resident songbird, King Corbin got the surprise of the weekend seeing Elias emerge (relatively) healthy from the the back. Elias took advantage of an over-anxious Corbin running at him by delivering a guitar-shot to the King’s back. Elias was emotionally driven throughout this match in exacting revenge for Corbin’s attack two weeks ago on SmackDown, mostly by delivering some revenge clotheslines and boots to Baron’s throat. Corbin was able to get a second to breathe after he took Elias’ oncoming momentum and propelled him over the top-rope to the outside. The King focused a majority of his offense on the Drifter’s injured right shoulder, specifically by driving him into the ring post multiple times throughout the match. Late in the match, Elias ripped off his shirt in fury after throwing Corbin into the corner and kept punching and kicking the downed King of the Ring. Corbin was able to enter one last grasp of offense with a Deep Six that resulted in a close two-count later on. Corbin attempted another pin attempt with his knees on the ropes, but the referee caught him and ended the count. While Corbin was arguing the decision, Elias rolled up the King (with a handful of tights) to score the pinfall. A fine match.

Winner: Elias           Time: 9:00          Rating: 1.5 Stars

Becky Lynch (C) vs. Shayna Baszler

After feeling each other out with multiple punches to each other’s mid-section, Shayna attempted to lock in her Kirifuda Clutch. Becky immediately escaped the hold and the ring to gather her bearings. Becky then grabbed Shayna and bounced her head off the announce table and threw her body into the ring steps nearby. Once they were back in the ring, Shayna would attempt another Kirifuda, but Becky slid out of the hold and knocked down the Queen of Spades. The Man followed up this attack by dropping the former NXT Women’s Champion on her back on the ring apron, resulting in a close two-count. Shayna would then lock-in an arm-bar, but Becky would roll her into a pinning predicament that resulted in only a two-count. Shayna would regain control of Becky’s left arm and place her in a Dis-Arm-Her, but the Lass Kicker would escape again, but not before a brutal-looking knee to the face by the challenger. Shayna would continue her assault by picking up Becky in a powerbomb-formation and throw the champion’s body into the announce table like she did last week on RAW. One last Kirifuda attempt, but this time, Becky borrowed from the playbook of Ember Moon and Kairi Sane and rolled back on the hold and pinned Shayna’s shoulders to the mat for the three-count. I was really hoping Shayna would win the belt here, but again, she’s lost multiple matches like that before in NXT. She lost her first attempt at the NXT Championship against Ember Moon at Takeover: Philadelphia before she went on to be the most dominant woman on the NXT roster in a post-Asuka era. I expect her to overcome this loss much like she did in NXT.

Winner: Becky Lynch           Time: 8:30          Rating: 2 Stars

Sami Zayn (C) vs. Daniel Bryan

It’s a damn shame this dream match is happening at WrestleMania in front of zero fans. This is on par with AJ Styles fighting Shinsuke Nakamura in New Orleans or Neville fighting Austin Aries on the WrestleMania 33 pre-show. The first few minutes of this match featured Zayn avoiding Bryan and rolling out of the ring for near 10-counts on the outside. Eventually, Bryan got sick of this and ran after Zayn, but was stopped on two different occasions by brick walls called Cesaro and Nakamura, respectively. Bryan’s new compatriot in Drew Gulak got annoyed with this “interference” and knocked both henchmen of the “Artist’s Collective” out of the match for a few minutes. At this point, Bryan allowed Zayn to walk halfway up the entrance ramp as a gesture of mercy, but quickly showed his true intentions when he ran after the Intercontinental Champion and dragged him back into the ring. Zayn began pleading for his health and mercy after Bryan delivered a dragonscrew leg whip before an assault of head stomps and forearms to the side of the head. This part of the match felt like a reckoning for Zayn’s months of being an annoying smart-mouth heel messing with babyfaces since he first started teaming up with Nakamura. Once Cesaro and Nakamura regained consciousness, Bryan knocked them out again with a suicide dive on the outside. But when he returned to the top rope for a big move, the Intercontinental Champion smashed Bryan’s face in with a huge big boot Helluva Kick that gave Zayn his first victory at WrestleMania. A good match psychologically wise, but I feel like Bryan and Zayn can easily top this effort.

Winner: Sami Zayn           Time: 9:20          Rating: 2.5 Stars

John Morrison (C) vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jimmy Uso

Having only three competitors fight for tag team championship belts is very, very weird. Removing the Miz, Big E, and Jey Uso from this match really hurt its chemistry, in my opinion. I will say that I laughed out loud at the spot where Jimmy Uso knocked over a ladder at John Morrison, but it missed him and landed in-between him and its triangle, giving him the opportunity to thumb Jimmy in the eye for his efforts. Morrison would use the next few minutes to bash Uso’s knees with a nearby ladder. Kofi nailed a big Trust Fall over the top rope onto Morrison. When he regained his balance, Kofi threw a ladder at full speed right square at Jimmy Uso’s legs as the latter was tightroping the ringside barricade. With Jimmy Uso incapacitated on the outside of the ring, both Kofi and Johnny had similar thoughts in trying to remove one of their opponents permanently from the match to make their lives easier. Morrison tightroped across the top rope to Kingston’s respective ring post and pulled him close to deliver a spectacular-looking top-rope Spanish Fly. Just then, Jimmy spontaneously appeared on top of the ring post to deliver an Uso Splash onto Morrison immediately following the Spanish Fly. As all three set-up ladders in the middle of the ring, Jimmy made sure to drive his New Day frenemy face-first into a sideways ladder. Before Jimmy could make a substantial attempt at grabbing the belts, Morrison would push Uso off the ladder to the outside ring area (with nothing breaking his fall!) in a move we usually only see in video games! I absolutely loved the ending of this match with all three men grabbing onto the championship belts and rung. But ultimately, a dual headbutt from both of his opponents caused Morrison to fall backwards onto a set-up ladder (with both titles in his hands), giving his team the victory. A creative finish to a very fun match.

Winner: John Morrison           Time: 18:30          Rating: 3 Stars

Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins

Much like Sami Zayn and Daniel Bryan earlier, this match is an ROH all-time roster dream match brought to life. Owens just dominated this match early on (more than likely taking umbrage with Rollins’ comments about Owens’ WrestleMania legacy on RAW two weeks ago). He made sure to let the Monday Night Messiah know about his retorts via crushing Rollin’s torso with a couple of running sentons in the ring. Rollins was able to gather a string of offense together highlighted by a backdrop to Owens on the ring apron, immediately followed up by a Falcon Arrow on the ring apron. Rollins followed up these two devastating maneuvers with two suicide dives on the outside. I should note that in-between all of these moves, Rollins continued to trash-talk his opponent in-between all of these offensive maneuvers to show off his recently developed “better than you” demeanor. Rollins was able to catch Owens with a Buckle Bomb, followed by two super kicks, and attempted a stomp before he was cut-off with a Pop-Up Powerbomb that only resulted in a two-count. Rollins then scratched and clawed his way to escape from anymore torment and smashed the ring bell into Owens’ head for an immediate disqualification. At this point, I was very disappointed in this lame finish to a solid match. But thankfully, the match was restarted as a no-disqualification match thanks to KO’s prodding and Rollins’ huge ego. Things take an immediate violent turn as Rolllins delivered a set of steel ring steps to Owens’ head and several stiff chair shots to Owens’ back and chest. Luckily for Owens, he was able to give out a couple of ring bell shots to the Beastslayer’s head to incapacitate him on top of the announce table. From there, Kevin Owens delivered a WrestleMania moment unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years with an elbow drop off the top of the WrestleMania sign (conveniently placed behind the announcer’s table). Followed up by a Stunner, we have a new winner in Kevin Owens. Now THAT was a WrestleMania-worthy match and finish.

Winner: Kevin Owens           Time: 17:20          Rating: 3 Stars

Goldberg (C) vs. Braun Strowman

After sizing each other up, Goldberg delivered three spears to Strowman back-to-back-to-back (although the last one looked a little weak). He hit one more and went for the cover, but only got a count of two-and-15/16ths. This gave Braun just the bit of time he needed to get his energy back and deliver 4 Powerslams to score the pinfall. This was an overly simplistic match that had no business being on a “WrestleMania” card. That being said, I’m happy that Braun FINALLY has a world championship belt around his waist (if you ask me, it’s three years overdue, but again, I’m happy he has a belt period). Bad match, but I’ll throw on an extra half-star on the rating purely because the right man won this match.

Winner: Braun Strowman           Time: 2:10           Rating: 1 Star

Undertaker vs. AJ Styles

I loved the image of AJ arriving to the “boneyard” in a hearse and emerging from a casket. I loved it almost as much as I loved the return of the American Badass riding a motorcycle to “Now That We’re Dead” by Metallica into the boneyard. I am a huge American Badass Undertaker fan, so I was very happy he channeled that old incarnation for this match-up. After an initial lock-up, Undertaker attempted to bash AJ’s brain in with a metal pipe, but he missed and hit the hearse window instead, cutting the Deadman’s arm. Pissed off from his injury, Undertaker followed AJ around the hearse and threw him onto the hearse’s windshield back-first. (Side-note: I loved all the trash-talking Undertaker was doing in this match. We haven’t seen that from Undertaker in quite a few years). After a little bit more brawling, Undertaker was able to throw AJ into an open grave. But suddenly, Gallows and Anderson appeared to introduce a barn house filled with druids who would circle the Undertaker like a Bruce Lee kung fu movie. After picking off each druid and taking care of both Gallows and Anderson, AJ nailed Undertaker in the back of the head with a gravestone to incapacitate the Deadman. I have to note here I loved the Hellenic choir soundtrack backing this match up. AJ ramped up his own trash-talking as he tackled Undertaker through a fence before hitting him with a shovel, knocking the Phenom into the open grave. AJ entered a nearby front loader to dump dirt on the grave, but then the Undertaker appeared behind him and began his comeback. Trying to escape, AJ climbed up on top of the nearby barn, where Undertaker was able to dispose of Gallows and Anderson by throwing him off the roof and Tombstone-ing him on the roof, respectively. As for AJ, he was dealt a chokeslam off the roof onto some pallets down below. Undertaker took this opportunity to bring up AJ’s past insults to the Deadman’s age and his wife Michelle McCool over the last few weeks before throwing the Phenomenal One into the grave, dumped the front loader’s dirt on top of AJ’s lifeless body, and rode out of the boneyard. Cheesy, hokey, and reminiscent of the Ultimate Deletion match from two years ago, I loved this schlocky piece of footage. A great way to end night one of WrestleMania.

Winner: The Undertaker          Time: 19:00           Rating: 3.5 Stars

NIGHT TWO:

Rhea Ripley (C) vs. Charlotte Flair

First off, shout-out to Rhea for her Vegeta-inspired ring gear. I wish I could say Charlotte was thinking the same thing, but she wasn’t paying Rhea any mind during the latter’s entrance, turning her back as the NXT Women’s Champion made her arrival. I loved the sequence of Charlotte chopping Rhea while counting off all of the championships she’s won in her (still young) career. Luckily, Rhea was able to add some offense in of her own and threw Charlotte into the corner and delivered a huge kick to the chest. Rhea took advantage of a dazed Charlotte and delivered an early Riptide for a count of two-and-a-half. Charlotte took this opportunity to roll out of the ring and collect her breath and reassess her game plan, which made her angrily run back in the ring to effectively launch it. Both women would end up wrapped up near the ring ropes and fall out into the outside. Back in the ring, Ripley hit an overhead suplex and went for another early pin, but only received a two-count for her efforts. Charlotte would catch Rhea’s left knee in the ropes and aggravate an injury Charlotte inflicted on NXT a few weeks ago. From here, the majority of Charlotte’s offense revolved around stomping and bending the left leg. For her part, Rhea did a phenomenal job wailing in pain around the ring while simultaneously refusing to quit. An excellent image. Charlotte would go on to drive Rhea’s leg into the ring post multiple times as the latter continued to sell the greater damage done to her knee. But all Flair has to do is go back to work on the knee and smugly smile at her work. Rhea was able to muster the power to lift up Charlotte in an Electric Chair position before slamming her face into the mat, which again, only amounted to a two-count. Rhea’s pain and resilience began giving way to frustration that her knee kept giving out on her and prevented her from fighting at her highest potential. Meanwhile, the Queen continued rolling out more chop blocks and knee drops direct from her father’s move-set. During all of this offense, Rhea did her best to desperately avoid a Figure Four Leg Lock, which would spell the end for her with the state of her leg. Luckily for her, she could maneuver her frame a bit to catch Charlotte in a standing Cloverleaf. After the rope-break, Charlotte would try to put an end to moves like that by executing a Boston Crab. Both women were exhausted by this point in the match, but the end is near. Even though Charlotte missed her moonsault (again) on Rhea, she quickly followed up with a spear to knock the wind out of the champion. This was the opportunity she needed to lock-in a Figure Four (that she would bridge into a Figure Eight) that would finally cause Rhea to break and tap out. Charlotte Flair is now the second woman to win the NXT Women’s Championship twice in a great performance of storytelling, action, and emotion. A superb performance by both women.

Winner: Charlotte Flair           Time: 20:30          Rating: 4 Stars

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley

Why is this match happening? I’m a big fan of Aleister, and Lashley is a fine strongman character to have on TV, but this match has no fuel or buzz to it. You could literally do this match on RAW and achieve the same result. Anyway, Lashley took over early after winning a few feats of strength, but when he tried to turn his force into a centralized strike, he overshot Black and flew over the top rope. Black took this opportunity to attempt a moonsault on the outside, but missed and instead was the recipient of an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Lashley dragged him back into the ring and locked on a chin lock for a few seconds before hitting a neck-breaker. A powerslam a short while later would only yield a two-count for the All Mighty. He hit Black with another overhead suplex, but again, only got a two-count. Bobby attempted a running cross-body but was countered by a well-placed kick to the face. Black was able to score a little bit of offense here (highlighted by connecting a moonsault to the outside), but it was quickly halted by a running cross-body and clothesline combo. Lashley began setting up for a Dominator, but Lana quickly stood up on the ring apron and commanded him to spear Black instead. Seeing nothing wrong with that request, Lashley threw down Black and confidently walked to the opposite corner. But Black heard the creeping death approaching him in a charging spear and locked on with a Black Mass kick to get the pin and win the match. Mediocre match, but I do like this ending because it can lead to an interesting turn with Lana and Lashley’s characters.

Winner: Aleister Black          Time: 7:20          Rating: 1.5 Stars

Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler

Why is Sonya coming out with Ziggler? Are they suddenly a pair now? Does she just despise Otis? Good idea by Otis to run right at Dolph as the former’s music was playing for his entrance. After the opening bell, Otis caught Dolph in the corner and began driving his 300+ pound frame into ZIggler’s midsection. Otis should have kept his foot on the gas, as he took his eye off of Dolph for one second and was dealt a super kick, which sent the Heavy Machinery member out of the ring. Ziggler took this opportunity to throw Otis into the ring post and attempt a pin, but only received a two-count. Dolph continued his assault by wearing down his opponent with headlocks and chin locks in the middle of the ring. But Otis was able to get the momentum back by catching a dropkick and catapulting Dolph into the second rope on the opposite side of the ring. I don’t know if you would call this “Hulking Up,” but Otis started getting his groove on and launched a few knockdown clotheslines to start an offensive tirade that ended with him delivering a solo Compactor in the middle of the ring. At this point, Sonya Deville stood up on the ring apron (distracting the referee and Otis) as Dolph kicked his opponent right in the taint to give himself some time to breathe. Just then, Mandy Rose’s music played as she marched down to the ring, slapped the sense out of Sonya and uppercutted Ziggler’s package into his gut. With Dolph incapacitated, this was Otis’ opportunity to break out a Caterpillar and add injury to insult. Otis gets the win, and he gets the girl in a conclusion to one of the most interesting storylines in WWE over the last few months.  I’m pretty sure Otis can win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania one day, and we’ll all be wondering if that’s as great a moment as winning this match and kissing Mandy Rose (probably not).

Winner: Otis          Time: 8:15          Rating: 2.5 Stars

Edge vs. Randy Orton

The match began with a RKO out of nowhere during Orton’s entrance (while Edge was focused on the stage waiting for the Viper’s arrival, Orton snuck into the ring disguised as a cameraman to score the first strike). After Edge struggled to his feet, Orton nailed another RKO after the bell rang to start the match. Orton dominated here in the beginning by bashing Edge in the head with a camera and knocking him over the ringside barricade, leading him to the backstage area gym. Orton tied up Edge’s head and neck in a suspension cable and punched him multiple times while he was incapacitated. While Orton was carrying over a large weight plate, Edge executed his first offensive maneuver of the match and dropkicked Orton, causing him to drop the weight and fall over the equipment. After Edge threw Orton over a medical trainer’s table, Edge attempted to throw Orton into a steel-plated wall, but was Irish whipped into it by Orton instead. With the Rated-R Superstar hurt, Orton grabbed a nearby running sled to attempt to ram it into Edge before the latter escaped before impact. The two began brawling through the backstage receiving area back to the main arena where Orton threw Edge into a WrestleMania LED sign and then the ringside barricade. (9-count) The two then move to a conference room area where Edge slammed the Viper’s head onto a steel table. Edge used the table once again by climbing up on a steel-plated ceiling and dropped an elbow on Orton who was laying prone on the table. From here, the two moved on to a storage area where they battled through ladders, road cases, and assorted boxes. Orton slammed Edge’s head into some nearby ring steps, but again, the WWE Hall of Famer made it to his feet at nine. Orton would then drag Edge to a nearby interview area and then stomp on the latter’s right hand. Before Orton can cause anymore damage, Edge would nail a kick to the midsection and set Orton on top of a nearby table. The Ontario native would then climb up to a nearby perch via a ladder and land an elbow drop on Orton from a height of at least 10 feet. Amazingly, both men made an eight-count.

One thing I noticed at this point in the match was I had been seeing the same type of moves (punches, axe-handles, forearms to the back, throwing each other into walls) over-and-over-and-over again. Honestly, this match became very boring and started moving at a snail’s pace  once they left the gym until they got to the storage area in the back. Orton dragged Edge to a nearby truck and issued a draping DDT on-top of the truck’s bed cover. Edge found the strength to begin climbing up a nearby trailer as Orton slowly lurked behind him on the same path. Orton set up for a punt to the side of Edge’s head, but the latter was able to see his former friend’s move beforehand and speared him on top of the trailer. He attempted to capitalize on this with one more spear, but Orton turned the tables on the move and delivered a RKO of his own. Sensing that the end was near, Orton climbed down and grabbed two steel chairs to bring back up toward Edge and the referee. As he prepared to deliver a final Con-Chair-To blow, Edge shot up and locked-in a sleeper hold to knock out the Legend Killer, placing his head on the steel chair. As the referee began to count, Edge swore him off and thought of the evil he had to do not only to win the match, but avenge all the pain and suffering Orton had caused him and his family over the last 11 weeks. Edge was wracked with emotion, nearly on the cusp of tears, but ultimately resigned to his fate and delivered one of the sickest Con-Chair-To shots I’ve ever seen. Edge is your winner.

This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I did not like this match. I liked the beginning cameraman spot and the sequence in the gym, as well as the sequence inside the storage area capitalized by one of the most emotionally gripping conclusions to a story we’ve seen in recent memory. But everything in-between was just completely unremarkable and unmemorable. it felt like the two were just killing time (for God knows what reason) before the final minutes. If I have to check my watch to see how long the match has been going on, that’s not a good sign. Again, great beginning and end, but a totally boring middle that with no noticeable drawbacks to the story or their history. (Not everything needs to be a spot-fest, but do something than just forearm each other in the back around the arena).

Winner: Edge           Time: 36:35          Rating: 2 Stars

Street Profits (C) vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory

Compared to the previous match, this tag match felt like it just flew by. The Street Profits took control early in the match and delivered a lot of tag-team-based moves like setting up Theory with an Irish Whip into a huge Montez Ford dropkick and dropping Garza with a tag-team-flapjack on-top of Theory. But the heels were able to get the momentum back when Garza dropkicked Dawkins on the outside while the referee’s back was turned. Both Garza and Theory used this opportunity to hit huge dropkicks on Dawkins in order to wear down the tired champion. But, they were not able to fully capitalize as Dawkins was able to tag-in Ford for the hot tag. Ford delivers a big DDT to Garza for a close two-count. Ford launched himself over the top rope like he did on Monday night to do a big flip to land on Dawkins and Theory. Garza immediately followed this up with a moonsault of his own to the other three men. Garza hit a beautiful springboard moonsault on Ford back inside the ring, but the referee only counted two. The finish of the match came when Theory hit a TKO in the middle of the ring, but his pin attempt was broken up by a Ford Frog Splash, Dawkins was able to crawl over and drape his arm over Andrade’s replacement and win the match. Naturally, this enraged Garza and Theory as they jumped the champs after the ring bell to the marching orders of Zelina Vega. But out came Bianca Belair to even the odds and stand up for her real-life husband in Ford. Belair made her first WrestleMania moment count by nailing a K.O.D. on Vega as the faces were able to clear the ring and properly start their celebration party. The six-person tag matches in the future write themselves between these two teams, and this opportunity will give many RAW fans the chance to see Belair’s superb in-ring skills, which will no doubt lead to her getting multiple chances at the RAW Women’s Championship someday soon. An okay match with some great spots.

Winner: Street Profits          Time: 6:20          Rating: 2 Stars

Bayley (C) vs. Lacey Evans vs. Naomi vs. Tamina vs. Sasha Banks

After a five-person standoff showed each woman debating the first move of the match, Bayley and Sasha teamed up to go after Tamina. The second-generation superstar easily shoved them both off as Naomi and Evans teamed up for a two-on-one attack until they each were pushed off, as well. It was then when all four women went after their biggest threat in the match, but again, they were all knocked down and out like the Undertaker knocking down masked druids in a Boneyard. It took chop-block after stiff kick after takedown to knock Tamina out of the ring so the other four women could focus on each other and their petty rivalries over the last three months. Bayley and Sasha entered this match as heel versions of their Boss ’N’ Hug Connection tag team from two years ago, but we also saw Naomi and Evans team up as a makeshift team to take down the heels. I have to say Tamina had one of her best efforts here in playing the monster heel. I enjoyed the brief throwback to Team B.A.D., even though it exploded as quickly as it came together via a superkick from Tamina. It would take a consecutive series of an elbow drop, frog splash, moonsault, and split-leg moonsault from the other four women  followed by a mass-pin with all four women piling on Tamina for the first three-count of the match. One thing I have to note before I move on is although I sung the praises of Charlotte earlier, her moonsault has nothing on Lacey Evans’.

From here, the two faces took on the two heels in a makeshift tornado tag match. Bayley took control over Naomi, but Naomi found her string of momentum as Sasha re-entered the ring, giving Naomi an opportunity to show-off some impressive offense in a one-on-two beatdown. Unfortunately, Sasha caught Naomi in a Bank Statement for a quick tapout. With only one face remaining, the heels took their time to disect Lacey with a variety of two-on-one attacks. But this strategy would backfire on them as Bayley nailed Sasha with an errant running knee meant for Evans. Once Sasha got her bearings again, we saw the beginnings of cracks forming in the Bayley-Sasha fiend-ship with Bayley appearing apologetic as Sasha appeared angry for the errant knee. During their spat, Evans rose up and knocked out Banks with a Woman’s Right to cut her number of competitors in half. Evans followed up this pin with a great burst of energy squarely focused on the SmackDown Women’s Champion, but it would be no match for Bayley’s in-ring acumen. The former Hugger would tie up Evans’ right arm in the tag ropes, momentarily eliminating any shot of Lacey delivering her signature move. Even though the Sassy Southern Belle was able to escape, she could not predict the unexpected return of Banks, delivering a Backstabber and setting up the finish of Bayley retaining her Women’s Championship. Maybe this will be the impetus to the much-anticipated Bayley-Sasha feud fans have been clamoring to see on the main roster for years. A fine match.

Winner: Bayley          Time: 19:20          Rating: 2 Stars

John Cena vs. The Fiend

I’m pretty sure someone dosed me with acid before watching this “match.”

John Cena appears in the Firefly Fun House, where he’s directed to walk through a nearby door by Rambling Rabbit. After encountering the Mr. McBossman puppet, we enter a Twilight Zone of memories from John and Bray’s past as well as spoofs of memorable wrestling shows like Saturday Night’s Main Event and Monday Nitro.  First up, we see the beginning of Cena’s career with Bray pantomiming a Kurt Angle promo from 2002. From there, Cena appeared in front of the old SmackDown fist wearing his old gear from his debut. Cena essentially chased Wyatt throughout these skits and segments piled on with double entendres and inside jokes all centered around John Cena’s biggest fears. After flashing through incarnations of “Basic Thuganomics” Cena and “Eater of Worlds” Wyatt, Cena was able to snap through the programming and attempt to attack Wyatt as the two were playing the roles of Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff respectively. However, when John came to his senses, Bray was gone and Cena was only punching Huskus the Pig. At this realization, the Fiend peered over Cena’s shoulder and trapped him with a Sister Abigail, immediately followed up by locking on a Mandible Claw. Cut to Bray serving as a make-shift referee counting Cena’s shoulders to the mat and the fever dream we had been experiencing ended.

I’m going to be quite honest with you all: I don’t know how to rate this match. This wasn’t a mat classic like Charlotte and Rhea, but it had a lot of psychological storytelling that I loved. Cena’s fear of not making an impact at his debut and being lost in the shuffle as well as becoming a forgotten champion in comparison to contemporaries like Orton, CM Punk, or the Rock. At the same time, it lacked a lot of physical action I would have liked to have seen more of like in the Boneyard match. All of that aside, I really liked what I saw here. It was insane. It was jaw-dropping. It was probably the most unique match we’ve seen at a WrestleMania with all kinds of deep, psychological character dives we don’t usually see in WWE (but saw quite often in federations like Lucha Underground or Impact). I don’t know what to properly call this, but I want to see more of it.

Winner: The Fiend          Time: 13:00          Rating: 3.5 Stars

Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Drew McIntyre

Going into this match, I thought they would hold off on Drew winning the belt until they could start allowing crowds back in. It made more sense to me to complete Drew’s underdog babyface story in front of thousands of screaming, raving, appreciative fans, but I digress.

After a few lock-ups to start the match, Drew found his footing in a nearby corner and unleashed an unexpected Claymore on Lesnar. But when he went for another one, Brock countered and delivered three German suplexes followed up by a F5. Amazingly, the F5 only resulted in a one-count. Shocked, Lesnar gave Drew another F5 for good measure (this time, resulting in a two-count). Not wanting to let his momentum go to waste, Brock picked up Drew and delivered one more F5, this time resulting in a very close 2-count. Getting noticeably angrier (and redder), Brock attempted a fourth F5, but Drew was able to slip out of his grasp. The Mad Scotsman was able to hit Brock with a second Claymore and stun the Beast Incarnate. Drew immediately ran back to his corner and delivered another Claymore, to knock Brock on his knees. With the champ recovering his wits, McIntyre connected on one last huge Claymore that would give him the victory. Drew McIntyre is now the 52nd man to hold the WWE Championship in the history of the company. This match kept my attention, and it was done a lot better than the Universal Championship match.

Winner: Drew McIntyre          Time: 4:35          Rating: 1.5 Stars

Overall Thoughts: I’m going to enter into the record that I’m grading this WrestleMania on a curve. WrestleMania in front of zero fans in a training center in the middle of a global pandemic just doesn’t have the same buzz, glitz, and glamour. That being said, I thought there were quite a few matches that stood out to me that I would definitely go back and watch again in the future. Match of the weekend honors for me go to Rhea and Charlotte in an intense, back-and-forth match-up, followed up by the Boneyard Match, the Firefly Fun House match and the Kevin Owens-Seth Rollins clash. My least favorite match of the weekend was easily Goldberg and Braun Strowman in a match that was uninspired even by the standards of Goldberg and Braun.

Final WrestleMania 36 Rating: 2.5 Stars