This weekend, fans are witnessing the WrestleMania that is too big for one night.
A unique Mania following COVID- 19, this is the first Mania with no fans in attendance. However, with a stacked card, must-see title matches and bouts with a phenomenal build, there is plenty to enjoy this weekend and last night was the start of what is sure to be a memorable WrestleMania.
But, how did day one fair?
Pre-Show: Cesaro defeated Drew Gulak
The first match of the evening taking place on the kick-off show was a dream match between Drew Gulak and Cesaro. Two incredible superstars who are massively underutilised, this was a much-deserved major opportunity for the pair to make an impact. There was an instant strong start for Gulak who worked on the shoulder and arm of Cesaro, but a devastating uppercut from Cesaro saw a minor change in momentum. The technical skills of Gulak were on display throughout this match with fantastic counters, submission holds and brilliant wrestling. We saw more character work from Cesaro than we did Drew and the former U.S Champion used his strength advantage to do just that, winning with a no-hands airplane spin.
I was incredibly disappointed with the time these two were given. They could have had a five-star quality match here and a big opportunity was missed and it’s such a shame. I do hope we get to see more from them in the future in a longer bout.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross defeated The Kabuki Warriors (c)
Now, this is a match that really did give us character. The Kabuki Warriors walked into this match extremely confident, mocking their opponents. This is something that Bliss did not take to at all, delivering one heck of a slap to the face of Sane in the early stages of the contest. There was a lot happening early into this bout, mainly the outside of the ring being used and some great spots that you can imagine would have received a huge pop from fans if there had been an audience. There were some real intense moments, with the fast-paced areas showing some really physical encounters and in the slower paced moments the champions delivered great character work.
Now, this wasn’t quite the match of the night but it was a prime example of how great the women’s tag division can come across when the women are given the time and the bout left me wanting to see more tag team action from the female talent. For me, this is some of the best we have seen from the division so far. The match was pretty even throughout but, in the end, fans saw Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss make history and become two- time Women’s Tag Team Champions.
A fantastic main show opening contest and a career changing performance for the new champs.
Elias defeated Baron Corbin
There is always at least one match that fans feel didn’t need to be on the card of a PPV – Elias vs. Baron Corbin didn’t feel like a Mania contest or at least to the standard of so many other bouts booked. I do believe that what this bout needed was a stipulation, such as a no DQ match. It would have been more fitting and drawn in fans way more giving this contest an edge and something different to the rest of the card. What we got was as physical of a match we could have expected and Corbin looked very dominant throughout.
This was one of the more forgettable matches of the evening but nonetheless this was a solid WrestleMania performance for both men and a big win for Elias.
RAW Women’s Title: Becky Lynch (c) defeated Shayna Baszler
I was surprised to see this match fairly early into the night but nonetheless this was one of the bouts I was most looking forward to after an intense build. From the offset, both women were exchanging blows and Baszler wasted no time attempting to lock in the Kirifuda clutch, but the action was shifted to the outside and a change in momentum took place with the champ taking over. Each blow and shot executed was so intense and the fact there were no audience meant you could hear each blow. This meant the intensity felt even stronger between these two.
The first half of this match was strongly dominated by Lynch which showcased the type of champion she is but the ruthlessness of Baszler would creep in more and more as the action progressed. Now, this was a close match from the get-go and the pair were very evenly matched indeed but I was most certainly surprised to see the title remain on Lynch after a quick pinfall victory. This is a booking decision that has divided fans and I do personally feel as though an opportunity was missed but this will either bring out an even darker side of Baszler or set her off on a bad booking path.
However, what I did like about this end result was the fact this wasn’t the predictable conclusion we were all expecting.
WWE Intercontinental Title: Sami Zayn vs Daniel Bryan
This unfortunately was another match that disappointed me. Sami Zayn VS Daniel Bryan had every opportunity to be a match of the year candidate, but this turned out to be another bout that suffered from the lack of time to actually compete. We saw plenty of fantastic character work from Zayn, doing everything in his power to escape competing against Bryan in the early stages. There was so much character work here I do think the wrestling got lost in some areas.
These two should have had more time in the ring, which would have allowed them to have a far stronger balance. Zayn’s win didn’t come as a surprise and the action overall was great for the time they had but this could have been a five star match and we just didn’t get it despite the bout taking place at WrestleMania.
We saw some brilliant transitions and spots throughout and I really do wish we could have seen more.
SmackDown Tag Team Title Ladder Match: John Morrison (c) defeated Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso
While the idea of having one member from each tag team compete for tag team titles divided fans, this match was a standout contest of the evening. We had three incredible athletes who really did provide us with one of the best matches of the evening. Morrison in particular had an excellent showing and this change in the booking worked as a blessing in disguise for the champion, who got to showcase how good he can be. There were some brutal ladder spots during this match and a great balance between intense physicality and mind-blowing athleticism.
This was one of the most unpredictable contests of the evening, with these three men showcasing their talents, adding a level of creativity and entertainment that differed to anything else on the night.
This was a match that was right up my street, topped off with a very unique and entertaining closing moments that had me genuinely laughing, on the edge of my seat and glad to see the titles remain on Miz and Morrison.
Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins
Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins have been going at it for months now. This is the longest rivalry to head into Mania this year and while we have already seen so much go down between the two it didn’t take away the fact this was one of the best matches of the evening. This match was full of everything you could have asked for from two of WWE’s best. We saw some amazing sequences that kept you completely hooked on the action and the pair brought out the best in one another. However, it appeared we were going to get a result that would leave many disappointed. A DQ ending wasn’t what was expected for this match and while it catered well to Rollins’ character, this was very frustrating.
With that being said, Owens taking to the mic and demanding the match be restarted with no disqualifications gave Kevin his Mania moment in itself and left me breathing a huge sigh of relief.
The second half of this match was even more intense, and we saw Rollins continue to take control and dominate the action. The fact we had no crowd made each chair shot come across even more brutal and then, the epic spot that saw Owens jump from the top of the WrestleMania sign was one of the highlights of the evening. Kevin Owens picked up the win in an incredible match and one of my personal favourites of the evening.
WWE Universal Title: Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg (c)
Due to Roman’s legit concerns of being immunocompromised, our world title match saw a change in plans that would see Braun Strowman face Goldberg. Either way, fans were in for a collision between two monstrous men from different eras within the industry. I must admit that personally I wasn’t all too interested in this match but considering the raw power both men possess, this was sure to be interesting and very important for Strowman in particular.
There was no intimidation on the faces of either men and with Goldberg striking first the action began and we saw both men delivering their most dominant moves over and over again but after four powerslams and a match under five minutes fans witnessed a new champion crowned in Braun Strowman.
Let’s be honest, this was a win Strowman has deserved for a long time now and while I wasn’t happy with how it came about, I’m glad to see Braun finally win the big one.
Boneyard Match: The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles
This match had one of the best builds heading into this year’s Mania, in my opinion. This was a very different kind of rivalry and angle for the Undertaker to work. It was incredibly personal and so different to what we are used to seeing but it was brilliant. The match itself felt like I was watching a movie, which is something you will either love or hate – I loved it.
It was amazing to see Taker back on a bike and the setting for this match again was so unique and fitting. The verbal knocks throughout this encounter emphasized with the personal theme we’ve seen running throughout recent weeks. Of course, this wasn’t a simple wrestling match at all but an all-out fight and with the setting, the layout and the way the match was done it was just so incredibly entertaining and fun to watch. I found myself completely invested in the action on my screen here. If I could change one thing about this it would have been the music, I think made it things a little too theatrical but apart from that this was brilliant.
Overall, night one of WrestleMania 36 was solid. We really did get a taste of everything and each match brought something different to the table. I do believe there were a few matches that were affected by the lack of time they had and some bizarre booking decisions (Corbin vs Elias being on the card, Baszler losing to Lynch). However, with all that being said, considering everything going on in the world right now the WWE did a great job keeping spirits high and leaving everyone entertained.
We witnessed two smart title changes, an entertaining main event and a number of matches we will be addressing throughout the year. Can night two live up to what we tuned into last night? There’s only one way to find out.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @TezangiVictoria. Thanks for reading!