Day one of WrestleMania 36 was weird as hell. For starters, was day one of WrestleMania — the show is for the first time ever split over two days. Second, due to the coronavirus shutdowns, it took place in WWE’s Performance Center training facility with no fans instead of the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
And oh yeah, it was main evented by AJ Styles and The Undertaker in a boneyard match. That is to say, not an actual match. A short film. WrestleMania was main evented by a short film.
Though WWE probably should have just delayed WrestleMania, day one was a fun show considering how much worked against it. The biggest news is that Braun Strowman is Universal Champion after beating Goldberg. Likely the most replayed moment of the night will be Kevin Owens jumping off the WrestleMania sign, crashing Seth Rollins through a table.
With day one done, we now knowwill be headlined by Brock Lesnar defending his Universal Championship against Drew McIntyre. Edge will also return to face Randy Orton.
Undertaker defeats AJ Styles in a boneyard match
I don’t even know what to say about this. The “boneyard match” was essentially an extended fight scene from a movie. It took place by an abandoned estate of some description. Think of it like a buried alive match but in short movie form.
At one point, Styles had Undertaker in the grave but, as he began to dump dirt in, Undertaker transported behind him. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows rocked up, as did a group of evil druids who assaulted Taker. Later, Undertaker used his magic powers to cause an explosion.
After a chokeslam off of a building, Undertaker buried AJ.
The segment was absolutely preposterous and ridiculous, but it ended up being fun. It’s kind of like Fast and Furious movies — silly, but so insane it’s hard to not get a kick from it. It was an apt way to end night one of WrestleMania, which on the whole felt like a strange fever dream.
Braun Strowman wins Universal Championship
Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns’ replacement against Goldberg, has won his first world title.
A simple match. Goldberg hit four spears for a two count. Strowman hit four powerslams for the three count. The end.
Rating: 1 star. Goldberg still has tremendous poise and comes off as a superstar. But with literally one move in his arsenal, he’s too much of a one-trick pony.
Kevin Owens beats Seth Rollins via DQ
After four months of feuding, Kevin Owens finally takes on Seth Rollins. Rollins was initially disqualified after hitting Owens with a ring bell. As Rollins was walking to the back, Owens challenged him to get back in the ring and finish this as a no disqualifications, no countout match. Rollins accepted.
Kevin Owens got the win after jumping off the WrestleMania sign (!) and then hitting a stunner. It was wild.
Rollins’ messiah schtick is corny, but man he’s good. This was an exceptionally well wrestled match. It began with Owens coming out strong before being cut off with a wicked Falcon Arrow on the ringside apron. From there it was back and forth — two really good wrestlers putting on a really good wrestling match.
In a weird way, not having a crowd may actually have helped these two. Normally, the crowd would have been exhausted after the previous ladder match and brought this match down.
Rating: 3.75 stars. These guys did great.
John Morrison retains the SmackDown Tag titles
Unusually, the tag team titles were contested for in a triple threat singles ladder match. John Morrison, Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso represented their respective teams (John Morrison and The Miz, The New Day and The Usos), with both titles hanging above the ring.
The match had a fun ending. All three got their hands on the titles, and unclipping them from the holder while standing at the top of ladders. With one hand each on the titles, they fought to knock each other off the ladders. Kingston and Uso pounded Morrison, knocking him off — and the titles with him. When Morrison fell back, he did so with the titles, retaining the championships for himself and The Miz.
The trio treated this like a WrestleMania ladder match. Lots of big spots and painful looking spots, like when Kingston threw a ladder at Jimmy as Jimmy was jumping off the barricade.
Not much of a story but if you’re into car wreck matches, this was a good one.
Rating: 3.25 stars.
Sami Zayn retains the Intercontinental Championship
This was a lot of fun until a flat finish. After a stiff match, Sami Zayn defeated Daniel Bryan with a (kind of) Helluva Kick.
The bout began with Zayn running away from Bryan, with lackeys Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura running interference. Drew Gulak ended up taking out Nakamura and Cesaro, and then Bryan and Zayn went at it. From there it was super snug. Daniel Bryan beat the hell out of Sami Zayn.
Eventually though, Cesaro and Nakamura provide a distraction and Zayn caught Bryan with a modified Helluva Kick as Bryan was flying off the top rope for the 1-2-3.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Brought down by the anticlimactic finish.
Becky Lynch retains Raw Women’s Championship
A year after winning the Raw Women’s Championship in the main event of last year’s WrestleMania, Lynch retained that same title here after pinning Shayna Baszler.
The match was all about the Disarmer armbar against the Kirifuda Clutch. Baszler got the Clutch in several times, including on the ring apron, choking Lynch out and dropping her to the floor below. There was also a gnarly spot where Baszler swung Lynch into the announcer’s table twice.
In the end, Lynch countered a Kirifuda Clutch with a roll up for the pinfall. This feud will continue.
Rating: 2.75 stars. Certainly not bad, but ended just as it was kicking into gear.
Elias beats Baron Corbin
This would have been fine as a match on SmackDown. At a WrestleMania with now crowd, it was a real buzzkill. After what felt like a very long time, Elias scored a win with a roll up.
The match opened with Corbin playing footage from last week’s SmackDown where he incapacitated Elias. He claims Elias can’t compete and that he should be named winner via countout/forfeit. Cue Elias’ guitar strum. Elias comes out, hits Corbin with his guitar and the match begins.
Nothing memorable happened after that.
Rating: 1.5 stars.
Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss win Tag Team Championships
In the first match of the event, Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss defeated Asuka and Kairi Sane to win the women’s tag team championships.
Props to these women. As far as difficult situations go, opening WrestleMania in a training facility to zero people in the crowd is pretty up there. And there was certainly some awkward, clunky bits, like when Cross during her comeback did a bezerker howl as though she was performing to a crowd. But the match ended up being solid. The highlight was a creative sequence where near falls were broken up by Sane’s awesome top-rope elbow drop and then Bliss’ Twisted Bliss.
The finish came when Bliss hit that same Twisted Bliss on Sane for the pinfall.
Special shout out to Asuka here, who seemingly more than anyone knows how to work in a no-crowd environment. She was great at being over the top but not in a way that played to a crowd that wasn’t there.
Rating: 3 stars.
Cesaro defeats Drew Gulak in a quick match.