Here are my final thoughts on the first night of Raw and SmackDown Live’s WWE WrestleMania 36!
Drew Gulak vs. Cesaro
Reactions: Two of WWE’s most well-tuned technical wrestlers officially kicked off one of the strangest WrestleMania’s of all time in fine fashion. Drew Gulak and Cesaro brutalized each other from the word go and didn’t let up during the entirety of this stiff brawl. Watching both men exchange vicious strikes and tight submission holds while still maintaining a fast-pace the entire time was pretty fun to watch unfold. Drew got to shine on a major PPV card against someone of equal stature. It’s just a bit disheartening to realize that they didn’t get to perform this solid affair in front of a stadium crowd. But still, props go out to both men for putting on a well-fought contest.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship)
Reactions: God, I love The Kabuki Warriors. They made the relatively boring first half of this match funny as hell thanks to their outlandish screaming and dancing. Once the momentum shifted to a more intense pace, I actually began to care about the action at hand. Both teams abused each other with some fine counters from the top rope during the few entertaining pin breakup’s we got. While this tag team title match started out on a low note, it eventually evolved into a decent contest due to the intensity put on display during its later period. Congrats to the new champs and shout out to Asuka and Kairi Sane for making me laugh my ass off throughout much of this matchup.
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Elias vs. King Corbin
Reactions: I thought for a second here that we were going to get a halfway decent match between these two after such a hot start to the proceedings. And I also thought this match was going to change to Street Fight rules at that very instant. But after the guitar smash was delivered, Elias and King Corbin produced the type of contest I was dreading all along – a by-the-numbers, generic match that’s better served on an episode of SmackDown. It was neither great nor terrible – it was just there. With relaxed rules, this could have been a good to great watch. But as your regular everyday match, it was a lackluster meeting between two men who are known for being a complete bore in the ring.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler (WWE Raw Women’s Championship)
Reactions: This one had its moments, but it was brought down by an extremely lame ending. So Shayna Baszler comes up to the main roster, takes a chunk out of the Raw Women’s Champion with a sick bite, eliminates the entire field during the Women’s Elimination Chamber Match, then proceeds to lose to Becky Lynch…VIA A SHOCK PIN? Ugh…this is just another case of an NXT call-up being made to look inferior to the main roster talent. Those last few seconds put a damper on a match that was building into something somewhat watchable. What we got here was a letdown of a first-time singles meeting that’s clearly being set up to prolong this feud, which I feel was a grave mistake.
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Sami Zayn (c) (with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura) vs. Daniel Bryan (with Drew Gulak) (WWE Intercontinental Championship)
Reactions: I was very much looking forward to seeing this title bout unfold. Both of these men have the capacity to deliver an amazing match with the proper time allotted to it. So what did we get here? A meh matchup that was filled with so many unnecessary outside shenanigans, it hurt its overall quality. The constant running in and out of the ring by Sami Zayn annoyed me to no end. And by the time both men finally locked up, I had already lost a great deal of interest in what was happening. Watching Daniel Bryan brutalize Sami Zayn for a few minutes was mildly interesting, but it just wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Add in the disappointing ending and you have another case of a match that could have been truly special, but ended up being less than stellar by the time it concluded.
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
John Morrison (c) vs. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston (Triple Threat Ladder Match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Reactions: Give all these guys a bonus, Vince! They single-handedly saved an otherwise forgettable Night One of WrestleMania 36 with a wild Ladder Match. With the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the original lineup for this segment, all three men worked extra hard to salvage it. And salvage it, they did! John Morrison, Jimmy Uso, and Kofi Kingston were the perfect trio to put together for this Ladder Match due to their excellent athleticism and willingness to risk it all for our enjoyment. We got to witness some crazy spots here, such as Morrison landing his Starship Pain to Jimmy on a ladder and Kofi’s leap into a Frankensteiner onto Morrison. Not only did this bout get enough time to morph into some memorable, but it was capped off with a unique finish that wrapped up everything in the best way possible. Fine work from all three guys, here.
Rating: 3 & a Half out of 5 Stars
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
Reactions: “Crossfit Jesus” Seth Rollins finally embraced his true calling with that slick WrestleMania getup! Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins worked their asses off here. They produced the type of match that evokes warm memories of their past barn burners contested in a Ring of Honor ring. Both men pulled out every move in their vast moveset and then some, which brought this match to a high level of quality.
The flow of action was smooth and crisp, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering who was competing here. Plus the character work was top-notch – Owens was his badass brawler tough self, while Rollins maintained his slimy demeanor throughout. I really thought they were going to screw the pooch on such a great match with that random DQ spot, but it thankfully transitioned into a No DQ match with even more brutal offense from both competitors soon after. This brawl would have gone over especially well with a live audience in attendance. While that sad fact is indeed sobering, I still have to applaud both guys for going above and beyond to give us all a great matchup.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman (WWE Universal Championship)
Reactions: This was kept short and sweet like it should have been. We got multiple Spears and numerous Powerslams that shook the very foundation of the ring and produced the loudest in-ring noise. And the end result we got is a new Universal Champion being crowned in “The Beast Among Men” Braun Strowman.
The only problem is that this isn’t the Strowman who was super over and a serious title contender from a few years back. This is the Strowman who’s been made to look like a goof after several humiliating losses to Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns. It’s hard for me or anyone else to take him seriously as Universal Champion at this point since his moment has long passed and this title win came far too late for it to matter. At least Strowman got his ‘Mania Moment this year. That’s cool, I guess…
Rating: SQUASH CITY!
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles (Boneyard Match)
Reactions: So the entrances for this whole “filmed on location” deal was awesome. AJ Styles’ mocking of “The Deadman” by arriving in a casket and the return of “Biker” ‘Taker were worth the price of admission for this chaotic ordeal. This Boneyard Match was pretty much a Buried Alive Match that obviously needed a name change considering what’s going on in the world right now.
I actually got a kick out of this due to all the theatrics AJ Styles and The Undertaker doled out. The added sound effects put in to make each strike sound more devastating and the cloaked men getting washed by ‘Taker was super corny, though. But all in all, I enjoyed this way more than I thought, though. AJ looked like a killer as he took it to ‘Taker, while ‘Taker tapped into both of his gimmicks in order to bring The O.C. to its knees. ‘Taker’s brand of shit-talking is amazing, I might add. While this wasn’t as wild as your usual Broken Matt Hardy segment, it was still a fun watch. What a wild ride this turned out to be…
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Match of the Night
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins!
The first-ever two-night WrestleMania didn’t start out so hot. After delivering a solid Kickoff Match, night one of ‘Mania 36 confirmed my concerns of this being a total wash with four disappointing bouts. But all was not lost. The matches that transpired after those letdowns ended up saving this show from being a total bust.
The Ladder Match kicked things into a higher gear, Owens/Rollins produced a banger of a match and the Boneyard Match was better than it had any right to be. The Universal Championship match sandwiched in between those bouts was whatever, though. Props go out to everyone for working so hard to give the fans a big wrestling show during this pandemic. Night One of WrestleMania 36 wasn’t a complete wash, but it still wasn’t a total home run. It was a middle-of-the-road show. Definitely seek out Owens/Rollins if you missed it.
Final Score: 3 out of 5 Stars