Here are my final thoughts on the second evening of Raw and SmackDown Live’s WWE WrestleMania 36!
Liv Morgan vs. Natalya
Reactions: This was passable at best. It’s really hard to find a reason to care about either woman these days. Natalya’s been around for God knows how long and grown beyond stale, plus Liv Morgan went from being a part of the biggest (and dumbest) storylines of 2019 to wrestling random matches that have no ties to that former plotline whatsoever. Both ladies certainly worked hard enough, but their work still wasn’t all that inspiring or even entertaining in the end.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (NXT Women’s Championship)
Reactions: Extra kudos goes out to Rhea Ripley for her new blue and white attire. We may not have gotten an extra special ‘Mania stage set up this year, but at least we still got to see some regal ‘Mania costumes. This match met all of the high expectations I had for it. It started off with some great back and forth action, then lead right into a hot moment where it looked as if Rhea Ripley was going to upset “The Queen” in short order.
Once Charlotte Flair got ahold of Rhea’s leg, the fun truly began. The constant leg work was far from tiresome, as Rhea did a good job of fighting back as much as she could while Charlotte struggled to tear it apart. Rhea’s comeback offense in the form of big power moves and a submission hold of her own added even more to this great title bout. It may have run long, but every portion of this match mattered in the long run. Rhea looked like a complete equal to Charlotte, even in defeat. This would have been right at home on an NXT TakeOver special, let alone WrestleMania.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley (with Lana)
Reactions: Bobby Lashley with long tights from now on is something I can totally get behind. This was a nice change of pace from the matches that featured a whole lot of screaming from the competitors themselves. Aleister Black and Bobby Lashley just got to work brutalizing each other while Lana and the ref provided most of the background noise. The match itself was pretty solid. Both guys worked a TV-style match that would be more at home on an episode of Raw. It accomplished its job of continuing to make Black look like a world-beater, so there’s that. Bobby got in a ton of offense, but Black stayed in the fight and made sure to put his own brand of dominance on display.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler (with Sonya Deville)
Reactions: So the events surrounding this grudge match were better than the actual match itself. Otis and Dolph Ziggler worked a pretty basic, by-the-numbers bout that didn’t have any extra bells and whistles to speak of. It was more in line with your regular SmackDown second hour matchup. At least it left us with a happy ending that resulted in Mandy Rose getting revenge on her former best buds and helping her oversized boo nab the win. This storyline will most likely continue, but I’m happy we got to see Otis and Mandy enjoy a heartwarming moment first.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Edge vs. Randy Orton (Last Man Standing Match)
Reactions: An RKO outta nowhere was such a cool way to get this Last Man Standing brawl underway. And a second one to boot once Edge finally got to his feet was a cool way to keep it going. But as this match got more fleshed out, it lost more and more steam the longer it went. I was sorely disappointed by this one – Edge and Randy Orton had an uninspired brawl that was broken apart by those long ref counts to 10 that we’re all too familiar with.
Good LMS matches make the ref element less of an annoyance since the chaotic action put on display within it is so enthralling. This LMS match featured a whole bunch of boring backstage brawling and uncreative spots. Edge’s elbow drop onto Orton through a table woke me up a little, but I lost interest once again as the match just kept going. Orton’s DDT to Edge on the top of a car was another halfway cool moment that was interspersed between more lame brawling, dead air from the commentators and that incessant ref counting. This took an eternity to end. By the time Edge laid into Orton with a Con-Chair-To, I had already checked out. This was a major letdown. At least Edge’s gear was pretty sweet!
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) (c) vs. Austin Theory and Angel Garza (with Zelina Vega) (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship)
Reactions: This was fun but shorter than I expected. It was good, but it really needed an extra 5-8 minutes to evolve into something even better. Austin Theory and Angel Garza’s ‘Mania debut match was a solid showcase for both up and comers, plus The Street Profits looked just as worthy of being on this card. The post-match arrival of Bianca Belair was a cool moment to boot, which will hopefully lead to her getting the call up to Monday Nights as a manager/competitor. NXT call-ups tend to get the worst end of the stick thanks to a creative team that’s not all that creative, but I have high hopes for “The EST OF NXT.” It’s clear that this feud must continue!
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks (Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Reactions: No matter how hard WWE tries, they’ll never convince me that Tamina is worth caring about. All that domination at the start of the match and she’s the first woman eliminated. You hate (well, love in my case) to see it. I didn’t care about this match going in and it didn’t really do much to make me care about it as it unfolded.
When everyone pulled out their best top rope maneuver to ground Tamina, I perked up for a split second. Plus Lacey Evans’ Moonsault is always a pleasure to watch. The rest of the match was pretty damned generic when your usual multi-person elimination match comes to mind, however. And the ending was pretty trash, too. Bayley’s sleep-inducing reign as SmackDown Women’s Champion continues…
Rating: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars
John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (Firefly Fun House Match)
Reactions: Surreal isn’t even the word for what I just witnessed. Night One produced a Boneyard Match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles that turned out better than everyone thought it would be. Night Two kept up with the cinematic presentation for this Firefly Fun House Match between John Cena and Bray Wyatt’s alter-ego’s, but it just didn’t stick the landing.
Seeing all the previous gimmicks from both men make their return was a cool visual throwback – the return of “Generic Create-A-Wrestler 2002” Cena and “cult leader” Bray was the perfect use of wrestling nostalgia. Plus the callbacks to their WrestleMania 30 meeting were clever. But this segment’s excruciatingly long run-time and cringeworthy skits made this a chore to watch. We barely got any actual action to speak of. This should have been Bray’s return to prominence and revenge for his ‘Mania 30 loss to Cena. Instead, it turned out to be an outlandish skit that convinced me that all hope is lost for Bray’s WWE future. What a sharp contrast in quality this was compared to the Boneyard Match…
Rating: What in the hell…
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre (WWE Championship)
Reactions: So this was miles better than Night One’s finisher-filled Universal Championship match. Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre wasted no time in beating each other down with their respective match-enders. It went a bit longer too, which helped build the drama and the eventual ending that resulted in Drew finally claiming the WWE Championship. It ended this show on a high note, but it didn’t feel as epic as past Lesnar matches of its kind without an appreciative crowd to prop it up.
Rating: RETURN TO SQUASH CITY!
Match of the Night
Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair!
Night Two of WrestleMania 36 started off on such a high note with the NXT Women’s Championship match. Rhea and Charlotte put on an excellent title bout full of aggression, smart limb work, and meaningful moves and transitions. After their MOTY candidate came to an end, the quality of this show took a noticeable hit.
Edge vs. Orton was an overly long snoozefest, Otis vs. Ziggler was a nothing match that was saved by a decent ending, the SD Women’s Fatal-Five Way was nothing to write home about and the Firefly Fun House deal was a step below Night One’s Boneyard Match. Black/Lashley and the Raw Tag Team Championship match were both solid contests, but nothing that screamed “WrestleMania Worthy.” Night Two may have ended on an extreme high with Drew overcoming “The Beast” to become WWE’s top titleholder, but even that show ender felt a little underwhelming. Night One was easily the better of the two shows. WrestleMania 36 as a whole had a few standout matches and moments, but it ultimately suffered due to no fans being in attendance and several disappointing performances.
Final Score: 2 & a Half out of 5 Stars