Welcome to Part 1/Night 1 of IGN’s WrestleMania 36 live blog! Keep it locked in here all evening for the latest match results, winners, highlights, low points, and a broad spectrum of reactions.
With this year’s Showcase of the Immortals happening under historic, game-changing circumstances — as WWE’s annual mega-event unfolds over two nights, in front of no fans, with pre-taped matches and miscellaneous live segments — we sort of know Saturday’s card. The two Kickoff Show matches are official, as WWE posted them earlier today on social media. The four main marquee matches for tonight however (Cena vs. Wyatt, Lynch vs. Baszler, etc) are strongly rumored, but things could change. And then there are the eight floating matches (the tag team bouts, Otis vs, Ziggler, etc) to pull from as well. The understanding is that there will be eight matches on each main show (not counting Kickoff contests).
So yeah, folks…what the hell is this going to be? Will it simply feel like what we’ve been seeing from RAW, SmackDown, and NXT over the past few weeks or will there be a marked difference to the presentation given that it’s (quotey fingers) WrestleMania?
Obviously, this isn’t ideal at all. This isn’t how we wanted Rhea Ripley’s first ‘Mania to go. This isn’t how we wanted to see McIntyre main event. But [Just the Ten of Us theme plays] they’re doin’ in the best they caa-aaan.
Hopefully, this s*** is still all done up like a pirate ship. We need that in this RUMcertain times. I’ll also be live-tweeting both nights over at @TheMattFowler, so let’s all get self-isolating AF!
Drew Gulak vs. Cesaro (Kickoff Show)
Yup, this is weird, folks. It just is. Can’t be helped.
At least there’s a…pirate backdrop?
Decently worked quick match between two solid technicians but, to be honest, I spent so much this match focusing on the fact that Michael Cole was calling the action Joey Styles-style. All alone. I’m not exactly sure why things turned out this way. Why he couldn’t have one other person to chat with and bounce things off of. It’s notably distracting. Would it just be for the pre-show? Was this it for the next three or four hours? Egads. I know the matches are pre-taped, but is all the commentary recorded after the fact too?
Gulak wound up taking the pin clean here after a release airplane spin (weeee!). Ultimately, it didn’t matter who won here since the Artist Collective will continue to feud with Bryan and Gulak. Also, WWE finally took away my God-given right to casually call every Kickoff Show match “a decent contest that nicely warmed up the crowd.”
WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions The Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Man, all four of these women are amazing. I just want the best for them all. This would have been an awesome ‘Mania opener in front of a hot crowd.
I also wish Asuka was the “host” instead of Rob Gronkowski. And also doing commentary. On her own match.
It’s strange to actually analyze a match without a crowd present. I keep falling back on “Wow, if people were in the stands they would have loved this.” I guess that’s the best compliment for now. These ladies beat the hell out of each other and gave it their all in a back-and-forth bout with some nifty near falls. It all ended with a Twisted Bliss on Kairi Sane. Though the biggest Kairi Sane tragedy of the night wasn’t the title loss but rather the loss of the pirate ship entrance at Raymond James Stadium.
If we were wondering how much effort — aka blood, sweat, and tears — would be put into these empty arena ‘Mania matches, this was a good indicator.
- Winners (and new champs): Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
Elias vs. King Corbin
Look, there are two nights of this. I’m looking for shortcuts wherever I can find them. I thought the match was over after that massive guitar shot, which sounded like it hurt like a freakin’ hailstorm, wrecked Corbin before the bell rang.
But it all went on as scheduled. The most noticeable element here was that…these two beat the hell out of each other. Just really rough, stiff shots. That guitar shot was a sign that because everything can be heard, including pins drop, these performers are gonna be reaallly snug. So they’re super laying into each other while also not having that infusion of adrenaline that the giant live crowds give them. Anyhow, keep that in mind while watching the fake king battle the fake rock star. This s*** hurts. Makes me nervous for the Shayna Baszler match up next.
Corbin somehow recovered enough from the guitar to work a match and punish Elias’ injured shoulder. The former Drifter stole the win in the end with a roll up and some hooked tights.
Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler
So Becky beat Shayna the way Kairi Sane once beat Shayna for the NXT Women’s Title, turning the clutch hold into a flip-over pin – but is it weird that this was a better match, overall, than the Survivor Series main event Becky and Shayna did in front of thousands of people? I think we’ve discovered that no crowd beats a dead crowd. It’s an equation we never thought we’d have to run.
Surprisingly, I guess, Becky bested Shayna here. I assume the feud continues since it wasn’t a strong win, but also because Becky, who’d already beaten everyone, has beaten yet another. Shayna’s still the best contender out there for her.
Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan
Initially, before everything about WrestleMania, and the world, changed, I figured this would be an easy win for Bryan. But with no crowd to pop, a Bryan IC Title win, which has already happened at WrestleMania mind you, wasn’t necessary. The belt works better on loud-mouthed Zayn right now, with his Artist Collective Cronies working as brutal back up.
The numbers game overtook Bryan in the end and, like with Braun Strowman, Zayn was able to eke out a win after a Helluva Kick. Zayn’s a treasure. The match really played into the fact that you can hear what everyone’s saying in the ring and it was used to highlight Sami whining and pleading while getting the snot knocked out him by Bryan. If pro-wrestling winds up continuing, this feud shall also continue.
SmackDown Tag Team Champion John Morrison vs. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston (Ladder Match)
With Miz out sick and not medically cleared to work this ‘Mania, the Triple Threat Tag Team Ladder Match got cut from six men down to three, with each team getting one rep. And the titles were still on the line!
Which is kind of a fun twist since, serendipitously, this was John Morrison’s first time to truly shine since returning to WWE. He got to win the match (in a silly, clever way) and retain the gold for his duo. This is also, obviously, the kind of match Morrison steals the show with so it automatically works better for him if there are fewer bodies. As much of a joke “parkour” feels like in 2020, and how funny it feels for Cole to constantly explain what it is to people now, Morrison still lands killer moves. HE WALKED ACROSS THE ENTIRE TOP ROPE, CORNER TO CORNER! AND THEN HIT A TOP TURNBUCKLE SPANISH FLY! A giant stadium crowd would have eaten that up with gusto.
Anyhow, in keeping with everyone being super violent tonight, for the sake of trying to look more real since we can hear everything, THIS type of match was even more brutal. Watching a demolition derby ladder match with no crowd really makes you appreciate these ladder match clowns and the hell they endure for our amusement.
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
At first, it seemed like this intense one-on-one — where Seth and Kevin took full advantage of the no crowd situation to trash talk each other (while enhancing the story) gloriously — was going to end rather unceremoniously, with Rollins getting DQ’d after clocking Owens with the ring bell. But it didn’t end there. Owens wouldn’t accept the match closing like that so he goaded Rollins into keeping it going as a No DQ bout.
And – HOT DAMN! – those chair shots to Owens. And then the big dive off the Mania sign onto Owens through the announcers table. Wow, Seth was moaning like he was dangling from a hook in a horror film. And then Owens put Rollins away with a crackerjack of a Stunner. Wow. Look, as we get deeper into the show, and the atmosphere starts to normalize – these are some good, had-hitting contests. We can mourn the fact that this one would have killed in front of 80 thousand, but also appreciate that it was great for what it was.