WrestleMania 36, or WrestleMania Pirate, turned out to be the most unique show in the company’s history. And the show is only half over. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, WWE was forced to move the show to their performance center in Orlando and pre-taped all the segments earlier in the week. Despite the matches taking place days before, the show still had an “anything can happen” feel — especially the main event, where the Undertaker took on AJ Styles in a boneyard match.
A very unique WrestleMania called for a unique match. Prior to Sunday night, no one knew what a boneyard match even was. The match took place in a cemetery and was shot in cinematic style, a la “Final Deletion.”
A hearse drove into the yard and two robed figures pulled a casket out of the back. The casket opened to reveal AJ Styles with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in the robes. It was an appropriate way to start things out considering how dismissive Styles had been of the Undertaker and his legacy leading up to this confrontation.
The Undertaker arrives.
The Undertaker threw it back to the Ruthless Aggression Era, riding his motorcycle to the match. Taker wasn’t amused with the hearse, slamming Styles onto the hood and then pummeling him on the roof. Styles blinded the Undertaker momentarily with a clod of dirt. Taker and Styles traded punches until the dead man knocked Style into an open grave.
The Undertaker chooses a path.
With a music cue, Gallows and Anderson unleashed an army of druids. Taker fought them off, but got doubled teamed by Gallows and Anderson. The Dead Man beat them away with a shovel, but Styles hit him with a tombstone — not the piledriver, a literal tombstone. He taunted Undertaker and speared him through a wooden fence.
Taker flipped Styles the Stone Cold salute. Styles kicked him in the ribs, talking smack the entire time. AJ nailed Taker with a shovel, sending him into the open grave. Styles looked to finish things off by burying the Dead Man, but when he fired up the tractor, Undertaker appeared right behind him. Styles escaped up a ladder onto a roof. Undertaker summoned a plume of fire to cut off AJ and then fought off the Good Brothers. Gallows was thrown off the roof, while Anderson took a Tombstone on the tin roof.
Styles and Undertaker traded punches on the roof until Undertaker chokeslammed Styles to the cold, hard ground. He picked up AJ, carrying him to the grave. AJ tried to apologize, but Taker wasn’t having any of it. He congratulated AJ for fighting hard before booting him into the grave. Undertaker fired up the tractor, finishing Styles under a mound of dirt. A headstone was waiting with AJ Styles’ name on it. Taker rode off into the night to end the show.
With social media reaction appearing mostly positive, it wasn’t hard to view the first night of WrestleMania 36 as a success, especially given the circumstances. The second night awaits.
Pre-Show Match #1 – Drew Gulak vs. Cesaro
Cesaro gets a near fall after a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but it isn’t enough to keep Gulak down. Cesaro finds himself in the YES! Lock after Gulak counters the Neutralizer. The Swiss Superman is able to get to the ropes to break the hold. Cesaro gets Gulak up and hits him with the airplane spin. Cesaro shows off by not using his hands, but he dumps Gulak to the mat and covers to get the win.
Winner via pinfall: Cesaro
WrestleMania 36 Main Card
Since some things need to stay constant even in these unprecedented times, Nick’s comments will appear in plain type with Dale’s thoughts in italics. Also, because of the lack of fans in the stands and the pre-taped matches, we’re not going to give ratings for this event. It’s not even comparing apples to oranges, it’s like comparing apples to llamas, and that doesn’t seem fair to anyone.
“America the Beautiful” is a montage of the song being sung in previous years, instead of just someone singing it in their garage. Good choice.
Mojo Rawley and Rob Gronkowski.
WrestleMania host Rob Gronkowski is just as annoying in his role as hype man as you might expect, but maybe his shtick would play better in an arena full of fans. Mojo Rawley joins him as maybe the one man who can match his energy level. For better or worse.
The Kabuki Warriors (champions) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (challengers) – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match
JBL joins Michael Cole on commentary for the first time in a hot minute. Poor Kairi Sane has probably been waiting for a WrestleMania themed for pirates her whole career, and now … well at least the CG to open the show still has a Pirates of the Caribbean feel. The Kabuki Warriors’ constant yelling is a lot more audible in an empty venue, and the challengers in this match are also quite vocal. Some of the tighter camera angles definitely work well, particularly when Sane comes off the top rope to break up a pin. The challengers end up getting the win after Sane takes a backbreaker and Twisted Bliss, and man is it weird to have a title change with no crowd to react to it.
Winners via pinfall … and new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross.
Sami Zayn and his entourage talk backstage about Sami’s title defense, and the champ takes offense to the idea that the Great Liberator is going to lose. There’s nothing inevitable about it, Zayn says, and he’s right. Only Thanos is inevitable.
Elias leaps onto Baron Corbin.
Baron Corbin vs. Elias
Corbin cuts a promo on Elias before the bell, wondering if Elias can even make it to the ring after being thrown off the balcony two weeks ago. The King wants the ref to raise his hand as the winner. But Elias is able to make his way to the ring, clobbering Corbin with his guitar before the bell. Elias opens with a clothesline. Corbin slams Elias into the ringpost shoulder first. Elias kicks out at two and berates the ref for not counting fast enough. Elias beats Corbin down in the corner, and then drops him with a DDT. Corbin kicks out. Elias goes up top but misses the splash. He rolls through, but right into a Deep Six. Corbin still can’t get the pin even though he is using the ropes. The ref catches him. Elias uses the distraction to roll up Corbin. He gets the pin with some help from Corbin’s tights.
Winner via pinfall: Elias
Shayna Baszler ties up Becky Lynch.
Becky Lynch (champion) vs. Shayna Baszler (challenger) – RAW Women’s Championship Match
Lynch and Baszler come out swinging, with the challenger briefly looking for her finisher before the brawl goes to the floor. The first big spot comes when Lynch slams Baszler on the apron, but it’s not long before The Man is fighting her way out of a number of submissions. As Baszler continues her assault, the announcers speculate that Lynch is hurt … but then a few moments later, she pivots out of the Kirifuda Clutch and gets Baszler’s shoulders on the mat for three. That definitely did not have the impact it would have in front of a full house.
A victorious Becky Lynch.
Winner via pinfall … and still RAW Women’s Champion: Becky Lynch
Sami Zayn (champion) w/ Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Daniel Bryan (challenger) w/ Drew Gulak – Intercontinental Championship Match
Daniel Bryan flies at Sami Zayn.
Zayn rolls out of the ring and uses almost the entire 10 count before returning to the ring. Zayn rolls out again, this time Bryan gives chase but comes face to face with Nakamura. Zayn retreats again. Bryan almost catches him, only to get run off by Nakamura and Cesaro. Gulak takes out Cesaro and Nakamura, but Bryan wants Drew to allow Sami back into the ring. Zayn starts to walk off, but Bryan catches him on the ramp and brings him back into the ring. Zayn pleads for Bryan to listen to him; instead Bryan just tees off on him. A suicide dive sends Zayn into the barrier and Bryan follows with a missile dropkick in the ring. Zayn chops at Bryan and shoots him off the ropes. Bryan counters with a clothesline and follows with the YES! kicks. Gulak starts a solo YES! chant, so Nakamura and Cesaro slam him into the ring steps. Bryan takes out those two with a suicide dive and then goes up top for another missile dropkick. Zayn catches him in mid-air with a Helluva kick. He covers and gets the pin.
Winner via pinfall … and still Intercontinental Champion: Sami Zayn
Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura.
John Morrison (champion) vs. Jimmy Uso (challenger) vs. Kofi Kingston (challenger) – Smackdown Tag Team Championship Ladder Match
Action in the ladder match.
This should be good, even without a crowd to urge them on. Morrison makes it to the titles pretty early on, but gets dragged down and is in place when Kofi swings himself through a ladder only to get caught and dumped out to the floor. Morrison hits a spinning somersault senton onto Uso, who is laid out on a ladder in one corner, but Kingston springboards off the ropes with a hurricanrana to the champ and everyone is down. Uso gets a ladder thrown into him while walking along the barricade in perhaps the coolest spot of the night so far. A Spanish Fly off the top rope is followed by an Uso splash to leave all three men on the mat again. Uso throws Kingston face-first into the ladder and superkicks Morrison, but he also gets toppled from atop the ladder all the way to the floor. With all three men on top of ladders, they all end up grabbing the hanger. After a short dispute, a headbutt sends Morrison flying down and bouncing off a ladder but with the belts in his possession. Kind of a weird but cool ending as the champs retain.
John Morrison grasps his title belt tight.
Winner via pinfall … and still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: John Morrison and the Miz
Kevin Owens jumps long distance onto Seth Rollins.
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
Rollins lands early punches and the two go to the floor. Owens avoids an early attempt at a Stomp. Owens looks for a powerbomb on the apron, but Rollins counters with a back body drop. He follows with a falcon arrow on the apron. KO hits the floor and Rollins wipes him out with a suicide dive. Owens catches Rollins going back to the well, but the Monday Night Messiah recovers with a sling blade. Rollins misses a Stomp, but Owens doesn’t miss on a DDT. Owens with a senton, but can’t get the pin. Rollins ducks a stunner and hits an enzuigiri. The two fight atop the turnbuckle until Rollins delivers a buckle bomb and follows with a superkick. Owens with a pop up powerbomb, but Rollins kicks out. The fight spills to the floor. Rollins clocks Owens with the ring bell and orders the timekeeper to ring it. The ref officially calls for the DQ.
Winner via DQ: Kevin Owens
After the match, Owens grabs a microphone and wants Rollins to get back in the ring. He wants to finish this. Rollins obliges and now there are no disqualifications. The bell rings.
Rollins tosses Owens out of the ring and slams him into the security barrier. He crushes Owens with the ring steps. Rollins grabs a chair, slamming it into Owen’s back. Owens grabs the ring bell and nails Seth in the head. Owens climbs the giant WrestleMania sign. He drops a leg from the sign through Seth and the announce table. Owens drags Rollins into the ring and hits the stunner. He covers and gets the win.
Winner via pinfall: Kevin Owens
R-Truth visits Gronk and Mojo to explain how paranoid being 24/7 champ has made him. He asks them for a safe hiding place but ends up getting sized up like a piece of meat. Gronk tries for a pin, but his supposed buddy tosses him aside and pins Truth to win the gold. Gronk seems surprised or some feeling similar to that.
Paul Heyman barges in on whatever Charly Caruso is trying to say, insisting that Drew McIntyre will be exposed in about 24 hours. And that he has not done the proper job putting over how dominant his client is. You know the drill.
Goldberg spears Braun Strowman.
Goldberg (champion) vs. Braun Strowman (challenger) – Universal Championship Match
This doesn’t figure to be a long one, but there is a question about which way it will go. Strowman goes for a running powerslam but eats three spears in a row before going for a cover and getting only a two count. A fourth spear connects as well, but Strowman rallies with four running powerslams and wins the Universal Championship for the first time.
Winner via pinfall … and new Universal Champion: Braun Strowman
New Universal champion Braun Strowman.
AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker – Boneyard Match
Winner via burial: The Undertaker
The Undertaker comes up behind AJ Styles.
Dale Plummer and Nick Tylwalk are just fine with doing this two nights in a row given everything that’s going on right now. They also have high hopes for the Firefly Fun House Match on the second night after the way this first night ended.