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WrestleMania 36

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WrestleMania 36
WrestleMania 36 Poster.jpg
PromotionWWE
Brand(s)Raw
SmackDown
NXT
DateMarch 25–26, 2020
(aired April 4–5, 2020[1])
CityOrlando, Florida
VenueWWE Performance Center[a]
Attendance0[b]
Tagline(s)Too Big for Just One Night![2]
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WrestleMania 36 was the 36th annual WrestleMania professional wrestling pay-per-view (PPV) and WWE Network event produced by WWE for their Raw, SmackDown, and NXT brand divisions — the first to promote the NXT brand. It was filmed on March 25 and 26, 2020 and broadcast as a two-night event on April 4 and 5, marking the first time the event was broadcast over two nights as well as aired on tape delay. On PPV, the two productions were sold as individual shows, with both available as a package deal.

The event was originally scheduled to take place solely on April 5, 2020, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida and was to air live. In mid-March 2020, all WWE programming was relocated to the WWE Performance Center training facility in Orlando due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, with no audience and only essential staff present. WWE subsequently announced that WrestleMania would also be presented from the facility, and air across two nights. The majority of its matches were pre-recorded at the Performance Center between March 25 and 26. Taking advantage of the format, two matches — a "Boneyard match" featuring The Undertaker, and a "Firefly Fun House match" featuring "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt — were filmed off-site in atypical, cinematic styles.

The card comprised nineteen matches which were divided between the two nights, including one match on each night's Kickoff pre-show and a dark match on the second night. In the main event for Part 1, The Undertaker, returning to his "American Bad Ass" gimmick, defeated AJ Styles in a Boneyard match. In other prominent matches, Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg to win the Universal Championship, Becky Lynch defeated Shayna Baszler to retain the Raw Women's Championship, and Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins in a No Disqualification match.

In the main event for Part 2, Drew McIntyre defeated Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Championship, after which, McIntyre retained the title in an impromptu dark match against Big Show (which was later shown on the April 6 episode of Raw). In other prominent matches, "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt defeated John Cena in a "Firefly Fun House match", Charlotte Flair defeated Rhea Ripley to win the NXT Women's Championship for a second time, which was the first time an NXT championship was defended at the event, Edge defeated Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match, which was Edge's first singles match since 2011, and Otis defeated Dolph Ziggler.

WrestleMania 36 received mostly positive reactions from fans and critics. While it was noted that the event suffered from the absence of a live audience and a poor lead-up (partly due to a number of wrestlers being pulled from the event shortly before its filming, mostly in relation to the pandemic, including Roman Reigns, The Miz, Andrade, and Dana Brooke, all of whom were slated to defend or challenge for championships), most felt that WWE exceeded expectations. The Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches were singled out as highlights due to for their uniqueness and over-the-top tone.

Production

Background

WrestleMania is considered WWE's flagship event, having first been held in 1985. It is the longest-running professional wrestling event in history and is held annually between mid-March to mid-April.[3] It was the first of WWE's original four pay-per-views, which includes Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series, dubbed the "Big Four".[4] WrestleMania is ranked the sixth most valuable sports brand in the world by Forbes,[5] and has been described as the Super Bowl of sports entertainment.[6] WrestleMania 36 was the fourth WrestleMania to be held in the state of Florida (after XXIV and 33 in Orlando, and XXVIII in Miami Gardens). The event featured wrestlers from the Raw and SmackDown brand divisions, as well as NXT—although some NXT wrestlers had appeared in WrestleMania's previously annual battle royals, this was the first WrestleMania to promote the brand, following NXT becoming one of WWE's three major brands in September 2019.[7] Former National Football League (NFL) player Rob Gronkowski, who had recently signed with WWE, was announced as the host of WrestleMania 36.[8][9] Gronkowski last appeared for WWE during the WrestleMania 33 Kickoff pre-show in 2017.[10]

Parts 1 and 2 of WrestleMania 36 were sold as individual pay-per-views, with both available as a package deal.[11] For the first time, WWE announced that it would also offer the event as a digital purchase in the United States via FITE TV, and the Fox Sports app (an expansion of Fox's broadcasts of SmackDown. ESPN, which does not normally air WWE programming, aired encores of previous editions of WrestleMania during the lead-up to the event.[12]

Impact of the coronavirus pandemic

The event was originally to take place at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa solely on April 5, 2020 and was to air live.[13][14] As a result of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, other wrestling promotions began to cancel some of their shows in an attempt to prevent further spreading of the COVID-19 virus.[15] In speaking with the Tampa Bay Times regarding how this outbreak could affect WrestleMania 36, WWE's Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon said "The health and safety of not only our fan base, but also our superstars, really does come first ... We don't want to put anyone in a bad situation ever, regardless of the circumstance. Those are not risks worth taking." WWE's Executive Vice President of Special Events John Saboor further noted that they were constantly monitoring global events.[16][17] A meeting was held by Tampa officials on March 12 to determine the fate of WrestleMania 36; it was decided that the event would still proceed as planned, barring that the situation did not worsen in a week's time.[18] Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller further stated that if the situation was not any better by the following week, they would "pull the plug" on WrestleMania 36 if WWE did not do it themselves.[19] WWE then stated that they had a contingency plan ready in case the event was canceled.[20]

On March 16, WWE announced that the event would be held at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando with only essential personnel in attendance, as with all other WWE weekly programs during this pandemic.[21][22][23] WWE then announced that WrestleMania 36 would be split into a two-night event, on April 4 and 5. The re-location effectively made it the third WrestleMania to be held in the city of Orlando, behind XXIV and 33.[8] Marketing of the event subsequently emphasized the change in format, with the new tagline "Too Big for Just One Night",[24] and WWE marketing a commemorative shirt reading "I Wasn't There".[25]

It was then reported by PWInsider that WWE were pre-recording several episodes of their weekly programs (with the exception of the live broadcast of the March 23 episode of Raw) for future broadcasts, as well as WrestleMania itself (marking the first WrestleMania to be pre-recorded rather than live), between March 21–26. WrestleMania tapings at the Performance Center were held between March 25 and 26.[1] It was reported that WWE had filmed post-WrestleMania episodes of Raw and NXT after production wrapped on WrestleMania, before taking a two-week break.[24]

In an interview with TV Guide, WWE's Executive Vice President of Global Talent Strategy & Development and part-time wrestler Triple H explained that the "unique", pre-recorded nature of the event gave them the opportunity to experiment with new production elements and settings (as opposed to being confined to the ring), such as the "Boneyard" and "Firefly Fun House" matches.[26] The Boneyard match was filmed at a custom-built set on location in the Orlando area (but away from the Performance Center),[27] while the Firefly Fun House match segments were all taped at WWE's headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, using props and set pieces from their storage facility.[28] In lieu of a live performance of "America the Beautiful" to open the show as per tradition, a montage of performances of the song from past editions of WrestleMania was shown instead.[29]

Changes in participation

The card underwent changes due to injuries and issues that arose related to the ongoing pandemic. Triple H confirmed that due to the circumstances, nothing would be held against any of the wrestlers who missed the event. He also stated that all of the talent competing were there in a voluntary capacity. For the first time since WrestleMania 23 in 2007, Triple H was not scheduled to compete at the event. However, this had already been planned before the changes in format and location brought about from the pandemic.[30]

WrestleMania's annual battle royals, the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal, were not scheduled to occur at WrestleMania 36 to limit the number of wrestlers in the ring at the same time.[31] Roman Reigns, who was at an increased risk for COVID-19 due to being in an immunocompromised state from his previous struggles with leukemia, requested to be removed from his match against Goldberg and WWE honored the request;[32][33] Braun Strowman was selected as Reigns' replacement in the match.[34][35] Andrade, who was scheduled to team with Angel Garza to face The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) for the Raw Tag Team Championship,[36] was removed from that match due to an injury and was replaced by NXT's Austin Theory.[37] Additionally, it was reported that The Miz had contracted an illness and was pulled from the WrestleMania card;[37] this turned the planned tag team Triple Threat Ladder match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship[38] into a Ladder match between Jimmy Uso, Kofi Kingston, and defending champion John Morrison.[39][40] Dana Brooke was originally advertised to be a part of the SmackDown Women's Championship elimination match, but she was taken off the card after reportedly being put into precautionary quarantine; Rey Mysterio was also reported to be in precautionary quarantine, but he had not been advertised for a match, though was reportedly going to face Andrade for the United States Championship.[41]

Storylines

The event comprised a total of eighteen matches evenly divided across the two nights, including one match on each night's Kickoff pre-show. The matches resulted from scripted storylines, where wrestlers portrayed heroes, villains, or less distinguishable characters in scripted events that built tension and culminated in a wrestling match or series of matches. Results were predetermined by WWE's writers on the Raw, SmackDown, and NXT brands,[42][43] while storylines were produced on WWE's weekly television shows, Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown, and NXT.[44]

Main event matches

Feeling as though nobody deserved an opportunity to challenge him at the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania, Raw's WWE Champion Brock Lesnar decided to enter himself into the men's Royal Rumble match as entrant number one.[45][46] Lesnar dominated the first half of the match until he was eventually eliminated by Raw's Drew McIntyre, who would go on and win the match, thus earning himself a world championship match of his choosing at WrestleMania.[47] The next night on Raw, McIntyre announced that he would challenge Lesnar for the WWE Championship at the event.[48] At Super ShowDown, Lesnar retained the title against Ricochet, keeping him as the defending champion against McIntyre at WrestleMania.[49]

At Super ShowDown, AJ Styles was a participant in the Tuwaiq Trophy gauntlet match. Final participant Rey Mysterio was ambushed backstage by Styles' O.C. teammates Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, prompting Styles to declare himself the winner by forfeit. The referee gave Mysterio until the count of ten, during which, the camera cut backstage, showing that Gallows and Anderson had been attacked by The Undertaker, making a surprise return. Undertaker then made his entrance, taking Mysterio's place, and performed a Chokeslam on Styles to win the match and the trophy.[49] On the following Raw, a disgruntled Styles mocked Undertaker for still wrestling and issued a warning.[50] The Undertaker then appeared at Elimination Chamber and cost Styles his No Disqualification match with Aleister Black.[51] The following night on Raw, Styles taunted Undertaker by bringing up his wife Michelle McCool, blaming her for why Undertaker keeps coming back to wrestle, while also calling Undertaker by his real name, Mark Calaway. Styles then challenged Undertaker to a match at WrestleMania.[52] A contract signing for the match was conducted the following week.[53] Styles then challenged Undertaker to a Boneyard match,[36] and Undertaker accepted, cutting a promo akin to his "American Bad Ass" gimmick (circa 2000–2003).[54]

Undercard matches

After winning SmackDown's Universal Championship at Super ShowDown,[49] WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg appeared on the following night's episode of SmackDown and issued an open challenge by stating his catchphrase, "Who's next?" Roman Reigns interrupted and had a stare down with Goldberg before accepting his challenge, which was subsequently scheduled for WrestleMania.[55] Just before the event, however, Reigns, requested to be removed from the match for being at an increased risk for COVID-19, as he was in an immunocompromised state from his previous health issues with leukemia; Reigns himself confirmed the report and stated that WWE honored the request.[33][32] Triple H also confirmed the report in a March 29 interview on ESPN's SportsCenter.[30] Five days later on the April 3 episode of SmackDown, Braun Strowman was announced as Reigns' replacement in the match, making this the first WrestleMania since WrestleMania XXVIII where Reigns was not featured.[35]

At the Royal Rumble, Raw's Charlotte Flair won the women's Royal Rumble match to earn herself a women's championship match of her choosing at WrestleMania.[47] On the February 3 episode of Raw, Flair stated that she had defeated the women's champions of both Raw and SmackDown and had held those titles multiple times. She was then interrupted by Rhea Ripley, the NXT Women's Champion—a title that Flair had only held once during NXT's infancy in 2014. Ripley declared that Flair should challenge her as she had defeated Flair, but Flair had never beat her.[56] Flair continued to delay giving an answer until after Ripley had defended her title at TakeOver: Portland on February 16.[57][58] After Ripley retained her title at the NXT event, she was ambushed by Flair, who accepted Ripley's challenge for a match at WrestleMania, marking the first time that a Royal Rumble winner chose an NXT championship to challenge for with the title itself being the first NXT championship to be defended at the event.[59]

Prior to Survivor Series, a rivalry began between Raw's Becky Lynch and NXT's Shayna Baszler. At the event, Baszler won the non-title brand supremacy Triple Threat match between the three brands' women's champions by submitting SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley. An irate Lynch attacked Baszler following the match and put her through an announce table.[60] After losing the NXT Women's Championship,[61] Baszler appeared as the thirtieth entrant in the women's Royal Rumble match, finishing as the runner-up.[47] Following Lynch's title defense on the February 10 episode of Raw, Baszler ambushed Lynch and bit the back of her neck, thus reigniting their feud.[58] Baszler was then entered into Raw's women's Elimination Chamber match at the namesake event where she single-handedly eliminated all of her opponents to win and earn herself a Raw Women's Championship match against Lynch at WrestleMania.[51]

John Cena, who had last appeared during Raw Reunion in July 2019, made his return from hiatus during the February 28, 2020 episode of SmackDown to address his role at WrestleMania. Seemingly announcing his retirement, Cena declared he would not be appearing at the event, stating that WrestleMania spots should be earned. As Cena gave a farewell salute to the audience from the stage, the lights went out. When they illuminated, "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt appeared behind Cena. The Fiend then pointed to the WrestleMania sign, signaling a challenge to Cena, who simply nodded in acceptance. A match between the two was then scheduled for the event, being a rematch from WrestleMania XXX in 2014.[55] On the March 27 episode, Wyatt challenged Cena to a Firefly Fun House match,[62] and Cena accepted.[35]

After being forced to retire in 2011 due to a severe neck injury, WWE Hall of Famer Edge returned at the 2020 Royal Rumble during the namesake match, where he had a brief reunion with Randy Orton; Edge eliminated Orton before his own elimination.[47] On the following Raw, Edge explained how he was able to make his return. Orton then welcomed Edge back and suggested reforming Rated-RKO, but turned on Edge and performed an RKO on him. After attacking Edge's neck with a chair, Orton smashed Edge's head between two chairs in a maneuver known as the "Conchairto", which Edge had made famous.[48][58][63] Edge's wife and fellow Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix appeared on the March 2 episode to give a medical update on her husband. Orton interrupted and said that he attacked Edge so that he would remain at home and continue being a husband and a father to their children. He then blamed Phoenix for the attack, claiming that she allowed Edge to get back in the ring. Phoenix slapped Orton, who in turn performed an RKO on her.[50] Edge made his return the following week on Montel Vontavious Porter's (MVP) talk show, the "VIP Lounge". Orton attempted to attack Edge, only for Edge to perform an RKO of his own on Orton. After Orton retreated, Edge performed the Conchairto on MVP as a warning to Orton.[52] Edge then challenged Orton to a Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania,[53] and Orton accepted.[36]

At Survivor Series, Seth Rollins served as the captain of Team Raw for the men's Survivor Series elimination match, but questioned Kevin Owens' loyalty to the team due to Owens appearing at NXT TakeOver: WarGames; Raw suffered a devastating loss at Survivor Series, only winning one of the seven interbrand matches.[60] Rollins criticized the Raw roster for their poor performance and again questioned Owens' loyalty, who responded by performing a Stunner on Rollins. Owens then became the target of AOP (Akam and Rezar).[64][65] Although Owens accused Rollins of being behind AOP's attacks, Rollins denied the accusations, though he ultimately joined with AOP, turning heel. Rollins then began to refer to himself as the "Monday Night Messiah" and recruited Murphy into his new faction with AOP; Rollins and Murphy eventually won the Raw Tag Team Championship together. At the Royal Rumble, Rollins eliminated Owens from the namesake match thanks to help from AOP and Murphy.[47] Rollins and Murphy lost their titles on an episode of Raw, and during a rematch at Elimination Chamber, Owens cost them their match and performed a Stunner on Rollins afterward.[51] The following night on Raw, Rollins challenged Owens to a match,[52] and Owens accepted for WrestleMania.[53]

On the Survivor Series Kickoff pre-show, Heavy Machinery (Otis and Tucker) participated in an interbrand tag team battle royal that was won by Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode;[66] the two teams entered into a feud following the event. Also during this time, Otis started a romance with Mandy Rose. On the February 14 episode of SmackDown, Otis had a scheduled Valentine's Day date with Rose; however, Ziggler arrived first and stole the date, causing Otis to walk away heartbroken.[67] On the March 6 episode, Otis apologized to Rose, who rejected the apology.[68] Heavy Machinery then participated in the SmackDown Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber match, where they were eliminated by Ziggler and Roode.[51] On the March 20 episode of SmackDown, Ziggler distracted Otis during his tag team match by showing pictures of him and Rose together, enraging Otis, which caused Heavy Machinery to get disqualified, thus costing them another title opportunity.[69] Ziggler then challenged Otis to a match at WrestleMania and Otis accepted.[62] On the final SmackDown before WrestleMania, a mysterious hacker appeared on the TitanTron during Ziggler's match with Tucker and revealed that Rose's tag team partner Sonya Deville had conspired with Ziggler to sabotage Rose's date with Otis.[35]

Event

Part 1

Other on-screen personnel – Part 1
Role Name
Host Rob Gronkowski
English Commentators Michael Cole (SmackDown)
John "Bradshaw" Layfield (SmackDown)
Tom Phillips (Raw)
Byron Saxton (Raw)
Spanish commentator Marcelo Rodríguez[70]
Ring announcers Greg Hamilton (SmackDown)
Mike Rome (Raw)
Referees Danilo Anfibio
Jessika Carr
John Cone
Eddie Orengo
Charles Robinson
Drake Wuertz
Rod Zapata
Interviewers Charly Caruso
Kayla Braxton
Pre-show panel Corey Graves
Peter Rosenberg
Pre-show correspondents Renee Young
Booker T
Mark Henry

Pre-show

During the WrestleMania 36 Kickoff Part 1 pre-show, Drew Gulak faced Cesaro. The climax saw Cesaro perform a U.F.O. on Gulak, followed by a pin to win the match.[71]

Preliminary matches

The actual pay-per-view portion of Part 1 opened with host Rob Gronkowski hyping WrestleMania, who was then joined by his friend Mojo Rawley.[72]

In the first match, The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) defended the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship against Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. In the end, Cross performed The Purge on Sane followed by Bliss performing a Twisted Bliss to win and become the first two-time champions in the titles' history.[72]

Next, Elias faced King Corbin. In the end, as Corbin attempted a pin on Elias with his legs on the rope, the referee noticed it and voided the pin; Elias then performed a roll-up on a distracted Corbin to win the match.[72]

After that, Becky Lynch defended the Raw Women's Championship against Shayna Baszler. In the closing moments, as Baszler applied the Kirifuda Clutch on Lynch, Lynch countered into a roll-up to retain the title.[72]

In the fourth match, Sami Zayn (accompanied by Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura) defended the Intercontinental Championship against Daniel Bryan (accompanied by Drew Gulak). In the first half of the match, Zayn refused to face Bryan and continuously scurried away from him. Bryan would run after Zayn only for Cesaro and Nakamura to get in his way. This led to Gulak getting involved and temporarily taking out Cesaro and Nakamura. As Zayn wanted a countout victory, Bryan brought Zayn back into the ring and eventually started to perform his offensive attacks on him. In the end, Cesaro and Nakamura recovered and attacked Gulak. As Bryan attempted a slam on Zayn, Zayn performed a Helluva Kick in mid-air to retain the title.[72]

Next, the SmackDown Tag Team Championship was defended in a Triple Threat Ladder match. The match was originally scheduled as a tag team Triple Threat Ladder match in which The Miz and John Morrison were to defend the title against The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) and The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso), but due to The Miz becoming ill, the match was contested between Morrison, Jimmy, and Kingston, each representing their respective team. In the end, all three competitors, who were atop ladders, managed to unhook the gold hook with the titles still intact. After a scuffle, Jimmy and Kingston performed a headbutt on Morrison, who fell down atop a ladder wedged between the rope and a second ladder. As Morrison fell, he grasped the titles, unhooking them as he fell, thus Morrison retained the title.[72]

After that, Kevin Owens faced Seth Rollins. The match ended via a disqualification win for Owens, as Rollins attacked him with the ring bell. Owens then taunted Rollins to face him again in a No Disqualification match, which was accepted. During the match, Owens attacked Rollins with the ring bell and performed a diving elbow drop off the WrestleMania sign. In the end, Owens performed a Stunner on Rollins to win the match.[72]

In a small segment, 24/7 Champion R-Truth joined Gronkowski and Rawley, who were standing atop a viewing podium. Gronkowski attempted to pin Truth to win the title, however, Rawley moved Gronkowski and pinned Truth instead to win the 24/7 title for the seventh time.[72]

In the penultimate and final match from the Performance Center, Goldberg defended the Universal Championship against Braun Strowman. As Strowman attempted a Running Powerslam on Goldberg, Goldberg countered and performed three Spears for a near fall. Goldberg then performed the fourth Spear on Strowman. As Goldberg attempted a Jackhammer on Strowman, Strowman countered and performed four Running Powerslams on Goldberg to win the title for the first time, as well as his first world championship.[72]

Main event

In the main event of Part 1, The Undertaker faced AJ Styles in a Boneyard match, which was a Buried Alive match set at an undisclosed cemetery and warehouse in the Orlando area. A hearse arrived at the cemetery to The Undertaker's theme music, however, Styles emerged from the casket. The Undertaker then arrived riding a motorcycle (reminiscent of his "American Bad Ass" gimmick) to the tune of Metallica's "Now That We're Dead". Halfway through the match, Styles' O.C. teammates Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson appeared in an attempt to assist Styles, but The Undertaker fought them off. The Undertaker then fought a group of druids before Styles gained the upper hand again. Styles attacked Undertaker with a spade which caused Undertaker to fall in the grave. As Styles was preparing to drop dirt on Undertaker to bury him and win, Undertaker appeared behind Styles and started to attack him. Undertaker and Styles fought all over the graveyard and atop the warehouse rooftop. Undertaker then fought Gallows and Anderson on the rooftop. He then threw Gallows off the rooftop, performed a Tombstone Piledriver on Anderson, and threw Styles off the rooftop. Undertaker then threw Styles into the grave, started the tractor, and dumped all the dirt in the grave to win the match. Following the match, as the camera panned on the grave, Styles' hand was sticking out from the dirt, while Undertaker then departed on his motorcycle, again to the Metallica song.[72]

Part 2

Other on-screen personnel – Part 2
Role Name
Hosts Rob Gronkowski
Titus O'Neil
English Commentators Michael Cole (SmackDown)
John "Bradshaw" Layfield (SmackDown)
Tom Phillips (Raw/NXT Women's Championship match)
Byron Saxton (Raw/NXT Women's Championship match)
Spanish commentator Carlos Cabrera[70]
Ring announcers Greg Hamilton (SmackDown)
Mike Rome (Raw/NXT Women's Championship match)
Referees Danilo Anfibio
Shawn Bennett
John Cone
Darrick Moore
Eddie Orengo
Charles Robinson
Drake Wuertz
Interviewers Charly Caruso
Kayla Braxton
Pre-show panel Corey Graves
Peter Rosenberg
Pre-show correspondents Renee Young
Booker T
Christian

Pre-show

During the WrestleMania 36 Kickoff Part 2 pre-show, Liv Morgan faced Natalya. In the end, Morgan pinned Natalya with a roll-up to win the match.[73]

Preliminary matches

The actual pay-per-view portion of Part 2 opened with Rhea Ripley defending the NXT Women's Championship against Charlotte Flair. In the climax, After a back-and-forth match, Flair forced Ripley to tap out to the Figure-Eight Leglock to win the title for a second time – and the first time since NXT TakeOver in 2014. Flair also became the first wrestler to win an NXT championship before and after NXT became one of WWE's three main brands.[74]

Next, Aleister Black faced Bobby Lashley (accompanied by Lana). In the end, as Lashley attempted a Spear on Black, Black performed a Black Mass on Lashley to win the match.[74]

After that, Otis faced Dolph Ziggler (accompanied by Sonya Deville). In the closing moments, as Otis attempted to perform the Caterpillar on Ziggler, Deville distracted Otis on the ring apron, which allowed Ziggler to attack Otis with a low blow from behind. Deville's tag team partner, Mandy Rose, came out and attacked Deville. With the referee distracted, Rose also performed a low blow on Ziggler. Otis then performed the Caterpillar on Ziggler to win the match. Following the match, Otis and Rose shared a kiss in the ring.[74]

In the fourth match, Edge faced Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match. As Edge waited for Orton to make his entrance, Orton – who had been disguised as a cameraman – attacked Edge from behind with an RKO. Orton then attacked Edge with a second RKO and a camera, but Edge rose to his feet. Edge and Orton then fought in the Performance Center's gym area, where Orton placed Edge's arms in a sling and proceeded to attack him. As Orton attempted to attack Edge with a weight, Edge performed a dropkick on him. The two then fought back to the ringside area, where Orton threw Edge into a barricade off a raised platform. After fighting all throughout the Performance Center, they eventually fought atop a production truck where Edge performed a spear on Orton and Orton performed an RKO on Edge. In the end, Edge applied a sleeper hold on Orton, who passed out on a chair. A conflicted Edge then performed the Conchairto on Orton. Edge won the match after Orton was unable to answer the referee's 10 count.[74]

Next, The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) defended the Raw Tag Team Championship against Angel Garza and Austin Theory (with Zelina Vega). In the closing moments, Ford performed a Springboard Frogsplash on Theory, who was then pinned by Dawkins. After the match, Garza, Theory, and Vega attacked the Street Profits. NXT's Bianca Belair then ran out and attacked Vega, clearing the ring.[74]

In a small segment, new 24/7 Champion, Mojo Rawley ran away from multiple wrestlers into the Performance Center. They cornered Rawley near the podium host Rob Gronkowski was standing on. Gronkowski witnessed this and performed a dive on top of the wrestlers. Gronkowski then pinned Rawley to win the 24/7 Championship.[74]

After that, Bayley defended the SmackDown Women's Championship in a fatal five-way elimination match against Sasha Banks, Lacey Evans, Naomi, and Tamina. Tamina was the first competitor eliminated after all the other wrestlers piled on top of her for the pin. Naomi was next eliminated by Sasha Banks after submitting her to the Bank Statement. Bayley then accidentally attacked Banks after Evans had moved out of the way of an attack meant for her. After Bayley tried apologizing, Bayley pushed Banks to avoid Evans, but Evans managed to connect the Woman's Right on Banks to eliminate her, with Bayley not attempting to break the pin to help Banks. Finally, as Evans was about to perform the Woman's Right on Bayley, Banks returned to the ring and performed a Backstabber on Evans. Bayley then pinned Evans to win the match and retain the title.[74]

The penultimate match was the Firefly Fun House match between John Cena and "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt. Cena came out for his match in the Performance Center, assuming his match was taking place in the ring. Wyatt was then shown in the Firefly Fun House, stating that Cena would actually be facing himself before exiting through the fun house's door. Cena was then teleported to the Firefly Fun House. After also going through the door, Cena was transported through a series of dream sequences where Wyatt demonstrated his perceived personality flaws (such as being a bully who did not have to work for his achievements like Wyatt did), including his debut appearance on SmackDown (with Wyatt reprising Kurt Angle's promo against Cena from the episode, and Cena seemingly unable to say anything but "ruthless aggression"), and a spoof of Saturday Night's Main Event (where Wyatt introduced Cena as his tag team partner "Johnny Largemeat", who was tired out from repeatedly lifting weights). After reminiscing about his defeat against Cena at WrestleMania XXX, with Wyatt appearing as his old Wyatt Family self, Cena and Wyatt suddenly appeared in a ring where Cena reversed out of an attempted Sister Abigail by Wyatt, and was (as in that previous match) coerced into using a chair against him. However, as he did so, Wyatt disappeared, and Cena was suddenly transported to nWo Monday Nitro—with Cena acting as "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and Wyatt acting as Eric Bischoff. In the ring, Cena tackled Wyatt. After a fury of fists, Wyatt disappeared and was replaced by the Huskus the Pig Boy puppet. The Fiend then snuck up from behind and performed Sister Abigail and the Mandible Claw on Cena to win the match, with Wyatt's normal self counting the pin. Just before The Fiend performed Sister Abigail, the audio of Cena's promo from SmackDown was played, where Cena had stated that at WrestleMania, he would end the existence of the "most over hyped, over valued, over privileged WWE Superstar".[74][75][76]

Main event

In the main event of Part 2, Brock Lesnar (accompanied by Paul Heyman) defended the WWE Championship against Drew McIntyre. McIntyre started off with a Claymore Kick on Lesnar for a nearfall. Lesnar performed three German suplexes and an F-5, but McIntyre kicked out at one. Lesnar then performed two more F-5's, both of which again resulted in nearfalls. As Lesnar went for a fourth F-5, McIntyre countered and performed three more Claymore Kicks on Lesnar to win the title.[74] After the show went off the air, McIntyre was confronted by Big Show, who McIntyre then faced in a title defense described by WWE as the "hidden WrestleMania main event."[77] McIntyre performed a Claymore Kick on Big Show to retain the title.[78] This dark match aired on the April 6 episode of Raw.[79]

Reception

The event was positively received by fans and received mixed–to–positive reviews from critics. While most agreed that WrestleMania 36 suffered from both a poor lead-up and the absence of a live audience, many felt that the event exceeded expectations, with both critics and fans largely praising the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches as the best of the event for their uniqueness and over-the-top tone (and in the case of the latter, its inventiveness and humor); the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match and Owens vs. Rollins were also singled out by most critics.[24][80][81]

Brent Brookhouse of CBS Sports was positive, acknolwedging that "many fans were understandably hesitant to believe WWE could deliver a spectacle deserving of the WrestleMania title, but somehow the company pulled off the seemingly impossible by delivering two nights of compelling wrestling without tens of thousands of fans in attendance." He ranked the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches as the best for Night 1 and 2 respectively, stating that the first "nailed the execution by striking the right balance between tense action and over-the-top presentation" and second for being "indie psychological horror movies brought to professional wrestling."[82]

Randall Colburn of The A.V. Club gave the event a B–; while praising WWE for making the most out of its "weirdest WrestleMania of all time", particularly praising the Boneyard match, he did point out that most matches suffered from its poor lead-up and lack of live audience, stating notably that Becky Lynch and Shayna Baszler's match was "a listless and too–short battle that, when you consider the response both performers tend to extract from crowds, might have shifted into another gear in a packed stadium." He also cited examples of "shoddy storytelling", noting that it "[was] great that Braun Strowman beat the snot out of Goldberg, but it might have resonated more if the company hadn't just had the 53-year old Goldberg destroy The Fiend, a heretofore untouchable star, during a blood money PPV in Saudi Arabia—and, you know, done anything with Braun over the past few years."[83]

Slate heavily criticized the lead-up to the event, stating that "[The wrestlers], in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania, looked significantly more like they were doing bad playacting and play-fighting than they usually do. Others decided to play to a crowd that wasn't actually there. [...] the WWE style—with its emphasis on overwrought capital–P 'performance,' over-rehearsed matches, and flowery mannerisms—looked more like a parody when staged in front of zero spectators. Still, expectations for this WrestleMania were low, albeit with some minor optimism over the show being divided up into two nights instead of the marathon one-night slogs of recent years." However, he stated that after two lackluster opening matches, the card from Lynch vs. Baszler onward was "very physical matches [which] made the best of the setting, and with most of the matches fitting that bill, Night One was really strong overall", although he found Night Two much weaker, stating that Edge vs. Randy Orton was "glacially slow, and it appeared to somehow be edited out of an even longer match", and that Lesnar vs. McIntyre felt "more like a formality than anything cool, because it was so paint-by-numbers." Slate considered the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches to be the best matches.[80]

Bleacher Report stated "It's hard to judge this event. You have to take the good with the bad, maintain honest integrity with criticism, but also be forgiving and acknowledge that this was not how WrestleMania was supposed to be." They gave a positive review, although they ranked Elias vs. Corbin, Black vs. Lashley, and the SmackDown Women's title match as the low points of the event.[84][85] Additionally, Bleacher Report gave the Boneyard match a 4.5 star ratings on a scale of 5, their highest rated match from both nights, while giving the Universal Championship match a 0.5 star, their lowest rated match from the event.[86]

The Hollywood Reporter noted that the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches could set a precedent for WWE using more "cinematic experiences" in its programming to make up for the closed door tapings.[24]

Results

Part 1 (April 4) results
No. Results Stipulations Times[71][72]
1P Cesaro defeated Drew Gulak Singles match[87] 4:25
2 Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross defeated The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) (c) Tag team match for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship[88] 15:05
3 Elias defeated King Corbin Singles match[89] 9:00
4 Becky Lynch (c) defeated Shayna Baszler Singles match for the WWE Raw Women's Championship[90] 8:30
5 Sami Zayn (c) (with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura) defeated Daniel Bryan (with Drew Gulak) Singles match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship[91] 9:20
6 John Morrison (c) defeated Jimmy Uso and Kofi Kingston[c] Triple Threat Ladder match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship[92] 18:30
7 Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins No Disqualification match[d][93] 17:20
8 Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg (c) Singles match for the WWE Universal Championship[94] 2:10
9 The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles (with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) Boneyard match[95] 19:00
  • (c) – refers to the champion(s) heading into the match
  • P – indicates the match took place on the pre-show
Part 2 (April 5) results
No. Results Stipulations Times[73][74]
1P Liv Morgan defeated Natalya Singles match[96] 6:25
2 Charlotte Flair defeated Rhea Ripley (c) by submission Singles match for the NXT Women's Championship[97] 20:30
3 Aleister Black defeated Bobby Lashley (with Lana) Singles match[98] 7:20
4 Otis defeated Dolph Ziggler (with Sonya Deville) Singles match[99] 8:15
5 Edge defeated Randy Orton Last Man Standing match[100] 36:35
6 The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) (c) defeated Angel Garza and Austin Theory (with Zelina Vega) Tag team match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship[101] 6:20
7 Bayley (c) defeated Lacey Evans, Naomi, Sasha Banks, and Tamina Fatal 5-Way Elimination match for the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship[102] 19:20
8 "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt defeated John Cena Firefly Fun House match[103] 13:00
9 Drew McIntyre defeated Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) Singles match for the WWE Championship[104] 4:35
10D Drew McIntyre (c) defeated Big Show[e] Singles match for the WWE Championship[78] 6:55[79]
  • (c) – refers to the champion(s) heading into the match
  • D – indicates the match was a dark match
  • P – indicates the match took place on the pre-show

SmackDown Women's Championship Fatal 5-Way match eliminations

Eliminated Wrestler Eliminated by Method Time[74]
1 Tamina Bayley, Lacey Evans, Naomi, and Sasha Banks Pinfall 6:35
2 Naomi Sasha Banks Submission 10:20
3 Sasha Banks Lacey Evans Pinfall 13:25
4 Lacey Evans Bayley Pinfall 19:20
Winner Bayley (c) N/A

Notes

  1. ^ Two matches were taped elsewhere. The Boneyard match was taped on location in the Orlando area, while the Firefly Fun House match was taped at WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
  2. ^ The event was held without a live audience due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United States
  3. ^ This match was scheduled to be a tag team Triple Threat match with six participants (John Morrison and The Miz, The Usos, and The New Day). Due to The Miz contracting an illness, he was removed from the card and the match was changed to a standard Triple Threat match with one participant from each of the three teams. The match winner's team would be awarded the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
  4. ^ The match started as a standard singles match which Owens initially won by disqualification. The match was restarted as a No Disqualification match.
  5. ^ The match was shown on the April 6, 2020 episode of Raw

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