The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania 36 Part 1 – 04.04.20
Yes, it’s the show too big for one night, but not quite big enough for three nights. Just somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Also, pirates and shit.
And OF COURSE we start with Stephanie McMahon talking about how they just HAVE to put on this show that no one was asking to see so they can entertain their increasingly dwindling audience.
Taped from various places a week ago.
Your hosts are Michael Cole & JBL. HASN’T THE WORLD SUFFERED ENOUGH?
Women’s tag team titles: Asuka & Kairi Sane v. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
We’re already HAVING FUN, MAGGLE. Asuka does some dancing to start because “she loves to entertain”. ENTERTAIN WHO? THERE’S NO FANS! Kairi shoves Alexa down to start and they take turns messing up each other’s hair for the big heat spot. Nikki comes in with a dropkick on Sane for two and grabs a sleeper and yes, even with an empty arena the camera is still cutting and shaking like crazy. Alexa puts Asuka on the floor and follows with a senton off the apron, and Cross adds her own bodypress off the apron. Back in, Bliss gets two on Asuka. Cross comes in and gets double-teamed on the floor and back in for a bulldog into a low dropkick from Kairi. That gets two. Kairi pounds away on the mat as the camera zooms and cuts, but Nikki makes the hot tag to Bliss. But then she gets hung in the corner and stomped by Kairi and the Warriors go to work again. Alexa fights back out of the corner with a kick on Asuka and it’s back to Nikki. I mean, they’re going through the motions of a tag team match with crowd reactions but it’s just not working. Nikki goes up with a bodypress on Kairi for two, but gets cut off by Asuka again. She manages to hit a neckbreaker on Asuka for two, but Kairi saves with the Insane Elbow with a REALLY obvious edit helping. Nikki with a rollup, but Asuka reverses to the Asuka-lock and this time Alexa saves off the top and everyone is out as I guess we’re waiting for crew members to chant “This is awesome”. The champs come back with a Doomsday Device on Nikki for two, but Alexa hits a god-awful Twisted Bliss on Sane for the pin and the titles at 15:00. I dunno, it was technically a good match, but without the crowd it felt like it dragged on way too long at times. **3/4
Meanwhile, Sami Zayn promises that he’s going to buck the historical trend by walking out of Wrestlemania as IC champion.
King Corbin v. Elias
Corbin demands that Elias be counted out due to forfeit, but apparently he has somehow survived the fall to the concrete last week and returns. Elias smashes a guitar on Corbin in the aisle and beats on Corbin in the corner for two. Corbin drops him on the top rope and hits the Dine & Dash clothesline for two. More stuff happens and Elias makes the comeback and EVERYONE IS YELLING. So you know this is big. Elias even channels Lex Luger by tearing off his t-shirt because IT’S TOO TIGHT. Elias hits his neckbreaker deal for two, but walks into the Six Deep Fried Pickles for two. ARRRRRRGH! RAAAAAAAAR! YEEARGH! And they trade rollups and Elias wins with a handful of tights at 9:20. This gets 7.0 on the Lex Luger “yelling after every move” scale but maybe ½* for the match. They somehow managed to subvert my low expectations and suck even more. On the bright side, Elias apparently has a theme song. So we learned that.
RAW Women’s title: Becky Lynch v. Shayna Baszler
Wow, from main eventing last year to third from the bottom on this shitshow. So Becky arrives in her custom semi trailer and apparently walks all the way from the parking lot to make her entrance. Also I think her hair changed color from the parking lot to the ring. We get a CHICKFIGHT to start and Shayna immediately goes for the choke, but they brawl to the floor and Becky sends her into the stairs and back into the ring. Becky goes up with a missile dropkick (emphasis on the “miss”) and stomps her down in the corner. Shayna fights back with a knee strike and they trade submission attempts, but Shayna gets a spinebuster and follows with the double underhook facebuster for two. They slug it out on the apron and Shayna wins that with some nice knee strikes, but Becky slams her on the apron, WHICH IS THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, for two. Shayna takes her down with an armbar, but Becky rolls her over for two, so Shayna tries a Disarmer. Becky fights out of that, so Shyna knees her in the face for two. Becky escapes to the apron and Shayna tries the Kirafuda clutch through the ropes before dropping her to the floor. Shayna swings her into the desk from powerbomb position a couple of times, and back in for the clutch. But then Becky rolls her over for the pin at 8:35 to retain. WHAT. THE. FUCK. What an awful booking decision that was. Match was good, a fun sprint with hard hitting moves, but ENOUGH with Becky Lynch already. ***1/4
Intercontinental title: Sami Zayn v. Daniel Bryan
Irony: Michael Cole, MICHAEL COLE I SAY, sitting next to JBL, calls Sami Zayn “one of the most annoying men in the history of WWE”. With Rob Gronkowski and Mojo Rawley watching from the balcony. He’s not even the most annoying person IN THE GODDAMN ROOM. Sami runs away to start for the first 3:00, but finally Gulak gets involved and takes out Nakamura and Cesaro. So Bryan lets Sami try to walk out of the match, but then tackles him in the aisle and brings him into the ring to beat on him. Sami bails and Daniel hits him with a dive into the railing and back in for the missile dropkick. Daniel beats on him with crossfaces and slaps him around in the corner before Sami comes back with a cheap elbow out of the ropes. Sami tries to get his revenge for the slaps, but Daniel puts him down with the Yes Kicks and repeatedly curb stomps him. At this point, Cesaro and Nakamura return and take out Gulak, allowing Sami to hit Bryan with the Heluva Kick and retain at 9:15. Quite the series of shit finishes tonight. They were having a fun match up until then, at least. **1/2
Smackdown tag team title ladder match: John Morrison v. Kofi Kingston v. Jimmy Uso
So we get video packages for all the other matches tonight and their super-basic storylines, but no one even BOTHERS to explain why we’re having a SINGLES MATCH for the TAG TEAM TITLES?!? Everyone trades monkey flips and then ladders suddenly appear in the ring and everyone climbs and then falls down. JoMo beats on the other two with kicks and trades finisher attempts with Kofi, but Jimmy climbs for the belts while they screw around. Kofi cuts him off and they slug it out, but then John makes a climb for it and Jimmy hauls him down. Kofi tries to springboard through the ladder, but Jimmy and John dump him out of the ring and we get some really obvious commentary overdubbing. Morrison beats on Jimmy’s leg with the ladder and puts him on another ladder in the corner, then follows with a corkscrew senton. This reminds JBL of a “young Curt Hennig”. First of all, Morrison is far closer to old Curt Hennig in age, and second, when the fuck did Hennig ever do corkscrew splashes onto ladders? Everyone winds up on the floor and Kofi hits them with a dive as we get MORE overdubbed commentary. Back in and we get a Spanish Fly from Morrison on Kofi, and then Jimmy hits John with a flying splash and everyone is out as we wait for the “This is awesome” chant again. Jimmy and Kofi fight up the ladder with Kofi going up inside the ladder in a unique spot, but Morrison tries to cut him off and Kofi double-stomps him off the ladder. We get a ladder bridge and Jimmy runs Kofi into it to get rid of him, and then superkicks JoMo and puts him on the ladder bridge for DOOM. But then he climbs another ladder and Morrison pushes him off and out to the floor. John does the slow climb for the belts, but Kofi miraculously returns and then so does Jimmy. They all grab the titles and Morrison gets sent down to the ladder below, clutching the titles, so he retains at 18:41 despite looking like a complete loser. What an abysmal finish to a match that was pretty damn good leading up to it. John Morrison in particular looks like he’s way beneath the level he should be pushed at right now. **** They’re nuts to be killing each other for no audience, though.
Kevin Owens v. Seth Rollins
Rollins gets a couple of cheapshots and runs away, and they fight on the floor. Back in, KO slugs away in the corner and follows with a clothesline and senton, and back to the floor again for more brawling. They fight on the apron, and Seth backdrops him onto THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING to take over. And then he follows with a falcon arrow, agai on the HARDEST PART OF THE RING, and back to the floor again. Seth with the dives and he offers some trash-talk to provide atmosphere. Back in with a sling blade, but he misses the Stomp and KO comes back with a DDT and cannonballs him in the corner. To the top with the swanton for two off that. Seth escapes the powerbomb and tries the superkick, but KO counters with the stunner attempt, and Seth hits an enzuigiri, which leads to Owens hitting a lariat on the way down and both guys are out. ENOUGH with the double selling spots! There’s no crowd, change it up. They slug it out on top and Rollins brings him down with a buckle bomb, but KO comes back with the pop up powerbomb for two. They fight to the floor again and Seth hits him with the bell for the DQ at 10:00. Did the people who can book good finishes all get quarantined, too? But then Kevin demands a no-DQ rematch right there, and Seth comes back and throws him out of the ring and we continue. So Seth runs him into the railing and then hits him in the head with the stairs, then beats on him with a chair, but now KO uses the bell to put him onto the announce table, before climbing up the big Wrestlemania sign and putting him through the table with an elbow that mostly missed. Back in, KO with the stunner for the pin at 17:15 total. We didn’t need the second half, as they had a really good match leading up to the DQ and all the brawling stuff afterwards just didn’t work and only served to make the match worse. ***1/2
Meanwhile, we run down all the matches on tomorrow night’s show.
Universal title: Goldberg v. Braun Strowman
Goldberg immediately escapes the powerslam and spears him not once, not twice, but THRICE, and that gets two. A fourth time sets up the Jackhammer, but Braun powerslams him not once, not twice, but THRICE, and then a running one gets the pin and the title at 1:50. OK then. This certainly rendered the whole Goldberg deal completely pointless, but what are ya gonna do?
BONEYARD MATCH: AJ Styles v. Undertaker
So I guess this is our main event of the evening, as we get a CINEMATIC segment in the graveyard, complete with graphics introducing the participants while Undertaker rides in on the motorcycle. AJ offers the trash talk, but Taker takes him to the top of the hearse and beats on him up there until AJ kicks him in the nuts to escape. Taker throws him into an open grave (as you’d expect to be in a graveyard) but can’t follow up because the Good Brothers interrupt and they’ve apparently brought an army of druids as backup. However, they subscribe to the “attack individually” school of thought, so Taker fights them off easily until Gallows and Anderson double-team him. Undertaker uses a shovel to fend them off, but AJ smashes a damn tombstone over his head from behind, having escaped from that shallow grave from previous in the match. Taker recovers from that, but AJ charges him and spears him through the fence. Taker keeps fighting as AJ lays out all the reasons why he’s an old broken down bitch before breaking the shovel over his head and dropping him into the grave. But then he makes the classic mistake of giving him the last rites before checking the body, and Undertaker magically appears behind him when he starts up the backhoe! Rookie mistake there. AJ runs up to the roof of a nearby barn, but Undertaker (of course) sets off fires of hell to distract them, and then beats on Gallows and Anderson and throws them off the roof after delivering a tombstone to them. This leaves AJ alone again, so Taker chokeslams him off the roof and through the remains of the fence. But Taker isn’t done with him quite yet, and offers more life advice and a hug of admiration, and then boots him into the grave one more time and buries him alive to win the match. Luckily he had a tombstone ready for just such an occasion, too. That’s why he’s the professional. Million billion stars for this, as they just WENT FOR IT and deliver full-on cinematic wackiness with ridiculous action movie framing and special effects. This is the kind of stuff that the show needed to be, not play-acting matches in an empty arena.
This was actually a more enjoyable show than I was expecting going in, especially the boneyard deal. It’s not exactly something I’d call a classic show, but they confined it to three hours and I’d say it’s worth a watch as long as you adjust expectations accordingly.
But much like the restaurant on the moon, the food is good, but there’s no atmosphere.