Now that was badass.
The Undertaker – using a twist on his American Badass persona – put on a horror-movie-meets-old-western boneyard match that was the highlight a supremely entertaining Day 1 of WrestleMania 36 on Saturday night. The Undertaker showed up to a graveyard in a top and pants similar to the traditional character, but wore a bandana and rode in on a motorcycle to “Now That We’re Dead” by Metallica after Styles showed up in a hearse.
What followed was unlike anything we’ve seen in WWE, which rose to the creative occasion for most of the night after having WrestleMania without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. There was blood, fire, druids brought in by Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, the Undertaker teleporting out of a grave to behind Styles in a flash of light and ultimately The Phenomenal One being buried alive.
The cinematic quality of it made it feel special and created tension. The Undertaker came across the best he has in a long time. He was the John Wayne gunslinger once on this last breath rallying to defeat the story’s villain – choke-slamming Styles off the top of a barn. The Undertaker then brought the story full circle by telling Styles – who was at his obnoxious best – “What’s my wife’s name? You remember it now?”
We won’t forget this match, which will go in The Undertaker’s canon of memorable ones, and it will be remembered as the day the character officially moved into the industry’s reality era. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see Styles-Undertaker.
The Undertaker is still the man and so is Becky Lynch. Could the return of the “Baddest Women on The Planet” be far behind?
Lynch retained her Raw women’s championship – which she won from Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 35. She countered Shayna Baszler’s Kirifuda Clutch submission finisher into a pin, allowing her to escape with a win at WWE’s Performance Center. With the monster-like build Baszler got coming into this match, the logical explanation for Lynch keeping the belt is Rousey could be ready to return to try to reclaim her championship. The Man has pretty much beaten everyone else in the division, but still hasn’t faced the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion in a singles match.
The contest itself was the flat-out physical fight we all hoped for. The two opened with a flurry of blows, went counter for counter for a while and then started targeting body parts. It was one of Baszler’s better showings as Lynch sold well for her and the two had plenty of chemistry.
Baszler certainly didn’t look weak in defeat, but the loss does hurt any mystique WWE built up around her – somewhat wasting four-months of building her. NXT already has a ladder match set up to determine a No. 1 contender for it women’s title. Baszler likely will force her way if she stays with the black and gold brand, but her future is unclear for now.
WrestleMania 36 did include a huge title change as last-minute sub Braun Strowman kicked out of four spears, avoided a Jackhammer and delivered three power slams before pinning Goldberg in 2:12 to win his first Universal championship. While Strowman becoming a world champion is long overdue, this is a weird way to have it happen. He took the place of Roman Reigns – who pulled of WrestleMania because of coronavirus health concerns – and now he’s champion.
Strowman winning is certainly not far-fetched given his “Monster Among Men” moniker, but quick matches like this – the only thing Goldberg can have – just makes the decision to have him beat “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt for the Universal title at Super ShowDown seem that much more wrong. Reigns and Strowman, with whom he has had good match with before, seem to be on a collision course.
Unlike the Universal title match, the tag team – err triple-threat singles – ladder match was a show stealer and had one of WWE’s most unique and fitting finishes in a long time. The Miz had reportedly showed up to one of the taping not feeling well, so this match became John Morrison vs. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston. They made good use of their athleticism and creativity.
It ended with all three of them pulling the SmackDown tag team championship belts together on the hanger, but Morrison – who looked great in his first WrestleMania since 2011 – ultimately fell onto a horizontal ladder with the straps themselves for the win. The finish allows Morrison and Miz to retain and gives the New Day and The Usos to legitimate reason for a rematch when all six participants can partake. Really well done.
Seth Rollins was going to let Owens get his WrestleMania “win” after he was disqualified for using the ring bell. Owens’ wasn’t having it, asking Rollins to make it a no disqualification match and he eventually got his WrestleMania moment. He delivered a diving elbow to Rollins on the announce table from the top of the WrestleMania sign behind the barricade. It was the “Oh my God” moment of the night. The Stunner finished it off.
One title that didn’t change hands was the Intercontinental championship. Sami Zayn – with help from Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro – escaped with the belt. Bryan toyed with Zayn for most of the match, admonishing him for calling Drew Gulak “a joke”
A lot of the theme coming in was Bryan having holes in his game, and his cockiness and loyalty got the best him in a match that was more about good story than great wrestling. Good for Zayn that his title reign was not ended before it even started. Him gloating about this only will add to the heat he already has.
We are sure to hear a lot of Zayn in the future, but we get very little of host Rob Gronkowski, who did the open and then a segment that could carry over into Day 2. The former New England Patriots tight end nearly won the 24/7 championship, but was pulled off by friend Mojo Rawley who scored the pin. There is a good chance Gronk puts gold around his waist on Sunday.
Cesaro over Drew Gulak (Kickoff show)
Cesaro won the short match with an airplane spin, barely using his injured right arm. Building up Gulak should have been more important than trying to build doubt about Bryan’s fortunes later in the night. Wish these two got more time.