With night one in the rear-view mirror (and you can read all about that here), and with the sights and sounds of the Boneyard match still fresh in everyone’s minds, it was time to sit down and take in the second consecutive evening of wrestling from WWE Wrestlemania 36. Of course, it goes without saying that this show had a weird feel to it because of the lack of an audience, and for obvious reasons, this makes it a show that sticks out like a sore thumb. However, if the second night of this extravaganza is viewed in isolation, it was a pretty enjoyable show.

Natalya vs. Liv Morgan (Kick-off) 

Things got underway on the kick-off show (which was largely video packages and Corey Graves chatting to Michael Rosenberg in front of a green screen. We did get a solitary match though. However, there’s not a huge amount to say about this match, chiefly because there was no reason to be invested in it. Liv Morgan and Natalya have barely interacted on television and it seemed as though there was no real story to this contest going into things. The in-ring conflict between the two was more than acceptable and Morgan looked to hold her own here, picking up what would be an upset win if there was an audience there to react. As it stood, Natalya’s visceral growls were off-putting in what is essentially an echo chamber and nothing about this was particularly notable beyond the result. Not a patch on Cesaro vs Drew Gulak from the night one kick-off show.

NXT Women’s Championship Rhea Ripley vs.  Charlotte Flair

When Charlotte Flair won the Royal Rumble match, it was met with a certain level of dismay given the potential matchups against Becky Lynch or Bayley. However, the possibility of Charlotte taking on young upstart Rhea Ripley made for an interesting twist on the usual WrestleMania format for title matches and brought the NXT Women’s title into a prominent spot. While the build-up may have cooled off somewhat since the outbreak of COVID-19, Flair had largely been very strongly presented while Ripley, although brash and confident was portrayed as the underdog.

Once the match got underway, Flair was dominant in the early exchanges until Ripley hit her Riptide finished out of nowhere for a very early near fall. Ripley would have a few more big spots, including a somersault from the steps onto the floor before Charlotte would begin methodically working over Ripley’s leg in classic Flair style. Flair would hit several chop blocks, including one that looked legitimately painful, and while Rhea would have a few hope spots throughout the match, including a beautiful top rope dropkick, it was mostly Flair on the offensive. After the two traded submission attempts, Flair eventually got Ripley hooked up in her Figure Eight, and while Ripley would bravely try and hold on she eventually tapped out. A weird result, and while Charlotte going to NXT does open up some more potential feuds and matches with a fresh crop of opponents it feels as though they missed an opportunity to solidify Ripley as the future of the division with a statement victory here. That said, this was a fine opener for night 2.

Aleister Black vs. Lashley

WWE deserve a certain degree of leeway as far as the build is concerned for many matches on this show, simply because of the chaotic nature of the current climate during the Coronavirus outbreak. However, even with that caveat, it feels like the company did absolutely nothing to drum up interest in Bobby Lashley vs Aleister Black. If anything, this felt like a bout thrown together because both men were intended to be taking part in other feuds that didn’t materialise.

Aleister Black doing his full entrance in some new special gear worked surprisingly well in this atmosphere before Lashley plodded out in his new long tights. This match had a very slow start but things began moving up a gear as they went outside. Black missed a moonsault to the outside (even though he landed on his feet) which gave Lashley an opening to take the advantage. This was followed by rest holds and a meandering pace with Lashley in control for a few minutes until the inevitable Black comeback, Lashley would hit an intense power slam for near fall. It was certainly enjoyable to see Black eventually hit the moonsault to outside, which told a nice story given his failed attempt earlier in the match, but Lashley would again regain the advantage. Things came to a head as Lashley went for the Dominator, only for Lana to instruct him to switch plans and opt for the spear, which of course was countered into a vicious-looking black mass by Aleister Black for the win. With nothing really on the slate for him on this show, this provided a nice showcase win for Black while also sowing the seeds of dissension between Lana and Lashley, especially given that their programme with Rusev appears to have abruptly ended.

Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler

One of the more personal, heated and well-constructed storylines going into this event featured the love triangle between Otis, Mandy Rose and Dolph Ziggler. With Otis having attempted to win Mandy’s heart, only to be usurped by Ziggler, the reveal last week that Sonya Deville and Dolph had conspired to remove Otis from the romantic equation with Rose meant that there was a very real possibility that Rose and Otis could be reunited here, setting up an intriguing potential happy moment. Something, I’m sure, no-one would turn down in these current dark times.

Sonya Deville made her way out with Ziggler, quickly followed by Otis. However, this was not jovial fun Otis. This was serious Otis, and he channelled that seriousness into his opening salvo against Ziggler before Dolph could turn the tide with a superkick to the outside. Although the story has been well constructed, these two were pretty average together in the ring together for the most part with Ziggler dominant for much of the middle section of the bout. Otis would get going again with a slingshot on Dolph before we were “treated” to the weird gyrations from Otis that accompany him “hulking up”, something that seems odder than normal in a silent room. From here on out we got a very physical from Otis, using the ring posts and his surrounding to inflict punishment on Ziggler, before he delivered a one-man compactor, at set up for the caterpillar. Sonya distracted the referee allowing Dolph to deliver a low blow. This naturally prompted Mandy Rose to come out and attack Sonya and hit a low blow on Dolph, which in turn allowed for Otis to hit the Caterpillar for the win. After the match, Otis celebrated with Mandy, and they missed. This was a big win for Otis in what has arguably been his breakout programme (poor Tucker), and the kiss was a great way to wrap up the feud with Ziggler, although I suppose Rose and Deville will continue to feud in the coming weeks.

Last Man Standing match – Edge vs. Randy Orton

Much has been written about Edge’s emotional return at the Royal Rumble, and quite honestly I don’t know that there’s a great deal that I can add to what has already been written. The programme with Orton has been masterfully executed since January with Orton carrying much of the heavy load and Beth Phoenix playing a pivotal role as the concerned wife to Edge, before the Rated-R Superstar came back to challenge his former tag partner. Edge has brought great intensity to this feud, while Orton may be at a career-best, so there were certainly high hopes for this Last Man Standing match.

Starting the match off with Orton getting the jump on Edge after masquerading as a cameraman was masterful and raised sympathy for Edge from the start. Orton would be pretty much all over Edge in the early going and used the unique location to add plenty of verbiages to help tell the story. The two would brawl through the whole building, with Orton nearly squashing  Edge in the gym, and attempting to hang him on a weight machine (which is a visual I would prefer not to see on a WWE show, given how former WWE wrestler Chris Benoit died). Edge would get some fun spots in too, including a leg lariat from a pull-up bar, and when they reached the boardroom a unique hanging elbow drop off a light fitting. Seeing Edge take big bumps like the elbow from the platform through a table on the prone Orton is still hard to watch, especially knowing Edge’s history of neck issues. Additionally, Orton using the draping DDT on a pick-up truck was a difficult watch, and Edge sold it brilliantly. Ultimately, they would end up on top of a production truck, and Edge would counter a punt attempt with a spear, only to be hit with an RKO moments after. Orton would attempt to finish off Edge with the Con-Chair-To, but Edge would use his (as yet unnamed) head and arm choke submission to choke Orton out, before hitting a con-chair-to of his own that kept Orton down for the count.

It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for Edge, as I imagine he envisioned his huge comeback in front of thousands of screaming fans. However, both men made use of unprecedented circumstances to create something really unique. It was perhaps a bit on the long side, and with 5-7 minutes cut off this could have been a classic. However, it was certainly enjoyable and Edge looked great in his first singles match in almost a decade.

In between this and the next match, Mojo Rawley was seen being chased by the usual goons before Rob Gronkowski leapt from the viewing platform and pinned his friend Rawley and scarpered with his newly-won 24/7 title.

Raw Tag Team Championship – Street Profits vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory

One big advantage of having no fans in the arena is you don’t have to factor in crowd fatigue. Had this show taken place, with the matches in this order I am in no doubt that Street Profits vs Austin Theory and Angel Garza would have died a death. After the emotional, heated grudge match between two of the best of all time, it would be only natural. No such problem here though. There’s not a whole heap to say about the build to this match because it was so thrown together with various injuries and necessary quarantines making this a makeshift title match that it became difficult to invest in what was booked. You can’t blame WWE for that, and they did the best they could with a difficult situation to try and make something out of a series of unfortunate changes to the roster of talent available.

The match itself was more than acceptable, and Montez Ford continued to show why he is considered the future of the company, as a whirlwind of charisma even during the entrance. The Street Profits would have the upper hand to begin until Garza, who was not the legal man, superkicked Angelo Dawkins. Austin Theory would be given some spotlight here as he worked over the babyface in peril, and you can see from this why he is regarded as such a promising prospect. Eventually, Ford would get the hot tag leading to the action spilling to the floor where he hit a big dive, followed by Garza executing a glorious moonsault.

The finish to the contest would come a short time later, and a bit out of nowhere as Austin Theory hit a TKO on Dawkins, only for Ford to hit his frog splash on Theory as he went for the pin, which allowed the Street Profits to get the victory (the result was never really in doubt, let’s be honest). Perhaps more interesting was the post-match shenanigans with Theory, Garza and Zelina Vega beating down Ford and Dawkins, only for Bianca Belair, Ford’s wife to make the save hitting a K.O.D on Vega. I don’t know if this was her joining the act with Ford and Dawkins or this was a one-off, but it created a nice moment and a logical way for Belair to get a Wrestlemania appearance under her belt.

SmackDown Women’s Title – Fatal Five-Way Elimination match – Bayley vs Sasha Banks vs Lacey Evans vs Naomi vs Tamina

Although the other women’s title matches may have been more anticipated than this encounter, the real story of this match has been Sasha Banks and Bayley, and whether their partnership was in jeopardy with Banks in the running to topple Bayley as the Queen of the Blue brand. It might have been a late announcement, but it certainly added a sense of intrigue to proceedings for this match. In fact, from the entrances, it couldn’t have been clearer what the real story of this match was, as the production team framed shots of Bayley around reaction shots from Sasha and perfectly constructed shots of Bayley in the foreground and Sasha looming large behind her, even from a distance.

However, before we got to the real story it was time to deal with the other competitors. Tamina was used as the big threat from the outset taking out everyone and forcing sworn enemies to align in order to take her out of play. In the middle of that we did briefly get a nice nod to Team BAD, the short-lived alliance between Naomi, Tamina and Sasha a few years ago. However, Tamina would thankfully be removed from proceedings in short order as all four women hit moves off the top rope consecutively before piling on to pin Tamina. It’s probably just as well because despite her impressive size and power, Tamina is still very sloppy in the ring and on more than one occasion looked to be close to injuring her dance partners here.

With the first elimination out of the way, things began to pick up speed. Naomi would catch Sasha Banks in her submission hold before Bayley hit a running knee that allowed Banks to transition into the Banks Statement and eliminate Naomi. With a 2-on-1 advantage, things looked bleak for Lacey Evans, but a miscommunication between Banks and Bayley would briefly remove Banks. Of course, she came back moments later wanting answers from her friend before Bayley tried to explain and pulled Banks out of danger from an advancing Evans. In a roundabout way, this would allow Evans to hit Banks with the Women’s Right and eliminate her, even as “shocked” Bayley failed to intervene.

With only Bayley and Evans left things quickly reached their final destination. Bayley would be in control for much of the final few minutes with Evans fighting from underneath, and looking the best she has as a babyface since her abrupt turn a few months ago. Bayley offered some great heel work here, even using the tag rope to choke Evans before eventually Banks returned and hit the backstabber on Evans, allowing Bayley to hit her reverse headlock DDT move for the win.

A solid match that had a slow build and teased a rift between Sasha Banks and Bayley throughout. They may have reconciled after the match, but this definitely got things underway for their feud and eventual split in the coming months, presumably via a Sasha Money in the Bank win.

Firefly Funhouse match – “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs John Cena

Before we got to the main event, there was the little matter of John Cena vs Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Funhouse match to contend with.  After night one’s Boneyard match, it was obvious to everyone that this would not be a normal one-on-one encounter, and it certainly lived up to that billing. Cena’s promos on Wyatt have been scathing, and once this got underway it began to make sense why that was so necessary.

Cena initially walked out to the ring before the Firefly Funhouse appeared on the screen and Bray Wyatt cut a promo, and then went through a door. This was quickly followed by Cena appearing in the Funhouse, and talking to Ramblin’ Rabbit who directed him through the same door that Wyatt walked through. So far, so weird.

Cena was then seen in a dark room, where he met the Vince McMahon puppet, who provoked Cena and shouted at him. Cena walked off. Next, a weird VT played, as Bray did a word for word recital of the promo from Kurt Angle on the night John Cena debuted on SmackDown, intercut with footage of Angle doing the promo. Suddenly, Cena appeared in his debut attire and couldn’t attack Bray, who was cutting a promo on Cena, without shouting “Ruthless Aggression” and flailing at him. Nikki Bella was briefly referenced.

Next, we saw the graphics for the classic 1980s Saturday Night’s Main Event show, and Bray was cutting a mad, rambling shouting 80s promo behind blue bars before Cena joined him as “Johnny Largemeat” pumping dumbbells to the point of agony.

Then we saw “Doctor of Thuganomics” John Cena, as it appeared Cena was being forced to re-live his career. Cena cut a scathing promo in rap form on Wyatt, leading to a sad, almost sobering Bray explaining that Cena is a bully, and Bray lamenting Cena having unlimited chances, and he eventually hit Cena with a chain. This was technically the first move of the “match”.

Following this, Bray was shown in is former guise complete with rocking chair and a Hawaiian shirt, doing a monologue in the style of his character at that time. This was then intercut with the Wrestlemania 30 match before they recreated the match briefly. There was a major focus on the spot with Cena and the chair, which at the time was Bray attempting to get Cena to embrace his dark side. Bray begged Cena to “fix it” before Cena swang the chair. We then cut to footage of WCW Monday Nitro and the NWO, before Bray began aping Eric Bischoff and Cena came out as Hollywood Hogan as the Vince McMahon doll dropped the “s” bomb.

Finally, Cena speared Bray and began pounding on him, reliving all of the failures in his career ( which were intercut including losses to Brock Lesnar, The Rock and others), but Bray disappeared and Cena realised he was actually pummelling the puppet of Huskus the Pig Boy. The Fiend appeared behind Cena, giving him the mandible claw as audio of Cena’s denigrating promo on Wyatt plays, only now it was reframed to reference Cena. Wyatt hit Sister Abigail and the mandible claw as Funhouse Bray counted the three and the “match” ended.

This was undoubtedly the most ambitious thing WWE have tried in a long time. It was chocked full of references and subtle nods to the past while executing a tense, multi-layered psychodrama. This was more like experimental theatre than wrestling, taking a deep dive into the psyche of John Cena and exploring the nature of success and failure. A masterful segment that would never have taken place under normal circumstances, but easily the best thing either man has been a part of in some time.

Afterwards, Titus O’Neill, who was filling in for the now absent Rob Gronkowski, looked on in shock and awe, which helped put this over the top as one of the most stunning pieces of work WWE has ever produced.

WWE Heavyweight Championship – Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre

Brock Lesnar vs Drew McIntyre was always going to be the main event of this show, and it definitely felt that it was designed as a coronation of McIntyre as the next big thing for the company. Since his dramatic elimination of Brock at the Royal Rumble, en route to winning the whole thing, McIntyre has seemed poised to break out to the next level. While the COVID-19 outbreak has made this moment less spectacular than previous Wrestlemania main events, it is no less historic or important a match. McIntyre’s smash-mouth style is totally compatible with Lesnar’s and I had a feeling this would be a violent physical encounter.

It was apparent from the start that this was not going to be a long match. The best Lesnar matches aren’t. Lesnar aggressive from the off, hitting shoulder barges in the corner, but McIntyre caught him with a Claymore Kick early that yielded a near fall. McIntyre tried for a second but received a German suplex for his troubles, and a second despite struggling against the powerful champion. Lesnar would club McIntyre on the back before hitting a third German suplex and F5. However, McIntyre would kick out at 1, much to the chagrin of a chocked Lesnar. A second F5 would follow accompanied by another kick out, and then a third which McIntyre again managed to escape the pin. Paul Heyman was great here, instructing for more F5s and making it seem like McIntyre, although impressive would soon be done with. Lesnar went for another F5, but that was reversed into a Claymore, followed by one more for good luck, and the pin as McIntyre got the big win.

After the match, there was no big crowd shot, no fireworks and no spectacle, but Drew McIntyre stood tall having dethroned Brock Lesnar clean-as-a-whistle, and in a nice touch he spoke directly to camera to thank the fans, which because no-one else on this show did (and no-one does in WWE generally), marked this out as a standout moment.


WrestleMania 36 may have been plagued with problems, and it could be argued the whole show should have just been postponed and held in a stadium later in the year. However, given the circumstances it feels like WWE excelled themselves, making the best of a bad situation to create something really memorable. In addition, if this sets up WrestleMania as a two-night event rather than a one-night show spanning seven hours, this can only be a positive. Night Two had plenty of strong in-ring action, some big moments, a huge title change and one of the most bizarre but genuinely brilliant “matches” in company history.

All pics courtesy of WWE

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