How WWE Should Divide WrestleMania 36 Match Card for 2-Day Event
For the first time, WrestleMania will be split into two shows on April 4 and 5, rather than one very long night as previously scheduled.
Of course, this is a response to the coronavirus pandemic, as was the decision to move the event from Raymond James Stadium to other locations, all without fans in attendance.
There are countless variables and questions of how WWE can best organize such a gargantuan task for WrestleMania 36.
Nevertheless, the company must figure out the best placement of matches for both nights in order to properly balance things out and ensure both shows reflect the status of The Grandest Stage of Them All.
How Long Should Each Show Be?
The first step in solving this problem is deciding how much time should be given to each program.
In the past few years, WrestleMania has had so many matches that it's become exceedingly long, with last year's starting at 5pm ET and ending beyond midnight into the next day.
It's become a major complaint as WWE struggles to put everyone on the card without cutting matches too short.
By splitting the pay-per-view in half, more leeway can be given to allow matches to breathe. Instead of one seven-hour event, it can be two broadcasts of three hours. Neither show should be longer, as it will make the shorter night seem less important and drag down the pacing of the more bloated card.
The two Battle Royals have already been cut, so that has trimmed some time off the card. We can assume the pageantry and extraneous buffer segments such as the Hall of Fame parade are gone too, which means a solid hour has gone.
Each night should have 30 minutes of pre-show time dedicated to recapping feuds and reminding fans what is scheduled, but there's no need to add fluff with too much analysis to stretch into a full hour.
Then, the three hours of the PPV itself should consist of just the matches and some minimal video packages.
Balancing Themes and Match Styles
Roughly 16 matches seem to be scheduled for WrestleMania 36. WWE could add or subtract a few, but that's as good of an estimate as we can get.
Conveniently, many matches have something in common with others. If the company splits the show directly in half, the eight matches on Night 1 could be a close reflection of Night 2.
Both shows would then have something to appeal to fans of particular styles, rather than making the first night all about the part-timers or the second hold all the women's division matches.
If done properly, each night can have a men's world title match, two women's title matches, a grudge feud, a mystical and dark character, some tag team action and something on the funny side.
Let's examine those parallel matches by their themes and structures.
The Men's World Title Matches
- Night 1: Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship.
- Night 2: Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship.
Both feature an unstoppable juggernaut champion against a younger, long-haired babyface ready to restore some stability to the top title of his brand.
Neither match will go on too long. Goldberg was never one to wrestle more than 10 minutes or so even in his prime, and Lesnar's average match time in the past five years has to clock in at less than five minutes.
Since Goldberg vs. Reigns will most likely be shorter, that match shouldn't be the main event. That will allow one night to close with a women's title bout while the other will end on a men's championship.
The Women's Top Title Matches
- Night 1: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler for the Raw Women's Championship.
- Night 2: Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair for the NXT Women's Championship
With Goldberg and Reigns not the main event of Night 1, that opens space for the Raw Women's Championship to take the spotlight.
While Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch might not have been a strong enough feud to main-event a normal one-night WrestleMania, it's more than qualified to take the top spot for one of the two nights. Lynch has been The Man in WWE for an entire year and should complete her journey with that accolade.
Balancing that out is Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley, which is a tougher sell to an audience that doesn't watch NXT. It should be a great match, but it shouldn't be the main event of either night and could get overlooked if it's on the same bill as Lynch-Baszler.
The Other Women's Title Matches
- Night 1: The Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross for the Women's Tag Team Championship.
- Night 2: Six-Pack Challenge for Bayley's SmackDown Women's Championship.
If there are four matches featuring the women's division, there should be two on both nights.
Neither of these feuds have had the best builds or will be the biggest draws, so they're about equal in terms of interest level. Plenty of talented Superstars will be involved, but they'll be midcard matches.
For people who don't watch NXT, it will be a bigger deal for the SmackDown Women's Championship to be on the same night as Ripley vs. Flair than the women's tag titles.
Also, Lynch on Night 1 has a better chance of losing her title than Ripley on Night 2. Likewise, it's a smarter bet Bayley will drop her title with the odds stacked against her than The Kabuki Warriors, who beat Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross to begin their reign.
To balance out two potential title changes in the women's division, Bayley's match should be on April 5.
The Grudge Matches
- Night 1: Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins.
- Night 2: Edge vs. Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match.
Both these matches are bitter, personal feuds. Also, since Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins has been dragged out since November, a regular singles match would be a bland culmination of their feud.
Here's hoping WWE adds a stipulation to that match, similar to how Edge vs. Orton is Last Man Standing. That way, both nights have a gimmick featuring two fantastic Superstars who are out for their opponent's blood.
Edge's match should be on Night 2, though, as it is one of the biggest draws for this year's event.
The Circus-Act Matches
- Night 1: The Fiend vs. John Cena.
- Night 2: The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match.
Both Bray Wyatt and The Undertaker have mysterious, otherworldly characters. It would be silly to put them on the same night.
John Cena is the most mainstream name of these four, so having him on the first night will draw more eyes and attention to the first night.
There's also more of a chance Cena vs. Wyatt goes longer than Styles vs. Undertaker, which would help the runtime on the same night as Goldberg is wrestling.
If the Boneyard Match is filmed on a different set with more of a movie atmosphere to it, perhaps the same will happen with Wyatt vs. Cena, which is even more of a reason to split these onto different nights.
The Comedic Matches
- Night 1: Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler.
- Night 2: Elias vs. King Corbin.
Both these matches have a humorous element to them, so each night should contain one as a buffer segment between bigger bouts.
Assuming the story between Mandy Rose, Otis and Dolph Ziggler ends happily ever after, it would be nice to see that on the opening night for a positive start to the weekend event.
Also, with Rob Gronkowski hosting both nights and being more involved in King Corbin's angle, it makes sense to hold that off to Night 2, rather than have nothing for the former NFL star to do.
The Men's Tag Team Title Matches
- Night 1: The Street Profits vs. Andrade and Angel Garza for the Raw Tag Team Championship.
- Night 2: SmackDown Tag Team Championship match.
There are an uneven amount of tag titles in WWE with just one women's championship, but the Raw and SmackDown belts should still be split between the Friday and Saturday shows.
Which match goes where depends on which team is involved against SmackDown tag team titleholders John Morrison and The Miz.
If it's The Usos, Jimmy should be on the same night as his wife, Naomi, so they can travel together. That would put them on April 5, although it would split Andrade from his fiancee, Charlotte Flair.
But if The New Day get the title shot, the Raw Tag Team Championship match should be on Night 2 so El Idolo and The Queen can stay in sync.
The Other Two Matches
- Night 1: Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
- Night 2: Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship.
These two matches have no real comparisons. One is for a belt and has an actual feud behind it, while the other is a random exhibition.
However, having Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley on Night 1 is an easier throwaway match and would allow Night 2 to have the bigger draw of Daniel Bryan and a projected title win.
A Final Look at the Cards
With all that in mind, here is how the lineup should look for April 4-5:
- Universal Championship match: Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns
- Raw Women's Championship match: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler (main event)
- Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena
- Women's Tag Team Championship match: The Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
- Raw Tag Team Championship match: The Street Profits vs. Andrade and Angel Garza
- Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
- Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler
- Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
- WWE Championship match: Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre (main event)
- NXT Women's Championship match: Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair
- Boneyard match: AJ Styles vs. The Undertaker
- SmackDown Women's Championship Six-Pack Challenge elimination match
- SmackDown Tag Team Championship match: TBD
- Last Man Standing match: Edge vs. Randy Orton
- Elias vs. King Corbin
- Intercontinental Championship match: Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan
This would balance everything and allow for both shows to appeal to the widest scope of the WWE Universe possible while making sure neither night seems bigger than the other.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.