WWE WrestleMania 36 Results: Reviewing Top Highlights and Low Points of Day 1
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, WWE still hoped to put on a show that would provide quality entertainment for everyone to shut off their brains and enjoy.
With that in mind, 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.
What crosses the line of being too harsh? At what point does leniency turn into catch-all excuses for what would have potentially been bad booking anyway? It's the strangest event ever to process and review as a fan.
Nevertheless, Part 1 has aired, and it's time to look back on what transpired Saturday.
Was it an absolute disaster, a surprisingly great time or somewhere in between? What standout moments were the biggest pros or cons?
Presented in order of appearance, here are the highlights and low points from the first night of WrestleMania 36.
Full Match Results
WWE WrestleMania 36 Day 1 Results
- Kickoff Match: Cesaro defeated Drew Gulak by pinfall.
- Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross defeated The Kabuki Warriors by pinfall to win the Women's Tag Team Championship.
- Elias defeated King Corbin by pinfall.
- Becky Lynch defeated Shayna Baszler by pinfall to retain the Raw Women's Championship.
- Sami Zayn defeated Daniel Bryan by pinfall to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
- Triple Threat Ladder Match: John Morrison defeated Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
- Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins by disqualification. The match was then restarted under No Disqualification rules, and Owens won by pinfall.
- Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg by pinfall to win the Universal Championship.
- Boneyard Match: The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles.
Highlight: This Show Even Happened
It's impossible to judge this year's WrestleMania on the same level as prior years. By no means did WWE ever want to put on a show like this.
At Raymond James Stadium in front of thousands of wild fans with all the pomp and circumstance would have been a drastically different show. It wouldn't be fair to disregard that frame of reference for this review.
Before addressing any of the highlights and low points—particularly the negatives—it's important to commend the performers, crew and everyone involved in putting this show together just for this existing in the first place.
Whether this should have been postponed is an argument for another day.
To be fair, though, many angles and feuds were problematic way before production was shut down. This isn't as black-and-white as the coronavirus pandemic being the sole obstacle in the way of what would have been a perfect night. It undoubtedly would have had many flaws even if these weren't the circumstances.
But despite all its problems, much respect has to be given for this arduous attempt to give the fans something to distract them for two nights during these times. That effort is worth a highlight in its own right.
Keep in mind throughout this review that it's hard to balance the context of judging this event at face value for what it is versus giving WWE the benefit of the doubt and being thankful any of this is happening at all.
As fans, we should be happy to get this. Everything is a highlight. But that doesn't mean everything is an A+ by default.
Highlight: The Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
It's a tough job to open the show when viewers aren't at all acclimated to this new style and presentation.
Even more so than Gulak vs. Cesaro on the kickoff, this was the match with the most pressure on it to set the tone, and these four pulled it off.
They kept the energy up, hit each other hard and acted as if they would have had this same match in front of thousands. That's all we could ask for.
It doesn't hurt that the show opened with a title change, either. That's a more uplifting and positive way to get the ball rolling.
Low Point: Elias vs. King Corbin
Back when this show was still meant to have fans in attendance, WWE still seemed to be building toward this match. That already felt disappointing as it was.
For things to only downgrade over time with the crowd, set and atmosphere taken away, there was nothing to be hyped about with this segment.
Teasing that Elias would be medically disqualified had no great payoff. Instead, he just showed up and wrestled as if that weren't part of the story.
Rob Gronkowski helped push this feud along. What did he do here? Nothing.
Had this been a one-night event, this would have been on the pre-show, and it still would have been skippable. That's a shame to say, as both Elias and King Corbin are capable of so much more.
This feud was just a dud, and this segment took the energy level down.
Middle of the Road: Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler
This match is tough to review. It wasn't great, nor was it terrible. It managed to be both totally fine and underwhelming at the same time.
Starting things off with The Man's entrance on the big rig that we've already seen numerous times, to complete silence, was as big of a mood-killer as imaginable.
The in-ring action undoubtedly would have been better with a crowd getting behind Becky Lynch and keeping that mood going. That would have helped Shayna Baszler's offense, too, as her dominance would feel stronger.
What they did was OK, but without the right ambiance, it came off more awkward than intended.
Then, Lynch retaining the title is a good thing for her fans but bad when it comes to The Queen of Spades. She was bypassed for the Royal Rumble, had a one-shot Elimination Chamber build and has now lost. Where does she go from here?
It may have been the right call to keep the title on the more popular star, but hindsight will determine if this was a failure of a major title match or if it was OK given the circumstances.
Low Point: Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan
Perhaps no two people on this card had as good of a chance of stealing the show as Sami Zayn and Daniel Bryan, but that didn't happen.
This felt short and more like a match that would have taken place on SmackDown or at a B-level pay-per-view rather than something worthy of WrestleMania—even in this environment.
Distractions and interferences to keep the title on the cowardly heel and not progress the story forward was the wrong call. Bryan should have won this, and they should have been able to go all out and have a true barnburner of a match that they're definitely more than capable of doing.
Highlight: SmackDown Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Ladder Match
Considering how good this was, could you imagine how great it would have been if Jey Uso, The Miz and Big E could have been involved and this was at Raymond James Stadium?
This was fun from start to finish, with spots that would have gotten the crowd on its feet. Hopefully, everyone at home was just as pumped.
The trash-talking was interesting to listen to, the athleticism was on-point and the finish was a great touch, having Morrison fall backward with the titles after all three had taken them off the hook.
WWE absolutely must revisit this Triple Threat properly in front of an audience whenever possible.
Highlight: Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
It was incredibly frustrating seeing WWE drag out this storyline for five months with nothing but perpetual tag team matches and random brawls.
Not much effort felt put into the story. It just limped on and on, with WrestleMania as the end game.
It was then disappointing to see that this would culminate in just a regular singles match.
Both are great, so they did a solid job in the ring, but things took a turn for the worse when it temporarily ended in a disqualification.
Had that been the whole segment, this would have been a low point. Thankfully, it was restarted as a No Disqualification match.
That saved the day and added more fun to the mix. In particular, Owens jumping off the WrestleMania sign was one of the best takeaways of the whole night.
Now that Owens has beaten Rollins, hopefully this feud is done.
Highlight: Braun Strowman Wins Universal Championship
No matter who Goldberg was up against, he wouldn't have had a much longer or more complicated match than this. Anyone expecting anything different had higher expectations than they should have.
What was surprising, though, was the ending.
Who would have thought WWE would actually put the title on Braun Strowman, who had been passed over so many times in the past when it would have made perfect sense for him to win the title and he was more over with the crowd?
How could anyone be hyped about that possibility when WWE's entire "unique" build and explanation for his replacement of Roman Reigns was to put a graphic on the screen and quickly move on?
Nevertheless, it happened. The Monster Among Men has finally won his first world title, and the belt is on someone who can be called upon to defend it at any time over these troubling months.
A world title win over Goldberg at WrestleMania, even in this weird format, still means that Strowman has made a giant leap forward in his career, which is great to see.
Highlight: The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
Given a choice between a true match in front of a packed arena or this, I'd choose the regular affair. However, this was awesome in its own way.
Yes, it was a vignette more than a match. Yes, it evoked more of a Final Deletion feel than The Showcase of the Immortals. But if the alternative would have been a match at the Performance Center like everything else, this was a far better option.
Moments like The Undertaker teleporting out of the grave, summoning his trademark flames and converting AJ Styles from a trash-talker to someone struggling to apologize, begging not to be buried, were wonderful.
At the very least, this sure was memorable and helped build to The Phenom's legacy of mystique and innovative matches, even if it was the strangest end to a WrestleMania that's ever happened.
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.