The Casual Fan's Guide to WWE WrestleMania 36
At a time when almost every sport has been put on hold for the foreseeable future, WWE is doing its best to make the most of an unfortunate situation with its biggest show of the year, WrestleMania 36, on Saturday and Sunday.
For those unfamiliar with the sport or the event, WrestleMania is WWE's equivalent to the Super Bowl. And similar to the Super Bowl, it's nothing short of a spectacle. It brings together people from all walks of life to celebrate the culmination of a year's worth of work and to enjoy everything that is the art of professional wrestling.
Furthermore, WrestleMania will boast one of its biggest and most stacked cards in its history this year. From familiar faces such as John Cena and The Undertaker to future legends like Drew McIntyre and AJ Styles, it's a complete card from top to bottom and should not be missed.
Adding to the excitement of the event is that anything could happen. The fact that it will be emanating from an empty arena at the company's training facility will take away from the pageantry the pay-per-view usually has, but it will no doubt do its best to serve as an entertaining distraction from reality.
Regardless of whether you are new to the wacky world of WWE or are a lapsed fan looking to catch up on everything you've missed in recent years, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know about WrestleMania 36.
When and Where to Watch WrestleMania 36
For the first time ever, WrestleMania will be airing over the span of two days: Saturday and Sunday. As of this writing, no matches have been assigned to one night or the other, likely because the company has yet to decide on the running order.
What we do know is that each night of WrestleMania will last for roughly four hours, including a one-hour Kickoff show, starting at 6 p.m. E.T. An episode of WWE Chronicle focusing on Drew McIntyre is advertised to air around 10 p.m. immediately following 'Mania on WWE Network, though it's possible the event could run longer than the allotted time.
The best way to watch is by signing up to WWE Network for a free one-month trial, which would include WrestleMania and everything else on the loaded streaming service.
Additionally, FITE TV and Fox Sports are offering both days of the event for $59.99 in total, or $34.99 for each night. Apps for all three are available through iOS and Android phones, in addition to Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and Android TV streaming devices.
It should be noted that the Kickoff shows starting at 6 p.m. E.T. on Saturday and Sunday will be free to stream on WWE's YouTube channel and other social media platforms. Checking those out would be your best bet before deciding to tune into the main cards.
Meet Your WrestleMania Host, Rob Gronkowski
From the gridiron to the wrestling ring, Rob Gronkowski is ready to make an impact as an official WWE Superstar.
When it was originally reported that he was on his way to WWE, fans worried he would be shoehorned into a match at WrestleMania 36 before having enough time to train. Thankfully, officials thought better of that and instead announced him as the host of the two-day event.
The only appearance he's made on WWE TV in recent weeks was on the March 20 edition of SmackDown, when he was shown dancing to the ring and getting physical with King Corbin. While his debut didn't blow away the WWE Universe, he did offer a small taste of what he will have in store at the Show of Shows.
Even the most casual football fans are familiar with Gronk and what he brings to the table. Not only are his accomplishments in football undisputed, but he also has a larger-than-life personality that makes him the perfect fit for WWE.
Gronk will have the tall task of following in the footsteps of past WrestleMania hosts, including The Rock, Hulk Hogan, The New Day and Alexa Bliss. But if anyone can make the most of the role, it's the three-time Super Bowl champion.
What's Worth Catching Up On, and What Isn't?
Because of WWE's need to move WrestleMania 36 from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, to the Performance Center at the last minute, this year's Road to WrestleMania was more interesting than most, for better or for worse.
Simply put, wrestling isn't the same without an audience. Look no further than January's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, which was deemed a success by fans because of how hot the crowd was that night. Drew McIntyre's and Charlotte Flair's respective Rumble victories wouldn't have been as effective without anyone there to give them the reactions they deserved.
Speaking of the Rumble, that event is worth watching on WWE Network because of how it effectively laid the groundwork for what we will see at WrestleMania. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the two pay-per-views that followed: Super ShowDown and Elimination Chamber.
Both events featured some solid matchups, but neither had enough significant storyline developments to be considered worthwhile.
On the bright side, Raw has been a revelation as of late, even in front of no fans. The circumstances have forced the Superstars to deliver some of their most compelling promos to date. Specifically, seek out the mic work of Randy Orton, Edge, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles and The Undertaker from recent weeks.
Unfortunately, SmackDown has largely been a bust from a creative standpoint since making its debut on Fox in the fall. Feel free to devote any time you have ahead of WrestleMania re-watching the Rumble and recent Raw shows but not the blue brand.
Disputing and Defending WWE's Decision to Go Ahead with WrestleMania
There have been a ton of mixed opinions among fans on whether WWE was right to move ahead with WrestleMania 36 despite the lack of live audience. The promotion's decision can be both defended and disputed because there a number of pros and cons to the situation.
On one hand, WWE is one of the few forms of entertainment out there still producing fresh content. Under the current circumstances, that's incredibly impressive and should be commended, even though empty-arena wrestling shows with limited in-ring action aren't ideal.
With no other sports in North America airing, some people may turn to wrestling to get their fix. It's also difficult for WWE to hold off on having WrestleMania when there's no timetable on when it can run normal shows again.
Then again, the safety of the performers should be top priority. They were reportedly given the option to not work the event if they felt their health was at risk, and then-challenger to the Universal Championship Roman Reigns took full advantage of that.
Reigns pulling out from the pay-per-view, while completely understandable, caused his heavily promoted universal title match with Goldberg to be changed at the last minute. The Miz, Dana Brooke and Rey Mysterio were also among those sidelined as a precautionary measure.
Regardless of how you feel about WWE's "the show must go on" mindset, it may not even matter in a week or two if Florida extends its stay-at-home policy and prevents WWE from taping new content. In other words, enjoy it while it lasts; it's entirely possible that WWE TV will essentially cease to exist for a while post-WrestleMania.
In that case, the Show of Shows is a fitting place for the company to put a pause on its storylines until the situation improves.
6 Stars You May Remember and What They're Up to Now
If it's been a decade or so since you were last in the loop with what was going on in WWE, WrestleMania 36 is as perfect of a place to pick back up considering several of the same stars are still around.
John Cena, who has become the epitome of a part-timer in recent years because of his acting career taking off a la Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's, will be back in the squared circle to face off with a familiar foe in "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt. Although it's been more than a year since he last wrestled for WWE, it's doubtful he will show much ring rust.
The Undertaker has been a constant in WWE for nearly three decades and will be making yet another appearance at WrestleMania this year. His upcoming outing against AJ Styles, a modern-day stalwart of the Raw roster, has the potential to be his best at the event in a great while.
Any fan who grew up with the Ruthless Aggression era will obviously be familiar with Edge and Randy Orton and their history as both friends and foes. They will be rekindling their rivalry at WrestleMania 36 in what is sure to be a show-stealing Last Man Standing match.
Brock Lesnar was a defining face of that period in WWE's history, yet he's been around four times as long this during his current run than he was during his original spell with the company. To no one's surprise, he remains as dominant as ever and will be walking into WrestleMania as the WWE champion for a high-profile title defense against 2020 Royal Rumble winner Drew McIntyre.
Finally, WCW legend Goldberg's recent resurgence led him back to the Universal Championship earlier this year. His WrestleMania opponent was changed from Roman Reigns to Braun Strowman on Friday's SmackDown, but either way, he's bound to be involved in a titanic clash.
7 Faces of the Future You Need to Get Familiar With
Prepare to be amazed by the incredible crop of talent WWE has to offer when WrestleMania 36 gets underway.
Drew McIntyre will be one to watch for years to come, as evidenced by his WWE Championship match with Brock Lesnar. He has been laying low for the past year but started to come into his own at the Royal Rumble, and he broke out as a babyface soon after.
The Scottish Psychopath has been around for a while but is only now getting the opportunities at the main event level he has long deserved. AJ Styles, however, has been wrestling a lot longer and only hit the big time with WWE a few years ago.
He will be challenging The Undertaker and is adamant about exposing The Deadman for who he really is. While their encounter isn't expected to be a formal match, that simply makes matters all the more intriguing.
If you dig horror, you will likely find yourself rooting for The Fiend to decimate John Cena. His unique character has been terrorizing the WWE Universe for nearly a year and always promises to produce something special whenever he's in action.
NXT upstarts Shayna Baszler and Rhea Ripley will be making their WrestleMania debuts this year in major matches with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, who have been a part of WWE's main roster for the better part of the past decade, are masters of the microphone and are aiming to prove who is the superior athlete.
WWE's roster has arguably never been more stockpiled with star power, and these young guns will be the ones leading the charge into the future.
Breaking Down the Biggest Bouts on the Card
WrestleMania is known for hosting highly anticipated encounters, and this year's installment will be no exception.
Among the main event matches to keep an eye on is Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship. As previously noted, McIntyre's Royal Rumble victory in January was what earned him a shot at the strap, and he's been riding a wave of momentum since then.
Assuming their outing is positioned as the main event of Night 2, as it should be, expect Lesnar and McIntyre to deliver an instant classic. The Beast Incarnate tends to bring his best on the Grandest Stage of Them All, while McIntyre is motivated to not only push his opponent to his limit but to take his title as well.
The next most exciting match on the 'Mania card is Edge vs. Randy Orton, which will be contested under Last Man Standing rules. That means whoever remains on their feet and survives the count of 10 will be deemed the victor.
Edge returned to the ring following after a nine-year retirement during the men's Royal Rumble and has held back nothing in his rivalry with Randy Orton. Both men have been doing tremendous work and should go to great lengths to steal the show.
AJ Styles may also give The Undertaker his best bout in nearly a decade when they collide in a Boneyard match. What that will entail is anyone's guess, but if Undertaker's recent teases on Raw have been any indication, he might be showing a side of his character at WrestleMania that fans haven't seen in some time.
Lastly, look for Becky Lynch and Shayna Baszler as well as Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley to rip it up for the Raw and NXT Women's Championships, respectively. WWE's women's divisions are stronger than they have ever been and are going to use WrestleMania to show the world why they are held in such high regard.
Non-Essential Storylines That Can Be Skipped Over
With so many storylines culminating at WrestleMania 36, it's easy for casual and lapsed fans to be overwhelmed or burned out by the near-eight hours' worth of content. Thus, sticking with the most important matches and skipping the filler is imperative—and there's bound to be a bunch of it.
First and foremost, Elias vs. King Corbin is the definition of undercard fodder. Both men are perfectly fine performers, but their feud on SmackDown hasn't been anything out of the ordinary, so their match isn't worth sitting through, no matter how long it lasts.
At least they have a reason for fighting each other, unlike Aleister Black and Bobby Lashley. They haven't been on a collision course, and there contest was likely only added to fill up space on the show.
The WWE Women's Tag Team Championship clash pitting champs The Kabuki Warriors against Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross has zero juice to it, either. WWE's women's tag team division has been an afterthought over the past year, and regardless of who wins here, it won't do much to move the needle for most fans.
Although Angel Garza and Austin Theory vying for The Street Profits' Raw Tag Team Championship could prove to be a fun bout, there is zero reason for it to be happening. Garza and Theory are a random pairing and need a bit more seasoning before they can be taken seriously as threats to the tag titles.
Finally, the booking for Goldberg's Universal Championship defense versus Braun Strowman has been so lazy because of the last-minute change that has seen Strowman replace Roman Reigns that it isn't worth getting invested in. A short-and-sweet affair would be best for these behemoths in order to leave as much time as possible for the more important matchups.
WrestleMania has plenty of promise on paper, but it's all in the execution. If done right, the company could convince a casual fan or two that there is a lot more to like about the product that one might expect.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.