WrestleMania 36 was an event unlike any other in the long and successful history of the WWE show, but even without fans in attendance, much of the card managed to deliver entertainment to the fans watching at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of the difficult circumstances, WWE was forced to get creative and think outside the box, which led to two on-location matches that will likely be talked about for years to come. Even several of the matches that occurred in the empty Performance Center were strong as well.
On the heels of the first WrestleMania that was too big for just one night, here is a closer look at three of the matches that exceeded expectations and received rave reviews during the aftermath.
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
The Undertaker hasn't been known for putting on five-star matches in recent years, and at 55 years of age, he would've been hard-pressed to do so at WrestleMania 36 even against an elite in-ring worker like AJ Styles.
Rather than going forward with a basic match, however, WWE booked The Undertaker and Styles in a Boneyard Match, which became possible because of the lack of a live crowd.
The Boneyard Match was everything WWE fans could have hoped for and more, as The Phenom and The Phenomenal One battled through a cemetery. They got physical and talked trash all while a fitting musical score played in the background.
Taker and Styles were engaged in a highly personal rivalry due to Styles bringing up The Undertaker's wife, Michelle McCool, on multiple occasions during the build to WrestleMania. It was clear during the match that it was a source of great anger for The Deadman.
It was clear from the start of the Boneyard Match that it was going to be something special. Styles emerging from a casket was the perfect heel entrance, and The Undertaker arriving on a motorcycle like his old American Badass character was a great callback for longtime fans.
The Boneyard Match fell more like a movie than a match, which is likely why it was so widely praised as perhaps the best part of WrestleMania.
While The Undertaker may be near the end of his illustrious career, it was proved at WrestleMania that his career could potentially be extended even further if WWE continues to put him in similar situations moving forward.
John Cena vs. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt
In much the same vein as the Boneyard Match, the Firefly Fun House Match between John Cena and "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt was unlike anything ever seen before at WrestleMania.
There were some major differences between the two matches, though, as the Boneyard Match was essentially an on-location Buried Alive Match, while the Firefly Fun House Match was almost like a dream sequence inside Cena's mind.
The battle between Cena and Wyatt was actually presented as an internal struggle for Cena. He thought back to many of the major moments and characters in his career, including his debut match against Kurt Angle and his evolution into the Doctor of Thuganomics character.
Wyatt also took Cena back to their WrestleMania 30 match and gave Cena the opportunity to "do the right thing" and hand him the victory by hitting him with a steel chair.
That led to WWE giving fans a glimpse of what it might have been like had Cena turned heel, as he donned an nWo shirt, much like "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan.
In the end, Cena's rage got the best of him, as The Fiend emerged from behind and beat him with the Mandible Claw.
There was little physical interaction between Cena and The Fiend, but the totality of the Firefly Fun House Match was bizarre, memorable and undoubtedly entertaining.
Much like The Undertaker vs. Styles, a normal match likely wouldn't have gone over so well with the WWE Universe, but the fact that it was so different from everything else allowed it to stand out as something special in WWE history.
Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley
There were multiple basic matches that were enjoyable to watch despite the lack of a live crowd, but the NXT Women's Championship match between Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley may have topped them all.
WWE showed a great deal of confidence in Flair and Ripley by having them open Night 2 of WrestleMania, and they didn't disappoint, as they went at it for 20 minutes and put on what was arguably the best women's match in WrestleMania history.
After previously injuring Ripley's knee on NXT, Charlotte targeted it through the match, which was the main story that was told from start to finish.
Flair was surgical in her precision, while Ripley sold the knee perfectly. The lack of a crowd actually aided the fans at home in hearing and feeling how much agony Ripley was in.
The 23-year-old Aussie battled back and nearly beat Charlotte on multiple occasions despite the injury, but The Queen was ultimately able to lock her into the Figure Eight, and Ripley was forced to tap out.
A portion of the WWE fanbase was critical of the booking decision since Charlotte wins titles so often and Ripley was viewed as a fast-rising star, but a competitive loss to perhaps the greatest women's wrestler of all time at WrestleMania isn't exactly a setback.
Ripley actually improved her stock by performing so well, and she figures to have the fans fully behind her when she attempts to win the title back from Flair down the line.
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