That all changed with 2020’s WrestleMania 36. WWE was set to roll forward with a pirate-themed WM, with countless pirate-themed ads, signage and a meticulous CG montage of WWE wrestlers decked out in pirate gear, and animated waves splashing against them while doing heroic sword-slashing poses to open the show. However, as we all know by now plans drastically altered, when with under a month before WM36’s original date of April 5th, the worldwide Co-Vid pandemic was declared on March 11th. This promptly shutdown a majority of travel and businesses internationally for the better part of the next two months before businesses and travel restrictions started to ease up, at least here in the United States. No one knew how long the shutdown was going to last, so WWE hastily taped the matches at their Performance Center training facilities, while rumored the tapings lasted up until the final hours before the lockdown went into effect in Florida.
warning of severe consequences if spoilers leaked. Upon re-watching this WM36, it is still jaw-dropping to see the show associated with said large sports arenas and near six figures of fans was now emanating in front of ZERO fans in a small black-curtained off area of a training facility. Since the Network-era of WM PPVs in 2014, most of the events have went notoriously long around the six-to-seven hour mark when factoring in a two hour pre-show.
While WWE was marketing yet another loaded 16-match card that would likely last that long, it seemed highly undesirable to force fans to watch that long of a show with zero fan atmosphere so WWE for the first time split WM into two nights on April 4th and 5th. On previous WM recaps here I advocated for two-night WMs because those one night marathons pushed alert limits to new levels, so I was relieved to hear WWE announce the two-night event. Keep in mind this was a few weeks into the pandemic, well before WWE started experimenting with NXT talent as fans for a couple months before eventually settling on the ubiquitous video walls of virtual fans at the Thunderdome that major WWE telecasts currently transpire in.
same night with the 2021 inductees. Out of sheer habit and self-imposed obligation, I will give a quick breakdown of the 2020 half of the ceremony. It took place at the Thunderdome with Jerry Lawler back hosting, and in order to breeze through so many inductions there was no inductors, and some inductees like the Bellas were told they had a five minute time limit for their speeches. The 2020 Hall of Fame class is the nWo (Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman), British Bulldog, Jushin Thunder Liger, Nickie & Brie Bella, Justin Bradshaw Layfield, Warrior Award winner Titus ‘O Neil and representing the celebrity wing: William Shatner. Dave Batista was supposed to be inducted too, but he postponed his induction because of a scheduling conflict and wanted to accept in person. It was kind of odd seeing the Hall of Fame done with virtual fans, but WWE did their best with piping in artificial fan noise at appropriately timed references and jokes, and even fake chants when the hall of famers hit their catchphrases.
A nice video recap aired for each inductee, and then most inductees gave roughly five minute speeches. JBL kicked off, and for a five minute speech he hit as many key highlights as he could in that short time allocated, and had a nice closing where he teased a heartfelt apology to locker room rivals. Some inductees like Shatner and Liger could not attend, but sent in brief, pre-recorded acceptance speeches. One inadvertent positive side effect was Liger’s speech was translated through subtitles, and there was no pauses to wait for the translator that would happen if it was done live. Shatner’s breezy speech took a fun jab at Lawler, and was to the point. Between each induction, brief backstage interviews were done with current WWE stars acknowledging how big a night this was for the legends and shared past stories and memories. Davey Boy Smith’s son, Harry, alongside Bulldog’s widow, Diana and Matilda’s granddaughter, Huffy, gave an affectionate induction to his father.
2020 was undoubtedly a tough year on everyone. Come that WM36 weekend I, like many others, was in a rough place. Being a few weeks into the pandemic I had no idea what to make sense of on the news. I originally had a vacation planned for a week starting a few days before WM where I was going to be travelling out of town for a retro videogame convention I try and hit up most years, and it would have conveniently wrapped up shortly before WM started. As anticipated, the convention was cancelled, and in a crazy coincidence the day before I originally was planning to leave a water pipe burst in my home and my place had all kinds of water damage and furniture moved around for several days before it was all put back into place and cleaned up. Adding to the coincidental timing, night one of WM happened to be on my birthday, and this was early in the pandemic before masks were widely available and a lot of adherence to the lockdown and social distancing was being recommended and I felt gutted when family members wanted to celebrate and all I told them I felt safe doing was briefly visiting a few of them on my driveway. Needless to say, with all that going on my headspace had seen better days, and having WM36 to selfishly fall back on that weekend was a modicum of respite I desperately needed.
The first official WM36 match was for the Women’s Tag Titles with Asuka & Kari Sayne defending against Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross. I miss Kari Sayne, and am still in disbelief how WWE wrote her off TV a few months later via implied murder! Kari & Asuka’s foreign taunting and screaming helped fill the void of no crowd noise to an extent, but was not enough for them to retain after Alexa pinned Kari with her Twisted Bliss to win the gold for her and Nikki. Baron Corbin faced Elias who Baron thought would be unable to compete after recently tossing him off a balcony, but Elias made it in time to whack Baron with a guitar, and eventually Corbin’s jawjacking with the ref got the best of him as Elias capitalized with a roll-up for the win in this brief fan favorite arc of his character. Becky Lynch defended the RAW Women’s Title against Shayna Baszler next. Becky was near the end of her red-hot year+ long reign as champ here, but this bout had a peculiar build highlighted by Shayna bloodily biting Becky’s ear. This also-peculiar match saw Becky mostly taking a ground attack beating from Shayna until Becky pulled off a reverse pinning combination for the sudden win.
Seth Rollins faced Kevin Owens next, and Owens continued his awesome tradition of paying homage to vintage WM posters, with a nod to WMIV’s poster design on his shirt. Rollins DQ’d himself early in the match after using the ring bell, but Owens goads Rollins into restarting the match with No DQ. This time Owens repeatedly hits Rollins with the bell to lay him out long enough for Owens to climb on top of the WM sign to deliver a Cannonball Splash through the announcer’s table in an eye-opening spot. Owens then dragged a lifeless Seth to the ring to execute a Stunner for the win. A WM host check-in with Mojo and Gronk was interrupted by
or click or press here to check it out) for those who have not seen it, because if you are a lapsed fan and have not witnessed it yet, the match garnered surprise acclaim from both wrestling and non-wrestling fans. It saw AJ and ‘Taker duke it out in a dilapidated graveyard, complete with Eastwood-esque trash talk, mystical druids, old-school ‘Taker dark magic, Good Brothers, motorcyles and Metallica. It was freaking great, and a much needed distraction from the empty arena. The finish saw ‘Taker big boot AJ into an empty grave, and dump a truckload of dirt on him to gracefully exit the “Boneyard” on his motorcycle with Metallica singing him out. As of this writing, this was Undertaker’s last match, and going by his latest interviews it sounds like he is indeed hanging it up for good this time, especially after WWE threw him a “final farewell” retirement-esque ceremony on the character’s 30th anniversary several months later at Survivor Series.
Still with me for night two coverage of WM36? Take a break, grab a Steve-weiser, and relax for my night two coverage! The kickoff match saw Liv Morgan usurp Natalya with a reverse roll-up after a solid back-and-forth match. Night two officially started with Rhea Ripley defending the NXT Women’s Title against Charlotte Flair. Sorry to report that I am not a big fan of either of these two, and this match did not sit well with me either as it was mostly Flair working over Rhea’s leg until she locked in the Figure-Eight for the tapout win. Charlotte’s NXT title run wound up being a disaster, and she did not put over anyone while she was champ there. Onto better things as Aleister Black and Bobby Lashley squared off next. I completely forgot Lashley was married to Lana at this point in his character, but that would change soon after this as Lana urged Lashley to switch up finishing moves on Black, which backfired and saw Aleister connect with his Black Mass finisher for the pin. Next up saw Dolph Ziggler face Otis in the apex of a meticulous storyline where Otis fell victim to Dolph’s treachery when trying to win the heart of Mandy Rose. Mandy’s former friend Sonya Deville was assisting Dolph throughout the match until Mandy ran out to take care of her, which set up Otis to hit his outrageous Caterpillar finish for the win, and the happy uniting with Rose which tried its darnd-est to be on the same level with Randy Savage and Elizabeth from WMVII.
while filming a Tik-Toc video….seriously.
Titus ‘O Neil would shortly arrive later to wrap-up hosting duties for Gronk for the remainder of the show. The RAW Tag Titles were on the line next with the Street Profits defending against Angel Garza and Austin Theory, who was a last minute sub for an injured Andrade. This was a quick five minute recharge bout, with the four competitors all staying in third gear throughout it for a non-stop action affair. Angelo Dawkins pinned Theory after a surprise splash from Montez Ford. The Smackdown Women’s Title 5-Way Elimination match followed with Bayley defending against Lacey Evans, Sasha Banks, Tamina and Naomi. Sasha and Bayley team up for a lot of early success, until their teamwork fails and Sasha falls victim to Lacey’s Women’s Right leaving it down to Lacey and Bayley. Right when it looks like Lacey has Bayley’s number, Sasha returned with a Backstabber on Lacey, which allowed Bayley to follow that up by driving Lacey down to the mat for the win.
click or press here to see for yourself! This cinematic match did not quite measure up to the Boneyard match, but was still an entertaining spectacle to experience with the deluge of references and callbacks to wrestling history. Eventually “The Fiend” pinned Cena with his Mandible Claw (while Bray Wyatt counted the pin, just roll with it), and the live feed then cut to a confused Titus ‘O Neil proclaiming what we all were thinking “I have no idea what we just saw.”
The main event of night two saw Brock Lesnar defending the WWE Title against Drew McIntyre. This was built up as Drew’s big redemption story after being fired from WWE several years earlier, and it taking him 16 years to win his first major championship. It was too bad it all played out in the empty performance center, but the duo made the best of it with another instant hard hitting affair similar to the Braun/Goldberg match. After a little bit of early brawling, Brock hit three F5s which Drew all kicked out of, and then Drew countered with three straight Claymore kicks to be crowned the WWE champion for the feel-good closing of the show. What aired on RAW the next night, but actually transpired about 20 minutes after the Brock match and is on here as a BluRay bonus feature is Drew coming back to the ring for a victory interview only to be interrupted and challenged for the title by Big Show. Drew accepts the challenge, and after taking a pounding from Big Show for several minutes, Drew recovers and fires back with a Claymore for his first successful title defense. Drew has went on to be “the guy” for RAW for the better part of the next year, and while it feels he has been fulfilling that role, it is impossible to tell without a live, paying, audience, and I am curious to see how Drew is received at WM37 this weekend against Lashley.
epic must-see promo on Beth Phoenix for why he attacked Edge.
It would be unfair of me to give a traditional yay/nay grade to WrestleMania 36 due to how the event barely came together at the final hour in the early stages of the pandemic. Seeing a lot of these matches in the empty Performance Center simply feels weird, and proved constantly difficult to suspend disbelief and get into the pro-wrestling fan mindset during viewing. The two cinematic matches are what essentially helped get me back into “fan mode” and get invested in the unique nature of those two bouts, and if you have to watch two matches from this show, then those two are the way to go. The two “slobberknocker” world title brawls are also quick, intense matches that are worth checking out. Once again, I love the two-night concept as it serves as a perfect break point for watching at home, and I am thankful WWE is doing that again for this year’s WM. All things told, this will go down as a historical achievement that WWE managed to put this together, and probably worth one day going back to watching to see how far we have come from those early dark days of the pandemic before we knew what the next eventful year had in store for everyone.
Past Wrestling Blogs
Best of WCW Clash of Champions
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
DDP: Positively Living
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
Eric Bishoff: Wrestlings Most Controversial Figure
Fight Owens Fight: The Kevin Owens Story
For All Mankind
Getting Rowdy: The Unreleased Matches of Roddy Piper
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Hulk Hogans Unreleased Collectors Series
Impact Wresting Presents: Best of Hulk Hogan
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
The Kliq Rules
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
NXT: From Secret to Sensation
NXT Greatest Matches Vol 1
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
Owen: Hart of Gold
Randy Savage Unreleased: The Unseen Matches of the Macho Man
RoH Supercard of Honor 2010-Present
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Scott Hall: Living on a Razors Edge
Shawn Michaels: My Journey
Shawn Michaels: The Showstopper Unreleased Sting: Into the Light
Straight Outta Dudley-ville: Legacy of the Dudley Boyz
Straight to the Top: Money in the Bank Anthology
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Then Now Forever – The Evolution of WWEs Womens Division
TNA Lockdown 2005-2016
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
War Games: WCWs Most Notorious Matches
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania III: Championship Edition
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestling Road Diaries Three: Funny Equals Money
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2017