WrestleMania 36 is the first-ever WrestleMania to take place over two nights, it is the first WrestleMania to have no live audience, and it is the first WrestleMania that has been pre-taped. The match order is reportedly still up in the air and it has been reported that WWE shot multiple finishes to particular matches to keep the results a mystery. WWE did this most recently last year when Velveteen Dream & Johnny Gargano had a match for the North American Championship. It is scheduled to air at 7pm ET on Saturday April 4th (night 1) & Sunday April 5th (night 2) with a Kickoff Show starting at 6pm ET before each night's broadcast. There are 16 matches scheduled, which is exactly the same amount of matches they had on the card for WrestleMania 35.
The main attractions advertised have been Edge's return to singles competition against Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match, The Undertaker will face AJ Styles (with The Original Club) in a "Boneyard Match", John Cena returns to WWE to face Bray Wyatt in a "Firefly Funhouse Match", Brock Lesnar will defend the WWE Championship against 2020 Royal Rumble Winner Drew McIntyre, Becky Lynch will defend the RAW Women's Title against Shayna Baszler, and Goldberg defending the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns has been advertised and promoted, but Braun Strowman replaced Reigns on last night's SmackDown via match graphic.
WrestleMania 36 has been mired in controversy and cancellations due to the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. The most notable talent missing this year is Roman Reigns, who had to pull out of the event due to concerns about the health and safety of he and his family. Talent and others have expressed a skepticism about the success of a wrestling show without a live audience. WWE has adjusted their presentation and camera angles over the past four weeks without an audience. Hopefully, their adjustments coupled with the ability to edit pre-taped matches will make for an exciting show.
There is no one WrestleMania that could compare to what we're about to see. WrestleMania 2 took place in 3 different locations with different broadcast teams for each location, it's possible we'll see something like that here. WrestleMania 12 had a pre-taped match: the "Hollywood Backlot Brawl" between Roddy Piper & Goldust. However, the Hollywood Backlot Brawl ended in a finish in front of the live audience making Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt's "Ultimate Deletion" match & the "House of Horrors" match between Wyatt & Randy Orton great guides for what we can expect (presentation-wise) from the matches that take place in non-traditional locations.
Since so many of us are in isolation right now, please take time out to find some joy in this WrestleMania. So many of us would be together in Tampa right now watching wrestling and celebrating what we love about being wrestling fans. Connect with fellow wrestling fans and make watch parties over video conferencing or stay connected via other social media. Wrestling is best when it's enjoyed with a bunch of fans reacting together and this will likely be the last major wrestling event to collectively experience together for at least a month. Below is a preview of each match on the card and predictions based upon recent booking. In the comments below, share what you're excited about for this WrestleMania and your predictions for this year's card.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
Brock Lesnar has been the WWE Champion since defeating Kofi Kingston in a squash on the premiere episode of SmackDown on FOX in what feels like a completely different time period. Lesnar was challenged by Cain Velasquez immediately after winning the title but injuries to Velasquez cut their program short after Lesnar defeated Velasquez at Crown Jewel and Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series. It feels like there was supposed to be some continuing feud between Velasquez and Lesnar, but we don't know for sure. Lesnar then entered into the Royal Rumble declaring that no one was worthy to challenge for his title. Lesnar entered at #1 and eliminated everyone until getting a low blow from Ricochet and then was eliminated by taking a Claymore from Drew McIntyre. McIntyre has been cutting promos on Lesnar for over a year (even while Seth Rollins was in a feud with Lesnar) and capitalized on his first opportunity to get in the ring with Lesnar. McIntyre went on to win the Royal Rumble and will now get what he's been hoping for: a chance to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
McIntyre's journey from prodigy to leaving the WWE to coming to NXT to facing Lesnar at WrestleMania is as real as it gets. McIntyre's passion and work have elevated him to top guy status and this is his opportunity to take his place. Although it's unfortunate that it can't be in front of tens of thousands of people at Raymond James stadium in Tampa, Drew McIntyre and Brock Lesnar are very well capable of delivering a compelling story in the ring. Drew's size and wrestling style is similar to recent Lesnar opponents Randy Orton & Roman Reigns. The match structure will likely involve McIntyre getting the snot beaten out of him before he can hope to catch Lesnar for a surprise victory. If McIntyre is able to get a low-blow in on Lesnar, he will exponentially raise his odds of scoring a victory. Seth Rollins became the only person to score a victory over Brock Lesnar in the past 5 years without getting away with a shot to Brock's Lesnars at SummerSlam 2019. McIntyre is poised for big things and his time is now. Lesnar can come back and feud with Velasquez when Velasquez is healthy without needing the title. McIntyre's next challenger will be interesting to see. Randy Orton & AJ Styles are great heels in line with Seth Rollins always in the mix. Ricochet is a tremendous longshot but is the last man to get a pinfall on McIntyre in singles competition.
Drew McIntyre via pinfall
WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Goldberg shocked the world when he defeated Bray Wyatt at Super Showdown on February 27th with a spear and (almost) a jackhammer to win the Universal Championship. Goldberg's championship celebration was cut short by Roman Reigns who challenged Goldberg for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania by saying "I'm next." The match was advertised until last night when Michael Cole announced that Strowman will be taking Reigns' place with no reason given on-camera. Strowman just had his run as Intercontinental Champion ended at Elimination Chamber in a handicap match. The last person to pin Strowman is Seth Rollins, who did it at Clash of Champions 2019. Goldberg has never faced Strowman, but there's little to suggest Strowman will be able to defeat the seemingly unstoppable 54 year-old Goldberg.
Goldberg via pinfall
WWE RAW WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler
Becky Lynch has been RAW Women's Champion for a year and has ascended to becoming the top face in WWE. Shayna Baszler is coming off of a 419 day reign as NXT Women's Champion and victory at Survivor Series over Lynch & Bayley in a Triple Threat Match. Baszler has come off like a monster heel, biting Lynch's neck and drawing blood like a vampire. Lynch has maintained her cool dealing with Baszler but will need to find another gear to emerge victorious in this match. Becky's had that fire before in feuds with Charlotte Flair and she's going to need it against the terrifying Baszler. Baszler will come close to defeating Lynch in what will be a hard-fought bout, but Lynch's reign as champion isn't ending without Baszler getting help from her friends.
Becky Lynch via pinfall
This match feels like it's building to an issue between Sasha and Bayley somehow but we don't know when. The teases for the breakup in their friendship have been wild, but it may not happen just yet at WrestleMania. Tamina has been booked to look strong since returning, but she just doesn't feel like a champion here. Lacey Evans has continued her development and could steal the win here but Naomi has come back looking absolutely fantastic since returning at this year's Royal Rumble. Look to Naomi to make some waves as her star continues to rise. Sasha's betrayal of Bayley seems too obvious here to take place. Bayley will find a way to retain her championship.
Bayley via pinfall
NXT WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
In the build to Survivor Series, Rhea Ripley got inserted into a match with Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair on the November 22nd SmackDown. Ripley shocked everyone in the wrestling world, stealing a win by pinning Flair's shoulders to the mat while Flair had Banks in her Figure 8 submission hold. Ripley went on to captain her WarGames team to victory the next night followed by winning her Survivor Series match for team NXT. Ripley would finish her 2019 by ending Shayna Baszler's 419 day run as NXT Women's Champion. Flair has been determined to get her win back from Ripley since that Triple Threat match on SmackDown. Flair won the 2020 Royal Rumble and wasted little time in challenging Ripley for her NXT Women's Championship. This is the first time any NXT Championship has been defended at WrestleMania.
This will likely be the best women's match on the card. Flair and Ripley's chemistry was evident in their Triple Threat match back in November. Flair is about 3 inches taller and ten pounds heavier than Ripley, giving her a slight advantage in the reach department. Ripley hasn't been pinned since July of 2019 and faired quite well in a surprise match with Becky Lynch on NXT back in November that ended in a draw. It's hard to ever bet against Charlotte Flair, but Rhea Ripley has that "it factor" going where you can believe it's possible for her. With Ripley representing the NXT brand that's already in its own ratings battle with AEW, she'll have a little extra juice to put her over the hump and get the upset on Flair here.
Rhea Ripley via pinfall
WWE RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
The Street Profits (c) vs. Angel Garza and Austin Theory
The Street Profits won the RAW Tag Team Championships from Rollins & Murphy just one month ago on Monday Night RAW and successfully defeated them in a rematch at Elimination Chamber to solidify their place at the top of RAW's tag division. Ford and Dawkins have made the most of whatever camera time they've been given on RAW over the past year in humourous segments backstage and in the matches they've had. Garza has also made the most of whatever match he's been in on NXT, 205 Live, or RAW. Garza's star has been rising fast due to his incredible smoothness in and outside of the ring. Garza was originally brought to RAW to take the place of Andrade during his suspension for a wellness policy violation and now Austin Theory is replacing Andrade due to injury. The 22 year-old Austin Theory made his RAW debut this past week in a six man tag match against The Street Profits. Theory is a former champion teen bodybuilder and former Evolve Heavyweight Champion. Theory has been signed to WWE since August of 2019 and has appeared in only a few matches on NXT. Paul Heyman is very high on Theory and called on the young man to replace Andrade in what will be the most energetic match of the card. Everyone in this match has a high motor and will be making their WrestleMania debut. Zelina Vega will help Theory and Garza, but The Street Profits reign as RAW Tag Team Champions will not end here.
The Street Profits via pinfall
Asuka has been the iron woman of WWE during the COVID-19 crisis. She has appeared on both SmackDown and RAW and made both shows more entertaining with her commentary, wrestling, and dancing. Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss's friendship has been one of the most endearing surprises in WWE over the past year. The two have teased breaking up in the past, but their chemistry together has made for some fun moments on SmackDown over the past year. The Kabuki Warriors won their tag team championships from Bliss/Cross at Hell In A Cell 2019 by Asuka spitting her green mist into Nikki Cross's eyes to pick up the victory. Nikki & Alexa seem destined to get their win back from the Kabuki Warriors here, but these two teams may continue to feud after WrestleMania.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross via pinfall
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
After five years on the main roster, Sami Zayn is Intercontinental Champion. His reign came with help from his two greatest opponents in WWE, Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro. Since losing to The Fiend at Royal Rumble, Daniel Bryan has enlisted the aid of Drew Gulak to refine the holes in his wrestling and take him to the next level. Gulak and Bryan have made hilarious training segments on their social media and have had great chemistry on screen. The two delivered a very fun wrestling match at Elimination Chamber and it seems like the Bryan and Gulak pairing will continue to evolve after WrestleMania. We've never gotten to see Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan in WWE, so this is a match that many are looking forward to seeing. Zayn's wrestling style has changed greatly since turning heel, adding intrigue to how this match will play out between two former indie darlings. Hopefully this isn't the end of the feud between The Artist's Collective and Bryan & Gulak.
Daniel Bryan via submission
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (LADDER MATCH)
The Miz and John Morrison (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day
Various reports have come out saying that this match has been altered, but WWE hasn't confirmed the change on their site. Regardless of the changes to the match, The Miz & Morrison have been one of the highlights of SmackDown over the past two months and have shown no signs of slowing down as SmackDown Tag Team Champions. It's great to have the Usos back on TV and they seem like the most likely to unseat Miz & Morrison at the top of SmackDown's tag division, but look to Morrison to hold it down for MnM and pick up the victory here.
Miz & Morrison
LAST MAN STANDING MATCH
Randy Orton vs. Edge
This match has had the best build of any of the matches on this card and could steal the show. Edge's return at the 2020 Royal Rumble is the happiest moment of what has been a bleak year so far. Edge was beaten down and nearly crippled by Randy Orton the next night on RAW. Orton said in promos that he doesn't feel that Edge belongs in the ring and that he is protecting Edge from hurting himself by stopping him from wrestling. Orton then beat on Matt Hardy (in an amazing and highly-watched short program) until Hardy left WWE. After Hardy, Orton RKO'd Beth Phoenix (Edge's wife) when she tried to appeal to Randy's better judgement. Edge returned to RAW on March 9th to challenge Orton to a Last Man Standing Match at WrestleMania but Orton attacked Edge from behind, but Edge surprised Orton with an RKO of his own. Edge then delivered his challenge the next week on the March 16th RAW. Orton accepted.
This match will be a cathartic brawl between two masters of the art form. Randy Orton has never been better in or out of the ring. Orton's ability to know how to get a reaction from an audience is even more valuable without a live crowd because Orton will hear the voices in his head. Edge has been in some fantastic brawls (WrestleMania 22 with Mick Foley comes immediately to mind) and he has stated in multiple interviews that he has major aspirations to work with a myriad of names on the WWE roster. Edge will get the win here as we get a preview of what kind of wrestler Edge is in 2020. If Edge moves on from Orton, it would be great to see him in a program with Seth Rollins or AJ Styles. Randy Orton is operating on another level and WWE should stick with him as a top heel for a while.
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
The Undertaker's best matches of his career were against Shawn Michaels. Their size difference, skill-level, and personas made magic in the ring together. Over the past 6 years, Undertaker has had to face opponents who have been significantly less than perfect matches for his abilities. Enter: AJ Styles. Styles' ability to wrestle any style with anybody has been compared to Shawn Michaels and his stature in wrestling puts him at or near the top of the art form over the past decade. Styles and the Undertaker have never wrestled one another. Gallows and Anderson have been glued to AJ's side and after the Dead Man called them out by name in his promo on the March 30th RAW, it's safe to expect they'll be involved in the match as well. The feud has been centered around AJ Styles verbally attacking Mark Calloway and his wife (Michelle McCool) as he tries to get Undertaker to agree to a WrestleMania match with him. On the March 30th RAW, Taker appeared in a pre-taped promo dressed more like his biker persona from the Ruthless Aggression Era. Taker mentioned Styles' real name (Allen Jones) in his promo and said that Styles is jealous that McCool executed Styles' finishing move better than he can. Taker dropped a couple of references to his biker character in the promo as well, suggesting that maybe we'll see a slightly different Undertaker in this match.
Nobody knows the rules of a Boneyard Match yet, so it's hard to guess exactly how this one will go. Styles is a master artist in the wrestling ring and it's a shame that he's being taken out of his usual medium because he'd have done great things in a singles match with The Phenom. Regardless of all setbacks, AJ Styles will make this match great. Styles hasn't had a bad match in over a decade. With the exception of his tag team match with Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules, The Undertaker's recent matches have been hard to watch. Throughout his career, The Undertaker has been put in situations that have been poor matchups for his skill set (Giant Gonzalez) but when paired with a smaller/more agile wrestler, The Undertaker's matches are significantly better. Taker's entrance won't be the same without tens of thousands of fans going crazy, but right now it's good to see a familiar face that never gives up no matter what is thrown at him.
FIREFLY FUN HOUSE MATCH
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
John Cena returned to SmackDown just over a month ago to let everyone know that he wanted to give a spotlight to younger talent this year and would not compete at WrestleMania. As he walked out, The Fiend appeared and challenged Cena to a match at WrestleMania. Cena accepted the match and has been tormented by Wyatt every week since. Wyatt famously lost to Cena at WrestleMania 30, derailing the trajectory of his wildly popular persona at the time. Wyatt worked hard to evolve into the split personas we know today and created the Firefly Fun House where he and his puppet friends can be safe from Wyatt's violent persona, The Fiend. Aside from a loss to Goldberg, The Fiend is seemingly impervious to pain and has been unstoppable.
Wyatt and Cena have tremendous chemistry together in and outside of the ring. Their promos hyping this match have garnered mainstream coverage for their quality in spite of being in front of no audience. As Cena said in his promo on last night's SmackDown, we don't know what a Firefly Fun House match is or what the rules are. One could assume it will resemble Wyatt's previously pre-taped matches against Matt Hardy and Randy Orton, but no one knows for sure. We do know that John Cena has a slate of movies on his schedule and likely won't be able to be around all the time this summer. This one could go either way, but it feels like Wyatt will get a win here because the match should favor him and he could use a big win after that ridiculous loss to Goldberg.
Bray Wyatt via pinfall
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins once told Kevin Owens that he never thought that he'd make it in WWE because of his husky physique. Kevin Owens is out to prove himself against Rollins this year at WrestleMania. Rollins has dug into Owens in promos, saying that Owens always disappoints in big matches at WrestleMania while Rollins rises to the occasion every year and delivers a memorable match. These two have excellent chemistry and hopefully their issue isn't completely finished after WrestleMania. Owens and Rollins will deliver a heck of a match and the empty Performance Center will highlight how fun Owens can be when you can hear what he says during a match. Owens should pick up the win here unless Buddy Murphy comes in and mucks things up.
Kevin Owens via pinfall
Elias vs. King Baron Corbin
While Rob Gronkowski was being announced as the host of WrestleMania, King Corbin and Elias interrupted the fun and got into a conflict with one another. Corbin and Elias brawled around the Performance Center until Corbin threw Elias off the balcony onto the floor. This match feels like it will be a quick one and will somehow lead to Gronk getting involved physically. It feels like we're headed for a Gronk vs. Corbin match at SummerSlam.
King Corbin via pinfall
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
This match was made because neither Superstar had anything to do but WWE wanted them on the show. Aleister Black has only lost to AJ Styles on the main roster and there is no sign of him losing here. Black will get the win over Lashley by hitting two Black Mass kicks for the victory.
Aleister Black via pinfall
Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler
Otis and Ziggler's feud began on Valentine's Day when Ziggler swooped in on Otis' date with Mandy Rose and wooed her away from the loveable Otis. It was revealed last night on SmackDown that Sonya Deville made a deal with Ziggler to help her stop Rose from dating Otis. Her motivations were not made clear but that didn't stop Otis from wanting to get revenge on Ziggler, who has taken every opportunity he can to rub it in poor Otis' face. This could be a very silly match and should give us something to smile about. Ali might somehow get involved in this match since we keep seeing his symbol flickering during Otis and Ziggler segments.
Otis via pinfall
If you need a friend to chat about wrestling while we're isolated, feel free to Tweet at me @brianwohl. Enjoy WrestleMania 36!