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The Eastern Echo Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

Review: WrestleMania 36 became the strangest universe

The Show of Shows WrestleMania 36 created two nights of triumphant returns and bizarre matches with no audience.

The Grandest Stage of Them All in pro wrestling — WrestleMania recently took place during unparalleled circumstances in the world. It lasted for two nights and left fans perplexed and wondering what they'd just witnessed. I have to address the elephant in the room; there was no gigantic audience and no colossal stadium. WrestleMania had to be relocated to WWE's Performance Center in Florida because of government restrictions from COVID-19. Nonetheless the show went on, bringing superb in-ring action and personal storylines turned cinematic brawls to viewers that included the largest social media hub (over 13 million) in WWE history.

WWE's chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon welcomed all viewers to the unique Show of Shows as a welcome escape from the current global pandemic. The show opened with the women as Women's Tag Team Champions the Kabuki Warriors took on Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. Noticeably, the angles for live crowd reactions were replaced with vocal fire and emotion as Cross and Bliss reclaimed their gold twice.

One of the sub-main events turned out to be a good match but ultimately a letdown as "The Man" Becky Lynch took on the "Submission Magician" Shayna Baszler. The MMA veteran delivered heavy strikes and submissions half the match while Becky's technical prowess with ingenuity helped her survive the battering. The Kirifuda Clutch almost submitted to her but a rolled backwards pin got Lynch the win. Considering how she won similarly over UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey last year, I don't see how Lynch is fully okay with scoring languid pins over two of the most dangerous women in wrestling and MMA.

The most prolific performer in WrestleMania history — The Undertaker — made his return as the American Badass to fight AJ Styles in a Boneyard match. Taker punished Styles for disrespecting his wife and legacy all through the graveyard while Styles brawled with assistance from his stable and faux 'druids.' "The Phenomenal One" had Taker in a grave but "Big Evil" arose out and brutalized Styles before his Chokeslam off a barn roof. This was really a Buried Alive match, yet a full fight and the cinematic experience was the best out of night one.

WWE Hall of Famer Edge (Adam Copeland) made an inspiring return to WrestleMania to fight one of his best friends Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match. The emotional investment for this clash of legends brought a new rivalry that WWE enthusiasts can fully get behind. They fought and took innovative offense all over the WWEPC. Orton was ready to deliver the final Con-Chair-To to end Edge's career forever but Adam countered with a new arm-triangle choke. Edge finished his 'brother' off with the con-chair-to himself, securing a win after nine years and I couldn't be more ecstatic!

The Babe Ruth of WWE — John Cena — was going to sit out on Mania this year but he was challenged by old rival and new supernatural monster "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt. It's really a conundrum to describe this matchup because it was a manipulated time skip through Cena's failures and wrestling history. Aside from the Boneyard match, this was the most creative story plot WWE has done in years when Bray got his revenge on John six years after WM30.

Both Night 1 and 2 had new stars get their first WrestleMania moment as former NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley competed at her first to take on The Queen Charlotte Flair. Otis got the girl of his dreams and "The EST" Bianca Belair made her debut helping the RAW Tag Team Champions Street Profits. Bayley delivered her resilience and in-ring acumen to retain her SmackDown Women's title against five other women.The world title matches were disappointing but the results both ushered in brand new champions.

Braun Strowman defeated WWE legend Goldberg for the Universal Championship in a quick power rush. Four Spears from the Devastator and four powerslams from the Monster Among Men granted him his first world title. The former "Chosen One" Drew McIntyre finally achieved his overdue prophecy by taking down Brock Lesnar to become WWE Champion. This one was almost just signatures as well as Brock gave a couple suplexes and 3 F5's to Drew but he didn't give up. Out of nowhere, Drew hit his Claymore kick and three more to knock Brock out to become the first British (Scottish) WWE Champion. WrestleMania 36 was bizarrely creative and unique but it got the job done for millions around the world. Hopefully WM37 in Hollywood will get a deserving stadium full of over 70,000 fans screaming "This is Awesome!”