WrestleMania surprises fans with quality under strange circumstances

Jordan Hay, Staff Writer

Sporting events have all been canceled or postponed due to the
circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. There is one constant in this wacky world that we live in apparently. World Wrestling Entertainment.
The WWE decided to continue with their shows in the midst of the pandemic scare. Many have questioned the decision, but coming from a company that kept a pay-per-view event going after the tragic death of a wrestler, was this really that big of a shock? WrestleMania is regarded as the biggest event in all of live entertainment. Tens of thousands of people from all across the world flock to this annual event to see their favorite WWE superstars compete on the “grandest stage of them all.”
This year’s event, however, was changed due to the extenuating conditions of the coronavirus pandemic. It was supposed to be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. Instead, they switched locations to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and held the event with no live attendance.
Going into the event, many people and critics, myself included, were very skeptical of what they could really do with no live audience.
Professional Wrestling is all about crowd work and how you can get a crowd really invested in the matches.
Will this spell doom for the WWE and their crowdless event?
Another first time ever in regards to this show is the fact that this is the first WrestleMania to happen over the span of two nights. Both nights went for about three and a half hours and each had nine matches for agrand total of eighteen matches over the two nights.
Both nights started with an opening statement from Stephanie McMahon, the chief brand officer of the WWE and daughter of the owner of the company Vince McMahon. She talked about how we live in uncertain times but the WWE is there to entertain us and act as a getaway from what’s going on in the real world.
The show kicked off with the host of WrestleMania, former New England Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski giving a little spiel about the show
The opening match was for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship. It was between the champions, The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) versus Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. Pretty standard tag team opening match affair with a lot of the same elements seen in other tag team matches. A couple good, high impact moves from the Kabuki Warriors were had but it wasn’t enough in the end with Alexa and Nikki winning the titles.
With this WrestleMania, there are a few matches that don’t seem “WrestleMania-caliber.” The next match between Elias and King Corbin is one of those. Really a nothing match that had no real build-up and didn’t really need to be on the card. King Corbin threw Elias off of a high platform on to some concrete, almost killing the guy, on a recent episode of Smackdown and in return, Elias won this match with a roll-up pin maneuver.
The next contest pitted the RAW’s Women’s champion, Becky Lynch versus MMA fighter turned wrestler Shayna Baszler. This intense feud turned into this intense, hard-hitting match. Very even throughout until Baszler locked in her rear-naked choke maneuver. Lynch then countered it into a pinning predicament and got the win to keep her year-long reign as champion intact.
The Intercontinental Championship match between the champion, Sami Zayn and challenger Daniel Bryan is what I saw as the turning point of the night. Washington’s own Daniel Bryan dominated throughout this match with his intense striking and grappling. Zayn spent the first part of the match running away and spent most of the match getting the beatdown from Bryan. Zayn would get the win however after Bryan would get distracted by outside interference by Zayn’s group and would get hit by Zayn’s devastating “Helluva Kick.”
The next match would be another great contest. This was a triple threat ladder match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship between one member of each team in the match. This was caused by champion, The Miz, falling to an illness before the event. The match was between Kofi Kingston of The New Day, Jimmy Uso of the Usos, and other champion John Morrison. This was a great display of athleticism by all three participants. Many high impact moves and moments were had because of the nature of the match. The end would see each person grab the titles on top of the ladder. In a stalemate, the titles would get yanked off of the holder and would fall in possession of John Morrison, meaning he and the Miz retained titles. For my match of the night, we saw Kevin Owens face off with the “Monday Night Messiah” Seth Rollins. This was a nicely worked match between two of the best in WWE. The match was first stopped by a disqualification from Rollins hitting Owens with the ring bell.
Owens would get on the mic and demand the match to restart as a No DQ match. The climax of the match saw Owens jump off of the WrestleMania sign behind the announcer’s table onto Rollins on the table below, hitting him with an elbow drop. They would get back into the ring and Owens would pick up the win after hitting Rollins with a “Stunner,” the move made famous by wrestling great Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Next, we would see WWE Hall of Famer putting his Universal Championship on the line against last-minute replacement to Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman. This went as any Goldberg match has gone inthe last few years. Both men hit their signature moves until one of them didn’t kick out. Braun Strowman would put away Goldberg with his running power slam and would win his first major title in WWE.
The main event of the night was not an ordinary wrestling match. It was a “Boneyard match” between the legendary Undertaker and AJ Styles.
This was by far the most interesting part of the event as a whole. It was a match that was produced and edited like a sort of movie or TV show. It was a nice change of pace to see something like this instead of another empty arena match. A bunch of really good wackiness ensues with the two participants and ends with the Undertaker winning the match by way of burying Styles.
Night two begins with the NXT Women’s Championship match between Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair. This was a nice little match with Flair really working over Ripley’s leg in preparation for her finishing move, the figure four leglock, the move popularized by her father Ric Flair. Ripley showed a lot of guts by working through a leg injury but it wasn’t enough to stop Charlotte. Charlotte won the championship by making Ripley submit to the figure four.
Next comes a string of really nothing matches in the night. Including Aleister Black facing Bobby Lashley, and a RAW Tag Team Championship match between the Street Profits versus Austin Theory and Angel Garza. Both not having a lot of build and were just put on the event just because.
A feel-good moment of night was seen in the match between Otis versus Dolph Ziggler. The storyline going into this match saw the big man, Otis pining over the very attractive Mandy Rose. This led to Valentine’s day date where Dolph Ziggler would swoop in, which crushed Otis. This was shown to be conspired by Dolph and Mandy’s best friend Sonya Deville and Mandy had no clue that this happened. Otis would end up winning the match because of Mandy’s interference. Otis and Mandy would get together after the match and they would kiss. This moment would have been a lot better with the crowd reaction of a sell-out stadium.
The match I was most interested in leading up to the show was the last man standing match between Randy Orton and the returning Edge. Edge had retired in 2011 due to a neck issue that would have left him paralyzed potentially if he kept wrestling. Edge was one of the first wrestlers that I really hated when I was just a seven-year-old boy. Seeing him return this year at the Royal Rumble event made me so happy.
Randy Orton and Edge were tag team partners back in the day and were friends. This match was built due to a grudge that Orton held on to Edge and a sort of jealousy that he had towards him. The match we saw here at Mania was very drawn out and kind of a disappointment to me.
They took most of the time going through the Performance Center and brawling. The ending was very emotional with Edge hitting the patented “Conchairto” on Orton and keeping him down for the count of ten. Sometime during the night, Gronk would win his first title in the WWE by winning the 24/7 Championship in between some matches.

The Smackdown Women’s
Championship would be defended next in a 5-woman elimination
match. Bayley would defend her title against Lacey Evans, Naomi, Tamina
and her friend Sasha Banks. Bayley and Evans would be the last two
competitors with Bayley securing the win because of Banks.
Next came the insane “Firefly Funhouse match” between Bray Wyatt and John Cena. This was another production, like the previous night’s “Boneyard match.” Bray took Cena on a journey throughout each of their careers. This was a trip unlike anything on this or any show. It wasn’t much of a match. It is really hard to describe in the grand scheme of things, especially to non-wrestling fans. I appreciate it for what it was and what it brought to the show, however. Bray Wyatt would technically win the “match” with “The Fiend” version of him hitting Cena with the “Sister Abigail.” The Firefly Funhouse Bray would count the pin.
The main event of night 2 saw Brock Lesnar putting up the WWE Championship on the line versus the Royal Rumble winner, Drew McIntyre. This was similar to the Goldberg-Strowman match from the night before. Lesnar would hit McIntyre with the “F5.” McIntyre kicked out a few times and then hit Lesnar with the “Claymore kick.” A few more of them would put Lesnar away and secure McIntyre’s first-ever world title win. McIntyre would look at the camera and thank the audience. WrestleMania would fade
out with the champion celebrating in the ring.
Overall, this exceeded my expectations. I preferred night one overnight two, but night two still had some quality stuff to it. It was a nice distraction to the world around us.
For that, I have to applaud WWE.
This could have backfired and been a stinker of a show. The performers on the show did such a great job making this as good as they could.
The matches I would recommend are the ladder match, Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins, the “Boneyard match,” Ripley vs. Flair, to name a few.