WrestleMania 36 took place under unique circumstances because of the COVID-19 outbreak. WWE’s annual blockbuster event was presented over two nights and before no fans at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.
The talent who competed did the best they could on Night 2 of WrestleMania 36. Despite the show ending on a feel-good moment with Drew McIntyre winning the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar, the entire show fell flat except for the classic “match” between The Fiend and John Cena.
SN’s wrestling experts watched the first half of WrestleMania 36 and graded each match.
WrestleMania 36 match grades
Charlotte Flair def. Rhea Ripley to regain the NXT Women’s championship
Andreas Hale: A solid and hard-hitting opener with the wrong person coming out on top. Rhea had just begun picking up momentum as the NXT champion after establishing herself by ending Shayna Bayzler’s NXT women’s title reign. And, just like that, she’s cut off by a woman who absolutely didn’t need to win the NXT title. What does this say about the women in NXT when both Shayna and Rhea lose in big matches at WrestleMania? Not a great booking decision for a match that was pretty good until the end.
Steven Muehlhausen: Couldn’t ask for a better start to the second night as both worked hard and it was Ripley’s best match to date. Flair worked on Ripley’s knee the entire way. Ripley sold the knee very well for the duration and made you believe every movement hurt. But Flair finally was able to secure the figure-eight which forced Ripley to tap out. With that said, Flair shouldn’t have gone over in the slightest bit. How does Flair regaining the belt help Ripley? The women’s division is thin at the top and a Ripley win would have vaulted her into the upper tier.
Aleister Black def. Bobby Lashley
Hale: There was no reason for this match to happen and the fact that it was given so much time is baffling. With no heat, the match just dragged and ended when a miscue courtesy of Lana’s direction caused Black to hit the Black Mask on Lashley as he attempted a spear. Nope.
Muehlhausen: Why did this go so long? It was hard-hitting but with no backstory, which made it hard to get behind.
Otis def. Dolph Ziggler
Hale: The WWE invested a lot into this angle and what we ended up with was an uninspired match with a lukewarm payoff. We still aren’t sure why Sonja Deville aligned herself with Dolph Ziggler at the expense of her friendship with Mandy Rose. Nevertheless, Ziggler sold his tail off for Otis but the match dragged on until Mandy finally made her appearance, slapped Sonya and gave Ziggler a low blow that led to Otis hitting the worm and the elbow for the win. It was what it was.
Muehlhausen: Have to give WWE credit for seeing this story play out. Normally, they give up or tweak along the way. But not this time around. Ziggler showed why he’s a bump machine in making Otis look as good as possible. What we ended up seeing was Mandy Rose coming out to attack Sonya Deville and then give a low blow to help Otis garner the victory.
Edge def. Randy Orton
Hale: You couldn’t have told me that the best-built story heading into WrestleMania would end up with a match like this. An extraordinarily long Last Man Standing match that would have benefitted from the production that AJ Styles and Undertaker were given in night one. Instead, we got a dull match that was interrupted by punches, kicks and counts. Boring isn’t the word. It was a massive disappointment for a WWE Superstar that fans have been longing to see back in the ring. Edge ended up winning with a concerto in a match that dragged and dragged and dragged. Sorry, guys. This wasn’t it.
Muehlhausen: I would have bet the farm this would have been the match of the week. Instead, this is a nudge above Goldberg and Braun Strowman. They went about 40 minutes when it could have been done in half the time. How WWE didn’t cut some of the action is mind-boggling when there was plenty of time to do so. A bitter disappointment when this was the best built up contest on the road to WrestleMania 36.
The Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) def. Angel Garza and Austin Theory to retain the ‘RAW’ Tag Team titles
Hale: It would have been nice if Edge-Orton could have given some of their time to this tag match. Instead, we got a kinda, sorta sprint that ended way too soon. It’s clear that Ford and Garza are stellar athletes and were putting in some great work in-ring. But then it just ended after Ford hit his frog splash on Theory – who nobody understands why he was in the match – as he was pinning Dawkins. Afterward, Zelina Vega and the heels attacked Street Profits and Ford’s real-life wife Bianca Belair hit the ring to make the save.
Muehlhausen: A shame WWE refused to cut about ten minutes from Edge vs. Orton and given it to this one. All four guys had their working boots and provided a fun, athletic contest that saw the champion remain the champions. Afterward, Zelina Vega joined in on the fun and helped Garza and Theory put a beating on Ford and Dawkins when Belair came out to help out Ford.
Bayley def. Lacey Evans, Sasha Banks, Naomi and Tamina to retain the ‘Smackdown’ Women’s title
Hale: This match was what it was. Obviously, Tamina was the first one out and then, unfortunately, Naomi. This led to Sasha and Bayley in a two-on-one against Lacey Evans, who remains a terrible babyface. A miscue caused Banks to get caught with The Women’s Right and eliminated by Lacey. But instead of getting payback on her friend, Banks helped her friend by hitting the backstabber on Evans and helping Bayley return. The seeds have been planted for a Bayley-Sasha feud by the Summer. The match itself was fine.
Muehlhausen: Going in, the focus was on Bayley and Banks and it played out exactly how we all expected. It came down to Bayley, Evans and Banks. You can figure it out the rest as Bayley accidentally hit Banks with a running knee followed by Bayley moving out of the way causing Banks to get hit by The Women’s Right. I liked Banks helping Bayley retain the title and have her remain suspicious of her best friend turning on her at the blink of an eye. Oh yeah, there was the match and it was there.
The Fiend def. John Cena
Hale: By far, one of the most entertaining things that WWE has done in recent memory. The callbacks to Cena as The Prototype and the Doctor of Thugonomics was absolutely fantastic. This was much less a match and far more of a production that consisted of everything that has made Bray Wyatt great. It’s also telling that two of the most entertaining things at WrestleMania weren’t much of matches at all. But you absolutely have to grade this on a curve because of how damn entertaining it was. I guess The Fiend won, but who cares? This was great.
Muehlhausen: At first, I was baffled at what we were seeing. But going back to old Cena characters proceeded by hits from pro wrestling’s past shows the creativity of Bray Wyatt and how it makes him a cut above everyone else on the WWE roster. The only wrestling move was when Wyatt turned into The Fiend for Sister Abigail to get the “win” per se. It says something that two best things from the weekend were outside the box ideas. This was hands down the best thing done all weekend. Well done.
Drew McIntyre def. Brock Lesnar to win the WWE championship
Hale: Wait, didn’t we just see this exact match on Night 1 with Braun and Goldberg? The problem is that Braun-Goldberg playing out in a sequence of spammed finishers made sense because of Goldberg’s limitations. This should have been different considering that Brock Lesnar is a sight to behold when he is dialed in and McIntyre is a special talent. Instead, we had three moves in the match: Claymore Kick, German Suplex and F-5. That’s it. That was the entire match. McIntyre is your new WWE champion but he deserved a better crowning moment than this one.
Muehlhausen: Thankfully, what we got was better than Strowman and Goldberg from Saturday night, but not by much. There were only three moves but the emotion shown by McIntyre and Lesnar was better than anything from Strowman and Goldberg. Surprised to see McIntyre win here because these guys can do a better match. However, the circumstances given weren’t ideal and you want him to have that true “WrestleMania moment.” Lesnar still made him look good but the ending felt a bit flat.