Just as we covered previously, COVID-19 is making the WWE, more than a little bit bonkers.
Given the current circumstances, it comes as no surprise that the WWE’s biggest annual pay-per-view show, the recently-concluded Wrestlemania 36, would be significantly different this year. Instead of the colossal Raymond James Stadium, the event’s original venue in Tampa, Florida, it was held at the company’s private training facility, the WWE Performance Center; In place of the usual bombastic fireworks and pyrotechnics were humble laser light shows and simple spotlights; and, of course, instead of the sold-out live audience of thousands, the wrestlers performed for the millions watching at home with eerie silence and emptiness as a backdrop.
But despite all of that going on, this year’s Wrestlemania still found a way to be weirder and crazier that we ever expected. Let us count the ways:
From the get-go, it was already kind of peculiar that the “Superbowl” of professional wrestling would be pirate-themed. It’s just incredibly plain and dull, isn’t it? It’s just the kind of theme you’d do for a birthday or office party or something. It’s the like person in charge of the company Christmas party and the director of Wrestlemania bumped into each other in the hallway and they mixed up their briefcases labeled “ideas”.
This is brilliant, Cathy! Next year’s theme: “Astronauts”!
The WWE did make the most of what they could and they even featured everyone’s favorite pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow! Or rather, an impression of good ol’ Captain Jack at least. However I’m sure everything would’ve been a little more fleshed out if circumstances weren’t what they were so I’d let WWE off the hook for this one. .
As with any major sporting event, Wrestlemania usually opens with a patriotic song sung by a big-name star. So when the opening notes to “America the Beautiful” started playing and the video reel highlighting previous Wrestlemania singers played, we were all anticipating who was going to come out and sing the opening song. Is it Beyonce? Is it John Legend? Is it Fred Durst?
But then the video reel just kept going. And going. And going. Until it dawned upon us that this was the opening song! Featuring special guest artist: Everyone! It was a great montage though, especially after we figured out what was going on.
This match between Kevin Owens and the Monday Night Messiah, Seth Rollins was actually rolling along quite nicely. Both men were putting a hell of a fight and a hell of a show, for that matter. Until that one little bit where they took the fight outside of the ring and Seth-freakin’-Rollins took the ring-freakin’-bell and domed Owens’-freakin’-head with it.
The referee then rightfully disqualified Rollins giving Owens the win but apparently, that wasn’t enough for the man from Quebec. He promptly took a mic and challenged Rollins AGAIN to an immediate rematch with no holds barred.
Even if you’re not super familiar with the pro-wrestling business, you’ll probably see that things just aren’t done that way. You just can’t make matches DURING Wrestlemania. In kayfabe, what’s going to happen to the next match? Does it get pushed back or canceled? Why doesn’t everyone at ‘Mania just grab the mic and challenge an arch-rival for some ring action?
Anyway, it’s not all bad, as when Rollins did decide to come back and fight Owens, this happened:
Hey, who doesn’t love a good love story? Bitter, unfeeling monsters that’s who. So this match between Dolph Ziggler and Otis from Heavy Machinery had some of the most convoluted and most telenovela-like backstories. There’s romance, deception, betrayal but in the end, the good guy gets the girl. Or more accurately: The girl saves the good guy from the villain with a low blow, then they kiss.
This whole story arc was definitely something but maybe the weird thing we got from it was Otis’ speaking voice.
We’re we seeing double? Because since this year’s ‘Mania was split between two nights, it seemed like both night’s respective Main Events were really really similar. Both feature a dominating, veteran champion (Brock Lesnar and Goldberg) taking on a young and upcoming rising star (Drew Mcintyre and Braun Strowman). Another thing is that both matches were basically structured in the same way: Champ dominates his challenger with a signature move but doesn’t win. Then challenger rallies, hitting the champ with his own signature move and wins.
Didn’t Morpheus say that déjà vu was for when they were actually changing something?
So let’s get one thing straight: The Boneyard Match between AJ Styles and the Undertaker was pretty great. The WWE made the most of the no audience thing and pre-taped this whole match complete with multiple cuts, special effects, set design and atmospheric lighting akin to your favorite TV or Netflix Series.
No one expected this. But at the same time it was a lovely and bizarre surprise that turned the limitations of this year’s ‘Mania into a strength. With the upped production, everything looked awesome. The action was gritty and brutal and the set which resembled a run-down barnyard, was ominous and full of neat little tricks like pyrotechnics, lights and a barn full of cultists. It was definitely a modern-day spectacle that was worth the watch.
Unfortunately though, The Boneyard Match did have one downside for me, and again, similarly to Otis, it’s the Undertaker’s speaking voice. For all the mystique as an undead warlock that he’s built throughout the years, it’s just so jarring to hear him speak like a regular human. And yet speak he did as he trash-talked Styles around all over the boneyard, spouting curse words and taunts. I just couldn’t handle it
Ah yes. Finally the pièce de résistance, John Cena versus The Fiend in a Firefly Fun House Match. If you could even call it a match. Realistically speaking, it was more of like a twisted, meta skit about the entire pro-wrestling career of John Cena. The Firefly Fun House tackled everything from Cena’s origins as The Prototype when he debuted against Kurt Angle to his popular Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick and why I was eventually changed to even up to his first face off against the Fiend when he was known back then as Bray Wyatt.
At the time I wasn’t exactly sure what I was watching on my screen but I was absolutely engrossed about the bizarre eeriness of it all. In the end, all that I really knew for sure was two things: There was a Vince McMahon puppet and the Fiend beat Cena.
Yeah. It was definitely… something.
What did you think of this year’s Wrestlemania? Let us know in the comments below!
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