Too big for one night, as “the show must go on”. Night one of the most bizarre WrestleManias there’ll probably ever be…
Well, this is weird. This is definitely weird. With the vast majority of the world in some kind of lockdown, running WrestleMania or any of the satellite events was absolutely not on the cards… but while the indies were forced to cancel, WWE pushed on, taping their shows at their Performance Center, in front of a grand total of zero fans. That included WrestleMania, which ended up being spread across two nights, although not for the reasons we guessed might happen after last year’s show legitimately spread across two days.
We’ve barely paid attention to those no fan shows, so our coverage is going to be a little different than usual. Stay safe, everyone.
Corey Graves and Peter Rosenberg hosting the pre-show inside the 3D studio. Based on this, tonight we’re getting Undertaker/AJ… Shayna Baszler/Becky Lynch, Sami Zayn/Daniel Bryan, Kofi/Morrison/Jimmy Uso in a 3-way ladder match for the SmackDown tag titles… plus Elias/Corbin, Asuka & Sane vs. Bliss/Cross, Owens/Rollins and Goldberg vs. Braun Strowman for the Universal title.
Drew Gulak vs. Cesaro
Drew’s gone back to his Catch Point roots on his intro, as he starts by looking for a takedown.
We may have no fans, but we’ve a metric F-tonne of LED screens… and security barriers. To secure nobody. Gulak keeps things grounded as a Lebell Lock forces Cesaro to the ropes, before lifting him over the top to the outside. Wash, rinse, repeat, before Gulak teased a dive, but instead flips off the apron into an armdrag on Cesaro, as that right shoulder became the focal point. Gulak heads up top but crashes into… an uppercut? It gets Cesaro a near-fall, but Gulak’s right back in with a Fujiwara armbar, before a Dragon sleeper – tagged as the Gu-lock – was escaped.
Cesaro tries for a Neutraliser, but then shoves Gulak away before an uppercut and a NO HANDS whirlibird torture rack – his old UFO – gets the win. Impressive spot, and a decent enough outing. ***
King Corbin promo. He threw Elias off a thing on SmackDown, and stole a mouth organ. Corbin reminds us of that Kurt Angle match from last year, then sang a ditty.
The main show opens with Stephanie McMahon in a studio talking about “the current circumstances” and how WrestleMania is going to be a diversion. Surprised it’s not Vince doing this, given the reports this was his idea…
From there, it’s a montage of past musical acts singing America the Beautiful from WrestleManias gone by. Then, it’s the epic Mania intro video, with a remixed version thrown in for the hell of it, as WWE’s paid for some AC/DC!
Robert Gronkowski is your host. It’ll be material for some. Especially because he’s with Mojo Rawley. JBL’s joined Michael Cole on commentary…
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) (c)
Sane starts off taking shots at Bliss, but Nikki Cross charges in with a dropkick as she looked to restrain Sane with a mounted sleeper. Good to see no fans doesn’t mean they ditch the rapid camera cuts.
Asuka’s in with a kick to the back, but the challengers take over as they took Asuka and Sane outside, with Bliss hitting a flip senton off the apron. A crossbody from Cross splats Sane onto the floor as they looked for a count-out… then changed tack as Bliss rolled in Asuka to get a two-count.
They’re back outside as Bliss dropkicks through the ropes to Asuka, while Cross almost took Sane into the no-crowd. The champions regain control though, working over Cross, using a bulldog and low dropkick to splat the Scotswoman for a near-fall. Bliss tries to fight back but she gets caught in the ropes as Sane nails a Del Rio stomp instead for a near-fall right in the buckles. Bliss’ spell on top’s stopped by the boots of Asuka while Nikki Cross… tried to get the no-fans to clap along. Eh, her character’s crazy, I’ll let it slide. Bliss shoves off a bulldog, but gets kicked in the head by Asuka for a near-fall, before Cross got the hot tag in and screamed a lot. A crossbody off the top squashes Sane for a near-fall, but a blind tag brings Asuka back in… a swinging neckbreaker nearly gets the win as Sane barely gets the Insane elbow in to break it up.
Cross tries her luck with an O’Connor roll… but Asuka breaks it up and looked for something, only for a Twisted Bliss to separate that. In the end, Cross goes for a superplex, but the champions outnumber her as an assisted powerbomb lands for a two-count… before Asuka launched herself into the ring post. That left Sane open for another Cross neckbreaker as Bliss tagged in to get the win with Twisted Bliss. This felt a little long, but I feel we’ll be getting that a LOT on these shows. I enjoyed it at least. ***
Sami Zayn promo. He’s with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. Social Distancing isn’t a thing here. Give him a cigar and he’s almost Fidel Castro with this get-up…
King Corbin vs. Elias
Blame Gronk for this.
Corbin brags about attacking Elias a week ago, then tried to get the referee to award the match via forfeit. Except Elias is here, as we’re told by Michael Cole, who had all the enthusiasm of a video game line. Elias cracks Corbin with the guitar, before they made it into the ring.
The match starts with Elias cornering Corbin ahead of a back elbow for a near-fall, but Corbin lifts Elias to the outside via a hot shot. Back inside, Corbin throws Elias into the ring post for a two-count, before an Elias comeback ended with misdirection from Corbin on the way to a clothesline. Corbin whinges at commentary, before he threw Elias into the ring post again. Two matches deep on the main card, and three of the four corners have been used! Elias made a comeback with a clothesline-ish charge, and a kick out of the corner before he walked a mudhole into Corbin in the corner.
Elias rolls the dice for a near-fall, but Corbin’s back with Deep Six, before he tries his misdirection clothesline… Elias sees it coming and clocks Corbin with a leaping knee for a near-fall. With no crowd, this is dragging, but I doubt a crowd would have improved this much. It’s going too long. Corbin tries to roll-up Elias with his feet on the ropes, but the ref caught it… only to miss Elias getting a handful of tights to win with a roll-up. Hey, what the hell happened to Elias’ old music?! **
Tom Phillips jumps in on commentary with Byron Saxton for the Raw bouts…
WWE Raw Women’s Champion: Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch (c)
Becky’s got her truck from Raw a few weeks back… I guess it counts as a WrestleMania entrance, even if she had to stop in the car park. Meanwhile, Shayna just gets the bog standard music and light show.
It’s a clubbering early on, but Bazler teases a Kirifuda clutch early on as Becky rolls outside, and eventually ‘ranas Baszler on the floor. Shayna’s taken into the announce desk as Becky opted to break the count-out… so she could throw Shayna into the ring steps. Back in the ring, a missile dropkick lands, as did a barrage of shots in the corner, but Baszler catches Lynch with a knee. Lynch looks to respond with a Dis-Arm-Her, but Baszler’s back with a double leg takedown before a butterfly cutter gets a near-fall. The pair end up on the apron trading shots, until a uranage from Lynch dropped the challenger… but Becky can’t follow up and gets thrown off the top rope as Baszler comes right back with a cross armbar that she rolled into a Dis-Arm-Her of her own.
Becky rolls free, but ends up getting waffled with a knee for a two-count… before another trip to the apron ended with Becky getting hung with a rear naked choke in the ropes. Shayna lets go, then followed up with a giant swing that smashed Becky into the desk. Back inside, Baszler catches Becky in a Kirifuda clutch, only for Lynch to roll back out of it to get the win with the Bret Hart/Steve Austin finish. Becky ekes one out in a hard-hitting outing as the no-fans thing begins to lose its charm… ***¼
WWE Intercontinental Championship: Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn (c)
They let the two Mojos onto the set for this.
We’ve a metric tonne of stalling at the bell, which led to Cesaro hilariously telling Zayn that Bryan’s “already getting tired”. The cat and mouse continues as Nakamura and Cesaro provide distractions, before Drew Gulak launched himself off the apron to knock down Cesaro and Nakamura. He dispatches of them with clotheslines into the no-crowd, while Bryan opted to go for a count-out. Zayn went to walk out, but Bryan charges him on the apron before taking Sami back inside. Bryan lays into him before taking Sami outside for a wild tope that made me wince. Echos of Travis Banks on NXT UK last week…
Back inside, a missile dropkick finds its mark, before Bryan slapped Sami silly. A corner dropkick follows, but Zayn suckers Bryan in with elbows. Hey, where did Cesaro and Nakamura go? Are the firey pits of hell behind those railings? Bryan’s back with kicks that left Sami laying, while Gulak gets too into it… as Cesaro and Nakamura return from the dead to attack him. A tope from Bryan gets rid of them again, before he leaps into a big boot from Zayn back inside… and that makeshift Helluva Kick wins it. Eh, this was different, and I liked how vocal Bryan and Zayn were to make up for the circumstances. Trust these two to make the best of a bad situation. ***½
Ladder Match for WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Kofi Kingston vs. Jimmy Uso vs. John Morrison (c)
Yes, they’re doing a singles ladder match for the tag titles. Both belts are up there. Is that teasing something screwy a la Shawn and Razor?
We start out hot with flips and stuff, leading to a quick stalemate before the lads went out for ladders. They set them up and climb, but Morrison’s got a short ladder as Jimmy Uso’s knocked off the ladder first, and crashes into the corner. Kofi leaps off in a crossbody to keep Jimmy down… Kofi and Morrison tease moves onto a ladder, while Jimmy climbs one, but he’s caught as Kofi headbutts him down. Kofi reaches for the belts, but Morrison stops him and heads up… managing to touch the belts only for Uso to slide him down back to the mat. After heading outside, Kofi tries something wacky through a ladder, but his dropkick’s caught as he’s carried across the ring and sent to the outside.
Morrison straight up chucks a ladder at Uso, before setting some up in the corner… Uso gets tripped onto a ladder across the corner before a Starship Pain took him through it. After kicking Jimmy to the outside, Morrison sets up the ladder again… but it’s the slow-climb wrestler stuff that foils Morrison as Kofi comes back with a springboard ‘rana to take him off the ladder. Goddamn Kofi.
Kofi tries to climb, but has to stop to deal with Jimmy Uso, before a pescado to the outside wiped out Morrison. Things escalate when Jimmy Uso walks the barriers, only to have a ladder thrown at him as they are literally killing themselves for zero fans. Kofi sets up another ladder between the ring and the no-crowd barrier, placing Jimmy on it before he caught Morrison in the buckles… but Morrison’s back as he rope walks from corner to corner to hit a Spanish fly on Kofi, while Uso returned with a big splash. More scrapping around a ladder follows, as Kofi clambers around a ladder to get the belts… but Morrison stops him, before payback came in the form of a Goomba stomp off the ladder from Kofi. Uso’s back with another ladder, which neatly slots into the one that’s standing up… which Kofi then tasted when he was thrown into it.
Morrison uses that ladder bridge to try and leap into Uso, but he ends up taking a superkick instead before Jimmy set up another ladder… nowhere near the belts, mind you. He pays for it as Morrison pushed the ladder down as Jimmy SPLATS onto the floor, while Kofi returned to foil Morrison at the top of the ladder, threatening to shove him down into that ladder bridge, before Jimmy Uso returned as all three men had their hands on the title belt holder… there’s no bell, so they keep fighting, only for Morrison to fall back onto the ladder, with the two title belts, and that counts. A wacky, perhaps overly complex finish to a match that some will absolutely loathe because of the bumps taken. ***½
Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens
Yikes. Seth really is playing Crossfit Jesus, eh?
We quickly head outside after the bell, as Rollins gets taken into the crowd barriers, but back inside a curb stomp attempt was avoided as Owens regains the upper hand. Back sentons from Owens squishes Seth, who eventually headed outside for respite… only to get introduced to the guard rails. On the apron, Owens teases a piledriver, but a back body drop gets Seth free, with a Falcon arrow exacerbating things for Owens. Seth brags some more as he went for a tope, taking Owens back into the barriers. He learns his lesson, but Seth quickly cuts him off back inside with a Slingblade, before another series of Curb Stomp attempts were countered with a DDT.
Owens adds a cannonball to that, before a senton bomb off the top almost put Rollins away. Another flurry ends with Rollins’ enziguiri taking Owens into the ropes, as he rebounded with a clothesline. A bucklebomb from Rollins sparks another flurry, but a pop-up powerbomb cuts it off for a near-fall… before the pair headed outside, leading to Rollins clocking Owens with the ring bell for the obvious DQ. This feud must continue, but this did nothing for me. I guess having to follow a car crash ladder match will do that. **½
After the match, Owens dared Seth to “finish it, once and for all” under no-DQ rules… and of course, Seth falls for it.
No Disqualification: Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens
Rollins hits a leaping knee at the bell, taking Owens outside into the barriers again. After confirming the new no-DQ stip, Rollins dismantles the ring steps and charges into Owens with them, before he wore out Owens with chairshots. Cue uncomfortable silences as commentary laid out… Owens gets his own back with a bell shot after Seth had taken apart the commentary desk, then went away.
Owens comes back to do the Shane McMahon thing of jumping off of the WrestleMania sign to put Rollins through the table. Bet they wouldn’t have done that in the stadium. We don’t go much longer as Owens takes it back inside to win with a Stunner. Eh. It ticked the “Mania moment” box, I guess. **½
The Two Mojos are still annoying. R-Truth interrupts with his 24/7 title. They surround him, as Gronk hits Truth, with Mojo stealing the pin. And new 24/7 champion…
Promo time with Charly Caruso’s fluorescent yellow outfit. Oh, and Paul Heyman. He tells us that tomorrow, Drew McIntyre’s going to be victimised by Brock. Great delivery, but I kinda got off the Brock train a while back.
WWE Universal Championship: Braun Strowman vs. Goldberg (c)
Braun was announced as a replacement for Roman Reigns on SmackDown 24 hours ago. No reason. That’s unique, I guess.
These “big match” ring announcements are so odd with no crowd for reactions. They square off at the bell, with Strowman teasing a slam early on before Goldberg caught him with a spear. Oh My God,. A second spear! And a third! It’s not enough though as I prepared to belly laugh, before a fourth lands… only for Braun to counter a Jackhammer into a slam… as he spammed THAT move on the way to a win. Hard pass. DUD.
WrestleMania next year is going to LA… assuming the SoFi Stadium is finished by then!
Boneyard Match: Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
We’re on location for this, as we’re going back to the graveyard. Undertaker’s here via a coffin in a hearse. Except it’s not the Dead Man, it’s AJ!
Cue a biker, as the American Bad Ass rolls in, sadly sans Kid Rock.
AJ Styles has watched his Rob Lias tapes, but the Undertaker stops him from using a brick as he proceeds to throw AJ back onto the casket he came in on. We’ve got incidental music as the Undertaker Goldbergs himself, punching the window of the hearse, but he shrugs off the blood as AJ’s thrown onto the hearse again, as they scrap on the roof. AJ tries to run, and he manages to get the upper hand as… why’s there a digger nearby? Sound effects are dubbed in to increase the wackiness as Undertaker’s punched, but he strikes back and knocks AJ into a grave. Except the OC pop up, with more wacky music greeting the arrival of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows.
Who have their own druids with them!?
Not the Dark Order attack as Anderson and Gallows gang up on the Undertaker… but he overcomes them and proceeds to batter the OC with the handle of a shovel. AJ’s back to crash into the Undertaker with some dry wall, which AJ complains “breaks his finger”. The music, the sound effects, the “cinematic” cuts are gloriously kitsch, but I love this.
AJ charges Undertaker through a fence, which can’t have done his finger much good. The Undertaker flips his middle finger, as AJ mocks, then reached for a shovel and swung for the fences, breaking it over the Undertaker’s back to send him into the grave. On the digger, AJ looked to fill the grave… but the Undertaker teleports behind him and the scrap resumes, with AJ scrambling up onto the roof of a building. Undertaker joins him there, and signals for fire. Like the good ol’ days! Anderson and Gallows try for the save, but they’re overwhelmed as a tombstone somehow doesn’t go through the roof. It’s just AJ and Taker again, and AJ’s ended as he’s chokeslammed off the roof and onto the ground.
After some trash talking, Undertaker drags AJ away, then scoops him up as they go back to the grave. AJ tries to apologise his way out of it, and it almost worked… but the Undertaker boots him into the grave before this live action version of a WWE 2K DLC pack ended with the Undertaker tipping dirt into the grave to end the match. So that’s how you win a Boneyard match! The real world sucks right now, so this slice of our childhood’s version of the Undertaker was a good diversion, no matter how campy it comes across outside of this bubble… nor whether it’ll hold up on a re-watch, as the Undertaker rode away on his bike. I can’t begin to rate this as a match, but this was an enjoyable mess. I think that’s how you can best describe it…
Look, these no-fan shows aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. A glance at the TV ratings will tell you that. WrestleMania without-a-crowd was always going to be a perverse watch for some. If you live or die by having crowd reactions to guide you, this will be a show you’ll hate – as will tomorrow… but then again, I could make a jab at NXT UK and the lack of crowd reactions there to say that I’m used to it! As a “should the show have happened”, WrestleMania this year was somewhat akin to the Saudi Arabia shows – just with a different weirdness around it. At least they had the foresight to split it across two nights, as six hours-plus in this environment would have been a killer. But hey, it sure is lucky they have their own facility to do these shows in, eh?
Still, at least the Boneyard match was fantastic in it’s own little bubble.