No matter what happens this weekend, WrestleMania 36 will go down as one of the strangest events in WWE history. Spread across two nights in an empty WWE Performance Center, this 16-match event will try to overcome the roadblocks set by the ongoing pandemic and put on a show worthy of the WrestleMania name. With big matches like Drew McIntyre vs. Brock Lesnar, Edge vs. Randy Orton and John Cena vs. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt it certainly has a fighting chance, but given the circumstances it's way too early to tell.
As with all pay-per-views, we've assembled ComicBook's team of wrestling writers to break down the biggest questions heading into the show, as well as give predictions for some of the most important matches.
Do you think WrestleMania will still be a hit? Who walks out as the WWE and Universal Champions? Let us know in the comments below and keep an eye out for full WrestleMania coverage this weekend!
Let's Start With The Big Question — How Do You Feel About The Show Still Happening?
Connor Casey: I think it's a mistake. From a presentation standpoint I think the lack of fans and the small venue (minus the couple we'll get outside the PC) is going to hang over every match and moment like a dark cloud. From a financial standpoint there's no way they make back the millions they've already lost once the show moved from Tampa and the assumption that their product is "essential" and needs to go on "to put smiles on peoples faces" just feels misguided. Add in all the matches that have needed to be changed — Roman Reigns backing out, Dana Brooke and Rey Mysterio getting put in quarantine, Andrade getting hurt, whatever is happening with that SmackDown tag title match — and it feels like the universe was smacking WWE in the face saying "This is a bad idea" all the way up until the show finally airs.
All that being said, my interest in the show is the highest its been in years out of sheer curiosity.
Ryan Droste: Well, the excitement level for this show is certainly nowhere close to past WrestleMania events due to the show's setting. Honestly, there's really no rationale for having the event. When you consider 16 matches and all of the personnel on hand to produce the show, it just doesn't seem like a safe decision given the pandemic. That said, the show has already been taped so it's a moot point. It will be interesting to see what course of action WWE takes following the show and whether or not they take a break from production.
Evan Valentine: I find myself at a crossroads with it. Certainly, having a Wrestlemania at all is probably better than not having one, especially with the care of the wrestlers and audience being handled with the various changes. BUT you have to take into account the number of absentees when it comes to who won't be able to make it. The line-up seemed to have changed daily, and while I probably lean more toward the idea of postponing it, I hope that the event will help wrestling fans pass the time while in quarantine.
Matt Aguilar: I'm actually okay with it. I was one of the people saying from the get-go that WWE needed to cancel the live show happening in Tampa much sooner, but I never thought WWE wouldn't still put on a show at all. WWE never stops, and when it comes to their biggest show of the year that brings their storylines to a close and launches new ones, there's just too much at play for WWE not to have it at all. Also, there's no difference between spreading these matchups out via Raw or SmackDown, since the same wrestlers are involved.
How Badly Will The Lack of Fans Hurt The Show?
Connor Casey: It will have a big impact. The entire psychology of a wrestling match hinges around a crowd and how it will react to certain moves and moments. Take that away and you drain the emotion out of a match. Some will get along fine without it thanks to theatrics — Taker/Styles, Wyatt/Cena, Edge/Orton — or sheer athleticism, but this is going to bring down quite a bit of the card.
Ryan Droste: It's certainly hurt the shows that they have produced so far. Wrestling is based on fan reaction and so it has been a tough watch. However, they did improve things over the last couple of weeks by changing the positioning of the hard cam and taking out the hundreds of empty chairs from the Performance Center. They'll probably have a more elaborate set-up for WrestleMania and a few tricks up their sleeves, so I think they will continue to improve on this dynamic. However, there's no way it doesn't hurt the show. This is going to be such a bizarre WrestleMania to watch.
Evan Valentine: I don't think it will be too much of a detriment, and in all honesty I've been loving the empty stadiums as wrestlers like Bray Wyatt and Steve Austin deliver monologues to vacant seats in some surreal stage play. It's a change of pace for sure, but it won't hurt the show overall.
Matt Aguilar: This isn't a one answer fits all question really. It will depend on the two superstars in the ring. I've seen Austin Theory and Tyler Breeze kill it with no audience and bigger superstars turn out duds without the support of the fans, so it really depends on who is wrestling. There are more than a few wrestlers featured on this card that can turn out a great match with in-ring storytelling without a crowd to feed on, and others who will suffer because of the lack of chants, boos, and claps, so we'll just have to wait and see.
Pick Your Main Event for Each Night
Connor Casey: Edge vs. Randy Orton for Night One based purely off the spectacular work both men have done in the build (seriously, I can't remember the last time I wanted to see an Orton match this badly). Night Two should close out with Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre.
Ryan Droste: I would do Becky vs. Shayna on night one and Lesnar vs. McIntyre on night two. It's hard to imagine they don't put Goldberg in the main event either night, though.
Evan Valentine: Goldberg is definitely getting a main event for one of the nights, I'd bet money on Sunday, but if I had to pick Saturday's, I'd pick Cena versus Wyatt simply due to the fact that the "Funhouse Match" seems designed to add spectacle to an event that is lacking an audience.
Matt Aguilar: Brock Lesnar vs Drew McIntyre would be my pick for one of the nights, and while I would've said Goldberg vs Roman Reigns for one night, without Reigns in the mix I'll go with Becky Lynch vs Shayna Baszler.
Is Biker Taker Showing Up?
Connor Casey: Between his recent outfits and him breaking out the old "make you famous" catchphrase it sure feels like it.
Ryan Droste: The match is likely going to be taking place in some unknown location, so without the typical entrances and ring music, it probably won't matter. We probably will see The Undertaker in different gear than usual due to the setting of the match, so I'm sure that some people might call it the "Biker Taker." Is it really, though? I suppose that's up for debate. I would prefer to see the "Dead Man" in the traditional setting though moving forward as the "Biker Taker" was, by far, the least interesting period of The Undertaker's career, in my opinion.
Evan Valentine: While I was never a big fan of "Biker Taker", I think Calaway needs a chance to "retire" the character in the same way he will the "Dead Man", so I'd say it's more likely seeing him appear in this persona for one last ride with WrestleMania.
Matt Aguilar: That would honestly be the only way I would care, and that still doesn't lift the hype meter very high. Seeing Biker Taker back would be fun, sure, but I'm not expecting much from this match.
How Badly Does Bray Wyatt Need This Win?
Connor Casey: Let me put it this way — if he loses he'll fall all the way back to square one. All of the excitement and momentum he's built up in the past year will evaporate, and we'll be right back to Wyatt spewing random promos teasing his next feud while fans role their eyes. It will be a massive waste. Heck, I'd be fine if Cena came back at SummerSlam and got a win back. But they need to give Wyatt something to work with!
Ryan Droste: He needs it. I feel the sole reason for this match happening is to put over Wyatt. The storyline is that he has already lost to Cena in the past at a WrestleMania, so having Cena get the win again would serve no purpose. Wyatt's booking since Hell In A Cell has done him no favors, so he needs to pick up the victory here over one of the all-time WWE greats.
Evan Valentine: VERY. BADLY. Fans were heartbroken at The Fiend's loss to Goldberg and having him lose a match that is essentially tailor made for Bray Wyatt's bizarre persona would be a nail in the coffin to the wrestler's alter ego. Giving him a win against arguably the biggest name in the roster would win back some of the Fiend's lost glimmer.
Matt Aguilar: Yeah, he needs it in a big way. After the Goldberg fiasco he needs to show the character still has teeth and that WWE still believes in the vision. Cena seems to be in the part of his career where he is more about putting others over than taking their spotlight, and with his whole thing on the future of WWE and listening to the fans, figure this will give a nice boost to Wyatt coming out of WrestleMania.
Which Three Matches Are You Most Excited For?
Connor Casey: Edge vs. Orton will be the match of the weekend, Cena/Fiend out of sheer curiosity and Bryan vs. Zayn. That last one could steal the show if they're given time to cut loose.
Ryan Droste: This one is easy for me. Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens, and Edge vs. Randy Orton. Becky vs. Shayna would be next, just missing the cut.
Evan Valentine: Owens vs. Rollins for sure. Cena vs. The Fiend simply to see the pageantry and insanity that could spill out of that match. Definitely the Smackdown Tag Team Championship as I'm a sucker for Ladder Matches.
Matt Aguilar: Stoked to see Becky vs Shayna, which should be fantastic, as well as Cena vs The Fiend. If handled right that match could be pure fun and popcorn, as long as they don't go too far into the gimmick side of things. Rhea vs Charlotte will turn out a top performance, as will Otis in his matchup, though for my third I'm going to say Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs Asuka and Kairi Sane. Bliss and Asuka's match on SmackDown was delightful, so here's hoping this one is even better.
Where Should WWE Go From Here?
Ryan Droste: It's time for the company to take a break. There's always been debate on WWE could benefit from an offseason; now the present situation almost necessitates it for a period of time. Let the performers and staff get some rest while the nation deals with the pandemic. Let the writing staff work on crafting some long term storylines for when the company does return. If given several weeks to do so, I have no doubt they could come up with some great material rather than having to book week to week like they do now under so much pressure.
As far as television goes, they could use that air time to air specials (think WWE 24 and WWE 365), special sit-down interviews, and features on their stars. Focus on character development while no new matches are being filmed. This could be a blessing in disguise to reset the company and build excitement.
Evan Valentine: I really agree with Ryan here. Give the company a chance to take a break and work on its writing for when they can all return. The wrestlers would probably like the opportunity to fall within Quarantine during this time and ESPN has proved that revisiting older events can still drum up the ratings when it comes to audience involvement. Take some time off and retool.0comments
Connor Casey: I'll echo the sentiments that a break could do wonders for WWE's product. And based on how things are going with states calling for stay at home orders, they might not have a say in the matter and be unable to do anything until May.
Matt Aguilar: While the idea of a break sounds nice, I just don't believe that's something Vince will do. WWE churns out three shows a week, and one of those is three hours. So unless USA is okay with an entire show of clips from other shows (which they won't be for the length of time that this is really going to take because this isn't going to be done in a month, sorry to say), he's going to put on a show. It might be like it is now, which blends new matches with old footage, but it will be some sort of new content, and that might be the best option for the moment. WWE is such a unique blend of television, sport, and entertainment that it makes it difficult to stop entirely, but guess we'll see.
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