WWE WrestleMania: Night One was sure to be a different kind of WWE show.
For the first time, WrestleMania aired as a completely taped show. WWE split the Showcase of the Immortals across two nights, a response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The first night of WrestleMania saw Goldberg put his Universal Championship on the line against Braun Strowman. There was the first-ever Boneyard Match between the Undertaker and AJ Styles. And last year’s big winner Becky Lynch defending the Raw Women’s Championship against Shayna Baszler.
That only scratches the surface of WWE WrestleMania: Night One. Any other year, the card would be underwhelming at best.
But given the state of the world right now? It’s kind of amazing (and not completely in a good way) that WrestleMania is happening at all.
Let’s roll with our review of WWE WrestleMania: Night One.
Kickoff Match – Cesaro Vs. Drew Gulak
Let me get this straight. Cesaro and Drew Gulak are wrestling on the kickoff for WWE WrestleMania: Night One. And Elias vs. Baron Corbin is on the main card.
For anybody wondering, stuff like this is why I don’t watch a whole lot of WWE these days.
Cesaro goes for the win early and tries the Neutralizer, but Gulak blocks with an armlock. But Cesaro powers out and drops Gulak with a powerbomb. Cesaro goes for the Neutralizer again, after visibly and audibly calling the spot. This is why pro wrestling needs crowds.
Gulak reverses again into a crossface before tossing Cesaro over the top rope. Michael Cole is calling the action by himself, and honestly I could get used to it. They brawl on the outside, where Gulak goes for a rana, but Cesaro touches him only for Gulak to reverse into an arm drag before shoving Cesaro into the ring steps.
After a top-rope dive results in Gulak eating a Cesaro uppercut, the Swiss Superman gets a two count, but Gulak again locks the arm. Back on his feet, Cesaro throws Gulak into the ropes, but Gulak turns it into a pinning predicament for two. Cesaro throws Gulak into the referee, but Gulak stops himself just in time only to eat another uppercut. An airplane spin by Cesaro follows, and it gets the three-count.
Not bad, but I am not looking forward to the rest of this night. I get we’re dealing with unusual circumstances, but this is the kind of thing you’d get in the opener of Sunday Night Heat back in the day.
Again, solid, but not to the level of a show like WWE WrestleMania: Night One.
Winner – Cesaro
Match Rating – **3/4
Rob Gronkowski welcomes us to WWE WrestleMania: Night One wearing a tracksuit shirt that looks like he stole it from Joe Exotic.
He makes a joke about how he could “party for 30 hours.” Good, Gronk is familiar with recent WrestleMania history.
We have a Mojo Rawley sighting, as Rawley joins Gronk. This is going to be insufferable.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship – Kabuki Warriors (C) Vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Oh, hell, JBL is doing commentary with Cole. I was half kidding when I said “insufferable.” Up in the “rafters,” it looks like Gronk and Rawley will be watching the whole show.
JBL says the most important thing for the champions is to walk out with the titles they came in with. Expertly analyzed, John.
Sane and Asuka trade tags for about half an hour in the corner, and their crazy laughs are really annoying without a crow. Sane goes after Bliss with punches and chops, and Bliss takes them with a smile for a few before putting Sane down on the mat.
Cross tags in and hits an immediate dropkick and goes for the cover, but Sane kicks out at one. Asuka tags herself in, and the champs double-team Cross in the corner before the Empress of Tomorrow takes over. Good lord, the lack of any ambiance at WWE WrestleMania: Night One is really hard to get past.
Bliss tags in as Cross takes the fight with Asuka to the outside, allowing Bliss to hit a baseball slide on Asuka before following up with a senton on the floor. Cross follows up with a splash and starts playing to a crowd that isn’t there. Sigh.
Cross tags back in and hits a double axe-handle on the space between Alexa and Asuka’s arms. Sane tags back in, and Cross tosses her outside again. JBL’s mic keeps cutting in and out. Maybe there is a God. The challengers are going to town on the champs on the outside, but Sane and Asuka turn the tables. Back inside, Sane pounds away on Cross and continues shouting at fans that are – not – there. Is the theme for this show that the heels are all delusional? Because that could be fun.
Asuka goes for a bulldog, but she drops Bliss. Cole tries to cover, saying Bliss escaped. They know they could’ve edited this, right? Bliss tries to put together the babyface comeback but eats a kick to the face from Asuka. Both women are down, and they manage to tag in their partners. Cross goes banana sandwich crazy on Sane and actually hits a running bulldog before heading up top and hits a cross-body for two. Sane gouges Cross’ eyes but gets set up for an Orton-style dangling DDT, but Asuka (who made a blind tag) runs in.
Cross goes for a cover on Asuka, but Sane dives from the top to break up the pin. Asuka cinches in the Asuka-Lock, but Bliss hits Twisted Bliss to break it up only to eat a spear from Sane. The Empress hits a Codebreaker, and Sane goes to the top rope, but Cross intercepts. Asuka makes her way back up, and they hit a Doomsday Device for two. Cross hits a spinning neckbreaker and tags in Bliss, who hits another Twisted Bliss for the pin and the titles.
This was all over the place. As openers go, it was okay, but in terms of setting the tone for WWE WrestleMania: Night One, I am very, very concerned.
Winners (And NEW Champions) – Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Match Rating – **
King Corbin Vs. Elias
Corbin cuts a promo in the ring and invites – I’m not sure who. The Performance Center ghosts? Anyway, he invites them to watch him throwing Elias off the balcony on SmackDown two weeks ago. If you’re gonna do promos, look in the hard camera and nowhere else! Corbin demands the referee award him the win by forfeit, but Elias comes out with a guitar and smashes it across Corbin’s back.
WWE’s finest musical act beats Corbin from pillar to post before tossing Corbin into the ring. The referee finally rings the bell, and Elias goes for an immediate cover but only gets two. The beatdown continues as Elias chokes Corbin with his boot before hitting a neckbreaker. Corbin gets an opening, backdropping Elias over the top rope to the floor. The King throws Elias into the ringpost, but only gets a two-count.
JBL starts rambling about college football. Somebody tell Jim Ross his gimmick is being infringed upon. Corbin centers in on Elias’s shoulder and screams at the announcers to tell the folks at home how good he is. Well, at least he’s actually talking to someone now at WWE WrestleMania: Night One.
Elias fights back, beating Corbin down in the corner, stomping ye olde Austin mudhole. A swinging DDT gets two for Elias. Elias goes up top and rolls through a frog splash attempt, but walks into a Deep Six from Corbin. It only gets two. Elias gets another near fall off a high knee to Corbin’s face. That was stiff. He starts to go up top, but Corbin rolls out of range. The King tries to pin Elias with Corbin’s feet on the ropes, but the referee catches him. Corbin argues, which lets Elias sneak up for a small package for the win.
That was a weak finish, but I did always wonder what Elias’s actual entrance music sounded like.
This would be a pretty good Raw or SmackDown match, but for WWE WrestleMania: Night One, it’s kind of weak sauce. Plus, Elias finally gets to wrestle a full, actual pay-per-view match, and it’s this PPV.
Winner – Elias
Match Rating – ***
Raw Women’s Championship Match – Becky Lynch (C) Vs. Shayna Baszler
Becky arrives in the parking lot at WWE WrestleMania: Night One in a ‘The Man’-themed semi. (Facepalm). Guys, save this for a show when you have a crowd. Y’know, sometime in the year 2399 after Captain Picard saves us from the robots.
The champ and challenger show more professionalism and realism than anybody else yet on this show in their entrances. They do her usual schtick, but they don’t break eye contact with one another. And if they do, they look at the hard camera.
It de-evolves into a fist fight right off the bat, but Baszler goes for the Kirifuda Clutch early. Becky rolls to the outside, and Baszler follows. The challenger goes for a powerbomb, but Becky reverses into a rana before slamming Baszler into the announce desk. Becky rolls into the ring to restart the count before heading back out and tossing Baszler into the ring steps. She tosses the challenger back inside and goes up top and “hits” a missile dropkick.
The Man hits a running forearm in the corner and stomps a mudhole. Becky goes for the Disarm-Her, but Baszler slips out and goes for another clutch. The champ reverses and gets a two count, only for Baszler to hit a cutter for two. They brawl on the apron, and Becky shoves Baszler into the edge of the apron but only gets two. The Man drags the challenger to the center and heads up top again, but Baszler intercepts and hits an enziguri and tosses Becky off the top before hitting a powerbomb into an armbar.
Baszler locks in the Disarm-Her, but Lynch escapes only to eat a knee to the face for two. The challenger locks in the Kirifuda Clutch, using the rope as leverage, but Becky escapes to the outsie. Baszler gives chase and kicks the champ while she’s down. She lifts Becky in a powerbomb position and slams the Man’s head into the announce table. Damn.
Back inside, Becky tries to mount a comeback, but Baszler locks in the clutch. But Lynch rolls out and puts Baszler’s shoulders down for the pin to retain.
This was a pretty solid match at WWE WrestleMania: Night One. Not sure if that’s the right finish, but I’m not surprised, given how much Vince seems to enjoy NXT graduates finding out they wrong to hope for advancement.
Winner (And STILL Champion) – Becky Lynch
Match Rating – ***1/4
Intercontinental Championship Match – Sami Zayn (C) Vs. Daniel Bryan
Both guys have corner men, so there will at least be some ambiance.
Sami heels it up by saying Bryan isn’t giving him enough space to start the match. Zayn tries to eat up time on the count before finally climbing in the ring, just long enough to restart the count.
Bryan runs out of the ring to give chase, but Cesaro and Nakamura rush in to block. The wacky Scooby Doo chase continues. I bet this killed in Memphis back in the 70s or wherever Jim Cornette was working in 1983. Not so much at WWE WrestleMania: Night One.
Gulak fends off Zayn’s goons, and the stalling continues as Bryan dares Zayn to take a count out. The champion heads to the back, and Bryan rushes and spears Zayn on the ramp before throwing him back in the ring. Bryan starts beating Zayn down. Zayn tries to escape again, but Bryan hits a tope suicida (doesn’t sound right without Excalibur). Back in the ring, Bryan hits a missile dropkick. Zayn tries to escape again, but Bryan drags him back in.
The challenger goes off on chop-and-kick city in the corner before breaking out the running high kick. Zayn begs off but starts eating Yes-kicks before suckering Bryan in with an elbow to the mouth followed by a huge clothesline. He starts laying in punches on Bryan, but the challenger does the Hogan no-sell before fighting back with a big clothesline of his own, followed by Ye Olde Yes Kicks. Gulak starts doing a one-man Yes Chant, but Nakamura and Cesaro come back to take him out.
Distracted, Bryan takes out Zayn’s goons On his way back in, Bryan goes up top but gets hit with the Helluva Kick. Zayn makes the cover and retains.
Again, this was fine. And while I was glad to have somebody else out there to provide ambiance, the wacky cartoon chase stuff is old hat. Like, 40-years-old hat. Still, the in-ring action was pretty solid. But again, if it’s going to be a WWE WrestleMania: Night One match, there needed to be a crowd.
Winner (And STILL Champion) – Sami Zayn
Match Rating – ***
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Ladder Match – John Morrison (C) Vs. Kofi Kingston Vs. Jimmy Uso
So, the Miz is sick (responsible fellow that he is). Naturally, instead of scrapping the match, they decided to have one member of each team have a singles match. For the tag titles.
All three guys set up ladders at once, and Kofi gets a hand on one of the belts, but they have a chopfest at the top of their respective ladders. Jimmy gets thrown off the ladder, and now it’s a two-man top-of-the-ladder fight. Jimmy pulls Morrison down, and Kofi hits a cross-body on Jimmy from the top.
Morrison rushes up top, but Kofi pulls him back down. There’s some madness, and Jimmy and Kofi race up the ladder. Oh, good, New Day vs. Usos again. Thank goodness WWE WrestleMania: Night One is unlike any WrestleMania we’ve seen before.
Kofi tosses Jimmy off, but Morrison runs up and throws Kofi off. The ladder is off-center, and Morrison reaches for the belt, but Jimmy drags him down and hits a vicious chop. Kofi rushes up top, but Morrison and Jimmy catch him and toss him to the floor. After dispatching his challengers, Morrison is the lone man standing again. He rearranges the furniture, setting up a ladder in the corner while bashing Jimmy in the knee with another.
Jimmy pops up with a pair of chops. He places Morrison on the top and smashes Morrison’s face into the ladder before going for a suplex. But Morrison blocks and lays Jimmy prone across the ladder before hitting a spinning splash onto Jimmy. Morrison climbs up again, but Kofi leaps from out of nowhere and hits a huricanrana.
KofiMania starts running wild again, as he uses a huge ladder to make a bridge between the ring apron and the barricade. Why are the barricades even still there? Kofi drapes Jimmy across the ladder bridge, but Morrison wakes up and goes to the top turnbuckle. Kofi notices and takes him out and climbs to the opposite top turnbuckle. Morrison tightropes across the top rope and hits Spanish fly from the top, only to take an Uso splash from Jimmy. That was cool.
Jimmy starts climbing, but Kofi holes onto his ankle. Uso keeps climbing, but Kofi follows him. They slug it out, but Jimmy punches Kofi to the mat. It sounds impressive, but they were on, like, the second rung. Kofi kips up and climbs up from inside the ladder, knocking Jimmy down. Kingston gets his hand on the belts, but Morrison races to meet him, and they slug it out at the top. Kofi reaches, but Morrison grabs Kofi’s ankle, Kingston dives off the top through Morrison.
Uso slides a ladder in and makes a bridge between the standing ladder and the middle rope. Kofi goes for a dive, but gets a kick to the gut, and Jimmy slams Kofi’s face into the ladder. Morrison dives over the ladder bridge but takes a superkick in midair from Jimmy. Jimmy’s audible trash talk is kind of fun.
Jimmy climbs to the top of a ladder in the corner, but Morrison topples it over, sending Jimmy crashing to the outside of the ring. Morrison takes a breather but leaves the ladder bridge intact for literally no reason. He reaches for the belts, but Kofi comes up the other side of the ladder, and they slug it out at the top. Again. Jimmy sets up another ladder and climbs to the top, and all three guys have a hand on the belts. They undo the hanger holding the belts, but Morrison falls off the ladder, with both titles in hand.
So he’s the winner.
Um. No. That should’ve been a non-finish. The rule is retrieving the titles from above the ring. Whatever.
WWE WrestleMania: Night One proves once and for all that spotfest matches need audiences.
Winner (And STILL Champion) – John Morrison
Match Rating – ***1/4
Kevin Owens Vs. Seth Rollins
Rollins comes out without Not-The-Inner-Circle. He tries the Zayn defense of Scooby running, but Owens isn’t having it and lays in the punches.
Owens sets up for the cannonball, but Rollins ducks to the outside. KO follows and slams the Monday Night Messiah into the barricades. Again, why are there barricades? Owens tosses Rollins back inside, but Rollins tries to duck away again. KO sets up for a powerbomb on the apron, but Rollins reverses into a backdrop.
Say, did you guys know the apron is the hardest part of the ring? Rollins follows up with a Falcon Arrow on the apron that looked sick as all hell. I will say, WWE WrestleMania: Night One has some pretty vicious spots. I just wish someone was there to see them.
With Owens on the outside, Rollins comes off the ropes and hits a tope suicida. There’s a wide shot, and the ceiling fans in the Performance Center are really distracting. Another tope from Rollins sends Owens into the useless barricade again. Rollins rolls inside and sets up for another one, but Owens catches him with a midair punch. A sling blade puts Owens on the mat, and Rollins goes for more punches. Rollins goes for the Curb Stomp twice, but Owens evades and scores with a DDT. Both guys are down.
A stinger splash attempt from Rollins fails, and Owens hits a superkick followed by a cannonball. He goes up top and hits a senton on Rollins for two. Rollins tries to escape again. Owens goes for the pop-up powerbomb, but Rollins evades. KO goes for the Stunner, but Rollins escapes again only to take a clothesline from Owens that puts both guys down. Owens has Rollins set up for a superplex, but Rolins blocks and gouges Owens’s eyes. He goes for a sunset flip powerbomb but holds on and hits a bucklebomb on Owens followed by a pair of superkicks.
Rollins comes off the ropes, but Owens catches and hits the pop-up powerbomb for two. Seth tries to escape, and Owens gives chase only to take a shot to the face with the ringbell, earning Owens a win by DQ.
Owens goads Rollins back for a restart with no-DQ rules. Because Rollins is an idiot both as a heel and babyface, he agrees. Rollins keeps throwing Owens into the barricades, and the announcers sell it like he’s dead. Owens just took a freakin’ bell to the head!
Rollins smacks Owens in the face with the ring steps. He picks up a chair and lays in a couple shots on a defenseless Owens. Rollins starts tearing down the announce table. Again, forget everything you thought you knew about WWE WrestleMania: Night One!
Owens scores with a pair of shots to the head with the bell before climbing to the top of the WrestleMania sign and driving Rollins through the table with a Macho Man elbow. KO finally gets Rollins into the ring for the Stunner and the win.
Solid action for the most part, but I’ve gotta knock off points for the stupid non-finish/restart. Either have a no-DQ match or don’t.
Winner – Kevin Owens
Match Rating – *** 1/2
Host Segment 2
Gronk and Rawley are raving about the show, but R-Truth runs in, hiding from challengers to his 24/7 Championship. Actually, Truth’s name for the title tonight is the “24/7, 48/7, 7-11, 365, I-95 North, South, European, Television Championship.” Stay around forever, R-Truth.
He complains about how he can’t go anywhere and asks them to keep it down.
The two hosts fight over who gets to take the pin, and Rawley fights Gronk off to get the pin, becoming the new 24/7 Champion.
Meanwhile, Charlie interviews Paul Heyman backstage, and Heyman says what he usually says about Brock. Well, those were events that certainly happened on television.
At least we got some good old-fashioned R-Truth goofiness.
Universal Championship Match – Goldberg (C) Vs. Braun Strowman
Sigh. Do we have to?
Goldberg has security walk him to the ring at WWE WrestleMania: Night One. Yeah, make sure to defend him against all the possible threats in a building holding eight people.
A match for the ages. Two big guys who shout a lot. They stare each other down for about 45 minutes before Goldberg kicks Braun in the gut. Goldberg goes for the spear in the corner, but Braun moves out of the way. Another spear connects, and so do two more, but Braun kicks out.
The champ hits a fourth spear, and Goldberg signals for the Jackhammer. After Super Showdown last year, the notion scares me. Braun counters and hits a trio of powerslams. He screams for Goldberg to get up and hits powerslam number four for the pin and the title.
Well, at least it was short.
Winner (And NEW Champion) – Braun Strowman
Match Rating – *
Boneyard Match – The Undertaker Vs. AJ Styles
This is about to get silly.
A hearse pulls up to a random graveyard – which is by no means a rushed-to-completion outdoor set – and AJ Styles steps out of the coffin in the back, complete with his music playing. From somewhere.
AJ hears a motorcycle coming up in the distance, and he’s in full American Badass mode. He shows the Undertaker the grave AJ’s dug for him. So this is a Buried Alive match.
Styles picks up a rock, but Undertaker punches him down to the ground. AJ tries to get away, and Undertaker calls after him, calling him “Alan” repeatedly. He slams AJ into the empty coffin a few times. Undertaker picks up a pipe and swings at AJ, who ducks, forcing Taker’s arm to go through the window of the hearse. Taker sees blood on his arm and loses it. He slams AJ onto the windshield. AJ tries to escape by climbing to the top of the car. That should work.
Undertaker follows, and AJ gets in a sucker punch. They fight it out on the roof for a few minutes And by fight it out, I mean Undertaker punches the dog crap out of AJ.
Back on the ground, AJ tosses dirt in Undertaker’s eyes and scores a low blow. With Undertaker reeling, AJ starts laying in punches, inching Taker backward toward the grave. But the Undertaker fights back and tosses AJ into the empty plot. He gets ready to finish AJ off, but Anderson and Gallows arrive, complete with Walker: Texas Ranger-style music. This is delightfully ridiculous.
Light pokes through the fence behind them, and an army of Druids come out, encircling Taker.
The druids rush Taker, and he fights them off action-hero style, one-at-a-time. Gallows and Anderson rush in and get Undertaker down, beating him on the ground. They try to waylay the Deadman with a shovel, but Taker fights them off. Now the Undertaker has the shovel, but AJ comes in from out of nowhere and attacks.
AJ breaks his finger punching Taker and demands the Deadman stay down. Of course, Undertaker won’t, so AJ tackles him through the fence. With Undertaker down, leaning against a tree, AJ trash talks him, but a winded Undertaker won’t quit.
Taker tries to crawl away. If he’s not having a heart attack, he’s a better actor than I ever gave him credit for. AJ picks up the shovel and breaks it over Undertaker’s back, knocking him into the open grave. He uses a conveniently-parked backhoe to fill the hole with dirt, but suddenly the Undertaker appears behind him. I’ve always wondered, if you’re the Undertaker and you have magic powers, why are you wrestling?
AJ is decidedly freaked out, and he tries to escape by climbing to the roof of the barn, but Undertaker conjures fire out of nowhere to cut off AJ’s escape. Gallows and Undertaker try to intercede but get tossed off the roof and Tombstoned for their troubles.
The Phenomenal One tries to fight back, but Undertaker no-sells and chokeslams AJ off the roof and into a totally-not-styrofoam piece of siding. Taker climbs down to finish the job and taunts a fading Styles. He picks AJ up and carries him toward the grave. AJ says he’s sorry and begs Undertaker not to bury him. Taker gives him props for the fight an pulls him in for a hug. The Deadman starts to walk away but changes his min and kicks AJ into the grave (which has become at least two feet deeper since the last shot).
Undertaker pours on the dirt, and the Phenom buries the Phenomenal One.
Winner – The Undertaker
Match Rating – I mean, it wasn’t a match. But it was silly, fun, ridiculous schlock. And the kind of stuff WWE should be doing every week while this situation is going on. I absolutely loved this.
The Boneyard Match completely saved WWE WrestleMania: Night One.
It was a mess of a show and shone a giant light on how WWE is not at all ready to function in the new normal.
The in-ring action was solid enough (for Raw or SmackDown), but the roster needs to take a couple weeks and learn how not to play to fans who aren’t there.
Hats off to everybody for the effort, but this is a show that should absolutely not have happened.
WWE WrestleMania: Night One is available for on-demand streaming on the WWE Network. The second part of the show, WWE WrestleMania: Night Two, will air Sunday, April 5, on the WWE Network with the kickoff show beginning at 6 PM/ET and the main card beginning at 7 PM/ET.
All images courtesy of WWE.
WWE WrestleMania: Night One
- The 'Entertainment Value' is as high as it is almost solely on the strength of the Boneyard Match
- Undertaker: Texas Ranger is a pretty good actor
- Shayna and Becky showing a modicum of realism and professionalism
- At least Goldberg vs. Strowman was short. And no one was seriously injured.
- WWE doesn't know how to weather this storm
- The opening tag match was a mess and a half
- A singles triple threat. ladder match For the tag titles. Wait, what?
- Cesaro and Gulak on the preshow while Elias and Corbin get to be on the main card. Sigh.