WWE WrestleMania 36
Running Time: 387 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: June 8 2020
(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)
To say that WWE WrestleMania 36 was a unique edition of the Showcase Of The Immortals would be an understatement. For reasons that should now be obvious, WWE was forced to present its biggest show of the year with no fans in attendance, and inside its Performance Center. In hindsight, WWE made the right decision, because the presumed delaying of the card until, say, June ultimately would not have come to pass. As disappointing as it would have been for those fans who had purchased tickets to attend WM 36, it would have seemed even stranger had 2020 passed without some form of a WrestleMania event. Another change WWE made was to present the show over two nights, which greatly improved the live viewing experience as it removed the fatigue that comes from watching hours and hours of never-ending content (see WM 35 as an example of this).
Mind you, that doesn’t make a difference to the DVD version, which provides the entire two-night card, along with a good amount of bonus material. Going chronologically, the first match between The Kabuki Warriors and the team of Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross is enjoyable if a bit on the long side, while Elias vs. King Corbin is rather dull and would have benefitted from being a brief squash win for the Drifter. Better is Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler, with The Man surprisingly retaining her Raw Women’s Championship in what looks to be her last match for a long time, given that she is now pregnant and is expected to give birth in December.
Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan was disappointing to me at the time and remains so upon second viewing. The same cannot be said for the Ladder match, which sees John Morrison, Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso take some major risks in one of the better bouts of the weekend. Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins is a fitting end to their long storyline feud, and KO takes a truly bonkers bump just before the finish. Braun Strowman replacing Roman Reigns to face Goldberg may not have been planned (and wasn’t even covered with any real explanation by WWE on-screen), but at least it resulted in Strowman finally winning a major singles title in the Universal Championship.
The best part of the first night is unquestionably the conclusion, that being the Boneyard match between The Undertaker an AJ Styles. The decision to produce this match in a cinematic manner away from the PC proved to be very wise, as it masked any physical flaws in the aging Taker, as well as allowing Styles to believably look more dominant than he might have done in a traditional bout (though both men, and I, hope they get to have a real match in front of a crowd in the future). Add to that the unique setting, some gif-worthy spots and the hybrid of the Phenom and American Bad Ass characters for Taker, and the end result is a very enjoyable experience that, while a bit overrated by some, basically stole the show for Mania 36.
Onto night two now, and it opened with what I believe to be the best actual wrestling match of the weekend, as Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley put on an absolute clinic for the NXT Women’s Championship. Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley is simply filler, while Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler nicely concludes their storyline with Mandy Rose on a high note, as Otis gets the girl in a heart-warming WM moment. Edge vs. Randy Orton under Last Man Standing rules was heavily criticised at the time for being too long and boring, but while it definitely could have had some minutes chopped off, I still liked this grudge match, and besides, Edge managing to wrestle again in any form should be celebrated rather than nitpicked.
The Street Profits vs. Angel Garza and Austin Theory also felt like something that was on the card just to extend the running time, but at least it ended with Bianca Belair arriving on the main roster. The SmackDown Women’s Championship five-way match drags a bit, though it did help to plant seeds for the eventual and long-awaited Bayley vs. Sasha Banks feud. Finally, Drew McIntyre defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title in a match which may have felt sub-par, but was ultimately the best way to end the weekend, with McIntyre now established as the new top babyface on Raw after a decisive and clean victory over The Beast. Wait, am I missing something?
Oh, yeah: the Firefly Fun House match between John Cena and The Fiend. This was also a cinematic contest, but unlike Taker vs. AJ, this had very little resemblance to a wrestling bout, and was instead essentially a movie covering Cena’s entire career through the eyes of Bray Wyatt. Did it bend and at times outright break kayfabe? Without question. But as a sports entertainment presentation, this was both mesmerising and hilarious, with some truly unexpected visuals (which I won’t spoil here in case you haven’t yet watched this) before The Fiend manages to regain the momentum he had lost back at Super ShowDown; adding to the appeal of this unusual “match”, Cena is unlikely to wrestle again for a long time, with some even suggesting that he may be officially retired (I doubt that very much).
Because it’s a WrestleMania DVD, even given the circumstances, there is still a generous supply of DVD extras. They include the two Kick-Off Show matches (Cesaro vs. Drew Gulak and Natalya vs. Liv Morgan), along with a variety of angles which helped to promote Lesnar vs. McIntyre, Edge vs. Orton, Taker vs. AJ, Charlotte vs. Ripley, Becky vs. Shayna and Cena vs. Fiend. Also included is McIntyre vs. Big Show, which we saw on Raw the next night but which was actually recorded after Mania had ended. Depending on how you classify it, this is either a post-PPV dark match (which surely would not have been produced if Mania had taken place in the usual format) or a bonus main event for WM, meaning that Big Show may be able to technically say that he headlined another WrestleMania.
Judging all of this from an entertainment standpoint, WWE WrestleMania 36 on DVD has a lot to offer, but that’s not the main reason why I would suggest buying this three-disc set. To me, it’s the future historical value of a compilation for a card unlike any Mania before it, and unlike any Mania that will come in the future. It’s very hard for a WrestleMania to truly stand out these days, and while the reasons were obviously unplanned and unpleasant, it is true to say that WM 36 will always have its own place in history due to the circumstances surrounding the card, and the event as a whole exceeding expectations (while delivering some unforgettable match segments) only adds to its value. So, while WWE WrestleMania 36 would not be deemed as one of the best by any means, it will always stand alone in the annals of WrestleMania lore, and that to me is why you should check this out again on DVD.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good