WrestleMania 36: A Retrospective

It is no secret that the wrestling world (if not the entire world at that) is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vince McMahon is losing millions of dollars by not having WrestleMania at it’s originally scheduled venue (Raymond James Stadium), which probably would have filled up most, if not all of it’s 75,000 seat capacity arena.

Instead of earning some big bucks during professional wrestling’s biggest event of the year, WrestleMania 36 is available for free streaming on the WWE Network (of course with the one-month free trial package), which only hurts every performer’s pockets. With the financial aspect of this situation comes the emotional aspect, as many of the wrestlers on the WWE roster have dreamed of lacing their boots up to walk down the extremely long WrestleMania ramp and embracing the packed crowd they worked years to see. Instead of receiving that, many of the performers were stuck at the WWE Performance Center, taping matches with no fans at hand to boo or cheer them. There was a grave silence that accompanied Kevin Owens’ as he walked to the ring, while his entrance music played. 

All this did was serve the fact that with no live audience, the Mania card this year is filled with handfuls of gimmick matches. These respective creative decisions are WWE’s approach to make their show as engaging as possible. There are three respective matches on the card that are each disguised as being boneyard, no disqualification and Firefly Fun House matches. In actuality, this is a fairly hospitable strategy that has been applied to preserve the show and keep it like the spectacle Mania is meant to feel like. In addition to using this approach to keep the energy of past WrestleMania’s, the pre-taped event allows certain older wrestlers to thrive at their highest potential.

Since this is the case, WrestleMania 36 contains a lot more editing compared to their other pay-per-views that are typically taped live. Wrestlers in their late forties to fifties like the Undertaker and Edge are allowed to lose a figurative step, being guided by the WWE editing room and having their potential botches being thrown into a digital trash-can. As a result, both of their performances are able to be seen in the same vein as their best showings, during their physical primes. It is interesting to note that if this year’s WrestleMania would have taken place with a live crowd, we would have seen a much slower Undertaker. Through sound editing, we can practically feel Undertaker’s punches on the jaw of AJ Styles, despite how animated they sound. A considerably younger athlete in Styles (at the age of 42, although he moves much younger), was able to lead the notion throughout the match that he was participating in a bout that was his to win to begin with, calling the Undertaker “an old man” multiple times. They were essentially able to play “hide and seek,” with Styles hiding away from Taker and Gallows and Karl Anderson hiding around the scenery, preying on the “old man.” 

This way of storytelling made it easier for the Undertaker to take as little to no bumps and he was able to “bury” his opponent alive, dumping dirt on the body of AJ Styles and preserving his health for a few more matches down the line. The decision to have AJ Styles lose here was arguably needed to continue to make the Undertaker a viable opponent in the WWE, someone who can actually provide a younger performer a much needed rub. A loss here would have made it seem like he was headed towards retirement, already having lost to Roman Reigns a few years back. Through Bray Wyatt and John Cena’s match, the taped mini-segments within it, seemed like a godsend. Wyatt was able to deliver superb character work here, with shots of himself in a digitally animated fun-house and Cena entering it moments later, confused, not quite understanding what is going on in his contemporary’s immediate world.

Archival footage of John Cena embracing his squeaky clean image through visiting children of the Make a Wish foundation and himself on the red carpet played before the men faced each other in the ring. Through this method of storytelling, Wyatt is able to get himself over as not necessarily otherworldly, but as a jealous man who has contempt over Cena for his spot within the company and someone who has been given chances upon chances. Nonetheless, Cena had beaten him clean a few years ago and once that portion of the story closes, we see Cena provide a service to the fans. As Wyatt and Cena are face to face in the ring, Cena changes clothes (here’s a wink to the power of editing), to himself during his match with Kurt Angle to himself as the “Doctor of Thuganomics,” freestyling rapping and providing a few disses to Wyatt. Although the viewership for this year’s show is unknown, it is likely that it at least a decent rate, with the creative team figuring to engage the fans the best that they can with gimmick. 

Through gimmick matches, they were able to have some sort of social media pull, with an insane amount of people raving specifically about the boneyard match with Styles and Undertaker, despite feeling like it was pulled from Broken Matt Hardy’s playbook. To a substantial degree, the WWE wasn’t able to control health situations that were unexpected about a month ago. However, they were able to keep their product as engaging as possible, although when it’s all said and enough and we are able to fully digest this year’s Mania, we will excuse its awkwardness to unforeseen events.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply