TV Review: WrestleMania 36

C who shall not be named has robbed the world of entertainment in these Unprecedented Times™. Sports and music festivals has fallen by the wayside, and they’ve even stopped filming Eastenders. Things must be serious when they keep Dot Cotton off our screens for the first time since the 80s. One weekly form of entertainment has refused to bow to Rona thus far, and that’s wrestling. Against all odds wrestling’s biggest show of the year WrestleMania 36 found a way to go ahead.

WrestleMania is akin to the Eastenders Christmas episode (and you thought I mentioned it for no reason); hardcore fans wait eagerly for the pay-off to months-long storylines, and lapsed fans may chime back in to see what’s going on. Rather than the 65,000+ Raymond James Stadium in Florida, the show instead screened from WWE’s Florida based performance centre, used for training wrestlers and filming the company’s NXT show. The lack of fans was a shame; the wrestlers thrive off a crowd’s reaction, and moments such as Otis getting his girl, Edge’s return, and Drew McIntyre’s cathartic triumph would’ve been sweeter with a live audience going ballistic. However, some lemonade was made from Corona-flavoured lemons.

Pacing

WrestleMania 36 was forcibly split into two nights instead of one, in contrast to last year’s seven hour show. Doing anything for seven hours is exhausting, and UK based fans struggle to stay up until the early hours of the morning to catch all the action. We still try to anyway. This year’s show was much easier to digest.

Celebrity involvement to a minimum

Rob Gronkowski’s hosting aside, there wasn’t a need for celebrity performances in front of an empty crowd. Which isn’t a bad thing. I stayed up to see a culmination of a year’s worth of story, not Flo Rida.

Outside the box matches

The uncertainty surrounding the virus weeks ago meant that WWE had to film matches in advance and broadcast them on the day. With no need to placate a live crowd, WWE were afforded a little more creative license and delivered hugely. In the ‘Boneyard’ match between AJ Styles and The Undertaker, a biker with supernatural powers fought a redneck in a graveyard, buried him and rode off into the night.

The highlight of the night for many was the ‘Firefly Funhouse’ match; a children’s TV presenter with a psychotic alter ego went all ‘ghost of Christmas past’ on a finally visible John Cena, before said alter ego made the movie star disappear. Yes, I’m serious. The Funhouse match especially rewarded fans for their long term investment in both characters with a series of flashback and fourth-wall breaking. Both matches would have most likely taken place in front of a live crowd had circumstances permitted, and may have suffered as a result.

For a show usually so reliant on having a live audience, Wrestlemania arguably over-delivered given the circumstances. Some enforced changes improved the show and learning from them could benefit WWE to no end.

Words by Nosa Omoigui

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