2020 WWE WrestleMania 36 card: Matches that will shine, fall flat with no fans in attendance


WrestleMania 36 will be an event unlike any other. Not only is it emanating during a global pandemic and spread over two nights for the first time in the signature event’s history, it is pre-taped and happening in an empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando. While recent weeks of Raw and SmackDown taking place in the same conditions have prepared WWE fans to a degree, nothing can mimic an hours-long wrestling extravaganza that attempts to hit the emotionally-resonant notes of the sport’s grandest stage.

There is, however, some hope. A few matches may be enhanced by the unique conditions the show presents. A focus on editing, shot selection and sheer physicality could potentially benefit some pairings. Other matches, though, will almost certainly lose the spark that would have been present in front of 70,000 screaming fans in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

Let’s take a look at a selection of matches from both camps, those that may shine in the unique conditions and those that may fall flat.

Matches that will shine

1. WWE Championship — Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre: This match was already destined to be a brutal affair, but removing the crowd will force Lesnar and McIntyre to establish an even more physical tone without building to peaks and valleys for crowd response. McIntyre told CBS Sports he believed the match would be enhanced by the sound of their strikes and the camera pulling tight on their faces to show the physical toll of the bout. The best matches in this environment are likely to be the ones that feel the most like a fight, and these two hosses beating on each other is going to be exactly that.

2. Edge vs. Randy Orton (Last Man Standing Match): With the match stipulation, this bout does not have to stay in or near the ring. Furthermore, it doesn’t need to stay in or near the arena. With a brawl that can go anywhere, the crowd is less of a factor other than the sound of reactions being pumped into the audio. It’s a fair expectation that this match is going to look far more like an action movie fight scene than a standard wrestling match. Given WWE’s editing style, that may be a good or bad thing. But done well, a wild, ranging brawl could play out better without a crowd.

3. The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles (Boneyard Match): It’s an unfortunate fact of life that The Undertaker is only a fraction of the performer he once was. Age has caught up with him, and even two recent chokeslams on Styles looked off because he doesn’t have the strength or movement he once did. A pre-taped “boneyard match” between the two with no crowd allows WWE to iron out any warts present in Undertaker’s performance. Similar to Edge and Orton, it’s possible this will look like a high-production movie scene. Anything that helps The Undertaker look better in his performance than he’s capable of without editing may be for the best, even if it means missing out on another epic entrance inside a large stadium.

Matches that will fall flat

1. SmackDown Tag Team Championship — The Miz & John Morrison (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos (Ladder Match): A ladder match is pure spectacle. The crowd reactions to daring moves punctuate the biggest moments in these types of car-crash matches. The idea of anyone putting their body on the line by jumping or falling off a ladder in an empty building seems crazy. On paper, an empty-arena ladder match feels like it will lack the “secret sauce” of big pops for crazy moves.

2. NXT Women’s Championship — Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair: There are a couple of reasons this match could fall flat in an empty building. For starters, a Ripley win would simply feel bigger and more important with the pop that moment would provide. But, this also feels like the kind of pairing that draws dueling chants from the crowd, and Flair is a master when it comes to playing to the fans in the moment. This match will lose more steam than most without a passionate live audience.

3. Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler: This match has become more interesting by the week with Otis’ character undergoing rapid evolution. Otis’ quest for redemption against the man who stole his love away is begging for a stadium full of fans to drive him forward in the biggest singles match of his career. If Mandy Rose does so much as hug Otis after the match, the moment will lose what would have almost certainly been one of the most memorable non-main event moments on the entire show.





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