WrestleMania 36 delivered action, excitement, and surprises — despite being held under unconventional circumstances.
Hosted by former New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski, professional wrestling’s largest and most iconic event took place this past weekend without a live audience for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The two-night show was pre-taped at the WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, a stark change in size from its original location, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Gronkowksi, 30, delivered arguably the most talked-about moment of the entire event when he defeated his friend, Mojo Rawley, to claim the WWE 24/7 Championship.
The retired NFL star jumped off a balcony in between matches at WrestleMania 36 and landed on a group of wrestlers, including Rawley, 33, whom he successfully pinned to take the coveted title, which has been previously held by non-wrestlers like NASCAR driver Kyle Busch and the NBA’s Enes Kanter.
Kicking off Saturday’s show was a match between Cesaro and Drew Gulak, with the former coming out on top. In the Women’s Tag Team Championship, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross defeated the Kabuki Warriors, while Elias beat King Corbin in the next match-up.
Additional matches saw Becky Lynch beat Shayna Baszler, Sami Zayn beat Daniel Bryan, and John Morrison beat Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso in the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
In the Universal Championship, Braun Strowman pinned Goldberg, while the Undertaker defeated A.J. Styles to win the Boneyard Match.
On Sunday night, Liv Morgan pinned Natalya to kick off the show, followed by Charlotte Flair’s victory over Rhea Ripley. The next match-ups saw victories from Aleister Black, Otis, Edge, the Street Profits, and Bayley before John Cena was pinned by “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in the Firefly FunHouse Match.
The night’s most anticipated match was won by Drew McIntyre, who pinned Brock Lesnar to become the new WWE Champion.
Paul Levesque, the WWE’s executive vice president of global talent strategy and development, told PEOPLE last Friday that the company had “careful and very thoughtful” discussions about their decision to ultimately go forward with the annual event this year.
“There’s probably no greater time — at least in my memory, in my generation — where people need entertainment,” Levesque, better known by his ring name, “Triple H,” said. “They need that relief. They need a distraction and something to be entertained by.”
“Some people will obviously criticize, some people will love it, but I think that as time goes on — when you look back at this 20 years from now — it’s hard for me not to see it and say, ‘Look, when the whole world was shut down, when everyone was boxed up at home, the WWE still was out there trying to entertain us,’ ” he added.
Triple H/Instagram Paul “Triple H” Levesque
Levesque said that everyone involved in WrestleMania had been required to “participate in medical screenings” before the event. The company also tested for heightened body temperatures and implemented “pandemic-level cleaning” inside the training center.
So far, there have been no reported cases of any of WWE’s performers testing positive for coronavirus.
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