Everything you need to know ahead of the first two-night WrestleMania event this weekend
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect sports, entertainment and daily life across the globe, it seemed WWE WrestleMania 36 was doomed. Instead, WWE moved the event from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, to an empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando, adding match after match and bulking the event up to a two-day affair. The situation will lead to the most surreal WrestleMania in history as WWE attempts to still put on its biggest show of the year.
Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Edge, Becky Lynch and almost every other major WWE superstar and returning legend will be in action in the first WrestleMania 36 “too big for one night.” The two nights will also be hosted by former NFL superstar Rob Gronkowski, adding at least one celebrity element to an event historically filled with them.
The WrestleMania 36 cards on both Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5 will begin at 7 p.m. ET with the show expected to last anywhere from 3-4 hours, not counting the kickoff shows, which start one hour prior to the main card at 6 p.m on each night. CBS Sports will be with you the entire way on Saturday and Sunday with live results, highlights and analysis.
Let’s take a look at how our experts believe the WrestleMania 36 will play out.
WrestleMania 36 predictions
Women’s Tag Team Championship: The Kabuki Warriors (c) vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
There has not been much movement for the women’s tag team titles in their history. The reigns have been long with few defenses and limited attention, though the Kabuki Warriors have done a good job elevating the straps. There are a lot of potential tag teams on the SmackDown side of the roster, and both Asuka and Kairi Sane have done enough with the titles. Both need to be back in the singles division on Raw to freshen up storylines and feuds, while Bliss and Cross need something to do — as do many of the women on SmackDown. Pick: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross win the titles — Adam Silverstein (also Brent Brookhouse, Jack Crosby)
Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler
It feels cruel to have Otis lose. It also would feel like a complete waste of the wonderful story they’ve told in recent weeks with Otis snapping. Adding an edge and not just being the big funny guy is adding depth to the Otis character. A little post-match celebration with Mandy Rose to call back to Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth wouldn’t be the worst thing, and it’s clear there’s a direction for Otis and Rose vs. Ziggler and Sonya Deville, so this can get it going.. Pick: Otis wins — Brookhouse (also Silverstein, Crosby)
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
It feels clear that the writers’ room has a larger plan for Black. Lashley, on the other hand, feels lost like so many other times in his WWE career as a whole. The Lana/Lashley wedding came and went, and along with it, any direction for Lashley. Bigger things are coming for Black, who picks up another win here over a big name. Pick: Aleister Black wins — Brookhouse (also Silverstein, Crosby)
Elias vs. King Corbin
This was up in the air until Corbin murdered Elias on SmackDown. There’s also the little matter of Corbin having issues with Rob Gronkowski. This feels like “the moment” for Gronkowski to get involved and help Elias pick up a win, and maybe even kick off a Corbin vs. Gronkowski program heading into SummerSlam. Pick: Elias wins — Brookhouse
Unsurprisingly, Corbin was dominated in his most recent feud with Roman Reigns as the latter was — at the time, at least — being built up to reclaim his spot at the top of the card while eyeing a world title match at WrestleMania. Corbin, like it or not, is one of the better heels on either roster and now needs to start picking up some wins. A good start to that rebuild is the reigning King of the Ring picking up a victory at WrestleMania over Elias. Pick: King Corbin wins — Crosby (also Silverstein)
Raw Tag Team Championship: The Street Profits (c) vs. Angel Garza & Austin Theory
This should be an exciting match and has the potential to be a show-stealer considering the talent and athleticism of all four men. Ultimately, the match was made with no storyline consideration because WWE seemingly was forced to pull its planned lucha libre fatal 4-way match for Andrade’s U.S. championship. Then, Andrade got injured and replaced by Austin Theory in this spot. The Profits just won the titles, and a change would be nonsensical here to a tag team featuring to brand new “main roster” performers, including a 22-year-old blue-chipper in Theory. Pick: The Street Profits retain the titles — Silverstein
What’s strange is that while some probably believe the addition of 22-year-old Theory — who made his debut appearance on Raw just five days prior to WrestleMania — automatically points toward The Street Profits retaining, I’m actually on the opposite end of the spectrum. Had U.S. champion Andrade remained in the match, I probably would have leaned toward the champs retaining, but Theory’s presence offers up a unique opportunity. Zelina Vega has done such a fantastic job as it pertains to guiding Andrade and Garza on the “main roster,” so why not now let her guide a trio that will be draped in championships? Pick: Angel Garza & Austin Theory win the titles — Crosby (also Brookhouse)
SmackDown Tag Team Championship (Ladder Match): The Miz & John Morrison (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos
The absence of fans is really going to take away the excitement from this one, but we must do our best to live in the moment and appreciate the talent in the ring. It’s going to be great to see Morrison back in a ladder match setting and, well, history has taught us what The Usos and New Day can do when ladders are involved. Miz & Morrison are overmatched, in a sense, as they’re up against two of the best tag teams in company history. That’s why I’m taking the unpopular pick here and going with the heels to retain the titles in what should be a fantastic match. Pick: The Miz & John Morrison retain the titles — Crosby (also Brookhouse)
Miz & Morrison have had a long-enough reign with the titles to get over in Morrison’s return to the company. New Day is one up on The Usos in terms of all-time tag team title reigns, and I think WWE makes a move at WrestleMania to even up two of the best teams in all of professional wrestling. Freshly back after an extended absence, a ladder match is a great spot for The Usos to make a splash — no pun intended — and win the titles back in a bout that could absolutely steal the show. Pick: The Usos win the titles — Silverstein
Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
There have been few angles as fun to watch in WWE recently as Daniel Bryan clearly having the time of his life working with Drew Gulak. In fact, it feels largely like Bryan has been given the book for his own storyline. Zayn retaining by hook or crook makes plenty of sense, of course, but Bryan winning would make sense given Zayn feeling very much like a transitional champ. I’m hopeful this leads to more Bryan vs. Gulak matches down the line. Pick: Daniel Bryan wins the title — Brookhouse (also Silverstein)
Bryan will eventually win the intercontinental championship … just not at WrestleMania. Zayn will keep his first singles title reign going a bit longer through some nefarious means, which will send us down the entertaining path of Drew Gulak “coaching” Bryan toward capturing the IC title at some point. The play here down the road is to have Bryan and Gulak, two of the best workhorses in the company, clashing for the championship that used to signify someone as the definitive workhorse within the company. There’s still a little more of that story to tell which doesn’t include a Bryan win at ‘Mania. Pick: Sami Zayn retains the title — Crosby
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
Much as has been covered in the build to this match, such as Owens not having the WrestleMania resume of Rollins. That’s all the more reason to have Owens pick up a win and set Rollins on an even darker path as he comes up short of proving a point as the Monday Night Messiah.
The issues between these two could stretch out to SummerSlam if booked properly, and Rollins growing increasingly unhinged would be a good way to make that happen. Pick: Kevin Owens wins — Brookhouse (also Silverstein, Crosby)
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Naomi vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina (Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match)
The Bayley championship experience feels as though it has reached its conclusion. Sure, you could put the belt on Banks here, and this prediction was made before realizing the terms of this match were elimination, but it’s still easy to see how to run the booking to get to a feel-good win here.
Banks will eliminate Bayley, guaranteeing a new champion will be crowned, but a bitter Bayley will get revenge by interfering after elimination to get Banks eliminated as well. Then, you have the friends feud and Naomi march ahead as champion. Pick: Naomi wins the title — Brookhouse
All this match seems to be, on the surface, is a kickstarter for the eventual falling out between Bayley and Banks. Sure, there are other pieces of the puzzle here, but when it boils down to it, the true issue is between the best friends.
That could lead some to envision Banks maybe stealing the title here, but what I see instead is Bayley last eliminating Banks from the match in a heelish manner to retain. Then we’re off to the races for what should be a fantastic SmackDown women’s title program leading into the summer. Pick: Bayley retains the title — Crosby (also Silverstein)
NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Ripley has been so well built as NXT champion that it would be a shame to see a change here, but there is reason to believe it can happen considering Flair’s name value and the way she is often booked. Ultimately though, it would be a mistake for WWE to have given NXT such a large presence at Survivor Series and Royal Rumble only to turn around and have one of the brand’s top titles taken by a WWE superstar.
Unless there is a plan to rocket Ripley to the primary roster and have someone from NXT take the title from Flair in short order, this should be a retention. After all, Ripley is the next big thing in the women’s division. Pick: Rhea Ripley retains the title — Silverstein (also Brookhouse)
The rapid rise of Ripley, dating back to the Survivor Series build last November, has been one of the more enjoyable experiences in all of WWE. We’re watching a major superstar in the making grow before our very eyes, and the WrestleMania stage is more than deserved for the first NXT UK women’s champion in history.
Growing pains are bound to hit, however, and that’s why, for as successful as she’s been, Ripley will be knocked down a peg by the more seasoned Flair. This outcome gives us Ripley working to ascend back to her throne while also adding the intrigue of Flair now being forced “back down” to NXT by way of her title victory. Pick: Charlotte Flair wins the title — Crosby
Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler
Whether she’s caught on with fans or not, you just can’t build up Baszler like you have since her “call-up” and have her lose this match. She made a monster statement with her performance in the Elimination Chamber, and now it’s time to make an even bigger one by claiming gold in quick order. The better story coming up will be in Lynch chasing the title once again. Pick: Shayna Baszler wins the title — Crosby (also Brookhouse)
Though Baszler is the clear favorite here as she has been injected into the title picture and already run through the entire Raw women’s division in dominant fashion, a victory over Lynch would be a rarity. Not only is Lynch the strongest-built woman in the company, it is not often that heels go over and take major titles off faces at WrestleMania (retaining them is another thing altogether).
With this feud not succeeding to the level WWE expected and everyone expected Baszler will win, I will go contrarian here with Lynch continuing her reign for more than 365 days. (I never suggest gambling on WWE, but Lynch is getting plus odds in this spot!) Pick: Becky Lynch retains the title — Silverstein
Edge vs. Randy Orton (Last Man Standing Match)
WWE has been known to make the incorrect decision in the past just for the sake of providing a swerve, so you hope that this highly-anticipated grudge match won’t see history repeat itself. This is a match that may actually benefit from the empty-arena setting because the brutality between these two will come across as much more realistic than it would in a large stadium setting.
Orton has reminded us during the build that he’s willing to take some sadistic measures to inflict the pain he desires, but don’t let Edge’s long layoff from the business allow you to forget that he can be just as — if not more — sadistic. The “Rated-R Superstar” will remind us of that en route to giving Orton his comeuppance. Pick: Edge wins — Crosby (also Brookhouse, Silverstein)
John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (Firefly Funhouse Match)
History would tell you that Cena always wins matches he should lose and Wyatt always loses matches he should win. However, with Cena no longer a full-time WWE performer and fans already angry that The Fiend fought to a no contest in Hell in a Cell vs. Seth Rollins and then lost the universal title to Goldberg inexplicably, WWE is not going to triple down with another mistake. I’m excited to see what is in store for us with a Firefly Funhouse Match, which is even more reason Wyatt will come out on top here. Pick: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt wins — Silverstein (also Brookhouse, Crosby)
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles (Boneyard Match)
Styles is no young buck tabbed as the future of the company. He’s 42 years old and will be the same level of player with or without the win. So, if the world is watching the unique WrestleMania, give them what they want and put Undertaker over at his event. And putting the match in the “boneyard,” whatever that means, gives all the more reason for a Taker victory. Pick: The Undertaker wins — Brookhouse (also Silverstein)
It’s easy to believe that we’re headed toward yet another Undertaker victory at WrestleMania, and fans have every right to believe that. But, I’m using this match as my outside-the-box pick for one of the biggest matches on the card. To this point, Undertaker has certainly had the upper-hand in the feud with Styles just providing the verbal jabs.
When Styles called out The Undertaker initially, he asked for the “Deadman.” Yet, what he received — likely because of the personal nature of the feud — was essentially an updated version of the “American Badass” character. Styles somehow pulls off the shock win here, and the feud continues with “The Deadman” eventually returning to take care of his nemesis. Pick: AJ Styles wins — Crosby
WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
It’s unfortunate that McIntyre’s moment will come in an empty arena, but I don’t see a better option. If they were going to pull the trigger on McIntyre before, not doing it here just makes a rematch where he does win feel less impressive and less important.
With Lesnar, you don’t generally have the monster win by shady means like interference that justifies a rematch. So, I think you stick with the plan and see if McIntyre can be the man to lead the company in a very difficult time. Of course, logical booking may fly out the window as we continue toward an uncertain future. Pick: Drew McIntyre wins the title — Brookhouse (also Crosby)
There’s every reason to believe McIntyre will come out of WrestleMania as the champion, but when you look at the history of Royal Rumble winners in the main event, winning is far from a sure thing. When ‘Mania was scheduled for Raymond James Stadium, McIntyre winning was a no-brainer call.
However, without a crowd in attendance, a title change is less of a necessity and less of a sure thing. If there’s one thing we know that Vince McMahon likes to do with Brock Lesnar, it is swerve the crowd. The decision at WrestleMania 34 was ill-fated, but this one would make sense, especially with WWE potentially not knowing if it will be able to continue shows in the immediate future due to the coronavirus pandemic. I’m going to go contrarian here.
Universal Championship: Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman
With Strowman replacing Roman Reigns, who opted out of performing at WrestleMania reportedly due to health concerns as he is immunocompromised as a cancer survivor, WWE needs to keep the booking that was seemingly planned for this match, that is putting Strowman over Goldberg as the new universal champion.
It’s not so much that I think Strowman is a long-term solution in the main event picture, but he is perfectly capable and deserving of being a transitional champion as Big Show was back in the day. Due to their overwhelming size and strength, it is always believable that they can beat anyone.
Still, I wish WWE had been more creative here despite Reigns’ decision leaving it in a tough spot as it was preparing to tape WrestleMania. If I was booking the territory on this, I would have scheduled the Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena match for Saturday’s show and put the No. 1 contendership on the line in the Firefly Funhouse.
With Wyatt presumably winning, he could then move on to a rematch with Goldberg on Sunday where The Fiend could win back the title and avenge his only loss, resetting the mistake that WWE made in taking it off of him a couple months ago. Pick: Braun Strowman wins the title — Silverstein
There are a lot of creative ways they could have went about a replacement for Reigns, such as Wyatt earning back the title after disposing of his John Cena demon and even convincing Goldberg to put his personal differences aside to work with Matt Riddle.
Ultimately, though, WWE went with the safe decision, and I can’t really fault them for that when you consider the circumstances. Hopefully WWE makes the correct move here and gives Strowman his long-awaited first world title reign. Pick: Braun Strowman wins the title — Crosby
Braun entering the title match is a product of unfortunate circumstances. It’s an imperfect solution — and I’d far rather see Wyatt pull off a second match and win back the title. But they never quite seem sure how to use Strowman in the best possible way.
His big moment of a first singles title win when he captured the intercontinental title led to a lot of nothingness. There was a time to put the big belt on him, but they missed the shot then, too. Having him win out of nowhere in front of no crowd for his first major singles title seems like a terrible idea. I suppose, however, Braun is in the camp of men who can answer a simple “who’s next?” and have it seem like a big challenge for Goldberg.
And I imagine that’s as simple as the booking of the change in opponent will be. I’m torn on whether it makes more sense to give Strowman an “out of nowhere” win, or leave the belt on Goldberg to build to a Reigns win over him at an event like SummerSlam. But having Braun available for future tapings seems to make the most sense. Pick: Braun Strowman wins the title — Brookhouse
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