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    Monday, April 6, 2020

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: WrestleMania 36


    So... how do we do this?

    As we all know, the circumstances are certainly not normal. It's been like this for almost a month now: no crowds, pre-taped wrestling shows, storylines going as normal. WrestleMania 2020 is definitely one for the books, going down in history as the show where Vince McMahon—backed up against the wall, his previously-going-well XFL revival project struck by calamity once again—Pushed Through With the Big Event, Despite Many Protests. Because of these extraordinary circumstances, it will always be the center of debate. Should they have risked it? Are they noble for wanting to entertain the masses stuck at home?

    We'll be talking about this question for years, I promise you. But if you want to know what I think, they should've just canceled the event. I guess that doesn't matter now.

    After all that, how does one even review this show? The thing about wrestling is that while the wrestlers in the ring are a huge part of the formula, they're not all the parts. The crowd feeds into the atmosphere, being responsible for the electricity in the air, rounding out the equation. Without the crowd participation, the action in the ring just doesn't hit the same way. That's why 205 Live, despite the talent of the wrestlers, can become a real drag to watch. WWE has been like this ever since they took the shows to an empty Performance Center, and honestly, despite its pomp and circumstance, WrestleMania is just no different.

    Good ideas, though: splitting it into two manageable three-hour nights did wonders for the show. I personally couldn't handle the deafening silence for too long, and with everyone's attention, there was absolutely no need to have gone eight hours in one evening. Maybe this could be something to consider moving forward, making WrestleMania an entire weekend of festivities instead of just one Sunday night. You've got the titanic roster depth, so you might as well go for it. It works for everyone. (Or you either leave some matches for the RAW and SmackDown after.)


    Having an empty arena to work with also allowed them to experiment with more cinematic matches. The Final and Ultimate Deletions informed both the Boneyard and Fun House matches really well, building on what Matt Hardy and Lucha Underground laid down. Coronavirus or not, this might be the future of wrestling, especially for otherworldly characters that need a lot of help in being more believable. If anything, now I can't imagine both Undertaker and Bray Wyatt/the Fiend—and, in the same vein, Broken Matt Hardy—trying to be themselves in real life, without movie magic. But WrestleMania, or wrestling in general, needs a filmed match every once in a while, because when done right, this stuff is good.

    It's compelling endeavors like the Boneyard and Fun House matches that ultimately save WrestleMania 36, as a piece of entertainment for a world hit by COVID-19. As a whole, though, this show will mean to the viewer whatever they want it to mean, and as ill-guided as WWE's continued operation is, I don't think anyone can take that away from them. It's what makes this tougher to judge than normal, which is why I'm glad to say the event is still worth a watch. None of the wrestling was bad, with or without a crowd.

    WrestleMania 36 Grade: B

    Match of the Night



    For a wrestler like the Undertaker, in the back half of his career, looking for a way to entertain the fans without having to put his body through too much hell, something like the Boneyard Match was absolutely perfect. If anything, this should've been the norm for the undead wizard version of his character his whole career, but I guess now is not too late. It had a lot of potential to either knock it out of the park or crash badly, and everyone found a way to use the medium to keep it entertaining enough. It was exactly what it needed to be, and you need to watch it.

    Photo from WWE


    *****

    Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry, one of the four hosts of the Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast, and is associated with Philippine Wrestling Revolution. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, and he likes taking your wrestling questions over on his Curiouscat account.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: WrestleMania 36 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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