WrestleMania 36 is shaping up to be historic, but not for any of the reasons that WWE might have hoped.
Thanks to COVID-19 and the crucial need for social distancing, WrestleMania 36 will not take place at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. It will not be broadcast live to the world in front of over 70,000 screaming fans. Instead, WrestleMania 36 will take place at the WWE Performance Center. It will be taped beforehand, in front of no audience. And it will take place over two nights instead of one.
WWE has tried to spin this predicament to the best of its ability. This WrestleMania, WWE claims, is "too big for just one night!" And recent match stipulations, like AJ Styles challenging Undertaker to a Boneyard match, lend themselves to off-location filming and dramatic, cinematic storytelling.
But regardless, this is not an ideal scenario. It feels bizarre to hold WrestleMania with no audience, when for over three decades, the show has been defined by its large-scale presentation and record-breaking attendance records.
Rumors, obviously, are swirling rampant. Here is the most recent, updated match card as of March 29, along with the biggest WWE rumors of the past two weeks. WrestleMania 36 will air on the WWE Network from the WWE Performance Center on April 4 and 5.
Updated WrestleMania 36 Match Card
Former New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski will host the show. Here is the match card for WrestleMania, which, as you'll read below, is subject to change:
Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre (WWE Championship)
Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Universal Championship)
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
John Cena vs. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt
Edge vs. Randy Orton (Last Man Standing Match)
Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler (Raw Women's Championship)
Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi (Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match for the Smackdown Women's Championship)
Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair (NXT Women's Championship)
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
The Street Profits vs. Austin Theory & Angel Garza (Raw Tag Team Championship)
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
Elias vs. King Corbin
Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE Intercontinental Championship)
The Miz & John Morrison vs. The Usos vs. The New Day (Triple Threat Ladder Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship)
The Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (WWE Women's Tag Team Championship
Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler
Vince McMahon: Majority Vote of One
An outside observer might look at this non-audience, non-live version of WrestleMania and ask himself, "Why not postpone the event?" Good point. And according to PWInsider (h/t WrestlingInc), that's exactly what everyone backstage thought that WWE should be. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, however, overrode everyone and decided to push on with the event as scheduled.
McMahon, of course, originated the concept of WrestleMania and knows the wrestling business better than most of his critics. But if true, this rumor feeds the increasing perception that McMahon is losing touch with his audience and his company—a bad proposition, since he holds so much control over its vision and direction. WWE tells us they care about the welfare of their employees. In the future, they need to demonstrate that through action in addition to words.
Mania Tapings Already Happened
According to Marc Middleton of WrestlingInc, the tapings for WrestleMania 36 have already taken place; half of the matches were taped on Wednesday, March 25, and the other half were taped on Thursday, March 26. Ryan Satin of WrestlingSheet further reports WWE has already filmed the post-Raw episode of Raw on April 6. That makes sense; since they are not broadcasting live, it would make no sense to space out the matches so long as the essential crew and Superstars are already there and ready to make it happen.
Roman Reigns Out of WrestleMania
ESPN.com confirms that despite being advertised for the event, Roman Reigns will not face Goldberg at WrestleMania 36. The two would have fought for Goldberg's WWE Universal Championship.
Roman Reigns all but confirmed this news in a recent Instagram post. But despite this, the match is still being listed on WWE's website as an official match.
As a cancer survivor who underwent chemotherapy, Roman Reigns made the right choice to pull out of this event—and evidently, it was his decision to do so. The Big Dog has been through enough without adding on additional risks concerning his health.
Braun Strowman Replacement
The rumored replacement for Roman Reigns is Braun Strowman. According to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio, the match has already been taped, and there will be a segment on the April episode of Smackdown to make it official.
Roman Reigns was a heavy favorite to win the Universal title from Goldberg. Strowman would be a great candidate to fill that spot if WWE decides to take a chance on him. Strowman already has proven chemistry with Roman Reigns, and no doubt, their post-Mania matches would live up to lofty expectations.
The Miz Out Of Wrestlemania
Meltzer also reported that Miz is out of Wrestlemania; apparently, he showed up to the WWE Performance Center feeling sick, which made the Usos upset, and may have ultimately triggered Reigns to pull out of his scheduled match. It has not been reported what Miz was sick with.
It's a good reminder to maintain social distancing in these strange times. Even if you're asymptomatic--let alone sick--you could still spread the disease. And if you're sick and aren't sure what you have, it's always better to err on the side of caution.
Dana Brooke's Reason For Missing WrestleMania
The Smackdown's Women's Championship match was originally going to be a six-pack elimination challenge. Dana Brooke was removed from the match, and the title match became a Fatal 5-Way.
We now have some details as to why Brooke is missing WrestleMania. According to Matt Boone of EWrestling, Brooke was checked by the WWE's medical staff at the WWE Performance Center on March 20, after which point she was instructed to self quarantine.
Rey Mysterio's Reason For Missing WrestleMania
Boone also mentions that Mysterio has a similar reason for missing WrestleMania, although he self-reported symptoms before he actually traveled to the Performance Center. He then self-quarantined at home.
Samoa Joe A No-Go
Samoa Joe has had a difficult year due to multiple injuries and a 30-day Wellness Policy suspension at the end of February. And although that suspension has already lifted, PWInsider (h/t RingsideNews) is reporting that any Joe involvement at WrestleMania is considered "unlikely," which is disappointing since he would be a fantastic outside factor to the Owens vs. Rollins matchup.
Becky's Big Truck
If you've been watching Raw for the past couple of weeks, you've probably noticed a massive truck that Becky is driving around, with her face painted on the side. PWInsider (h/t Mike Chiari of Bleacher Report) reports that originally, the truck was going to be used during Becky's Mania entrance, and would have been present for photo opportunities at WrestleMania Axxess. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put a stop to both of those ideas.
False Spoiler Alerts
The saying goes to fight fire with fire. And it looks like WWE is going to take that ethos to heart in the leadup to WrestleMania 36.
Remember, WrestleMania has already been taped. That means that there will inevitably be leaks prior to the show. And according to Sportskeeda's Tom Colohue, WWE will combat the leaks by leaking false rumors, so that fans won't know the lies from the truth.
So if you follow the dirt sheets regularly? Take anything you read this week with a grain of salt. Just because Dave Meltzer has been covering wrestling for years, doesn't mean he can't get worked like the rest of us.