This Week In The WWE: 3/15-3/21

We already knew that WrestleMania 36 in Tampa was going to be different. But, no one could’ve ever expected just how different it’s going to be.

With the coronavirus putting the World on hold, fighting against the clock and a pandemic to save lives each and every day, WrestleMania will be the first WWE PPV to be held without any fans in attendance. Much like their weekly shows, RAW, NXT and SmackDown, it’s scheduled to be held at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.

Reportedly, the WWE is going to tape as much programming, including the WrestleMania event itself as soon as possible to prevent against further local, national and government restrictions. In addition, they too have to fight time in that eventually someone in connection to the organization will test positive for the virus which would then put a full shutdown in effect.

These are very scary and unprecedented times in which all precautions should be taken to ensure the best possible outcomes for all.


So, with the news of WrestleMania being taken out of Tampa, WWE said that new signee Rob Gronkowski will be the host of the now, two-night event on the WWE Network. The former Patriots tight end’s announcement about an event meant for Tampa ironically comes in the same week that his former QB, Tom Brady, heads to Tampa as the Bucs new QB. You just can’t make this stuff up. 

To get all of us ready for WrestleMania, the WWE and ESPN announced Friday that for the next three Sundays, ESPN will be broadcasting old WrestleManias.

Here’s the schedule:
Sunday, March 22 – 7pm WrestleMania 30 (New Orleans, LA – The Undertaker Streak is broken)
Sunday, March 29 – 7pm WrestleMania 32 (Arlington, TX – Roman Reigns vs. Triple H)
Sunday, April 5 – 3pm WrestleMania 35 (East Rutherford, NJ – Rousey vs. Flair vs. Lynch)

For now, here’s this year’s WrestleMania card according the WWE website:

Saturday – April 4th

  • WWE Championship Match: Drew McIntyre vs. Brock Lesnar
  • NXT Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley
  • The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
  • Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins

Sunday – April 5th

  • WWE Universal Championship Match: Roman Reigns vs. Bill Goldberg
  • RAW Women’s Championship Match: Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch
  • John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt

Also: Edge vs. Orton

Out in front of WrestleMania, the WWE has taken a bit of a turn as to how they’ve delivered programming this week. So, in turn, we will do the same. Instead of reviewing each show and what we liked about the matches and angles, we’ll do it as an overview.


RAW

Monday Night RAW was dominated by the replay of the Royal Rumble that has set up the WWE Championship match between champion Brock Lesnar and challenger Drew McIntyre . For those who didn’t see it on the WWE Network, either live or on replay, it was a good way to give insight into the Lesnar-McIntyre match-up in addition to it being just a good Rumble as well.

The only live match was Rey Mysterio, Jr. topping Andrade in a non-title United States Championship.

Elsewhere, Edge delivered an amazing promo to answer Randy Orton’s call. Not only did Edge say that his wife Beth Phoenix was about to announce his new retirement for him so he didn’t have to, but since Orton attacked Beth, Edge was challenging him to a Last Man Standing Match at WrestleMania. Well done, even without a crowd around him.

There was no contract signing for The Undertaker and AJ Styles. The Undertaker took out Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows with AJ Styles looking on from backstage after The OC tried to take UT out.

Finally, Stone Cold 3:16 Day ended with Becky Lynch joining Steve Austin in the ring to deliver a stunner to Byron Sexton, who was rating Austin’s performance at the RAW announce table. Predictable, but mostly flat without a crowd. I was impressed however by how many Stevie-wisers that The Man could down. Damn! As Ron Simmons would say!


NXT

On NXT, I thought the WWE did an amazing job at putting some focus and backstory on the Tommaso Ciampa – Johnny Gargano feud. Complete with footage from back in their developmental days and matches gone by, it was a fantastic way to help the audience understand why it’s such an emotional conflict. Production-wise, there’s no one better at these kind of segments. Devoting a full hour to it shows why it’s the best story going in NXT.

An in-depth look at Finn Balor and Rhea Ripley followed in the show’s second hour. Now, you could say this approach didn’t help WWE/NXT as its audience was almost cut in half as compared to AEW, who did do live matches without a crowd. But, I think that has more to do with some fans just looking for the matches on AEW. In the long run, it’s an approach that I think NXT should do more of when they can mix them back in with matches. Giving fans a reason to buy in to people is never a bad think.

On a side note, AEW did have the debuts of former WWE veterans Matt Hardy and Brodie Lee, the former Luke Harper, who’s now the Exalted One in All Elite Wrestling.


SMACKDOWN

On SmackDown, it’s the debut of Rob Gronkowski. Gronk makes his first official WWE appearance and makes it’s a memorable one taking on King Corbin. A nice back-and-forth before setting up Corbin vs. Elias for WrestleMania. I can’t wait for the ultimate turn by Mojo Rawley on his good friend Gronk!

Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak continue to make their way up the ranks, beating Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura in a tag team match. Now, if Gulak can beat Nakamura next week on SmackDown, Bryan will get a shot at Sami Zayn’s Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania.

Paige, by Skype from Los Angeles, gives Bayley the bad news that she’ll be defending her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Lacey Evans, Dana Brooke, Naomi, Tamina and Sasha Banks in a six-pack elimination match at WrestleMania. Are we about to get another Banks backstab in the works?

Bray Wyatt says John Cena beating him at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans gave us The Fiend. So, what better way to prove that then to show us and that’s exactly what we got on FOX Friday night. Nice filler too! BTW: nice face time for Brodie Lee from AEW in that one!

Before their match with Heavy Machinery, The Miz and John Morrison delivered more comedic relief with a parody of The New Day and The Usos. Laugh out loud funny! What wasn’t so funny was the beating Otis from Heavy Machinery gave the tag team champs after being sent into a rage with a Dolph ZIggler/Mandy Rose Instagram post on the big screen. Miz & Morrison get a DQ win. Now, The New Day and The Usos will wrestle next Friday with the winner getting a title match at WrestleMania.

To end the night, yet another contract signing as Universal Champion Goldberg went face-to-face with Roman Reigns. Tough words, but pretty much the same ol’ same ol. Gotta be more creative in showcasing these things. Been there, done that!


Thanks for letting us share our thoughts! Shoot me an email at jcrowe567@gmail.com. We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions! You can also check out my blog, The Crowe’s Nest as we delve into more pro wrestling, sports entertainment and the World of Sports. My apologies ahead of time – I AM a Patriots and Red Sox fan! If you’re not down with that, I’ve got TWO WORDS for you… NEW ENGLAND!

Author: John Crowe