It was supposed to be the biggest night on the WWE’s calendar. It was supposed to have all the excitement and extravagance that Wrestlemania brings to fans every spring. However, this year was different. It was different because of a real-life opponent – the Coronavirus, which has been and still is causing havoc around the world.

Despite that, the WWE put on their marquee show in an empty Performance Center in Orlando. The pre-taped show was broadcasted on April 4th and 5th. Yes, an unprecedented two-day event.

The WWE Women’s Tag Team titles were at stake in the opening match of the weekend, as Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross challenged the champions, Asuka and Kairi Sane. It ended when Alexa performed her Twisted Bliss finisher on Asuka for the final pin, making Bliss and Cross the new champions. It was a fantastic “Wrestlemania Moment” for the new champs. The moment lacked the loud applause and screams that accompanies the crowning of new champions.

The co-main event of the first night showcased Bill Goldberg and Braun Strowman battling for the Universal Championship. This was a hard-hitting match between two intimidating individuals. To end the match, Strowman lifted Goldberg up and delivered an earth shattering powerslam for the win, giving Braun his first Universal title. Like the new Women’s Tag Champions, Braun enjoyed the moment alone. But he was not supposed to challenge for the title. It was scheduled and built up to be someone else.

Roman Reigns would have likely emerged with the title had he participated. He backed out, but with a good reason. He battled leukemia twice, and obviously survived. But, while he is still alive, his immune system remains weak. Knowing the severity of the Coronavirus, he made a difficult decision to forego his big opportunity at Mania and head back home to be with his family. He did not want to potentially get this disease and inflict his family. A very intelligent and unselfish decision. I hope when he returns, nobody holds his decision against him.

The main event for night one was what the company called a “Boneyard Match” (the equivalent of a “Buried Alive” Match.) The Undertaker, who arrived riding a motorcycle, and looking like his normal self instead of the Undertaker character, battled A.J. Styles who arrived to the site in a hearse and rose from a casket in an effort to mock his opponent. The match was filmed like a movie, and took place in a cemetery.

Taker was outnumbered a few times, fighting off druids, and Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (A.J.’s two friends and teammates), all part of Styles’ plan to thwart the Undertaker. Unfortunately, that plan did not work. After a hard-fought match, the end saw Taker kick A.J. into a ready-made “grave” and “buried” him. With the job done, and victory gained, Taker rode off into the darkness. What a fun, different, and creative match this turned out to be. Congratulations to everyone who was part of this unique contest.

The following night began with the NXT Women’s title match. The champion Rhea Ripley faced Charlotte Flair in a tremendous battle. Most of the match saw Flair work on Rhea’s knee and attempt multiple submissions. The champion could have surrendered, but she demonstrated her resiliency by continuing on. The end saw Charlotte finally applying her figure eight submission. Again, Ripley tried to hang on, but she could not, and tapped out. Charlotte Flair became a two-time NXT Women’s champion. Rhea Ripley must be commended for putting on an amazing performance on her first Wrestlemania. I know if fans were there, they would have applauded her effort.

One of the best matches of the weekend was between Randy Orton and a returning Edge in a Last Man Standing Match. They fought all over the WWE Performance Center. They brawled into the exercise area and in a conference room. Edge placed Orton on a table, jumped onto a fence located above them, and dropped an elbow. But somehow Randy Orton got to his feet before the count of ten.

The final portion of the match saw the two men on top a truck. Edge made his opponent pass out after a submission hold. Orton landed on a previously used chair. Instead of waiting for the referee to count to ten, Edge stopped him. With Randy unconscious, Edge took another chair and smashed it against Orton’s head. The referee counted to ten. Edge emerged victorious in his first match in nine years. A great, hard hitting match, with the winner receiving a well-deserved Mania moment, even though the crowd was not there to share in his joy.

The final match of the weekend was for the WWE title with Drew McIntyre challenging Brock Lesnar. Drew immediately went on the attack hitting a Claymore kick, but Brock got up. The champion evaded another one and performed a multitude of suplexes, before performing a F5. Drew kicked out, but Brock continued his rampage of F5’s. He attempted a pin after his final one, but the challenger kicked out. Again, Brock attempted a F5, but the challenger escaped and performed a Claymore – it staggered Brock, but he did not go down. Finally, Drew hit a more powerful Claymore kick to take down Lesnar. The challenger pinned the champion for three.

Drew McIntyre became the new WWE Champion. He became emotional once he attained victory. I am sure if there was a crowd, he would have received a standing ovation. To end the night, Drew turned to the camera, with tears streaming down his face, and said “thank you” – a message to those of us at home watching. A great way to end a very unusual and eerie event.

As I watched this, I thought of the missing element. Sure, there wasn’t anyone in the stands. But, some of the wrestlers, like Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt and Drew McIntyre would have had awe inspiring and elaborate entrances, and it would have been wonderful to watch all that. I feel badly for Rhea Ripley who participated in her first Mania in an empty arena, and Kevin Owens who got his first Mania win without crowd reactions.

I know the superstars performed their best under the circumstances. But, because of the lack of dramatic entrances and lack of a big crowd, it did not feel like a Wrestlemania. Hopefully, next year, in Los Angeles, the WWE can put on a memorable event for everyone. The superstars can have their big entrances, and everything will be back to the way we are used to.

Like everyone, I would like things to get back to as close to normal as possible. It is my hope that everyone is mindful of each other. Please think of your family and friends. Stay home. You do not know if you are carrying the virus. Listen to the medical experts. I know what it is like not to be able to breathe properly, and I have a great deal of empathy for all those who contracted this dangerous virus. Too many lives have been lost. Please do your part. Together we can end this by staying apart. Be safe.

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