The veteran got the better of his rival in a Boneyard Match as WWE pulled out all the stops to ensure their marquee event had plenty of talking points despite having no crowd.
WrestleMania, staged over two nights this year for the first time ever, was broadcast from WWE’s Performance Center facility in Orlando, Florida.
The event had been set for Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium and a 60,000 strong crowd, but those plans were shelved due to the Coronavirus pandemic. WWE’s ‘show must go on’ mentality meant they pressed ahead with their biggest event of the year nonetheless.
Undertaker’s victory against Styles was the close of the show, a bout played out in the scene of a graveyard, true to WWE’s strengths in theatrics and cinema. It was one for vintage Undertaker fans, too, with the icon able to deliver most of his trademark offence to Styles before knocking him into a grave and ‘burying’ him.
The night was varied enough in its offering and there was plenty enough to satisfy the professional wrestling purist, with more conventional bouts seeing Daniel Bryan come up short in his quest for the Intercontinental championship against Sami Zayn – despite delivering a risky looking suicide dive on the outside of the ring in the process – and Kevin Owens scoring a big WrestleMania win to add some finality to his feud against Seth Rollins.
Braun Strowman became WWE Universal Champion after a brief encounter with Goldberg. Former WCW star Goldberg had been due to defend against Roman Reigns at the event, but the former Shield star withdrew amid concerns over his health in the current climate having only recently recovered from leukaemia. The contest was, in the end, exactly what you’d expect in being two minutes long – Strowman overcame Goldberg with a series of powerslams – but WWE has now surely utilised the veteran part-timer in this role often enough to not need to repeat it in future.
Elsewhere, Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch defeated Shayna Baszler after reversing the challenger’s Kirifuda Clutch submission hold into a pin. This was another match that felt a little too short given the stature of those competing, but the finish was well enough worked to ensure Baszler kept enough credibility to challenge again.
An entertaining ladder match for the SmackDown tag team championships saw one member each of Miz and Morrison, Kofi Kingston and The Usos compete on behalf of their respective team. Morrison, the defending champ and a recent returnee to WWE, showcased some of his incredible athletic abilities despite his relatively advancing years. It looked as though Morrison was about to come unstuck as all the combatants jostled to try and claim the titles at the same time, a double headbutt from Kingston and Uso working in his favour as he took a painful landing on ladders below while holding the gold.
WrestleMania also saw Elias’ quick-thinking earn him a win over King Corbin via pinfall, while Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross won the WWE Women’s tag team titles after Bliss nailed Kairi Sane with Twisted Bliss.
There were undoubted logistical challenges throughout the night for WWE to combat and, regardless of whether or not the show should have been staged in this setting and at this time, plaudits should go their way for pulling off a versatile show against the odds that kept the audience engaged.
Sunday’s second and final part of WrestleMania features Scot Drew McIntyre’s attempt to become WWE Champion at the Expense of Brock Lesnar.
The action gets underway at midnight on BT Sport Box Office and on the WWE Network.
WrestleMania results – Night One
Boneyard Match: The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles
Universal Championship: Braun Strowman defeated Goldberg
Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) defeated Shayna Baszler
Intercontinental Championship: Sami Zayn (c) defeated Daniel Bryan
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Ladder Match: John Morrison (c) defeated Jimmy Uso and Kofi Kingston
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross defeated The Kabuki Warriors (c)
Elias defeated King Corbin
Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins
24/7 Championship: Mojo Rawley defeated R-Truth
Cesaro defeated Drew Gulak