Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Much Need Distraction from the Horrors of War: Boxing at the Lyceum Theatre

By Matt Ward

1918 was a big year for boxing at the Lyceum Theatre in Red Bank. With World War I raging on in Europe, Jersey Shore residents looked for distraction from reports of the horrors of war. Boxing helped people on the Jersey Shore, and around the country, find that much needed distraction.

A series of five boxing cards were hosted at the Lyceum Theatre that summer. These fights were organized by the Monmouth County Athletic Club, and were the earliest professional bouts recorded in the borough’s history. The opening card of the season was held on June 7th, and featured two principal bouts, three preliminaries, and a wrestling match. The main event pitted Bantamweight contender, Frankie Burns against Joey Leonard. Burns, a popular fighter from Jersey City, entered the bout as the favorite against his Brooklyn native opponent. Renowned sportswriter, Red Smith later described Burns as “strictly a Jersey product. In the years before World War I you couldn’t glance up without seeing him fighting somebody for the bantamweight championship of the world.”

Frankie Burns.jpg
Frankie Burns
Burns’ presence in Red Bank that evening meant that boxing fans were in for a treat. Announcer, Joseph Humphreys, of Madison Square Garden fame, made his way down the shore to offer his talents to the evening of boxing. The bantamweights battled through eight action packed rounds, with the newspaper decision going to the veteran, Burns. Burns went on to box professionally until 1921, when he hung up his boxing gloves and retired. Leonard retired in 1923 with a losing record.

Joseph Humphreys
The second card of the summer was on June 14th and featured Irish-born, New York fighter, Mike McTigue and hard-hitting New Yorker, Frank Carbone. McTigue is well-known in boxing circles for holding the World Light Heavyweight title between 1923 and 1925, and competing against other division greats such as Paul Berlenbach, Jeff Smith, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker, and Tommy Loughran. This was the third encounter between the two men, with McTigue taking the first two bouts. That night at the Lyceum, the newspaper decision went to McTigue. The Red Bank Register described the bout as being a “slow affair,” in which McTigue utilized his greater reach to hold off and jab his opponent at will. Newspapermen also noted that the two middleweights clinched throughout the bout to the displeasure of fans and ringside reporters.

Mike McTigue.jpg
Mike McTigue
The June 21st show featured Kid Henry and Johnny Hayes headlining a card loaded with New Jersey based fighters making their professional debuts. The Red Bank Register described the main event as being of “high class.” Henry was the far more experienced fighter of the two men. He came into the bout having fought tough fighters including Abe Attell, Mel Coogan, and Tommy Helm. Despite both boxers fighting well over the course of eight rounds, “their scrap was marred by repeated holding and clinching.” Neither fighter was badly hurt, despite some stiff jolts landed over the course of the competition. The fight was ruled a draw by The Red Bank Register.

The June 28th card at the Lyceum Theatre featured a semi-final bout between two up and coming fighters, and a main event featuring two fighters with “.500 records.” The Red Bank Register reported that the card was viewed by a large crowd of fans. The semi-final bout was between New York fighters, Bobby Michaels and Joe Garry. Michaels, who went on to fight just under 70 career fights, defeated the less experienced Garry via The Red Bank Register newspaper decision. In the main event, Young Willie Gradwell of Newark faced Joe Mooney of New York in a lightweight contest. Gradwell controlled the bout through eight rounds of action, and was rewarded for his efforts throughout the contest with The Red Bank Register newspaper decision.

The summer boxing schedule ended on July 20th, with arguably the weakest card of the series. The card was highlighted by two Red Bank fighters, Frank Moran and Billy Valleau, winning their professional debuts. The main event featured two fighters also making their professional debuts, Billy Dasso and Joe Forgione, and ended in a second round knockout victory for Fort Hancock’s Dasso. The Red Bank Register reported that the knockout came after, “Dasso’s second told him after the first round that they had only twenty minutes to catch their car going back to Sandy Hook.” The knockout ensured that Dasso and his corner man had adequate time to catch their ride back to the base!  It appears that Dasso’s professional boxing career ended that evening; while Forgione went on to fight a few more bouts. The highlight of Forgione’s unimpressive boxing career was a 1921 bout against veteran Illinois’ boxer, Young Tony Caponi, in which Caponi decisively defeated the Newark fighter via a twelve round newspaper decision.

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Sunday, April 19, 2020

1960 - The Champions

By Eric Armit

I occasionally get someone asking me about how I started to write about boxing and although I can’t recall when I first wrote I can recall approximately when I first began to compile records of current boxers and that was in the late 1950’s. That started me thinking about who were the champions in those days, what were their achievements, what was their quality and what was the level of their experience? There were no computers and no internet and no BoxRec. There is nothing that sucks you into following the career of a boxer like filling an index card by hand result by result week after week and year after year. I was my own BoxRec. Having started in the late 1950’s the 1960’s began a new decade of record compiling for me so I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and look at the world champions in the first year of the new decade and what happened to them later and hope you will join me. To some of my age-not too many of them now-it will hopefully bring back some fond memories. To some a good bit younger it might fill in some blanks about fighters heard of but not really known in detail and for younger fans of boxing offer some insight into those who are spoken of in reverence by oldies such as myself. 

One of the biggest differences was the absence of the WBC, IBF and WBO. The early forerunner of the WBA was there in the shape of the National Boxing Association (NBA) but no one paid much attention to them and the New York Commission (NYSAC) thought it was the major force in boxing so they occasionally had their own “world” champions. If anyone it was Ring Magazine under Nat Fleischer who ruled on who the world champion was and most of the world went along with Ring’s judgement.

Title fights were held over 15 rounds and how they were scored depended on where the fight was held. If it was in New York or California it was scored on rounds and not points i.e. 8-7, 10-5, 9-6 - Nevada it was on a 5 points per round system i.e. 75-74, 75-73 etc. and in Florida it was the 10 points per round system we use now. In Britain the referee was the sole arbiter and his score was rarely released.

There were the eight traditional divisions heavy, light heavy, middle, welter, light, feather, bantam and fly. There had been some flirting with other weight divisions such as super feather/junior lightweight and super lightweight/light welterweight in earlier years but generally speaking only the NBA and the New York Commission recognized them then and they had died out and were not given any real recognition. However, in 1959 the NBA and NYSAC reintroduced the super lightweight division and the NBA also brought in the super featherweight division.

Even including these two recently introduced divisions there were only a total of seventeen world title fights in 1960. These days there are sometimes almost that many in a month. Can you imagine the dog fights that we would have today if the various cable, streaming, terrestrial channels and the promoters were scrambling to get a share of just seventeen world title fights. When you hear any of these bodies complaining that the proliferation of titles is ruining the sport, try asking if they would like to turn the clock back to 1960 and then try to fill their schedules.

There was a mixture of champions in 1960. Ingemar Johansson was the heavyweight champion having scored a huge upset in 1959 flooring Floyd Patterson seven times and stopping him in three rounds. Maybe not as huge as Andy Ruiz vs. Anthony Joshua I but of that magnitude. In June 1960 Patterson became the first fighter to regain the title when he knocked out Johansson. If they were active today both fighters would be considered as cruiserweights. Patterson weighed 182lbs in their 1959 fight and was a then career highest of 190lbs for the return and Johansson was 196 and 194 ¾lbs respectively.

Patterson had won the heavyweight title in November 1956 at the age of 21, the youngest fighter to win the heavyweight title until 1986 when Mike Tyson beat his record. 

Patterson’s title winning fight back in 1956 was against Archie Moore when he knocked out “The Old Mongoose” in five rounds. It is difficult to think of two more disparate roads than these two had traveled in their careers. Patterson had won the heavyweight title at 21 in his thirty-second fight. Moore won the light heavyweight title at the age of 36 in fight No 104 in the seventeenth year of his career. He had his first pro fight before Patterson was one year old. Moore put his title in storage in 1960 making no defenses but having four non-title fights. The WBA stripped Moore of the title in October just before he lost on points to Giulio Rinaldi in Italy. Moore beat Rinaldi in New York in June 1961, a fight that was officially recognized as a title fight by the NYSAC and the EBU and most of the public before Moore gave up any claim to the title in May 1962. 

Paul Pender was a somewhat underwhelming middleweight champion having beaten Sugar Ray Robinson in January and he made a successful defense against Robinson in June. Robinson had won the title in 1958 in a historic battle against Carmen Basilio that was voted “Fight of the Year”. He had only one fight in 1959 and the NBA stripped him of the world title for inactivity. The NYSAC had continued to recognize Robinson as having the majority of boxing people, and he was in his fifth reign as middleweight champion. Again there was a contrast with Pender in fight No 43 of his career and a 38-year-old Robinson losing the title in fight No 152 in his twentieth year as a pro. Pender was unfortunate to be following guys such as Basilio and Robinson and was always going to suffer by comparison.

Going into 1960 Don Jordan was welterweight champion having dodged the clutches of Frankie Carbo. Convincing wins in title defenses in 1959 against Virgil Akins and unbeaten Denny Moyer had boosted his stock but then it plummeted as he was knocked out by Luis Federico Thompson in December 1959 and then in June 1960 he was beaten on points by modest Candy McFarland who had lost three of his previous four fights. Benny “Kid” Paret took the title from Jordan with a unanimous points decision in May. The rest of the year was a switchback for Paret as he lost a split decision to Denny Moyer in a non-title match but retained the title with a win over Thompson in December. In 1961 Paret would go on to lose the title to Emile Griffith then beat Griffith in a return to close 1961 as welterweight champion but in December 1961 lost to Gene Fullmer in a challenge for the NBA middleweight title. On March 23 1962 in his third fight with Griffith Paret took a savage beating being stopped in the twelfth round and lost his title and his life. He was in a coma and never regained consciousness after the stoppage before dying on 3 April.

“Old Bones” Joe Brown held the lightweight title. The year started and ended badly for him. In non-title fights in January he did a “no mas” when body punches from Ray Portillo left him with two separated ribs and in December he was floored and outpointed by Giordano Campari. Brown showed his class when it counted as he retained the title in October with a comfortable decision over Cisco Andrade. Brown had won the title in May 1956 at the age of 30 and in fight No 108 of his career. Not being “connected” meant that it had taken him almost twenty years to get the title shot. 

Davey Moore “The Springfield Rifle” held the featherweight title. He had won the title and defended it in 1959 with inside the distance wins over Nigeria’s first ever world champion Hogan Bassey. Moore was very active in 1960 fitting in seven fights. He retained the title with a wide unanimous decision over Kazuo Takayama in Japan. Unlike today in 1960 champions regularly engaged in non-title fights and five of Moore’s six non-title fights were staged outside the USA. Moore won five of those non-title bouts but suffered his first inside the distance loss in March 1960 when big punching Venezuelan Carlos Hernandez reportedly fractured Moore’s jaw and the champion retired after seven rounds of their fight in Caracas.

The bantamweight title was held by Jose Becerra. The heavy puncher from Guadalajara entered the year on the back of a 19 bout winning streak with 16 of those wins by KO/TKO. He had won the title in July 1959 by knocking out Alphonse Halimi in eight rounds. He retained the title with a repeat win over Halimi in February when after being down in the second round and trailing on all three cards he knocked Halimi out in the ninth round. He made another defense in Japan in May when he won a split decision over Kenji Yonekura. Two judges had Becerra winning by six and four points and the Japanese judge saw Yonekura the winner by five points! Like Moore, Becerra also had some non-title fights. He won three but the fourth was a shocking kayo loss in August against unfancied Eloy Sanchez who had lost his previous three fights. Becerra was so disappointed with his loss that he retired and in November Brazilian Eder Jofre knocked out Sanchez to win recognition by the NBA taking his record to 35-0-3. Jofre went on to unify the titles winning the WBC belt and retaining the WBA title (the NBA had morphed into the WBA in 1962) and also won the WBC featherweight title on his way to eventual recognition as one of the greatest bantamweights of all time.

Going into 1960 Argentinian Pascual Perez was flyweight champion.  The little South American had won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in London in 1948 before turning pro in 1952 and when he beat Yoshio Shirai in November 1954 he became Argentina’s first world champion. As the year started he was 33 years old, had defended his title nine times and had a 54-1-1 record. His glorious reign came to an end in April 1960 when he dropped a split decision in Bangkok by Pone Kingpetch in a fight where Ring Magazine editor Nat Fleischer was a judge. Fleischer scored Kingpetch a clear winner. The size difference-Perez was 4’11” and Kingpetch 5’6 ½”- just proved too much for Perez to overcome. The Thai stopped Perez in eight rounds in a return fight in September 1960. Kingpetch eventually lost and then regained his title in fights against Fighting Harada before being recognized as the inaugural WBC flyweight champion in 1962. He lost both his WBA and WBC recognition when he was beaten by Hiroyuki Ebihara in 1963 but then regained them with a win over Ebihara in 1964 only to lose them to Salvatore Burruni in 1965.  

As I said at the beginning of 1960 the super lightweight and super featherweight titles were reintroduced by the NBA. The super lightweight/light welterweight title had died out in 1947 with Tippy Larkin the last title holder. On its resurrection in June 1959, Carlos Ortiz won NBA and NYSAC recognition with a second round cuts stoppage of Kenny Lane. In 1960 Ortiz retained the title with a tenth round kayo of 31-0 Mexican Battling Torres in February and a split decision over Italian Dulio Loi in June which was only Loi’s second defeat in 111 fights. Loi had his revenge taking the title from Ortiz on a majority decision in September 1960. These two would meet again in May 1961 with Loi flooring Ortiz and winning a wide unanimous verdict. The NBA morphed into the WBA and Loi lost the WBA title to Eddie Perkins who floored Loi twice on the way to a points win in September 1962 but Loi rebounded and regained the title in December before retiring as still champion in January 1963 with a 115-3-8 record.

The super featherweight/junior lightweight title had fallen into disuse when Sandy Sadler was champion back in 1951 and when the title was again contested in 1959 Harold Gomes climbed off the floor four times and outpointed Paul Jorgenson for the NBA belt. He lost the title to Filipino great Flash Elorde in March 1960. Elorde had lost on a cut against Sandy Saddler for the featherweight title in 1956 but in front of 36,000 wildly ecstatic fans at the inauguration of the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City Metro Manila Elorde destroyed Gomes flooring him six times before being knocking him out in the seventh round. They met again in August with Elorde putting Gomes down twice and the fight was over in 80 seconds. When the WBC came into being they recognized Elorde as their champion on 14 February 1963 and just two days later he outpointed Johnny Bizzarro in defense of the WBA and WBC titles. In an achievement that could not happen today at the same time as winning and losing in world title fights at super featherweight Elorde had three terms as OPBF lightweight champion going 17-2 in OPBF title fights. A forerunner and inspiration to budding Filipino boxers who would strive to follow in his footsteps.

With so many sanctioning bodies and so many weight divisions it would not be impossible to have had fifty fighters holding a version of a world title in any year. In 1960 in the 10 division only 17 fighters held a world title: Ingemar Johansson, Floyd Patterson, Archie Moore, Ray Robinson, Paul Pender, Don Jordan, Benny Paret, Joe Brown, Davey Moore, Jose Becerra, Eder Jofre, Pascual Perez, Pone Kingpetch, Carlos Ortiz, Dulio Loi, Harold Gomes and Flash Elorde. In 1960 four champions Archie Moore, Robinson, Loi and Brown all had more than 100 fights to their name, something we will never see again. Something we are more familiar with is that in the list of champions there were two former Olympic gold medal winners, Patterson at middleweight, Perez at flyweight. Davey Moore and Ingemar Johansson  represented the USA and Sweden respectively at the 1952 Olympics and Eder Jofre boxed for Brazil at the 1956 Olympics. Tragically within the next three years two champions Paret and Davey Moore would go on to lose their lives when defending their titles.

Of those title holders in 1960, Ingemar Johansson, Floyd Patterson, Archie Moore, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Brown, Eder Jofre, Pascual Perez, Carlos Ortiz and Flash Elorde would go on the be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 1960-A year of champions.

International Boxing Hall of Fame - Wikipedia

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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Wrestlemania 36 - Part Two

By Steve Ward

WWE returned again this evening from the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida with night number two of Wrestlemania 36 - yes, I continue to number them. For whatever reason, WWE decided a few years back to leave the number off of Wrestlemania each year as if it dated the event and made it more antiquated. I personally respond to that by saying, “Doesn’t the Super Bowl still use the number system?” If nothing else, labeling this event as it should be, Wrestlemania 36, demonstrates the longevity of the company and it’s ability to continue to cater to it’s target audience. Nonetheless, now that I’m off my soapbox, this evening should prove like last night to offer some shocking moments - particularly in the title matches. This evening’s event offered eight matches on the main card highlighted by Brock Lesnar squaring off with Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship.

NXT Women’s Championship
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Winner: Charlotte Flair

Following her victory in this year’s Royal Rumble match, Charlotte was called out by NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley and in a shocking turn of events accepted her challenge. This also marks the first time that an NXT title would be defended on the grandest stage of them all. Rhea Ripley came to bring the fight to Charlotte tonight but it wasn’t enough. Charlotte systematically dismantled the left knee of Ripley for the duration of the contest until she couldn’t withstand any more punishment. In the final moments of the match, Charlotte cinched in a figure four leglock that she was able to transition into the Figure Eight for the submission victory.

Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley w/ Lana
Winner: Aleister Black via pinfall

In a classic “we didn’t know what else to do with these competitors so we’ll book them against each other” match, Aleister Black looked to maintain his recent momentum against one of the worst utilized superstars in the company, Bobby Lashley. Lashley used his overwhelming strength to impose his will upon Black for the majority of the match, however, Lana proved to be the ultimate deciding factor. Lashley had Black on his shoulder poised to finish him when Lana ordered her “husband” to spear him. This proved to be Lashley’s fatal flaw as he was unceremoniously met with a Black Mass kick to the mouth which allowed Black to seal the victory.

Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler w/ Sonya Deville
Winner: Otis via pinfall

This match represented absolutely nothing other than revenge. After Dolph and Sonya sabotaged Otis’ Valentine’s Day date with Mandy Rose, Otis made it a point to take out his frustrations on Ziggler after the truth was recently revealed on Smackdown. Otis appeared poised to finish his quest for revenge with the Caterpillar until Sonya intervened and opened the opportunity for Ziggler to strike him between the uprights. Moments later, Mandy Rose made her way to ringside where she slapped the taste out of Sonya’s mouth and with referee Charles Robinson distracted, she slid into the ring and returned the favor to Dolph. Otis proceeded to execute the Caterpillar and solidify his victory.

Last Man Standing Match
Edge vs. Randy Orton
Winner: Edge

Following Edge’s miraculous return at the Royal Rumble after a nine year hiatus due to what was once thought to be a career ending injury, Randy Orton turned on and brutally assaulted Edge the following night on RAW. This violence only escalated a matter of weeks later as Orton again struck - this time with Edge’s wife, Beth Phoenix, as the victim. With all of the events that have transpired, it only seemed fitting that this would culminate in a Last Man Standing Match. Randy Orton wasted no time bringing the fight as he jumped Edge with an RKO Outta Nowhere and then another as soon as the bell rang. This would be the last of the action at ringside as the remainder of the bout spilled over into several backstage areas of the Performance Center. The Rated R Superstar was finally able to put The Viper down for the referee’s ten count after their backstage brawl escalated to the top of the trailer of a semi-truck. Edge delivered a spear to Orton and then utilized a pair of steel chairs to deliver a Conchairto to seal the deal.

RAW Tag Team Championship
The Street Profits vs. Austin Theory & Angel Garza w/ Zelina Vega
Winners: The Street Profits

In another questionable booking decision, The Street Profits defended their titles against the makeshift team of Austin Theory and Angel Garza. Austin Theory attempted a late pinfall on Angelo Dawkins when Montez Ford launched himself from the top turnbuckle onto Theory’s back allowing Dawkins to steal a pinfall.

Smackdown Women’s Championship Fatal Five-Way
Sasha Banks vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi vs. Bayley (c)
Winner: Bayley via pinfall

After belittling Paige recently on Smackdown Live, Bayley found herself defending the title against four other women certainly stacking the odds against her. Tamina, after imposing her will for much of the early going, was the first eliminated after the other four competitors ganged up on and dog piled on her for the pinfall. Naomi was the second eliminated after she tapped out to the Bank Statement applied by Sasha Banks. This presented another numbers game as Lacey was left to fend for herself against Bayley and her cohort Sasha Banks. Banks soon became the recipient of an inadvertent knee from Bayley leading to some infighting between the two. Lacey capitalized on this and knocked out Sasha Banks with a Woman’s Right allowing her to eliminate The Boss leaving us with our final two participants. Lacey seemingly was moments away from winning her first title after landing the moonsault, however, Sasha Banks reemerged and drilled Evans with a backstabber. Bayley then took advantage and finished off The Sassy Southern Belle to retain her title.

Firefly Funhouse Match
John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Winner: The Fiend???

Before John Cena was able to declare his absence from Wrestlemania this year, The Fiend intervened and posed a challenge which the 16-time champ aptly accepted. The match was declared a Firefly Funhouse Match - one that nobody had a clue what it would entail heading in. This ended up being a glorified montage of WWE and WCW pop culture references along with a brief history of Bray Wyatt and John Cena that concluded with The Fiend taking Cena down with the Mandible Claw as Bray Wyatt counted the pinfall.

WWE Championship
Brock Lesnar (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Drew McIntyre
Winner: Drew McIntyre via pinfall

Drew McIntyre’s long journey to the main event of Wrestlemania became a reality after he derailed Brock Lesnar’s torrid elimination streak on his way to winning this year’s Royal Rumble match. Tonight he stepped toe to toe with The Beast, this time with the top prize in sports entertainment on the line. Lesnar’s efforts to manhandle McIntyre were briefly stunted as he answered with a Claymore Kick. This motivated Lesnar as he proceeded to take Drew to Suplex City and delivered three consecutive F5s - all of which were followed by failed pinfall attempts. Brock’s fourth F5 was reversed by McIntyre who answered with three consecutive Claymore Kicks - the last of which allowed him to stun the champ as he pinned him in front of a speechless Paul Heyman.

official WrestleMania 36 poster : SquaredCircle

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Wrestlemania 36 - Part One

By Steve Ward

In a time devoid of the vast majority of professional sports, the WWE (and AEW) have continued to satiate the desire for entertainment to their loyal fan bases as they have consistently aired all of their weekly programs absent of any fans. The “Showcase of the Immortals” began this evening with part one of Wrestlemania 36 from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. This year’s event has been billed “Too Big For One Night” and hence the reason it has been divided into two evenings making it one of the most unique Wrestlemanias since Wrestlemania 2 - when some of you may recall the event emanated from The Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, The Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, IL, and The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles, CA with each venue having it’s very own main event.

One could deduce that this year’s show had been divided into two evenings because there is no NXT Takeover event being held and to limit the amount of personnel in the Performance Center but leave it to WWE and their publicity team to put a positive spin on the event. While I would not expect the superstars to put any less effort forward from a physical standpoint, the biggest question would be how they would react to the dynamic of no fans in attendance. Sure, many of the wrestlers have likely performed in a high school gymnasium in front of 15 people in the early stages of their careers, but to be someone who feeds of off crowd reaction and uses it drive their performance this could certainly be disconcerting - if not eerie.

Nonetheless, I still feel like a kid again when this weekend comes around each year and look forward to two great nights of live entertainment because I can only watch so many classic ballgames on MLB Network.

Kickoff Show

Cesaro vs. Drew Gulak
Winner: Cesaro via pinfall

Cesaro disposed of Daniel Bryan’s newfound running mate Drew Gulak as he executed a no-hands airplane spin to seal the pinfall victory.

Main Card

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) (c)
Winners: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross via pinfall

Bliss and Cross appeared to be in dire straits for the majority of this bout. Bliss was disposed of at ringside for a significant portion of the match allowing the Kabuki Warriors to have their way with her - even executing a modification of The Doomsday Device. Cross was able to stave off defeat long enough to turn the tides as late in the match she executed a spinning neck breaker on Sane as Bliss conveniently made her way back to the ring apron. Cross tagged Bliss back in as she scaled to the top turnbuckle and landed the Twisted Bliss to crown new champs.

King Corbin vs. Elias
Winner: Elias via pinfall

There was a great deal of speculation as to whether Elias would even participate in this match after Corbin had launched him off of a balcony one week ago on Friday Night Smackdown. Not only did he show up but rode the momentum of a Jeff Jarrett-esque guitar shot to Corbin’s head prior to the start of the match.

RAW Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Shayna Baszler
Winner: Becky Lynch via pinfall

Following an absolutely dominant performance where she defeated five other women to become the number one contender at last month’s Elimination Chamber pay per view, the Queen of Spades went toe to toe this evening with The Man for her title. This was an extremely physical contest with an abundance of strikes thrown by each superstar. It appeared Baszler was about the fulfill the prediction of many and win the title as she cinched in the Kirifuda Clutch, however, Becky rolled over while Shayna’s shoulders were still pinned down and miraculously stole a pinfall to retain her title.

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Daniel Bryan w/ Drew Gulak vs. Sami Zayn (c) w/ Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura
Winner: Sami Zayn via pinfall

Cesaro and Nakamura proved to be the difference in this contest. Late in the bout, the two of them laid waste to Drew Gulak which prompted Daniel Bryan to take them out with a suicide dive. With Zayn still seemingly down for the count in the ring, Bryan climbed to the top turnbuckle but as he dove at Zayn he was unceremoniously met with a version of the Helluva Kick allowing Sami to retain his title.

Triple Threat Ladder Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship
Kofi Kingston vs. Jimmy Uso vs. John Morrison
Winner: John Morrison 

Yes, you read that correctly. This bout was for the tag team championship, however, only one member of each team participated after The Miz fell ill, and obviously with the current global climate, was not able to compete. As the closing moments of the match approached, all three competitors found themselves at the top of two ladders propped below the titles hanging in the balance. All three men had their hands on the titles as they were detached and as they struggled for possession, Morrison fell down onto another ladder that was propped up by the ring ropes and one of the ladders in the ring. By dumb luck, he fell with the titles in tow solidifying a successful defense.

Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
Winner: Kevin Owens via pinfall

Following his open defiance of Seth Rollins and his collective of AOP and Buddy Murphy for several weeks, Kevin Owens finally earned his shot at redemption and his Wrestlemania Moment tonight. Rollins dominated the bout early but wasn’t able to put Owens away. Owens then caught Rollins with the Pop-Up Powerbomb but The Monday Night Messiah escaped the pinfall and rolled out of the ring. Rollins then made his way to the timekeeper’s area with Owens in tow, grabbed the ring bell, and struck KO with it leading to a disqualification. This outcome wasn’t acceptable to Owens who proceeded to call Rollins a bitch and challenged him to a no disqualification match which he readily accepted. This second match didn’t last long as Owens laid Rollins out across the announce table and ascended to the top of the Wrestlemania sign just behind it. Owens then jumped from the top of the sign and put Rollins through the table. The two then returned to the ring where Owens dropped Rollins again with the Stunner to earn the pinfall.

WWE Universal Championship
Goldberg (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Winner: Braun Strowman via pinfall

Following weeks of buildup of a title clash between Roman Reigns and Goldberg, The Big Dog was removed from the card due to health concerns stemming from his recent bout with leukemia. In stepped a formidable foe in “The Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman - a man who previously had no match scheduled on the card to much surprise. Goldberg slipped out of an early power slam attempt by Strowman and executed four spears in a row, however, when he attempted The Jackhammer, Braun reversed it with a power slam. Braun then executed two more power slams and finished things off with a running power slam to quite frankly provide the shock of the night as he pinned the Hall of Famer to earn his first ever Universal Championship.

Boneyard Match
The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles
Winner: The Undertaker

Following The Undertaker’s surprise appearance at WWE Crown Jewel in February where he cost Styles his victory in a gauntlet match, The Phenomenal One has made it a point to call out the Deadman time and time again until tonight’s match came to fruition. This match did not take place inside of the Performance Center, but rather at an undisclosed outdoor location made up to look like a graveyard. AJ Styles arrived in a hearse whereas The Undertaker tapped into his old American Badass persona from the early 2000s and rode in on a motorcycle. After Undertaker had dumped Styles into an open grave, Gallows and Anderson made their presence known as they arrived with several “druids.”

The Undertaker laid waste to all of the robed individuals and as he was gaining the upper hand on Gallows and Anderson, Styles reemerged to crack what appeared to be a piece of concrete over The Phenom’s head. Styles proceeded to verbally belittle The Undertaker for several minutes until he cracked a shovel over his back and threw him into the open grave. As AJ boarded a John Deere in order to bury him, a rejuvenated Undertaker emerged behind Styles and proceeded to lay waste to both him and his OC cohorts. Moments later, Styles also became the recipient of a vicious choke slam off the top of a shed/barn-like structure. Styles proceeded to beg for forgiveness until The Undertaker kicked him into the open grave and used the John Deere to bury him. Apparently this was a buried alive match (I say apparently because no stipulations were established beforehand) so with Styles put away, the Deadman jumped back on his motorcycle and rode off into the night to bring night number one to a close.

official WrestleMania 36 poster : SquaredCircle

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