Match RecapsMatch Recaps 2020

[Match Recap] The Undertaker vs. AJ Styles – WWE WrestleMania 36

EVENT: WWE WrestleMania 36: Night 1
AIRDATE: April 4, 2020
VENUE: A BONEYARD

Vince McMahon’s proclamation that WWE “makes movies” from Beyond The Mat is proven true as The Undertaker takes on AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match in the main event of WrestleMania 36: Night 1.

*****

THE BACKGROUND

Undertaker and Styles first crossed paths at Super Showdown back in February where the dead man made a surprise appearance and defeated The Phenomenal One to win/steal the Tuwaiq Trophy. Styles was understandably mad about this and started talking trash and calling out Taker, which led to another beatdown, this time of Styles and his Club (Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson) at Elimination Chamber. Styles decided to make things more personal, trash talking Taker’s legacy and throwing shade at his wife Michelle McCool for “forcing” him to compete long past the point of relevance/mystique and challenged him to a special BONEYARD MATCH for WrestleMania 36. With this year’s event having been moved to a closed set due to Covid-19 (or “current circumstances” in WWE-speak), this led WWE to taking a…unique approach to the presentation of this contest.

BONEYARD MATCH
The Undertaker vs. “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles

Opening shots establish that we are in a real-life graveyard-sorry BONEYARD. A hearse rolls in as The Undertaker’s theme song plays. Two mysterious druids, perhaps the villains from the Hell House LLC trilogy, open the back and roll a coffin out. The lid opens and it’s…”The Phenomenal” AJ Styles, decked out in street fighting gear. His theme replaces The Undertakers’ as Styles is all smiles. Styles yells that he’s ready, and hears a motorcycle off to the distance. Cut to The Undertaker riding into the boneyard complete with a Metallica theme and various cinematic cuts. THE AMERICAN BADASS IS BACK BAYBEE.

Styles shows off the grave he’s dug for The Undertaker, Taker tells Styles he’s dug his own grave. Styles tries to attack Taker with a rock, Taker lays into him with right hands (COMPLETE WITH MOVIE SOUND EFFECTS). Styles runs off as Taker asks “Allen” where he’s going. Taker rams Styles into the casket lid and grabs a piece of pipe. Styles dodges a back fist and Taker’s hand goes through the hearse door, cutting his arm open. Styles tries to fight back, Taker drives a knee into the midsection and tosses Styles into the hearse windshield, smashing it. Styles and Taker climb to the top of the hearse, Styles connects with a right but gets dropped and Taker tells him not to ever talk about his family again as he peppers him with rights. Styles slides off the hearse, Taker hops off and tells him he’s got “a lot of more”. Styles briefly blinds with Taker with a handful of dirt and drops him with a full-force kick to the junk. Styles says he’s going to put Taker’s ass in the grave (BITCH) and starts dragging him over towards the plot. Styles connects with a series of rights but Taker maintains a vertical base and drops Styles with a right hook of his own. Taker sends Styles crashing into the plot.

Suddenly Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson show up and tell Taker they’re just getting started. Music hits, the barn behind The Club illuminates (!!!), and out come a host of faceless druids who surround Undertaker. Taker says “let’s do this” and dramatic music hits as he beats the heck out of these druids. Gallows and Anderson join in and overrun Taker (the druids completely disappearing). Gallows tries to hit Taker with a shovel, Taker fights The Club off with ease as he always does. Taker grabs the shovel handle and drops both Gallows and Anderson. Before he can land the killing blow, Styles shows up from behind and BREAKS A TOMBSTONE OVER THE UNDERTAKER’S BACK. Styles breaks his finger clobbering Taker and tells the “old man” to stay down…then begs him to get up. Okay. Taker gets to his feet, Styles sends the both of them crashing through the barn door.

Styles tells Taker he just doesn’t have it anymore and gets to his feet first. Styles calls Taker a broken shell of what he used to be, Taker sits up and flips him off, wheezing in pain. Somber music plays as Styles continues trash talking a crawling Taker, calling him a broken down old bitch. Styles grabs a shovel and tells Taker he’s doing the world a favor by burying him right here and right now. Styles breaks the shovel over Taker’s back and he collapses into the plot. Styles climbs the tractor, pre-filled with dirt/concrete, and starts it. Suddenly a BRIGHT LIGHT shines and THE UNDERTAKER EMERGES BEHIND HIM. Perfect meme material. Taker clobbers Styles and sends him retreating to the barn, climbing a ladder to the rusty tin roof. Taker climbs up after Styles and CAUSES FIRE TO EXPLODE BEHIND THE PHENOMENAL ONE BECAUSE ZOMBIE MAGIC. Gallows and Anderson run interference once more; Taker throws Gallows TO HIS GODDAMN DEATH off to the roof and drives Anderson’s skull into the tin with a Tombstone.

Dramatic music continues to swell, Styles freaks and says he had him dead and buried; Taker no-sells the right hands and goozles him. Styles pleads for mercy, Taker throws Styles OFF THE ROOF AND THROUGH A WOODEN SURFACE BELOW. Taker trash talks the near-lifeless body of Styles, asking him what his wife’s name is and how old he is. Taker says they’re just getting started and helps Styles to his feet, then picks him up and carries him to the plot. Taker drops Styles back to the ground, Styles feebly apologizes and begs not to be buried. Taker helps him back to his feet, Styles continues to apologize and beg. Taker tells Styles he gave him a helluva fight and hugs him for fighting his ass off. Taker tells Styles he’s good, turns, then KICKS STYLES INTO THE PLOT. Taker starts the tractor and drops the dirt/concrete over the lifeless body of Styles, effectively winning I guess?

The bells toll as Taker reveals the gravestone: “AJ Styles Rest in Peace 1977-2020”. Camera pans down to Styles’ hand sticking out from under the dirt, Taker puts his bandana back on and gets on his motorcycle. He stops in front of the barn, raises his fist in triumph and the Metallica song kicks back up, fire exploding from the top of the barn. Undertaker drives off, the victor, as we fade out.

The Undertaker defeated AJ Styles (TIME NOT RECORDED)

*****

FINAL THOUGHTS: I have given WWE a lot of flack for still running WrestleMania despite the “current circumstances” and was not going to even give it a watch but once I heard about what they did with this Boneyard Match I knew at least had to check this out. And I was very much not disappointed. In fact I f*cking loved nearly everything about this. Shooting it on location, presenting it as a mini-movie instead of a wrestling match with no commentary and MUSIC CUES, it was the out of the box thinking I was begging WWE to have when it came to this show. An Undertaker/AJ match would not have worked in an empty arena setting, presented as a regular wrestling match, and they made the right decision here. A lot of people rightfully pointed out that this was reminiscent of the Broken Matt Hardy stuff from Impact and the way Lucha Underground presented their backstage vignettes, but I felt this was unique enough to not feel like a rip-off (plus no one said dumb sh*t like “the Yard of Bones, WUNDAFUUUUUL” or anything). This honestly might be my new favorite Undertaker “match”, and I almost hope this is how Undertaker matches/segments go from here on out. What a tremendous surprise. I highly recommend this one; yes it has some campy elements and it’s a definite shock to the system if you’re used to regular pro wrestling but it’s still just so goddamn cool. Well-played, WWE. (****)

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