4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

WrestleMania 36 for beginners, because what else is on - Part 1

Royal Rumble in January is the beginning of the road to WrestleMania. Photo By Paul Muth

You are witnessing the definition of a "captive audience."

The sports world has been eighty-six-ed for the foreseeable future, and if you want to keep watching what has become 8 separate ESPN Classic channels, don't let me get in the way.

There is one athletic event, however, that has endured against all odds. That is the sport of professional wrestling.

Due to COVID-19-related bans on large gatherings, The WWE has been forced to perform "The Showcase of the Immortals" behind closed doors, and without a live audience. The show, however, will still go on.

So if you've run out of Tiger Kings and NBA Playoff reruns to watch, allow me to suggest the aforementioned: WRESTLEMANIA 36

Look, if you're not a wrestling fan I know what you're thinking. But I don't care, because we could all use a little escapism at this point. So just quit being a Negative Nancy, grab a beer with a socially distant bro (or bro-dette), and watch the absurdity unfold for a few hours this weekend.

The following is a guide intended for anyone tuning into WrestleMania this weekend, since it's basically the only sport(ish) event that's been on for some time.

Vitals

WHAT: WrestleMania 36

WHEN: Saturday at 6 pm, central; Sunday at 6 pm

HOW TO WATCH: Pay-Per-View or WWE Network. If you're a new subscriber, it's free for a week or something. No excuses.

Matches (with appropriate GIF representation)

WWE Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (Champ)

vs Drew McIntyre

The skinny

Drew McIntyre's got a Scottish thing going on, he's like 6'5", and his signature move is a flying front kick to the face. He won the Royal Rumble back in January, which gave him the right to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. Lesnar is a big dude that WWE has spent the past year building up as basically unstoppable. These guys are both brick houses so it should be a pretty awesome match

Who should I root for?

McIntyre, for sure. It's a good redemption story if anything, since he was fired from WWE and basically out on the street some years back. Now he's headlining WrestleMania, and that's cool. Plus he's funny.

Prediction

McIntyre wins because Lesnar maintaining would be a pretty boring storyline.

WWE Universal Championship Match: Goldberg (Champ)

vs....someone?

The skinny

Goldberg won the belt in a boring match out in Saudi Arabia right before WrestleMania for some reason. The old guy was supposed to take on Roman Reigns, but Reigns is an immunocompromised Leukemia survivor and it made absolutely no sense for him to take any chances right now. SO! We have no idea who Goldberg is fighting.

Who should I root for?

The other guy. Goldberg's old.

Prediction

The other guy, why not.

WWE Raw Women's Championship: Becky Lynch (Champ)

vs Shayna Baszler

The skinny

Becky Lynch is basically the face of WWE at the moment. Shayna Baszler is a former UFC fighter that recently got the call up from NXT, which is basically WWE's minor league farm system (don't @ me wrestling bro, this is for casual fans). Baszler cut through the competition in an Elimination Chamber match to earn the right to challenge Lynch and they've been ambushing each other in the weeks since. Should be a good match.

Who should I root for?

Eh, depends. Baszler is supposed to be the bad guy, but she's the better performer. Lynch has all the swagger though. I think Baszler winning would open up more storylines later on, so that's my call.

Prediction

Lynch catches a beatdown but defends successfully

WWE Smackdown Women's Championship Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match: Bayley (Champ)

vs Lacey Evans

vs Naomi

vs Sasha Banks

vs Tamina

The skinny

Bayley has been the champ for some time now. This time last year Bayley was one half of the women's tag team championship with the whole "heart of gold, girl next door" angle. Since then she's turned heel and adopted the "I'd like to speak to your manager" hairstyle. Basically everyone in this match is a B-lister or an up and comer, with the exception of the other half of that previously mentioned tag team -- Sasha Banks. Banks was a surprise add, forcing the two buddies to throw down.

Who should I root for?

Naomi. She's a lot of fun, and her shoes light up.

Prediction

It's obviously going to come down to Bayley vs Banks at the end. I say let's give the belt to Sasha for awhile.

NXT Women's Championship: Rhea Ripley (Champ)

vs Charlotte Flair

The skinny

Rhea Ripley was the NXT champ successor once Shayna Baszler got the call up. Charlotte Flair won the Women's Royal Rumble, which gave her the right to challenge for any belt. For some reason, they thought a good storyline would be for Flair to punch down and have Ripley antagonize her into challenging for the Women's NXT title. Weird premise, but whatever. They're both big and strong, so it should be a great match.

Who to root for

Ripley is the up and comer from NXT, and she's got a cool Australian accent. Flair is already a WWE hall of famer. I'd root for Flair, I guess.

Prediction

This one's tough. I'll say Ripley wins because it would be weird for Flair to reign as what is basically WWE's minor league (again, don't @ me).

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Sami Zayn (champ)

vs Daniel Bryan

The skinny

Sami Zayn hasn't had the belt for too long at all. Daniel Bryan got his shot after his buddy beat up Zayn's buddy. There hasn't really been a lot of build up to this match, but they're both good wrestlers so it should be a decent match.

Who should I root for?

Zayn's the heel, but he's great at it. I vote Zayn.

Prediction

Zayn is going to have like three dudes roaming the ringside. I see a lot of cheap shots and Zayn keeping the title.

Singles Match: Otis

vs Dolph Ziggler

The skinny

There's no gold on the line here. Country bumpkin and fan favorite Otis believes that Dolph Ziggler ruined his shot at love with Mandy Rose and now they're throwing down in a grudge match. It's the kind of high quality storytelling we've all come to respect from WWE.

Who to root for

Otis, duh. Look at the guy. He's like 300 pounds and he can do the worm.

Prediction

Otis flattens Ziggler and everyone feels good.

Boneyard Match: Undertaker

vs AJ Styles

The Skinny

AJ Styles was in the midst of rigging a match with his cronies at Super Showdown, but since the match was in Saudi Arabia The Undertaker was all but guaranteed to make an appearance (they love that old dude over there). Undertaker arrived, took more time to walk to the ring than he did in the actual ring, chokeslammed Styles and won the match. Now Styles wants revenge. It seems like a hastily scrapped together justification to get Undertaker on the card, but whatever. Also, there's been no information on what exactly a "boneyard match" is. Sounds like something they'll be doing to spice up the card since they aren't bound to a fixed setting this year.

Who should I root for?

Undertaker. He may be 400 years old, but I'm pretty sure AJ Styles gets a hair blowout before every show. Plus Styles wears football receiver gloves. I'm not a glove guy. Can't root for glove guys.

Prediction

Undertaker doesn't lose at WrestleMania. Undertaker wins.

This was just the first half of the matches slated. Part II can be found here.

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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