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.


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.


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

WWE Universal Championship Match: Goldberg (Champ)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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