4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

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

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 Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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