One year after making history at WrestleMania 35 by closing the show against Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair to win two titles, Becky Lynch all but guaranteed her Raw women’s championship reign would stretch past the one-year mark as she defeated Shayna Baszler on Night 1 of WrestleMania 36.
Saturday night’s victory over a second member of MMA’s “Four Horsewomen” — “two down, two to go,” as Lynch told Jay Harris on SportsCenter Sunday morning — happened under dramatically different circumstances than her WrestleMania 35 victory. After celebrating her groundbreaking victory in 2019 with an announced crowd of more than 80,000 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, there were no fans in attendance at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando on Saturday.
Restrictions meant to curb the spread of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prevented WrestleMania 36 from taking place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, as scheduled. But for Lynch, her match against Baszler holds a similarly significant place in her heart to her victory one year ago.
“Last night was one of the most important matches to me, especially in this time, because I know that I’ve gotten to where I am because of my fans, because of the support that I’ve gotten from them,” Lynch said. “Without them being there, I wanted to make them proud. I wanted to imagine that they were there, imagine that they were cheering me on.”
The WWE pre-taped all of the matches for WrestleMania 36 in an effort to minimize risk to their performers, and it left the wrestlers in the unique position of being at home to watch the biggest show on the WWE calendar on which they were performing. While the reasons for the shift were unfortunate, the silver lining was that most of the talent were active and engaged with their fans on social media throughout the show.
“It was different, because that’s not how you generally experience WrestleMania,” Lynch said. “But you know, it was really cool because I think at this time especially, when there’s so little to do, you have something to do where everybody can congregate [online] and watch in their individual homes — [for them] to be able to message you, and [being able] to respond positively.
“It’s great, and I was able to do the same with some of my favorite matches as well — mainly the boneyard match.”
As for the match itself, Lynch was happy with the performances she and Baszler put on, especially considering the circumstances.
“You could see it — it was a hard-hitting match,” Lynch said. “You could hear it, too. We beat the hell out of each other. She is tough as hell.”
There were plenty of challenges for Lynch to face in the past few weeks leading up to WrestleMania, mostly centered around the unprecedented circumstances of shooting Monday Night Raw. But there was also the big rig truck, which was covered in images of her face and name, that Lynch drove up to the Performance Center for her arrival to WrestleMania.
“It’s a big monstrosity to drive,” she said. “I learned on the day how to drive it, and I didn’t run over anybody or any cars or anything like that — didn’t run into anybody, so I thought I was doing well, I’d say.”
It was another in a list of improbable things Lynch has been able to enjoy and appreciate over the past 12 months. Her rise within the WWE expanded well beyond its boundaries as “The Man” broke into the mainstream in a big way, and Lynch had a hard time ranking all of the opportunities her run of success has allowed her.
“The SmackDown on Fox with The Rock was pretty special. Getting to drink beer with Stone Cold Steve Austin. … There’s been a lot of moments,” Lynch said. “Getting to share the ring with my fiancée Seth Rollins. Doing commercials for SportsCenter, and having my face on a box of cereal. Being on the cover of Muscle and Fitness and ESPN The Magazine. The cover of the WWE video game. It’s just been surreal moment after surreal moment.”
The WWE machine never seems to stop, even with the rest of the sports and entertainment world largely on lockdown for the foreseeable future. There’s no telling what comes next for Lynch and the Raw women’s division, save for a potential no clear path forward in the women’s division on Monday Night Raw, save for Baszler potentially being out for revenge.
For her part, Lynch’s list of dream opponents continues to grow.
“Beth Phoenix — I’d love to wrestle Beth. [There are plenty of women] I would like to wrestle more — Asuka, Nattie, Bayley, Sasha,” she said “And then we don’t know who we’re going to see from NXT coming to Raw. So that will be interesting, too.”
With her match already in the books, Lynch is looking forward to watching Night 2 of WrestleMania 36 as a fan — and one particular match she’s looking forward to most.
“Edge vs. Randy Orton, Last Man Standing,” Lynch said. “It’s just, what a story for Edge to come back, having been told he’s never going to wrestle again, and after nine years… watching his entrance at the Royal Rumble still gives me goosebumps, gets tears in my eyes. I know how much this means to him.”