Putting on their biggest event of the year during a pandemic allowed (or maybe forced) WWE to try some things at WrestleMania 36 they wouldn’t or couldn’t have in any other year. The two most obvious examples were Saturday’s Boneyard match between Undertaker & AJ Styles, and Sunday’s Firefly Fun House “match” featuring John Cena & Bray Wyatt.
We’ve learned a few things about the latter, like Dave Meltzer saying on Wrestling Observer Radio that it was produced by Wyatt and SmackDown Executive Director Bruce Prichard, with input from Cena.
Probably because it aired first and there’s been more time for insiders to talk about it, we’ve heard a lot more about the Boneyard match. Meltzer says Michael Hayes was in charge of that production, with Triple H and Jeremy Borash (who also worked on most of Matt Hardy’s Broken/Woken “cinematic wrestling” projects for Impact and WWE) involved.
WhatCulture has a report with even more tidbits about Taker vs. Styles:
- Filming took place in Florida, but not “anywhere near the Performance Center” in Orlando.
- WWE contracted an outside production company to build a graveyard set for a promo, but Haitch and Hayes were so impressed by the work they hired them to build out everything we saw during the match.
- The set took five days to build.
- It was an eight hour shoot, done from 9 p.m. Eastern on Weds., Mar. 25 until 5 a.m. Eastern on Thurs., Mar. 26.
- Clean-up after filming took an entire week.
- The company “deliberately” hired contractors from the Orange County area where the PC is. WhatCulture reports many of the workers believe it’s the only work they may be getting for a while due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it’s “no exaggeration to state that WWE paid their rent for April”.
- WWE originally want to film Taker driving through an embankment and across an abandoned bridge for his entrance, but had to scrap plans as it was city property and they didn’t have the necessary permits.
- The extras playing druids (WhatCulture isn’t clear, but it almost sounds like they were the same guys doing set construction) were coached up by AJ, Taker, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows. The wrestlers never got impatient, and took as much time as the extras wanted or needed to do what asked of them (get beat up by the Badass).
- As a long-time Biker Taker mark, this is my favorite one... all the dialogue was improvised. Which just goes to show you that Mean Mark is one of the all-time great $#!+-talkers.*
- Undertaker was not supposed to cut his arm when he smashed the hearse window. Even the glass breaking only happened because he wanted to try re-shooting that moment from a different angle. The producers debated editing it out, but ended up running with and liking what it added.
- Hunter & Hayes found a fake hand prop on the set and wanted to use it, but didn’t have an idea for it. Taker is the one who suggested using it after he buried AJ, as a callback to his Buried Alive match with Mankind at 1996’s In Your House 11.
Pretty cool, no?
Alright, now that I typed that all up, I need to go back and watch the Boneyard match again.
* Seriously, give me a middle-aged biker who explains to you why he’s kicking your ass over an immortal mortician/MMA fighter whose eyes roll back in his head every day of the week and twice on Sunday.