WWE WrestleMania 32 – April 3rd 2016
AT&T Stadium: Dallas, TX.
Make no mistake about it, WrestleMania 32 was a gigantic success for the WWE. Undoubtedly the show will break every record imaginable; the early attendance seems to be around 93,000, which is funny since they announced 101,763 as the new mythological number to replace 93,173 in WWE folk-law. The gate and merchandise numbers will probably be through the roof and with the free month gimmick on the Network, it is completely conceivable that WrestleMania 32 could end up being the most watched WWE show in history.
The biggest WrestleMania of all-time turned out to be a decent show from an in-ring perspective, although not one of the matches managed to reach a level befitting of a record-breaking show. The two main issues that plagued the show, which have been eating away at the quality of RAW for years now, were the length – 6 hours and 45 minutes was just way too long – and inexplicable booking decisions. It almost seemed like Vince McMahon and his team of bumbling writers were determined to put on a show to troll the hardcore fans and carry on their usual path of ignorance while laughing in the faces of their most loyal fan-base.
Let’s just mention all the illogical booking moves on this show: Zack Ryder won the IC title out of nowhere after literally being a complete no-hoper for years. Chris Jericho pinned AJ Styles clean in Styles biggest WWE match to date. League of Nations beat the super-over New Day because they had to be set up for some legends to come out and squash. Brock Lesnar obliterated Dean Ambrose, who didn’t even look like a strong fighting babyface in losing. Undertaker & Shane McMahon went over THIRTY minutes and Shane was booked stronger, and protected more, than Dean Ambrose. Shaquille O’Neal & The Rock both competed in unadvertised matches. Then HHH had a boring 27 minute wrestling match with Roman Reigns in the main event and, of course, senile old Vince McMahon put his chosen guy over and nobody really cared. I can see why casual fans that only buy WrestleMania and hardly ever watch RAW might have thought this was a great show, what with all the legends and Shane‘s big dive. However for the people like you and I, who watch every show all-year round, this was a complete booking disaster of a show which confirmed everything we have been saying for years: Vince McMahon is completely out of touch, the company are simply incapable of making new stars and the booking is quite possibly the worst it has ever been in the WWE.
This was not even close to being the worst WrestleMania of all-time – 2, 4, 9, 11 & 27 were all still much worse than this show – but I would not argue that it very well could have been the worst booked WrestleMania of all-time.
There was apparently a power issue that caused the doors to be opened late, so Ryback and Kalisto wrestled in front of an arena that was at least 80% empty. They had a decent big man vs. small man match; Kalisto retained the US title in 9:30 with the Salida del Sol. (**¼) On the USA Network portion of the pre-show, the Total Divas (Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox & Eva Marie) beat Team BAD & Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Lana, Summer Rae & Emma) in 11:25. Match was nothing; Eva did very little and was hated. Emma & Paige looked pretty good. Lana threw a couple of wacky high kicks and took one bump. She did however look fantastic in her outfit. Brie tapped out Naomi with the Yes-lock and the Total Divas lifted Brie onto their shoulders afterwards.
Nikki Bella came out with a neck brace on and wearing her gear; she looked totally ridiculous.(DUD) Lita unveiled the new WWE Women’s Championship and said Charlotte, Sasha & Becky would fight to determine the “first ever” WWE Women’s champ; Lita herself held the WWE Women’s title, so I have no idea what she was talking about. Finally, the Usos beat the Dudley Boyz in 5:20; they rushed through all their spots and Jey pinned Devon with a Superkick. Afterwards, the Dudleys tried to put the Usos through some tables, but the Usos countered and hit a double splash on the Dudleys through the tables. (DUD).
IC Championship Ladder Match: Kevin Owens (C) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz vs. Stardust. – Zack Ryder became the new IC champ at 15:23. So this is where the weird booking began on the show. The only reason I can imagine that Ryder won the title is because he is just in a transitional role and will likely drop the thing very shortly. For big ladder match standards this was pretty tame and couldn’t touch the US title ladder match from TLC last year, although when it was all said and done it turned out to be one of the best matches on the show. Crowd were into everything, especially when Zayn & Owens were in there. The biggest spot saw Owens tip Sin Cara off a ladder over the top and through Stardust, who was lying on a ladder bridge between the apron and the barricade. Finish saw Zayn hit Owens with a great-looking Half-and-Half Suplex onto a ladder but Miz cut him off and it looked like he was going to take the belt down. Ryder came in to save the day and won the title and celebrated with his dad afterwards. It was nice to see Ryder have a moment like this after all these years, but how on earth they can justify having Zack Ryder win the IC title and disrupt the Zayn/Owens storyline is beyond me. (***¼)
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho. – Jericho over in 17:10. I would have been mad about Jericho going over, but this is Vince McMahon we are talking about here so I wasn’t even a little surprised that the outsider, who is not an outsider anymore because he works for them, lost on the biggest stage. Clearly they will be coming back with a FIFTH, and probably even a sixth, match, but this AJ/Jericho feud has gone on long enough. Hell, they rushed through the first three matches in a month then did a tag team break up angle after two weeks. If the plan was to drag this feud out for five months then why on earth didn’t they just take their time in telling the story? Maybe AJ will win the feud in the end, but WWE themselves have created the perception that what happens at WrestleMania is more important that everything else. And guess what; AJ Styles got pinned clean. Match was good; you could argue it was the best Styles/Jericho match so far, although their SmackDown match may have been a little better. (***½).
New Day vs. League of Nations w/Wade Barrett. – League of Nations over in 9:50. New Day’s big entrance was coming out of a large Booty-O’s box. Match was a boring TV match; Woods sold for the heat forever. Barrett nailed him with a shot from the outside and Sheamus pinned him with the Brogue kick. There was a big post-match angle, as the League of Nations said there was no three-man team in the world that could beat them. Shawn Michaels came out in his wrestling gear then Mick Foley showed up in Cactus Jack attire and finally Steve Austin appeared in a t-shirt and jeans. Austin got the biggest pop of the night by a mile. The legends hit the ring and brawled with the LON. Ever the pro, Austin sold for Rusev and only got the better of him when he raked Rusev’s eyes; what a guy. Sheamus ate Socko, Del Rio took Sweet Chin Music, Austin hit Rusev with the Stunner then Barrett took everybody’s finisher. New Day celebrated with the legends and made them dance. Woods tried to get Austin to join in, but Austin gave him a Stunner instead and proceeded to drink beer. Seeing the legends was cool, but the match was very poor and the regular main roster guys looked like total chumps next to the real fifty year-old stars. (*¾).
No Holds Barred Street Fight: Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman vs. Dean Ambrose. – Lesnar over in 12:50. – I’m a huge Lesnar proponent, but this was totally anti-climatic and did nothing for Ambrose. Brock hit 13 Suplexes; Dean got a little offence in with a kendo stick and a chair. He pulled out Terry Funk’s chainsaw and Foley‘s barbedwire bat, but failed to use either of them. Ambrose got a near-fall with a DDT onto a pile of chairs then Lesnar Suplexed him again and pinned him desively with an F5. Like most people, I was expecting a lot more out of this match and at least figured they would protect Ambrose in losing. But no, they just had Brock destroy him. Considering the lengths they went to in protecting Shane McMahon, the way they booked Ambrose here was utterly baffling. (**¾).
WWE Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte (Diva’s Champion) w/Ric Flair. – Charlotte unified the WWE Diva’s & WWE Women’s titles at 15:55. This was the best match on the show and easily the best women’s main roster match in years. Snoop Dogg performed Sasha’s entrance and Charlotte had a special robe like Ric’s at Mania 24. Match really picked up when Sasha hit a Frog Splash to break up a Figure Eight on Becky. Sasha did a Tope-con-Hilo and didn’t rotate until the very last second; it could have been really nasty but Charlotte did a great job in catching her. Charlotte hit a huge Moonsault off the post to the floor on both women and the fans went nuts. They did some near-falls and finish saw Charlotte tapped Becky with the Figure Eight, while Ric stopped Sasha from getting in to break up the hold. (***¾).
Hell in a Cell Match for Control of Monday Night Raw vs. Undertaker’s WrestleMania Career: Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker. – Undertaker over in 30:05. Shane came out with his three sons and hugged Linda and his wife, who were at ringside to see him try and kill himself. There was no reason in the world this had to go thirty minutes and most of the match was completely uneventful. Taker beat up Shane forever; Shane kicked out of a Last Ride and a Chokeslam on the steps, because why not. Finally Shane cut one of the panels of the Cell with some bolt-cutters, but Taker ended up slamming him through it like an idiot. Taker went for a Tombstone on a conveniently positioned platform, but Shane turned it into a Sleeper then Taker threw himself and Shane down through the announce table. Shane came back and laid Taker out on the English announce table with a TV monitor shot. Shane climbed the Cell and, after psyching himself up, dove off the top of the Cell. Taker moved and Shane smashed through the table which had clearly been gimmicked with some kind of cushioning, but still, this was just moronic. Even more ridiculous was the fact that instead of playing dead, Shane had enough fighting spirit to motion to the Undertaker to bring it. I was uncomfortable watching the 47 year-old father of three diving off the twenty foot cage, however we all pretty much figured it was going to happen so the actual dive wasn’t the major issue for me. It was the fact they gave Shane the “come on you SOB” spot after such a huge stunt that I found most ridiculous. Remember that Dean Ambrose didn’t get anywhere near the same level of protection early in the show. Taker won with a Tombstone, so after everything. HHH & Stephanie are still in charge of RAW. (*)
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. – Baron Corbin won at 9:41. So, Shaquille O’Neal was a surprise entrant, completely unannounced and unadvertised. I guess that ruins Kurt Angle’s WWE “only Olympic gold medallist in history” claim, which wasn’t even true to begin with. DDP was a surprise too, as was Tatanka of all people. Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry, the Social Outcasts, Darren Young, The Ascension, Damien Sandow, Tyler Breeze, Goludst & R-Truth were in there too. Big Show & Shaq has a stare-down before all the geeks eliminated both of them. Corbin eliminated Kane to win. Fans popped big for Corbin winning and chanted, “NXT” despite the fact that all the NXT fans hate him. (DUD).
My personal highlight of the show – and I am being deadly serious here – was the introduction of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. It was not the full 34-strong 2015/16 DCC squad, but rather the Show Group made up of the top 20 dancers on the team. Lilian Garcia did their trademark “America’s Sweetheart” intro and they came out on the stage and performed an abridged version of their signature entrance to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which they perform at every Cowboys home game. They only danced for about one minute and fifty seconds, compared to nearly four minutes the routine usually takes, and the girls ended on the iconic Kick-Line and Jump-Split. – In case you couldn’t tell, I know way too much about the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. I also went back and checked the Network and WWE have already edited out “Thunderstruck” with some hysterically bad generic knock-off.
After the DCC‘s performance, they formed a pom-pom guard for the Rock, who came out with a flame thrower and set fire to a big “ROCK” sign on the stage. Sadly, the Cheerleaders left and Rock went to the ring to announce the new record of “101,763,” which we will no doubt hear until the end of time. Things then got really bizarre, as the Wyatt Family interrupted the Rock. After some of Rock’s usual comedy, he challenged one of the Wyatts to a match and Erick Rowan stepped forward. The Rock pinned Erick Rowan with a Rock Bottom in 0:06 then the Wyatts surrounded the ring. John Cena ran down to make the save and he Rock hit their finishes on the Wyatts then celebrated together. – The live fans were into the Rock, but to me not advertising Rock in a match – even a six second match against Rowan – is a pretty dumb marketing strategy. Rock also had his gear on under his clothes, so how on earth was anyone supposed to suspend their disbelief that this was a spontaneous match that came out of the blue? Also, once again, the mainstay guys on the roster were made to look like fools by the real stars that come and go as they please.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (C) w/Stephanie McMahon vs. Roman Reigns. – Reigns became the new champion in 27:05. Stephanie did this entrance dressed as some kind of leather-clad empress and stood above the entrance way. She gave a speech about all the fans bowing down – you know, the usual nonsense.
HHH had an army of weird zombie things for some reason. Reigns was booed heavily during his entrance and throughout the match, although it was not as thunderous as I expected. So, after a 6 hour show, with a ladder match, a street fight, a Hell in a Cell with a man diving off the top of the cage, plus all the legends doing physical in-ring stuff, HHH thought it would be a good idea to have an “epic” 27 minute wrestling match with Roman Reigns. Just like at WrestleMania 25 in Houston with Randy Orton, the crowd were just not in the mood to sit through a long HHH wrestling match. They wrestled, it was boring. HHH did some armbars that looked horrible and wear almost as laughable as Shane McMahon pulling guard against the Undertaker. Fans amused themselves with chants for Nakamura, Sami Zayn and NXT amongst other things. They restored to Stephanie taking a spear to try and get Reigns over; it worked in the moment, but it certainly isn’t going to help Reigns in the long run. Reigns kicked out of the Pedigree; Huntor kicked out of the spear. Match finally ended after Steph handed HHH a sledgehammer, but Reigns hit two Superman Punches and a Spear. Some fans cheered the title change, you could still her some boos also, but the over all feeling came across as a very flat reaction to what should have been Reigns’ big coronation. But hey, Vince McMahon will simply not listen to reason. There’s nothing else to be said about Reigns: he’s not the guy and the sooner he fails as the top babyface the sooner we can all move on with our lives. Maybe he’ll turn heel on RAW tonight, but I doubt it. (**)
And that was the biggest WrestleMania of all-time, everybody. You would do yourselves a huge favour by never watching this show ever again and by checking out some episodes of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, instead.