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Wrestlemania 32 Review
Wrestlemania - the biggest show in all WWE. And because WWE is the top dog in North America, that makes it the biggest show in wrestling. Expectations are understandably high. When the stars align and the company puts their best foot forward, Wrestlemania can be amazing - 17, 19 and even last year's 31 have all been excellent. Sadly, the 'E sometimes makes the mistake of pandering to non-wrestling fans, letting hubris get in the way and/or overloading the show with gimmicks - 9, 27 and 15 all have those mistakes stamped on them. So where does Wrestlemania 32 fall? Let's dive right in.
Zack Ryder vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust vs. The Miz - Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title
Wrestlemania began with Money in the Ba... I mean a seven man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title. When I wrote my article for Mania 31, I regret underselling the ladder match from that event. Re-watching it, that was a wild match that had some exciting action. This match was no different. It was a spot fest for sure, but spot fests are usually fun (and at the very least, never boring). Some of the best spots included a dive BETWEEN the ladder from Zayn, Owens splashed Zayn while he was prone on the ladder, Sin Cara pulled a similar splash on Stardust, only the ladder was between the barrier and the ring. Zayn half-nelson suplexed Owens onto a ladder. This looked pretty sick and Owens landed in a way that had me worried he was legit injured.
So with a mix of main event quality performers and guys who usually wrestle on The Main Event, who won? Smart money was on either Zayn or Owens since they were feuding (especially after the Match of the Year candidate Zayn had at NXT Takeover: Dallas). Ziggler seems to be going in a different direction. The winner was... Zack Ryder. There have been theories on why he won. Some say he won it after Neville was injured. Other reports indicate Owens was supposed to win. Regardless of why it happened, Ryder winning was a shocker - but in a good way. Ever since being the pawn sacrifice in that misguided Kane/Cena feud from four years ago, Ryder has been in a rut. As recently as a few months ago, the man was jobbing on Superstars. So his win tonight was the kind of surprise and underdog happy ending that this show was in dire need of.
And of course, this special moment was wrecked by Ryder losing the title the very next night on Raw. Life is unfair sometimes.
AJ Styles vs. Jericho
I would make a crack about how this seems to be another part in Styles and Jericho's series of infinity matches, but some guys are talented enough and have enough in-ring chemistry to pull off having several good matches: Rollins and Cena, Punk and Hardy, Vader and Sting. So, these guys had another great match. Both matches may need to be watched back to back to determine if this is superior or a step down from their Fastlane match, but this was another outstanding showing. Both men hit their finishers and submissions - Codebreaker, Walls of Jericho, Styles Clash, Calf Crusher - and they both escaped/kicked out of these moves. Both men sold the respective submission moves like serious threats that could have put each other away. The conclusion came when Jericho reversed a springboard move into a Codebreaker - not the first time we've seen this, but it was cool.
I had mixed feelings about Jericho winning. Despite him being an all-time favorite and respected veteran, it seemed an odd choice. Hindsight has already justified the decision with Styles winning a number one contendership match (and meaning Payback has a better main event then Wrestlemania). WWE does have a way of making people lose on the way to the top. It makes sense, if someone is about to have some big wins, why not give someone else the rub?
The New Day vs. The League of Nations
There is not a whole lot to say about this match. It was a good match, but an unremarkable one. The only grievance with the match was that despite being advertised as part of the match, the underused and underrated Barrett was only an outside intruder. His promo after the match reminded us that he is the best talker in the Leauge of Nations. The League's win seemed to set up a brawl between them against Austin, Michaels and Foley. It did not accomplish much, but it was fun. Kudos to Rusev for selling the Stunner like a champion - even doing a backflip like the Rock.
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose - Street Fight
Now this was one of the matches I was looking forward to. Ambrose and Lesnar are two of the most exciting guys on the roster. They have been depicted as fighters who can tear smeg up. Just Lesnar vs. Ambrose would have ensured a great match, but the stipulation of a no-DQ match made certain this would be a brawl. This match was... good but not everything I expected. For their part, Ambrose and Lesnar did a superb job. These two had some insane spots - a German Suplex onto chairs (which looked to hurt Lesnar more than Ambrose). Ambrose did a tribute to Terry Funk and piled dozens of chairs into the ring. There were DDTs and F5s onto chairs, and Ambrose teased using a chainsaw for whatever reason. (Between him and Balor, there was a chainsaw fixation this weekend.)
As good as this was, it felt too short. Lesnar won which was a double-edged sword. Once again, Ambrose felt like the right man. The most over guy in the company has been losing too many big matches lately. He was the runner up at the Rumble, Reigns personally pinned him at Fastlane, and he lost to HHH at Fastlane. This was almost a lose-lose situation as Lesnar has been losing some big matches lately too. The argument could be made that by being a full-timer, Ambrose will have more opportunities to pick up the win, but he has been in dire need of a major victory.
After this match was the Hall of Fame ceremony. I would like to take a moment to retract something else I said last year. I previously called the Hall of Fame ceremony filler, and I take that back. My boy Chris Jericho brought up several good points on his podcast. This is a time to celebrate performers of yesteryear. Even if they aren't legends like Hogan or Austin, these are people who sacrificed time with their family and in many cases sacrificed their bodies - possibly even their lives for the business. Jericho even defended celebrities like Schwarzenegger being in the Hall by pointing out they added legitimacy to the business and inspired wrestlers to be characters (even though they are more for publicity grabs). So yeah, show the Hall of Fame a little respect.
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks - Women's Championship
That's right, people. It's the women's championship, not the diva's championship. It doesn't look like a Bratz accessory anymore. Okay, it looks like they painted the WWE Championship red, but you take your victories where you can! Speaking of victories, this match was a triumph. Sasha, Becky and Charlotte are three of the best in the business. Their combined forces made for a tremendous women's match. First of all, there was a never a dull moment. This match was non-stop from bell to bell. Charlotte hit an outside moonsault. Becky pulled a suicide dive on Ric Flair. All three women pulled submission moves that created suspense that either woman could win - plus it added a little drama with all three women selling bad injuries from these moves.
And then the ending happened. Charlotte won the match which doesn't sound like such a terrible thing on face value. She is a talented worker and is an acceptable candidate for the (relatively) new re-branded women's championship. But there was all this buildup with Flair cheating for Charlotte. She was becoming such an obnoxious heel (but in a mostly good way) and there was so much hype for the new(ish) Women's Championship. Sasha or Becky winning the championship (my money was on The Boss) would have created that magical Wrestlemania moment. I get the idea of pushing Charlotte as a dominant "monster", but Bruce the Shark didn't need to kill Chief Brody to prove its dominance, capiche? Even with the somber ending, this was still a stellar match. This was quite possibly the match of the night. And that is saying something.
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker - Hell in a Cell
Speaking of match of the night contenders... We all probably knew this match was going to be insane. Shane McMahon has never shied away from ludicrous stunts whether it be diving off the stage at Summerslam 2000 or his gruesome match against Kurt Angle at King of the Ring 2001 (still my favorite McMahon match). Being a pay per view event has diluted the match a bit, but showings between Ambrose and Rollins and last years Lesnar/Taker match showed how insane these battles can still be. Plus, being on a separate event gave the hint that this would be a big deal. Those of us wishing for a spot fest got their wishes. For years, it would seam like everything's been done in these matches and the booking team might be too cautious to do anything crazy. But there were some insane bumps - bumps that if we same them ALONE would have made this match memorable. We saw Taker spear Shane through the cell wall. Taker countered a sleeper by falling on Shane through the announce table (a la Bam Bam Bigelow to Taz in ECW). The Coup De Grace was when Shane DOVE OFF THE TOP OF THE CELL and crashed into the table.
The only thing that stunk about this match was its ending. Already, I've grouced about matches where the wrong guy went over, but the stipulation made this a lose-lose situation. Undertaker won, which may have been for the best. The problem is that accomplished nothing. Every match since the streak ended has had that feeling. But realistically, if Shane won, we'd be going on about The Undertaker losing his last match (or at leas A retirement match) to a non-wrestler. So the Undertaker winning may have just been the lesser of two evils. All of that may be moot - years from now, people will probably remember this more for the insane bumps rather than the esoteric stipulations, as this was another match of the night contender.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale
This was one of the weaker matches purely by definition. Most of the entrants were mooks who spend most of the time jobbing on Superstars. To be fair, a lot of that may be the overabundance of injuries. For whatever reason DDP and Tatanka were in the match. Seeing DDP was at least fun. Shaq was in the match for no reason. He wrestled with the Big Show in a spot that felt kind of fun for a celebrity involvement, but he was eliminated so quickly that his involvement felt pointless. Baron Corbin won the match, which might be the only good thing about this match. It was not exactly hard to predict. Seeing an actual winner among a gaggle of jobbers was akin to seeing Matt Smith in Terminator Genesys - the only recognizable face in a sea of nobodies makes it clear what's gonna happen.
After this was a Rock promo. This was when the show started growing a little long in the tooth. After a show that was already getting long, someone just talking was not the antidote. But if anyone is going to just cut a promo, it might as well be the Rock. He is about one of the only guys who could just talk for a few minutes and actually engage the crowd. The Rock ended up battling it out with the Wyatt Family (minus the injured Luke Harper). I can't really gripe about Bray getting schooled by The Rock. Being surprised/upset about someone being schooled by the Rock is akin to being that Bill doesn't make it through Kill Bill. NOBODY and I mean nobody outfoxes the Rock on the mic. Still, maybe the Wyatts weren't the best for this role. Like Dean, Bray has been losing too many big matches recently so this may not have been the best time to have him be in a promo like this.
The Rock also had an impromptu match against Erik Rowan. Rowan fought valiantly against the Rock and upset the Great One with... Yeah, I really tried typing that with a straight face. The Rock beat Rowan in 6 seconds with a Rock Bottom. Of course the record books make this hard to argue with. Oh, and John Cena came back (not regularly yet). This segment was hit and miss. The Rock is usually exciting and he delivered. Maybe it was just ill-timed. Wrestlemania was feeling long at this point and it felt like the show just needed to get to the main event by this point. Parts of it were fun, and we did see the Rock use a flamethrower.
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns - WWE Championship
And here it is, the main event. Here you have a semi-retired part owner of the company against the least over babyface in a long time. I like Reigns enough to stick my neck out for him, but I will concede he could be handled better. Plus, there were so many matches that could have made better main events. For crying out, the main event of the supershow Roadblock had a more exciting main event with Dean Ambrose vs. Triple H (which was a much better match, but I'm getting ahead of myself). However, there were reasons to be excited. First of all, one of the reasons I stand by Reigns is the guy can work. He even gave Big Show his best match in a while at last year's Extreme Rules. The aforementioned main event at Roadblock was a clinic that proved Hunter can still get it done in the ring. Giving credit where it's due, the booking teamed learned one lesson from last year and actually had some intensity in this year's build.
Before the match began, Triple H had his entrance. Everyone and their brother probably knew Hunter would have something ostentatious. This year's model began with Stephanie cutting a promo that sounded like a spoof of pro wrestling promos bedecked with hundreds of cloaked... demons. (I later discovered those demons were NXT performers including legit stars like Finn Balor and Hideo Itami. I must reiterate. Life. Is. Unfair.) Reigns had outside fireworks like a mere peasant.
The match itself? Reigns vs. Triple H was... serviceable. Triple H probably felt some pressure to create something as good as what he did with Ambrose at Roadblock, but that was not gonna happen. For starters, this match was too long for these two. Both men may be talented, but together Reigns and Triple H do not have deep enough bags of tricks to carry out a non-gimmick match that long. So the match felt a little slow at times. Reigns vs. HHH ranks up there with HHH vs. Jericho in terms of Mania main events that were nothing special. Giving credit where it's due, this was still better than something like that by virtue of a few memorable spots - Reigns spearing Hunter through the barricade, Reigns spearing Stephanie, a wicked neckbraker from HHH. Agree with them or not, the crowd booing Reigns at least demonstrated SOME investment in this match (reports say that the crowd mic was lowered so the boos would stand out less). Then again, the crowd showed their utter contempt for this match that they started chanting "Ole." Naturally Reigns won. Reigns's victory was such a foregone conclusion that it was far from the Wrestlemania moment the company was hoping for.
So that was Wrestlemania. Was it good? Was it bad? The good new is that almost every match was good. Even the weak links like the Battle Royal were at least watchable while matches like the women's triple threat and Shane vs. Undertaker were excellent. The bad news is... the bad booking decisions. The shear number of the wrong people going over, good matches that felt cut short to make time for matches that should have been shorter, and matches that were lose-lose situations cast a pal over what could have been a truly outstanding event. Wrestlemania 32 was worthwhile, but watch it on one's own time, preferably only watching the good parts.
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