Wrestlemania 32 happened on Sunday, April 3rd. I got together with some friends at a local bar and enjoyed the experience, spectacle and showmanship that is Wrestlemania. I went in excited for what should be the season finale of WWE but ultimately left scratching my head in confusion and disappointment story-wise.
The build up to last year’s Wrestlemania 31 was lackluster but that show ended up being pretty great. This year’s buildup wasn’t perfect, although WWE set up many opportunities and high-stakes scenarios that could have made Wrestlemania 32 a legendary show. WWE totally failed on that front. Fans were hoping for a repeat of last year where a good Wrestlemania could salvage the weak build up. This wasn’t my favorite Wrestlemania of all time by any means, but there are plenty of GIFs and YouTube clips I’ll gladly watch again.
The show opened with Fifth Harmony singing America the Beautiful. This is the part where I show how cool and out of touch I am by asking, who?
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Stardust vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Sin Cara vs. Zack Ryder - 7 Man Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
To continue the comparisons to last year’s Wrestlemania, another multi-man spotfest kicked off the wrestling festivities. Also similar to last year, this match was a high-energy car crash. Everybody had a chance to shine in the match with some sort of spot. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn got to showcase their blood feud between each other by bringing the brutality. Sin Cara got to highlight his high flying and took the obligatory crazy bump:
Zack Ryder picks up the surprise win and gets his feel good moment. Not the guy I wanted to win, but I’ll take it. Zayn and Owens don’t really need the belt for their feud. 4/5
AJ Styles. vs. Chris Jericho
Two great workers, one on one on the grandest stage of them all. What could go wrong? These two have had several good matches leading up to this and Jericho has been a great heel. AJ is the new, popular guy in town and crowds love him. So of course, he lost. This match wasn’t bad by any means but nothing really stuck out to me that took it to the next level. I was hoping they would call upon and reference things from their previous matches more, and Jericho winning just left a sour taste in my mouth. Fandango beat Jericho at Wrestlemania, why couldn’t AJ? I’m torn since I’m ready for their feud to be over but I think they still have a phenomenal (see what I did there?) match waiting to happen between them. AJ Styles wrestling at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom and at Wrestlemania in the same year is a sign of the times, but that’s a whole other article. 3/5
The New Day (c) vs. League of Nations
Battle for Tag Team Supremacy
For whatever reason the New Day’s tag belts weren’t on the line tonight. The New Day’s rise from last year’s ‘Mania to this year’s has been huge so I was looking forward to them as one of the highlights of the show. They delivered right away with their entrance:
They spilled out of a box of their signature Booty-O’s cereal and came out wearing Dragonball Z Saiyan armor. Some of the people in the bar looked completely confused, but if you’re a Lil B/wrestling/anime fan then the New Day are the gimmick for you. The Wrestlemania crowd was completely behind them and they were one of the most over acts on the card, dancing and singing along to their performance.
League of Nations came out and the match got going. Typical WWE multi-man tag stuff here, nothing to write home about. The League of Nations pick up the win in another baffling booking decision. Another fan favorite loses. Wade Barrett gets on a microphone and berates everybody until Shawn Michael’s music hits to a big pop. HBK came out, followed by Mick Foley, finally followed by Stone Cold Steve Austin, who gets one of the biggest reactions on the show.
The three legends come out and beat up the bad guys. HBK throws a superkick, Foley busts out Mr. Socko and Austin throws out a stunner. The heels won the match, but the legends got the revenge for The New Day’s loss. The New Day gets back in the ring for a dance session with the legends until Stone Cold does his thing and ends the segment with one of his signature beer bashes.
They had to get these three on the show somehow and I guess this was the best way to do it. People will remember Austin, Foley and Michaels helping The New Day more than they will remember The New Day losing the match. For the match alone I would go 2/5, but with all of the pre and post-match shenanigans I’ll go with 4/5.
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose
No Holds Barred Street Fight
I had such high hopes for this. After Jericho/Styles I was hoping this match would be the other option that could steal the show. I was so wrong. They had one of the better builds and stories for their match too. Brock is an unstoppable monster, Dean is the tough underdog looking to cement himself in the upper echelon of WWE. Mick Foley and Terry Funk passed the proverbial torch to Dean in segments on Raw with a barbed-wire baseball bat and a chainsaw, respectively. Either outcome could have been fine. Dean wins in an epic David vs. Goliath fight by finally slaying the undefeated Lesnar. Or, Lesnar wins after throwing everything possible at Dean in a hellacious battle. Ambrose lost after about 12 minutes and a single F-5. A flat finish after a disappointing match. They had all of the bells and whistles and smoke and mirrors that could have elevated Dean even in loss, but this felt closer to one of Brock’s house show matches than a Wrestlemania battle. Ambrose could have kicked out of his finisher or came out looking much stronger than he did. Ambrose would get the upper hand with a weapon like a chair or kendo stick, only for Brock to counter with a suplex. WWE did a better job of making CM Punk look like he had a chance against Brock nearly 3 years ago. I really wanted to like this match but just couldn’t find anything to connect with. 2/5
It’s about at this point I’m starting to wonder if they’re intentionally having all of the fan favorites lose in order for Roman Reigns’ inevitable victory to save the day. It’s an idea they’ve tried before and it never works.
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Triple Threat for the WWE Women’s Title
Earlier on the Wrestlemania pre-show, Lita came out and unveiled the new, official championship for the women’s division. WWE finally trashed the Diva’s Championship and replaced it with a legitimate championship belt that looks like a variation of the men’s title. WWE rebranded the entire division with this match in mind, which ended up as one of the smartest decisions they made all day.
Sasha Banks got a Wrestlemania entrance with her cousin Snoop Dogg, as he rapped over her theme song and walked her to the ring. The crowd is ready to buy Sasha as a legitimate superstar; they’re just waiting for WWE to pull the trigger. Charlotte got a grandiose entrance as well with Ric Flair in tow.
This match was excellent and featured plenty of high-flying, physicality and submission grappling. The crowd was firmly behind the idea of the women’s match being a serious competition and not the bathroom break.
All three girls got to showcase some high flying
Charlotte picks up the win and the new championship after some cheating from Ric Flair. Fans clearly wanted Sasha to win but now they’ve set up the title chase for Sasha’s eventual crowning. Tonight should have been her night and this was another match without a fan favorite winning. Great match that really sets the bar for redefining the WWE’s women’s division. It only took halfway through the show to finally get a great, stand-out match. 4/5
At this point I’m starting to realize how long this show is. There are still 3 matches to go and it’s almost 10pm.
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
Hell In A Cell Match for Control of the Company/Undertaker’s Career
Another match I had high hopes for. Shane coming back was something fresh and exciting. I hoped we would have something wacky along the lines of Sting vs. Triple H from last year. I didn’t expect Shane and ‘Taker to put on a barn burner, but I was hoping for some WWE-style overbooked shenanigans. Instead, they had a slow, plodding brawl. They fought with garbage cans and the ring steps, broke out of the cell and checked off all of the other Hell in a Cell requirements.
The stipulations were enough to sell the match. If Shane won, he would take over Raw and the WWE company in storyline. Undertaker’s stipulation was that if he lost, he could no longer wrestle at Wrestlemania ever again. So ultimately, the fans didn’t really want either guy to lose, but someone had to, and that person was Shane. WWE ultimately brought Shane back to have a name for a main event match, jump off the cage to provide a moment for clip shows, and nothing changed. Back to square one. Once again, WWE set up something that could have had huge ramifications and they chose to stay on the path of least resistance.
Shane puts his life on the line to give WWE another memorable moment they can replay in video packages forever.
Undertaker can still put on a great match based on his last bouts with Brock Lesnar. Hopefully this wasn’t his send-off. 2.5/5
20 Man Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
This is a match that provides a way for the lowercard guys to get on the show and is usually nothing special, except this year WWE threw in a few curveballs. Diamond Dallas Page made a surprise entrance, Tatanka randomly showed up, Baron Corbin appeared from NXT and Shaquille O’Neal even showed up.
He came out to Desiigner’s Panda.
There have been rumors of doing Shaq vs. The Big Show forever and they finally had their moment tonight. Of course, Shaq wasn’t going to win but him being in the match was ridiculous fun. DDP got to do a Diamond Cutter and there were some comedy spots with the Social Outcasts. Baron Corbin gets the win in another surprise. I was rooting for Kane but at least they’re trying to push a young guy out of the gate. 3.5/5
At this point I’m realizing that we still haven’t seen The Rock, and the main event is still left to go. It’s about 11pm.
The Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleaders come out, followed by The Rock. Rocky has a flamethrower, of course, and lights up his name.
Rock cuts a promo and electrifies the crowd or whatever, talking about breaking attendance records when The Wyatt Family make their appearance and interrupt The Rock’s variety hour.
Rock jaw-jacks with the villains and actually says some words to put Bray Wyatt over. This leads to an impromptu match with Erick Rowan, who The Rock beats after 6 seconds. It was barely a match but Rock uses it as a way to say he set another record for the shortest match in Mania history.
Rock is a business man first and foremost. As Dwayne Johnson, he cares about breaking records and selling tickets. He doesn’t have to come back to WWE but chooses to do it as a thank you for getting him where he is today. I respect the guy for that. He could be out counting his money and partying with Kevin Hart but comes back to put a show on for the WWE fans.
Rock is about to get beat down by the Wyatt Family when John Cena makes his triumphant return. Cena and Rock clean house and stand tall. I liked this segment and it was a good palate cleanser after all of the weak finishes earlier.
Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns
WWE Championship Match
This has been a long, long show and at this point I think I’m ready for it to be over. Triple H gets his usual grandiose Wrestlemania entrance. Stephanie McMahon introduces him as the Sindel to his Shao Khan. These are some absurd theatrics for what is about to happen. Reigns comes out to fireworks and a chorus of booing from the crowd.
It had been painfully obvious since the Royal Rumble that Reigns was getting his big coronation ceremony tonight. I was willing to give the match a chance since Triple H and Ambrose last month was a great match and Roman can put on a decent match with the right guy. Once again, we were fed a stinker.
The two big spots in the match were Stephanie getting in the way and getting speared by Roman (there is no good way to phrase that), and Triple H getting speared through the barrier outside the ring. I have no desire to ever watch this match again. I gave it a chance but I think Triple H and Roman just had weak chemistry. It was going to be difficult to put on a thrilling main event after this long show and as much as they tried, it just didn’t work for me. Roman picks up the win around 11:30pm. The crowd actually popped and reacted to the finish of the match and went right back to booing Roman when he was posing and celebrating with the belt. Very weird. Were they reacting positively to the match and the long night finally being over?
Wrestlemania ended and I left feeling slightly disappointed, and maybe that’s nobody’s fault but my own. WWE set out to break records and blow out the box office. They wanted to set an attendance record and succeeded with nearly 100,000 people in the AT&T stadium. They brought in about $17 million in revenue. They set out to provide an entertainment extravaganza and a variety show for casual and hardcore fans alike. People who tuned in casually were probably delighted to see names from 15 years ago like The Rock, Steve Austin, Undertaker, Shane McMahon, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley. Hardcore fans got to see all of their favorites lose.
WWE succeeded in creating Wrestlemania moments. Shane jumping off the cell, The Rock wrestling an impromptu match and The New Day dancing with the Hall of Famers are what people will remember in 10 years. As a cohesive professional wrestling show they blew it. I had fun watching this with my friends but as an overall wrestling event Wrestlemania 32 gets a 3/5.
by Nathan Dimit (@ndimit)