WWE WrestleMania 32
Arlington, Texas 4/3/16
A little side note before I begin my review. There were a number of issues with people actually getting into the venue, which meant that, by the time we started getting into the pre-show, the massive AT&T Stadium wasn’t even half full. It was a big fiasco at the time, but fortunately, I believe everyone eventually got into the building.
1.) WWE United States Title - Kalisto vs. Ryback: ***
I find the placement of this match to be odd. It’s the only title match on the Kickoff Show, so you’d think it would be the “pre-show main event”. Anyway, Ryback turned heel shortly after Fastlane, and set his sights on the United States Title, which was held by Kalisto. The story here (both the match itself and the storyline in general) was the big vs. the little guy. I thought this was a pretty solid match. It was by no means spectacular, but for what it was, the match was fun to watch, and featured some entertaining back & forth action. Ryback showcased his power, while Kalisto showcased his athleticism and speed. Eventually, Kalisto knocked Ryback into an exposed middle turnbuckle (after the turnbuckle pad had been ripped off), and then followed up with the Salida Del Sol for the victory.
2.) Ten-Woman Tag - Team B.A.D. and Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Emma, Summer Rae, & Lana) vs. Team Total Divas (Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox, & Eva Marie): ***
This big tag team match involved pretty much every woman on the main roster that wasn’t in the title match on the actual PPV. The biggest story here was that Lana was making her in-ring debut here. Yes, you read that right. Lana’s first-ever match was on WrestleMania. We’ve seen these kinds of matches hundreds of times before involving the women on the roster (especially on big shows like this), and they’re usually average and/or forgettable, but this particular bout was actually relatively good. The match got a fair amount of time (just over eleven minutes), and everyone involved got a chance to shine at one point of another. Even Eva Marie & Lana, who are easily the most limited of the bunch, did a decent job (I thought Lana was the better of the two, for the record). Ultimately, Brie Bella got Naomi to tap out to the Yes! Lock to win the match for Team Total Divas.
After the match, Nikki Bella came out in a neck brace (she was still on the shelf with a neck injury) to celebrate with his sister and the rest of Team Total Divas.
Before our next match, we had a special in-ring announcement from Lita. She talked about some of the legendary women’s performers that have competed in WWE, and then announced that the Triple Threat Match later that night involved Charlotte, Becky Lynch, & Sasha Banks would be for the new WWE Women’s Title. It’s essentially the WWE World Heavyweight Title, but with a white strap instead of a black strap.
3.) The Dudley Boyz vs. The Usos: **1/2
The main event of this Kickoff Show would’ve been much more enticing if The Dudley Boyz were fifteen years younger. Anyway, the story here is that The Dudley Boyz turned heel several weeks prior, and actually swore that they would never use tables again. The match itself was decent, but it was by far the weakest match on the Kickoff Show. Other than that, there’s really not much else to say about this one. The only other highlight was the trash talk during the match from Bubba Ray. After The Usos picked up the win, The Dudley Boyz attacked them. They went to set up tables (proving themselves to be hypocrites), but The Usos turned the tables (pun intended), and ended up putting the ECW Originals through a pair of tables with simultaneous splashes off the top rope.
Before the first match got underway, we got a live rendition of “America The Beautiful” by Fifth Harmony.
1.) WWE Intercontinental Title - Ladder Match - Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust: ****1/4
For the second year in a row, a multi-man Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title opened up the PPV. This was pretty awesome!! It was about as crazy as you would’ve expected, and it was easily one of the best matches of the night. There were a ton of insane spots throughout, and bodies were flying all over the place. Everyone busted their ass here to deliver the best match possible, but the coolest exchanges of the match were between Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn. It’s so awesome to see that their rivalry has now reached the grandest stage in all of wrestling. Anyway, the match was ultimately won by….Zack Ryder!! That had to be the most shocking result of the night, by far. Even though his reign only last twenty-four hours, it was still a cool moment for Zack Ryder. He got to have a big WrestleMania moment, and his father was in the front row.
2.) AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho: ***3/4
These two have been having a series of matches ever since AJ Styles made his debut in WWE. They would go on to form a tag team, but it was brief, as Jericho soon turned heel, attacking AJ Styles, and setting up this match. Before I talk about the match, I have to note that, in just a few month span, AJ Styles had competed at ROH Final Battle, New Japan Wrestle Kingdom, and WWE WrestleMania (the biggest shows for each company) in about a four month span. That’s pretty crazy. As for the match, I thought it was pretty good. Similar to their match at Fastlane, I feel like I’m the high man here. The action was solid throughout, and we saw some entertaining action, which wasn’t much of a shock. Even though every match in this feud has been good to very good, I think it’s fair to say that it was slightly disappointing. None of their matches reached the levels of being great. If Jericho was five years younger, I’m sure we would’ve gotten that one truly great match. If there was anything shocking about this match, it’s that Jericho got the clean victory. It was an odd result at the time, but what we saw the next night on RAW made this result make a little more sense.
3.) Six-Man Tag - The League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, & Sheamus with King Barrett) vs. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, & Xavier Woods): **1/2
I’m pretty sure there was a lot of debate at the time over whether this would be a four-on-three handicap match, and whether the WWE Tag Team Titles would be on the line. In the end, we got a Six-Man Tag (with King Barrett playing the role of manager), and the WWE Tag Team Titles weren’t on the line. The New Day had a spectacular entrance, coming out of a giant box of Booty O’s Cereal, while also being dressed in attire inspired by the Frieza Force Armor from Dragon Ball Z. It has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, that entrance was easily the best highlight from this whole thing. The match itself was fine, but it was pretty average, to be completely honest. It wasn’t bad by any means, but this was a match that you could plop on any normal episode of RAW. You’d think we’d get something a little better on a show like this, but that wasn’t the case. The League of Nations would score the victory.
Afterwards, King Barrett takes the mic, and says that “The Lads” won, adding that no three men could match this unit. This brought out Shawn Michaels (in his wrestling gear), Mick Foley, & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The three legends then took out The League of Nations with all of their signature moves. After the heel unit had been dispatched, The New Day got in the ring, and they tried to get the three legends to dance with them. HBK & Foley danced a little bit, and it looked like Austin might join in, but instead, he just gives Xavier Woods a Stone Cold Stunner. He then gets a bunch of beers and celebrates with Shawn Michaels & Mick Foley. For what this was, it was a fine little segment in the moment, though I don’t think it’ll be helped in the long run.
4.) No Holds Barred Street Fight - Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs. Dean Ambrose: ***1/4
So this feud got started after these two were involved in a Triple Threat #1 Contender’s Match at Fastlane (which was won by Roman Reigns). It was nice to see Dean Ambrose get a pretty significant spot like this on the biggest show of the year, but unfortunately, this match ended up being a disappointment. That’s not saying the match was bad, because it wasn’t. It was still a relatively fun No Holds Barred Street Fight. The problem was that these two could’ve had a much better match, especially when you consider the buildup. When you see how WWE was hyping this up, you’d think that we were going to get a wild and crazy hardcore brawl. It was a hardcore brawl, as various weapons became involved (chairs, a kendo stick, a fire extinguisher, and the tease of a barbed-wire baseball bat), but it certain wasn’t wild or crazy. Again, the match was good, but it never really reached that next level. Lesnar ultimately got the win here. A solid undercard match, but in the grand scheme of things, it was largely forgettable.
Before the next match, the crowd was introduced to the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016. The inductees included Sting (who had announced his retirement at the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony), The Fabulous Freebirds, The Godfather, The Big Bossman (posthumously), Jacqueline, Stan Hansen, and Snoop Dogg (Celebrity Wing). Joan Lunden received the Warrior Award.
5.) WWE Women’s Title - Triple Threat Match - Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte (with Ric Flair) vs. Sasha Banks: ****1/4
Earlier in the night (on the Kickoff Show), Lita had announced that this Triple Threat Match would be crowning a new WWE Women’s Champion, essentially signaling that WWE was dropping the “diva” moniquer (aside from Total Divas, of course). All three women had grand entrances. Of particular note, Sasha Banks had Snoop Dogg (her cousin) & Raven Felix come out with her to perform her entrance music. She was also wearing Eddie Guerrero-themed gear (Eddie Guerrero was her favorite wrestler). Meanwhile, Charlotte had an extravagant robe that resembled something her legendary father would’ve worn in his heyday. As for the match itself, I thought it was fantastic!! It’s a tossup between this and the Ladder Match, but honestly, this is my pick for Match of the Night. There was plenty of exciting back & forth action throughout this one, and all three women got the chance to shine. The division had been struggling since the whole “Diva’s Revolution” thing started, but the introduction of a new Women’s Title, this match, plus the women now being referred to as “superstars” instead of “divas”, have finally signaled a big positive change in this division. In the past, the women’s match on WrestleMania was usually the bathroom break match, but on this night, they had the best match on the entire card. To have that change in just a year is incredible. That’s a testament to all three women in this match, who put forth incredible performances. Yes, the match did have a screwy finish, with Ric Flair helping Charlotte win AGAIN, but still, you can’t take away from the work these three women put in. It had some rough points, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was awesome!
6.) Hell In A Cell Match - Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker: ***
So the story leading up to this match was….odd, to say the least. I’ll try to sum it up the best I can. Shane McMahon came back to WWE for the first time in several years (he left the company in early 2010) and proclaimed that he wanted to control of RAW. After a mysterious lockbox was somehow brought into the equation, Vince McMahon agreed that Shane would get control of RAW…..if he defeated The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match at WrestleMania. He also added that if The Undertaker lost, he would never compete at WrestleMania again. While it was really cool to see Shane McMahon back, this whole storyline felt really convoluted, and came totally out of left field. What’s with the lockbox? Why would The Undertaker, a uber babyface, agree to (essentially) fight for the ultimate heel in Vince McMahon? So many questions surrounding this match, but that didn’t change the fact that the match ended up happening.
As far as the match itself was concerned, it was a giant spectacle, filled with smoke & mirrors (as you would’ve expected). A lot of people didn’t like this match at all, and they had every right not to like it, especially since it clocked in at just over thirty minutes. Personally, I thought the match was totally fine for what it was. It was pretty much exactly what we expected. The majority of the match wasn’t that good, but it was anchored by all of the crazy spots throughout. Of course, the big highlight (that will be a WrestleMania moment forever) was Shane McMahon doing the Leap of Faith off the top of the Hell In A Cell structure. The Undertaker had been placed on an announcer’s table, but he moved out of the way, and Shane McMahon ended up crashing through that announcer’s table. That was legitimately one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen on a major WWE PPV, and we’re talking about the same guy who’s jumped off the titantron MULTIPLE times. To this day, I still can’t get over the fact of how insane that was. Shortly thereafter, The Undertaker managed to score the victory over Shane McMahon. It’s so odd looking at this in hindsight, because Shane would end up running RAW a couple of times over the following months, and eventually, was selected to be the Commissioner of SmackDown Live! ahead of the WWE Draft. Again, this was far from the greatest match in the world, but given the limitations of the two guys involved, it was exactly what we all should’ve expected.
7.) Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal: **
I know battle royals can be “eh” matches, but I think it’s kind of cool that this match has become a mainstay of WrestleMania. It essentially guarantees that everyone on the roster has a match at the biggest show of the year. The third edition of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal might have been the smallest one we’ve seen thus far (only twenty participants), but we get some cool surprises. These came in the form of DDP, Tanaka, and Shaquille O’Neal. Yes, you read that right. Shaquille O’Neal was in this match. He got into it with The Big Show (as you would’ve guessed), and everyone else ganged up on the two giants to eliminate them. Eventually, it came down to Kane & Baron Corbin (a surprise entrant from NXT), and in the end, “The Lone Wolf” eliminated Kane to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. It’s nice to see that WWE used this match to put over a new talent (regardless of what you think of Baron Corbin) on their biggest show of the year. It established him right out of the gate, so credit to them.
Up next, we had a massive segment that was one of the strangest things I’ve seen on any WrestleMania. The Rock came out, and had a LOOOOONG entrance that included him taking a flamethrower to set fire to some giant “ROCK” lettering on the stage. He finally got to the ring, did his usual shtick, and announced the attendance as 101,763 (which is obviously a number from WWE that was overestimated, though the difference between that number and the actual attendance wasn’t as large as you would think). He’s then interrupted by The Wyatt Family, sans Luke Harper (who unfortunately tore his ACL a few weeks before the big show). Bray Wyatt cut a promo on The Rock, and said this was “his” moment. The Rock then got in his verbal jabs at The Wyatt Family, and then, calls for a singles match against Wyatt himself or one of his “inbred Duck Dynasty bitches”. He then rips off his clothes to reveal that he was wearing his wrestling gear underneath. Amazing. Erick Rowan ends up accepting the challenge, and a referee comes out to get the match underway….
8.) The Rock vs. Erick Rowan (with The Wyatt Family): N/R
This lasted all of six seconds, as The Rock quickly hit The Rock Bottom on Rowan to score the win.
After the “match” ended, Bray Wyatt & Braun Strowman surrounded the ring. It looked like they were going to gang up on The Rock, but then John Cena (who was still on the shelf with an injury, though he had recovered enough to do this skit on the show) came out to even the odds. The two former rivals came together and sent The Wyatt Family packing. They then celebrated together as the segment came to a close. No offense to any of the guys involved, but this was one big waste of time.
9.) WWE World Heavyweight Title - Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon) vs. Roman Reigns: **
Triple H got a grand “King of Kings” entrance (as he always does). As a prelude to his actual entrance, Stephanie McMahon was on an elevated stage dressed like an evil witch (her hair made her look like she did back in the early 2000’s during the late Attitude Era and The Invasion in 2001). She gave a grand speech before Triple H came out. Roman Reigns had a much simpler entrance, though he no longer comes out through the crowd.
While Triple H’s entrance was spectacular, this match was certainly not spectacular. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “bad” (it wasn’t bad), but this was not a good match at all. It was long (going just over twenty-seven minutes), slow, BORING, and didn’t engage me in any way. The crowd didn’t care at all, which didn’t help either. The show had (legitimately) been several hours up to this point, and this was the wrong match to have in this spot. You can’t have a show go six or seven hours (counting the pre-show), and then have a slow, methodical main event like this. You just can’t do it. Triple H is no stranger to boring WrestleMania main events (vs. Chris Jericho at WrestleMania X8 in 2002, and vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania 25 in 2009), and unfortunately for him, this was another one to add to that list. Roman Reigns ultimately won the match, and successfully recaptured the WWE World Heavyweight Title. This was easily one of the worst WrestleMania main events in the show’s history. That is something that cannot be disputed.
I could be wrong, but I think this might’ve been the longest WWE PPV in history. The fact that this show was so long was one of the main things that hurt it. This was just WAAAY too long for a wrestling show. I get that it’s WrestleMania, but still. The thing is, you can get away with a really long PPV if the wrestling is great throughout (that’s been proven by New Japan over the last few years). This show did have a few really good to great matches, but unfortunately, the number of matches that either underperformed, were “just ok”, or just weren’t good, really took this show down a couple of notches, in my opinion. The last hour/ninety minutes of the show (which included the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, the segment with The Rock, and Triple H/Roman Reigns) was incredibly long to get through, and the third of those three things (the main event) closed out the show with a massive wet fart. Fortunately, we did have some more positive highlights. The Triple Threat Match for the WWE Women’s Title was fantastic (and was my vote for Match of the Night), the Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Title was awesome, and AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho was really good. Additionally, even though it was far from the best match in the world, Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker featured some spectacular and truly memorable moments. Despite being (quite possibly) the biggest WrestleMania to date, from an attendance perspective (along with sheer scale), this was easily one of the most disappointing WrestleMania’s of the 21st Century.