Friday, April 3, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 32

Jeezus, this show just didn't end.  I think it's still going on.....

AT&T Stadium - 4.3.16

Vince McMahon's stubborn refusal to move on from the Roman Reigns pet project continued with 'Mania 32, as Reigns would challenge WWE Champion Triple H (Yes, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was WWE Champion in 2016.  For fuck's sake.) and theoretically send everyone home jubilant.  Except that by 2016 Reigns was as unpopular as ever, and this main event took place in front of a crowd that had already sat through SIX HOURS of wrestling.  But we'll get to that.  Let's take a look at the "biggest" WrestleMania of all time.  And by "biggest" I mean "most reminiscent of being stuck in a well for several days as a senile old man bludgeons you with a loaded colostomy bag."  This show went on FOREVER.

The three pre-show matches all roughly amounted to filler.  Kalisto vs. Ryback was the best of them and really should've been included on the PPV (instead of the stupid battle royal).  Kalisto looked good and had surprisingly okay chemistry with Ryberg.  The 10-Diva match was actually watchable and just about everyone got some time to do stuff.  The Usos-Dudleyz bout was your basic free TV match.  Meh.

The real show kicked off with the 7-man Ladder Match, as I suspected it would.  I wasn't much looking forward to this, but I'll be damned if they didn't knock it outta the park with this one.  Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn carried the majority of the workload, and based on their innate chemistry it understandably gave this spotfest a big boost.  Sin Cara, Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler all got a big spot or two as well.  The crazy moments in this match were much more memorable than in last year's Ladder Match, and while Ryder winning this just to drop the Title to Miz 24 hours later (They seriously couldn't have given it to Sami and had his feud with Owens be for the belt??), I liked this match a lot; much more than the previous year's Ladder Match.

Zayn is a madman

Next up was AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, part 4.  This got 17 minutes and was easily the best these two produced, but also had a nonsensical ending, as Jericho beat AJ to tie their series 2-2.  The next night AJ would win a great Fatal 4-Way and become the new #1 Contender.  So why'd he lose this match??  Still this was a damn fine undercard bout and a strong Match of the Night contender.

One of the best dropkicks in the biz

The New Day vs. League of Nations was oddly changed to a regular six-man, as Wade Barrett acted as the manager.  This was slightly above RAW quality, with everyone very motivated to make their mark.  It's a real shame the League of Nations were never booked as an actual threat, or this match would've been elevated by a good story.  LON took the expected win to keep the feud going, but were then made to look like total punks at the hands of Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Mick Foley.  I will never, for the life of me, understand the mentality behind bringing back guys from 20 years ago to beat up the current stars.  Why would you ever call attention to your past product being superior to the current one?

Placed shockingly early on the card, Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose failed to reach four-star territory but was still a very enjoyable, intense brawl.  Ambrose took insane sums of punishment like a champ, as expected, and kept getting back up.  Eventually Lesnar hit two big moves on a pile of chairs and that was it for Dean.  Evidently Ambrose was very unhappy with this match and it's not hard to see why.  While I liked this okay, I was hoping for something more akin to Lesnar vs. Punk.  But apparently those in charge just wanted more Suplex City nonsense.  This was a one-and-done match; Lesnar disappeared again until just before Summerslam, while Ambrose floundered for a few months before winning Money in the Bank and the WWE Title the same night.

Dean was basically dead this entire match.

Stealing this show was the incredible showing by Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, who were give sixteen minutes and used them pretty brilliantly.  Prior to the match Lita presented the brand new WWE Women's Title, replacing the idiotic bedazzled butterfly belt that was the Divas Championship.  It took the better part of a year, but the disastrously executed "Divas Revolution" finally bore fruit here.  Charlotte strangely retained the Title, but this match was full of innovation and fast-paced offense.  A women's match topping everything else at a WrestleMania made for quite an historic occasion.

This match was boss.  No pun intended.

After the first five PPV matches I thought to myself, "Damn, this is a pretty killer show so far."  Up to this point 'Mania 32 far outclassed 31.  Sadly, much like WrestleManias 8 and 21, after the first five bouts WrestleMania 32 went violently off the rails and never got back on.

The next match was the one I was dreading, Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker.  Where to start with this train wreck?  First, it was thirty minutes long.  Thirty. Goddamn. Minutes.  Shane McMahon, a 46-year-old businessman, lasted a full half-hour against the nigh-invincible Dead Man.  Second, Shane was presented as on par with said Deceased Person.  This match was a back-and-forth affair in which Shane (again, a BUSINESSMAN) nearly became the "2" in "22-2" on several occasions.  Third, after all the buildup and promise of changing RAW and "saving WWE for future generations of McMahons," Shane lost.  That was it.  He lost.  Don't misunderstand me, in no way was I advocating allowing Shane McMahon to pin Taker at WrestleMania, but if you're going to throw together this nonsensical match it would seem like the only logical outcome would be for Shane to win and thus assume control of the company.  Otherwise, what was the point of all this?  Just so Shane could dive off the top of the Cell?  And that brings me to....Fourth, I think it's kinda shitty that Vince's kid, who isn't on the road 300 days a year and will be able to recover from mega-dangerous high spots like this, gets to upstage the actual wrestlers on the biggest stage of the year simply because he can.  How are the full-timers supposed to live up to stunts like this, particularly in an era when the company is meant to be very protective of wrestler safety?  And fifth, Shane was given control of RAW the next night ANYWAY.  Vince just came out and gave him temporary control of the show.  And a few months later Shane became Commissioner of Smackdown.  And the whole blackmail angle was never mentioned again.  So not only did this match stink and go on ten minutes longer than it needed to (at least), but there was no reason for it at all.  After that drawn-out affair was over, Shane was stretchered out, bringing the total time of this segment to roughly 45 minutes.  Hmm, a McMahon got the longest segment of the night.  I wonder who got the second longest.  Another McMahon maybe?

By this point it was just after 10pm, and it seemed like there was no way they could fit the Andre battle royal and the main event.  But they went right ahead with the 20-man clusterfuck, which involved a buncha jobbers and old guys, plus Shaquille O'Neal (who wasn't advertised, thus defeating the purpose of a celebrity guest), and NXT's Baron Corbin.  This was easily the worst Andre battle royal thus far.

Now they were desperately short on time and would clearly be running well past 11pm Eastern, and we still had the promised Rock segment, wherein he played with a flamethrower for ten minutes, cut a promo announcing the record-breaking attendance figure (101,000 according to WWE, just under 94,000 according to the venue), and got into a verbal battle with The Wyatts, who had crashed his party.  After an interminable promo segment, Rock then announced he was wrestling one of them, and proceeded to pin Erick Rowan in six seconds.  Then the Wyatts surrounded him only for John Cena to come to the rescue.  This segment went so overlong and was so beyond pointless I can't even fathom it.  What did Bray Wyatt gain from being bested in a 3-on-2 scenario?  Why did WWE feel the need to extend an already bloated show by an hour?  What made them think the live crowd would have any energy left for the main event after all this?  This by the way was the second segment on the show devoted to the concept of "Wasn't the Attitude Era way better than this shit we're feeding you today?"

Finally after a goddamn eternity it was time for the main event, which I wasn't invested in anyway.  Triple H and Roman Reigns actually put on a solid 18-minute match, but a) it went 27 minutes and b) it happened 250 minutes into a PPV and the live crowd didn't care except to boo Roman.  When it comes down to it, Hunter really just shouldn't headline a WrestleMania PPV unless his opponent has the popularity of a Daniel Bryan.  His style is simply too methodical and slow to engage a live crowd worn down from four-plus hours of this shit.  So Roman eventually won the match and the WWE Title, much to the chagrin of basically everyone in the building.  No heel turn, no run-ins, no swerves.  Just an anticlimactic finish from a babyface no one liked.  Reigns would slowly morph into a pseudo-heel over the spring and summer before reverting back to a hated babyface by Summerslam.

Triple H vs. Double R was Quadruple L(ame)

So in the end, WrestleMania 32 went from an B+ first half to a D+ second half.  I was kinder to this show than most I think as the undercard had three pretty excellent matches and two decent ones.  But seriously, after the women's match there's no reason to watch another two-and-a-half hours of this garbage.  This began a trend throughout 2016 of overlong PPVs that were exhausting to sit through, confirming once and for all that Vince McMahon is the enemy of fun.

Best Match: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Worst Match: Andre Battle Royal
What I'd Change: Give Taker a real opponent, shove the Battle Royal on the pre-show, put the Kalisto match on the PPV, cut the main event down to a fast-paced 17 minutes, and cut an entire hour off this distended whale of a PPV.
Most Disappointing Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Ladder Match
Overall Rating: 6.5/10


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