When all was said and done, WWE Wrestlemania 32 likely left wrestling fans feeling exhausted. Although the main PPV broadcast was scheduled for four hours, the usual time mismanagement at a Wrestlemania reached chronic proportions, causing the show to go 48 minutes over the scheduled 11 PM Eastern conclusion. So add in a two-hour pre-show, this Wrestlemania was almost 7 hours long. As much as I love wrestling, I was completely drained and exhausted by this brutally overlong show when it finally came to a close twelve minutes before midnight Eastern time.
Some wrestling fans proclaimed this the worst Wrestlemania show of all time. Although it certainly had some serious faults, Wrestlemania 32 was hardly the worst Mania ever. I guess people have forgotten all about such less-than-stellar Manias as 9, 11, 16, 25 and 27. The match quality was fairly solid overall. Some of the matches were way better than one expected them to be going in while some disappointed. Nothing really stank out the joint compared to previous Manias. The announcing was actually really good also. The end of the pitiful Divas division was a major plus as well.
That said, some of the booking decisions were strange to say the least. Most noticeably, way too many veterans, both retired and active, won over younger, fresher talent. It is not a great way to build to the future by having your newer talent lose, especially to those considered non-wrestlers or part-timers. The plethora of injuries that have seriously weakened the talent pool was very apparent in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. You know things are bad when they call up veterans and a retired basketball star to participate.
Despite the issues, Wrestlemania 32 was an easy thumbs up. I imagine that the home video version, where the three pre-show matches will be presented without the endless talking that made the pre-show tedious, will be a better experience.
Matches 1, 2 and 3 are recapped in the article 'Wrestlemania Pre-show Blues'.
4. Ladder Match: Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens Vs. Sami Zayn Vs. Stardust Vs. Zack Ryder Vs. The Miz Vs. Dolph Ziggler Vs. Sin Cara: For the past few years, the ladder match had become my least favorite match out of all the various gimmick matches pro wrestling has to offer. They had devolved into shameless daredevil stunt shows and demolition derbies with little regard towards psychology and storytelling. However, last year, psychology and storytelling started making a comeback in WWE ladder matches. Talent also started innovating clever new spots instead of merely rehashing what Edge, Christian, the Dudleys and the Hardy Boyz perfected 15 years ago. This was one hell of a ladder match. All sorts of crazy spots here, but they all had a purpose that helped tell the story that the IC Championship was a desired goal and that these men will do anything to get it. Among the highlights were Sami Zayn’s Blue Thunderbomb off the ladder onto Ziggler; Zayn doing a suicide dive through the ladder rungs and onto a mass of bodies outside the ring; Sin Cara doing all sorts of crazy dives off and through ladders; Zayn taking Owens out with a running exploder suplex onto a ladder..I could go on. It appeared that Miz was going to win the match and grab the IC belt but in a major upset, Ryder shoved Miz off and grabbed the title. The wrestler the least likeliest to win just won. Fans were ecstatic while Ryder celebrated in the ring with his father. Of course, leave it to Vince McMahon to ruin the positive buzz generated by Ryder’s win by having him lose the IC title the following night on Raw to a guy who spent the last two years jobbing left and right. Way to go, Vince. A hot start to what would be one long night. ******+++
5. Chris Jericho Vs. AJ Styles: This show marked Jericho’s thirteenth Wrestlemania appearance and the very first one for Styles, the man who many felt was the heart and soul of the TNA promotion. If anyone needed a meaningful Wrestlemania win, it was Styles. Unfortunately, a pair of egos got in the way of such a needed win. The match itself was fantastic, with Jericho looking sharper in the ring than he has in the past year. Styles was just incredible in this match, clearly relishing the chance to wrestle on the biggest possible WWE stage for the first time. Some stalling at the start became tedious, but once they got going, the match delivered for the most part. Then it all came crashing with the finish. AJ was set to finish off Jericho with the flying springboard forearm, but Jericho nailed the Codebreaker for the pin. Jericho didn’t need the win here, especially since AJ Styles was planned to headline the next PPV challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. My guess is that Jericho didn’t want to do the job and Vince McMahon’s ego didn’t want a ex-TNA talent prevailing in his Wrestlemania debut. Judging from the fact that Jericho has won several matches against younger talent who could use the rub of beating him, it’s sad that he’s apparently become just like the very veterans he once railed against in his memoirs. What a shame. ****1/2
6. The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) Vs. The League of Nations (Sheamus & King Barrett & Alberto Del Rio & Rusev): Although it was advertised as a handicap match, Barrett didn’t tag in once. Either he’s nursing an injury or doing the least amount possible during his final months in WWE. Considering the litany of broken promises made to Barrett throughout his WWE career, I can’t say I blame him. He was promptly written off TV the following night on Raw, so I guess he decided to leave early. I don’t blame him. The tag team titles were not at stake, which took away what would have been some much needed juice and heat. Match was good, but considering the participants, it should have been a lot better. The finish came when the ref was distracted by a brawl between Big E and Kofi against Rusev and Del Rio, allowing Barrett to illegally clock Woods with the Bullhammer. Sheamus covered Woods’ remains for the pin. The indignities didn’t stop there as Barrett grabbed the mic and stated that no three men could destroy the League. That brought out a trio of legends: Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The three retired legends destroyed the League, making them all look like major league chumps in the process. Woods was given the stunner by Austin during the celebratory beer bash afterwoods while Big E and Kofi cowered away. You don’t know how tired I am of older wrestlers and retirees showing up the younger talent. That would be a recurring theme as this show progressed. ***1/2
7. No Holds Barred Street Fight- Brock Lesnar Vs. Dean Ambrose: On paper, this match should have been nothing short of terrific. Lesnar is a legitimate badass athlete; Ambrose can switch effortlessly between wrestling and brawling with equal aplomb. Alas, the match wound up being a big disappointment. For starters, whoever heard of a street fight in which the action is largely confined to fighting inside the ring? The classic street fight match features tons of out of the ring brawling. Even Renee Young made mention during the pre-show that there were plenty of places where Ambrose and Lesnar could wind up during their street fight, so even she was anticipating a traditional, anything goes street fight like the rest of us. Too bad no one in Creative or production clued her in that there were no plans for this street fight to resemble the traditional mold. The match wasn’t terrible, but I expect greatness from Lesnar and Ambrose PPV matches and this wasn’t anything close to great. Ambrose kept taking one German suplex after another from Lesnar, with the announcers keeping score for those viewing at home. Ambrose left to retrieve weapons, which consisted mostly of chairs and Kendo sticks. He did haul out the chainsaw that Terry Funk gifted him and the barbed wire baseball bat Mick Foley gifted him, but they weren’t used at all since both weapons would guarantee blood. Thanks to the toy contract with Mattel, WWE chickens out on blood in matches like this one that could sure use it. Both men did the best they could considering they were handcuffed by the limitations and a far too brief 13 minutes of ring time. Finally, Lesnar leveled Ambrose with a third F-5 onto a sea of steel chairs for the pin. Dean Ambrose yet again comes out on the short end of a major feud. ***1/4
Check back soon for Parts 2 and 3 of this Wrestlemania 32 recap!