After the disappointment of Brock Lesnar Vs. Dean Ambrose, a cute and funny Snickers commercial made its’ worldwide television premiere. Ric Flair is getting visibly frustrated trying to teach someone how to say his trademark “WOOOOOOOOOOOO!” call. Zack Ryder keeps saying his catchphrase “Woo woo woo!” instead. Finally, Flair urges Ryder to eat a Snickers. It’s then revealed that it was Flair’s daughter Charlotte whom he was trying to teach all along.
Next up was the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Not a bad selection of nominees, although I still believe that journalist Joan Lunden’s induction was solely a political favor to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, especially since she never contributed anything of note to WWE programming other than an appearance during WWE’s breast cancer fundraising awareness drive last October.
8. Triple Threat To Crown The Inaugural WWE Women's Champion: Charlotte Vs. Sasha Banks Vs. Becky Lynch: The most pleasant surprise of the year when it comes to pro wrestling is the marked improvement of women’s wrestling in main roster WWE. Once infamous for matches so bad that the fans attending live would treat it as a bathroom break or with total indifference, Divas title matches have been stealing the show as of late. I personally felt that Charlotte’s last three Divas title defenses were the standout matches of the last three PPVs. I felt going into Wrestlemania that this Divas triple threat title match would be the best match of the night. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. Charlotte sported a ring robe made from the robe her father Ric Flair wore for his final WWE match. Sasha Banks paid tribute to her favorite wrestler Eddie Guerrero with her ring outfit as her cousin Snoop Dogg accompanied her to the ring. Lita stood in the ring holding the snazzy new WWE Women’s Championship belt, which was a nice touch that made this match feel like a major event. Everything about this match was just phenomenal. Three of the best women wrestlers in North America and perhaps the world doing what they do best for almost 20 minutes. What more can a wrestling fan ask for? The action was nonstop and exciting as hell. The announcers were still confused as to whether Charlotte was automatically the Women’s Champion or if the winner of the match would be crowned the first such champion. Even worse, no one bothered to clarify the issue, leaving the trio of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and JBL sounding foolish and confused at times. Luckily, it didn’t detract from the match. One thrilling moment after another and for once, a frenzy of near falls added to the match rather than detract from it. Sasha continued her tribute to Eddie by co-opting his Frog Splash as Charlotte had Becky in the Figure Eight. It was such a sight that even the live crowd in Dallas went nuts. Sasha had the match won after finishing off Lynch with the Banks Statement, but in a swerve, Charlotte tossed Sasha out of the way and took over, locking on the Figure Eight submission. Ric prevented Sasha from breaking the submission attempt and Becky tapped out. Charlotte is the final Divas Champion and the first Women’s Champion of the modern women’s wrestling era in main roster WWE. Many complained that Charlotte won, as they had expected Sasha to win the match. But it made sense for Charlotte to go over here, especially since Charlotte/Sasha could benefit from a slow build to SummerSlam. Hell, it should even co-main event the show. I felt this match should have main evented Wrestlemania 32. ******+++
9. Hell In A Cell: The Undertaker Vs. Shane McMahon: There may have been no match I was looking forward the least to than this Hell in a Cell match. If Undertaker lost, he would have to retire while Shane would gain control of Monday Night Raw. The thought of one of pro wrestling’s all time greatest icons ending his career with a loss to a non-wrestler that would rehash the McMahon family drama that helped cool off the hot streak of the Attitude Era made me want to barf. Speaking of said non-wrestler, while Shane was actually quite a good performer during the Attitude Era, it has been seven years since he last appeared in a wrestling match and he stank out the joint against Randy Orton. Add in the fact that both men are aging and not in the best of physical shape plus having to work what is historically one of the most violent matches in wrestling today all seemed to spell disaster. And for the first few minutes, it seemed like it was going to indeed be a disaster. Shane’s offense didn’t look good early on, with weak punches and sloppy work. However, something miraculous happened: both men found their groove and turned things around to the point that they had a hell of a match. At least one way better than I expected going in. The key apparently was to beat the crap out of each other for over 30 minutes and add in enough wild stunts to help overcome the legitimate shortcomings. It worked so well that even the skeptical live crowd in Dallas finally got into it, chanting “This is awesome”. One neat spot was Shane reversing the Hellsgate submission into the Sharpshooter, which looked fairly good. Eventually Shane retrieved bolt cutters from under the ring and started snipping away at one of the Cell panels. Taker promptly speared Shane through the weakened panel and right into one of the announce tables which got a hell of a pop. Taker proceeded to use several monitors to smack Shane upside the head with, but Shane fought back with a toolbox. Shane locked on a sleeper and both men went through another announcers table. Then came a stunt both so brave and so stupid that it has to be seen to be believed: with Taker unconscious atop a third table, Shane climbed the Cell walls and prepared for a flying elbow drop from a 20 foot cage. Taker rolled out of the way, causing Shane to damn near kill himself (although an airbag was clearly visible underneath the table on the live broadcast- you can be certain this will be edited out for the home video release) by crashing through the table from up on high. Taker looked legitimately concerned for Shane, but Shane still played the cocky guy who kept daring Taker to bring the fight on. Taker calmly lifted Shane onto his shoulders and carried him back into the ring. After another dare from Shane, Taker calmly nailed the Tombstone piledriver for the pin. Judging from the fact that the stipulations were ignored on the post-Mania Raw episode the following evening, I have the feeling Shane was originally supposed to win but that they got cold feet dreading a negative reaction to Taker losing to the boss’ son, so it was changed the day of the show. Too bad they forgot to make the necessary changes to their booking plans AFTER Mania. Shane did a stretcher job, but gave the live crowd a thumbs up to show that he was okay despite the carnage. ****3/4