It’s hard to criticize the WWE for their struggles this year, with a large portion of talent including Seth Rollins and John Cena being sidelined with injuries, it was looking improbable that the show of shows was going to come out unscathed. This being said, the problems with Wrestlemania 32 are so glaringly obvious to me that I don’t see how they were agreed upon in the first place. Let’s break this down, match by match.
US Title Match – Kalisto ( C ) ( W ) vs. Ryback
Last year’s US Title match saw John Cena battling the tank-driving Rusev in a match which at least had a storyline and a sense of spectacle. This year’s offering played out like a mid-card match on Raw. Ryback’s heel turn sees him being no more dislikeable than he is as a face and Kalisto’s upset via devious means is no way to bolster his heroic babyface status.
“Total Divas” ( W ) vs. “Bad & Blonde”
Nothing too bad or too exciting; Lana’s in-ring debut looks somewhat promising with some pretty decent kicks and Brie Bella winning was the right choice considering her retirement is imminent. The usual clumsiness you’ve come to expect from these competitors but had its moments nonetheless.
The Dudleys vs. The Usos ( W )
This storyline never made sense to me and it’s culminating match was totally forgettable as a result. Bubba Ray trashing on Rikishi made me laugh while Lawler’s commentary grew more insufferable by the minute. No one really gave a shit when The Usos won and put the Dudleys through a table.
IC Title Ladder Match – Kevin Owens ( C ) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Zack Ryder ( W ) vs. Stardust vs. Sin Cara
I might be in the minority of people who enjoyed this more than last year’s ladder match. Owen’s and Zayn’s rivalry picked up steam and led to some brutal spots by both competitors. Everyone had their moment though; Miz killing Stardust with a Skull-Crushing Finale onto the ladder, Sin Cara doing flippy shit with no botches, Ziggler’s superkick party and the surprise eventual winner Zack Ryder’s El-Bro drop from the ladder made for an exhilarating match with a strange but feel-good finish.
Chris Jericho ( W ) vs. AJ Styles
This was the beginning of a series of nonsensical booking decisions which killed the momentum of the show. I love Jericho as much as the next person and the actual match itself was amazingly tight and well executed. The problem was, the more Jericho sustained AJ’s offense, the more he started looking like a bonafide face. This should have been AJ’s Wrestlemania moment; if Jericho can take a loss to fucking Strowman then he can take a loss to AJ fucking Styles, ridiculous.
Tag Team Title Match – The New Day ( C ) vs. The League of Nations ( W )
The New Day prove themselves to be the highlight of WWE programming time and time again. Their impeccable chemistry, keen sense of pop-culture and general ridiculousness makes them feel like one of the few things in the WWE which is truly “of the time”. This is why I wasn’t too upset when the League of Nations personality vacuums scored the win after a hotly contested match with decent performance all round. While the legends segment with Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Stone Cold was entertaining, did we really need to bury all the younger talent? More on that later.
Street Fight – Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar ( W )
Then this happened and things started to look truly dire. This match was meant to be the highlight for a lot of people, after his chain of losses at both Fastlane and Roadblock Dean would surely be put over in some way by this encounter? Nope. Dean’s antics were entertaining but there was so much wrong with this match. Firstly, the stipulation was pretty much pointless with a few kendo stick and chair shots being as close as we got to a “street fight”. Secondly, suplex city is getting old and Brock’s offensive repertoire is looking more stale every match he’s in. Lastly, after weeks of building up how “indestructible” he is, Dean is put away by one F5. “Oh but it was on chairs”, no shut up I hate you.
Women’s Title Match – Charlotte ( C ) ( W ) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
With the unveiling of the new Women’s Title these competitors did an excellent job at showing why they deserve to be taken seriously with a super competitive match which brought out the best in all involved. Charlotte looked properly dominating for a good chunk of it, just the way she should be and jesus that moonsault was excellent. Having her pick up the win would have been fine had it have not involved her devious dad. The shtick was trashy enough on regular PPVs, let alone at Wrestlemania.
Hell In a Cell – Shane O’ Mac vs. The Undertaker ( W )
No one really knew what to expect going into this match; it’s been years since Shane had competed and his Raw presence over the past few weeks has been shaky at best and at his age, The Undertaker’s ability to perform will always be in question. This match is going to try and be passed as an all-time great when in reality, it’s not. The first half of this was a dull, plodding affair which saw Taker dominating. Then Shane started getting some offense in. If one thing can be said about this match it’s that Shane O’ Mac’s dedication to the business can never be brought into question again. So thanks to an easy pick for spot of the year and some good storytelling in its final moments the match easily redeemed itself.
The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale
Hard to judge this as a match as it was really just a cool down event after the intense HIAC. Fuckin’ Shaq was there and Baron Corbin went over in what was the best booking decision made all night.
The Rock came out with a flamethrower, beat Erick Rowan in 6 seconds, then proceeded to bury The Wyatts with John Cena
Thanks, but no thanks.
World Heavyweight Title Match – Triple H ( C ) vs. Roman Reigns ( W )
“After tonight, all hope will be gone” – Stephanie McMahon
So prophetic, in a night where WWE seemed so determined to go against fan expectations they decided to be predictable at the only juncture where we didn’t want them too. Roman’s not what we want, and this match highlighted why when it should have been doing the opposite. JBL in all his wisdom said something along the lines of “you don’t wanna get into a wrestling match with The Game….Maggle”. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I enjoy Triple H’s technical, limb-focussed offense more than Roman’s duh BIG punch, duh SPEAR spam. The match started off as a slow slug-fest but unlike HIAC, never got better. Stephanie copping a spear shouldn’t be the highlight of your match and both competitors are at fault for not upping the ante here, this was after all, the Wrestlemania main event.
Like Ric Flair methodically raising his opponent’s chin just to chop their chest raw, the WWE repeatedly upped the spectacle of Wrestlemania only to suck the life out of fans with pointlessly unpopular booking decisions.