wrestlemania-32-roman-reigns

You know when you’re a kid and you get a big gift for your birthday, right? When the gift is wrapped up in huge paper and decorative and you’re looking at it because you know the exact shape and dimensions of what it could be yet still have to act surprised about it? That’s how wrestling fans feel a lot of times. We know the end result, regardless of feeling happy or sad or indifferent about it and tell ourselves, “if we feel entertained, do we actually feel good?”

For a lot of fans walking out of AT&T Stadium Sunday night, they told themselves that exact statement. WrestleMania 32 threw a lot of curveballs at people, a lot of them in regards to booking decisions and who went over. It was exhausting (a five-hour wrestling show), exhilarating and made a lot of people audibly gasp at a 46-year-old son of a billionaire doing the type of crazy things he did in his early 30s. There were returns and unexpected guests, baller ass entrances from a solid chunk of the roster and then some. Women’s wrestling can legit say it had the most emotional investment for a match on a WrestleMania card, a brand new title that finally replaces the tramp stamp, shiny butterfly belt and a sense of direction.

So why are we confused yet satisfied at the night? Because the WWE, as creators of performance art know exactly when the pull the rug out from under us.

We don’t like Roman Reigns as WWE World Heavyweight Champion and top babyface because he’s forced? Deal with it, we’re going to try and stubbornly make this work for all parties involved. The Wyatt Family getting a big WrestleMania joust with The Rock only to be upended by the Twice In A Lifetime crew of Rock & John Cena? We’re too busy scrambling to social media wondering why do they keep burying these guys when in actuality, The Rock put them over verbally more than any other current roster member. Zack Ryder is your Intercontinental Champion? Surely makes for one hell of a WrestleMania moment and we’re probably going to watch him get squashed and lose that title on RAW or something but still, a Mania moment.

WrestleMania 32 decided to up the ante on how big and important the WWE is. Of how a company may not be at its peak (WrestleMania X-7 in 2001) but of how its morphed itself into being a more recognized thing. On the drive home last night from a bar packed with wrestling fans, I heard former WWE wrestler/announcer Taz talking to Jim Ross about heels & faces and the results of WrestleMania. On actual AM radio. The media has bought into wrestling more than ever with SportsCenter covering Mania and other big four WWE events, injuries and the sort. Rolling Stone, Deadspin, Fox Sports, all of it has resulted in more eyes and awareness for the WWE and all of its subsidiaries like never before. In terms of public perception, wrestling is in a golden age of publicity and acknowledgement from kids, teenagers, the ratings sweet spot of the 18-54 demographic and more. Fans who are diehards are educating casual watchers on cruiserweights like Zach Sabre, Jr. & Ricochet and telling them that Shinsuke Nakamura, Bayley, Finn Bálor & Asuka are legit stars that should be on the main roster any day now.

So, when you speak of WrestleMania 32, you may not regard it as one of the more transformative Manias of all-time like 20 was, or last year’s when Seth Rollins became the man or even X some 22 years ago. You’ll regard it as fun; a satisfactory WrestleMania given all the bad luck the WWE had to deal with in terms of injury and how fans idea of perfect fantasy booking got thrown up in the air thanks to real life, human events. It accomplished what it set out to do, raking in money ($17.3 million according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell) and brand awareness. Confused by slipping ratings yet fans still hoping for change? That’s the WWE company model, where what’s best for business is always to keep bringing you back for more.

Pre-Show:
01. United States Championship Match: Kalisto (c) def. Ryback. First pre-show match of the night. The big guy versus little guy feud ends with the little guy dressed as a Mortal Kombat character (!) hitting a Salida Del Sol after dropkicking The Big Guy into an exposed turnbuckle.

02. The Total Divas defeated B.A.D. & Blonde. The second pre-show match. Team B.A.D. & Blonde treated their WrestleMania moment extra special with slick attires and in the case of Lana, a flowing cape to match her in-ring debut. Brie Bella locked in the greatest version of the Yes Lock ever and got Naomi to tap out and earn the win for Total Divas. After the match, Nikki Bella made a surprise appearance to help congratulate her sister as well as celebrate with her Total Dvias castmates.

Lita unveiled the new WWE Women’s Championship which is basically the WWE World Heavyweight Title but smaller and has white straps and face plates. In other words, I’d definitely create a version of it for the guys ala Ultimate Warrior and his multi-colored belts.

03. The Usos def. the Dudley Boyz. Third and final pre-show match. The Usos won with a superkick, sort of anti-climatic considering how that move has become the new DDT. After the match because they’re heels and hate things, The Dudley Boyz tried to put the Usos through tables but got splashed through them instead.

Main Card
04. Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Zack Ryder def. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Stardust, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara and The Miz. There are spots in ladder matches and then there’s the Ladder War spots achieved here. Best parts? Sin Cara springboarded off the ropes into a plancha outside the ring, fell off a ladder onto Cody Rhodes to break a ladder Rhodes was laying on. Sami Zayn dived THROUGH a ladder onto a crowd of people and in a nice sequence hit his trademark through the ropes DDT on the other end. Finally, Miz posed too long with the title belt before Zach Ryder pushed him off, snagging the belt and an emotional IC title win. After the match, Ryder’s dad got in the ring and celebrated with his son and in the post-match interview, he told Renee Young he was going to go find Scott Hall and take a picture with him, just as he had done with Hall when he won the IC title at WrestleMania X.

05. Chris Jericho def. AJ Styles. Styles red & white kit? Boss. Him losing his first WrestleMania match? Not really boss but at least it ends the two month feud with Jericho. The self-proclaimed G.O.A.T (his trunks said it) avoided Styles’ springboard elbow smash and countered it with a Codebreaker for 3. At least we saw a Styles Clash at WrestleMania.

06. The League of Nations def. The New Day. One of the rare times where the end result of a match pales in comparison to what happened after it and before it. Last year, Rusev rode out on a TANK to defend his United States Championship against John Cena. This year, he’s kicking cereal with The Lads. Also, nobody may have a trio entrance better than The New Day as they pulled off the Ginyu Force from Dragon Ball Z. Oh, Sheamus pinned Xavier Woods with a Brogue Kick after a Bullhammer assist from King Barrett.

Cocky as ever, Barrett declared that The Lads could defeat any three man squad in WWE history. Open challenges at WrestleMania don’t go over well as The Lads were met by three Mania legends in Mick Foley, Stone Cold Steve Austin & Mr. WrestleMania himself, Shawn Michaels. Michaels still looks in incredible shape even though he retired for good six WrestleManias ago. The legends took out the League and were asked to dance by New Day. Michaels and Foley obliged. Austin danced too, then hit a stunner on Woods because he’s not about to dab on them folks for your pleasure.

07. No Holds Barred Street Fight: Brock Lesnar def. Dean Ambrose. Dean should have brought his red wagon. After not being able to nail Lesnar with a chainsaw to chop his arms off or even Mick Foley’s barbed wire bat, Lesnar said screw it, german suplexed Ambrose onto a pile of chairs and then F-5’d him in the same spot for good measure for the W.

08. Triple Threat Match for the WWE Women’s Championship: Charlotte (c) def. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. See that? WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP. In the match that had more emotional investment for the fans than any other, everyone brought their A-game. From the entrances alone. Sasha Banks paid tribute not to just her own self-confidence but her favorite wrestler, Eddie Guerrero with her cousin Snoop Dogg walking her out. Charlotte had her own Flair robe complete with shimmering pyro as if it were Starrcade ’87, Becky turned up the Steampunk another notch. In the end, the Divas Champion left the Women’s Champion as Charlotte continued to establish herself as a great heel champion by beating Becky Lynch with a Figure 8, thanks to Ric Flair preventing Sasha from breaking it up.

09. Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker def. Shane McMahon. As you can see above, Shane McMahon almost died jumping off the Cell through a table. He brought his three sons out during his entrance, had money rain down from the sky and left with a Jordan cry face for his troubles after the Undertaker punished him. After one Tombstone Piledriver, Taker won, ensuring that he’ll be around for at least one more WrestleMania.

10. Baron Corbin won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. With a surprise entrance in Shaquille O’Neal entering the fray to Desiigner’s “Panda”, the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal took all of its comedy and gave spots to some of the older guys in teh ring. Shaq was eliminated early, Diamond Dallas Page got a Diamond Cutter in one Viktor of the Ascension before being tossed out, Tatanka got in some offense before he was tossed & the victor? NXT’s own Baron Corbin, eliminating Kane. I now need Corbin to tell the trophy to go back to France or something, just to continue his long lasting feud with imported things.

11. The Rock def. Erick Rowan. This was the Rock’s involvement in WrestleMania, a tribute to Idiocracy by wielding a flamethrower in honor of Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, walking with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and announcing the WrestleMania attendance record of 101,703 (with the more legit number being around 85 – 94,000). Rock talked about himself before he was interrupted by the Wyatt Family. Even though he put Bray over as a charismatic performer with a hell of a look, Rock still goaded them into a match thanks to having his ring boots on and a pair of tearaway pants. If you had Rock versus Erick Rowan on your WreslteMania bingo card, you’re a liar because that was NEVER on the damn card to begin with.

Rock won after a Rock Bottom in six seconds, effectively giving Daniel Bryan a bit of happiness for his 18-second less at WrestleMania 28. After the match, the Wyatt Family attempted to gang up on the Rock but John Cena made a surprise return and helped fend them off.

12. WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Roman Reigns def. Triple H (c).
First off, look at that entrance. Stephanie McMahon told us all to get in formation in some sort of Game of Thrones / Queen B mashup. Then there are faceless suits with skull heads all carrying the badge of the Authority, the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Triple H is known for going insane with WrestleMania entrances and this definitely beats the Terminator one he had last year. As far as the match was concerned, Steph attempted to intervene on behalf of her husband but Reigns accidentally speared her. It was probably the only cheer Reigns got last night because well … shocking violence is going to elicit a response regardless Triple H tried to use his trusty sledgehammer, but Reigns speared him to win the championship for the third time since Survivor Series.

What did Reigns do first thing Monday morning? He challenged John Cena in the most non-rehearsed way possible.

Photo Credit: WWE