Read Bryan’s previous Depths of ‘Mania reviews at https://www.voicesofwrestling.com/?s=depths+of+mania
I’d like to tell you a lot about all the fun build towards this year’s WrestleMania. And I’ll try my best to do it. But when you’re writing about a company that couldn’t care less about getting from point A to point B in a storyline, how can I?
Granted, WWE WrestleMania 32 was completely wrought with injuries, a lot of this year’s show wasn’t planned ahead of time. Seth Rollins, who won the title at WrestleMania 31, held the title until a few weeks before Survivor Series, where he blew his knee out in a match with, of all people, Kane. It was a simple sunset flip off the top rope spot, but his knee gave out and BOOM – he’s out nine months to a year. Injuries can happen at any moment for the simplest of reasons – you can ask the likes of Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Hideo Itami, and even John Cena as they all missed this WrestleMania due to various injuries.
Roman Reigns, who continued not to get over in any way, shape or form, was still pushed as “the guy”. Reigns beat Dean Ambrose in a tournament final at Survivor Series to win his first WWE Championship…only to lose it a few minutes later to Sheamus, who cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase thanks to Triple H’s quick distraction. This would be all fine and dandy if it weren’t for the fact that Sheamus not only lost his match during Survivor Series, but was made to look like the biggest geek possible during a League of Nations’ promo before the match. To say this didn’t work would be an understatement, and ended up losing the title a month later back to Roman Reigns.
A new plan was eventually decided for WrestleMania. The only person that made the most sense to face Roman Reigns was, of course…. Triple H!
At the Royal Rumble, after a valiant Roman Reigns walked away then returned to the Rumble match to boos, Triple H came out of nowhere and dumped Ambrose to win the WWE title for the ten millionth time to cheers.
I’ll tell you the gist of their feud: Triple H would come out and start Raw and cut the same promo about how we are all miserable and he and Stephanie are out to do what’s best for business because WWE needs authority, and since Roman represents anti-authority (he does?) he must be taken out. Triple H did some form of this promo over and over again for the next month after Reigns won a number one contenders match at Fast Lane. Roman Reigns responded by beating up Triple H a lot. I think people knew that, no matter what, Triple H was going to be cheered at AT&T Stadium and Roman Reigns was not, so I don’t think they bothered telling any interesting story other than this being a match of Authority vs. Anti-Authority, which is simple, but hardly a captivating main event angle.
That wasn’t creative’s biggest blunder of the year.
One week, Vince McMahon came out and decided he was going to give an award named after his father to his daughter, Stephanie. She came out and was going to give what I’m sure was to be a rousing speech when Shane McMahon, who hadn’t been seen on TV since 2009, made his return to tell Vince and Stephanie off. To sum things up, he was tired of how Vince, Stephanie and Hunter were treating both the fans and the wrestlers — he wanted control of Raw. Shane vaguely mentioned that he had a lockbox with a secret Vince McMahon didn’t want to get out. Vince McMahon said fine, he’d get control of Raw under one condition: he had to beat the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. Shane accepted the challenge, and it was on.
It was a weird scenario, why did Undertaker just happily agree to do Vince McMahon’s bidding? He should have had no real interest in destroying a 46-year-old father of three like Shane McMahon. I, as a fan, waited for an explanation. Maybe Vince was harboring a secret Undertaker didn’t want out, so he had to begrudgingly follow orders. Maybe Undertaker just wanted to side with the devil he knew rather than the devil he didn’t. Or maybe Undertaker agreed with Shane, and this whole match was a swerve just to get control of WWE out of the Authority and Vince McMahon’s hands. Surely something was going to be explained, right?
The Undertaker just did what he was told. Even when Shane McMahon brought up the fact he was acting more like Vince McMahon’s bitch, Undertaker vehemently denied it, even though he still had zero reasons to deal with the way Vince McMahon was talking to him. Even when they added the stipulation of Undertaker never competing at WrestleMania again if he lost, it didn’t help matters much as the storyline was an utter mess, especially when you consider that apart from one promo by Stephanie, the Authority couldn’t care less about this match, despite their authority over Raw being on the line. Obviously, some sort of political maneuvering backstage was hindering this storyline, but still, it didn’t need to be as fragmented as it was presented on television.
…Wait. I just wrote way too much about two storylines on this WrestleMania after saying in the end, it didn’t matter. And truth be told, it really doesn’t. The next day, both storylines were pretty much dropped cold. The Authority vanished, Shane McMahon gained control of Raw and Undertaker was nowhere to be seen. You’d think you would know then just how the the big stipulation match went by reading this paragraph, right?
Well, you’d think so.
WWE United States Championship
Kalisto def. Ryback
I like Kallisto. He’s a great high flyer, great offense, nothing all that wrong with him. When they went for something different by making him champion, I thought it was great! When he started to get pinned every week, then cutting promos that absolutely had to require him talking about Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio in just about every sentence, it wasn’t so great!
Meanwhile Ryback got a new look, ditching the RVD gear to more expertly show his physique. Ryback looks…well. Very well. Since he had turned the previous month and started to set his sights after Kallisto, you could put two and two together and figure out Ryback was in for a major push, right?
Well, no. He lost here relatively clean in a short match. A good, short match to be exact. Nothing wrong with that, but just there in terms of Mania openers. They worked a very solid match, but never went anything beyond that. It doens’t matter in the long run as Kallisto wasn’t on TV for weeks, only to get pinned by Ryback in a rematch on a random Smackdown. Why is he the United States champion? And why has this belt fallen so far since John Cena won it the previous year? ***
Total Divas def. BAD and Blonde
Total Divas are, well, this year’s cast of Total Divas – Paige, Eva Marie, Natalya, Alicia Fox and Brie Bella. BAD and Blonde are everyone else that’s not on the show – Emma, Lana, Summer Rae, Tamina and Naomi.
I thought the match was perfectly fine. This is Lana’s first ever match, so they had her do as little as possible. It worked. What also worked was Eva Marie’s offense, which lasted like a minute at most. As much as people complained about her being in the match, she was relatively harmless. Brie got the win for her team. ***
Lita came out and announced that the winner of the women’s triple threat match later tonight would be deemed the new WWE Women’s Champion. She revealed a new belt that pretty much looked like the men’s world title, but with white and red coloring. Looks great. This was something needed for a long time, not just because the term “divas” is kind of insulting but because it really signals a change between how the women’s division used to be and how it’s going to be now, with great athletes having great matches.
The Usos def. The Dudley Boyz
So the Dudleyz returned last year to a big pop, and went on a nostalgia run for a while. Once it ran its course, they turned heel. Their shtick consisted telling us they were not a nostalgia act, all while coming out to their old music, wearing their glasses and outfits from 2003 and using the tables, even though they said they never would again, because they are hypocrites. This didn’t work. Usos are a good team and can have great matches, but they have zero momentum. I think more than anything they need something new to the act, it just feels stale. Combine these two teams together and you have a match that existed on this card for no reason other than to fill time. This was a total Raw match and I don’t need to describe it more beyond that. **1/2
Keep in mind everything above was for the two hour pre-show. Now time for the actual four hour PPV!
After the usual great WrestleMania intro, Fifth Harmony sings America the Beautiful. Great performance, but I wonder why they do America the Beautiful instead of the National Anthem.
Ladder Match – WWE Intercontinental Championship
Zack Ryder def. Kevin Owens, Stardust, Sin Cara vs. Sami Zayn vs. The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
This was a bizarre match on paper. The buildup was weird with Kevin Owens making a triple threat match between Zack Ryder, Stardust and Sin Cara, three guys with absolutely zero momentum, with the winner facing him at WrestleMania. It was a ploy by him to not face any real challengers, and once that match turned into a melee with the likes of Ziggler, Zayn and Miz getting involved, it was eventually made into a seven man ladder match after a browbeating by Stephanie McMahon. Really weird.
The match itself, however, was great! It was every ladder match you see at WrestleMania with a bunch of crazy spots. At one point Sin Cara went to the top of the ladder and hit a senton on Stardust through another ladder on the floor. Completely crazy. Lots of ladder shots. It was also pretty great whenever Zayn and Owens got into it with one another as they have a great history with one another. I wish this could have been just a match between these two, but this was one of many “get everyone on the card” type of matches so what can you do. They teased the Miz was going to win, but Zack Ryder pushed him off to win the title. It was nice, but the finish was invalidated the next night as the Miz won the title for the fifth time. But hey, when it happened at Mania it was nice. ****1/4
Chris Jericho def. AJ Styles
Jericho’s work is so much better as a heel than as a face. They’ve had a series of bouts as of late, and I believe this is the fourth match, with AJ up by one. They’ve had good, but not great matches. Think of a really good Raw main event that gets a ton of time and works really well – that was this match. Jericho just seems like a step below Styles in terms of speed and thus some of the work isn’t as fluid as I would expect in a match between these two. A good match regardless, with Jericho getting the win after blocking the Phenomenal Forearm with the Codebreaker. At the time, I thought it made sense as they’d do one more match at Payback with Styles getting the win for the big blowoff match. That did not happen at all, as AJ Styles won a match for the number one contendership to the WWE title the next night on Raw. Wins and losses don’t matter, kids! ***3/4
The League of Nations def. The New Day
The only part of this segment I remember is the New Day coming out in a box of Booty-O’s wearing Dragon Ball Z gear. The absolute best part about the New Day act is that they are being themselves and that’s absolutely awesome as it works and doesn’t come off as forced. That’s really nice!
As for this match…look, the League of Nations isn’t over. They built this match by having them lose repeatedly to the New Day. They didn’t even know if this was a 3 on 3 or 4 on 3 match until the match started, and I think it was the latter. I say “I think” because I absolutely remember nothing about this match other than it was fine, but felt like a total Raw match with no heat. Xavier was pinned after a Bull Hammer and Brouge Kick. But it’s okay as they won the rematch the next night. I’ll repeat: wins and losses don’t matter, kids! **
After the match, the League of Nations got cocky and said no one could match up to them. This brought out a ripped Shawn Michaels and not so ripped Steve Austin and Mick Foley to come out and they proceeded to lay out everyone. Why get names over when you can use names from the past! Xavier celebrated and wanted Austin to dance with him like a geek, so Austin promptly stunned him. This all got a great reaction live, but this was one of many examples of where you could have used the talent that will be there tomorrow far better.
No Holds Barred
Brock Lesnar def. Dean Ambrose
Story here was simple. Ambrose met with the likes of Mick Foley and Terry Funk, and the legends gave him their blessing by giving him some big time weapons, like a chainsaw and barbed wire. After all, that was the best way to counteract Brock Lesnar, who doesn’t need weapons to destroy people. Maybe Ambrose wouldn’t win the battle, but at least he could make it a war by using every weapon at his disposal, right?
Well…no. Lesnar dominated the match. Ambrose did use a few weapons and got some spots in, but was largely destroyed. He tried to use both the chainsaw and the barbed wire bat but Lesnar got rid of them quickly. The one time he got a nearfall was a dirty deeds onto some chairs, but a F5 later gave the clear, dominant win to Lesnar. There were weapons used, but nothing major, and nothing that would lead you to believe this was nothing more than the usual type of weapons you could find on Raw. For all the hype, this is what they provided. A colossal let down, and they didn’t even protect Ambrose in taking yet another loss, which made him look like a complete loser. I give this *** only because it was a good brawl for what it was, but it completely failed in living up to the hype.
WWE Women’s Championship
Charlotte (c) def. Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch
Weird fact: WWE considers the Women’s title to be completely separate from the Women’s title they had up until 2010. No clue why, but whatever.
This was a tremendous match, one of the best matches on the show. Women’s matches for so long were nothing but filler on these shows, so for the first time they were given a prime spot and they delivered. Now, not everything was pretty, and there were some sloppy spots, but all three worked together pretty well, plus add in the fact people were interested in the match and you had a terrific bout featuring three hard working women.
The night of weird finishes continued, though, as Sasha Banks was held back by Ric Flair as Charlotte submitted Becky Lynch with the figure eight. It seemed so natural for Sasha Banks to pick up the win here – she got the big entrance and everything with her cousin Snoop Dogg coming out and performing. But word is, they’re keeping her big win until SummerSlam. That’s fine and all, but they really should strike while the iron is hot. WWE keeps missing opportunities when they don’t, and when they finally do it’s too little too late. Hopefully this isn’t another case of that. ****1/4
Hell in a Cell
The Undertaker def. Shane McMahon
Okay. So if you read my long intro to this article, I listed all the stipulations that Shane McMahon and the Undertaker faced when entering this cell, right? Well, forget all that. It was made very apparent that the announcers were not allowed to mention ANY of what was going on. They never pushed the fact the Authority could be out of control of Raw, or that Shane could gain control of Raw if he wins, or even that this could be Undertaker’s last WrestleMania. The only thing Michael Cole said, and he said it a bunch of times during the match, was that legacies were on the line. That’s all. Nothing else. It was utterly bizarre to hear, especially when you realize most of this storyline made little sense to begin with. It came across as someone pulling a power play and having second thoughts about the stipulations.
The match itself was very long and plodding until the end. They just grappled. Not bad, but not interesting either. Taker gave Shane way too much. Look, the McMahons have this weird fixation with being just as tough as the wrestlers, despite never actually having any sort of wrestling training. But Shane McMahon should not be in control of a Undertaker match at any point. It just doesn’t work.
They built up to a big spot where Shane and Undertaker escaped the cage and were brawling around. Shane put Undertaker on the table and went to the top of the Hell in a Cell cage. People were buzzing and eventually went crazy when Shane McMahon leaped off with an elbow. You almost had to know he was going to do something completely crazy. Undertaker dodged as Shane went crashing through the announce table. Undertaker eventually got him in the ring. Shane wanted more, but Undertaker just gently patted him on the head and tombstoned him to win. Aside from the giant spot, this was a really long, plodding match. I originally gave this *** but I’ll dock a star because in hindsight, kinda too generous. **
In other words…yes, the Undertaker got control back to the Authority. But the Authority haven’t been seen since this show, and Shane McMahon was put in charge of Raw anyway the next night. If you look at most of this card, it consisted of a lot of stuff that didn’t matter the next night. I guess why get mad when it doesn’t matter. I’ll also make it a threepeat: wins and losses don’t matter, kids!
Andre the Giant Battle Royal
A few people got entrances this year. The trio of terror consisting of Big Show, Kane and Mark Henry all got one, for example. Those are three people I never need to see on WWE TV ever again. DDP followed, then SHAQ appeared. This was totally to set up teasing an eventual Big Show match. I kind of like it, even though it feels like that would have been a hotter match a few years ago, back when Big Show was…hell, I don’t know what he was then and what he is now. I think he’s a face. I don’t really know.
The match mostly consisted of Shaq, Kane and Big Show trading power spots. Shaq dwarfs Big Show and Kane, which tells you one thing: Shaq is REALLY TALL. He and Big Show eventually got eliminated, and from there it just turned into a geek battle royal. Oh, Tatanka was there too. I have no idea why, but he looked perfectly fine just doing his comeback and getting eliminated. It boiled down to Baron Corbin and Kane, with Kane being the last guy eliminated giving Corbin the win. Hey, it was a useless battle royal, but it served a purpose in getting a new guy over at least. Corbin has potential, but if he’s cutting WWE scripted promos it’s going to be the end of him. 1/2*
The Rock’s Super Special Cool Segment
Rock came out, of course, to a huge pop. There were giant Rock letters out on stage, and he proceeded to get a blow torch and blow that motha up on FIRE. I guess that was cool. He came to the ring and announced WWE’s fake number that they will repeat for years: 101,763. It’s more closer to around 97,000, so they did break a record here and it really is the biggest Wrestlemania of all time. Just not one that makes sense.
So Rock says now the fun is really going to start. I wonder what The Rock’s fun was, because we never got it as the Wyatt Family jump cut happened as Bray and his crew came to the ring. The Rock went into comedy mode, calling them Duck Dynasty sumbitches and implying Braun Strowman was breastfed up to the age of 26. Rock then immediately went into serious mode and challenged one of them to a match, tearing off his clothes to reveal his wrestling trunks. Rowan accepted, then promptly got pinned after a Rock Bottom. I think that’s a new WrestleMania record, so move over, SD Jones and King Kong Bundy.
Strowman got into the ring after the match as all the Wyatt family cornered the Rock. Suddenly, John Cena’s music hits as he ran down to the ring, making the save. They managed to send all the Wyatts packing as Cena gave the AA to Rowan and Rock gave the people’s elbow to Braun Strowman. It’s funny as Strowman was set to win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and start off with a big push post-Wrestlemania, but people backstage were stunned when he and Dean Ambrose had a terrible Raw main event a few weeks prior. This coming from the guy who never even made it to NXT TV, and also coming from the guy who had the worst tryout ever but was still signed anyway because he was tall. Vince McMahon talent scouting, everyone.
Also, this did nothing for the Wyatts. It’s pretty much the same situation with the League of Nations where a part timer and an established star who’s injured but not ready to return full time leave them laying despite being 4 to 2. WWE’s new thing that they love is people “getting the rub” by having them get laid out by people who are already over, but getting the rub this way never works because you always come off as second rate. They did the same thing to Andy who won Tough Enough. Do you even remember Andy? No, of course not.
But hey, the Rock and John Cena celebrated after as the crowd…were kinda okay with it. I think.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Roman Reigns def. Triple H
Blah. This match. It’s so funny, because it’s oddly reminiscent of WrestleMania 25’s main event in that it fell completely flat, except this time there was no awesome match that preceded it. If you wanted to overcome the boos of Regions and the cheers of Hunter, they needed to have a blow away match with some great psychology. This didn’t happen at all, to say the least.
After Triple H got his fancy entrance, complete with Stephanie high above the stage looking oddly like Chyna on the cover of Playboy, cutting Triple H’s promo about us needing Authority and us hating our lives and blah blah blah, and after Roman Reigns came out to a less than favorable reaction, AND after all the weeks of animosity and hatred…they simply lock up and have a grappling match. Nothing really saying that they hated each other, or that Triple H was going to sink to new lows to get what he wanted….nope. Triple H had his match like he was working Randy Orton at the main event of WrestleMania 25. There were a lot of holds. A lot of rest spots. Some of that newfangled MMA grappling the kids like. But nothing even remotely suggesting either have a hatred for one another.
And that’s fine if you’re just headlining a Raw or a three hour PPV. But this was the main event of WrestleMania. You’re seven hours into a long show filled with a bunch of finishes that turned off the crowd because you’ve worked them into believing what they want doesn’t matter, the finishes on this card don’t matter and you’re kind of a dork for staying here this long to watch a finish you probably don’t want. So as Triple H was working his long ass match full of rest holds with the occasional barrier and stair shots, a lot of the crowd started to leave. And the crowd that stayed reacted to very little.
Even when Stephanie got speared by Roman Reigns (inadvertently, of course), the crowd did pop for a minute, but eventually died down as Triple H immediately struck a pedigree. Reigns kicked out and hit the superman punch. Hunter grabbed the sledgehammer from a still reeling Stephanie on the outside and went to use it, but Reigns countered with the spear and pinned Hunter to finally win the WWE title…for the third time in the last four in a half months. **1/2
The reaction to Reigns winning was a funny one. From what I heard, the people popped initially, but eventually the crowd either was muted or died down considerably. No matter how hard you tried to paint it, the crowd just wasn’t into Reigns winning. But Vince McMahon wanted Reigns have his crowning achievement, damn it, no matter how hard the people rebelled. It took him an extra year, but Vince McMahon eventually got what he wanted, Roman Reigns standing tall at the end of WrestleMania as the show closed.
I’m not going to say this was a bad show, as the ladder match and the women’s match were very good and lived up to expectations. Even AJ/Jericho was a lot better than some people thought it was. But this was a show full of finishes that either didn’t make sense or the crowd didn’t want, plus it didn’t help matters the next night on Raw when a lot of the WrestleMania fallout was discarded. It was just a really long, pretty weird show with a few gems tucked in between to save it from being a really long and bad show.