The Law Reviews: Wrestlemania 32

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It’s here.

The biggest night of the year. Wrestling’s Super Bowl. Christmas Day for wrestling fans. The night careers are made (and lost, in some cases). Let’s remember where we were a year ago: Seth Rollins stole the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, John Cena and Daniel Bryan were the United States Champion and Intercontinental Champions, respectively, and Triple H was in a nostalgia match against Sting. A year later, some things have changed and some things haven’t changed at all. 

The biggest intrigue for this show is just how WWE gets themselves out of the corners they’ve booked themselves into.  They’ve got an unpopular top babyface winning the title against a cool heel in front of the smarkiest crowd in history. They’ve got Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker in a match where the crowd’s loyalties are sure to be divided.  No one wants Undertaker to have to retire, no one wants The Authority to continue to be in charge of Raw. And I don’t think anyone wants to see Shane McMahon beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.

They’ve got their work cut out for them, that’s all I can say.

We’re about to get underway and it’s less than half full. Sounds like a lot of people are stuck outside. Unlike when Bill Mercer would claim that there was a traffic jam outside the stadium at the start of the World Class shows at the Cotton Bowl, I’m confident these seats will fill in.

I think the set-up of the stadium looks great and I love the red/white/blue color scheme.

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United States Championship: Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback

Both guys in new gear, which is always a nice touch for Wrestlemania. I was basically the president of the Ryback Fan Club for a long time, but at this point I’ve pretty much given up hope on him ever mattering. Just too far gone at this point.

I like Kalisto with the US Title, especially if they would functionally turn it into a Junior Heavyweight Title. I love that they put the Tale of the Tape up before the match, that should probably be a standard for a pay-per-view match.

Mauro should also be a standard, because he’s by far the best announcer in WWE.

Kalisto is messing with Ryback using his superior quickness. Ryback gets hands on him and swats him down like a fly.

SICK DDT by Kalisto. Followed by a beautiful Corkscrew Shoulder Block. Kalisto really is the Rey Mysterio heir that WWE wanted Sin Cara to be. Kalisto hits a surprise Salida Del Sol for the win.

Rating: **. That was a nice opening match. I hate to give up on Ryback, but at this point it’s probably fine to use him as job fodder for Kalisto. Kalisto could make money for WWE. I don’t think that’s true of Ryback anymore.

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The Total Divas vs. Team BAD and Blonde

I’m happy Emma is back on the main roster and I hope they don’t waste her the way they did last time. She doesn’t deserve to get left behind as the women’s division goes to another level.

Eva Marie’s inclusion here only makes sense if it’s prelude to a heel turn. Which wouldn’t really be a turn, since she’s already a heel.

Last time they had one of these matches at Wrestlemania was Wrestlemania 26 and Vickie Guerrero botched a cover. So I think this match will be better.

I loved the entrances here because they looked like teams of superheroes coming to the ring together.

Not a ton to say about this. Everyone did fine. No serious botches. Eva Marie as improved a ton. Lana wasn’t in much but hit a couple nice kicks. This was harmless filler. Nice moment for Brie to get the win in what’s surely her last Wrestlemania and possibly last match. And who’d have thought Nikki Bella would get a face pop from a Wrestlemania crowd?

Rating: *1/4. Nothing bad there, just filler. Better days are ahead for this division. Some of these women will be part of it and some won’t.

Lita stood in the ring to debut the new WWE Women’s Championship. Dumping the Diva’s Title in favor of the Women’s Title is long, long overdue. I love that the design is so similar to the WWE Championship. This title should be portrayed as the world championship of women’s wrestling. Having a title that doesn’t look like a Barbie toy is part of that. I don’t love that the strap is pink, but other than that it looks great.

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The Usos vs. The Dudley Boys

The Dudleys turning heel and given them some steam back. They had really gone cold as faces. Bubba really is one of the best heels in wrestling. I wouldn’t mind him getting a solo heel run after this.

Very little going on for The Usos. They’ve been distanced from Roman. Their act is starting to get a little stale. They’ve had the exact same gimmick for something like two and a half years now. They need some tweaking, but I’m not really sure what to do.

Bubba’s trash talk is excellent. If you’ve never seen the stuff he did in ECW, check it out. He’d nearly cause riots. Nothing he said would fly in WWE today, but it was a different promotion and different time.

They allow a tag by the Dudleys even though D-Von wasn’t holding the tag rope. That annoys me. The rules are so important to a tag match. You’ve got to enforce them  properly for like half the tag spots to work.

Abrupt finish here after a Superkick.

Rating: *. Totally basic tag match. Cut way short. You need a long time to work a tag match properly.

Dudleys try to put Jimmy and Jey through tables. Usos end up doing stereo Splashes through the tables. Did you know this is the third year in a row Usos have been on the pre-show? Poor guys should have had a spot on the main show by now.

On to the main show.

Excellent opening video taking us through the history of Wrestlemania. I will note that Hogan wasn’t included, so he’s not quite back in the family yet.

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Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust vs. Zack Ryder

I don’t know that any of these challengers really deserve a shot at the IC Title. Zayn has just debuted, Ziggler and Miz have done fuck all for the past year. And Ryder, Cara, and Stardust are basically jobbers. And somehow, Zack Ryder, who has literally been jobbed out for four years straight, is the odds on favorite to win here. This is high on the list of weirdest Wrestlemania matches ever.

Zayn has our first breathtaking spot with the Somersault Plancha through the ladder and then the Diving DDT to Owens out on the floor. Sin Cara follows it up with a bonkers Springboard after being pushed off the ladder.

Superkick party probably goes on for too long. Stardust breaks out his personal ladder, which is a nice homage to last year. I appreciate Owens being disgusted by the polka dot ladder and throwing it away. The Frog Splash onto the ladder looked like it really hurt. That falls into the “no way to learn how to do successfully” category. Ryder follows that with a massive Flying Elbow from the ladder.

Off-hand it feels like there are a lot more bumps than last year. Some of this stuff is insane. I wish there had been a prop bet about Sin Cara getting knocked out of this match, because that was clearly going to happen. I love how that trait has carried over as a different man has taken over the Sin Cara character.

That Suplex Zayn hit Owens with onto the ladder looked like too much. Miz had the match won but took too long and Ryder threw him off. Ryder wins the IC Title to a huge pop.

Rating: ***. Fun  stunt show match. There was a lot of crazy stuff in there, I’d say too much. Ryder winning here is pretty much inexplicable. He’s been a jobber for four years and now he’s the Intercontinental Champion? The time for him to win the IC Title was Wrestlemania 28. Now that he’s eaten shit for four years they can give him a break. What a bizarre company.

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AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho

Jericho has done some good heel work in the last month. He’s clearly more suited for a heel role at this point in his career. AJ is doing pretty well. It feels like ten years ago they’d have had him in overalls coming out to banjo music.

So this is the only singles match without any kind of stipulation or gimmick on the card.

Jericho is a step slow here. Both in kayfabe and reality. Acknowledging this reality helps this match in comparison to the match they had at Fastlane, where Jericho was trying to keep pace with Styles even though he wasn’t capable of it. Here, Jericho does his best to ground Styles.

Stiffest Walls of Jericho I’ve seen in awhile. Lovely series with the Walls reversed into the Calf Crusher and Jericho rolling into the pinning combination. Jericho hits the Code Breaker but is knocked silly and can’t cover immediately. I like seeing someone protect their finisher like that. Styles waits until the last possible moment to kick out too. Good work from both guys on that near fall.

The Styles Clash not being a finisher is weird to me. I get that he can’t do it on everyone, but it seems to me that when he does it the match should be over. It’s a super finisher, like Taker would use the Tombstone occasionally when he was The American Bad Ass. Styles takes off his elbow pad and I wondered if he was going for the People’s Elbow. The Phenomenal Forearm is reversed into a super sloppy Code Breaker and Jericho…wins?

Rating: ***. Good match. I guess Jericho winning means this feud keeps going? I’ve seen about enough of it. For everyone who complained about Jericho losing too much, I guess you got what you wanted here. How’s it feel?

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The New Day vs. The League of Nations

This really should be the end of the League of Nations. They existed to give Sheamus some muscle while he was WWE Champion (seriously, doesn’t that feel like a year ago?). Now that Sheamus has been bounced back to the midcard they’re just a mismatched crew. Sheamus and Barrett would be fine as a tag team, but Rusev and Del Rio deserve to be doing better things.

What a journey for New Day. A year ago these guys got booed the fuck out of Wrestlemania and Raw the night after. Now they’re the most over act on the roster. Shows you what you can happen when you roll with a crowd’s reaction rather than fighting it.

I’m 90% sure this was announced as 4-on-3, but it’s been changed to only Del Rio, Sheamus, and Rusev in the match with Barrett on the floor.

Sheamus doing the Ten Beats of the Bowery while chanting “New Day Sucks” tickled me. Other than that, the heat segment wasn’t all that interesting. Kofi has a pretty spicy hot tag, but Sheamus blocks Trouble in Paradise and LoN takes over again. Big E gets the hot tag a bit too soon and too easily for my tastes and proceeds to kill himself with that Spear out of the ring. Looked like he hit his head square on the floor.

Kofi is allowed into the match on account of Big E being dead, I guess. Bull Hammer and Brogue Kick on Woods and League of Nations gets the win. Third upset in a row tonight.

Rating: **1/4. Some fun stuff in there, but nothing too interesting. League of Nations is a cold act and I’m not a big fan of them winning here. It’s probably meant to set up a tag title match for next month, but I don’t like it.

And then reason for the finish becomes apparent, as “Sexy Boy” hits and Shawn Michaels shows up in his wrestling gear. Then Mick Foley in his wrestling gear, which isn’t really any different from his street gear. And then Steve Austin to an enormous pop. So yeah, they beat their top face team in order to set up a nostalgia segment. Why not just use the Social Outcasts as beat down fodder?

Great sell of the Stunner by Rusev though.

Just to piss me off more, New Day gets in the ring to dance after losing. Nope, wins and losses don’t mean shit here. Austin Stuns the shit out of Xavier Woods after dancing a little bit. I’m fine with having a legends segment, but it shouldn’t have come at the expense of people who matter.

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Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar

They’ve really hit on something with Ambrose in the last few months. Making him a Mick Foley-esque glutton for punishment. And it’s perfect because when he loses it just gets him more over. He can take more than anyone else.

I wish Brock still had the title. I think this show would be more interesting with Brock defending the title he’d held for a year and half. He’s the most over act in wrestling, the most legitimate and credible. He’s the right guy to be leading WWE right now. This match is fine, but he deserves bigger and better.

It’s so fitting that Heyman won’t let anyone else announce Lesnar. Ambrose oddly comes to the ring without his wagon of weapons. Lesnar jumps Ambrose off the bell and the destruction begins. Dean gets hold of a Kendo Stick and goes to town on Lesnar with it. Lesnar shuts that down with a couple more Suplexes. He could use the Kendo Stick but declines. He doesn’t need weapons. He has Suplexes.

The chainsaw makes an appearance, briefly. Ambrose can’t get it started and gets Suplexed again. I was hoping he’d get it started and a bunch of cops would step in to stop him from using it. Dean stuns Lesnar with a fire extinguisher and then pummels him with a chair. Dean follows with a nasty chair-assisted Elbow Drop and Lesnar is no longer messing around. Dean throws 15 chairs into the ring, then gets Suplexed…except it’s Lesnar who lands on the chairs.

Ambrose blocks the F5 into a DDT on the chairs! That gets a close two count. The crowd really is kind of dead. There’s a weak “This is Awesome” chant. Now they come to life for the barbed wire baseball bat. Dean, in a recurring theme of this match, gets Suplexed onto the pile of chairs. F5 onto the pile of chairs looks like it killed him and Lesnar gets the pin.

Rating: **1/4. Disappointing. Just didn’t quite come together. Was less brutal than the beatings Lesnar had dished out in the past, never quite felt like Lesnar was in danger of losing. I think this match needed more of Dean crawling around, laughing at being hit, that sort of thing. Maybe part of the problem is we already had the brutality of the ladder match and that was hard to follow.

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WWE Women’s Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

It hasn’t been a perfect road, but this is the biggest women’s match at Wrestlemania since Trish vs. Mickie James at 22. And it feels great to say they’re fighting for the Women’s Championship. Let’s hope this is a banner night for women’s wrestling.

Sasha gets a star entrance with Snoop Dogg rapping vocals on her track. And then she got one of the biggest pops of the night. Just wish they’d had the SUV from TakeOver Brooklyn to complete this.

Chlarlotte looks awesome in that robe.

The crowd is hot for this. Really good sign.

They start with an impressive series of pinfall reversals. The action is fast-paced and smooth. If anything, it’s a little too pretty and choreographed. Sasha takes a nasty fall and that’s the last we’ll see of her for a bit. Becky does a really good thing where she refuses to let go of her opponent. She’ll transition through holds, all while keeping a grip on them. It’s something I wish we saw from more wrestlers.

Charlotte is setting up the Figure Eight when Sasha flies in from off the screen with a Frog Splash! Crowd getting into it now.

That Suicide Dive Sasha hit looked like a botch that got corrected mid-move. Great job by Charlotte to catch her. Becky levels (Ric) Flair with a Suicide Dive. Charlotte follows with a picture perfect Moonsault to the floor! That was unreal. Shawn Michaels nearly killed himself with that move at Wrestlemania 24, but she hit it perfect.

They’ve got me reeling on every move now. Becky has Charlotte in the Disarmer, but Sasha grabs Becky and rolls her into the Banks Statement. Then Charlotte locks Sasha in the Figure Eight. Sasha rolls it over…this is crazy. Charlotte rolls it back over, Becky drags her out of the ring. I’m exhausted watching this.

Charlotte gets the win with the Figure Eight.

Rating: ***1/2. Really good match. Best WWE women’s match in a long time.

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Hell in a Cell Match: Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon

The most batshit insane match in a long time. Shane has blackmail on Vince (I guess? They haven’t mentioned that in a long time). If he can beat Undertaker, he gets control of Raw (or is it all WWE?). If Undertaker loses, he can never wrestle at Wrestlemania again (right, he doesn’t have to retire completely?). It’s literally five gimmicks deep.

They’re going to have to wrestle this match in a very particular way if they’re going to make it plausible that Shane can hurt Undertaker.

Taker’s kicking Shane’s ass. Shane gets his first offense by trapping Taker in a Triangle Choke. The steps get involved and Shane gets Chokeslammed, then dodges an Elbow Drop to stay alive.

We get a half-assed version of the sit-up spot from Summerslam, then Taker traps Shane in the Gogoplata. Which Shane gets out of because he’s an MMA bad ass and all. Shane turns it into a Sharpshooter-ish hold, which is a decent transition.

This is where the dreaded reality sets in that they’re actually just having Shane wrestle with Undertaker. Shane stuns Taker in the corner and sets up for the coast to coast. He hits it, can’t cover. Shane gets bolt cutters, cuts through the wall. Taker Spears him through the wall. Announce table spot time. Shane slips out and locks on a Sleeper. And Taker drives them both through the table. Pretty good spot.

Shane gets a toolbox and hits Taker with it. Jesus, Shane’s going up the Cell. That thing is way taller than it was when Foley went off the top. This is terrifying. Oh, that was horrifying.

Shane isn’t dead, he challenges Taker for more. This is dragging like a motherfucker. Tombstone, 1-2-3. Okay, we’re done.

Rating: **. Yeah, didn’t get into that at all. All built to one big spot that I didn’t want to see. I find Shane trading shots with Taker inane. He’s not a wrestler, he’s 45 years old. Taker’s punches should knock him right out. That spot was insanely dangerous, and I don’t think it was worth it. Also insane to not put that on last with a spot that crazy in it.

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Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

No thoughts going into this. This is basically the JOB Squad. Okay, a few surprises with Corbin and DDP.

SHAQ? Well that’s a massive surprise. I always wanted Shaq to wrestle but he could never do it while he was playing. Wondering what took him so long to get in the ring.

Fun fight between Shaq and Big Show. Once they’re gone this is no longer interesting. This is a good spot for this match though. Let everyone rest after the last match. Sacrifice this to the Heat Gods.

Corbin gets the win, one of the first understandable booking decisions they’ve made tonight.

Rating: *. Pretty lame. Shaq part was fun though.

Rock segment. Flamethrower. Jesus, this show is never going to end. Promo. Attendance record. Jesus, Bray is coming out. Two years ago he fought John Cena and was one of the most over men in wrestling. Last year he fought Undertaker in the second to last match on the card. And now he’s beatdown fodder.

Wait, we’re having a match?

The Rock vs. Erick Rowan

This is some really weird shit.

Yeah, the Wyatts clearly needed to eat more shit.

Cena’s here. Big pop. This has been going for like 30 minutes now. It’s 11:00 and we haven’t even had the video package for the main event.

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WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Roman Reigns

There’s nothing to say about Roman Reigns that hasn’t been said. It’s not working. Nothing has really changed in the past year. They’ve tried everything they can think of to get him over as face. It hasn’t happened and it isn’t going to happen.

This entrance isn’t going to do much to curb my Stephanie crush.

The boos for Reigns are so loud. At least the crowd is alive.

These guys are in an incredibly hard spot. The show has been going forever. The crowd has to be exhausted. The storyline is cold. The face is being booed, the heel is being cheered. They’ve really got their work cut out for them here.

They don’t come out of the gates firing. Not sure that’s a good move. Triple H is absolutely dominating. Crowd isn’t especially loud. Every move from Reigns is getting booed though. I think they turned the crowd mics down. Now Roman’s beating HHH down. We’ve entered a surreal point where I’ve been watching wrestling for 6.5 hours.

I think a “We Want Rollins” chant is starting? Well, Reigns just Speared HHH through a barricade so that quiets that. The sound mixing is weird, I think they’re distorting it so we can’t hear the crowd. Oh, now we’ve got a “Nakamura” chant breaking through.

LONG Armbar from Triple H. Is it Wrestlemania 33 yet? Reigns with a monster Powerbomb to escape the Armbar. Nice bump from Triple H on the Pedigree reversal. Crowd pops for Stephanie pulling the referee out of the ring.

Roman accidentally Spears Stephanie and the crowd comes to life. That’s the way to construct that spot. Steph gets comeuppance, Roman doesn’t intentionally hit a woman. Good kick out on the Pedigree, that looked like the finish. Superman Punch, Triple H counters the Spear attempt. This match is going on forever. They probably should have ended this ten minutes ago.

Alright, he’s got the Sledgehammer. This has to be it. Superman Punch. Spear. Ballgame. We made it.

Rating: **1/2. Wasn’t terrible, but it’s the same as the Triple H/Jericho and Triple H/Orton matches. Just can’t overcome a crowd that’s checked out.

LOUD boos. Awkward cuts to the fireworks show outside. No twist, no tease. Roman’s the champ.

Overall: If you had to sum up WWE in one show, this was it. Great wrestling from the guys. Ridiculously long. Tone deaf. Bizarre booking. No strategy to make new stars other than Reigns. More style than substance. I’m just numb to everything after watching that. The pre-show started at 5:45. It’s 11:50 as I’m typing this. The highlight package is still going. They did a six hour Wrestlemania. And I don’t feel like anything was accomplished.

Grade: C-

 

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