If you would have told Vince McMahon and other high-ranking WWE officials a year ago that they were going to have to plan to attempt breaking the WrestleMania attendance record in 2016 without John Cena, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins on the card, they may have briefly had second thoughts.
But the show, as they say, goes on. That record did fall on Sunday night at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, with more than 100,000 fans on hand at AT&T Stadium. Not the injured wrestlers, nor crazy fan delays getting in, nor three of the four participants in the night’s two biggest matches combining to total 143 years of age could prevent that.
If an ‘A’ for effort can be handed out, the WWE deserved that, at least for two-thirds of the show. Surprisingly touching moments happened, like Zack Ryder getting some long-awaited attention. Shaquille O’Neal showed up. The Rock, Cena and some beloved legends all pitched in. Shane McMahon did something crazy, as expected.
The show certainly tried the bigger is better approach, clocking in at an unwieldy running time well over four and a half hours. The biggest problem was a main event that just couldn’t carry all that extra bloat, especially since it featured a wildly unpopular challenger who was billed as the face despite no signs the majority of fans are willing to get behind him.
In a second main event that started after eleven o’clock, Triple H defended his WWE World Heavyweight Title against Roman Reigns. Stephanie McMahon introduced her husband standing atop Triple H’s throne, saying that she owned us as we hope for savior to take away the pain of our pathetic lives. And all hope was lost.
Roman Reigns entered the stadium to a very antagonistic crowd and no other fanfare. No Roman legionnaires, no chariot; just Roman alone and some pyro.
Both men locked up in the ring to start the match, with Hunter taking Roman down with a side headlock. Hunter shot off the ropes and right into a shoulder block. Hunter fought off an armbar and tossed Reigns to the floor.
Reigns and Hunter faced off again in the middle of the ring. Hunter smashed Roman into the turnbuckle and followed with a clubbing blow over the back. Reigns backed Hunter into the corner with a series of rights and took him down with a flying clothesline. Roman dropped Hunter into the ropes and was able to connect with a basement dropkick. Steph got herself involved early, distracting the ref. This allowed Hunter to kick Roman down low. Hunter followed up with an inverted atomic drop. Roman was able to kick out.
Both men traded punches once again in the middle of the ring until Hunter took Roman down with a spinebuster. The challenger was thrown to the floor. Hunter smashed Roman into one of the still standing announce tables, but Roman was able to reverse the beating until Hunter threw him over it. The champ then was able to connect with a neckbreaker off the table.
Back in the ring, Hunter hung Roman on the ropes, but Reigns was able to catch him with a right hand as Triple H flew off the turnbuckle. Reigns took Hunter down with a boot and followed with a clothesline in the corner. A Samoan drop led to a pinfall, but the champ was able to kick out. Reigns loaded up the Superman punch, but Hunter was able to roll out of the ring. Instead, Roman launched himself off the steps to take down Hunter on the floor. Triple H then took a hard ride into the ring steps, but recovered to toss Roman into the German announce table. Reigns popped to his feet and ran the length of the ring to spear Hunter through the barricade into the crowd.
Reigns rolled Hunter back into the ring to break the count. Roman went for the Superman punch, but Hunter caught him and was able to counter into an armbar. Hunter then grabbed the other arm, locking Roman in the middle of the ring. Reigns rolled through, but Hunter locked in another arm bar. Reigns was able to pick up Triple H and power bomb him but didn’t have enough left in the tank to get the pin. Hunter went back to the arm, and once again Reigns broke the hold with a power bomb.
Both men got to their feet and Reigns went for spear, but Hunter countered into a Pedigree. Reigns back dropped Hunter to the floor and then caught him with a spear. Steph stopped the count by yanking the ref out of the ring. The ref reprimanded her, so she got in the ring to fire back at him. Hunter used the ref to get to his feet and was able to dodge another spear from Roman. Unfortunately, that spear caught Steph and she took the full brunt of it. Hunter used the confusion to hit the Pedigree, but Roman was able to kick out.
Reigns hit a Superman punch out of nowhere, but then ran right into a knee. With Steph on the floor, she was still able to hand Hunter the sledgehammer. The ref tried to stop him, but Roman stopped him with a Superman punch, twice. Reigns went for the spear, was able to duck and sledgehammer shot, and then came off the ropes to spear Triple H. He covered and got the pin to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The co-main event was more satisfying as it featured two men known for putting everything on the line on the biggest stages. Playing up the legacy angle, McMahon’s kids accompanied Shane to the ring before taking their seats with fake money raining down from above. Undertaker had a fairly low key entrance by his WrestleMania standards, though even his normal rung walks are all-time classics as is.
McMahon tried to stick and move, circling backwards around the ring. Undertaker finally grabbed him, forcing an exchange of strikes in the corner. Dumped out to the floor, Shane looked to be in his first trouble, but once back in the ring, he responded to a Snake Eyes with a flying reverse elbow.
The fight went back outside the ring, where Shane got bounced off the ring and hit with a leg drop on the apron. A Last Ride followed, though McMahon was able to kick out at two.
Shane went from frying pan to fire, getting locked in a triangle and slammed on the stairs. Kicking out at two, he managed to sucker in the Phenom and DDT him on the steps.
Shrugging off several pinfall attempts, Undertaker locked on the Hell’s Gate, with the ref also dutifully checking to make sure the Dead Man’s shoulders weren’t down. Somehow, McMahon managed to slip out and flip things over. That led to a version of the Sharpshooter, with ‘Taker finally able to break the hold.
With both men down, Shane managed to crawl over to the corner to lay in a few right hands. He went under the ring to get a trash can, and the fans came alive, realizing what that meant. The Coast to Coast found its mark, leaving Undertaker with a dazed look on his face — though he still managed to kick out at two.
Shane dug under the ring for some wire cutters, snapping part of one panel loose. That gave Undertaker enough time to cover, and he drove Shane through that part of the cage, crashing the metal down onto the German announce table. With weapons to use close at hand, the Phenom used some monitors to smash McMahon in the head before the fight went into the timekeeper’s area and close to the fans.
Up on the barricade, Undertaker motioned for Shane to rest in peace. With a Tombstone a distinct possibility, McMahon slapped on a desperation sleeper hold, though ‘Taker broke it by falling backward through the table using his opponent to break the fall.
Looking for something to strike back, Shane grabbed a tool box and used it to crash home two straight shots. He looked skyward after that, thinking about climbing the cell. Urged on by the fans, he hit the Dead Man one more time and began his ascent.
Pausing to make the sign of the cross, McMahon made a genuine Leap of Faith, only to see Undertaker move and go crashing through an announce table by himself. Naturally, Undertaker got up first, carrying his foe and rolling him back in the ring before waving Shane-o-Mac to bring it on — and getting some back in return. Alas, Shane’s big effort was for naught, as a Tombstone was enough to finish him off.
Undertaker looked back to the ring in a mixture of disbelief and respect as medical personnel headed to the ring to tend to Shane. The fans cheered in response to his thumbs up gesture from the stretcher.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Payback on May 1.
Someday, Dale will manage to dethrone Nick for the PPV recap championship of the world. Until that day comes, Nick’s comments will be in plain type while Dale’s are in italics.
Despite the four-hour-plus run time, some matches are still being bumped to the pre-show … including the United States title match.
Pre-show Match #1 – Kalisto (champion) vs. Ryback (challenger) – United States Championship Match
Ryback stands tall in the middle of the ring as Kalisto sizes him up. The US champ goes for a jumping head lock and Ryback just swats him to the mat and then tosses him out of the ring. Kalisto fights out of the corner with an elbow and hits a bulldog from the second rope. Kalisto covers but is thrown out of the ring on the kick out. Kalisto drives double knees into the Big Guy from apron. Ryback then tosses him into the security barrier and picks him up in a military press to dump him into the ring. Ryback tosses Kalisto straight into the air and watches him crash to the mat. The US champ uses kicks to break out of Ryback’s hold but then runs into a back elbow. Ryback toys with Kalisto, just slapping him about the head on the apron. Ryback clubs Kalisto atop the turnbuckle and picks him up in a vertical suplex. Kalisto counters and nearly gets a pinfall with a lateral press. Kalisto hits a huge DDT and nearly gets the pin. Kalisto unloads a series of kicks and follows with a springboard corkscrew elbow. The US champ goes up and over on a powerbomb and uses the turnbuckle to hit the Salida del Sol. Kalisto covers and gets the win to retain the US title.
Winner via pinfall … and still United States champion: Kalisto
Pre-Show Match #2 – Team Total Divas (Brie Bella, Natalya, Paige, Alicia Fox and Eva Marie vs. Team B.A.D. and Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Emma, Summer Rae and Lana)
Eva Marie refuses to tag out when Paige asks and then she gives a hard slap to Nattie to bring her in. Noami kicks Nattie, but then gets double teamed by Paige. Naomi charges and goes for a cross body, but Paige ducks and Naomi slams into the ropes. Lana tags in for her in ring debut and kicks Paige in the side of the head. She taunts Brie in the corner. Tamina tags in and she and Naomi double team Paige in the corner. Paige fights them off and takes out almost all off Team B & B on the floor with a splash. Tamina is able to cut off Paige from making a tag. Brie gets the tag and unloads the YES! kicks and goes for the pin. Lana breaks it up. Eva tags in, and after slamming Tamina, she gets caught taunting. Brie tags back in and Lana pushes her off the top rope. Brie is still able to apply the YES! lock on Naomi and gets her to tap.
Winner via submission: Team Total Divas
After the bell, Nikki, neck brace and all, makes her way to the ring to celebrate with what may be her sister’s last match.
Neck brace and full ring gear. Not sure I’ve ever seen that at WrestleMania before.
Lita is in the ring and unveils a brand new Women’s Title belt. The Divas division has been officially rebranded as the Women’s division.
Nice WWE. Create a somewhat demeaning term for women, use it for a while, then pat yourself on the back for doing away with it. Good job, I guess.
Pre-Show Match #3 – The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz
Mauro Ranallo is calling this match, which automatically makes it better. The Dudleys get to do the Whassup Headbutt, but are quickly beaten in a bout that sort of makes you wonder why it was built up to be at WrestleMania. The Dudleys break their pledge to forego tables after the bell, but the Usos manage to escape and send both of their foes through tables. Not sure what the point of all that was, but hey.
Winners via pinfall: The Usos
Now onto the real show. Fifth Harmony is set to kick things off with “America the Beautiful.” I’ve heard songs by these ladies before, but I can’t say I’d recognize any of them if I bumped into them on the street.
Match #1 – Kevin Owens (champion) vs. Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, The Miz, Sin Cara and Zack Ryder – Intercontinental Title Ladder Match
Owens and Zayn find themselves on opposite sides of a ladder early on, and of course, that’s not going to fly. Miz is the first to attempt to climb for the belt, but it’s way too early. The fans come to life when Zayn gets the ladder, though Owens foils him. Several men are knocked from the top of the ladder in quick succession, leaving Sami alone with the ladder, and when he sees other competitors perking up on the outside he flips through the ladder to take out a group of them and hustles to the other side to DDT Owens on the floor. Sin Cara gets to climb, and when Zayn dumps him, he springboards off the top rope into a somersault plancha. Nice. Stardust goes under the ring to bring out a polka dotted ladder, paying homage to his dad. It doesn’t save him from a Skull Crushing Finale, and Owens ends up tossing the special ladder out of the ring. Zayn takes a big frog splash on top of a ladder from Owens. Ryder drops a big elbow off the top on Miz. Those fans are whooing for Zack, not booing. He climbs but takes a facebuster from near the top thanks to Ziggler. Sin Cara goes crashing off a tipped over ladder and falls all the way to the floor, putting Stardust through a ladder there. It comes down to Owens and Zayn again, and Sami suplexes KO on top of a downed ladder. That looked painful. The most unpopular thing that could happen does, as The Miz prevents Zayn from grabbing the title, but just when it seems Miz will grab the belt, Ryder pushes him down from behind and does the unthinkable. Wow.
Winner … and new Intercontinental Champion: Zack Ryder
Match Rating: 8/10
Match #2 – AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
Styles and Jericho lock up in the corner. Y2J gets tossed out of the ring, and he isn’t happy. Styles lands a shoulder tackle, but Jericho answers with an arm drag. Jericho and Styles swap positions on the apron before heading to the floor. Jericho suckers Styles in, and he leaps right into a dropkick. Jericho follows with a neck breaker on the second rope. Y2J responds with a springboard elbow. Jericho locks in a sleeper and takes AJ to the mat. Styles unloads with elbows and kicks, and he catches Jericho on the jaw with a running forearm. Jericho dodges a kick and rolls through into the Walls of Jericho. Styles is able to get to the ropes. Styles runs into a boot in the corner, but then avoids the running bulldog. Jericho is hung up in the corner. Styles goes up top with him, and both men slam to the mat face first. Jericho blocks a Pele kick and locks in the Walls again. Styles rolls through it and tries to fight out. Styles counters into the Calf Crusher. Jericho breaks the hold with elbows to the back of the head. Jericho gets caught by AJ, but fights out of a Styles Clash. AJ falls to the apron and springboards over Jericho, but then turns right into a Code Breaker. Styles kicks out. Jericho is in shock. Jericho sets AJ up for the Styles Clash, but he fights out of it and hits a reverse facebuster. Styles gets a jackknife cover and then moves into the Styles Clash. He connects, but Jericho is able to kick out. Styles runs into a boot, but is able to get his knees up on the Lionsault. AJ goes up top and hits springboard splash. Y2J kicks out again. Styles goes to the apron and springboards off the ropes, but Jericho counters with a Code Breaker. Y2J covers and gets the pin.
Winner via pinfall: Chris Jericho
Match rating: 7.5/10
Maria Menounos gets new Intercontinental Champion Zack Ryder’s reaction to winning. Ryder talks about watch Razor Ramon winning the title at WrestleMania X. He has lived his dream.
He also said even if he was forced to retire right now, he’d be satisfied since he finally got his chance. I’d bet that’s probably not an exaggeration.
Match #3 – The New Day vs. The League of Nations
There’s a giant box of BootyO’s that tips over and introduces the New Day. That’s a good entrance. Poor Barrett doesn’t get to wrestle in this one, and Xavier Woods, who rarely does, is the poor soul who ends up getting beaten up for a while. Kofi Kingston picks up the pace when he finally tags in, hitting a Boom Drop on two of his foes. Sheamus almost pins Kofi, but Big E tags in and hits all of the League of Nations member with a dive between the ropes. It gets a little confusing as to who are the legal men, but with an assist from Barrett, Woods ends up eating a Brogue Kick and staying down for three.
Winners via pinfall: The League of Nations
Match rating: 6/10
Barrett is on the mic bragging about how no three-man unit can hang with the League of Nations, but his boast is cut off by the entrance music for Shawn Michaels, dressed in his wrestling gear. He’s quickly joined by Mick Foley … and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The legends head to the ring, with New Day grabbing Barrett, and we see the Mandible Claw, Sweet Chin Music and a Stone Cold Stunner (sold in expert fashion by Rusev). Barrett gets all three finishing moves, and the New Day enters the ring to see if they can get the Hall of Famers to dance. Both HBK and Mick get down, but Austin only teases dancing with Woods before hitting him with a Stunner. The guy throwing the Steveweisers has to be out of practice, but he does a nice job hooking Stone Cold and friends up with beer.
Match #4 – Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar – No Holds Barred Street Fight
Paul Heyman gets on the microphone and tells us this is match we have all been waiting for. He introduces Lesnar as hailing from the University of Violence.
Lesnar drives Ambrose into the corner and then tosses him across the ring with a suplex. He follows with another one and then knees Dean in the stomach. Ambrose falls to the floor, but rises with a Kendo stick and goes to town on Brock. Lesnar fights back with knees and hits another suplex. He gets his hands on the Kendo stick and breaks it in half before delivering another suplex … and another one and another one. Ambrose gets to his feet and slaps Brock in the face. Dean pummels him into the corner, so Brock answers with a suplex. Lesnar offers for Ambrose to get the Kendo stick. Brock steps on it, so Dean hits him with a low blow. Brock rolls out of the ring to avoid the Kendo stick, so Dean nails him with a suicide dive.
Dean grabs the chainsaw next, but Brock is able to get to him before he can start it. Ambrose goes to the top turnbuckle, but Brock catches him there and superplexes him to the mat. Ambrose blinds Lesnar with a fire extinguisher and nails him with a chair. Ambrose follows with a drop kick with the chair into the corner. Ambrose goes up top and drop an elbow with the chair. Brock kicks out.
Ambrose tosses a bunch of chairs into the ring, but is then launched across the ring with a suplex. Ambrose counters an F-5 into Dirty Deeds on the pile of chairs. He still can’t get the pin. Ambrose gets the barbed wire baseball bat. Lesnar dodges the bat shot and is suplexed onto the chairs. Brock hits the F-5 on the pile of chairs and covers to get the win.
Winner via pinfall: Brock Lesnar
Match Rating: 6.5
Ric Flair struts around backstage comparing whoos with Ryder and Ziggler. It’s a Snickers ad, one that turns Ryder into Charlotte after she takes a bite.
The annual presentation of the WWE Hall of Fame Class is next. It would be awesome if Sting came out in a tux and face paint, which he does not, but it’s great to see him regardless.
Match #5 – Charlotte (champion) vs. Sasha Banks (challenger) vs. Becky Lynch (challenger) – WWE Women’s Title Triple Threat Match
Sasha has Snoop Dogg accompany her to the ring, while Charlotte enters in a robe made from pieces of the robe her dad wore at WrestleMania 24. The nerves seem to be getting to Becky early, as she kind of messes up an early spot, but she gets the first two count on an inverted DDT. Charlotte fires right back, yanking Becky off the top rope with a Rude Awakening for a near fall. Lynch tries her hardest to get the Disarmer locked in, forcing Ric to try to intervene. Charlotte has the Figure Four applied, but Sasha flies in out of nowhere with a Frog Splash to break up the pin. A pumphandle slam by Lynch forces a save by Banks, and the Boss has to escape a pinfall attempt as well. Sasha launches herself through the ropes to take out the champ on the floor, and Becky follows by flying out to land on the Nature Boy. Not to be outdone, Charlotte heads up top for a moonsault that connects with both challengers. The champ hits the Natural Selection yet can’t manage to put either woman away. After coming off the top rope, Becky gets Charlotte in the Disarmer, but Sasha ends up using the Bank Statement on the Lass Kicker.
That transitions into the Figure Four that the Boss is able to reverse — but only for a second until it transitions to a Figure Eight. Becky pulls the women under the ropes, and we get a reset with all of them on the mat for the moment. An exchange of strikes leads to a spear by Charlotte, leaving her alone with Becky. All three women end up on the top rope, though Sasha ends up in the tree of woe as Charlotte is sent for a superplex. The fans boo as Banks is knocked to the floor, and they must sense what’s coming: Charlotte puts the Figure Eight on Becky, earning the submission to become the first woman to hold the new belt. Replays show that Ric held Sasha to keep her from breaking the hold, which you couldn’t see when it happened live due to the camera angle.
Winner via pinfall … and still WWE Womens Title: Charlotte
Match rating: 8/10
Match #6 – Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker – Hell in a Cell
Winner via pinfall: The Undertaker
Match rating: 7.5/10
I’d like to note that Dale was legitimately concerned for Shane’s safety in that match. He did not want him to jump from the top of that cell. It’s also worth noting that some people on the side of the arena where the spot took place probably couldn’t see that Undertaker moved thanks to the barricade, which was kind of an important element.
Match #7 – The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Only a few superstars get their own entrances, but in a surprise move both DDP and Shaquille O’Neal, yes Shaq, are entrants. Before the brawl starts, Shaq and Big Show chokeslam Kane. The ring gets cleared for Shaq and Show to face off, until Fandango tries to step in. He gets eliminated. Sandow doesn’t learn Fandango’s lesson and also get tossed by The Shaq-Show. They grab each other by the throat and are in a standoff until the rest of the superstars jump them and eliminate both men.
Tatanka is also in this match, along with Baron Corbin from NXT. Mark Henry re-enters the match and eliminates a couple of the Social Outcasts, only to get eliminated by Kane. The Big Red Demon eliminates Darren Young and Bo Dallas, but Baron Corbin comes up from behind and eliminates Kane to win the Battle Royal.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Match rating: 3/10
I guess the powers that be were just really impressed with the way that Corbin stole the show at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. That’s sarcasm, by the way. It doesn’t come across that well in print.
The introduction of America’s sweethearts can’t be for the main event. It’s for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. The Rock comes out toting a flamethrower and proceeds to light his own logo on fire. Sadly, some of the people in AT&T Stadium are sitting too far away to smell what he’s cooking. He plays to the crowd like a champ, all leading up to the announcement of a new WrestleMania record crowd of 101,763. His mic time is cut short by the arrival of some people who have been conspicuously absent from the card so far, Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family. After introducing himself, Bray claims he chose The Rock because he represents success, greatness … and a lie. Wyatt says he’s going to eviscerate the People’s Champ on the grandest stage of them all and make the people watch. A perplexed Rock wonders why Wyatt is approaching him with hostility since he has it all: ability, charisma, tats, beard, everything. Eventually, this turns into the Rock challenging Wyatt to a match.
Match #8 – The Rock vs. Erick Rowan
It takes just six seconds for the Rock to Rock Bottom Rowan and pin him.
Winner via pinfall: The Rock
Match rating: N/A
Well, that was fun. All three Wyatts surround the ring, at which point John Cena’s music hits. The two men clear the ring before unleashing a sequence of signature moves on Rowan and Wyatt. “They’ve got closure,” as my partner in crime notes.
Match #9 – Triple H (champion) vs. Roman Reigns (challenger) – WWE World Heavyweight Title Match
Winner via pinfall … and new WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Roman Reigns
Match rating: 6/10
Total Event Time: A record-breaking four hours and 46 minutes
Event Rating: 6.5/10