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WWE likes to tout WrestleMania as their Super Bowl, and this year it came to the grandest football stage of them all. This was the 14th WrestleMania that I have attended live, and as always, it is a show like no other. The grandiose production values and preposterous scale are something every wrestling fan should experience.WrestleMania 32 was an epic showcase that, while much too long, had enough entertainment to keep the live crowd engaged.
Similar to last year, the build-up to Mania this year was completely illogical and pedestrian, but I felt that WWE would surpass expectations with a solid show. With a six hour running time, we were guaranteed to have something memorable, and the star power and some sensational spots saved the show. Here is my live review of WrestleMania 32.
Before the show started, WrestleMania had a near-disaster. The ticketing Wi-Fi at AT&T Stadium went down, so long lines of frustrated fans waited outside. Many waited for about 30 or 40 minutes, missing the pre-show, and if it took any longer it could have been an ugly situation. Thankfully, the issue was fixed so we had enough time to get seated before the main show started, but it made headline news in Dallas. Perhaps this is the reason the show ran nearly an hour longer than originally scheduled?
I attended the show with former Dot Net writer Rich Twilling, and we decided to get the WrestleMania Party Passes, which allow you in the building, but do not guarantee you a seat. There were thousands of fans that went in with these passes, which added to the record-setting attendance figure. Many had no view of the actual ring, but there screens set up everywhere, including a giant HD screen in the center of the stadium. Thankfully, we were able to maneuver our way around to see the ring from various angles. The scene at the packed Cowboys Stadium was absolutely awe-inspiring, and the star logo added a special touch to the spectacular staging.
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
WWE made a smart move by starting the main show with an obvious crowd-pleaser. This match had some spectacular, innovative spots that heated up the mammoth Dallas crowd. Fans were rooting for Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn to win so it was a shocker to see Zack Ryder climb the ladder for the Championship. I did not even know that Ryder was still part of the roster, and this felt like it was about four years too late. With Money in the Bank gone, expect this to be an annual tradition for the mid-carders to have a featured spot on the show. Zayn really stood out here as a brilliant performer that fans got behind.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING 7 out of 10
Chris Jericho vs. A.J. Styles
At this point, I nearly regretted deciding not to get an actual seat because I had a hard time finding a good angle on this match. I decided to grab a drink and watch it at one of the many bars in the stadium. This was the best pure wrestling match on the entire show helped by the fact it had the most clear hero and villain. The crowd was behind Styles, but they did not completely dislike the legendary Jericho. Everyone appreciated the excellent in-ring action, but it was a surprise to see Y2J emerge victorious. I felt Styles should have gone over and made his presence felt as the new star of WWE on the grand stage.
The order of the matches was very smart so far as we were treated to two matches that were nearly guaranteed to excite the fans. It was the first time I watched a WrestleMania match in the bar when I was in the stadium, but it was nice to sit on a comfortable lounge chair and take a break from the crowd.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 8 out of 10
New Day vs. League of Nations
Every live show this length needs a bathroom break, and this was mine. The League of Nations is a complete joke, and a waste of some good talent like Alberto Del Rio and Wade Barrett. New Day received a huge ovation from the audience so they are obviously over. Unfortunately, I also see them as an embarrassing racial stereotype that resembles an old minstrel show.
Of course I ran back to the stands when I heard Shawn Michaels’s music. When I first saw the video of his entrance on the large screen, I thought it might have been an old shot of his wrestling days. HBK looked to be in excellent shape, and he had a spring in his step that made me think he could still wrestle another WrestleMania classic if he chose to return. It was also good to see Mick Foley actually able to walk to the ring because I saw him in the hotel the previous day, and he looked like he could barely move.
Both Michaels and Foley received enormous welcomes, but when Steve Austin entered the ring the place became unglued. Stone Cold may have put on a few pounds, but he still looked great. It was exciting to see the three legends break out their signature spots. The New Day dance was too goofy for my taste, but the crowd loved the campy segment. Thankfully it ended with the Stunner and the beer celebration. I noticed that Austin had his new Broken Skull Ranch IPA, an excellent beer available in Total Wines and Whole Foods in California. The match was uninspired, but the segment seeing HBK, Stone Cold, and Foley electrified the live crowd.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 7 out of 10
Women’s Championship Match – Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Normally when you see the women’s match about to start at WrestleMania, the crowd escapes out of the halls to get a breather or a bathroom break. I even told Twilling that I was about to take a short nap and to wake me up when them match was over. Thankfully, Sasha’s great entrance with Snoop Dogg woke me up, and Charlotte’s spectacular outfit, inspired by Ric Flair, may have been the costume of the night.
I usually fast-forward through the Divas segments on Raw, and I have never watched NXT so I had no connection to any of these characters, but they did an excellent job putting on an athletic showcase. This may have been the best women’s match I have seen since Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus in WrestleMania 22. I am one of the few people that is a fan of three-way matches, and this was another example of how the format can lead to some great in-ring action. Unlike most years, the crowd actually paid attention and was engaged in this contest so hopefully this can be the beginning of a reboot in the women’s division of WWE.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 7 out of 10
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar
This was an interesting match because it featured possibly the two most popular wrestlers in the company, but the storyline was so uninspired and the outcome was so obvious that it turned out to be a mis-use of these characters. It was not a bad match by any means, and the crowd popped for the weapons, but people were not engaged with the struggle. I feel the Lesnar suplex has become stale, and the suplex counter on the large screen made the match into a joke.
Despite some good action and use of “toys,” the ending was anticlimactic, and this was not a match too many people spoke about by the end of the night. It was an unfortunate waste of talent, and I hope WWE has bigger plans ahead for Lesnar and Ambrose.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 5 out of 10
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
How do I even begin to describe this one? I thought the build to this one was the most convoluted storyline in WrestleMania history. Of course, the main attraction of the bout was that it would be a freak show and Shane would perform some insane spots. What we got was exactly what was expected. I felt Shane’s entrance, goofily dancing around with his kids, was one of the worst in wrestling history. Here he is about to face the most feared entity of all time, and he is approaching it as he is going to the State Fair down the road in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl. Then, Undertaker’s entrance was absolutely awe-inspiring in front of the massive stadium.
You cannot really rate this match from traditional perspective. The first 15 minutes had plenty of cringe-worthy moments, especially with Shane’s punches and horrific Sharpshooter. I felt the second half was a dramatic showcase with one of the most amazing visuals I have ever seen. As foolish as it may have been, the sight of Shane atop the Cell and leaping off before crashing through the table will be in Mania highlight packages forever. Thankfully, Undertaker won, but Shane O Mac’s stupidly heroic performance was unforgettable to watch live, and they had the crowd gasping throughout.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 9 out of 10
The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Obviously this match was meant to give the fans a break between the main events. I dislike Battle Royals, even if built up well so I was tuned out through most of this. Seeing Shaq was a big surprise and seeing him face off with Big Show was fun, but this was pure filler. Sadly, if done right, the Andre Memorial could help build up a young star, but that has not been in their interest as of yet.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 1 out of 10
The Rock Segment
At this point, most of us felt the show was nearly over when looking at our watches. It felt unusual that the main event would get such little time and that Rock had not appeared yet so the smart bet was that he would be involved in the WWE World Championship match. When the Cowboys Cheerleaders came out, however, I suspected that this was when The Great One would make his appearance. Unsurprisingly, Cowboys Stadium exploded when Rock entered. The flame-thrower bit was kind of lame, especially because it looked like a t-shirt gun, but his charisma still made it work. When he announced the live attendance record, it was believable because unlike last year, where there were plenty of empty seats, the Dallas audience was completely packed.
The Rock may have received the biggest cheers of the night, but his shtick was a little recycled. The Wyatt Family entrance was one of the more amazing moments in the show, and seeing thousands of cell phones in the air simulating candles, was breathtaking. Bray was definitely popular with the live crowd, especially when Rock put over his charisma. I thought that was a good rub for Wyatt.
The squash “match” did not really have to be framed as an actual match, but it was still entertaining seeing Rock verbally run down the Wyatts as a bunch of backwoods hillbillies. When Cena came out to give him support, it was a surprise and the pop was huge before morphing into largely boos. I have noticed that whenever a wrestler is being booed that they want to be cheered, the music is extra loud to mask it. This was a segment with mediocre material carried by some larger-than-life personalities so the fans loved it despite realizing this night was going on forever.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 8 out of 10
WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
By the time the main event started, we had been standing up in different parts of the stadium watching the show for over four hours. To WWE’s credit, they had loaded the show with fun moments and major star power so we were never bored, but by the time Hour Five rolled around, we were getting exhausted. Stephanie McMahon came to the rescue with a hilariously over-the-top performance straight out of an ’80s fantasy film. I loved Triple H’s entrance, complete with soulless followers in suits. I am not sure how it came across on television, but he had a mixed reaction live. Roman Reigns, who had a generic entrance in comparison, was heavily booed.
This was a long, dull plodding match at the end of a lengthy show. It was nowhere near as bad as Hunter vs. Orton at WrestleMania 25 in Houston, but it lacked drama and battled an exhausted crowd. I knew there would not be a double turn, but I felt there was a slight chance of a Roman heel turn when Stephanie got into the ring. I noticed she had a very similar outfit to Reigns so it would have been a cool visual.
The finish was the expected one with the new champion getting heavily booed as the loud music in the stadium attempted to mask the sound of the crowd. It was a below average, forgettable match with an ending that fit the story, but that most fans rejected.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 5 out of 10 (Hunter’s entrance was delightfully campy and cool).
Overall, this was a very bizarre but ultimately entertaining show. At about five hours long, it was difficult to capture the fans’s attention for the entirety of the show, but I was never bored. It helped that I was moving between different areas of the stadium and had various views for each match. Many were angry with the ending, but all of the fun moments and guest appearances made up for it.
There was great wrestling, returning legends, insane stunts, all on a stage of unimaginable scale. If they could cut out an hour of filler, it would have been a much better show. This WrestleMania had a little bit too much of something for everybody.
OVERALL LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 7 out of 10