By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
A replay of WrestleMania 32 aired on ESPN on Sunday night. The following is my Hit List from the morning after the event that was held on April 3, 2016.
WrestleMania 32 Hits
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship: It was a great day for the women with the Divas Championship and the entire name of the division being changed. Lita did a really nice job with the announcement and it was so much better coming from her than Stephanie McMahon. The actual match was very good. All three women shined and I really liked the finish because the right person went over. As I’ve said numerous times, Sasha Banks is over with those who are familiar with her NXT work. They haven’t told her story properly on the main roster. It would have been a mistake to put the title on here rather than get the main roster viewers invested in her. Sasha’s time is definitely coming, but Charlotte was the obvious choice to retain. Ric Flair interfering gave Charlotte the win and also gave Sasha the out. I like Lynch’s work a lot and I hope they have a real plan for her coming off this loss. Bonus points to the great Charlotte and Sasha entrances. Becky’s entrance was pretty routine, but my buddy Pooch put it well when he said you can’t blame her for not being related to a pop culture icon.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz vs. Stardust in a ladder match: A well worked ladder match that got the main show off to a strong start. Most of the wrestlers were given a moment to shine. I didn’t think this was the time to go with Sami for the same reasons that I didn’t think it was time to give Sasha the women’s title. I enjoyed the Ryder win in the moment. He deserved so much more than WWE gave him at the time of his online popularity, so it was nice to see him get this upset moment. However, I suspect this is more about creative wanting to book a surprise than it is an indication that they are suddenly seeing Ryder in a new light. I wouldn’t be surprised if Owens or someone else beats him as soon as tonight, especially since he and Kalisto basically play the same role as underdog babyface secondary champions.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho: The first strong wrestling match of the night. The ladder match is an entertaining spot-fest, whereas this was a traditional wrestling match and a very good one. I probably would have rolled my eyes if you told me going in that Jericho was going over. This felt like the blowoff match going in and I really thought the purpose of the match was to give Styles a WrestleMania moment. However, the match was entertaining enough that it left me wanting to see more from the Styles and Jericho feud, especially since this is the first match of their feud to feature the true babyface vs. heel dynamic.
The Rock and John Cena: Rock is a master of the mic, yet his promos are starting to feel a little repetitive. I get the feeling they are a big hit with the live crowds who are happy to see him in person more than they do for the television viewers. Of course, he still brings a lot to the product and some of his promos are stronger than others. Fortunately, he had more to do than just deliver a promo. Sure, the “match” with Erick Rowan was just a quick Rock Bottom, but it felt like a moment when tore off his warmup pants to reveal that he was dressed for a match. Sure, it didn’t make sense that he would be dressed for a match that his character had no reason to assume would happen, but that didn’t seem to matter to the live crowd given the huge pop that occurred when they realized they were getting a match. John Cena making his return to help Rock was a cool moment and gave their WrestleMania saga a happy ending. Sure, the Wyatt Family didn’t come out of this looking strong, but does it even matter at this point? Rock didn’t tear Bray Wyatt’s character to shreds on the mic as he easily could have, so it seemed like they were trying to protect him to some extent. It’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild the Wyatts at this point, so one more beating from two industry icons doesn’t really hurt and already damaged act. That said, this really did feel like yet another WrestleMania that was more about the past than the present stars.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: The Shaq surprise was silly fun. Granted, watching Shaq and Big Show engage in dueling chokes was pretty lame, but the actual surprise of Shaq making his entrance for the match was unexpected comedy. Nothing mattered from the time they were eliminated until the finish. And speaking of the finish, you had to assume that Baron Corbin had a good shot at winning as soon as he made his entrance. Still, it was refreshing to see them give him the win and it was one of the rare times where it felt like they spotlighted one of today’s stars over the legends. It’s just a shame that they dropped the ball with the first two Dre winners because Corbin winning would have felt bigger if they had done anything with Cesaro and Big Show.
Overall show: A minor Hit. This was a seven-hour marathon and they managed to fill all that time very well. That doesn’t change the fact that it was ridiculous for WWE to run as long as they did, and just plain wrong to give fans a bonus hour. Sure, they told us it would be a seven-hour event, but their own WWE Network schedule listed the main show as fitting into the standard timeframe. Run long by a few minutes? Cool. Run a full hour longer on a Sunday night and it’s overkill and even inconvenient for a lot of viewers who live on the east coast or even in the central time zones, and perhaps even fans in attendance if they had any sort of transportation schedules to keep. WrestleMania was a mixed bag and the positives outweighed the negatives enough for that I gave WrestleMania 32 a C+ grade in last night’s Dot Net Member exclusive audio show. By the way, the Kickoff show was fine. I don’t feel strongly enough about the matches to write more than what I did when I covered it live, but you can check out my full rundown on the main page.
WrestleMania 32 Misses
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns: This wasn’t a bad match, it just wasn’t a strong or memorable WrestleMania main event. The show running so long worked against the match, yet may have helped Reigns in that the negative reaction may have been a lot louder if this match had swapped spots on the card with the Hell in a Cell match. Roman winning the title at the end of the night felt really flat. Even the crowd’s reaction to it wasn’t memorable. There were cheers when the referee’s hand hit the mat the third time, and then the fans booed him during his celebration. It was nothing compared to the reaction Roman received when he won the Royal Rumble, and I suspect it’s nothing compared to what he will get tonight. I’m still not a fan of babyface Reigns winning the title and it’s obvious that I’m not alone. I’m curious to see how WWE deals with that WrestleMania crowd tonight. They’ve wisely booked him opposite Stephanie McMahon in talking segments in front of tough crowds because they know fans won’t cheer her, but even that won’t work in front of the night after WrestleMania crowd.
Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon in a Hell in a Cell match: This was not what I was hoping for. Sure, we got the big Shane leap, but it was more frightening than entertaining. They got it right when they booked Shane to have heart, but watching him trade submission holds with Undertaker was a bit much. This was the spectacle match. I got excited once Shane cut the cell open. It wasn’t because I was anticipating his big leap from a high place (well, maybe a little), but rather it’s because I was ready for all the bells and whistles. I wanted Vince McMahon, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, the Mean Street Posse, Balor Club, and any other bells and whistles types to keep this interesting. So much of this was about Vince and Shane, yet we never even saw Vince McMahon during this match. I also wanted Shane to go over with a little help from his friends. I wanted the change that Shane represented, and I came away from the match just dreading the idea of a gloating Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon promo. I still believe we get some change on Monday in the form of fresh faces from NXT, but I sure hope there’s some type of angle that saves us all from the tired heel authority figure routine. You would think that anyone who takes a huge bump like Shane’s character did would not show up on television that night. If we’ve learned anything over the years it’s that Shane’s character doesn’t play by the same rules as the mere mortal wrestlers.
Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Dean Ambrose in a no holds barred street fight: An underwhelming big three WrestleMania match. I expected Ambrose to take a hell of a beating, yet put up enough of a fight that the fans would respect him more coming out of the match. Instead, it was a short (by WrestleMania standards) and decisive win for Lesnar, with only one good near fall for Ambrose. Lesnar didn’t gain anything by winning, and Ambrose didn’t look strong in defeat.
Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods vs. Sheamus, Rusev, Alberto Del Rio, and King Barrett: New Day’s giant BootyO’s cereal box entrance was a lot of fun, but it pretty much ended there. The problem remains that there are four talented performers in League of Nations, yet they are just a lousy faction that fans do not care about. The outcome was a head scratcher initially, but it made sense moments later when we got the big moment with Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, and then Steve Austin coming out to rough up League of Nations. The legends were a big Hit. HBK looked great in his gear, Foley looked slimmer than he has in years, and it seemed like Austin got the biggest pop of the night. The two regular factions didn’t come out of this looking good, but it’s nothing that New Day can’t overcome, and League of Nations can’t really sink any lower in the eyes of the fans.