Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 32 - WWE Wrestlemania Star (32) (2016)

Date: April 3, 2016
Venue: AT&T Stadium - Arlington, Texas
Attendance: 80,709 

So... here we are again... again.

This show.

This. Fucking Show.

I remember absolutely hating this show back in the day. So much so that I held off writing the Ramblemania post for a whole year. By that point, I mostly forgotten about the show save for the major bits and I had to rewatch it again... and all of a sudden, I remember why I held off watching the show... but I got my notes down at least... and then in rewatching this show, I sort of realized that I'm misremembering things slightly.

Wrestlemania 34 was the show that was on my permanent shitlist and don't you folks worry, we'll get to that shitshow soon enough. Wrestlemania 32, on the other hand, was the show that I recall being way too fucking long and being a total blank afterwards, saving for the fact that it was another attempt at the coronation of Roman Reigns and on top of that, it's headlined by McSon-In-Law himself! Oh joy!

Yeah, so this is going to be fun...


Zack Ryder defeated Intercontinental champion Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Sami Zayn, Stardust (oh fuck, I tried desperately to forget Stardust), and Sin Cara in the opening multi-man ladder match spotfest to win the title. They tried to make this win feel like a big deal - he got to celebrate with his dad, he got a picture taken with Scott Hall in a touching backstage bit - all to distract you from the reality that by that point, Ryder was just the job guy chugging along before his eventual release from the company... and then all that goodwill is tossed out the window the next night on RAW when Ryder ended up dropping the title to The Miz... so why couldn't Miz just win the belt here and spare us this whole waste of time? And listen, all these guys have gone on to bigger and better things. Zack Ryder is a distant memory in favor of Matt Cardona being the indy king of sorts. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn would be part of one of the hotter storylines in WWE later down the road. Dolph Ziggler would eventually be let go and ply his trade in TNA. Stardust would be a distant memory that would prompt Cody Rhodes to bet on himself... and as for Miz? Well, he's still around.

Chris Jericho defeated AJ Styles in a pretty decent match in a series of them. Some felt Jericho winning sort of derailed AJ before he had a chance to shine, but hindsight and all that suggests that Styles turned out just fine. Jericho, on the other hand... well, he'd move on to other things. Sadly, this ends the current streak of good matches and the ship falls off the rails right afterwards.

The League Of Nations (comprising Rusev, Sheamus, Bad News Barrett and Alberto Del Rio) defeated The New Day (coming out in a giant Booty-Os cereal box wearing what I originally called Super Saiyan looking things, but are apparently inspired by the White Ranger of MMPR. in a forgettable match. So if you want to talk about a drastic fall from grace, consider Rusev, who went from driving a tank as the United States Champion at Wrestlemania 31 to be another schmuck in a jobber stable of evil foreigners. Like I don't get this group; you had a bunch of heel foreigners get together and they proceed to do nothing. Del Rio would be gone from WWE shortly afterwards and eventually find himself in TNA just as it was dropping the TNA name in favor of Impact and they added an owl to the logo... yeah, that's another show that I don't need to bring back old memories.

So the evil foreigners brag about how no three men could beat them and who should come out but Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, and Steve Austin... So the old guys make short work of the foreigner, with Foley doing the Socko thing, Shawn doing the Sweet Chin, and then Austin doing KICK! WHAM! STUNNER! to Rusev, who sold it like a boss... and let's give one to Woods because he's annoying. Seeing the old timers beat up the evil foreigners and give Austin Creed the business is fun, but speaks volumes when THAT's more memorable than the match that proceeded it. And the match itself... a bit of a waste of time.

Brock Lesnar defeated Dean Ambrose in what was advertised as a street fight, but I'd generously call it a lightweight no-DQ match where Brock did a bunch of suplexes, Dean tried a bunch of weapons but never actually used them. Some stuff would get tossed around and not hit anything. And then Brock hits the F5 and gets the pin. This was every Brock match ever with a bunch of props added in, but never used. Apparently, Ambrose - a.k.a. Jon Moxley - wanted to have a more extreme deathmatch type match and Brock shot that down, which resulted in the match we got and which is why you had Mox on the rather infamous Stone Cold Podcast refer to Brock as lazy, which apparently upset a few WWE higher ups.

Here's the deal with Brock - he's got a specific style that he likes. He's got a format that works for him and he doesn't want to deviate from that. If something works, why change it? And the formulaic Brock match that he'd wrestle countless times over and over and over again was what soured me on the guy... but when you let him let loose, not just suplex city or anything like that, but let him toss shit all over the place like he would with Roman much later down the road, then he starts coming across like a monster unhinged. That's when Brock is truly highlighted as a beast incarnate. Him giving a guy eleventy billion suplexes in a row night after night? Boring. Him tossing shit around and using cranes and hoes to demolish a ring? Awesome.

So, yeah, this match was lame. It made Ambrose look like a tool and sadly, he had more than enough matches that made him out to be a total tool... not that it meant anything if later booking was anything to go by. But, on the other hand, Brock ain't doing the kind of crazy deathmatch shit Mox wanted to do and eventually got to do in AEW. The man can get nuts, but not THAT nuts. But if you had a match that was somewhere in the middle... maybe that would've worked out better.

We can a clip from the pre-show where Lita shows off the new Women's Championship title to replace the Divas title held by Charlotte and honestly, I thought it was a good move that they should've gone with years prior. Or better yet, they never should've dropped the old Women's title for that wretched Divas title, which I still maintain is one of the worst belts I've seen that isn't a fucking spinner. The Women's title is essentially a copy of the WWE World title, but with a white strap and red backing. And then that would become the RAW Women's title while we'd get an identical blue-backed Smackdown Women's title and then that's another bag of beans.

Divas champion Charlotte defeated Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch to win the Women's title... and yes, that's another title reign to add to the notch. Becky took the fall here, tapping out to Charlotte's figure four while Sasha was held back by Old Man Ric. Hey, you know what? I will give this match props; this was actually a fine match. You had three talented women plying their trade on the biggest stage of them all, it's a STARK contrast from the women's output at the previous year's Mania, which was still firmly in designated piss break territory (and yes, I still firmly believe that today), and perhaps most of all, it was but a sampler for the eventual overhaul of a women's division that desperately needed it. Give them a couple years and they can (and would) main event a Mania (well, two out of the three at least).

The Undertaker defeated Shane McMahon in a Hell In A Cell match that breaks my brain... and so I'm just going to repost what I wrote in my old rant because it does a far better job of compartmentalizing my thoughts on this whole affair than I ever could today:

"The Undertaker defeated Shane McMahon in a Hell in A Cell match that went too fucking long and was more sad to watch than it was enjoyable. As cool as it was seeing Shane-O-Mac back in action, there is no way in hell you were going to have me believe that he was a threat to Taker, no matter how old the guy is now. The fact that this match lasted a near half-hour is ridiculous and completely destroys whatever suspension of disbelief was holding this together. And I think what hurt this most was the fact that it was a straightforward match with the obligatory Shane bump (off the top of the Cell, of course, and of course it looked brutal) and that Coast-To-Coast... which was the only good thing about that match.

"See, I was thinking this would be the perfect opportunity for a total schmoz; bring back the Mean Street Posse, get some hired help, anything to make this match seem believable because the believability factor was already being stretched real thin. This was an easy win for Taker and even a short match with lots of crazy shenanigans going on would be better than the match we got. In fact, an overbooked short match with a crash TV mentality would be the most believable scenario to come out of this.

"But instead, we got this horrible match. A match where an Undertaker chokeslam couldn't finish off Shane McMahon in a single swoop, a match where SHANE MCMAHON was able to escape Undertaker's MMA submission thing and turn it into a Sharpshooter, a match where the longer it went, the more tired both guys looked... and not the good kind of tired. This needed to be a little more outlandish than it was. The lack of build up to this match certainly didn't help, but... fuck me, this was a chore to watch.

"The real stupid thing about this whole thing was that it meant nothing, because the stipulation was that if Shane won the match, he got to run RAW. Shane didn't win, but ended up running RAW for a couple months before the brand split came into affect and he went on to Smackdown. So why have the... never mind."

Yeah... nuff said.

Baron Corbin wins the Andre The Giant memorial battle royal featuring a bunch of guys nobody cares about. Well, there's that bit where Big Show and Shaq face off to tease a match that will never happen (unless Tony Khan decides to book it at the next AEW Collision or something) and there was a negative reaction when DDP (yes, turns out DDP had TWO Mania matches under his resume - the first being at 18) and Tatanka (yes, that Tatanka... Buffalo) were eliminated... but other than that, Baron Corbin wins the match and nothing else really matters. And Corbin himself is someone with a somewhat spotty career path here and there - certainly someone I've been down on at times, but the guy has his moments... his run in NXT for example has been the best I've seen of Corbin in years and that's a feather on his cap.

Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders do a little thing, then the Rock shows up with a flamethrower, walks up to the ring, cuts a promo, gets cut off by the Wyatt family, Bray and Rock exchange jabs (with Rock giving Bray props). And then we had a seven-second match where Rock rock-bottoms Erick Rowan and then John Cena shows up and he and Rock fight off the Wyatts and then Rock welcomes Cena back and by the time that whole mess was over, the show clocked a little over four hours. For the record, this would be the Rock's last official match until Mania 40, but his last proper match was the match with Cena just a couple years prior.

Roman Reigns defeated WWE World Heavyweight Champion HHH to win the title in an awful, awful match. So for those wanting some backstory, Roman challenged Brock for the title at Mania 31, only for Seth Rollins to cash in and pin Roman for the title. Seth would end up getting hurt and the title was held up in a tournament at Survivor Series that would be won by Roman. So yes, Roman had won the title at Survivor Series, only to then lose it to Sheamus a few minutes later due to his cashing in his Money In The Bank contract. Roman challenges Sheamus at the next PPV and loses, taking out his frustrations on HHH, who ends up on the shelf. Roman then challenges and defeats Sheamus for the title the next night on RAW and would be booked to defend the title in the 2016 Royal Rumble match itself. Roman would be eliminated from the match and the Rumble, along with the WWE title, would eventually be won by - wait for it - TRIPLE H. HHH. MCSON-IN-LAW HE OF THE THREE Hs.

And then Roman eventually got his Mania title shot and this is WWE's second attempt at coronating Roman Reigns as the top babyface star in WWE. And what better way to do that than to have him taste gold, screw him out of it, and have him win it back by slaying the King Of Kings at the Show Of Shows. And to be fair, it isn't an entirely bad idea. They did a similar deal with John Cena at Wrestlemania 22 and while it didn't quite work, it did show signs of John Cena being more than capable of hanging with the best of them. I ended up liking that match a little more nowadays than I did here.

This match, on the other hand, didn't work... you had the overblown entrances. You had Stephanie talking (yeah, sorry, but Steph is grating on the ears and watching these years later, it's even moreso now). I've said this before and I'll say it again; Roman needed a decisive win over a big star. A short, dominant win over HHH would've worked better than the slogging half-hour non-epic that HHH was aiming for whenever he gets the main event slot. Hunter should've bit the bullet and kept it short; have Roman beat him Warrior-style in a couple minutes and actually make him into a bigger star. It probably wouldn't have worked because the crowd was so dead set on booing Roman (and honestly, neither the booking or Roman himself did any favors in curtailing that reaction). Instead, we got the slow, plodding match that ran too long, put everyone to sleep, and needed Steph to take a bump through a table in order to get any semblance of a reaction. And when Roman won the title, the booing was so loud that they had to mute the audio, so that whole experiment of trying to get people to embrace Roman upon winning the title (his THIRD WWE title since November, mind you) in the main event of Wrestlemania a miserable failure of epic proportions.

Wrestlemania 32 has a couple good matches under its belt, but the rest of the show is a struggle to endure. A lot of boring matches and segments, an ill-advised match involving SHANE MCMAHON, and an even more ill-advised main event that failed to do the thing that it was supposed to accomplish. In a way, I'm sad that this match happened the way it did, because then we wouldn't have to endure YEARS of WWE trying to give Roman that proper ascension and years of planning that THIS TIME FOR SURE will get people reacting to Roman the way they want people to react... and then being piefaced at how their best laid plans didn't quite work out.

That said, this doesn't quite hit bottom of the barrel levels of crud that other Manias have hit. It comes close due to how long and boring most of the show is, but let's be frank here... the worst is yet to come.

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