Written by: Scrooge McSuck & Samoa Rowe
Welcome to the SECOND joint review of an endless supershow by SamoaRowe and Scrooge McSuck. Neither one of us had the patience for a traditional PBP recap review, but we had lots to say.
– Presented on the WWE Network on April 3rd, 2016 from the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. Michael Cole, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and Byron Saxton are calling the action for the main show, while Mauro Ronaldo, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and “Double Duty” Byron Saxton called the Kickoff Show. Renee Young, Booker T, Lita, and Corey Graves are the Kickoff Panel, and Tom Phillips and some other girl who I don’t care enough to research about are in the Social Media Lounge. We’re already bloated and I’m still in the introduction!
WWE United States Championship Match:
Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback:
You want to know how important the US Championship is? They’re putting them out there at 5:45 Eastern Time, our so damn early that only half the crowd has made it to their seats. I’m sure the other half don’t really care, because it’s friggin’ Ryback, but this spot should be reserved for the lowliest scrubs to warm up the arriving crowd, NOT A CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH. So much for the John Cena run to restore credibility to the belt. Even with just a half filled arena (that’s about 40,000 legit, or 50,000+ in WWE math), the match had almost no heat, and there definitely was chemistry issues. Ryback controlled with basic power stuff, beating into the ground a good big guy can always beat a good little guy. Good thing Kalisto’s finisher can effectively hurt anyone, because it’s just a back-flip neck breaker. Wouldn’t you know it, Kalisto did hit the Salida del Sol, and retained the US Title at 8:58. * Nothing to this one, but it wasn’t completely worthless based on the work. Would you even consider this having a match at WrestleMania, when it ended more than an hour away from the proper opening?
The Total Divas vs. Team B.A.D. and Blonde:
(Brie Bella, Alicia Fox, Paige, Natalya, Eva Marie vs. Lana, Naomi, Tamina, Emma, Summer Rae)
You want the best comedy in the world before we get to the actual match? Vince McMahon wanted to bring up BAYLEY for the TOTAL DIVAS team, but Triple H thankfully pulled some strings on that from happening. Way to keep your finger on the pulse, Vince. You’ve got 10 women, most of them limited or worse, and have 10 minutes to fill, so we have the usual “everyone tags in once, does a little bit, tags out until the big ending” formula. Team Lana seem to be color coordinated with purple and black, and that is a mighty nice little outfit for Lana to wrestle in. Poor Emma has to sell for Eva Marie and her awkward attempts at throwing a decent suplex. Not much heat for this either, and the crowd is mostly arrived at this point. Lana tagged in for maybe 20-seconds, hit Paige with her jumping kick, and that was it as far as legal participation. Everyone took turns hitting big moves, including Eva Marie hitting Sliced Red on Tamina, and then the crowd popping huge when Summer Rae laid her out. Instead of the logical “Brie goes over Lana” finish, Brie makes Naomi tap to the Yes Lock at 11:25. Post-match, Nikki Bella just happens to show up, in her booty wrestling shorts and neck brace, because that’s hot? * We’re not starting off hot, but this is the junk matches, so we’ll let it slide… for now.
The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz
(Jimmy & Jey Uso vs. Bubba Ray and D-von Dudley)
You know something… I don’t even remember when and how this program started. I want to say the Dudleys just randomly turned on the Usos after a Tables Match against the New Day and Mark Henry of all people, and then started yelling at fans that they aren’t here to entertain (shoot!) and won’t be using any more tables. The Usos have special tights with the likeness of Umaga on them. This is actually referenced, but I don’t think anyone ever says Umaga is dead. Really short, paint-by-numbers tag team match. Jimmy spent most of it playing the face-in-peril. Hot finish, with the Dudleys hitting the modified version of the 3D for a near fall, but the Usos making the comeback and Jimmy finishing off Dvon with the Super-Kick at 5:18. Post-match, the Dudleys try to use a pair of tables, but the Usos taking advantage of the situation and put them both through a table with synchronized splashes from the top rope. *1/2 Best match of the night so far. PROGRESS!
And now, for the official start of WrestleMania (32)! Note we’ve just sat through a 2 hour kickoff show. From here on, SamoaRowe (SR) joins the fun, though Scrooge McSuck (SM) isn’t going anywhere.
Intercontinental Championship (Ladder Match):
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust vs. The Miz vs. Zack Ryder
As per usual, it’s hard to screw up multi-man stunt shows in the opening slot, and this one delivered some cool moments. It’s still surreal to see Owens and Zayn rekindle their feud in the WWE, especially now in a main roster, Wrestlemania setting, though they weren’t really the focus. A lot of time was spent on the riff-raff, as Stardust, Ryder, and Sin Cara should all be thanking whatever deity they worship for being included. I marveled when Ryder nailed a flying elbow off the top of a ladder, as it seemed amusing that a jobber would get the chance to outshine similar spots from ‘Mania’s ladder match past. Stardust got a nice moment when he fetched a black and yellow polka dot ladder from under the ring in a novel tribute to his late father. Sin Cara shined too, getting tipped off a ladder into a springboard onto the masses at ringside. It came down to Sami Zayn suplexing Owens onto a resting ladder in a scary spot that might have legitimately knocked Owens unconscious. It seemed like there was a bit of a “Oh crap, what do we do now?” scramble, before Zack Ryder knocked Miz off to retrieve the title at 15:23. Ryder’s emotional post-match celebration, coming to tears while his father joined him, felt really improvised and I wouldn’t be surprised if word comes out that an audible was called. Either way, the treatment of Zack Ryder over the past four years has been a constant irritant to me, so I was glad to see him look awesome in this match AND emerge as champion, random as it might be. Good spot-fest that set the right tone for an iffy card, ***3/4.
Winner and new Intercontinental Champion: Zack Ryder
SM: IC Title Ladder Match: Going into this, it was clearly the Owens/Zayn Show, and most of the match delivered on that promise, with Owens taking sick bump after sick bump. Stardust wore a Dusty Rhodes inspired outfit with “Hard Times” on the back, and even brought out a polka-dot covered ladder. High spot of the match was Zayn somehow doing a senton through the ladder and over the top rope, and immediately recovering to hit Owens with his dive between the ropes Tornado DDT. Miz teased he would win after taking out Zayn, but Zack Ryder of all people knocked him out and claimed the Title for himself in the “holy crap” finish of the night. Good for him to have his Wrestlemania moment. He’s jobbing it to Baron Corbin tomorrow night on Raw, I bet. ****
Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles
I guess my biggest problem with this match is that it went from being a dream match in January to being a pretty routine pairing by early April. Sure, the dynamics had shifted, with Jericho going full-blown heel, so this was a grudge match while their previous bouts were more about one-upsmanship. There was a lot to like here, as they made a valiant effort to steal the show. At one point, AJ countered into a modified Styles Clash that Jericho kicked out of. Styles spent too much time posturing for his springboard forearm and ended up getting countered into the Codebreaker, giving Jericho the surprising and baffling win at 17:10. I don’t see any reason why AJ shouldn’t have gone over, but maybe Jericho’s spot on the roster is more permanent than I realized. Or maybe this is the E’s way of apologizing for the Fandango job in 2013. Anyways, good match, and it was a thrill to see AJ Styles get a Wrestlemania match, ***1/4.
Winner: Chris Jericho
SM: AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho: Jericho continues to frustrate me, as for once, he actually is in a storyline that makes sense, but can’t deliver in the ring. Yes, Styles is just as guilty. Most of the match was them doing counters and avoiding a big spot, and while I understand the reasoning, it meant an underwhelming overall product. Good near falls from a Code Breaker from Jericho and Styles Clash from A.J. Finish came with Styles going for the Phenominal Forearm, but Jericho caught him with a super-sized Codebreaker. So… Jericho going over makes sense, right? ***
-The New Day make their entrance out of an oversized box of Booty-O’s. I’m a bit fearful that some writers think the Booty-O concept is comedic gold, but I find it cringeworthy and I’m worried that it’s going to undo New Day’s face turn if they’re not careful. Imagine John Cena making the same joke.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods) vs. The League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, and Rusev, with Wade Barrett)
This was the first real disappointment of the night. Big E got to clean house a few times and show off some real babyface fire that makes me want to see him get a renewed singles push at some point. I didn’t think this clicked all that much otherwise, and I can sort of see Del Rio and Barrett counting down the days left in their contracts. Anyways, with New Day’s flat comedy entrance and the lack of tag titles being defended, there was little heat, and Sheamus put away Woods with the Brogue Kick at 10:03. I don’t see any reason to job the New Day here, I guess other than to protect the ‘Mania records for the League of Nations members. *1/2, first “bad” match of the main card.
Winners: The League of Nations
SM: New Day vs. The League of Nations: Here’s some WCW logic. This was supposed to be a Tag Title Match. Then not. Then it was supposed to be a 4-on-3 Handicap Match. Then it was announced literally minutes before the match begins that it was a Six-Man Tag, and King Barrett gets to hang out on the floor. New Day’s entrance included a big box of Booty O’s and Woods dressed up like he was from Dragonball Z. Dreadfully dull match until the closing moments when they were allowed to let loose. Finish came when Barrett hit Woods behind the referee’s back with the Bull Hammer and Sheamus finished with the Brogue Kick. Post-match, trash talk lead to the arrival of Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and Mick Foley to bury all the full-time guys on the active roster. *3/4
-The League lingers to celebrate their alleged dominance, and it lures out Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, and Stone Cold Steve Austin for another round of retired guys beating up today’s stars. For a brief moment, Rusev was stomping away at Austin, but the legends hit their finishers and cleaned house. The New Day, seemingly unaware of Austin’s reputation, try to dance with the old timers, and Xavier eats a Stunner for his troubles. Cute and pointless, and likely the pinnacle of Xavier’s career.
Street Fight: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs. Dean Ambrose
I went into this one expecting it to get close to 20 minutes and feature a scrappy Dean Ambrose taking Lesnar to the limit before falling short. Instead, it was a compact 13 minute brawl featuring a return trip to Suplex City, and lots of fun with chairs. There was a good character moment for Brock where he considered using a kendo stick but then smashed it to prove he didn’t need it. Lesnar survives getting sprayed by a fire extinguisher, but Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds for a nearfall. Ambrose uses Negan’s baseball bat, but Lesnar cuts him off and finishes with the F5 at 13:06. Pretty good match, but a lost opportunity to elevate Ambrose, ***.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
SM: Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose: Ambrose is just done as being worth anything above the midcard goof role. I must’ve been a fool to think this would’ve been more competitive, but it was just a 13-minute squash. Lesnar hit Ambrose with 13 suplexes of various style and finished with a single F5… onto a pile of chairs. Ambrose got some token shots in with various plunder and a Dirty Deeds onto a chair, but mostly was made to look like he was completely out of Lesnar’s league. This was a sleeper to steal the show, and it failed miserably. **1/2
-On the pre-show, Lita returned to formally introduce the new WWE Women’s Championship belt and it exceeded my highest expectations. You’ve probably all seen it by now, but it’s basically the WWE Championship but with a red background and white straps, and it looks like it’s supposed to be a main event level championship. This bodes really well for Bayley’s pending debut, as now there’s a credible looking title belt for her to work towards.
WWE Women’s Championship:
Charlotte (with Ric Flair) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Okay, I’m not going to pretend that this wasn’t rough around the edges or feature a botch or two, but I enjoyed the hell out of this match. It had the right energy, character placement, and story. This was the first time I felt like the magic of the NXT women’s division had fully translated to the main roster, as the crowd went along for the ride. Snoop Dogg rapped his cousin, Sasha to the ring, elevating the big match feel. Highlights of this one include Charlotte hitting a double Natural Selection on both challengers, but then failing to pin either of them. Later, a Becky/Sasha slugfest lead to them attacking Charlotte together. Becky nails a superplex, but Sasha keeps her from winning with a Bank Statement, and Charlotte survives to tap Becky out to the Figure 8 at 16:09. This match was greater than the sum of it’s parts, especially the feeling of legit disappointment I felt when Sasha did not win the match. I don’t get sucked into a character’s quest all that often, and this one had it. I’m so happy that these women got this opportunity, were treated so seriously, and that it was as good as it was, ***3/4.
Winner and no longer Divas Champion, but instead WWE Women’s Champion: Charlotte
SM: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch: FINALLY, the Divas Tramp Stamp Belt is retired and they have a new, less demeaning Women’s Championship to award to the winner of this match. Charlotte is wearing a robe made from Flair’s outfit at WrestleMania 24, Sasha Banks is wearing tights inspired by Eddie Guerrero, and Becky has a couple of feathers in her hair. Snoop Dogg raps Sasha to the ring because they’re cousins and he’s a WWE Hall of Famer. My Wifi began acting up here, and would continue until the Main Event. They worked hard, but Triple Threat matches always feel awkward. Sasha with a spectacular mid-air somersault onto Charlotte, and even Ric took a bump via Becky Lynch plancha. Lots of teased finishes until Charlotte trapped Becky in the Figure-Eight and Ric Flair kept Sasha from breaking it up. ***1/2
Hell in a Cell Match:
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker
Yeah, by now we’ve all complained to death over how messed up the build to this match was, and it almost did not matter one bit when the bell rang. Almost. Shane shuffles his way to the ring accompanied by his three young sons (which actually made me feel uncomfortable later on when the stunts started unfolding) and Shane-O-Mac dollars fell from the rafters. To their credit, this match did not feel like 30 minutes, as it just flew by after a bit of an awkward start. Shane is clearly in great shape, but not necessarily great ring shape, and he was sucking wind early, as was Taker. They started exchanging unbelievable nearfalls very early, as Shane kicked out of a chokeslam on the ring steps and managed to lock Taker into a triangle choke. Shane applied a sharpshooter so ugly you could almost hear The Rock laughing his ass off backstage and managed to connect with Coast 2 Coast. Things got really interesting once Taker slammed Shane through the cell wall and crashed onto the announce tables. Shane countered into a sleeper while Taker was perched on some equipment and they both took a bump through an announce table. Shane then climbed to the top of the cell and seemed to be second-guessing himself the entire time. I cringed as Shane delivered an elbow drop off the cell and took a nasty fall through the announce table after Undertaker rolled out of the way. After the bump, Shane asked for more, but Taker patted him on the cheek and finished with the Tombstone Piledriver for the win at 30:05. This is a hard match to rate. It was kind of like Superman V Batman: Dawn of Justice: long, illogical, all over the place, yet I enjoyed it. I think it averages out to *** for the shock value.
Winner: The Undertaker
SM: Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker: I wanted to like this one enough to make it a show stealer. I’m just striking out like crazy. Shane comes out with his three sons, which should be a symbolic hint that he’s not winning. Undertaker’s entrance only took about 4-minutes. Attitude Era brawling, with Shane getting his hope spot here and there. He took a bolt cutter to the cage to create an exit, laid out Taker on the Announcers Table, and came off THE TOP OF THE CELL, missing the elbow. At this point I expected Taker to give him the mercy win and retire, but nope, they did a bit of taunting and the Tombstone ended it. Not nearly as good as the HIAC Match from Mania 28, but not terrible, either. Hard to rate, so call it **1/2.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
Featuring: Big Show, Kane, Shaquille O’Neal, Fandango, Damien Sandow, Viktor, Konnor, Diamond Dallas Page, Tatanka, Jack Swagger, R-Truth, Goldust, Mark Henry, Curtis Axel, Heath Slater, Adam Rose, Tyler Breeze, Bo Dallas, Baron Corbin, and Darren Young
This year the Andre match gets bumped from pre-show fodder to popcorn match. The big surprises here were obviously the unadvertised Shaq (likely justifying a future Hall of Fame induction), DDP, and randomly Tatanka. It’s almost hilarious, Tatanka didn’t get his own entrance and no attention was called to him until about when he was eliminated. I almost wonder if he was just backstage visiting, heard the Battle Royal talent get called to their positions, and just went with him and didn’t get stopped. Anyways, Big Show and Shaq had a short face-off (a nod to Shaq’s Raw guest-hosting stint from years back) but they were both get quickly dumped out by the rest of the field. DDP gets to hit a Diamond Cutter on Viktor before getting dumped, Sandow briefly gets some crowd love, and the Social Outcasts have a victory lap. I’m not used to seeing so many bottom-card dwellers get this sort of love on ‘Mania. It comes down to Kane and Corbin, who manages to survive for the win at 9:41. Not really a coming out party for Corbin, as he was hardly featured before pulling off the upset, but he gets to pose with the Andre statue. Not bad, not good, just a nice break from the important stuff, **.
Winner: Baron Corbin
SM: 3rd Annual Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal: 20 participants this year, and poor Titus O’Neil still isn’t allowed in it. Participants were the Social Outcasts, Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, Goldust, R-Truth, The Ascension, Fandango, Damien Sandow, Darren Young, Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze, old-timers Tatanka and Diamond Dallas Page, and last but not least, SHAQUILLE O’NEAL, for an epic showdown with Big Show that was intended for 7 years ago. Sandow got tossed like a super-geek by Shaq. The Social Outcasts ruled the ring before all getting dumped late like geeks. Kane and Young teamed up to toss Henry, Kane tossed Young, and then Corbin tossed Kane to win it without much hoopla. I wonder what he’ll do on Raw to follow this victory. N/R, but mostly uneventful.
– So, it’s about 10:30 at this point, and I’m expecting Reigns/HHH to get only 15 minutes after all the pomp and circumstance, but The Rock makes his entrance. And proceeds to take his sweet time getting to the ring, using a flame thrower to set his logo on fire. Seriously, this was the opening segment of Wrestlemania 27 all over again, as Rock just mugs for the camera and doesn’t really have anything to say (other than the fake attendance record of over 100,000 fans). Rock is interrupted by The Wyatt Family, and it became clear that the show was intentionally going long. Bray spewed his normal gibberish and Rock challenged them to an impromptu match, pulling off his clothes to reveal his wrestling gear underneath. Damn, there goes my bragging rights to having been at Rock’s last match ever.
The Rock vs. Erick Rowan (with Bray Wyatt and Braun Strauman)
Nobody on Earth would ever guess this would be in the record books, eh? Anyways, Rock immediately hits the Rock Bottom for the win in about five seconds.
Winner: The Rock
-The Wyatts aren’t finished with Rock by any stretch of the imagination, but John Cena makes a surprise appearance to even the odds and clear the Wyatts out. Rock and Cena embrace and recreate the scene that ended Wrestlemania 29. Rock’s entire segment took about 30 minutes and could have accomplished the same thing in 10.
SM: – The Rock came out for a 20-minute promo, announced the fake attendance of 101,673 (or whatever it was, does it matter?), then had a rather awkward confrontation with the Wyatt Family. This lead to Rock revealing he’s in his wrestling gear! Then we find out he’s having an impromptu match with Erick Rowan. Bell rings, Rock Bottom, and we have a new record for shortest match. They try to ambush Rock, but John Cena arrives to make the save. Ugh…
-So now it’s after 11 and any poor sap who ordered the traditional pay-per-view is shut out, the last thing they’d see would be Rock and Cena’s lovefest. They replay the HHH/Reigns up video that ended the pre-show. Triple H outdoes his stupid entrances of the past with Stephanie McMahon sitting in his throne in warrior princess gear, cutting arguably the most embarrassing promo of her career. Triple H comes out accompanied by an army of minions, each sporting a WWE title belt. All of these theatrics might have passed three hours ago, but by now I just wanted to go to bed.
Triple H (c) (with Stephanie McMahon) vs. Roman Reigns
Poor Roman said in interviews leading up to this event that he was ready for a “mixed” reaction from the fans. He got one all right, half boos and half apathy. So, about five hours into this bloated Michael Bay movie of a Wrestlemania, they kick off the main event with slow-paced mat grappling. It’s a complete and utter Triple H specialty, and felt like a retreat of his WM21 Batista match. After a lumbering start, things got a little more interesting when HHH hit a neckbreaker off an announce table to the floor. That was a rough bump for Roman that failed to endear him to the cynical crowd. Actually, they turned down the mics so it was getting hard to hear the crowd, but it sounded like they were singing for Bayley. Roman absorbs a bunch of arm work before countering a Pedigree with a backdrop to the floor. HHH walks into the spear, but Steph interrupts the referee. Reigns inadvertently hits the spear on Stephanie and it marks the first time the fans seem interested in anything going on here. Triple H gets the Pedigree for 2, and resorts to getting the sledgehammer. HHH misses some hammer shots and Reigns puts him away with the Superman Punch and Spear at 27:11. I can’t think of any good reason why this needed to be almost 30 minutes other than Triple H’s pride needing to be satiated. As a social experiment, this was more entertaining than HHH vs. Orton from WM25, but fell far short of even the middling HHH vs. Batista bout from WM25. Reigns gets a babyface celebration in front of “100,000” fans who don’t like him and it’s pretty much the worse case scenario unfolding. No heel turn in sight. **.
Winner and new WWE Champion: Roman Reigns
SM: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns: Stephanie McMahon with a weird promo to build interest for Hunter’s yearly ego-stroking entrance, and… she’s not that bad looking. Maybe I’m delirious from boredom and fatigue. Reigns gets booed, no surprise. Standard formula “Main Event Hunter Post-2000” match where there’s so little interest, that the crowd doesn’t even care to react to most of it. Stephanie taking the Spear from Reigns (HHH moved, leaving her accidentally vulnerable) was the spot of the match. This seriously went almost 30-minutes. Hunter had the Sledgehammer, but Reigns hit him with a pair of Superman Punches and the Spear to kick off his 3rd reign as Champion. **1/4
Final Thoughts: Again, this is the Superman V Batman: Dawn of Justice of wrestling shows. Too long, really stupid, nonsensical, and a bit insulting, yet somehow I still enjoyed watching it. Mild Thumb in the Middle.
SM: Final Thoughts: WrestleMania 31 didn’t have promise going into it, but delivered when it mattered. WrestleMania 32 started off the same, with lackluster hype and an uninteresting lineup. The opening of the PPV put them on the right foot, but then it just became match after match of mediocrity and poor booking decisions. Did Charlotte need to retain when the crowd was chomping for Sasha to begin a new era of the Women’s Division? Did Jericho have to go over Styles clean, again? Did we need over 6 HOURS of WWE wrestling? The Rock burying Bray Wyatt by trolling him before a “just kidding, you’re alright, but your followers suck” retraction? Michaels, Foley and Austin making 5 other men on the current roster look like total jokes? The force-fed push of Roman Reigns? Dean Ambrose looking like a joke? Suddenly Zack Ryder being the IC Champion makes sense. Strong Thumbs Down on the Biggest Show of the Year. If you need Mania weekend action, watch Takeover Dallas. 2 hours and so much more entertaining.