WrestleMania 32 Review: Not Even Logic Can Stop the Roman Reigns Era
Image Credit: WWE Network
WrestleMania 32 was essentially 4 hours and 45 minutes of WWE attempting to contradict the overwhelming opinion that their product is growing predictable and stale, by making a shit-ton of inexplicable booking decisions that actively undermined all storyline progression that has taken place over the past few months.
Concluding with the closing shot of Roman Reigns standing triumphant in the center of the ring, fireworks exploding around him as he lifted the WWE championship to a mighty chorus of boos, every single popular prediction that had been made prior to the event was replaced with something far less interesting. Reigns’ victory effectively summarized the entire evening, with the ending of almost every match being greeted with a collective “…what?” as WWE routinely swerved its fans with finishes to matches that were less exciting than what had been expected.
But regardless of fans’ fantasy booking being infinitely more interesting than what WWE’s creative team had up its sleeve, there were still some enjoyable moments tucked away in WrestleMania 32. Let’s take a look at the highs and lows from the event:
Good: The WWE Women’s Championship match
It’s been a long time coming, but finally the WWE is recognizing its female wrestlers as women rather than “Divas.” The awful butterfly belt has now been replaced with a white and red Women’s Championship, a clear indication that the company is now taking its women’s division seriously, after years of it serving only as a launching pad to an appearance on Total Divas. The triple threat match to decide who would take home the new belt was arguably the best bout on the card, with Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch absolutely taking advantage of their WrestleMania moment.
Charlotte in particular shone throughout, delivering one of the best spots of the night with her top rope moonsault to the outside of the ring, before securing the victory via submission thanks to Ric Flair’s interference. The ending was a little scrappy, dampened by dodgy camera work which largely missed Flair holding Sasha Banks back as Becky was locked in The Figure 8, but the sight of Charlotte holding the title aloft on the ramp as fireworks erupted in and outside of AT&T Stadium was a triumphant moment for the entire women’s division. Hopefully WWE can keep this momentum going.
Bad: Roman reigning supreme
Any other finish that the WWE could have gone for in WrestleMania 32’s main event would have arguably been more well-received than what actually took place. With Reigns triumphing over Triple H in a dull, slow-paced match that ended completely cleanly, the Dallas crowd inevitably filled the arena with boos as it became apparent that, yes, WWE was going to continue booking Roman as an indomitable ultra-face. With this now being Reigns’ third WWE World Championship victory, it’s looking more and more likely that Roman will match Ric Flair’s title record before Cena does, with WWE routinely being forced to take the belt away from the Samoan due to the hugely negative crowd response he receives. At this rate he will have held the WWE world championship 16 times by the end of July this year.
Many were hoping that WrestleMania 32 would see Roman being given some form of character development, with the prevailing theory being that he would finally be turned heel. Unfortunately, his gimmick remains “that guy who always wins,” with him spearing Triple H and rolling him over cleanly for the victory in a deflating final match. The crowd responded accordingly, with WWE even audibly turning the stadium mics down in order to minimize the boos for those watching at home, desperately trying to convince its audience that the top guy in the company isn’t universally despised.
Despite babyface Roman Reigns being an embarrassing failed experiment for the company, it was still decided that he should take home the biggest prize on the Grandest Stage of Them All, with the crowd still being given no reason to feel anything for the guy outside of sheer ambivalence or venomous hatred. It is truly absurd that WWE still believes forcing Roman into the role of the company’s top babyface is a good idea, and at this point it is all but impossible to get the crowd on Reigns’ side without a heel turn taking place first. Even if he managed to be anything other than a charisma vacuum during this title reign, the damage has already been done and people are not going to accept him as their heroic champion. Sorry, Vince.
Good: Shane McMahon’s leap of faith
Prior to WrestleMania 32 the main question asked of The Undertaker and Shane McMahon’s Hell In A Cell match was whether or not Shane O’Mac could still do the Coast 2 Coast. Then the match ended after Shane McMahon literally threw himself off the top of the nightmarish structure, and suddenly him jumping across the ring to kick the Deadman in the face with a trash can was a lot less unreasonable. The sight of 46-year-old Shane, accompanied to the ring by his three young sons and with his wife and mother watching from the sidelines, launching himself off the top of the Cell and through the announce table will be WrestleMania 32’s defining moment, and it still beggars belief that he willingly agreed to do it. “Holy shit” indeed.
Bad: Literally nothing changing
With the battle between Shane McMahon and The Undertaker being billed as the most important match on the card given its kayfabe implications for the WWE, the entire storyline was based upon Shane O’Mac explaining to his father how the WWE is terrible now, but how he would make it all better if he beat ‘Taker at WrestleMania 32 and was placed in control of RAW. But then he lost the match, therefore rendering this entire storyline thoroughly pointless and leaving the WWE in the same state as it was before.
Between Shane McMahon’s loss and Roman Reigns’ victory, the message from WrestleMania 32 to its fans is “we acknowledge that everything’s been pretty shit lately, but we’re going to do literally nothing to change that.” Maybe Shane will appear on RAW tonight and reveal some sort of contractual loophole that still places him in control of RAW, but if that’s the case then it’ll make even less sense than pretty much every booking decision made at this year’s WrestleMania.
Good: Zack Ryder’s WrestleMania moment
From a storyline perspective, having Zack Ryder win the Intercontinental championship after over 2 years of being routinely buried and not appearing on WWE programming makes little sense. But there’s no denying that watching him ascend that ladder, grab the title and then celebrate in the middle of the ring with his dad was the feel-good moment of the show. It remains to be seen whether this is just a momentary push or whether it’s the start of a brand new chapter in Ryder’s career, but either way it was great to see his hard work being rewarded in Dallas.
Bad: The street fight
The biggest disappointment of the entire evening, the street fight between Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose was a huge loss for Ambrose, with him being made to look incredibly weak after eating the pin after just one F-5. With the run-up to the match consisting of Ambrose being handed a selection of weapons from a variety of WWE legends, that the match solely made use of a kendo stick and few chairs was underwhelming to say the least. Lesnar’s “suplex city” gimmick is also losing steam, with his move-set now limited to German Suplex after German Suplex. While it was a fun gimmick for a little while, it now saps the pace out of each of his matches, making them far less enjoyable as a result.
Ambrose, who looked like a true main eventer in his World Heavyweight Championship match against Triple H at Roadblock, seemed set to provide this year’s WrestleMania with its biggest underdog story. Though it was still doubtful that he’d earn a victory over Lesnar, it was widely predicted that the match would have the same impact upon his career as what the WrestleMania 13 match against Bret Hart did for Stone Cold. Instead, Ambrose was swiftly dispatched of by Lesnar, who tossed him around the ring like a ragdoll before bringing the match to an end far sooner than had been expected.
Though Ambrose continues to be one of the most over guys on the roster, him losing to Lesnar in such a disappointing manner puts a big dent in his value, with him not even able to overcome The Beast Incarnate using weapons. WWE clearly believes that Ambrose is popular enough for these losses to not harm him too much, but it won’t be long before that stops being the case.
Good: The New Day’s entrance
The WWE continues to get just about everything right when it comes to how it presents The New Day, and them emerging from a box of Booty-O cereal cosplaying as Dragonball characters was perfect. I was less impressed by their loss to The League of Nations, but they can definitely afford a few losses given how obscenely over they are with the crowd.
Bad: WWE suggesting that everything that has happened after 1999 has been shit.
WrestleMania always sees the return of big stars from the company’s past, and WrestleMania 32 was no exception. However, while the implementation of these big names was a lot of fun, it still happened to the detriment of talent currently on the roster, with the likes of The League of Nations and The Wyatt Family being forced to assume the role of jobbers on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
After The League of Nations achieved a surprise victory over The New Day, their celebration was short-lived as Stone Cold, HBK and Foley made their way down to the ring, swiftly dispatching of the foursome with their finishers before The New Day was also forced to eat a round of Stunners.
Then The Rock made his way to the ring in a 30-minute celebration of the actor that, among other things, saw him walking down a runway lined with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders after setting his name alight with a flamethrower. With him becoming embroiled in an impromptu match with Erick Rowan due to The Wyatt Family interrupting his lengthy monologue, one that he won in a record-breaking 6 seconds, he and a returning John Cena then made short work of Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman, before celebrating in the ring together as the latest in a long line of men who have irreparably damaged the Wyatt’s respective careers.
Then there was the Chris Jericho and AJ Styles match, which was billed as the final bout in a series that has successfully sapped all momentum AJ Styles had since his WWE debut, which Y2J won for some reason despite that outcome making no sense whatsoever. All of this combined to inform fans that yes, they’re right, the Attitude Era was better, because all of these guys on the current roster can’t even come close to beating Stone Cold in his bootcut dad jeans and a guy who only seems to turn up every 6/7 months in order to kick the shit out of whoever’s popular right now. While it wouldn’t be ‘Mania without these old faces turning up, it’d probably be beneficial for everyone if they actually threw jobbers to them, and not 8 guys who the WWE really needs to help prop up the company’s future.
Paul Tamburro is the UK, Tech and Gaming Editor of Crave, and a life-long WWE fan. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.