Friday, March 31, 2017

WWE Wrestlemania 32

Welcome to my yearly look at last year's Wrestlemania. We are a few days shy of Wrestlemania 33 transpiring in Orlando, FL. Like last year's entry, I will be covering everything on the Wrestlemania 31 BluRay. That includes the entire WM31 card, the three kickoff show matches and the entire Hall of Fame ceremony. This is always my favorite wrestling weekend of the year because WWE floods us with an insurmountable amount of top-tier programming so I cannot help but go into wrestling super-fan mode as I anticipate Wrestlemania weekend in general, no matter what the card and lineup is.

As usual, let's start with the Hall of Fame ceremony that preceded WM31 by a couple days. The Godfather (aka Kama/Papa Shango) was the first inductee and he got inducted by the APA. Their induction had a lot of jokes riffing off of classic Godfather stories. Godfather kept his speech short and sweet and delighted the crowd by hitting his sing-a-long catch phrases and dancing with his trademark 'ho train.' The Dudleyz inducted Jacquelyn next, and much like the APA's speech it was filled with a lot of jokes and gags about how tough Miss. Jackie is and how she is like one of the boys. Jacquelyn's speech was also short and sweet and she mostly gave a ton of praise to the women's division she helped kick off during the attitude era.

Probably my favorite induction of the night was Stan Hansen getting inducted by Vader. Vader had a ton of good stories on how he feared Stan coming up in the AWA and how he had some classic tag matches with him in Japan, including the bout where Vader lost his eye. Stan came out and looked like he was speaking from the heart nonstop with no notes and he just gave a tremendous speech and came off as surprisingly genuine and endearing with his unique thanks and shoutouts to the 'carpenters' of the business and even giving props to one Rick Martel whom he noted he let beat him in nine seconds one day. Just a fantastic speech.

WWE then introduced a new feature for the HoF with their 'Legacy Inductees.' Just imagine this as passed away stars who competed before the 70s getting their long overdue recognition. The NFL and MLB have a similar induction in their HoF each year too. The Legacy Class of 2016 consisted of legendary pioneers in the business such as Gerge Hackenschmidt, Pat 'O Connor, Frank Gotch, Mildred Burke, Ed 'Strangler' Lewis, Art Thomas and Lou Thesz. There were no induction/acceptance speeches here, just a 30-60 second highlight package of each inductee. All of these people deserved something so much more (perhaps an original Network special?), but at least these true pioneers got some form of recognition in WWE's hallowed halls.

The New Day inducted Fabulous Freebirds in my second favorite induction of the night. The Freebirds had a killer highlight package introducing them. Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin danced on stage to the point they were gassed in the initial moments of their speech. They both shared a bunch of classic Freebird stories, with the best being how they escaped death after a near-fatal shootout in a bar. Crowd was totally into the Freebirds, and it is finally good to see Hayes up at the podium finally after wondering what flamboyant suit he would normally be spotted in the crowd each year.

I was ecstatic to see my childhood favorite star the Big Boss Man finally inducted into the HoF. His former manager Slick gave a decent speech, but you can tell it was written for him by a WWE writer because the verbiage consisted of the entire expected WWE lingo. Boss Man's family accepted the award, and they were understandably nervous speaking in that big stage, but they gave a great speech filled with tons of funny moments for their kids growing up about how they learned of his dad's zany attitude era endeavors. John Cena inducted Snoop Dogg into the celebrity wing of the HoF (that is in dire need of a Bob Barker induction by the way). Both Cena and Snoopy gave serious, respectful speeches. Snoop has done a ton of WWE appearances since the year 2000 and his speech seemed authentic on his love for the promotion.

Dana Warrior inducted Joan London for the HoF's philanthropy Warrior award. It was filled with the feel-good, inspirational speeches one would expect out of this award. In the headlining induction, Ric Flair inducted Sting. Flair got distracted and gave a bunch of random ramblings for the first five minutes before talking about Sting in a hilarious induction. Flair noted WWE provided him with notecards to stay on track, and Sting said as he expected, Flair did not follow the notes. Sting had a good speech with many good stories and fond memories of teaming up with Robocop, a surprise nod to 'Joker' Sting and how Seth tried to cheer him up after he got injured. Sting wrapped up his speech by officially retiring from the business. Very good speech, and it was refreshing to see a primary WCW worker headline the WWE HoF for the first time.

For WM32, the kickoff show was two hours and featured three matches. We do not have to sit through two hours to see those matches as they are listed in the bonus features section and have their entrances clipped out to save on time and all three bonus matches have a total runtime of 25 minutes to make for a quicker watch. In the first kickoff match, Kallisto successfully defended the US Title against Ryback in a surprisingly good bout with both stars having several good near falls and spots throughout the match. Next up was a 5-on-5 women's tag match. This match was notable for being Brie Bella's final match and Lana's only match in the WWE so far. I was surprise there was not a single botch in this match, especially with green stars like Lana and Eva Marie in the match surprisingly hitting their moves. Brie Bella got the win for her team by making Naomi tap to the Yes-lock. The final pre-show match saw the Usos defeating the Dudleyz after D-Von got superkicked. The Usos continue their astonishing streak of only competing on the kickoff show for Wrestlemania.

The proper WM32 card officially started with a 6-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title between Kevin Owens, Zack Ryder, Sin Cara, Sami Zayne, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Stardust. This match had the expected highspots with none that thankfully did not go awry. Kudos to Stardust for busting out the polka-dot-ladder! I was both shocked and thrilled that Ryder got his overdue Wrestlemania moment by winning the match and having a celebratory embrace with his father afterwards. AJ Styles made his Wrestlemania debut against Chris Jericho next in a really good encounter that saw Y2J win with a Codebreaker. Luckily, AJ rebounded from this and went on to have one of the best rookie years in WWE history.

The most forgettable faction is WWE history, the League of Nations (Sheamus, Del Rio & Rusev) defeated the New Day in a no-frills six man tag. Wade Barrett was ringside managing the League and it would be his final 'Mania as he was written off WWE TV the next day. Sheamus pinned Xavier Woods with a Brogue Kick and Barrett talked trash on the mic afterwards until Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels interrupted and beat the tar out of the League to the crowd's affection. Brock Lesnar defeated Dean Ambrose in a Street Fight with an F5 and 13, yes 13 German Suplexes. I know because the crowd counted along. This match was far better on second viewing because Dean went on to say in interviews how Brock was not all that cooperative in this match, but Dean had several moments of believable underdog comebacks and had the crowd popping throughout a couple nearfalls.

Next up was the triple threat, Women's title match between Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. My initial notes for this match was 'Hairrrrrrr' because all three women appeared to be rocking triple their normal hair extensions. This is probably the best Women's title match in Wrestlemania history as it got ample time, and had a ton of good moments and ambitious spots from all three ladies. It got a little messy in a few spots, but in the grand scheme of things it was an entertaining affair and the three had the crowd in the palm of their hands for the entire ride. Charlotte successfully defended the title by making Becky tap to the Figure-8.

Shane McMahon faced off against The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. The build to this match and the match itself is ridiculous on paper, but upon rewatching this Shane was surprisingly believable in nearly everything he did, minus his awful punches. There were a few really dangerous spots in this bout which really got a reaction out of me since I am not use to WWE going this far with spots nowadays. Of course I am talking about Shane's crazy dive off the top of the cell through an announcer's table. After that unbelievable moment, Undertaker carried Shane's corpse to the ring, and Tombstoned him for the win. I feel as crazy as Shane was in this match for coming around on it on second viewing, but the pacing, body language and selling all came together to create a memorable Wrestlemania spectacle, for better or worse.

The third annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was next and it was surprisingly well booked again. It had a few surprise entrants in the form of Tatanka, Diamond Dallas Page and NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille 'O Neal. Like last year, the battle royal was paced well with only minimal lulls and usually some kind of noteworthy moment or elimination happening to keep the crowd glued in. Ultimately, it was NXT star Baron Corbin winning the battle royal in his debut WWE match.

At this point in the show, WM32 took a turn for the worse. I was enjoying the show quite a bit up until this point with a well-flowing match order that had each match gradually getting better and better. WM32 advertised an appearance of The Rock, and I was surprised to see a bummer of a Rock segment on this Wrestlemania. He came out with what looked like a t-shirt gun, but was actually a flamethrower and went on to light up a custom 'Rock' sign. I would have rather seen him shoot out tshirts. He quickly got cut off in his promo by the Wyatt Family. Wyatt's usual incoherent gibberish led to Rock challenging one of them to a match on the spot. What we got was The Rock squashing Erik Rowan in six seconds to set a new record for shortest match in Wrestlemania history. This would have been OK on an episode of RAW, but to have the WWE hype up a Rock segment for several weeks and deliver this nonsense turned out to be unbelievably disappointing. The only good thing to come out of this segment was The Rock spoofed on Wyatt being the 'Eater of Worlds' by declaring him the 'Eater of Hot Pockets.'

The final match of the show saw Roman Reigns pin Triple H to become the new WWE Champion. The crowd was not on Roman's side, and WWE did their best to mute them out by more than doubling the volume of Roman's entrance music. The match was a dull slog and the crowd was understandably burnt out at this point in the night. The crowd was not going to bite for having the WWE shove Roman down everyone's throat that night, and good on them for doing so. How did Roman say thanks to the WWE when they booked him to come out on top on WWE's biggest show of the year? He showed his gratitude by failing a drug test a couple months later and the company had to rush to get the title off him so he could serve his suspension.

If you ignore the final two segments of WM32, then this turned out to be a fantastic Wrestlemania. So just completely skip the Rock/Wyatt segment and the main event and you will be in for a far more enjoyable card than what it turned out to be.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
Owen: Hart of Gold
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
RoH Supercard of Honor IX
RoH Supercard of Honor X
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
Wrestlemania 31
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestling Road Diaries Three: Funny Equals Money
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016

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