Monday, 11 April 2016

TV Review: WWE Wrestlemania 32

It was the biggest event of the year, but did it deliver? That’s what I was hoping to find out by watching the marathon that was WWE Wrestlemania 32, shown recently on Sky Box Office here in Britain.

The show kicked off with Dolph Ziggler, the Miz, Sami Zayn, Stardust, Sin Cara and Zack Ryder challenging Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental title in a ladder match.

I think fast and furious would be the best way to describe this one, a match filled with bone crunching smashes and crashes, and with probably one of the most deserving winners.

All seven men gave a good account of themselves as they gave their all in their attempts to get the gold. As expected, the match had it’s fair share of high-flying moments, as well as a couple of holy you know what moments, the biggest coming when Owens pushed the ladder over and sent Cara crashing onto a prone Stardust, putting the face-painted one through another ladder.

So after a ton of tremendous action it looked as if everyone’s favourite straight-to-DVD star the Miz was going to walk out with the title. But as he sat himself down on top of the ladder none other than Ryder scrambled up the other side and pushed his man off his perch. He then reached up and grabbed the belt to win the title, and given his long service to the company it was a thoroughly deserved win in my opinion.

Then it was on to the next chapter in the ongoing rivalry between Chris Jericho and A.J. Styles.

Is it me or was this a whole lot better than their match at Fast Lane? Mind you, they were battling on the biggest stage of all, so that probably had a lot to do with it.

The match was perfectly paced throughout, with both guys putting in good performances from bell to bell. Styles seems to be really getting into his stride in WWE now, and in Jericho he’s had the perfect mentor, for want of a better word.

Everything made sense throughout, especially when Styles kicked out of the code breaker and Jericho returned the compliment by kicking out of the Styles clash, and it looked as if the action was going to continue for a while until Jericho countered Styles’ phenomenal forearm with another code breaker, a move which finally secured the three count and win.

Six man action followed as Tag Team Champions Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods of the New Day took on the League of Nations’ Rusev, Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus.

Although it was a shame that the titles weren’t defended here it was still a pretty enjoyable encounter. The League showed how much they’ve grown as a unit recently, especially when they used Woods as their crash test dummy, with all three men putting in a good stint.

Naturally Woods managed to make it back to his corner to signal the start of the all hell breaking loose segment of the match, and even though Biggie and his boys had plenty of chances to take the win it was the underhanded tactics of the League that won out in the end, with King Barrett smashing Woods with his bullhammer from ringside before Sheamus finished him off with the brogue kick for the win.

But as the old saying goes that wasn’t the end of things, because when King Barrett took to the microphone to proclaim the greatness of his team we got our first Wrestlemania moment as none other than Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Steve Austin came down to ringside to offer a slightly different opinion.

A brief stare-down followed, and when the New Day dragged Barrett out of the ring it really kicked off. The all-star team quickly made short work of Rusev, Del Rio and Sheamus before they each took Barrett down with their finisher of choice.

Then came the rather surreal and unique sight of the New Day boys getting the legends to dance with them, and although Michaels and Foley were more than happy to join in with the fun Austin was rather reluctant at first. He eventually joined in after a little urging from Woods, but it wasn’t long before the Rattlesnake took young Xavier out with a stunner, signalling the start of the beer drinking segment.

The first of the marquee matches saw Paul Heyman guy Brock Lesnar taking on Dean Ambrose in a no holds barred street fight.

Now this was fun, in a crazy kind of way. It began as I expected, with Lesnar taking his man on an early trip to Suplex City as he dominated the action. Ambrose managed to get in a couple of kendo stick shots, but the Beast basically manhandled him from pillar to post.

Lesnar then showed a moment of weakness, if you could call it that, when he threw down the kendo stick in front of him and gave Ambrose and invitation to pick it up. The lunatic fringe responded by delivering a shot south of the border, which began a few moments of dominance, hitting his man with anything he could get his hands on, although thankfully for Lesnar that didn’t involve the gift Terry Funk had given him.

Ambrose’s luck soon ran out though, and after he tried to introduce Mick Foley’s gift into the equation Lesnar finally took him down with an F5 on a stack of chairs for the winning pin.

After a visit from this year’s Hall of Fame class it was on to the Divas as Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Divas Champion Charlotte fought it out over the new Women’s title in a triple threat match.

You know, I haven’t seen a women’s match like this in years. I’ve said in the past how the Divas were little more than filler material on pay-per-views, and this was definitely not the case with this match.

This was special. You had three women putting it all on the line, and then some, as they put together some tremendous exchanges throughout. Each women was as good as the other, and it was a joy to behold, especially when the fans gave them the sort of reception normally reserved for their male counterparts, and as the action went on it became a veritable war of attrition, with each combatant growing ever the more frustrated when they couldn’t get that elusive pin.

Something had to give though, and sadly that was my fellow European, because as Ric Flair held Sasha back, Charlotte locked in the figure eight on Becky, and eventually the lass kicker could take no more as she tapped out, giving Charlotte the submission win.

Then it was back to the marquee matches as Shane McMahon faced the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match, with the double stipulation that if McMahon won he’d get control of Raw and the Undertaker would be barred from competing at future Wrestlemanias.

I have to admit that this match exceeded my expectations, and then some. This was a war, plain and simple, with both men pouring their hearts and their souls into everything, and that’s what made this match so special.

As good ol’ JR would have said this was a slobber-knocker. For just over thirty minutes these two beat the proverbial out of each other. Shane O’Mac looked in top form throughout. You never would have thought that he’d been away from the game for years on this performance. As for the Dead Man, like his opponent he turned back the clock and put in a stint that showed that he’s still more than capable of competing on the biggest stage in wrestling.

But despite all of the great back and forth action this match will be remembered for one moment, and one moment early. It all began when ‘Taker barged McMahon out of the cage, taking their brawl out to ringside, and it wasn’t long before the table smashing began.

The first one saw the Undertaker countering McMahon’s sleeper hold by crashing into the Spanish guy’s table. A few moments later McMahon clobbered ‘Taker in the skull with a tool box. It was then that he saw his chance. As the dead man lay prone on the English commentary table McMahon climbed to the roof of the cage. However, it was a case of crash and burn as the Undertaker rolled out of the way before the money crashed through the table.

Even after that it still wasn’t over. Despite everything that happened McMahon still called on the dead man to fight, but when ‘Taker took his man back into the ring it was all over bar the shouting. A tombstone piledriver later and the Undertaker had the winning pin.

We then moved on to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, featuring a hotchpotch of competitors including the Big Show, Diamond Dallas Page, Tatanka, Kane, R-Truth, Curtis Axel, and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, making his professional wrestling debut.

Is this the first time this match has been on the main show? I’m sure someone out there will respond, but anyway. As expected the early going was all about Show taking on Shaq. After a brief staredown they joined in taking Kane out with a double chokeslam. Everyone else then tried to eliminate them before they were sent flying, which left the two big behemoths alone in the ring.

But as they participated in a spot of mutual choking the rest of the entrants returned the ring and joined forces to eliminate them. There were a few nice moments afterwards. It looked like the Social Outcasts were going to dominate for a short while, until they ran into Kane and NXT’s Baron Corbin, and after Darren Young joined Kane in eliminating Mark Henry the Big Red Machine quickly dispatched Young and Bo Dallas. It was then that Corbin came up from behind and threw Kane over the top rope to take the win.

The penultimate match was an impromptu one. After the People’s Champion himself, the Rock, came to the ring to announce the record attendance figures he found himself interrupted by Bray Wyatt and his boys (minus the injured Luke Harper). After the two of them traded jibes Rock challenged Wyatt’s crew to a match, with Wyatt putting Erick Rowan into the line of fire.

A brief staredown followed, but before Rowan could do anything Rock took him down with a rock bottom for the winning pin after just six seconds. Needless to say that Wyatt and his boys weren’t too pleased with the way things had played out, but just as they were about to attack none other than John Cena made his return to help Rock take out Rowan and Braun Strowman before Wyatt felt what it was like to be on the end of the most electrifying move in sports entertainment.

The main event saw Roman Reigns challenging Triple H, accompanied by Stephanie McMahon, for the WWE World title.

Although this won’t go down as one of the best main events in Wrestlemania history it was a pretty decent encounter, although it did feel like it was dragging on a little towards the end.

Both champion and challenger put in good performances, as did Trip’s missus at ringside, and it had plenty of good sequences as well, especially when Reigns speared Trips through the barricade, hurting his own arm in the process.

But it was after this, when Trips began to work over his man’s injured wing that the action seemed to drag somewhat. The drama levels seemed to go down a great deal, and they only went up again when Reigns tried to take Trips down with one of his many spears with Stephanie taking the bullet for her husband.

Steph still had enough about her to pass on the trusty old sledgehammer to her old man. He never got to use it though, and as the clock approached the thirty minute mark Reigns dodged Trips’ hammer shot and connected with yet another spear for the title-winning pin.

In conclusion – well, after nearly five hours I finally made it to the end, but did the biggest show of the year deliver? I would have to say yes, yes it did, for the most part.

The majority of the matches certainly achieved what they set out to do, and there were some quality performances throughout the card, as well as some crazy moments. (Shane McMahon I’m looking at you.) But I couldn’t help but feel just a little disappointed with the main event. Trips and Reigns was fine, but did they really need nearly thirty minutes to tell their story? They could have probably done just as much with five or ten minutes less. They could also have added a little more drama if the referee had taken the spear instead of Stephanie.

As for my prestigious match of the night no-prize the Divas are going to take the crown for their tremendous efforts during the Women’s title match. If I ever see this title defended in a filler match again I’ll be extremely disappointed.

So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing to do with this belated review, and that’s to give Wrestlemania 32 the thumbs up.