There truly is nothing like WrestleMania. It is an event that has transcended being just a wrestling (or ‘wrassling’, depending on your angle) show. It is a cultural event along the annual sporting AND entertainment spectrum that stops the collective consciousness and has become as long stretching of an event as Super Bowl week is a few months prior.
And as Vince McMahon’s genre-shifting spectacle continues through its third decade of existence, it turns towards its 32nd entry this evening at Jerry Jones’ palatial AT&T Stadium. Yet this will be a show without a handful of its top stars on hand, such as Randy Orton, Seth Rollins and the WWE’s franchise player, John Cena. While all are down with injury, it has also given a chance for a card that still offers much excitement from a group of established players in WrestleMania history — Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker and Triple H — positioned against some sure-fire stars of today that are in position to have much bigger names at Manias to come.
But just how good can this show be? There certainly is the usual intrigue that comes with the show, with no one less than the most prodigal of sons, Shane McMahon, returning to his family business in as improbable of a position that could have been imagined, well, ever. There’s the most famous name in both sports and entertainment at once, Dwayne Johnson, back at his grassroots level as The Rock, who will be in the show as well. Add in the fact that literally any and everybody (well, maybe not Hulk Hogan) in the history of wrestling could appear at any given moment, every WrestleMania has a chance to be uniquely memorable.
So where will WrestleMania 32 place itself in the history of the event? Regardless of all of the special attraction moments, by and large, a WrestleMania is still made memorable by its actual wrestling. It is an event that Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage, The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels versus, well, Razor Ramon, John Cena, Ric Flair, The Undertaker, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, etc, etc.
The matches are what makes the moment, and you never know where it could come from. So which will be the defining WrestleMania 32 memory? Here’s a look at the card that’s ahead this evening.
The New Day vs. The League of Nations
The New Day has been the sensation of the WWE over the past half year or so and they could be in line for the biggest ovation of the night. It will also be the match that pits the most decisive babyface versus heel matchup of the night, as the League of Nations (Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Rusev and Alberto Del Rio) have taken upon themselves to take the heart of the enthusiasm that The New Day exudes, but this will be a solid match that gives a chance to stamp the year for one of the biggest breakout factions in years.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
It is not quite fair to say it’s a ‘jobber’ battle royal, but a lot of the guys that have nothing else going on that could land them their own match will get a chance to make an appearance in this one. It could likely come down to some combination of the Wyatt Family versus Kane, Mark Henry and The Big Show battling it out in a quick flare up that takes place early in the card. It will not create the type of enduring WrestleMania moment that is referenced above, but could be fun.
A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho
While it is not on level of the three most notable matches on this evening’s card, Styles and Jericho are best positioned to steal the show tonight. It is a perfect collision of styles (no pun intended) and storyline, as Jericho and Styles have been building their issue with each other since Styles debuted in the WWE at the Royal Rumble in January.
It is a match that will also pit a well-seasoned WrestleMania performer in Jericho, who has twice had WWE Championship matches at the event, one of which came in the main event at WM18. Styles on the other hand is a well-known, well-traveled talent that had made his name in many different promotions but has finally landed in the WWE and at WrestleMania. He will be hungry to make the most of the opportunity, and Jericho is the perfect matchup to do so with. Expect this to be a fantastic match.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz vs. Stardust for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens has made his life revolve around the Intercontinental Championship since late in 2015. After recovering the title from Dean Ambrose a few months ago, he has been at the heart of a free-for-all amid contenders from the belt, which have both come from challengers to him and self-chosen foes.
All of those elements have come to a head in this match, which could prove to be the biggest mix up of ‘OMG’ moments and huge spots as this all gets sorted out. Somehow, KO still feels like he’ll do his share of punishing and getting punished, before finding a way to take advantage of someone else’s fortune and coming away with the title still. With the diversity of talents in the match, it will certainly see some memorable — as well as unlikely — matchups along the way.
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the WWE Divas Championship
This should be the best Divas match in the history of WrestleMania. And considering it will have a trio of women making their debuts at the event, that is saying something. But this is the new wave of women that are changing what women’s wrestling is. No longer is it just a match to calm the crowd down between co-main events. This is a destination match for anyone that has watched NXT and WWE over the last year. This could prove to be the match that actually steals the show.
Charlotte and Sasha Banks established the best rivalry of the last year at NXT, putting up a pair of legendary main events over the Women’s Title in WWE’s developmental league. Meanwhile, Becky Lynch has proven to be worthwhile foil for each, and has raised her profile since reaching WWE. This is a match with three wrestlers that are very familiar with each other and will have a natural flow. Charlotte is tough, Banks is in line to be the biggest star the division has seen since Trish Stratus and Lynch is the tough underdog. This should be a phenomenal match that could end with any of the three taking the win.
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match
Not in a million years could anybody have predicted this matchup. The daredevil heir to the throne making his return to the WWE with a promise to ‘make things right’, as he has not liked what he has seen since he stepped away from the family business back over six years ago. Meanwhile, Vince McMahon has not welcomed back the returned wild card element of his son, and has gone to as far of an extreme as he can to protest the Stephanie McMahon/Authority-led establishment he has in place, by activating The Undertaker as the protector of his affairs.
It is an odd matchup, as it is not the traditional type of battle one would expect to see The Undertaker be involved in at Mania. He has had war after war at Mania over the past two decades plus, but it is odd to see McMahon be placed in such a position, regardless of his track record of awe inspiring spots in history. It is a clash of characters that is placed in an environment that does not let both serve their strongest elements simultaneously. But with the wild card outcomes in place of Shane assuming control of Monday Night Raw if he wins or The Undertaker being banned from WrestleMania forever if he loses, it is an intriguing match no matter what.
Regardless of that, it will be an entertaining match and is one that is likely to have the most plot twists throughout it. Will McMahon somehow place the second blemish on the Taker’s legendary Mania resume straight up? Probably not. However, will McMahon make such a big claim as to returning to change the direction of the entire company, only to be vanquished completely right after his return? That does not make a lot of sense either.
With both Stephanie and Vince McMahon so intimately involved in the direction of this match, it is likely that they bring some level of interference into the outcome of it. But likewise, Shane could pull some strings to do that same thing. Yet the Undertaker, who has been an unwilling accomplice in the entire scenario that Vince put in play from the beginning, could decide to both rebel against any actions the Stephanie and Vince put into play, therefore nullifying them. It is a match who’s outcome is hazy to predict, but that is the main intrigue of it, along with the fact that there is a guaranteed shake up the future of the WWE on the other side.
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar, in a no-disqualifications match.
Three things are guaranteed in this matchup:
1) It will be the most physical match of the night.
2) Brock Lesnar will emerge victorious, but…
3) Dean Ambrose will leave as the most respected talent on the roster today
Brock Lesnar is the most physically dominant performer in the history of the WWE. His matches are often slaughterhouses that are dictated only by how long he wants for them to last. He has not lost a clean one-on-one matchup since WrestleMania 29 (yep, three years ago).
The great thing about this matchup is that Ambrose does not really have to win. And really, he may not even be concerned with doing so. He wants to hurt Lesnar, and has proven that he has the mettle to stand up to his onslaught. While it would seem that a no-disqualification is the last place one would want to be a machine like Lesnar, it fits the bill of what Ambrose is looking to do. It allows him to go to any extremes he wants to confront the challenge of Lesnar, which is likely what he will need to slow The Beast down. It should be a match where both extremes are served and both competitors emerge with points proven.
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
The capper for the evening’s events is one of the most controversial main events in years. It will pit Triple H, the 46-year old Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events of the WWE (not kayfabe), who returned to action at the conclusion of January’s Royal Rumble to eliminate Reigns to both win the Rumble and capture his 14th World Championship. This was return fire from Triple H against Reigns, who savagely attacked HHH a few months prior on the heels of winning the title from Sheamus himself.
The controversy comes in the fact that this is essentially a match that has double turned on itself. Despite being the established top heel in the business right now, Triple H is more beloved than Reigns, who crowds regularly root against. This has been due to the fact that he has relentlessly been put in places to be made to be a crowd favorite, despite the fact that the crowds has regularly rebelled against this. There has been a feeling of too much, too soon for Reigns, who will now be entering his second consecutive WrestleMania main event as challenger to the sitting champion.
Regardless of the politics around it, the match itself should be a pretty strong exchange of fists between the two. If not truly a great scientific performer or storyteller yet, Reigns can deliver an impact move and high energy spot throughout a match. Likewise, Triple H is arguably the best of all-time at brawling through a match up and nobody has had more grueling championship matches in WrestleMania history than he has.
It is the battle for top prize in the industry. Signs would lean towards Reigns getting over the hump and claiming the title again for himself. It could even be a match where The Rock, Reigns’ cousin, gets involved in swaying the outcome. However, the most interesting thing that could come from this showdown is just what happens in the end if Reigns is victorious, and how the predicted 100,000+ in attendance take that development.
I’m a firm believer that the closest I’ve gotten to Heaven is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. In the meantime til we cross paths again, I’ll pass along the gospel of the Field of Dreams here, Cheap.Seats.Please, I70 Baseball, and ‘Live From The Cheap Seats’.