The road to WrestleMania is often regarded as the most exciting three month period in the WWE season.
It’s where all the big returns, dream matches, and thrilling storylines take place. Basically, the only three months of the year the writers actually do what they’re paid to do.
Here at TWM, I’m going to analyse every road to WrestleMania from the last decade.
Last week, I brought you the lowdown on WrestleMania 31, which brings us nicely to the next installment which saw Shane McMahon attempt suicide live on air when he leapt from atop the Hell in a Cell structure, Roman Reigns topple Triple H in the main event for the WWE Championship, and The Rock defeat Erick Rowan(?!) in six seconds to set a new record.
WrestleMania 32 really was a weird show, thanks in large part to the number of injuries to top stars including John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, and Seth Rollins, who were forced to sit out the biggest show of the year. But have no fear because Brock Lesnar was on hand to completely dismantle Dean Ambrose, and Triple H was kind enough to step in from his busy schedule as head of creative to walk into WrestleMania as WWE Champion. He’s just that nice of a guy. On a side note, I do love Triple H. I think he is absolutely incredible and one of the greatest of all time, but it’s much funnier to rip on the guy who slept with the boss’s daughter to get to the top.
Roman Reigns roared into 2016 as the defacto babyface WWE Champion, having vanquished Sheamus of the prestigious gold in a raucous Raw main event which also featured a tremendous heel performance from Mr. McMahon. Let’s face it though, Donald Trump would’ve been cheered for dethroning The Celtic Warrior. That all changed, however, when Reigns was forced to put his title on the line in the Royal Rumble Match itself, meaning fans turned on him again because they felt they were being told to support him. Things didn’t get any better when Triple H won the said Rumble bout to capture the gold and set up a WrestleMania showdown with The Big Dog that absolutely no one not named Vince McMahon wanted to see.
The only good thing the Triple H WWE Title run brought was his stirring defense opposite Dean Ambrose at Roadblock. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s worth going out of your way to see. I mean, what else have any of us got to do these days? It truly is a classic. The actual build to Reigns-Triple H was pretty humdrum. Nothing connected. Fans weren’t buying Reigns, and they weren’t exactly enamoured with The Game either. But these were desperate times for WWE and they had very little option but to run with this and hope for the best.
The second biggest match on the card was Hell In A Cell between Undertaker and Shane McMahon for full control of WWE. If you think that sounds totally out of left field, then it’s because it was. WWE was completely desperate, so desperate in fact that rumour has it Vince McMahon came close to calling upon the services of Vince Russo. Although some would argue this car wreck of an angle came from the mind of Russo, but that’s completely false. Even he wouldn’t have thought of something as ludicrous as this. Okay, maybe he would, but the big clue it wasn’t him is that the locked box wasn’t hanging from a pole.
So basically, WWE was in dire straits with injuries and was forced to bring back Shane McMahon, who hadn’t been seen in a WWE ring since 2009. He was coming back to challenge his father in a storyline for turning WWE into the drizzling you know what. Shane got the biggest and most sustained pop ever heard on Monday Night Raw which was surprising to say the least, especially considering the go away heat he would attract just a few years later. Shane claimed he had secrets on Vince that would destroy him, and in order to hand over the locked box of contents, he wanted control of the company. Vince accepted on one condition – Shane has a match at WrestleMania against an opponent of Vince’s choosing. Shane agreed but seemed taken aback when his opponent was revealed to be The Undertaker inside Hell In A Cell. The angle did pose lots of questions, the three most strikingly obvious ones were –
- Why did Shane have to wrestle a match when he had the upper hand, i.e. the locked box of secrets?
- Why would The Undertaker play fiddle to Vince McMahon and fight his battles for him, gaining nothing in return?
- Why wasn’t Shane’s opponent Brock Lesnar, a legitimate hired mercenary?
Just odd and confusing all around. But it did give us a true WrestleMania moment, and everything was forgotten about the following night on Raw.
What was actually the true main event of WrestleMania was the hallmark moment in the Women’s Revolution as Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks clashed for the Women’s Championship. The world wanted to see this bout, and it should’ve headlined the biggest show of the year. The women were finally getting the recognition they deserved for years of effort and hard work. Women like Trish Stratus and Lita laid the groundwork for the next generation, and now their time had come to seize the moment end cement their names in the annals of WWE history forever.
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks are without question three of the best this industry has ever seen. The excitement level for their showdown was palpable. There were also nerves amongst the three women, who knew what a huge moment this was. Mess up, and it was back to 2-minute matches on Raw, but succeed and the sky was the limit. Thankfully they passed with flying colours, and to this day, they are the most interesting thing about modern professional wrestling. The women’s time has come, and their star is shining brighter than ever before.
Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar was mixing it up in the mid-card with Dean Ambrose and looked about as interested to be working with the future Jon Moxley as he was about making Ricochet look remotely like a star. Throughout the build, it was clear Lesnar did not want to work with Ambrose. Even Paul Heyman didn’t do his usual hype job for The Beast’s opponent. All parties involved just wanted it to be over with as quickly as possible.
Ambrose later claimed that Brock was lazy and refused to commit to any ideas Dean gave him. While Heyman said Ambrose’s attitude at the time stunk, and Lesnar felt disrespected. Not sure who to believe, probably a mix of both stories are true. Whatever the case, it’s a shame because if both men were truly motivated this could’ve been a WrestleMania classic for the ages.
This was also the WrestleMania that saw the debut on ‘The Grandest Stage Of Them All’ for ‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles, who had made his WWE bow at the Royal Rumble a few months earlier. Styles was red hot and in the form of his life, so when he was paired with Chris Jericho, fans went wild with excitement and expected both men to deliver a series of tremendous battles. Unfortunately, that never happened. The pair just didn’t click, and their matches were average at best.
Their angle started off friendly, even forming a partnership together (Y2AJ) before Jericho’s jealousy got the better of him and he assaulted Styles, who was constantly getting louder cheers than him. A pretty lame reason for a blood feud on the biggest show of the year, to say the least. But there but still intrigue there, and confidence in the two veterans putting on something very special. Sadly, they would all be let down on the night.
So, let’s get to the event itself. It opened with Zack Ryder of all people capturing the Intercontinental Championship in a multi-man Ladder match which also featured The Miz, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, and Sin Cara. Told you their roster was slim pickings. The bout was fun enough and the surprise winner helped put it over. Miz regained the title the following night on Raw. A lot of what happened at this WrestleMania was deemed null and void on Raw. A complete waste of time.
The next contest saw AJ Styles clash with Chris Jericho. It was a drawn-out affair that got nothing from the live crowd, and in fairness, they didn’t deserve anything. This was lacklustre and lethargic stuff. Jericho going over was such a bizarre decision too, especially considering Styles became number one contender to the WWE Championship the next night on Raw. This WrestleMania literally made zero sense.
The League Of Nations (bonus points for remembering who the hell they were) inexplicably knocked off The New Day in a dire Six-Man Tag just so they could get their butts handed to them by the legendary trio of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley in what was, admittedly, the best thing that happened at that year’s WrestleMania.
Brock Lesnar destroyed Dean Ambrose in a passable No Holds Barred Match. It quickly turned into a Suplex City parade followed by an F5 onto steel chairs for the win. Ambrose was made to look like nothing more than a chancy mid-carder. He was not in Lesnar’s league, and Brock had no interest in making a star out of him. Chalk this down as what might’ve been.
The best match of the night saw Charlotte Flair become Women’s Champion by defeating Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in an excellent Triple Threat encounter. They really knocked it out of the park here, and all credit has to go to the three women. Just a shame it didn’t headline because it deserved to.
The most anticipated match of the night was Hell In A Cell between Undertaker and Shane McMahon for control of WWE. It was quite dull. They made the mistake of portraying Shane as an equal to Undertaker, and it just didn’t work. The fans were just waiting for Shane to do something insane, and they got their wish when McMahon scaled to the top of the demonic structure and leapt off, crashing through the announce table 20 feet below with crushing impact. Undertaker patted Shane on the head in a sign of respect before delivering a thunderous Tombstone Piledriver for the win. An Undertaker win at WrestleMania actually got booed. But have no fear, because Vince McMahon simply handed control of Raw over to his son the next night anyway. What was the point of any of this?
Baron Corbin won a forgettable Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Which Battle Royal hasn’t been forgettable? But this one was a complete dud. Things got lively when The Rock returned to announce the largest attendance figure in WrestleMania history of over 100,000 fans, including all staff and personnel. This year WrestleMania won’t reach 50 attendees. Absolute madness.
Rock’s electrifying speech was interrupted by The Wyatt Family, but Rock came ready for a fight. Erick Rowan accepted, and 6 seconds later Rock was victorious and a new record was set. The Wyatts didn’t take kindly to this humiliation, but before they could do any damage to The Great One, John Cena suddenly emerged and helped his WrestleMania rival wipe the floor with The Wyatt Family. An incredible WrestleMania moment.
The main event saw Roman Reigns dethrone Triple H of the WWE Championship in an overly long battle that lost the crowd halfway through. Triple H was so bronzed here that Hulk Hogan was most probably sucking up to him all WrestleMania weekend. Reigns still was not over to the extent McMahon wanted him to be, and no amount of selling for Triple H was going to change that.
The last five minutes were fun stuff with Reigns Spearing Stephanie McMahon, before doing the same to Triple H in a great sequence to become the WWE Champion. This just didn’t feel like the passing of the torch moment it was clearly intended to be. Triple H was the wrong guy to put Roman over, in my opinion. It needed to be someone less popular, like a Sheamus or someone along those lines. It just felt anticlimactic.
Overall, WrestleMania 32 will go down as one of the worst in history. WWE wasn’t helped by the amount of injuries to its top stars, but they still could’ve delivered something a lot better than this. The women easily stole the show, Shane risked his life for a WrestleMania moment, and Triple H tried his best to take Reigns to the next level, but it wasn’t enough. It was a bore to watch, and despite over 100,000 people in attendance, it didn’t feel big or special.
Come back to TWM next week where I will be looking back at the road to WrestleMania 33 which saw everyone important return from injury, Undertaker battle Roman Reigns, Goldberg face Brock Lesnar, and Seth Rollins conquer Triple H.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @JK_CFC3. Thanks for reading!