Wrestlemania Challenge Day 32

The world is still in the midst of a pandemic and the majority of the country is still shut down so the Wrestlemania challenge series continues, as the McMahon signature event went to Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, Texas. As we know, Dallas has such an extensive pro wrestling history with Fritz Von Erich’s World Class promotion and all the classic moments that went along with it. David, Kerry, and Kevin battled Hayes, Gordy, and Roberts as a packed house at the legendary Sportatorium frantically cheered for the heroes. Accordingly, The Fabulous Freebirds were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame that year with Michael Hayes singing, “Bad Street USA” during the ceremony. Sting, who did the job to Triple H the previous year, was the headliner for the Hall of Fame in 2016. Something that I noticed when re-watching this show is that it became a very tedious task because the broadcast was nearly five and a half hours so I’m going to attempt to summarize as much as possible here to avoid an article that would be too lengthy for anyone to realistically want to read. That being said, if you’ve followed along since the start of this series or just checked in occasionally, I sincerely appreciate anyone that takes the time to read the articles I’ve posted online.

The opener was a ladder match for the IC championship and this more or less was the same type of spot fest that the MITB match was on the WM card before the gimmick got its own pay-per-view. There were a lot of risky bumps during this bout and it was very entertaining. However, as I’ve said throughout this series, professional wrestling is more about the moments than the matches and this is a prime example of that. When Pac broke his ankle in a match with Chris Jericho on Raw, Zack Ryder was a last-minute replacement for him in the match. Since he wasn’t originally scheduled for the contest, the odds appeared slim that he would be more than just a replacement on the card. In a very wise booking move, that perception was used to make it an even bigger surprise when Ryder won the title. I’ve already detailed how his progress was squashed in the WM 28 article, but again, he got over on his own so the office halted it. This was a nice moment for a competitor that the audience always rallied around, even when he wasn’t portrayed as a star on television. Zack posing on the top of the ladder with the championship was his WM moment and it was great to see him get a chance to share it with his dad, who was so excited that he tried to put a WM 32 cowboy hat on the new IC champion’s head before Zack sent it flying into the crowd. Sadly, it wasn’t surprising at all when he lost the title the next night on Raw to The Miz, but at least he had the chance to get a legitimate WM moment.

AJ Styles shocked the wrestling world when he debuted at the Royal Rumble, an appearance that was the subject of speculation for over a decade. I have to be honest, even though there were rumors of AJ’s possible signing with the WWE at the time, I was still really surprised that he was finally in a WWE ring, simply because he was so closely associated with TNA for years. I think it goes without say that when Dixie Carter let AJ walk, that was more or less the end of the original version of TNA. AJ is such a solid pro and one of the greatest athletes in the history of the industry. All things considered, it was good that he finally got a chance to make the best money of his career with a WWE contract because he spent years working a very risky style and with his legacy established, it made sense for him to cash-in for the financial security in the latter stages of his career. While AJ is such a gifted performer and has transitioned very well to the WWE style, much of that was still a question mark, at least for WWE management, in 2016. Make no mistake about it, AJ was booked against Jericho at Wrestlemania as a way to see if he could pass the test of the WWE standard on the big stage. The match itself was solid, but didn’t necessarily reach the next gear you would expect when you see these two names on paper. That’s not a jab either and might simply be a scenario where the expectations for the match were a little too unrealistic because of the buzz that surrounded AJ’s arrival in the company. Jericho countered a spring board with the code breaker to get the victory, which didn’t exactly do much for Styles’s status in the organization, but he would obviously get pushed later on.

The League of Nations beat The New Day in an average match, and I’m not sure why the League of Nations were booked to get the win because the stable was basically thrown together when the writing team didn’t know what to do with any of the members. Post-match, Stone Cold, Mick Foley, and Shawn Michaels made their way to the ring to dispatch the villains. While this was a way to get the Hall of Fame trio on the show, what does it say about the League of Nations when they were dropped by a group of retired wrestlers? I wonder if Mick Foley has a specific pair of sweat pants that he reserves especially for WM appearances?

The Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose match essentially represents the reasons why he was criticized during a portion of his WWE run. With a potential return to the UFC as a bargaining chip at the time, it seemed like WWE brass didn’t want to book him for something too high-profile if he intended to leave the company again. Sure, that made business sense, but without another long term deal inked, Brock wasn’t going to risk and injury and thus the illusion that he might jump back to the UFC full-time. The build up to the bout was lacking and the in-ring performance was underwhelming. Quite simply, Brock mailed it in with a repetitive move set and looked completely unmotivated for most of the match. Brock won, but this contest won’t be on the highlight reel of his current WWE run.

Charlotte Flair won the Women’s title via submission in a match with Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. The match itself was fine, but it was booked between the Lesnar/Ambrose bout and the HIAC match so it wasn’t necessarily the prime spot on the card to be as memorable as it could be at the time. Although, it’s nice to see how the opportunities for female athletes at WM evolved throughout the discussion of this series. For a comparison, the women’s bout at WM 2 went less than two minutes, but it was nearly 20 minutes here.

The HIAC match was built around one bump, which was Shane McMahon doing the elbow off the top of the cell and despite the stunt coordinators and the crash pad underneath the announce table, it was still a very risky spot. The match centered around that spot and that was more or less the only takeaway from this entire contest. The nearly 30-minute match dragged on and there were several points in the contest that nearly halted any momentum that it had built. On top of that, the entire angle was booked from lazy booking, as the stipulation stated that either The Undertaker wouldn’t be able to compete again at WM or Shane McMahon would become the General Manager of Raw. The Undertaker won, but Shane still became the GM right after Wrestlemania, which made the entire match pointless. Plus, the set up for the angle was more or less that Vince wanted The Undertaker to beat Shane and without any explanation, The Undertaker agreed to it. You can watch the clip of the elbow from the top of the cage because sadly, the rest of this match is skippable.

Baron Corbin won the Andre The Giant battle royal, next. The Rock beat Erick Rowan in five seconds…next.

The main event was an attempt at another coronation for Roman Reigns, the second attempt after the plan the previous year flopped and saw Seth Rollins cash-in a title shot to change the direction of the champion. It’s somewhat ironic that an angle with Brock Lesnar, the most pushed star on the roster, couldn’t get Reigns over, but management’s next choice was that somehow Triple H was going to be the one to be able to get Roman to the next level. There wasn’t anything wrong with the match except that it never reached another gear beyond just an average WWE match. There weren’t any epic spots or memorable moments because the crowd wasn’t emotionally invested in the concept of Roman Reigns as champion. This is one of the new dynamics of the modern era, even the most casual fans can see if the office is trying to force a someone to get over with the audience. The generic cliche of “Hey Roman beat Triple H so he must be a really good wrestler” doesn’t work anymore because the viewers know more about the behind-the-scenes aspects off the industry. In some ways, the results of this main event were a way for the office to tell the fans that Roman was their choice and no amount of rejection would change the corporate agenda. As we know, Reigns failed a drug test a few months later and dropped the title at the MITB event.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta