This past weekend we were treated to a major wrestling mega card. Titles were defended and lost in terrific matches. We saw beloved stars from yesterday appreciating the talent of the future, some shocking debuts and we got a legitimate Match of the Year candidate. Of course I’m talking about NXT Takeover: Dallas. Oh and two days later Wrestlemania was held.
One thing was painfully clear after last night’s show ended with Roman Reigns’ lackluster coronation. NXT probably shouldn’t be allowed to ‘tag along’ for WWE’s major shows as they continue to upstage the ‘main roster.’ Let’s break down WM32 and the highs and various lows.
Intercontinental title Ladder match: Sin Cara, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens,
Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, The Miz and Zack Ryder
This is your standard train wreck spectacle. I’m getting old in my wrestling fandom as my major concern is no one getting hurt pulling out some crazy spot no one will remember in two months. The ladder shoves are particularly concerning. This match had about five shove spots when one well done spot would be so much better.
Sami Zayn showed great fire going after Kevin Owens, but all things being equal I wonder if he felt better about his MOTY candidate match at Takeover with Nakamura. Because that WWE Universe actually was awesome. The booking on this is screwy. Everyone is more interested in landing a big move instead of winning the match. Jerry Land aka Texas Stadium made for some fuzzy visuals as it looked like the guys were climbing up to the TV and we were seeing triple.
Stardust’s Dusty tribute tights and ladder was great, but seemed an odd gesture for a heel. Ziggler’s superkick party was fun, but had me feeling like WWE blew it on a guy who legitimately could have been the next HBK. Look at poor Zack busting his tail off with that incredible elbow drop off the ladder knowing he’s got no chance to win. Wait, what? Zack just pushed Miz off the ladder and grabbed the IC title? Zack Ryder won at Wrestlemania? I’m so easily swayed on this one. More than maybe anyone else on the roster Zack deserved this moment. These are the legitimate Wrestlemania Moments — the kind Vince McMahon assumes he can create just by having his commentator puppets say it’s a legendary scene. My only question. Now what happens to the Hype Bros?
Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles
Maria M interviews Ryder, who spoke about idolizing Razor Ramon and wanting to get his picture with the Intercontinental title. Now, he’s going to find Razor tonight and have him hold his Intercontinental title. In just that simple a promo Ryder connected with the fans stronger than Reigns has in a year to get over.
New Day vs. League of Nations
(Alberto Del Rio, Rusev and Sheamus) with King Barrett
Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose
This was another weird match. Having been ‘made’ in his Roadblock loss to Triple H, there was little doubt Ambrose was going to pull off the upset. And still, the fans were rabid for Ambrose. This really felt like a give them something to do match and hardly the special attraction kind of moment that warrants a Lesnar appearance. Ambrose was game and Lesnar kept it competitive before hitting the F5 onto a pile of chairs. To recap, the last three Wrestlemanias, Brock ended The Undertaker’s Streak, was cheated out of his title at Wrestlemania 31 and beat perennial loser Dean Ambrose.
Hall of Fame highlights. I wish Kevin Von Erich was able to induct the Freebirds instead of New Day. I’m glad Sting got his much deserved moment as the HOF headliner.
Women’s title: Sasha Banks vs.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte
In the pre-game, Lita announced the Divas title is no more and the Triple Threat winner will win the WWE Women’s Championship. That was long overdue. Sasha Banks gets the real star entrance with her cousin Snoop Dogg rapping along her theme song. Sasha was also wearing tights inspired by her hero Eddy Guerrero. Charlotte also gets a boss entrance in a robe made up of parts of Ric Flair’s retirement match from Wrestlemania 24. The poor ref has to keep getting confetti out the ring.
Of the matches on this show, this is the only must-see. For folks who’d followed them back in NXT, this was a showcase match for three of the ‘development’ territories’ greatest stars and they delivered big time. Sasha shined the brightest with some great moves including a frog splash to break up the Figure Eight. More impressively though was a dive outside the ring where Sasha seemed to realize she wasn’t going to reach Charlotte so she switched in mid air to a somersault.
The only blemish on the match was the finish. Ric Flair grabbed Sasha’s leg to stop her from breaking up the Figure Eight. That was a creative use of the no DQ stipulation, but it took the focus off the women and onto Flair, who isn’t necessary in the Charlotte package any more. She’s good enough to stand on her own. Still, this was the match of the night for me.
Hell in the Cell: Shane McMahon vs Undertaker
This has been the biggest question mark for me on the card. Does it just go the predictable route and have Taker pummel Shane-O-Mac until he gets bored or does something interesting happen to give Shane the win? No and no. The guy who went toe to toe with Brock Lesnar in a heated rivalry last year was now being pushed to the limits by Shane McMahon. I love Shane like the next guy, but we’re asked to believe that Shane can endure Hell’s Gate — the same move that knocked Brock Lesnar out? The match goes outside once Taker tackles Shane through a weak spot in the cage. Shane hops up to the top of the cage and … misses the elbow from the top of cage. Ouch. After a bit more posturing, Taker mercifully ended the match for all of us by hitting the Tombstone for the win. So what was the point of all this again? Vince keeps all the power and his nasty skeletons remain in his closet? Did Vince go Hulk Hogan with Melania Trump? The world will never know and probably stop caring. We know for sure RAW and the WWE will continue to be terrible though since Shane can’t save it. Sigh.
Andre the Giant memorial
The big news here was Shaquille O’Neal appeared to resume his rivalry with The Big Show. That was cute. DDP and Tatanka represent our Legends and lest you think it was going to be some other Attitude Era standing tall, NXT’s Baron Corbin gets the win. Now let’s see how it’s followed up.
Rock comes out to tout the new attendance record. The Wyatts come out to spoil the fun and after running down the currently employed stars who will be here tonight on RAW, Rock wants a match. Pinning Erik Rowan in seconds definitely will help get the plucky Rock over. Finally, the Wyatts decide to use their 3 on 1 advantage until John Cena returns. The only thing Cena no-sells is injury prognoses. The Wyatts get rag dolled like The Awesome Truth (remember them?) and Cena/Rock stand tall. Well, alrighty then.
WWE Title: Roman Reigns vs. Triple H
Again, the best part of this match was the entrance. Stephanie McMahon, in a killer outfit, was in serious Conan the Barbarian mode as she introduced Triple H. Roman Reigns got a meager B- player entrance. The fans were having none of Reigns, who seemed overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment and fan apathy more than last year’s show. Last month, Ambrose looked like a star hanging with the champ that got robbed out of the title due to poor foot placement. And that would have been a much better Wrestlemania main event than the one we got here.
In coronation Wrestlemanias where the new champ is obvious, it’s important for the new champ to look bigger than the moment. Think Macho Man at Wrestlemania 4, Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 10, Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 12, Batista at Wrestlemania 21 and Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 30. Reigns looked like The Chosen One who had to win the match. He lacked any kind of fire and intensity and it felt like he was constantly hitting the Superman Punch and charging for the spear like a spammy Street Fighter player. The crowd popped when Stephanie got speared in a contrived spot. Triple H went for the sledgehammer and Reigns hit the spear for the anticlimactic win. It really sounded like the crowd’s boos were muted out as the place was silent. Welcome to the Roman Empire.
The WWE’s refusal to blink on Reigns had the predictable ending. A champ no one wants to see despite a plethora of talent the fans show they’re more than happy to see on top instead. Wrestlemania 32 wasn’t the worst Wrestlemania, but finding the iconic moments from this one is going to prove very challenging. Watch the WWE Women’s title match and call it a night.
Photo Credit: wwe.com