Remember the boos at Royal Rumble 2015, as it became apparent that 29 men were being wasted in favour of the future of Roman Reigns – a character that no matter how WWE have tried, will not be adored by wrestling fans. If you didn’t think that their intentions were ridiculous enough then, Wrestlemania 32 buried more beloved talent than one could ever have dreamt that they would.
There is a reason why Wrestlemania 32 is already being referred back to as ‘Vince’s Revenge’, and it is not only down to the fact that Roman Reigns won cleanly against Triple H, with the microphones turned down so to blot out the 100,000 people booing him. No heel turns. No intervention. This was the moment at which (as if we needed any confirmation) that Roman Reigns is *staying* top face whether fans like it or not.
Of course, there were some great matches. It goes without saying that the Women’s Triple Threat was the match of the night, and was treated as incredibly important. And quite rightly so. Also the Intercontinental Championship ladder match, while a bit of a mess, could not have ended any better as fan favourite Zack Ryder won, and Kevin Owens has every reason to be irritated with Sami Zayn. On top of this, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale wasn’t very special, but there are certainly worse ways to be introduced the main roster as Baron Corbin was last night – by winning the trophy. It might have been at the cost of popular low-carders such as Damien Sandow and Tyler Breeze, but it seemed worthwhile in introducing more talent from NXT.
However, the attitude of boosting talent that really did not pushing, as was the case with Reigns’ victory, lasted for the majority of the show, as A-list stars leeched off of fan favourites. These stars are untouchable, and yet those booking had decided to feed various wrestlers to them. It was as though it was a conscious method of making sure everyone watch various favourites be deleted. A fantastic looking Stephanie McMahon attempted to provoke boos from the crowd during Triple H’s entrance by announcing just how evil there were, and how “after tonight, all hope will be gone!”. Fans can be forgiven for feeling that this was the case when certain characters were given a push at the cost of favourites. Here are a few examples of such superstars and their victims:
THE ROCK & JOHN CENA
Victim: The Wyatt Family
This twenty-five minute segment was the ultimate caricature of everything that WWE followers have been irritated by over the course of the last decade. Who needs booking to boost charisma and importance any less than The Rock, and the returning John Cena? Still, WWE felt the need to take the most imposing faction in the WWE not to appear in a match at Wrestlemania 32, with a leader that many have felt was ready to take the creepy role held by The Undertaker for so many years, and reduce them from dominance, to being told how ridiculous they look.
It was sad enough to see the monstrous Erick Rowan be defeated by The Rock in six seconds in an impromptu match. That was the moment at which the Family should have disappeared with Bray Wyatt having an evil grin, as though he had a cunning plan. Unfortunately, just minutes later, both he and the previously highly protected Braun Strowman were squashed by The Rock and John Cena, again in seconds. However beautiful the 100,000 ‘fireflies’ looked, there is no denying that this felt like dreadful closure to the Wyatts’ reign of terror, as they are now taken even less seriously than The Social Outcasts.
And to think that everyone felt sorry for Bo Dallas for not getting nearly as much glory as his brother.
Victim: Dean Ambrose
Was this not meant to be the match that stole the show, especially after all of the ‘torch passing’ promos with Foley and Funk over the last few weeks? Where Ambrose would be the man to really push Lesnar to his limit? Sadly, it wasn’t to be (and they almost made a mockery of this as Dean Ambrose revealed Barbie only not to use ‘her’), and even at just thirteen-minutes long, Suplex City got very boring. Fans don’t need reminding that Lesnar is a monster, but WWE decided that they would show off Lesnar by saying that he is so dominant that he won’t even let his opponent get to the weaponry, as opposed to showing what he can withstand. Equipped with so many tools to take down Lesnar, and not coming anywhere close, Ambrose looks weak.
This was the biggest disappointment staged by WWE in a very long time. This is not to say that everyone was expecting a brutal and bloody match, but one still couldn’t help but feel that the ‘No Holds Barred Street Fight’ stipulation was completely redundant. There was a low blow, a quick spot with a fire extinguisher, an F5 on some chairs, and that’s it. Ambrose lost, clean as a whistle, and Lesnar is now due to disappear for a while. This served no purpose but to remind viewers that Brock Lesnar is good at German Suplexes, and that the people of Dallas know how to count, at the expense of babyface Ambrose’s time to shine.
Instead, Ambrose lost, and has nowhere to go.
SHAWN MICHAELS, MICK FOLEY & STEVE AUSTIN
Victims: The League of Nations, and to a lesser extent, The New Day
This was another match that was good, but didn’t feel quite as energetic and electric as some other The New Day segments, but a victory for the League of Nations was a good idea to grind The New Day’s gears and pursue the tag team title over the next few weeks.
But no. It had been disappointing enough to have to see King Barrett at ringside, his role clearly reserved to being the man to intervene and help his team to get the win. However, there was a glimmer of hope for him when he got the microphone post-match so to boast about had brilliant his ‘lads’ are. As it turns out, this match seemed nothing more than a set up for what was a humorous segment but yet another waste of the only active heel faction that are (or were) in pursuit of the Tag Team title. It’s always fun to see Austin, Michaels and Foley return, but did it have to be on the representatives of the world outside the USA?
Sure, the legends needed their targets, but the League are (or should be) too potentially valuable to throw around like that. The New Day’s silliness is insulting enough (in a good way) to the League of Nations in their matches, so neither tag team (let alone both) needed to be wiped out in seconds by three long retired men.
Victim: AJ Styles
The majority of this match was actually great, but slightly tired considering that this is the fourth time that Jericho and Styles have faced each other in a short amount of time. It also goes without saying that Styles would naturally be the winner of this match, on the grounds that as such a popular face, it was inevitable, and that Jericho being upset about not being the most popular is flexible enough to drop him into a feud with anyone popular. One might expect him to get upset with Nakamura fever at a WWE Network event.
In spite of this being laid out for WWE, they chose was Jericho to win. This serves no purpose, especially considering that Jericho is only semi-active with nothing to gain, and that in spite of AJ Styles being ‘The Phenomenal One’ AJ Styles, he again has nowhere to go. Even more infuriating were the closing minutes of the match where some highly protected spots such as the Styles Clash and the Superman 450 Splash were kicked out of. It might have been Wrestlemania, so it could have been the right stage for that to happen, but those spots have now been thrown away and wasted against the wrong man.
Victims: The Dudley Boyz
Speaking of the tag team division and poor choices of targets, this was another example of a match that was assumed to be what the audience were so desperate to see, but could not have been more wrong. This led to the worst match of the night, besides Rock vs Rowan.
Is ‘victim’ an overly strong term to use for such legends at The Dudley Boyz? Maybe, but due to their defeat in just five minutes, this was completely unnecessary. The Usos’ were popular enough, and could have naturally had a nice return on Raw, but instead WWE felt the need to mark the occasion with what they hoped that fans would appreciate as a finale of their feud and poetic justice – the Dudleyz were put through tables.
Needless to say, the audience made it known that this was not the way they wanted The Usos to return, and it would have been far more successful had they been dropped straight into a feud with The League of Nations.
Victim: Shane McMahon
The big one. It was relatively obvious that Shane McMahon would not be hanging around for too long, but that is not to say that whatever happened at Wrestlemania 32 wouldn’t leave a mark, so a match which decided the kayfabe owner of Raw was bound to grab attention. The entire segment for this match was fifty-minutes long, from the opening promo, to the fade-to-black as McMahon was taken away on a stretcher. The match itself was over half an hour long, and was more like a street fight than the street fight.
This was a match that could actually have done with an intervention to help McMahon win, or continue. I had expected The Wyatt Family to get involved considering their lack of involvement on the card, as there would be a great antihero force to start screwing with Raw, with The Authority not able to keep them under control. Instead, McMahon lost and in spite of an awesome jump spot from the top of the cell, the match was completely pointless and redundant.
This wasn’t ‘burying’ Shane McMahon, as this moment will not be forgotten any time soon, but in essence, this was a moment that made many feel as though was a conscious booking decision to point out that tonight is for confirming who will stay and who will go, especially since Shane even acknowledged things that fans disliked during promotional segments, as if to say “we are not out of touch, we know what you’re thinking, but we don’t care.” The final nail, so to speak.
This really does pose the question of whether this truly was a case, as some are very quick to refer to the spectacular ego of Vince McMahon, as well as the possibility that the night was written all around Roman Reigns. After all, the only other babyface to win, and not be completely drained was Zack Ryder, right at the beginning of the show. Of course there was also the easily noticeable attempts to blot out the crowd who were booing him, with ‘Ole’ and even ‘Hey Bayley’ chants happening throughout the match. This point of view suggests that WWE had deliberately removed all reason for fans to be happy up until HHH/Reigns – the match that everybody was hoped to be happy about.
We will never know the full truth of the logic, but it goes without saying that WWE failed miserably at pleasing the crowd. This was not because heroes weren’t winning, but because those who actually *need* attention (whether good or evil) are just peripherals both for those who don’t need support, and WWE will stop at nothing, even breaking the fourth wall, to ram their intentions at viewers. THESE are who we have chosen as our present and future, and THOSE will never come close. Where better to confirm it than on the grandest stage of all? It’s a real pity.