2016’s edition of WrestleMania was, as a whole, a disappointment. From top to bottom, the show was filled with bizarre creative decisions that left fans either scratching or shaking their heads. It stood in stark contrast to NXT TakeOver Dallas: while the ‘developmental show’ had simple storylines and exciting match-ups that left fans satisfied and wanting more, the so-called ‘biggest show of the year’ gave off this feeling that it was done to spite some fans for their refusal to go along with Vince McMahon’s master plan.
Ultimately, WrestleMania 32 will be remembered as that show that broke an attendance record, but the stadium was filled with disappointed fans.
But it didn’t have to be that way. WWE didn’t have to surrender to the fact that their roster was gutted of top talent and could’ve simply made do with what they had. In fact, their mentality towards this show was something along the lines of, ‘let’s do whatever we can to maintain the status quo, because screw change.’ That mentality was on full display with the creative decisions that took place at WrestleMania.
In the following, you’ll find ten decisions, some simple and some less so, that would’ve saved WrestleMania 32 as a show. From changing the finishes of certain matches to re-structuring entire matches, the international (and incredibly vocal) audience present in Arlington (as well as those watching at home) would’ve been far more satisfied as viewers if the following matches and results were witnessed instead of what actually took place on April 3rd, 2016.
10. Why Did The League Of Nations Win At WrestleMania?
WrestleMania’s supposed to be the culmination of all big rivalries, with the subsequent episode of RAW meant to be a ‘new beginning of sorts’. To that end, the ‘feud’ between The New Day and the League of Nations was meant to culminate at the event. Of course, this match left fans confused, as the League of Nations won out of nowhere, stopping the New Day’s momentum in its tracks…only for New Day to win in a title defense against them the following night.
Not only does this make the LoN’s win completely moot (because it didn’t accomplish anything), but it prevented the New Day from reaching even greater heights in WWE. A win at WrestleMania would’ve launched them to unprecedented heights, and solidified them as one of the greatest groups in modern WWE history. Instead, they lost to a ragtag team of ‘foreigners’ with delusions of grandeur who win by DQ more often than by clean decision -makes perfect sense.
9. Cut The Length Of Matches
WrestleMania 32 was an unnecessary long show. It’s usually four hours long; but this year the main show went almost five hours in length, and that’s not even including the pre-show. Combined, the event was more or less seven hours all at once. That’s like having RAW, SmackDown, NXT and Superstars all one after another.
At times, it’s hard enough to sit through a single 3-hour episode of RAW, so why would WWE put on such a long show? To exhaust fans so much that they wouldn’t have any energy to cheer/boo?
It just goes to show that WWE thinks that more is always better, when it’s really the opposite. Exhausting the audience with too much to sit through damages the atmosphere of a show, and no matter how much the production team might try and alter the noise, the silence is always more deafening. Next time, it would be best to keep things shorter.
8. Intercontinental Championship Match: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
While Zack Ryder does deserve some respect for finally getting his WrestleMania moment, the fact is this took place three years too late. Ryder has long fallen into the inescapable bit of obscurity, and fans have by now moved onto something else.
To that end, WWE should’ve gone with a much simpler and more dramatic match in Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens in a singles match for the title. That would’ve been much more entertaining, as it would’ve allowed these two men, who have a storied history together in WWE and beyond, to tell a simple-yet-deep story that would’ve captivated the audience far more than another throwaway ladder match ever could.
Given how WWE completely wasted Ryder’s reign by booking him to lose the next night exemplifies WWE’s creative mediocrity further. This nonsensical booking wouldn’t have happened if the Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania wasn’t just a by-the-numbers contest.
7. The Women’s Match Should’ve Been ‘Clean’
The Women’s Triple Threat match, which ended up being the best match on the card in terms of in-ring quality, was well on its way to being an instant classic. That is until Ric Flair messed up the ending. In doing so, it made Charlotte look weak on the biggest stage of them all, as it implied that she couldn’t win the match by herself.
If her father didn’t interfere, it would’ve made the ending of an otherwise fantastic match that much better, and Charlotte would prove that she doesn’t need her father to guarantee her victory in all of her big matches. This was the opportunity for the women of WWE to have their own version of HHH/HBK/Benoit or Bryan/Orton/Batista, and all of that went up in a puff of smoke when WWE overbooked the ending.
6. A.J. Styles Needed The Win At WrestleMania
A.J. Styles is a fresh, exciting babyface who hasn’t been seen by many of the WWE Universe. Chris Jericho is a part-timer who comes and goes as he pleases, and has lost a large part of his mystique as a performer. Which one of those two do you think plays a bigger role in WWE’s future?
This feud was poorly-constructed from the beginning, and the only way it could have be salvaged was ensure A.J. Styles had a big moment at WrestleMania by winning a match against one of WWE’s most respected veterans. Instead, Jericho won a ‘surprise’ win that left the audience more deflated than surprised.
Given WWE’s widely-criticized inability to create multiple stars and elevate them simultaneously, it’s likely that Styles, one of the best wrestlers on the planet, will be sent to midcard purgatory. If he had a win at WrestleMania, at least he’d have more momentum going forward. He would be a much bigger star in the eyes of those fans who still might not know why he’s such a big deal.
5. The Past Destroys The Future In The Present
WWE is critically short on upper mid-card guys, especially heels. Those characters need as much credibility as possible, which certainly cannot be achieved when retired wrestlers come back and destroy you.
It’s a simple problem really: appealing to nostalgia and fan service does have long-term consequences. Imagine if Pedro Morales demolished Triple H just as he was getting hot as a heel; his credibility and threatening status would’ve been damaged beyond repair. Michaels, Austin and Foley would’ve gotten the exact same reaction if they repeated the WrestleMania XXX moment between Austin, Rock and Hogan. They didn’t need to prove once again that the current roster is so weak that they’re easily felled by three retired wrestlers who’ve all had numerous surgeries.
It’s bad enough that the LoN, composed of former champions and two Royal Rumble winners, has had a terrible time getting the crowd to care about them. These actions at WrestleMania only made things worse.
4. Dean Ambrose Now Looks Like A Chump
As of this writing, Triple H and John Cena are the only two people to have beaten Brock Lesnar in singles competition under relatively clean circumstances. This makes him special in the sense that whoever beats him in a match will gain a ton of credibility in an instant. So why didn’t they use that to build Dean Ambrose as a bigger star?
Had Ambrose won, the moment would’ve been the shock of the night. Defeating Brock Lesnar has become an enormous feat in and of itself, and would’ve been the perfect moment for everyone to recognize Ambrose’s determination. Even if WWE were insistent on Lesnar winning, they could’ve done more to make Ambrose look like more of a threat, such as make Lesnar brutalize him, only for him to keep begging more à la Shane McMahon against the Undertaker.
Instead, Lesnar’s win was all but guaranteed, with Ambrose getting little impactful offense in whatsoever. If there was one match that truly failed to meet expectations, it was this one.
3. Why Destroy The Wyatt Family?
Bray Wyatt is, for all intents and purposes, 0-3 at WrestleMania, which is a dreadful record for someone WWE’s supposed to be pegging as part of their ‘future’. He lost cleanly to Cena in 2014, lost to the Undertaker last year, and got thrashed by the Rock and John Cena, a part-timer and a guy on the injured list, without even getting much offense in.
Doing so makes Wyatt look like a chump who can’t win when it matters, rendering all of his ‘regular’ wins pointless. If Wyatt can’t be expected to win in any big matches, and if he can’t seem to win on his own, it destroys his mystique even further. Imagine the reaction if the Wyatt (2 of whom, by the way, were perfectly healthy) demolished Cena and Rock at WrestleMania instead of the other way around.
Now that would’ve been a WrestleMania moment to remember, and would’ve reversed all the downward momentum the Wyatts have been suffering from over the past months.
2. Undertaker Vs. Shane Desperately Needed Outside Interference
This was the biggest mismatch imaginable, with the mythical Undertaker facing an office guy who hadn’t wrestled in over six years. Even with his training, Shane looked horribly out of place, and to give the match any sort of credibility, it was in dire need of someone interfering on Shane’s behalf.
Not only would that have made sense from a creative perspective (because with Shane in power, he could promise someone the world title), but it would’ve made the match far more dramatic and exciting. While Shane’s jump from the cell was shocking and memorable in itself, it was the only standout thing in an otherwise dull match that didn’t do either guy any favors.
The match would’ve been much better if any of the rumored surprise wrestlers (Goldberg, Bullet Club, Balor, or even Wyatt, to get revenge for losing to Taker last year) made even a brief appearance to help Shane. That way, the Undertaker would’ve actually had a chance of losing, and fans wouldn’t have been treated to what basically became a one-sided slaughter at the hands of the Undertaker.
1. A More Dramatic Main Event Match
A book of Biblical length can be written on the creative misdirection that is Roman Reigns’ main event push. But for the sake of brevity, let’s focus on his ‘conquering’ moment at WrestleMania.
The match was void of drama. There wasn’t anything that gave the fans even a hint of a surprise. Reigns didn’t tease a heel turn or showing any behaviour different of the same cookie cutter character he’s been portraying for months. There wasn’t any interference to bring more sympathy for Reigns or show more vengeance towards the Authority’s wicked ways. It was a simple match, no matter how much HHH and Stephanie tried to make it better. It was 110% predictable which led to an abysmal ending.
You know you’ve failed to connect with the audience when your planned top guy is booed so loudly that not even sound manipulation can drown them out. Reigns’ moment could’ve been salvaged if his match was more dramatic and had more close calls. Instead, we were supposed to see Reigns as an unstoppable force while expecting to believe him to be an underdog. Inconsistent WWE booking at its finest.