On April 3, 2016, WWE held the 32nd annual WrestleMania. WrestleMania is unquestionably the biggest sports entertainment spectacle of the year, drawing as many as hundreds of thousands of fans live every year to watch the show. Two days earlier, WWE’s developmental brand NXT held their biggest event of the year, TakeOver: Dallas. While there’s no doubt more fans watched WrestleMania live and on the WWE Network, the fans who took the time to watch both shows seem to be in pretty unanimous agreement that TakeOver: Dallas absolutely blew WrestleMania 32 out of the water in every way a wrestling show is capable of doing so.
It’s not just that WrestleMania 32 was a bad show, although plenty of people could make the argument it was. More important than that, TakeOver: Dallas was an absolutely phenomenal event, and could easily go down as one the greatest event produced by NXT, if not the greatest event produced by WWE Network in general since its inception in 2014. Including the kick-off shows, this weekend WWE fans were treated to a combined 10 full hours of wrestling, so it might have been a bit much to take in for some people. If any wrestling fans out there were busy watching EVOLVE and missed both of the shows, and now only has time to watch one, here are 15 reasons TakeOver: Dallas is far more worth your time than WrestleMania 32.
15. The Length Was Much More Reasonable
Possibly the most extended problem with this year’s WrestleMania was the fact that with the kick-off show, the show combined to nearly 7 hours of wrestling. Mania itself was nearly 5 hours long after a 2-hour kick-off show, and a pretty significant deal of it easily could’ve been cut out. TakeOver: Dallas, with its kick-off show, clocked in at a brisk 2 hours and 45 minutes, with not a minute of wasted airtime throughout the show. Some people out there watched all 10 hours of wrestling with a smile, so the problem isn’t simply how long the show is, but what you do with it. This problem was especially relevant in regards to the kick-off show, speaking of which…
14. It Had A Better Kickoff Show
WrestleMania 32’s kick-off show was 2 full hours long, and primarily consisted of meaningless matches and pointless filler. The kickoff show for TakeOver was a brisk 30 minutes, hyping up the important matches and preparing new fans for what they were about to see. While it’s true most people watching WrestleMania may not be new fans, especially not people watching the kick-off show, an entire program’s length of wrestling matches actually isn’t the best way to hype people up for a wrestling show, unless those matches actually have meaning or build towards something. That wasn’t the case at WrestleMania 32’s kickoff, where a champion retained and midcarders had average-at-best matches with boring endings. One breath of fresh air throughout both kickoff shows was the guest commentary of Mauro Ranallo. Unfortunately, he didn’t stick around for the main program. Speaking of which…
13. The Commentary…Wasn’t As Bad
While this list is focusing on the ways TakeOver: Dallas was better than WrestleMania, there are certain issues that transcend throughout all of WWE and caused problems at both shows. One category where this is across-the-board true is WWE’s choice of announce teams. Even in this category, NXT featured the lesser of two evils, with the announce team of Tom Phillips and Corey Graves doing a significantly better job than Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton. Phillips and Graves still feel unpolished and have the feel of WWE’s corporate attitude permeating their every word, but they at least engaged in the matches and seemed like they cared about the results.
Michael Cole and JBL watched Shane McMahon jump off the Hell in a Cell and neither of them even raised their voices. They said they were shocked, but there was a glaring disconnect between their words and the level of excitement they were supposed to convey. Saxton came out even worse, at times going a solid 10 minutes without saying anything at all. It’s not fair to blame this all on them as broadcasters since we know Vince is constantly in their ears, but whoever’s fault it was, WrestleMania featured some seriously bad announce work. And what’s the biggest problem with the commentary team? Well…
12. There Were No Lies
This is hardly specific to WrestleMania 32, but WWE announcers have essentially been trained to lie to their audience over the past several years. Crowds aren’t reacting the way Vince McMahon wants them to, so Michael Cole and JBL just lie about it and pretend they are. They called Roman Reigns a hero for 7 hours straight, and acted like the crowd was on the edge of their seats while they yawned watching Shane McMahon unsurprisingly get his ass kicked. The team at TakeOver: Dallas constantly acknowledged the real feelings and reactions of the crowd, admitting the audience didn’t appreciate the work of the medical staff, and becoming invested in the same wrestlers the crowd cared about in order to actually add to the experience.
11. There Was Less Filler
We covered the time issue in general, but let’s get more specific about how said time was used. WrestleMania 32 was 7 hours long, but only featured 12 matches, and a whole lot of nothing in between. TakeOver had 5 matches in less than two hours, and the only thing to break it up was information about the next match. At WrestleMania 32, The Rock was introduced by a performance from the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders, and wandered around the entrance ramp for about five minutes playing with a flamethrower for absolutely no reason. He didn’t even do anything after he got out there, simply wasting time until he and Cena were allowed to destroy another upcoming WWE prospect in the Wyatt Family. There were also several fireworks displays, ads for the network, and of course throwbacks to the announcers and analysis teams and guest broadcasters…basically, a whole lot of nobodies wrestling. And since we mentioned Cena…
10. The Surprises Were Better
WrestleMania has a history of huge moments and shocking surprises, but this year that wasn’t quite the case. A few legends made unexpected appearances, namely Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and Shawn Michaels. John Cena did make his shocking return after a few months out with surgery (although he didn’t wrestle, so it may have been a one-time deal). The crowd liked these wrestlers appearing, but they came and went without doing anything, and it’s unlikely any of it except for Cena will matter any time soon. There were also the returns of Diamond Dallas Page and Tatanka, which were almost pointless enough to feel like ribs, and Shaq, who simply left most fans feeling extremely, extremely confused. TakeOver: Dallas had at least two surprises of its own—the debuts of Bobby Roode and Kota Ibushi, both of whom are extremely talented wrestlers who could change the face of the company. And that’s on top of the other two great debuts on the show, which brings us to our next point…
9. The Matches Were (Much) Better
We’ll discuss the main events momentarily, but first let’s admit that not all of the matches on WrestleMania were bad. Including the kick-off, there were 12 matches, and four or five of them were decent, if uninspiring. The other 8 pretty much sucked. The matches on the kick-off show didn’t matter, the 6-man tag team match and its fallout made the second most popular act in WWE look like a bunch of jobbers against retired people, the Andre the Giant battle royal was a battle royal, the Hell in a Cell was extremely slow, boring, and predictable, and all of that goes tenfold for the main event. TakeOver: Dallas only featured five matches, but four out of five were classics, and the fifth one wasn’t bad, either. Not only were the matches of a higher standard…
8. The Matches Had Better Results
The right person won every match at Dallas, but Mania more or less looked like a random crapshoot. In NXT, the best wrestlers won the titles, and newer wrestlers became superstars with just one match. The results of WrestleMania have problems all across the board, and could be varyingly categorized as bad, questionable, or just downright weird. In the bad category, none of the hundred thousand plus on hand in Dallas cared in the slightest when Roman Reigns won the WWE World Championship. WWE backed themselves into a corner with the match, since no result would do, but the one they went with killed the crowd along with the show.
For the questionable, there’s Sasha Banks, The New Day, Dean Ambrose, and AJ Styles all losing their matches. The women’s match was one of the best on the show, and it’s fine that Charlotte won, but the crowd was firmly behind Sasha, more so than most men on the card. Ambrose losing to Lesnar also makes sense, but the crowd really could’ve used a jolt of energy which Ambrose winning could have provided. As for New Day and Styles, storied veterans soundly defeated two of the hottest and freshest acts in modern WWE. Then there was the downright weird, with Zack Ryder winning the Intercontinental Championship after losing the majority of his matches over the past five years. While we’re talking about the randomness of Mania…
7. It Was More Meaningful
The majority of the results at WrestleMania were pretty much to be expected. Outside of the bizarre Zack Ryder win, most fans accurately speculated exactly what would happen for almost every match. The case was pretty similar in NXT, but the difference was how the crowd felt about it. With WrestleMania, boring or outdated wrestlers were going to beat potential superstars and fan favorites. At TakeOver, there would be great matches featuring the best wrestlers on the planet. The three title matches in particular were excellent displays of three distinct styles of wrestling, and it’s arguable at least with the Tag Team and Women’s titles, the best in the world at the sport is now actually the person who holds the title. As the NXT Champion, Finn Bálor might not be the clear-cut best wrestler in the world, but he is definitely in the running, and his greatest competition for the title debuted earlier that night. Speaking of the women…
6. The Real Diva’s Revolution
WrestleMania, its kick-off show, and TakeOver: Dallas were all allotted one women’s match apiece. We aren’t going to knock WWE on this one—two out of three of the matches delivered in a big way, and no one should have expected the 10-diva tag match to be a mat classic. However, we’ll still throw in the opinion that the NXT Women’s Title match between Bayley and Asuka was better than the WWE Women’s Title match between Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch. Both matches displayed some of the best women’s wrestling in modern history, which is what the diva’s revolution has been all about. However, what sets the NXT women ahead of the WWE divas is how fresh and original it feels, with progressive story moves being made every minute of the match. We already mentioned Sasha probably should’ve won at WrestleMania, but even without the result in question, Asuka and Bayley simply had the better match, too.
5. The Crowd Was More Personal
Regardless of what we say about it, WrestleMania 32 will go down as one of the biggest and most important shows in WWE history. They’ve been known to lie about this in the past, but the attendance figure announced on the show claimed over 101,000 were packed into the AT&T Stadium. The crowd at TakeOver: Dallas was at best around 10% that large, but to a fan simply listening to the show instead of watching it, things would probably feel the other way around. The crowd at WrestleMania was huge, but they weren’t particularly active outside of a few moments when The Rock forced them into caring. They cheered for Sasha Banks, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, and a few others, but you’ll notice a pattern in that those wrestlers all lost their matches and gradually killed the crowd’s interest.
In Dallas, the crowd started off on fire and only built their excitement throughout the night. Loud chants for anything that crossed the crowd’s mind already filled the arena during the kickoff show, and only continued throughout the main program. They loved the matches and were invested in what they were seeing from beginning to end, unlike the WrestleMania crowd who either sat on their hands or chanted for completely unrelated things. Our best example of that is also the next entry on our list…
4. It Had A Better Main Event
During the main event of WrestleMania 32, in which Roman Reigns challenged Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the crowd didn’t really react much. This isn’t because they were in awe of a great match—they were bored. A few chants did break out during the match: “Roman Sucks,” “NXT,” Sami Zayn’s “Ole” chant, and “Nakamura” (twice) to name a few. By the time Roman Reigns earned his “big” “heroic” victory, WWE needed to blast off several gigantic fireworks displays in order to cover up how loudly the crowd was booing.
It’s not like this was just a bad crowd either—Reigns and Triple H absolutely got what they deserved. After an already 6-hour show, possibly the least charismatic main event superstar in WWE history faced a man who has basically been retired for five years. Both men have had incredible matches with the right opponents, but left to their own devices, Triple H only knows how to make himself look good and Roman only knows how to spear and punch people.
At TakeOver, the NXT Championship match between Joe and Bálor was everything the WWE Championship match wasn’t. The crowd cared heavily about both performers, latched on to their every move, and only became more invested as it continued due to the magnetic personalities of both performers. Every move was executed with finesse, and the crowd ate it up from start to finish. All that said, the general quality of the matches wasn’t even the most important part about them…
3. The PG Issue
WWE and NXT are both firmly within an era where all of their new programming is intended to receive a PG rating. TakeOver: Dallas was a victim to this, but somehow, WrestleMania 32 was allowed to overlook it in favor of one of the people responsible for the rule existing in the first place. During the TakeOver main event between Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe, Joe cut his eye pretty badly early on in the match. Blood gushed out of his face and covered his body, and the NXT medical staff needed to stop the match on a few occasions to make sure the blood didn’t get in Joe’s eyes. The crowd chanted “Let Joe Bleed” and “F*** PG,” voicing their opinion they didn’t exactly appreciate this policy. Bálor and Joe also seemed a little annoyed, pushing the medics away at first before accepting it was inevitable they’d interfere.
At WrestleMania 32, Roman Reigns, alleged hero to hundreds of thousands, hit his finishing move on a woman and earned himself the only applause he received all night. It’s true the woman was WWE’s head villainess, Stephanie McMahon, the move was at least semi-accidental, and in wrestling, dudes kinda hit women all the time. Still, when looking at which of these is actually more harmful to the audience, a man getting cheered for hitting a woman is DEFINITELY worse than facing the reality that sometimes fighters make each other bleed.
2. Less WWE Corporate Interference
WWE has received a great deal of fan vitriol over the PG issue, and they’ve heard quite a lot of guff about this next issue, as well. Self-promotion is one of the biggest keys to success in the entertainment business, so of course the most successful sports entertainment company in the world are masters of the field. Between almost every match for the first half of WrestleMania 32, WWE Network viewers were treated to an ad for some random WWE Network program that may or may not even be related to wrestling. It was fun when they teased The Edge and Christian Show for the first time this way, but when a show is already 7 hours long, there’s no need to distract from AJ Styles in order to shill Total Divas. It would be one thing if they included segues between the two, or at least waited until someone related to the other show was on screen, in order to make the wrestling seem secondary to the network.
But we haven’t even touched upon the true legend of TakeOver: Dallas…
1. Swagsuke Nakamura
We danced around it the whole article, so we might as well just come out and say it: if there is one individual in particular who is the reason TakeOver: Dallas was a better show than WrestleMania 32, and why NXT will likely continue to be better than WWE for the indefinite future, that one individual is Shinsuke Nakamura. During the main event of Mania, Roman Reigns speared Triple H through a guardrail in a fairly big spot. Things kind of dragged to a halt while they pieced themselves together, and the lull continued as Triple H busted out a submission move made popular by his old tag team partner. The biggest WWE crowd in history decided this was the perfect time to chant for their favorite wrestler. The name they chanted was Nakamura.
The chant actually broke out twice during WrestleMania’s headline bout, and okay, we’re not going to pretend all 100,000 in attendance were chanting, but the only people who cared enough to raise their voices were. More importantly, the night before in Dallas, it would be a pretty safe bet to claim all 10,000 in that crowd were screaming at the top of their lungs for The King of Strong Style, who made his NXT debut by winning what many are already calling a potential match of the year against Sami Zayn.
WrestleMania 32 and TakeOver: Dallas were just two shows, and you can’t judge an entire company based on one show each. It’s slightly safer to judge them each based on their biggest star. Considering the WWE crowd told us “Roman Sucks” while chanting for Nakamura, maybe 100,000 Texans already said everything that needed to be said before we even started writing this article.