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Challenger Roman Reigns defeated champ and WWE exec Triple H to win the coveted belt for the third time in his career, despite fighting for much of the latter stages almost one-handed after an injury to his left shoulder.
While the giant Samoan overcame his handicap to claim the WWE’s top prize, others weren’t so fortunate as the action unfolded at the WWE’s marquee event, spread over two shows totalling seven hours.
Shane McMahon was driven out of the arena by a medical team after performing a 20-foot leap from the top of the metal cell in which he had been battling with The Undertaker. He crashed through an announce table below and as a precaution was put onto a stretcher board with his neck taped, though he did manage a large thumbs up to the crowd as he was taken away.
There were some genuine surprises too as Zack Ryder claimed an unlikely win in the Intercontinental Championship, NBA star Shaquille O’Neal took to the ring as a competitor and WWE legends including Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels made unscheduled appearances. There was also a farewell from Brie Bella who announced her retirement from the WWE after the event.
Bout by bout reports for WrestleMania 32 in Arlington, Texas
WWE United States Championship: Kalisto (champ) vs Ryback
A full 70 minutes before the official start of WrestleMania 32, in front of a half full stadium, the action got underway in the Kickoff show with this classic David vs Goliath match up. Champ Kalisto is a full 9in shorter and 120lbs lighter than Ryback and was soon being tossed around the ring as the challenger reminded him ‘I’m the Big Guy’. But the flying Lucha Dragon wasn’t grounded for long and nearly saw off Ryback with a DDT and a two count.
After more grinding work with elbows and knees from both men, Ryback had the champ pinned in a corner, but as they moved back to the centre of the ring, Kalisto pulled off a turnbuckle cover. Ryback charged but hit the exposed metalwork and while temporarily stunned Kalisto caught him with a Salido del Sol and executed the pin.
Result: Kalisto retained his title.
10-Diva Tag TeamMatch: The Total Divas (Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox and Eva Marie) vs BAD & Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Lana, Emma and Summer Rae)
The end of an era and a new beginning. After this bout Brie Bella confirmed her retirement from the WWE arena, following in the footsteps of husband Daniel Bryan. So it was no surprise to see her play the most meaningful part in this free for all. We were also treated to Lana’s first official appearance in a WWE ring, a cameo from Eva Marie accompanied by the customary chant of ‘You can’t wrestle’, an impressive flurry of kicks from Naomi which stunned Natalya and some typically feisty contributions from Alicia Fox and Paige.
The end was signalled after the first shout of ‘Brie Mode’ as the Bella Twin leapt into action, only to be halted by a Naomi dropkick. Brie then fended off a split-legged moonsault with a knee but with the referee distracted was knocked off the top rope by Lana. As Naomi moved in for the kill, Brie applied a Yes Lock- one of hubby’s favourite moves - to seal the win.
Result: Brie Bella made Naomi tap out and was joined by injured sister Nikki in ring to herald the win for The Total Divas. Brie was lofted shoulder high by her team-mates.
Major announcement: At this point former Divas champ Lita entered the ring to announce that the Diva’s belt is to be retired and replaced with a new title. The winner of the evening’s Triple Threat Match would become the first winner of the new WWE Women’s Championship.
Tag Team Match: The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) vs The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley)
A surprisingly swift bout in the Kickoff show for two teams who will surely have been disappointed not to be fighting for a real prize. A scrappy beginning had its moments, particularly Bubba Ray launching into Jimmy Uso, yelling ‘Just like we used to do to your father Rakishi’, a nod to the WWE Hall Of Famer. The Dudleyz appeared to be in control as Jay Uso’s attempted intervention was countered with a Wazzup headbutt. But the bout was flipped after a series of Uso superkicks ended with D-Von being covered for the pin.
Of course, no Dudley Boyz match is ever complete without a bit of furniture arranging and they looked for swift revenge by dragging out some tables. The Usos were having none of it and laid the Dudleyz out with superkicks before simultaneously hitting Superfly Splashes to power both men through the tables.
Result: The Usos win the official bout and the unofficial scrap after.
After a short break WrestleMania 32 got underway in front of a record 101,763 crowd at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Kevin Owens (champ) vs Sami Zayn vs Dolph Ziggler vs Zack Ryder vs Sin Cara vs The Miz vs Stardust
The crowd were now warmed up and enjoyed the pumping musical entrances from each of these WWE stars. Little did they realise the first big shock of the night was about to unfold. The first meaningful action had former best friends and NXT rivals Owens and Sami Zayn trading blows in the centre of the ring. Sin Cara received roars of approval for springboarding himself off the top rope to floor all his opponents. Ziggler had his moment, superkicking all comers out of his way before an unsuccessful run up a ladder.
He was interrupted by Owens but both men superkicked each other to the canvas allowing Stardust to reveal his secret weapon, a ladder adorned in the colours of his late father, WWE Hall Of Famer Dusty Rhodes. Owens was having none of it and ejected the yellow and black polka dotted steps from the ring. An exchange with Zayn saw Owens leave his rival propped on a ladder before launching a 270lb frogsplash from the top rope onto the prone Zayne. Zack Ryder also impressed, launching an elbow drop from the top of a ladder onto The Miz. Owens toppled a ladder to send Sin Cara flying out of the ring where he landed on Stardust, breaking his bridged ladder in turn. Zayn scurried up some steps to get his fingers on the title but Owens pulled him away. Their spat ended on the canvas with Owens unconscious through a ladder after a swift Suplex from Zayn The Miz then halted Zayn’s progress and climbed the ladder to a chorus of boos, but spent too much time playing up to the camera allowing the evening’s underdog Ryder to shove him out of the way. There was a sense of disbelief as Ryder began to unclip the belt but there was to be no stopping one of the biggest shocks in Mania history. With a trademark ‘Woo Woo Woo’ call, Ryder lifted the belt clear to become Intercontinental champ.
Result: A shock win for rank outsider but worthy winner Zack Ryder, who was joined in the ring by his emotional father.
Singles Match: AJ Styles vs Chris Jericho
AJ Styles made his long-awaited WrestleMania debut while veteran WWE star Chris Jericho walked the runway for his 13th appearance at Mania. A gritty grudge match saw Jericho take the initiative before the grapplers traded kicking spells on either sides of the ropes, arm drags and attempted roll-ups. Y2J locked in a Walls Of Jericho but Styles reached the safety of the ropes then countered with an elbow and a Phenomenon for a two count. With both men perched on a top turnbuckle, Jericho called Styles a stupid idiot and was rewarded with a faceplant.
Styles reversed a second Walls Of Jericho to lock in a Calf Crusher to provide the biggest scare for the veteran but he managed to reverse it into a pinfall and a two count. Jericho attempted to use his opponent’s Styles Clash but was soon on the receiving end as Styles appeared to be gaining the upper hand. After countering a Lionsault with his knees, Styles hit an impressive Springboard 450 for a two count. But an attempted Phenomenal Forearm ended in disaster as he landed on a Jericho Codebreaker which set up a pin for the win.
Result: Chris Jericho, perhaps unexpectedly, sees off crowd favourite AJ Syles in a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
4 on 3 Handicap Match: The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) vs The League Of Nations (Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev and King Barrett)
With no title on the line this was always going to be more posturing than power bombing. The expected sprinkle of Booty O’s, flashy outfits and a few toots on Francesca the trombone was what we expected from The New Day while The League Of Nations had to show us something to justify their allegiance. I can’t say they did that with any great conviction.
The end of the contest came when Alberto Del Rio double stomped Kofi Kingston off the apron to leave Xavier Woods isolated in the ring. Woods clattered Rusev to the floor and rolled up Sheamus for a two count, but with the referee distracted King Barrett caught Woods with a Bull Hammer Elbow. Sheamus unleashed a Brogue Kick and secured the pin for The League Of Nations.
Result: The League Of Nations celebrated, but not for long.
This Is Awesome! As King Barrett took to the microphone to tell us just how good the League Of Nations were, some familiar music pumped round the arena. Out stepped Mr WrestleMania himself, Shawn Michaels, stripping his shirt off and looking extremely fit and ready for action. With the Texas crowd roaring its approval, Michaels was joined by Cactus Jack aka Mick Foley and the daddy of them all, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The three legends entered the ring and treated us to a reminder of their Hall Of Famer moves, Michaels delivering some Sweet Chin Music to Del Rio, Foley pulling out Mr Socko! for a Mandible Claw on Sheamus while Austin unleashed Stone Cold Stunners all round. The New Day reappeared to hail the heroes and attempt to dish out some dancing lessons. Austin thankfully demonstrated another Stunner to a gyrating Woods before sinking a few cold beers on the ropes in trademark fashion. That extended ending was far more memorable than the contest itself.
No Holds Barred Street Fight: Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)
It was never in doubt that Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar would furnish us with a fully committed, brutally punishing contest. Seconds in, Ambrose was hit with three German Suplexes but broke free to introduce a kendo stick to the battle. That merely prompted more German Suplexes as Lesnar’s advocate Paul Heyman mocked Ambrose from ringside.
Somewhere around Suplex no 9 or 10 Ambrose scrambled away to grab a chainsaw but with the inevitable result, another Suplex. The list of fighting aids grew as Ambrose utilised a fire extinguisher, a chair and a barbed wire 2x4 club. But everything the Lunatic Fringe attempted led to yet another visit to Suplex City. Eventually Suplex no 13 onto a pile of chairs was swiftly followed by an F5 and Lesnar had clinched the contest.
Result: Brock Lesnar remained the formidable Beast Incarnate.
WWE Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match: Charlotte (champ, with Ric Flair) vs Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks
After Lita’s announcement earlier in the evening, what was to be a defence of the Diva’s Championship had become a battle to be the first winner of the new WWE Women’s Championship. Before the action started, Sasha Banks made a glorious entrance with her cousin Snoop Dogg singing her all the way to ringside. The two challengers began by ganging up on champ Charlotte before Sasha and Becky set about each other. The crowd yelled their approval with some ‘This is wrestling’ chants, not something we heard during Diva’s matches this time last year. Banks was wearing gear fashioned as a tribute to her inspiration, late WWE star Eddie Guerrero, and she hit Charlotte with a Guerrero style hurricanrana before Lynch helped her eject the champ from the ring.
It was a furious battle with each woman taking turns to pin an opponent and each combatant providing memorable moments. Charlotte launched a top rope moonsault to take down both of her challengers, Becky enacted her own top rope acrobatics, a dropkick interrupting Charlotte’s Electric Chair on Sasha. Sasha had Becky in the Banks Statement before Charlotte wrapped her in a Figure Four. But Sasha was too strong and The Boss rolled over to counter. After Charlotte hit both opponents with Flair Chops they beat her down and turned on each other again. You had an uneasy feeling that Ric Flair at ringside was going to interfere at some stage and that moment wasn’t far away. After Charlotte ejected Sasha from the action, she locked in a Figure Eight on a flagging Becky. As Banks attempted to re-enter the fray, Flair held her back allowing Charlotte to apply the pressure until Becky tapped out.
Result: Charlotte is still champion only now she is officially the new WWE Women’s Champion.
Hell In A Cell Match: Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker
In these safety conscious days there aren’t too many moments where the action becomes so brutal, so dangerous that you almost can’t bear to watch. Shane McMahon throwing himself off the top of a 20ft metal cell, elbow first, onto a vacant announce table below was one of those moments – a true WrestleMania moment. As a reminder, the stakes in this match were high. McMahon needed the win to wrest control of the Monday Night Raw show away from his family, but defeat for Taker would signal an end to his participation in any future WrestleManias. McMahon was soon left gasping for air after being hit by a huge legdrop on the apron and a Last Ride.
The Deadman was quick to drag some metal steps into the ring as a prop for destruction but got caught in a triangle chokehold as McMahon tried to squeeze some resistance out of the Phenom. All that bought was an eventual chokeslam onto the steps as Taker showed it would need something extra special to stop him. McMahon escaped a Hell’s Gate but couldn’t get any real grip with a sloppy Sharpshooter. As Taker struggled for breath in a corner, McMahon placed a trash can over his midriff, then climbed onto the top rope opposite to launch into a Coast To Coast. The resulting pin was laboured and Taker escaped. Now the tide turned again. Taker charged McMahon through a cell panel and onto the Spanish announce table and clubbed him with some TV monitors. Up on a perimeter block, Taker signalled a Tombstone Piledriver but McMahon reversed it for a Sleeper Hold.
Taker’s solution was to break the hold by throwing himself with McMahon onto another announce table. With Taker winded, McMahon used a nearby toolbox and a TV monitor as weapons before looking skywards to the top of the cell, then back to a prostrate Taker on the table. With the crowd chanting ‘Please don’t die’, McMahon scaled the cell wall to eventually stand 20ft above his motionless opponent. There was a genuine sense of anxiety emanating from the 100,000+ crowd as McMahon leapt from the structure but as he fell Taker rolled away from danger leaving McMahon to smash through the table at speed. He recovered consciousness long enough for Taker to carry him back into the ring to deliver a winning Tombstone Piledriver before he was carried out on a stretcher board in a neck brace. It was a brave but doomed move and McMahon’s attempt at returning to WWE power had failed, though he did reassure the crowd with a thumbs up as he was driven away.
Result: The Undertaker’s dominance at WrestleMania continued as he extended his record to 23 wins with just one solitary defeat.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal (20 competitors)
A clutch of regular WWE roster stars were joined by NXT superstar Baron Corbin, WWE legends Tatanka and Diamond Dallas Page and an even bigger surprise entrant, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. There’s history between O’Neal and Big Show and the multi-combatant contest began with the two giants staring each other down in the centre of the ring. Their obsession with each other later proved costly as while they were gripped in chokeholds the rest of the contestants lifted them both over the top rope. The ensuing knockabout action saw the cast whittled down to four: Kane, Darren Young, Corbin and Bo Dallas. Kane despatched Young followed by Dallas, but paused to admire his work allowing Corbin to pounce. The NXT’s rising star evicted Kane to become just the third ever winner of the Andre trophy.
Result: Another pleasant surprise as NXT star Baron Corbin sees of seasoned WWE stars for the win.
Unscheduled Singles Match: The Rock v Erik Rowan
WWE legend The Rock entered the stage talking about an attendance record, before setting a record of his own. It was confirmed that 101,763 fans were crammed into the AT&T Stadium, a new WrestleMania record, but The Rock was then interrupted by three members of the Wyatt family: Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman and Erik Rowan. After some back and forth banter, the Hollywood star demanded a match in the ring and Erik Rowan was pushed forward. With the bell still quivering, Rowan was hit by a Rock Bottom and the fight was over six seconds after it had started. With the Wyatts gathering at the ring’s perimeter, John Cena ran into the arena and a tidy up operation was swift and concluded with a People’s Elbow from The Rock on Bray Wyatt.
Result: The Rock was a quickfire winner within six seconds.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (champ) vs Roman Reigns
Let’s be clear, Roman Reigns had all the momentum to become WWE champ at last year’s WrestleMania until the very audible disapproval of the WWE Universe caused a rethink. Twelve months later, WWE fans were still being very vocal on the idea of Reigns as a credible champ. The main event was introduced by Stephanie McMahon, WWE exec and wife of Triple H, doing her best Xena Warrior Princess impersonation. Trips was first to enter and received a good reception. Unusually for a challenger of The Authority, Reigns’ appearance prompted a loud chorus of boos and none of his early posturing could dampen the noise. Triple H enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges, sending Reigns over a top rope, while the Samoan’s counter attack punches merely generated more boos from the crowd. A clothesline left Triple H winded but as Stephanie distracted the referee he countered with a low blow, some atomic drops and eventually a spinebuster. Reigns recently needed some facial reconstruction surgery after Triple H broke his nose so that area became the focus of the champ’s attention.
As the fight moved outside of the ring, Reigns was sent barrelling over an announce table but rallied to spear Trips through the barricade. Back in the ring, Reigns launched into a Superman Punch but Triple H converted it into an armbar. Reigns rose to slam Triple H back to the canvas but was soon locked into another armbar. Again Reigns escaped and both men parried and countered with generally unsuccessful moves until Reigns speared Triple H and looked to be holding on for the three count. Stephanie grabbed a leg of the official and pulled him out of the way, breaking the count. But as she clambered into the ring with the referee and continued to berate him, hubby Triple H moved out of the way and to much laughter Stephanie was hit by a spear from Reigns. Triple H made good with another Pedigree, Reigns connected with a Superman punch then Stephanie handed her hubby his favourite sledgehammer. At this point a disqualification would have meant Triple H retaining the title, but Reigns was too agile to be caught, landing two Superman punches and executing a pinfall to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Result: Roman Reigns, battered but unbowed and clutching his injured left arm, is the new champ.
Summary: The rise of the Roman Empire was an obvious and much predicted outcome of WrestleMania 32 but the WWE Universe is still not sold on the idea. An extended run as champ is unlikely to sway general opinion. Most memorable moment of the night was Shane McMahon’s kamikaze leap from 20ft up, while Zack Ryder climbing the ladder to success in the Intercontinental Championship carried a genuine feelgood factor.
You can folllow Jim on Twitter @JimMunro and You Tube @BadLadDad