It's here, wrestling fans -- the greatest weekend of the year. WrestleMania 32 is coming to us from Arlington, Texas this year, and in a state where everything is bigger, WrestleMania is bigger than ever.
We're getting six hours worth of wrestling this year, not including the postshow. Two hours of preshow, where at least three matches will happen, and then another four hours of the official WrestleMania show. Eleven matches overall. Whatever you think of the build, that's a lot of matches.
And the build has been a bit lackluster overall. Not quite as bad as last year, as many of the big feuds haven't quite clicked. However, the builds don't matter as much once we get to WrestleMania. Last year people complained nonstop about the build, and yet, last year's WrestleMania was one of the better Manias overall. I expect that to be the case here. Shane/Undertaker, Lesnar/Ambrose, the Divas triple-threat, Styles/Jericho, and yes, even Reigns/Triple H have the potential to be truly memorable matches. Add in unknowns like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels, and who knows what could happen on Sunday night.
Here are my thoughts and predictions for all 11 matches at Wrestlemania 32:
Ryback vs. Kalisto for the United States Championship
This match has no real build, has no real heat on either side, probably will end up on the preshow...and yet it might actually be a decent match. They were able to catch lightning in a bottle with Kalisto, capitalizing on the TLC match to push him immediately into the US title picture. It might not have been intentional, but they ran with it well, and were able to get him over. They are going to do everything they can to make him look good in this match, win or lose. If you tell me that Kalisto ends up scoop slamming Ryback at some point, I could certainly buy it. I think this will be a fun match. If they're smart, they use this to give Kalisto a true Wrestlemania moment here, and give him that jump from fun little story to legitimate superstar.
The Usos vs. The Dudleys
I'm still surprised that this was made a separate match, instead of having a four-way match for the tag titles like we've seen the past few years at WrestleMania. The match was developed decently, of course largely carried by the strong mic work from the Dudleys. The Dudleys, leaning heavily on a persona that is largely reminiscent of Cactus Jack's heel work in ECW, have been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise mediocre return run for the team. While this probably isn't the Wrestlemania moment that the two were hoping for, it will be nice to see them at Mania for the first time in 12 years. Since this is on the preshow, it feels like a match that the Usos should win. I could see this being the first match of the night, as the Usos entrance and high-flying style is something that gets the crowd somewhat amped. And because of that, I see the faces winning here.
Team Total Divas (Brie Bella, Alicia Fox, Paige, Natalya, and Eva Marie) vs. The B.A.D. and the Blondes (Lana, Naomi, Tamina, Summer Rae, and Emma)
We knew there would be an attempt to get all of the Divas on the card, and it evolved into this. The storyline actually mad sense, and was a relatively decent build, until they decided to pigeonhole the Total Divas element into it. I guess it's not surprising, considering how long the Total Divas aspect has dominated any non-title feuds in the Divas division. Emma's addition, while surprising, is always welcome, as I've written before how she might be the most underrated performer in the company over the past year. Of course, that meant that there had to be a balance, and unfortunately, the only person to fit the bill while keeping the Total Divas theme was Eva Marie. It's illogical, and quite frankly, if there was a prop bet on who got the biggest boos on the night, Eva Marie would have to be a heavy favorite. The question about the result revolves around Eva Marie. Will they just have her play it straight, and her addition is simply a way to get everyone on the card, or will her addition create a rift and her heel persona will show up. My guess is that it's the former, and they won't put too much thought into this match. Without Eva Marie and Emma, the Total Divas would be heavy favorites, so I'll stick with that.
Winner: Team Total Divas
Andre The Giant Battle Royal
The Andre the Giant Battle Royal was a cool idea two years ago to get everyone on the card. Unfortunately, with the injuries and some of the other multi-person matches, it's become just a match with 20 jobbers in it. Quite frankly, this seems to be the Wyatt Family vs. everyone else who would likely be in the match. Assuming that they're in the match, and it almost seems like they have to be, just to get to 20 people, then Wyatt's group seems to be the only people who could win. Vince McMahon is clearly high on Strowman, and rumors had him in a featured match at Wrestlemania, possibly even against The Undertaker. If he's considered that highly, then a win here certainly would make sense. However, as sad as it would be for Bray to be reduced to being in it, a truly dominant win could at least do something for him. If I'm looking for a darkhose, I'm looking at Mark Henry. This could be his last Wrestlemania, and he is a Texas guy. The other interesting possibilities would be a return of an injured wrestler, such as Cesaro, or Randy Orton. If one of them enter, then they instantly become the favorite. However, I'm sticking with the idea that Bray needs a win.
There are many reasons to complain about this match as a fan. Having seven men involved reduces the significance of the match, and hurt the possible one-on-one build with Owens, whether it would have been Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, or yes, even Zack Ryder. Once the decision was made to have seven people, they didn't handle it particularly well, with Ryder, Stardust, and Sin Cara basically called on television as being jobbers that Owens wanted to defend against. It's really hard to build the credibility of the match if you start that way. And when they inevitably lose, it just confirms that. There's a reason the Brooklyn crowd got restless during the six-man match, more than just wrestling smarkdom taking over. It's because this was put together as poorly as they could have done. That being said...just like last year, this is going to be a great match once everyone hits the ring.
As for the winner, this really seems like a two-person race. Kevin Owens definitely has the support of the front office, and they've been protecting him pretty well. A win here would be perfectly logical. However, I can't help shake the feeling that there's a reason Sami Zayn is in this match. To call him up and put him into a seven-man match doesn't make a lot of sense on its own. It really reduced the significance of him being on the card. However, if he wins? Then everything falls into place. He's there to win the title, and it's a seven-man match, so Kevin Owens can lose the title without being pinned. Then you can go into a full-blown feud between the two through the spring.
Even with a Hell in a Cell match, even with a No DQ match that could involve chainsaws and barbed wire bats, the most anticipated thing about Wrestlemania in many minds is what The New Day will do for an entrance. Since last year's RAW after Wrestlemania, when the New Day finally were set loose as heels, they've been the most entertaining thing in WWE. They've gotten to a level where they've actually done work to make the League of Nations relevant, and yes, it's worth noting that each League of Nations member got a new shirt prior to Wrestlemania. However, even those shirts is nothing compared to the Booty-O's craze that has swept the WWE Universe. This match is interesting. It's a non-title match, which gives the edge to the League of Nations. I'm also interested to see if anyone tries to even the odds, since as of right now it's a handicap match. What it comes down to is this: are they really going to let the League of Nations go over the New Day? I can't see it.
Winners: The New Day
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
This match is simultaneously one of the best-developed matches and one of the strangest builds on the card this year. On the one hand, you have built a very good rivalry between Styles and Jericho that has led to Jericho reverting to his fantastic heel persona, something I wasn't sure could be possible. On the other hand, this will be the fourth time in two months that we've seen this exact match, something I don't know if I can remember ever taking place at WrestleMania. However, nobody is doubting the quality of the match, and this is a potential show-stealer. I don't think the result is very much in doubt. They've done a good job of pushing Styles, and unless they do something with the imminent debut of Anderson and Gallows to have a DQ finish, I can't see Jericho winning.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte for the Divas Title
This is the match that was promised since the beginning of the "Divas Revolution". A clear, coherent storyline involving three women who have clear motivations besides general cattiness. Since Charlotte turned heel, everything has fallen into place at the top of the divas division. When we realized that these three were headed on a crash course, people have been eagerly anticipating what could be done when you take three of the women responsible for the rebirth of the division in NXT and put them on the grandest stage of them all.
This does feel like there's going to be a title change. Charlotte has had the title for over six months now. That's a long time for anyone. To make this a truly special moment, a title change almost seems necessary. So the question is whether it's Sasha or Becky. Becky has more of a chance than I would have guessed a couple of months ago. She's certainly over, and the fans would embrace her winning, as well as the surprise. However, Sasha, right now, is the bigger star. That doesn't mean Becky can't be, just at the moment, Sasha makes the biggest impact. Add in the fact that her cousin, Snoop Dogg, is being inducted into the Hall of Fame? This seems to add up to a Sasha win, and a potentially great Wrestlemania moment.
Winner: Sasha Banks
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose
Nobody has gained more from the build to Wrestlemania than Dean Ambrose. He's looked like a true main eventer in his builds with Lesnar and Triple H, and he may have received a bigger boost in screen time than anyone else in the company. He's been the featured player of this match, getting the vignettes with the hardcore legends, and he seems to be on the verge of something big. Now, we've said that before, and having Lesnar in his way is certainly a reason to hesitate. It's not completely unlikely that they pumped up Ambrose out of sheer necessity. Who else is going to build the match if Brock Lesnar can only be at half the RAWs? That being said, there does seem to be something behind the push of Ambrose. Being the finalist at the Rumble, main eventing Fastlane, and then main eventing Roadblock shouldn't be a coincidence.
If Bray Wyatt isn't in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, then I could see him being a factor here. I still think we're getting Wyatt/Lesnar at some point in the near-future. They've built it too much, and even protected Wyatt at Fastlane. With a No DQ stipulation, it's certainly in play for a run-in. This is a weird match where it seems like neither should be taking a loss. I'm leaning Ambrose, but this could go either way.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Roman Reigns vs. Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Title
We've known for months that the plan was to have this be the crowning moment for Roman Reigns. While certainly the reaction towards Reigns haven't gone the way the WWE has wanted, it's hard to see the plans changing so dramatically that he wouldn't walk out with the title. I would not be surprised if the match didn't go exactly as people expected. Yes, I could even expect the heel turn that people want for Roman Reigns. We still don't know what The Rock's role is, and it would not surprise me to see him involved in this match in some way, possibly having a role similar to the one he had at the Royal Rumble last year. While Reigns couldn't turn against H, he could turn if he suddenly attacks The Rock. That's not a guarantee, but it's a situation I could certainly see coming to fruition, especially when you consider the fact that there just aren't that many heels for Reigns to feud with if he walks out with the belt as a face. Whatever route they go, it's hard to see anyone besides Roman Reigns walking into the RAW after Wrestlemania with the belt.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker
The build has been confusing, but this was never a match about the build. Yes, the stipulations added to everything, but as we saw on Monday night, this was always a match that was purely about the spectacle. Both men have made their living off of the spectacle, though in very different forms. The Undertaker's character, his aura, was the spectacle every time he entered the building, from the first gong to the final bell. Meanwhile, Shane made his in-ring career off of the crazy spots, something that I'm sure we'll see plenty of come Sunday.
The stipulations make this match a tough one to choose. They've been hyping up Shane potentially taking over RAW so much that it would be weird not to follow through on it. On the other hand, would they make the Undertaker retirement stipulation if Shane won? That takes what's a glorious moment for the WWE Universe and makes it into a somber one. Plus, would they really announce his potential retirement only 13 days before? Because of that, I'm leaning The Undertaker here. It will be disappointing after all that build for Shane, but I was never convinced that Shane's return was a long-term thing as much as it was a desperate attempt to get Undertaker a flashy opponent.