To call WWE WrestleMania 32 a divisive show would be something of an understatement.
The reaction to WWE’s biggest show of the year when it aired live on April 3 was extremely split, with critics giving it mixed reviews and many fans slating the event, while others quickly jumped to its defence. Now, this year’s installment of the ‘Granddaddy Of Them All’ has finally arrived on DVD and Blu-Ray for everyone to check out for themselves again.
We got our hands on the Ultimate Collector’s Edition – which comes with epic extras and memorabilia including an actual part of the Mania 32 ring canvas, a genuine Shane O’Mac dollar bill which fell from the heavens during his entrance, and a signed photo of WWE Hall of Famer Sting – and there’s only 1,000 total copies available of the special edition DVD. Pretty cool.
On top of all the special extras though, I was especially keen to see whether the show itself would prove better on second viewing.
It did not.
Indeed, despite attracting the largest audience in the event’s history – a whopping 101,763, according to the WWE (although more likely around 93,730, according to wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer) – the Texas show itself was one of the weakest in recent memory, with an over-reliance on stars from the company’s past, rather than those who are set to carry it into the future.
It also seemed to go on forever. Even if this WrestleMania had been a strong one, five hours would have been too long but, given how disappointing the whole thing was, the last two hours of the show dragged more than an Authority promo at the start of Monday Night Raw.
Some of the booking decisions were also utterly baffling, with it seeming as though Vince McMahon and his team had given little to no thought as to how the wins and losses would affect the landscape of the WWE in the days and weeks following the show.
Nonetheless, there were some moments to enjoy across the near 300 minute run-time.
After the brilliant, albeit several years too late, decision to introduce a new women’s championship belt and drop the awful term ‘Divas’ almost entirely, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks (who was played to the ring by her cousin and new WWE Hall of Famer Snoop Dogg, no less) proceeded to steal the show with their triple threat bout for the new title.
It was an incredible effort from all three and made for an emotional spectacle, as women’s wrestling finally came of age in the WWE on the biggest stage of them all. Unfortunately, those dodgy booking decisions even reared their ugly head in this one. Charlotte retained after yet more shenanigans and interference from her dodgy dad ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair at ringside. Really, this should have been the red hot Sasha’s night.
Elsewhere, AJ Styles and Chris Jericho had a quality encounter (although, again, the wrong person won) and the seven-man ladder match was a highly entertaining stunt show, as expected.
Sure, we would have preferred to see Kevin Owens scrap with hated foe Sami Zayn (hot on the heels of his insane match with a debuting Shinsuke Nakamura two days earlier at NXT TakeOver – talk about an incredible weekend for Sami) for the Intercontinental championship, but you definitely can’t fault the effort of them and Zack Ryder, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, The Miz and Sin Cara and some of the crazy shit they were able to pull off using the tools at their disposal. Still, lets never do that kind of suplex onto a ladder again, eh lads?
Unfortunately, outside of those three bouts, it’s tough to offer the show much in the way of praise at all.
Although The New Day’s entrance was something else, their bout with The League of Nations was a complete dud, and while the nostalgia was great and all, the appearance of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley to beat everyone up, helped no-one.
Speaking of which, The Rock was kind enough to make an appearance and John Cena even returned in the same segment. Sadly, it was all at the expense of the Wyatt Family, with Bray Wyatt (you know, the guy who wrestled the freakin’ Undertaker last year) taking an utterly pointless verbal hammering from ‘The Great One’ before Rock made his henchman look weak AF and he went back to Hollywood, probably leaving Bray to wonder where his once promising WWE career all went wrong.
A few past wrestlers and celebrities popped up in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal too – most notably, basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal for an entertaining face-off with the Big Show. The match itself was nothing special but at least, in a rare moment of forward thinking for this show, NXT star Baron Corbin was the man chosen to take home the trophy this year.
The biggest disappointment of the evening came in the no DQ bout between Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose. It promised so much and had the potential to finally transform Ambrose into the top level star many think he can be, but achieved none of those things. Going in, many expected a 20 minute-plus violent epic, featuring the never-say-die Ambrose refusing to quit and constantly fighting back against the monster Lesnar. Instead, the whole thing was done in 13 minutes and Lesnar dominated pretty much the entire match. A missed opportunity.
Meanwhile, Undertaker vs Shane McMahon was there for one reason and one reason only – so we could see a 46-year-old Shane O’Mac risk his life and leap of the top of the cell, which he did. He also threw in an impressive Coast to Coast for good measure.
The match itself, however, was a disappointment and it was honestly somewhat sad to see the legendary Taker struggling so much as the match went on. Plus, the stipulation (if Shane won, he would gain control of Raw and Undertaker would never compete at WrestleMania again) made it tough to know who we were supposed to be rooting for and, the next day on Raw, the whole thing was rendered obsolete. Still, that dive was impressive, can’t deny that.
And then there was the main event. Good God, that main event…
From one of the most over-the-top Game of Thrones inspired promos of all time from Stephanie McMahon, to Triple H heeling it up more than he has in years, to ref bumps, and Steph even taking a spear from the challenger, they really tried everything to get poor Roman Reigns over with the crowd.
It didn’t work. As expected, the WWE’s chosen one Roman was booed relentlessly and mercilessly by the hundreds of thousands of die-hard wrestling fans inside the AT&T Stadium, and not even some obvious sound sweetening attempts from the production crew could hide it.
It didn’t help matters that the match itself was a plodding affair at the end of a stupidly long show, featuring one guy at least a decade past his prime, and it did little to keep the crowd engaged. And when Roman won clean after a match which was 10 minutes longer than it should have been, those who hadn’t already left, filled the arena with a chorus of boos. So much for sending the audience home happy…
Much like the show itself, the special features on the WrestleMania 32 DVD are also something of a letdown.
The highlight is, unquestionably, the full Hall of Fame ceremony, which features the inductions of Sting, Big Boss Man, The Fabulous Freebirds, Stan Hansen, Jacquelin, The Godfather, Joan Lunden and Snoop Dogg, plus the induction of seven legends of professional wrestling into the WWE’s Legacy wing of the Hall of Fame.
Highlights from the ceremony include an APA reunion to induct Stan Hansen, one last Ho Train from the Godfather, The New Day inducting the Freebirds, Michael Hayes’ typically bizarre attire and his brilliant Terry Gordy story, Ray Traylor’s widow and daughters’ emotional memories of the ‘Big Boss Man’, Ric Flair being Ric Flair, and Sting finally being inducted into the Hall of Fame and then making his official retirement announcement.
Other than that, however, the DVD only includes the WrestleMania pre-show matches – Kalisto vs Ryback (to a nearly empty arena because of ticketing issues at AT&T Stadium), Team Total Divas vs Team Bad & Blonde, and The Dudley Boyz vs The Usos.
That’s all the special features you get here, and the lack of any behind-the-scenes documentaries or interviews is a big disappointment.
It would have been a nice touch to include the NXT: TakeOver Dallas show on this DVD too but, then again, maybe the WWE didn’t want to telegraph the fact that their supposed developmental brand once again outshone their biggest show of the year. Awkward…
Still, there’s no denying that the extras in the Collector’s Edition boxset are cool as hell.
Overall though, those extras are covering for what is – at best – a damningly average show. And the cynical part of me can’t help but wonder if that’s exactly why these extras are here – without them, it’s unlikely many people would want to purchase a DVD/Blu-ray of such a lackluster event.
If you’re a diehard wrestling fan and DVD collector, it goes without saying that you’ll want this one for your collection, especially if you were unable to attend the show in person.
However, if not, you can save money and catch both the main show and the much better Hall of Fame ceremony on the WWE Network for just – say it with me – £9.99.
Both the standard and Ultimate Collector’s editions of WrestleMania 32 are available now on DVD and Blu-ray.
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