WrestleMania 32 heads into Arlington, Texas this Sunday, in what will be biggest WrestleMania of all-time. The WWE hopes to pack more than 100,000 people into the stadium for a show headlined by Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker. CM Punk probably won’t be watching.
Sunday’s show is unique in that it will likely break all previous WrestleMania live attendance and gate records, without the kind of marquee match-up that WrestleMania has traditionally enjoyed. There is no Hulk Hogan (thankfully) vs. Andre The Giant. No John Cena vs. The Rock. No Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels.
Thankfully, all those guys and many more have paved the way and helped build a brand that allows for a WrestleMania 32 to happen, where the brand is bigger than any of the individual stars. And for professional wrestling fans, the event will be a glorious combination of the Super Bowl, the Tonys and Lollapalooza (yes, I grew up in the 1990s). And it will be long. It’s a six-hour show, at last count.
Trying to predict the outcome of WrestleMania is futile. It’s like trying to pick a lock with your left hand and solve a Rubic’s Cube with your right. It’s just pointless because anything can happen at WrestleMania. For the MMA purist out there, here’s how to understand how cool the WWE is.
Imagine if at UFC 200 Nate Diaz is wiping the floor with Conor McGregor when Diaz accidentally delivers a spinning heel kick to referee Herb Dean, sending him crashing to the ground. UFC President Dana White, panicked enters the cage tells the timekeeper that the match will go on, and that he will replace Dean as referee. Nate’s brother, Nick, then jumps the cage and starts arguing with White, saying he can’t be the referee. He says its unfair and that a real referee should be brought out. Nate tells Nick to calm down and tells Nick to leave the cage to let him finish the fight. Nick, angry at his little brother for surpassing him in popularity, blindsides his little brother, punching him in the face, then putting him in a rear naked choke, putting Nate to sleep. At that moment, Herb Dean wakes up, sees McGregor standing over Nate Diaz and calls for the bell and declares McGregor the winner. White, Nick Diaz and McGregor then celebrate in the ring, screwing Nate Diaz, and ensuring that their cash cow, McGregor, is the winner who can now challenge Georges St-Pierre in New York later in the year. The co-main event is Nick vs. Nate Diaz in a grudge, brother vs. brother match. Everyone goes to the bank.
That is good booking. And that’s what happens at WrestleMania. So just enjoy the show and hope for some moments of splendor.
Here’s your guide to what to look out for at the show:
The WWE is hoping to fill AT&T Stadium with more than 110,000 people and break the NBA All-Star and George Strait concert attendance records of 108,000 and 104,000. They will get close. They had already legitimately sold out 85,000 tickets as of a week ago and they plan to put more tickets on sale. The spectacle of the show will be amazing. WrestleMania III famously or mythically sold out the Pontiac Silverdome with 93,173 people. The WWE wants to break that record and any record held by Gawker-stained Hulk Hogan. Get ready for some noise.
The seven-person ladder match featuring Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zach Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz vs. Stardust could be one of the several matches to steal the show. Owens has dubbed the show KO Mania and is the best thing about the WWE right now. He’s a great talker and great wrestler. He should be headlining WresteMania next year. Owens will take some great risks and is working with a mostly all-star cast, especially Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler. Expect a lot of oohs, aahs and “holy sh$t” chants.
Lesnar would be headlining this show with the WWE Championship around his waist, but he’s a part-time wrestler and thankfully the WWE won’t give him a title shot because they want the title around a full-time guy (unless your name is Triple H). Lesnar, however, is still amazing, even in a limited role. He has an unparalleled presence, brings tremendous athleticism and UFC fight experience. And wherever Lesnar goes, Paul Heyman goes, and Paul Heyman is the Ric Flair of wrestling managers. Lesnar’s matches are short and explosive and worth every minute. Expect blood when he challenges Dean Ambrose because Lesnar always bleeds on PPVs. Forget Arlington. Welcome to Suplex City.
Lesnar’s opponent, Dean Ambrose, is peaking at just the right time. He’s crazy popular with the crowd. He is a great wrestler and decent talker. He’s not that big, but he knows how to use what he has. He has great ring psychology, timing and is willing to put his body on the line. He’s not Roddy Piper, but some people say he reminds them of him. Ambrose is hot right now and that will probably mean a great WrestleMania moment for him.
I feel sorry for anyone under 40 trying to understand the Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker storyline. Let me try: Shane McMahon is WWE owner Vince McMahon’s son. He was supposed to inherit the WWE. Vince McMahon’s only daughter, Stephanie, married Triple H and the two of them took over the company and drove Shane out. Shane has been off WWE television for nearly a decade, but mysteriously returned, promising to take back control of the company. So Vince McMahon ordered his greatest WWE creation, The Undertaker, to challenge Shane at WresteMania. If Shane wins he gets control of Monday Night Raw. If the Undertaker loses, he is banned from competing at WrestleMania again. Kinda complicated. But this match could be the most memorable on the show.
Shane McMahon is crazy. He’s not a great athlete, but he takes incredible risks. He likes to jump of high places and land on top of other wrestlers and tables and floors. He will put his body on the line for a pop from the crowd. Put Shane McMahon in a Hell in the Cell match and we can only hope that he lives through it.
The WWE has stood behind this guy for nearly two years now. The corporate brass badly wants this guy to be the next Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena. The only problem: Reigns needs to take a Toastmasters class. He needs to enroll in public speaking 101 at his local community college. He needs to take the toilet paper out of his mouth. It’s possible that Reigns is mush on the microphone because the writers don’t know how to write for him. It’s also possible he just can’t talk.
Reigns also wears all black and does nothing other than throw really fake-looking Superman punches all the time. So you can see where the older wrestling fans absolutely hate this guy. Besides the four wrestlers mentioned, only Austin was a great worker. But there’s hope for Reigns. Kids like this guy, think he is cool and are behind him. So the WWE wants him to win the championship. He sells merchandise. Reigns is in this weird spot in that he is fully backed by the WWE, but gets booed out every building he wrestles in. Arlington will be brutal.
Will Reigns defeat Triple H? Will he get booed out of the building even though he’s a “good guy.” Will the fans mysteriously embrace him? Like it or not, Reigns is the future of the WWE. The only question is whether Reigns will go the John Cena good guy route, or turn heel like The Rock did before he became a breakout superstar. Most people believe Reigns is about to succumb to the boos and embrace the hate. Anything is better than what he is doing now. Sorry, kids. Sometimes you have to be bad before you are good. Just wait until you get to college.
This will be The Game’s 20th WrestleMania. It all started for him at WrestleMania 12 where he famously lost to The Ultimate Warrior. Say what you will about Triple H. He’s a ball hog who refuses to bass the baton and puts himself in the main event of WrestleMania simply because he can. He buried Sting at last year’s WrestleMania for no good reason other than to show that the WWE was better than WCW. But there’s another side the Hunter. He loves the business, is a good wrestler and has mastered the art of match psychology. He never left for Hollywood. He did even better: he married the boss’s daughter and now has a job for life. There’s something special about Triple H wrestling and it will be nice to see his usually extravagant ring entrance. He’s one of the last Attitude Era legends and we’re way happy that he’s with us and not wrestling in TNA or worse. Go ahead, steal the show, Hunter. We’ll enjoy it. You just can’t do it with CM Punk.
Get this. It’s quite possible that the greatest thing about WrestleMania will be the old stars who run in during the matches. Who is all rumored to appear at WrestleMania? The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and John Cena. Even Ronda Rousey is rumored to appear. Even though Holly Holm opened up a can of whoop-ass on her and then served her humble pie for dessert, Rousey is still a big star and may reprise her role with The Rock at this year’s show. What about Hulk Hogan? What about Kurt Angle? Kevin Nash? Scott Hall? The nWo? Last year’s match between Sting and Triple H was highlighted by all the run-ins and it looks like this will become a regular theme during a match at WrestleMania. Could these run-ins happen in The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon matchup? Or the Triple H vs. Roman Reigns match? We don’t know. And that’s why we love professional wrestling.
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