The casual fan's guide to Wrestlemania 32
By Ryan Pike for WrestlingObserver.com
WrestleMania is the Super Bowl of wrestling, a one-day menagerie of the best and brightest (of those not injured) from this great sport. Because of its prominence, it’s also a time of year where people that never watch wrestling wander back and have no idea what’s going on. In an effort to help out those casual fans that gravitate back to wrestling every spring, here’s a quick and dirty primer for this weekend’s big event.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWE Champion; 46; 9-10 at WrestleMania) vs. Roman Reigns (30; 2-1 at WrestleMania)
Helmsley better known as Triple H, is appearing in his 20th WrestleMania (9-10) and has risen through the ranks from getting beaten by the Ultimate Warrior in 90 seconds at WrestleMania XII to the point where he’s a real-life WWE executive and the on-screen leader of a villainous corporate stable called The Authority. Reigns is the latest good-guy character to run afoul of The Authority – following Daniel Bryan and John Cena – and was twice briefly WWE Champion last year before the Authority stacked the deck against him and Triple H won the championship from him in the Royal Rumble match.
Despite the Authority’s enmity towards him, he was able to earn another title match. They haven’t really established why either guy wants to be the champion, and the grudge between these two men seems to come from Triple H offering Reigns a spot in the Authority several months back (after Seth Rollin’s knee injury) and Reigns answering by attacking him without provocation. To the shock of few, Triple H is getting more cheers than Reigns is.
Hell in a Cell for Control of RAW: The Undertaker (51; 22-1 at WrestleMania) vs. Shane McMahon (46; 2-0 at WrestleMania)
The Undertaker is the longest-tenured member of the WWE roster, having debuted at the 1990 Survivor Series as a a spooky mortician. He’s gradually evolved into a less cartoonish character, but still retained some of the bad-ass mysticism of his character. He was undefeated at WrestleMania until two years ago, when Brock Lesnar beat him. He’s facing Shane McMahon, Vince’s son, for control of Monday Night RAW (the television show). Shane wrestled a bit as a special attraction throughout chunks of the late ’90s and mid ’00s, and was actually decent for somebody with no real training.
Why the Undertaker was roped into this match-up has never really been explained on-camera, besides “The Authority told him to.” If Shane wins and gains control of RAW, the Undertaker won’t be allowed to compete at WrestleMania ever again. Based on the tepid fan response so far, it’s unclear if the audience really buys that either of the match’s stipulations will be followed. After all, The Authority were banished forever last year and it lasted for just a few weeks.
No Holds Barred Street Fight: Dean Ambrose (30; 2-1 at WrestleMania) vs. Brock Lesnar (38; 2-3 at WrestleMania)
This match has arguably the simplest build-up on the show. Both of these guys were in a match with Roman Reigns last month for a WWE Title shot. Ambrose cost Lesnar the match, and both guys are mad at each other for blocking their path to the WWE Championship and wish to fight to prove who is the best. Lesnar is a former UFC champion and legitimately one of the toughest men in WWE history, while Ambrose has developed a “loose cannon” character since debuting as part of The Shield a few years back, and the build for this match has been around how Ambrose is too crazy to be appropriately scared of a terrifying human being like Lesnar.
Grudge Match: Chris Jericho (45; 4-7 at WrestleMania) vs. AJ Styles (38; WrestleMania debut)
Chris Jericho debuted in WWE in 1999 as the hottest free agent in pro wrestling and earned many chants and much adoration from fans. AJ Styles debuted in WWE in early 2016 as the hottest free agent in wrestling and earned many chants and much adoration from fans. These men have had a “mutual respect” feud dating back to Styles’ debut in late January and after three matches this feud has turned into full-on hatred.
Much of the build for the match has revolved around Jericho being jealous that the fans are chanting for Styles instead of him, but if you ignore how lame that sounds the feud is basically about an insecure character worried that the wrestling world is passing him by. Oh, and both guys are great in the ring so this could be the best match of the night from a technical perspective.
WWE Divas Championship Triple Threat Match: Charlotte (Divas Champion; 29; WrestleMania debut) vs. Sasha Banks (24; WrestleMania debut) vs. Becky Lynch (29; WrestleMania debut)
Charlotte is Ric Flair’s daughter, Banks is Snoop Dogg’s cousin and Lynch was trained by NXT champion Finn Balor. All three came up through NXT and had awesome matches. All three of these women debuted in July as part of the “Divas Revolution,” which changed the way women’s wrestling was perceived largely by showcasing the same women in short matches on RAW without finishes. (The concept was largely abandoned by September.) The women’s division was initially three teams which broke apart, and eventually the storytelling focused on Banks and Lynch facing off against Charlotte after she won the title and became a heel back in the fall.
Fun Fact: This is the first triple threat match with all three competitors making their WrestleMania debuts since WrestleMania 2000 (where Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle faced off).
Handicap Tag Team Match: The New Day [WWE Tag Team Champions Xavier Woods (29; WrestleMania debut), Kofi Kingston (34; 1-4 at WrestleMania) and Big E (30; 0-2 at WrestleMania)] vs. The League of Nations [Alberto del Rio (38; 1-2 at WrestleMania), King Barrett (35; 0-2 at WrestleMania), Sheamus (38; 1-3 at WrestleMania) and Rusev (30; 0-1 at WrestleMania)]
The New Day describe themselves as “unicorns,” which is a weird way of describing them. They’re a trio of positive wrestlers who are over the top with their enthusiasm, which has led to them gradually becoming fan favourites because they’re so ridiculous that it’s tough to hate them. The League of Nations are four bad-guy wrestlers from foreign countries, with all three men lacking direction with their characters beyond being tough and mean and foreign. The New Day have been tag team champions for much of the last year, though the titles are not on the line.
Fun Fact: This is the first handicap tag team match at WrestleMania since WrestleMania XX’s Evolution vs. Rock & Sock Connection 3-on-2 match.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Kevin Owens (Intercontinental Champion; 31; WrestleMania debut) vs. Sami Zayn (31; WrestleMania debut) vs. Sin Cara (38; WrestleMania debut) vs. The Miz (35; 3-1 at WrestleMania) vs. Stardust (30; 1-4 at WrestleMania) vs. Dolph Ziggler (35; 1-5 at WrestleMania) vs. Zack Ryder (30; 0-2 at WrestleMania)
The primary recent feuds for the Intercontinental Title have been between Owens and his old NXT (and independent circuit) rival Zayn, and him and Ziggler (who has been perpetually in the mix for the Intercontinental and United States Titles). Literally everybody else was thrown into this match at the last minute, after Stephanie McMahon (a heel) berated Owens (a heel) for trying to engineer an easy title defense at WrestleMania. The winner is the first person to climb a ladder and retrieve the title belt.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Announced participants include Health Slater (32), Curtis Axel (36), Adam Rose (36), Bo Dallas (25), The Big Show (44), Kane (48), Tyler Breeze (28), Goldust (46), R-Truth (44), Darren Young (32), Mark Henry (44), Konnor (36), Viktor (35), Jack Swagger (34), Fandango (34) and Damien Sandow (33) in a 20-man over-the-top-rope battle royal. The last man standing gets the Andre the Giant trophy, which is basically a statue of the Hall of Fame wrestler who was renowned for his success in battle royals. It helps that he was quite large and really hard to move. Cesaro and The Big Show have won the last two battle royals and it hasn’t done their careers much good, sadly.