I cannot even begin to comprehend what Vince McMahon was thinking when he laid out WrestleMania 32. If what occurred in Dallas is not proof positive that he is out of touch with what his core fan base wants, then nothing is. He is the captain of the sinking Titanic, refusing to believe that his ship even hit an iceberg, let alone is being being sank by it.
I thought the wrestling throughout the night was solid at worst and pretty good at best, without anything blowing me away. Not the most glowing praise, but given the hotchpotch mess I was expecting going in, it actually delivered slightly beyond my expectations.
The issue as always was not with the in-ring action, but with the way it was booked. WWE got it wrong not just in all of the big matches, but in every single contest.
WrestleMania is ultimately remembered for its moments, those snapshots in time that fans picture when they look back on the show years from now. Thinking of WrestleMania X no doubt conjures up images of Shawn Michaels diving from a ladder onto Razor Ramon, WrestleMania 13 brings memories flooding back of Steve Austin bleeding like a stuck pig while refusing to give up, and WrestleMania XX will forever be remembered for the post-match victory hug shared by reigning WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero and new World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit, even if WWE doesnt want it to be.
WrestleMania 32 was all about moments, the most memorable of which was the fully-expected but no less idiotic Shane McMahon leap from the top of Hell in a Cell. The second the match was announced, long-time fans who remember Shanes antics fifteen years earlier had suspicions that there would be a big bump of this nature. After all, it was a Shane McMahon match; history dictated that there almost had to be.
That Shane - who has been away from the company for years so is far less invested in its welfare than the rest of the McMahons - would put his body and his life on the line in such a manner is to be both commended and questioned. Nobody has ever done anything like that before, and it will be replayed until the end of time, but there is a bigger issue at play here. Why was WWE in a position where it needed to nudge a non-wrestler out of retirement and have him almost kill himself for the cause?
The match was a mess. Structurally it was all over the place, and Shanes offence was difficult to take seriously. The last time we saw The Undertaker in a singles match he was taking the unbeatable Brock Lesnar to the limit, but suddenly we were supposed to buy that Shane McMahon had a chance against him? It was silly. The whole angle had been a confusing shambles since Shane returned out of the blue a few weeks ago, with the match having no possible happy ending for fans. Either they had to witness the end of The Undertaker at the hands of Shane McMahon, or they had to resign themselves to the fact that the snarling staler-than-week-old-bread duo of Stephanie and Hunter were going to be around forever.
Undertakers motivation made no sense, Shanes lack of back-up even less, and the whole thing felt like a bad idea that was executed horribly in practice. And now, thrillingly, everything stays exactly the same. Forget a brand split, forget NXT coming to the USA Network and taking over one of Raw or SmackDown, and forget any shake up that will see a babyface authority figure actually giving the fans what they want. No, we are stuck with sneering Stephanie and her droning husband for the foreseeable.
The author of the highly acclaimed 'Titan' book series, James Dixon has been involved in the wrestling business for 25 years as a fan, wrestler, promoter, agent, and writer. James spent several years wrestling on the British independent circuit, but now prefers to write about the bumps and bruises rather than take any of them. His past in-ring experience does however give a uniquely more "insider" perspective on things, though he readily admits to still being a "mark" at heart.
James is the Chief Editor and writer at historyofwrestling.co.uk and is responsible for the best-selling titles Titan Sinking, Titan Shattered, and Titan Screwed, as well as the Complete WWF Video Guide series, and the Raw Files series.