The lead up to this year's WrestleMania wasn't an easy one, to say the least. Several storylines had to be thrown together at the last minute for a variety of reasons, mostly due to the overwhelming amount of injuries to their top Superstars that all occurred at relatively the same time. It wasn't easy, but WrestleMania 32 -- for all intents and purposes -- exceeded expectations. There were bookings that made you scratch your head and finishes that didn't quite seem up to standard, but there were also many bright spots that superseded all of their shortcomings.
When you think of WrestleMania, you think of a higher degree of standard, you think of celebrities, and you think of surprise appearances. For the most part, this year's show featured all of the above, with some important changes added into the mix that we believe will advance the product to a much better level. I had the privilege of attending the show live and this article will serve as a recap of the better moments that made this year's show worth the price of admission.
Attendance figures, shortest match records, guest appearances, local legends, and an important debut of a much needed change to a certain division were all prominent parts of the 2016 Super Bowl of professional wrestling. I had an absolutely wonderful time and here are 15 reasons why the overall show didn't suck, in my eyes. Yeah, maybe it wasn't on par with previous years, but it certainly didn't "suck."
15 Hometown Heroes
I don't think anyone in the building was surprised that The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin appeared at WrestleMania, but if you were there live and were able to hear the pop that those two received (especially Austin), the sound was absolutely deafening. Over 100,000 people all standing and screaming at the same time was something I thought I was prepared for, but the live experience is truly something else. HBK, Austin, and Mick Foley all came out and had a WrestleMania moment with New Day, where Austin stunned the entire crew before showering the ring with a beer bath.
14 Shaquille O'Neal
WrestleMania is never short of celebrity appearances, but this one I honestly can say I was never expecting. Shaquille O'Neal -- longtime NBA star -- came down to the ring for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, where he squared off against some of the bigger WWE Superstars, like Kane, Big Show, and Mark Henry. He was able to last just about as long as anyone would expect for a celebrity appearance in a match as quick as the Battle Royal, but not before he eliminated Damien Sandow and got choked by the "World's Largest Athlete" Big Show.
13 The Undertaker's Entrance
It had been 18 years since I last saw The Undertaker come down to the ring in 1998 at a taping of Monday Night Raw in Chicago, Illinois, and while some things change, some stay the same. That same feeling I had so many years ago carried over perfectly in 2016 and considering the WrestleMania atmosphere (over 100,000 people strong), The Undertaker's methodical entrance was worth the price of admission in itself. It's truly a sight to see, and I don't think there will ever be another entrance quite like his that will give generations of people the same amount of goosebumps ever again.
12 Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Wow! This is the second year in a row that they have opened the show with a ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship and this one absolutely delivered just as well -- if not better -- than the previous year's match. I was pulling for either Dolph Ziggler (I think he deserves another solid push soon) or Sami Zayn to walk out with the belt, but I think Sin Cara had a tremendous match and Kevin Owens is on his way for big things in the near future with the company. The Miz and Stardust are practically comic relief at this point, but seeing Zack Ryder grab the belt at his first WrestleMania is always great to see.
11 Paul Heyman
Ladies and gentlemen, his name is Paul Heyman. He's the perfect mouth piece for a menacing figure like Brock Lesnar, and whenever he cuts off ring announcer Lilian Garcia to announce his own client, it just makes me smile. To be able to get over with the WWE Universe as just a manager is always awesome and for me to be able to see him in action again for the first time since 1999 when he owned ECW made me feel like a kid again. He doesn't have to say much because his client is definitely able to deliver on his own in the ring, which brings me to my next point...
10 Suplex City
While I thought that the match overall was fairly short (just a little over 13 minutes), I also thought that they could have squeezed in a few more big spots. Lesnar certainly featured his suplexing prowess and in the process I learned that the WWE uses the above ring LED screens as a scoreboard of sorts to keep a running tally of how many suplexes Brock has completed. I'd give that match a B- only because I had higher expectations, but I also understand that there are only so many things you can do in a street fight during the PG Era.
9 Cena's Return
John Cena made his triumphant return last night at WrestleMania after several months of being inactive due to a shoulder injury and his return could not have come soon enough for the WWE franchise. The roster has been absolutely decimated from other various injuries, so to have them get their flagship Superstar back into action as quickly as possible is great news for the company, especially when considering how poorly Roman Reigns has been received by the majority of wrestling fans. WWE will need to carefully consider how to approach their championship contenders in the near future if the fans continue to reject their recent plans.
The yoga man himself also made a surprise -- albeit brief -- appearance during the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. and when his music hit. he was greeted to many cheers from the massive crowd. In the chaotic Battle Royal match, he helped eliminate Shaq with a various group of other wrestlers, squared off against Tatanka (yeah, the same ol' Tatanka...), battled with Kane for a little while, and even pulled off a classic Diamond Cutter and eliminated Viktor from The Ascension before himself being eliminated by the other member (Konnor) of the same group. Quality showing for the future Hall of Famer.
7 New... Day Rocks!
New… Day rocks! New… Day rocks! What makes this team so great is just how over they have gotten recently. Their mic work has always been solid and their trombone gimmick has pushed them well over the hump and has solidified them as one of the best factions in all of wrestling. They're engaging, funny, fantastic in the ring, and the crowd's response has proven their appreciation for their hard work. I even saw a couple of people bring their own trombones into the arena last night, which is a good sign of just how well their gimmick is getting over, isn't it?
6 AJ Styles/Chris Jericho
This match had the potential to steal the show, if you think about it. There's no question about the history or ability between these two guys, but their age is somewhat daunting. AJ Styles is the younger competitor at 38 compared to Jericho's 45 years, so there's little question that this booking was somewhat of a desperate attempt to showcase Styles at WrestleMania with a competitor who can still kind of hold his own in the ring, even at 45. Their match was up and down, with Jericho coming out on top for whatever reason, but I still felt like the match was decent enough to push AJ over to the WWE Universe. His springboard 450 splash was definitely a highlight of the night.
5 The Last "Diva's" Match/First "Women's" Championship
All I have to say is that this has been a long, long time coming. I have always felt that the term "Diva" has been a detriment to the overall women's division, so let me be the first to say that it's a very welcome sight to see WWE recognize their women as women once again. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch put on one of the best matches of the night and despite Charlotte winning due to interference from her legendary father Ric Flair (yup, another interference victory), I thought that the match was very well executed. The crowd wanted Sasha to win in the end, but I suppose this is another way to further the plot of the new Women's division, which is fitting because they have something that's also brand new to battle for...
4 New Women's Championship Belt
This match also marked the death of the Diva's Championship belt. Good riddance! That thing was so horrific that it was hard to take seriously, which is why fans often referred to that atrocity as the "tramp stamp" belt, because essentially that's what it looked like. This new belt could not be any different, and it's arguably better looking than the men's World Heavyweight Belt. The women's belt is modeled after the men's, but it features a white strap and a red leather backing behind the main plate. It's a sight for sore eyes and I am very glad that they have made the all important executive decision to do away with everything "diva" (besides the reality show, I suppose).
3 The Rock's "Surprise" Match
WWE announced in December that The Rock was definitely going to make an appearance at WrestleMania 32, but at what capacity no one knew. It would have been crazy to think that he would suit up and wrestle an actual match against anyone on the main roster, so when he announced that last night's attendance broke the all time WrestleMania record, we figured that was as far as it was going to go. Then out came The Wyatt family and all of a sudden the show was on. An impromptu match was declared and the Rock beat Erick Rowan in six seconds (new WrestleMania record!). I liked the move because before the "match" the Rock basically put Bray Wyatt over single-handedly, reaffirming what the crowd has already shown for years now. Maybe this will be the push that puts him past the mid card?
2 New WrestleMania Attendance Record
As mentioned in several previous entries, last night finally broke the somewhat controversial WrestleMania III attendance record of 93,173. It's important because I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there were 100,000 in the crowd and I know this because it took me an hour and twenty-seven minutes to get out of the parking lot I was stuck in. Doubters of the previous record (who include Dave Meltzer, longtime wrestling journalist) can finally rest easy knowing that WrestleMania 32 has ended the controversy once and for all, with a new WrestleMania record of 101,763. Which means me and 101,762 other people all saw this...
1 Shane McMahon's Sick Bump
Shane McMahon stole the show. There's no other way to put it. He went out there and knew that he was going to do something that would make WrestleMania history, and when he started to climb the side of the cell, the crowd began to move about in anticipation. He reached the top and glanced down at just how far up he was in the sky; his knees started to tremble. Then, after a quick sign of the cross, he dropped the biggest elbow from the top of the cell that anyone has ever seen before. The Undertaker was able to move away at the last second, but the highest of all high spots was delivered and the image of Shane McMahon falling through that announcer's table will be replayed in my mind and in WWE montages for many years to come. Shane-O-Mac is undeniably hardcore.