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Just Business presents Watch of the Week: Revisiting Dallas, One Year On (WrestleMania 32)
By Samuel 'Plan
Mar 16, 2017 - 7:32:15 PM

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Just Business presents Watch of the Week: Revisiting Dallas, One Year On (WrestleMania 32)

On this week’s edition of LOP Radio’s Friday night podcast, The Right Side of the Pond, my venerable colleague Maverick and I will be looking back at four WrestleMania events that suffer from a reputation that could be classified as anything between toxic to below average. I don’t mind revealing here, in advance of that show, one of my two picks: last year’s big event, WrestleMania 32.

In the interest of dispassionate historical reappraisal, I was able to find time this week to finally sit down and revisit the leviathan offering of WWE’s from last spring; with intent to discover whether or not it remains as terrible as it felt on the night. The answer to that question is not an unequivocal one. What I discovered was that WrestleMania 32 is a perfect example of a show explaining why I shy away from star ratings: it is not summarised or defined quite so easily.

There is no denying this is a show with problems; many problems. It is not my intention to try and persuade you that WrestleMania 32 was some kind of unrecognised masterpiece of an effort ahead of its time. It absolutely is not. Quite the opposite, in fact; this was a show well behind its time because of its obsessive fixation on nostalgia and the past. Such is the first of its two key problems, no doubt. Priorities throughout WrestleMania 32 are in all the wrong places, as the fresh and rising talent play second fiddle to legends and names of by-gone ages. There’s no need to worry about celebrities hogging contemporary talents’ spotlight here, because there are plenty of retired wrestlers happy to do the favour themselves. This results in an uneven event that judders along, interrupted here and there by nostalgia fixes that take time away from matches that would have benefitted from the extra minutes, as well as piling on top of the time taken by matches that are far too long.

Such is the second of WrestleMania 32’s key problems: running time. The title of this week’s column would perhaps be better suited as Watch for a Week, because ‘Mania 32 is not something you can easily make time for. There’s a reason it’s taken me this long to get back to it. I re-watched it by uncharacteristically ignoring the preshow, and still the event clocked in just shy of five hours long. This means that WrestleMania 32 is a show that demands to be at the centre of your day and, frankly, it simply isn’t of good enough quality to warrant such a spot in any fan’s life. I expect, as a result, for even its better turns to sit gathering dust, showing up only on WWE-sponsored highlight packages in years to come.

This, I must confess, is something of a shame, because the predominant theme I discovered upon revisiting last year’s Showcase of the Immortals was an event that pleasantly surprised on a match-to-match level. Every encounter provided something for me to enjoy, including the two I maligned most on the night: the Hell in a Cell Match and the main event. Like the show at large, both of these matches undoubtedly have their fair share of problems, but neither was as terrible as the sour taste I remember being left with on the night at the time. The Cell, for example, at least gets steadily better as it goes along, finishing with an appropriately epic tone, while the main event watched as deceptively more intelligent than fans gave it credit for being twelve months ago. Rarely have I seen such inspired character-driven wrestling.

But even in accepting that many people will reject this revisionism outright without going back and watching the matches in question – which I would blame nobody for doing, quite honestly – there remains much to enjoy in the first two hours of the event. The Ladders Match is a breezy, special effects extravaganza that proves wise in anchoring itself on the weighty emotive punch of the Owens/Zayn saga; Styles/Jericho provides the passionately athletic undercard match any supercard requires if it truly wants to succeed, even if it is somewhat rough around its edges; the Women’s Championship bout even now impresses, to my mind deserving of a spot in ‘Mania’s Greatest Ever Matches list because of its successful ambition, quality and historic weight; Ambrose/Lesnar, while of a tame aesthetic, still watches as an exhibit of nuance and truly ingenious character inflection, purposeful or not; and even the average quality of the six man tag and the ATGMBR are offset by the fact neither is bad, and the latter pursues a wise line in its platforming a fresh new star in the guise of Baron Corbin.

By the close of the show, the only element of the event I simply could not derive any positives from was the truly awful squashing of the Wyatt Family at the hands of the ingratiatingly smug partnership of The Rock and John Cena – it is needless, distasteful and, frankly, ugly to witness.

Otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of WrestleMania 32’s undeniable problems came largely from a production standpoint. Match times were treated with disregard toward their impact on the wider show. The commentary was horribly over-scripted from the event’s opening moments, even by WWE’s woeful standard. The event is far too long. The excess is shamefully unashamed. Priorities, from the distribution of top level starring roles through to shares of the spotlight, were, to be blunt, utterly regressive. But this was not a case, as has been the popular belief, I think, for a year now, of there being no silver linings. On the contrary, even the direst matches on the card can be redeemed, if only faintly.

I cannot, in good conscience, try and convince you that WrestleMania 32 deserves to be ranked as a great show by any critical standard. I would feel uneasy trying to convince you it deserves to be ranked even as just good. But it is the kind of show that will be treated unfairly by presumption, mitigated memory and inflexible star ratings. Yes, it has negatives and those negatives are many. So too, though, does it have its positives, and those positives might just mean you can palate it after all.

I certainly could; and to find out more, tune in to this week’s The Right Side of the Pond, only on Lords of Pain Radio!

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