It’s been a rough year for the WWE, and nowhere is that more evident than the card for Wrestlemania 32. Considering how things were looking a year ago as Wrestlemania 31 came to its shocking conclusion, it’s amazing how different the WWE landscape is two weeks out from the biggest show of the year.
Yes, wrestling is predetermined, but the in-ring athletics are real and injuries do happen. It just happens that the injuries have hit some of the biggest names in the company, which has led to some interesting reshuffling of the Wrestlemania 32 card.
That’s not to say that the Mania 32 card is bad. At the very least, it’s fascinating. With everyone assuming Roman Reigns is walking out with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, does the company stay the course, or does it run a swerve and keep the belt on Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling favorite Triple H? Does Shane McMahon hand The Undertaker his second Wrestlemania loss and create the brand split for a whole new generation? Are they really going to put babyfaced (but not a babyface) Braun Stroman over in this year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale? At least they’re finally going to face turn The New Day, seeing as how they gave up on them being really effective heels a while back.
But just imagine what this card could have been had the injuries not come so hard over the last 12 months. Rather than bring Sami Zayn up a month out from the PPV, they could have debuted him the night after Mania 32, thus giving them plenty of time to build up his rivalry with Kevin Owens on their biggest stage yet. Here are some other things we lost, looking at a Wrestlemania card from an alternate, injury free reality:
Triple H vs. The Rock
With The Rock not participating in a match because of his obligation to – try not to seethe with anger here – a Baywatch remake, it does make the entire confrontation at last year’s Mania retroactively kind of stupid. Sure, it was a nice moment to see Ronda Rousey get her hands on Stephanie McMahon, but at the time it looked to be building up to something. That’s not to say that the world really needed another Triple H/Rock matchup, but when you’re chasing a North American attendance record, I can’t fault them for pushing for a match featuring one of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose – WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
We’ve had every permutation of former-Shield member on former-Shield member violence, but letting these three go at it for the biggest prize in the company would have made for an amazing match and some outstanding video packages leading up to it. It’s the match that has to happen at Wrestlemania eventually, before the inevitable Shield reunion run. Alas, Seth Rollins hurt himself just long enough not to be able to be part of the build to Mania. The only question for now is whether he makes a surprise return to interfere in a Mania match; if the WWE wants to pull the trigger on a Shield reunion to get the title on Reigns, I won’t complain too much.
Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
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No offense to Dean Ambrose or Bray Wyatt, but the only fresh matchup that was of any interest involving Brock Lesnar was a match with the most popular man in the WWE not named John Cena. But Daniel Bryan had to retire in the greatest segment in wrestling television history, and Brock has been kind of an afterthought since the Royale Rumble. While I expect his match with Dean to be good, it remains one of those great missed matches we’ll never get now that Bryan is done, second only to a match with Shinsuke Nakamura, which also could have been on this Mania card in a perfect and just world.
John Cena vs. The Undertaker
While the above three matches would all certainly be interesting, had they been able to pull this match off in Dallas, it certainly would have been the most talked about in the run-up to the event. The Undertaker mythos, these days at least, largely revolves around his near invincibility at Wrestlemania. John Cena is known as the guy who damn near never loses. It’s a match that everyone wants to happen just so we know how the WWE would plot it out. Of all the losses to the Mania card, John Cena is the biggest, because while he wouldn’t have been in the main event, it just doesn’t feel like Mania without him, for better or worse. And with The Undertaker getting up there in years, there are only so many chances they can run what few dream matches he has left, the big two being Cena and Sting (who is also out injured).
Wrestlemania 32 is going to break records, of this there is no doubt. It’s going to make a whole lot of money, and they might actually manage to pack 100,000 fans into the House That Jerry Built. The eyes of the sports world will be on it, before they all turn back to Houston for the climax of March Madness. It’s a show that was never going to fail. It’s just a bit of a bummer that so many guys got hurt this year. While the show we’ll get will likely be good, the show we could have gotten would have been an epic worthy of that attendance record.