Saturday, May 18, 2024

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WrestleMania 32 in Review: The Times, They Are A-Changin’

In many ways, WrestleMania 32 fulfilled the dreams of many a women’s wrestling fan, with two women’s matches gracing the card – one of which stole the show, in many fans’ eyes – and a game-changing announcement in between them. By the end of the gargantuan seven-hour show, the division had changed forever, finally. On the grandest stage of them all, no less.

The first match, which took place on the Kickoff show, pitted Team Total Divas (Alicia Fox, Brie Bella, Eva Marie, Natalya and Paige) against Team B.A.D. and Blonde (Emma, Lana, Naomi, Summer Rae and Tamina).

The second match was, of course, the Triple Threat Divas Title match between Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. The aforementioned game-changing announcement put a whole new spin on this bout, but I won’t spell that out just yet. Nah, I’ll let it all play out in order.

First thing’s first: the tag match. How will Lana fare in her debut match? Will Brie come out on top of what may be her final outing? Let’s see:

Team Total Divas enter to their show’s theme music, while Team B.A.D. and Blonde walk out to Naomi’s music (nice!). Lana’s first wrestling gear is fantastically retro but still cutting edge, which is so fitting for her.

Once both teams are assembled in the ring, Alicia and Summer take the lead. They tie up, Alicia fighting Summer off and kicking her in the back. They battle for control, Summer reversing a suplex attempt into a roll-though DDT. Summer goes for the pin, but Alicia kicks out, springing to her feet and immediately taking back control with a DDT.

Alicia sends Summer into the ropes and hits her with a tilt-a-whirl slam. When she goes for the pin, though, Summer scrambles away towards her corner, tagging in Emma. Tamina enters too, bringing in all the women to posture at each other. The referee separates them with some difficulty as we head to a commercial break.

When we return, Eva’s in the ring, squaring off with Emma. Eva ducks Emma’s attack, runs the ropes and hits her with a headscissors takedown. Eva hits a suplex, and then another. After she ponders her choice for a moment, Eva decides to tag in Natalya, and does it with a rough slap. Natalya glares at her teammate and then enters the ring, pulling Emma to her feet. She’s rewarded with a slap to the face and it taken to the heel corner, where Naomi is tagged in.

Natalya starts to fight back, but it’s no good, and Naomi pummels her with a flurry of kicks. Naomi hits a dropkick, but her corner attack is dodged, and Natalya uses the opening to hit a springboard atomic drop, run over her back and flatten her with a dropkick to the chest. She goes for the pin, but Naomi kicks out at two. Natalya tags in Paige, who runs the ropes and, with Natalya propping up Naomi, hits a thunderous clothesline. Paige hits a Shining Wizard and then props up Naomi in the corner, hitting her with a flying knee attack. Paige tosses Naomi across the ring and goes to inflict more damage, but Naomi fights her off.

Naomi runs the ropes and tries to hit Paige with a splash, but it’s dodged, and Naomi flies square into the ropes. Naomi tags in Emma, who manages to fight off Paige and reverse a wheelbarrow attack into a suplex. She covers Paige for the pin, but it’s no good. Emma pummels Paige with right hands and stands on her hair, yanking her up by her arms. Emma tags in Lana, who swiftly kicks Paige in the back of the head.

Paige starts to fight back, shoving Lana away, but Lana comes firing back with a high kick to the face. Lana taunts Brie, drawing her into the ring. The referee forces her out as Lana heads to her corner, belting out a mocking “YES!” chant. Lana tags in Tamina, who goes for the pin. Paige kicks out.

Tamina hits a suplex before going for another unsuccessful pin attempt. Tamina locks in a chinlock on Paige. Paige fights out, but Tamina stays on her, sending her into the corner and taking her to the top rope. Naomi comes to her aid, drawing out Natalya to even the odds, but the action splinters, and everyone falls out of the ring except for Paige. Paige climbs to the rope and flies to the outside, taking out Emma, Naomi, Summer and Tamina in one fell swoop!

Lana yells for her opponents to get up as Paige reenters the ring. Tamina soon follows, stopping Paige from tagging out. Tamina takes Paige to her corner and tags in Emma, who brings her into a neighboring corner and stomps her down. Paige catches her follow-up kick and slams the back of her head onto the bottom turnbuckle with a schoolboy maneuver. Paige manages to tag in Brie just as Emma tags in Naomi, and the two charge at each other, Brie taking control with a clothesline. She runs to the opposite corner, decking Lana and knocking her to the outside before turning back to Naomi and hitting her with Nikki Bella‘s knee attack.

Brie drops Naomi to her knees and hits her with a barrage of knees to the chest. Naomi stumbles to her feet, only to be doubled over and hit with the Bella Buster! Brie goes for the pin, but Lana breaks it up! This brings in Natalya, who hits her with a discus clothesline. Tamina hits Naomi with a Samoan drop. Eva takes out Tamina with the Sliced Red #2. Summer decks Eva with a spinning heel kick. Alicia hits Summer with her scissors kick. Emma takes down Alicia with a double underhook suplex. Paige tosses Emma with a fallaway slam. Naomi finishes the streak with a Rear View to Paige. Brie then reenters the fray, hitting Naomi with a forearm.

Naomi props herself up against the ropes, seemingly set up for Brie’s running knee strike, but Naomi catches Brie’s boot and stops her in her tracks. She shoves Brie back and takes her down with a dropkick. Naomi follows her to the corner, where she goes for a split legged moonsault. Brie puts her knees up just in time, though, nailing Naomi in the midsection.

Brie heads to the top rope, but Lana pops up and shoves her off, sending her crashing into the ropes and to the mat. Naomi pulls Brie by the hair, only to be tossed to the mat instead! Brie springs into action, locking in the Yes Lock out of nowhere! Naomi taps! Team Total Divas wins!

Team Total Divas celebrates their win and are soon joined by Nikki Bella. The group give each other a group hug and hoist Brie onto their shoulders, victorious.

In a post-match interview, Brie and Nikki spoke about this emotional moment:

Brie acknowledges the emotion of the moment, dedicating it all to Nikki and her husband Daniel Bryan. Nikki says she’s emotional, knowing that she’ll probably never share the ring with Brie again. She is hopeful, though, predicting that they’ll have a new “Mama Bella” soon.

Later on in the pre-show, none other than Lita made a huge game-changing announcement about the future of the Divas division:

After taking us on a journey from the inception of the WWE’s women’s division to the Divas Revolution, the WWE Hall of Famer announced the introduction of a brand new Women’s Championship. She unveiled it for the crowd and revealed that the winner of tonight’s Triple Threat match will be the first woman to hold the belt.

Shortly before that match took place, we got another look at new WWE Hall of Famer Jacqueline, who joined the Class of 2016 out on the stage for their customary encore.

Next up is the maaaaain event…well, for us!

With Lita keeping guard of the new Women’s Title belt at ringside, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and the current (and final) Divas Champion Charlotte each received their own amped up entrances: Becky got steam pyro and a new tron, Sasha got Snoop Dogg performing her entrance and Charlotte got a Flair robe and a whole lot of confetti. The times, they are indeed a-changin’!

After the new belt is held high and the bell is rung, the match begins. Charlotte attacks both Becky and Sasha, prompting them to work together to knock her to the mat. That alliance is short-lived, though, as Sasha takes Becky to the mat for an early pin attempt. Becky kicks out. Becky takes Sasha to the mat and goes for a pin of her own. Sasha kicks out. Sasha goes for another pin, which Becky bridges out of. She goes for a backslide pin, which Charlotte breaks up by rolling her into a pin. Sasha breaks that up with yet another pin attempt. Becky busts that up, and Sasha sweeps her off her feet for another cover. Becky bridges out, but walks right into a big boot from Charlotte.

Charlotte and Sasha circle each other and Sasha takes control, hitting Charlotte with a “skin the cat” maneuver into a hurricanrana! Sasha does the Eddie Guerrero shimmy, paying tribute to her late hero in both move, attitude and gear. Love it! Sasha runs towards Charlotte in the corner, but she’s caught, and Charlotte drops the back of her head onto the top turnbuckle. She drives a shoulder into Sasha, but is suddenly detained by Becky, who grabs her by the wait. Sasha narrowly misses her attempt at a sunset flip, but Becky makes the most of the situation, tossing Charlotte with a suplex. Sasha pulls Becky into a pin attempt, but Becky kicks out.

Becky goes for a suplex on Sasha but is shoved off. Becky maintains control, though, hitting two arm drags and locking in an armbar. Sasha quickly gets free. She knocks Becky to the mat and runs the ropes, only to be taken out by Charlotte, who drags her out of the ring and tosses her back-first into the ropes. Charlotte celebrates and doesn’t notice Becky, who flies off of the ring apron and takes her out. Becky tosses Charlotte back into the ring and fends off an early Figure Four attempt. She hits the champ with a reverse DDT and covers her for the pin, but it’s not enough.

Becky climbs to the second rope, but is stopped in her tracks by a vicious right hand from Charlotte. Charlotte drops hit spine-first onto her shoulder and goes for a follow-up pin, but Becky kicks out. Charlotte slams Becky’s head onto the mat and goes for another pin, but it’s still no good. Charlotte works the back of Becky’s left leg and attempts a Figure Four, but Becky fights her off. Sasha then reenters the ring and takes Charlotte to the corner, where Becky halts a double knee drop attempt by tossing her all the way to the floor outside!

Becky charges at Charlotte in the corner, but gets nothing but turnbuckle. Charlotte goes for a pin, but Becky kicks out and immediately grabs hold of Charlotte’s left arm, desperately trying to lock in the Dis-arm-her. Charlotte rolls her up into a pin, and Becky kicks out. Becky takes Charlotte to the mat and tries for the armbar once more, prompting some failed distraction by Ric. Becky locks in the armbar, but before Charlotte can tap, Sasha breaks it up. Becky tosses Sasha out of the ring again, leaving her to be taken down by Charlotte. Charlotte locks in the Figure Four, but doesn’t manage to bridge it into a Figure Eight before Sasha comes diving onto them both with a frog splash!

Sasha covers Charlotte for the pin, but Charlotte narrowly kicks out. Sasha pulls Charlotte to her feet and hits an elevated double knee drop, covering her for the pin. Becky breaks it up and hits her with a German release suplex. She then hits Charlotte with a pumphandle suplex and goes for the pin. Sasha breaks it up. Becky gets to her feet and ends off Sasha with uppercuts, blocking her backstabber attempt and rolling it into a pin attempt. Sasha kicks out. Becky tries to lock in an armbar, but Sasha fights out of it, backing into the corner. Becky tries to hit her with a springboard kick, but Sasha dodges it, planting double knees into Becky instead.

Sasha tosses Becky to the center of the ring. She goes for the elevated knee drop, but Becky ducks under her, leaving her to run the ropes and fly to the outside, taking out Charlotte with a senton! Sasha has a “WOOO!”-off with Ric, and neither telegraph Becky’s flying attack, which hits Ric and takes him out. Sasha tosses Charlotte into the ring and goes to follow her, only to be dragged back out of the ring by Becky. Both women are down, leaving Charlotte to scale the turnbuckle and fly off the top rope with a moonsault to the outside! She takes out both Becky and Sasha!

Charlotte tosses Becky and Sasha into the ring and hits tandem Natural Selections on both! She covers Becky for the pin, but it’s not enough, so she tries it on Sasha, who kicks out as well. She tries once more on both, but only earns two more near falls. Charlotte tosses Becky into the corner and turns her attention to Sasha, who she tries to take out with a powerbomb. Sasha hangs on and tries to hit a hurricanarana, but Charlotte blocks that too, hoisting Sasha back up into a powerbomb position. Sasha still fights, twisting into an electric chair position right before being dropped by Becky’s dropkick! Charlotte and Sasha are down!

Becky pins Charlotte, but the champ kicks out. Becky then opts for the Dis-arm-her, and holds it for quite a while before Sasha breaks it up, taking her down with the backstabber and locking in the Bank Statement! Becky crawls towards the ropes, but Sasha strands her by flipping over and locking in the hold once more! Charlotte breaks up the hold and locks Sasha in the Figure Four. Sasha fights back, though, reversing the hold for a moment before Charlotte manages to regain control and bridge it into the Figure Eight!

Sasha reaches for the ropes and Becky helps her, pulling her to the edge of the ring to force a rope break. Becky enters the ring and, after a moment, all three Superstars get to a kneeling position. Charlotte blasts both Becky and Sasha with chops to the chest until they begin to fight back, both women pummeling Charlotte with right hands. They then turn their attentions on each other, striking at the same time and taking each other out. Becky and Sasha get to their feet and begin to exchange blows, but they’re interrupted by Charlotte, who takes out Sasha with a spear!

Becky drives Charlotte into the corner and lifts her to the top rope. Charlotte fights back as Sasha joins the exchange, knocking Becky to the mat. Before Sasha can perform any sort of attack on Charlotte, though, Becky’s back, striking Sasha and prompting her to drop into in a tree of woe position. Becky climbs around her and takes hold of Charlotte once more, taking her all the way to the mat with a huge suplex! Becky turns back to Sasha, but Sasha flips free of her suplex attempt and hits the backstabber! She locks in the Bank Statement! Charlotte quickly reenters the ring and grabs Sasha, tossing her to the outside.

Charlotte locks in the Figure Eight on Becky! Sasha tries to break up the hold, but Ric has her held on the outside, and Becky taps out! Charlotte is your new Women’s Champion!!

Charlotte takes possession of the new belt and holds it high as fireworks blast off both inside and outside AT&T Stadium, marking this historic moment.

Post-show, Charlotte spoke about her new title and the means by which she won it:

Sasha also spoke out, emotionally reflecting on her loss:

Sasha says she put her heart out there. She says she feels honored and proud of what has been accomplished by every woman in the WWE’s past and present. They’ve made history.

Charlotte says the match was electrifying, and though she came up against the Fire and the Boss, she walked out the champ, because she’s the Champ. When asked about the way she won the match – via Ric Flair’s interference – Charlotte says she promised to do everything it takes to make it to the top, and she did it. She says Ric’s interference doesn’t tarnish anything and that she was justified in using him, seeing as how she was “outnumbered” by Becky and Sasha.

Lastly, we must not forget the Queen herself, Stephanie McMahon, who performed an unforgettable introduction for Triple H and took one for the team in his WWE Championship match with Roman Reigns, taking a spear full-on and ultimately failing to help her husband retain the title:

Thoughts: Fun fact: I previously used this Bob Dylan-referencing review title on a SmackDown Redux from 2009. Damn, talk about changing times…

The Kickoff tag match was so much fun. In my opinion, that was how you do a multi-Diva match: give all the Divas definable roles, motivations and moments in the lead-up so, even if the match is fast and furious, there will be a story to glean from it. I loved the little we saw of Lana, and though I wish we could have seen more, it was smart to keep her limited early on, and it was perfectly heelish of her to get a few licks in and then hightail it out of there.

Even the requisite “everyone hit their signature moves!” sequence was more interesting than usual, as it flowed well and the moves were impressive. Naomi’s streak-ending Rear View was a perfect, abrupt ending to it all, like a chase sequence ending with someone running into a wall. Love it.

Though this was obviously meant to be Brie’s big moment, everyone had a little highlight of their own, and it didn’t feel all that perfunctory. It just flowed so much better than the multi-Diva matches of yore. The ending exchange with Naomi was great, making Naomi look strong in fighting off Brie but ultimately succumbing to a fantastically performed Yes Lock. What a way to go out, Brie!

I was bummed to see them cut away so abruptly after the match; I would have loved to see Brie hoisted on their shoulders rather than a shot of the horde of people entering the stadium. Still, it was a sweet moment, especially with Nikki by her side. I’d like to see Brie have one more match on tonight’s Raw, Trish Stratus style, and maybe, finally get her hands on Lana. That would be a nice epilogue to her story, in my opinion. Such an underrated talent and a genuinely lovely person… Brie, you will be missed!

I lovveeeedddd seeing the Women’s Title brought back. It’s been a pipe dream of Diva fans for so long that seeing it actually happen felt surreal. Some have balked at the design but there’s little denying that it’s lightyears ahead of the butterfly belt. Its similarity to the WWE Championship makes it look prestigious, and that’s half the battle when it comes to equality for the women. Even more impressive (in my opinion) was Lita’s insistence that the women of the WWE are more than “Divas”: they are all WWE Superstars. That gesture is enormous and speaks to the WWE’s commitment to ushering in an era of equality. The term “Diva” has held the women back for a long time, and though they’ve done their best to reclaim it and give it a positive connotation, it’s so much more effective to bust down the barriers completely. “Women” is the only qualifier they need, if that. Time will tell if the WWE can follow up on this in the long term, but for now, this was one hell of a first step. I’m bowled over.

The Divas Title Women’s Title match was just phenomenal. It felt like the culmination of yeaaaaarrrsss of blood, sweat and tears shed by every Diva who stepped into the ring. For these women to get the chance to steal the show with a long, exciting, well-paced match with spots that brought the crowd to their feet countless times is incredible. The spirit of NXT was alive here, with shades of the TakeOver: Rival, TakeOver: Unstoppable and TakeOver: Brooklyn coloring every second of this match. Becky, Charlotte and Sasha have worked so damn hard to get here, as has every other Diva. Their combined efforts – and the dogged support of Diva fans – have lead to this, so it’s very much a shared victory, in my opinion.

I’ve seen some complaints about Ric being the deciding factor in the match, but I’ve got to be honest: it didn’t wreck the moment for me. The only reason I would object to Ric’s involvement is if he pulled attention away from the Divas. He has before – the forced kiss on Becky Lynch at the Royal Rumble, anyone? – but here, the story was all about the women. From the camera angles to the commentary team, everything was focused on how this moment affected the competitors in the ring. The camera was so focused on the in-ring action, in fact, that at first you couldn’t even see what was going on with Ric! I think they pulled it off, and as Charlotte said in the post-match interview, it didn’t tarnish anything. If you let it tarnish the moment, it will, but if you see the moment for what it was – a means for Charlotte to win, keep heat on herself and keep both Becky and Sasha looking strong – you’ll see that, in the end, it wasn’t about Ric. It wasn’t about him at all. This wasn’t a man crowning the new Women’s Champion: it was the new Women’s Champion pulling out her tried-and-true strategy to secure the biggest win of her career thus far. It also sets up an interesting angle for Charlotte, post-Mania: she seems unstoppable. As long as Ric’s around, she practically guarantees herself a win. That will force anyone who seeks to unseat her to find a way to neutralize him. I look forward to seeing who accomplishes that, and how.

The match was a journey in itself and quite obviously put these women through the ringer. Their stellar performances and general risk-taking spoke to why they were put in this position in the first place: they’re so fucking good. They’re fearless. There is no better way to usher in a new era for the division than to highlight the style and skill that is bubbling up from NXT. They are the future. This is the future.

That being said, I can’t help but reflect on how perfect the timing of this match, this moment, this night was. As many of you probably know, yesterday was my last day as Editor-in-Chief of Diva Dirt. I’ll be publishing an official goodbye shortly, but I would be remiss if I didn’t cap off this review by reflecting on how WrestleMania 32 tied a exquisite bow on my time at the helm of this wonderful website. It’s been eight years since Diva Dirt was launched, and in that time we’ve gone from subpar women’s representation at WrestleMania to no representation at WrestleMania to this. It makes all of this worthwhile. Much like the WWE’s women’s division, Diva Dirt is exiting one era and entering another. From the bottom of my heart, I hope both surpass those that came before them.

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