The Rock Brings Star Power (and a Flamethrower!) to Wrestlemania 32
By Joe Starr
We all knew Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was headed back to his old WWE stomping grounds for Wrestlemania 32, we just didn't realize how long he'd make us wait for his appearance -- but we should have known he'd make a Rock-sized entrance.
And that's exactly what the People's Champion did, making his grand entrance just before main event of the evening to the cheers of more than 100,00 fans in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday.
Initially only heading down the ramp -- accompanied by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and armed with a flamethrower, no less -- to announce the WWE event attendance record of 101,763 rabid fans. Many of those at the stadium included celebrities like Dennis Miller, Mike Epps and O'Shea Jackson, as well as plenty of athletes, including an unsurprising number of Cowboys players, such as Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Darren McFadden and Brandon Carr.
Things wouldn’t turn out so simple for The Rock. Alas, things in pro wrestling rarely do.
The Baywatch star was challenged by Bray Wyatt, a spooky New Orleans doomsday cult leader. (Say what you will about wrestling, but you’ll never be able to type that sentence about the Super Bowl.) The Rock heckled Wyatt and his "Cracker Barrel loving" goons, uttering, "Your parents are definitely related, and you look like you’ve been breast feeding since you were 26!" He then declared that they wouldn't "have a Wrestlemania fight… [they'd] have a Wrestlemania match."
One dramatic pull of his breakaway pants later, The Rock revealed that he was in full gear and ready to go.
The Rock wasn't the only A-lister in Dallas for the event. Shaquille O'Neal made a surprise appearance as an entrant in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale, a free-for-all of dozens of competitors fighting for a trophy dedicated to everyone's favorite Princess Bride giant. Given his 7'1" height, Shaq was certainly a legitimate contender to win, but he was mobbed in a group effort and eliminated.
Who knew that Aaron Carter's classic, "That’s How I Beat Shaq," would get a new verse at Wrestlemania?
Snoop Dogg, the celebrity entrant of this year's WWE Hall of Fame, also hit the ring. He accompanied his cousin, fan favorite Sasha Banks, and performed her theme song, "Sky's the Limit," to hype the crowd for the Women's Championship match.
The star of CW's Arrow, Stephen Amell, had a front row seat, but stayed in the audience. His turn in the ring last summer may have been enough for the superhero archer, but he did at least get to take a photo backstage with Nikki Bella.
Wrestlemania is the biggest night of the year in pro wrestling, and this year delivered some major moments. Long time underused and underrated ring veteran, Zack Ryder, won the Intercontinental Championship in a car crash of a 6-man ladder match, where the first Superstar to climb the ladder and claim the title wins. His emotional in-ring celebration with his father set the pace for a big night.
The aforementioned show stealing top stars of the Women's Division had the biggest night, however, as it was announced at the start of the show that the groan-inducing butterfly-shaped "Divas Championship" -- a relic completely out of step with today's crop of female competitors -- was replaced by the WWE Women's Championship.
Two years ago, it would have been hard to believe that pro wrestling would be ground zero for women’s impact in entertainment, but pro wrestlers Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and 'The Boss' Sasha Banks just made us believers. Ultimately, it was Charlotte who was reigned champ of the Women's Title match after the epic, history-making battle.
Once the pyro smoke cleared at the end of the night, new champions Zack Ryder and Charlotte were joined in the winners circle by Chris Jericho, who gained a win over nemesis AJ Styles; the villainous League of Nations defeated a unicorn horn-wearing, trombone playing trio of The New Day; The Undertaker trounced WWE Owner Vince McMahon’s son, Shane; and newcomer Baron Corbin had a big first night as the winner of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale.
The Rock's cousin, Roman Reigns, closed the show as the newly minted WWE World Heavyweight Champion, having beat up his rival and boss, Triple H, in a sadly underwhelming match.