Exactly five years ago to the day, WWE presented WrestleMania 32. It remains one of the company's biggest missed opportunities in recent history.
The AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas hosted the Show of Shows in 2016. Over 100,000 fans were expected to attend the event, making this the biggest WrestleMania in history. This ideally should have led to WWE building the biggest card possible, but fate had other plans.
During the latter months of 2015, multiple main event WWE Superstars got injured. Big names like Seth Rollins, John Cena, and Randy Orton, among others, were set to miss WrestleMania 32. In fact, every WWE Superstar that left WrestleMania 31 as a champion was injured before the following year's event.
WWE's luck was rotten during this period, decimating some fascinating plans for the biggest WrestleMania in history.
As a result, the show was a mess. Aside from a few bright spots, particularly the WWE Women's Championship triple threat, WrestleMania 32 was a pretty mediocre show. The 30-minute main event between Triple H and then-unpopular Roman Reigns typified that.
But how different would the card have looked had these top stars not gone down with injuries? Would we have seen a vast improvement in the show?
Let's go over five years back and take a look at what WrestleMania 32 would have looked like if it wasn't ruined by injuries.
#5 AJ Styles likely debuts in WWE the night after WrestleMania 32
AJ Styles made his WWE debut in the 2016 Royal Rumble Match. He immediately entered into a program with Chris Jericho and faced him at WrestleMania. However, with all of the injured superstars being a part of the show, there may not have been a place for The Phenomenal One on the card.
Jericho was initially supposed to face Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32. This likely was changed due to a gaping hole in the main event scene following injuries to Seth Rollins and Randy Orton. Ambrose ended up facing Brock Lesnar in a Street Fight at the Show of Shows.
Under normal circumstances, the original plan would have gone ahead. Meanwhile, Styles still joins WWE, but he'd have been lost in the shuffle on the Road to WrestleMania. So the company might have probably booked his debut for the night after Mania, had the roster been at full strength for the Show of Shows.
The post-WrestleMania episode of RAW always features debuts, returns, and surprises. It would have been as good a setting as any for AJ Styles to make his WWE debut. This way, he could have established himself without any part-timers taking the spotlight.
#4 Shane McMahon doesn't return to WWE ahead of WrestleMania 32
The only reason Shane McMahon returned to WWE in February 2016 was The Undertaker needed a WrestleMania opponent. After one injury too many, Vince McMahon panicked and called his son for a massive favor. Shane O'Mac faced The Deadman inside Hell in a Cell at the Showcase of the Immortals.
It was a tedious affair, which only truly came alive towards the end. Shane jumped from the top of the Cell onto the announce table, creating one hell of a WrestleMania moment. But was the entire match worth it?
Despite that match, Shane McMahon's re-emergence on WWE RAW gave fans a jolt of excitement. This carried over to a fresh and sensational post-Mania period for WWE. Shane's involvement on-screen enhanced the product, particularly when the brand split happened. SmackDown Live was brilliant in 2016 and early 2017.
However, it is unlikely Shane would have taken over as the blue brand's commissioner had he not returned at all. If Undertaker's original WrestleMania opponent hadn't missed the show, WWE would have booked the brand split in a slightly different way.
#3 Seth Rollins faces Triple H at WrestleMania 32
Before Seth Rollins blew out his knee in November 2015, a few seeds had been planted for him to face Triple H at WrestleMania 32. The Game's original opponent was The Rock, following their confrontation at WrestleMania 31. However, The Great One's schedule resulted in the match not happening.
Rollins was the WWE Champion and there were tiny hints of dissension between he and The Authority. The break-up likely would have come to fruition once The Architect had lost the title, but he got injured before doing so. It's a crying shame, as Rollins was in the midst of the best run of his career.
Triple H ended up winning the WWE title and defended it against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32. This match was probably scrambled together the moment Rollins got hurt. WWE did book him against his former mentor one year later at WrestleMania 33.
Had Seth Rollins not been injured, he would have taken on Triple H at the Show of Shows. This would have freed Reigns up to face somebody else for the WWE Championship. A likely option would have been Brock Lesnar, in a rematch from the previous year's WrestleMania main event.
#2 Sting wins a WrestleMania match
Following a disappointing defeat to Triple H at WrestleMania 31, Sting did not have a clear path during the rest of his WWE career. He lost a WWE Championship match to Seth Rollins at Night of Champions in September, suffering a severe neck injury during it.
The WCW legend was forced to retire from the ring and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on WrestleMania weekend in 2016. He may be back in the mix with AEW, but Sting's WWE career was pretty much done. That run some would say was underwhelming as he didn't even win a single pay-per-view match.
Had he remained healthy, the Stinger would have had a featured match at WrestleMania 32. His loss to The Game damaged the chances of him facing The Undertaker, so Sting could have instead taken on a younger WWE Superstar at the Texas spectacle instead.
Sting may have faced Bray Wyatt in a match between two creatures of the dark. Another option was Randy Orton, who also missed WrestleMania 32 due to injury. Either way, Sting would definitely pick up the victory at AT&T Stadium. There's no way WWE would have booked him to lose yet again, right?
#1 John Cena vs. The Undertaker headlines WrestleMania 32
WWE could have handled the injuries to Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, and Sting heading into WrestleMania 32. After all, it still had the dream match between Cena and Undertaker on the table for the Show of Shows. But then, the 16-time world champion injured his shoulder at the start of January.
Cena's injury was the single most damaging thing to happen to this cursed WrestleMania. Had he stayed healthy, WWE would have salvaged the show. There wouldn't have been a Shane McMahon match and Triple H vs. Roman Reigns likely wouldn't have been the main event.
The Undertaker was still in decent shape despite his brutal series of matches against Brock Lesnar less than a year prior. He could have put on a great contest with a top-tier WWE Superstar at WrestleMania 32. John Cena was just coming off one of the best runs of his career from a quality standpoint.
The Leader of the Cenation rehabilitated his reputation among the fans during his run as United States Champion in 2015 where he hosted open challenges almost weekly. He likely would have carried this momentum over into this spectacle of a match against The Deadman in front of 100,000 fans.
This would have been the perfect send-off for The Undertaker - in front of the largest crowd in WrestleMania history, in his home state of Texas. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. The two WWE legends faced each other two years later at WrestleMania 34, but the match only lasted three minutes.
As a recap, here are the top matches at WrestleMania 32 we missed out on due to injuries, in my opinion:
- Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
- Sting vs. Bray Wyatt or Randy Orton
- Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
- Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship
- John Cena vs. The Undertaker
What a shame.