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Sport and Outdoors

WrestleMania 32: What you need to know about WWE's biggest show of all time

This Sunday the WWE will put on the biggest show in American wrestling history. It may be fake fighting, but your experience can be as real as it gets.

If you've ever been intrigued by the popularity of professional wrestling, now is the time to give the oft-misunderstood performance art the ol' college try.

That's because this Sunday is the 32nd annual WrestleMania, which is frequently referred to as the Super Bowl of pro wrestling. The event is the culmination of a year's worth of narrative build-up and is where the biggest showdowns of the year take place.

This WrestleMania is even more special than usual. With around 100,000 fans expected to pack Dallas, Texas' AT&T Stadium, it'll quite literally be the biggest wrestling event in America's history. It'll be available in the US on pay-per-view for $60, but most people will be watching it on the WWE Network, the wrestling world's Netflix, which costs $9.99 per month. If you're new to the Network, you'll get the first month -- WrestleMania included -- for free.

The main show starts on Sunday, April 3 at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET (Sunday 12 a.m. UK and 9 a.m. AEST), with the pre-show, packed with matches and interviews, starting on the Network two hours earlier.

Not only does the Network air monthly special events, but it also has a backlog of every WWE pay-per-view ever, as well as a ton of original programming. That's handy if you're new to wrestling, as you can use the Network to get yourself better acclimated with Sunday's stars (more on that below).

A brief primer for the uninitiated:

  • Pro wrestling combines the storytelling of a weekly TV show, the athleticism of sports and the theatre of, well, theatre.
  • The endings of the matches are predetermined, but the action itself is largely improvised (and often dangerous).
  • It's about heroes and antagonists, with fans getting behind different characters and watching them (hopefully) rise through the ranks to become a champion.
  • The headline bouts on Sunday are: Roman Reigns vs. Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship; Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar; and The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon in a Hell in a Cell-style cage match.

Here's a quick rundown of what you need to know about each of the biggest matches.

WrestleMania 32 match: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns, WWE World Heavyweight Championship

WWE

Story background: Behind the scenes, Triple H (aka Paul Levesque, the actual Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events & Creative of WWE) is being groomed to take over the company from current CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon. This feeds into his onscreen persona of the company's "COO" and the leader of the Authority, a villainous faction that does its best to keep the little people down.

Challenging Triple H for his WWE Championship is Roman Reigns. Though the odds are often stacked against him on TV, behind the scenes the company has been trying for two years to establish him as its leading man. There's a problem here though: He's cast as a top babyface (good guy) but a large section of the fan base has been rejecting him by booing him out of arenas.

Stakes: The big question going into this match, then, is will the WWE have Reigns topple Triple H on Sunday and become "The Man", as has been the plan for a year, or will it finally throw the towel in on the Roman Reigns experiment?

What to watch on the WWE Network to prepare
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar: WrestleMania 31, March 29 2015, Levi Stadium, California
The main event of last year's WrestleMania. A brutal, hard-hitting match that saw Reigns play an underdog against then-champion Brock Lesnar, who was written as an unbeatable monster of a fighter.

Triple H vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell: WrestleMania 28, April 1 2012, Sun Life Stadium, Florida
Taking place in a Hell in a Cell-style cage and officiated by WWE icon Shawn Michaels, this bout is a bona fide epic encounter with as many twists and turns as a Gillian Flynn novel.

WrestleMania 32 match: Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar, No Holds Barred match

WWE

Story background: Most bouts in WWE see a good guy take on a bad guy. This will be an exception, as it'll feature two heroes duking it out to see who's tougher.

Brock Lesnar is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and is the company's best athlete and most believable fighter. He's famous for taking his opponents to "Suplex City" -- that is, for tossing them around the ring up to 16 times before dealing a fatal blow.

Despite being about 65 lbs (30 kg) smaller, Dean Ambrose is the perfect opponent for the former mixed martial artist. He's fearless, written as the only wrestler with enough moxie to slap "The Beast Incarnate" Brock Lesnar across the face.

Stakes: This is a No Holds Barred match, meaning there are no rules and weapons are legal. Imagine this match as David vs. Goliath, except instead of a slingshot, David has a barbed wire baseball bat. Many expect this bout to steal the show.

What to watch on the WWE Network to prepare
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns: Fastlane, February 21 2016, Quicken Loans Arena, Ohio
This wonderfully chaotic triple-threat contest from February set up both Roman Reigns vs. Triple H and Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar.

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins: Hell in a Cell, October 26 2014, American Airlines Centre, Texas
Ambrose's 2014 rivalry with his arch nemesis Seth Rollins culminated with this cage match. It perfectly shows off why Ambrose is a beloved, larger-than-life character.

WrestleMania 32 match: The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon, Hell in a Cell

WWE

Story background: The Undertaker is WrestleMania's phenom. The WWE's most enigmatic performer, he went undefeated at the event for over two decades before having his winning streak broken at WrestleMania 30 by Brock Lesnar. His current record is nothing to scoff at: 22-1.

Shane McMahon is known for taking lots of punishment in his matches.

WWE

Shane is the son of WWE CEO Vince McMahon and recently returned to the company after a seven-year absence. Now back on the scene, the onscreen story is that he wants to wrestle the company off his father. He'll need to beat 'Taker to do that.

On the surface, this is a horrific mismatch -- Shane is more average Joe than first-class athlete, while The Undertaker has been written as a near unbeatable competitor for 20 years. However, as you can see to the right, Shane has a reputation for being able to put his body through insane trauma. It begs the question: How much is he willing to endure to defeat the undefeatable?

Stakes: This is another rare protagonist vs. protagonist match. It was put together by the tyrannical Vince McMahon (the character, that is), who said he'll give his son Shane control of the company if he can defeat The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. However, if The Undertaker loses, he'll be made to retire.

What to watch on the WWE Network to prepare
Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle: King of the Ring, June 24 2001, Continental Airlines Arena, New Jersey
In 2001, McMahon took on Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle in a match that shows just how much punishment he's willing to go through for the enjoyment of the fans.

The Undertaker vs. Mankind: King of the Ring, June 28 1998, Civic Arena, Pennsylvania
This match, which also took place in a Hell in a Cell cage, features one of the most (in)famous stunts in wrestling history. There's likely to be more where that came from on Sunday.