WWE’s Elimination Chamber is a week away and the Raw superstar to challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania has yet to be decided.
We know who it is—Roman Reigns. Or at least it seems that way.
You might be among the pro wrestling fans that hate him and boo and scream, “It’s predictable. He’s being shoved down our throats.” But an argument can be made that this isn’t the case and that WWE has made the right call with him and that a large portion of hate he receives is rather irrational.
Reigns has not held the WWE Championship since June of 2016. Even when he had his “WrestleMania moment” for beating Triple H at WrestleMania 32 for the WWE title, his title run lasted all of 77 days.
For comparison, Dean Ambrose’s title run immediately after that was 84 days. Jinder Mahal’s reign as champ lasted 170 days. Would anyone argue that those two are bigger stars than Reigns?
After Reigns dropped the title at Money in the Bank in 2016, he served a suspension for 30 days, he came back to eat the pin for Dean Ambrose at WWE Battleground, then lost cleanly to Finn Balor and got sent down to the mid-card to feud with Rusev.
After beating Rusev for the U.S. title, which did nothing for “The Big Dawg,” he ran a program with Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship yet never won it, lost the feud. Let’s not forget, who also took the pin versus Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam last August. It wasn’t Braun Strowman or Samoa Joe. It was Reigns.
What 2017 did for Reigns was really showcase that he could put on some stellar matches with multiple people. He and Braun Strowman did a spectacular job in their feud throughout the year, which again, Reigns ultimately lost.
He got to retire an old Undertaker at WrestleMania and then deliver a promo defeat John Cena and get the Intercontinental title, which further lends to his credibility without the main title or main event scene.
For a guy that some WWE fans claim buries talent, he certainly loses to quite a few people. Lost the last two Royal Rumbles to Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura and recently lost to The Miz. You think Stone Cold would’ve agreed to that?
First, if you’ve watched pro wrestling long enough, you’re going to know how it works similar to how a comic book movie will turn out. And I’d argue that the same ones complaining about “predictability” certainly didn’t mind when it was obvious that Daniel Bryan was going to win at WrestleMania 30 or when Stone Cold was facing…anyone.
Sometimes predictability makes the most sense from a storytelling perspective. Is randomness better? Is it a better story if it’s someone out of left field and there’s no backstory to go with it?
A Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns title match makes the most sense for a number of reasons. One, they have a history that goes back to 2015 with no conclusion at all. Reigns and Lesnar put on a fantastic match at WrestleMania 31 when smarks acted as if it was going to be terrible.
It was a believable match and the brutality of the match really gave it a UFC-type feel as opposed to a match with flips and what would appear as choreographed high spots. Reigns took the pin from Seth Rollins’ cash-in robbing us of a conclusion while still providing one of the best WrestleMania main events in recent history.
They would face off two more times in a three-way and four-way match. At Fast Lane in 2016, Reigns pinned Ambrose instead of Lesnar and at SummerSlam last year, Lesnar pinned Reigns. But we have not have a one-on-one since 2015.
But more importantly, Reigns is Raw’s biggest full-time star based on multiple factors including social media, merchandise sales, credible wins. WrestleMania should be about the biggest stars.
And lastly, pro wrestling deserves some sense of realism. Someone like Finn Balor versus Brock Lesnar is ridiculous. Lesnar has squashed the best of the best in this sport and was a UFC Champion. Losing cleanly to someone that’s 190 pounds and under six feet tall is a bad idea when Lesnar has been built as a monster.
Do not forget that Lesnar is very rough in the ring. He can seriously hurt people. He split open Randy Orton’s head and he legitimately threw a punch to the side of Strowman’s skull that would have knocked out a horse. Suggesting someone like Balor is as silly as it was when the same group wanted it with Daniel Bryan three years ago.
Time to give credit
The irrational hate for Reigns has run its course. It all stems from when Daniel Bryan returned in December of 2014 and all of a sudden, a guy who was never booed is suddenly hated because Bryan comes back. A guy who they wanted to face Lesnar and win the title but would again, get injured one month after WrestleMania 31 and never wrestle again.
A popular criticism of Reigns was that it was “too soon” to make him the champ and the top guy. He needed to pay his dues despite him making his debut in 2012. We’re going on six years now. He hasn’t been a top champion for two years. He has absolutely paid his dues.
Oh, “he can’t cut a promo” is another thing the critics like to shout. Do you need 20-minute promos from him or anyone? Can Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura or Cesaro cut epic monologues? No and we don’t need them to. Being a master at promos is something that stars like Kevin Owens need to get over. Reigns isn’t that guy.
He can’t wrestle? False. The list of good matches Reigns has been a part of is long—Strowman, Bryan, A.J. Styles, Cesaro, Big Show, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Lesnar and a long list of multi-wrestlers matches.
What this boils down to is basic rebellious behavior that rivals those who hate a band because the radio played them or rejecting something for the sole purpose that their parents like it. It’s “cool” to feel like you “made” a star while frowning upon WWE seeing talent in someone without relying on fickle fan reactions. Somehow you’re better if you did a bunch of high spots in high school gyms (and I love the independents so don’t get me wrong) instead of being a star at the highest level, getting huge reactions night in and night out.
If you’re still against this guy despite being a great performer and a solid human being, you’re really robbing yourself of enjoying an impressive talent that busts his ass every single week in the ring and doing the outside media requirements that comes with his status.
The Pensacola native’s spot on the card doesn’t stop you from watching your favorites and remember, this is supposed to be fun. As appealing as it is to hijack shows with obnoxious chants and attempt to ruin someone else’s enjoyment, perhaps resort to that inner child in you and enjoy the show and enjoy the talent that is there to entertain you.
When (if) Reigns wins at Elimination Chamber, realize you’ll be subjected to a great match against Lesnar at WrestleMania and possibly see the Universal title defended at every PPV and if that’s still doesn’t convince you, WWE is appealing to our inner smark with Styles versus Nakamura for the WWE Championship.
Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Follow Joshua Caudill at @JoshuaCaudill85