As 2017 closes out in a couple of weeks, WWE is about to kick in overdrive to deliver their best programming to build for WrestleMania season. As a pro wrestling fan, the buildup to Mania is like Christmas but what fans have in mind and what the company has in mind, will often conflict.
It’s no secret that WWE has been building toward Roman Reigns, the Intercontinental Champion, to face the Raw brand Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
They have a nice history based on their WrestleMania 31 feud, which led to a fantastic physical match in the main event before Seth Rollins cashed-in his Money in the Bank briefcase to make it a triple threat and get the pin on Reigns yet no closure on that feud.
Reigns and Lesnar have squared off multiple times in PPVs since that match but never in a one-on-one contest so going that route wouldn’t be a bad idea. Fans might complain that it’s predictable but many storylines were predictable leading to Mania, so what? Sometimes the predictable route is the best route.
But what needs to be taken into account is how fans can hijack a show and create a stigma around the winner or the main event, which is exactly what happened in 2014 and 2015 when Pittsburgh booed Batista out of the building and Philadelphia did the same to Roman Reigns. Both of these occurred due to Daniel Bryan’s fan base.
This year’s Royal Rumble is in Philadelphia again, a notoriously smarky crowd. With that in mind, if WWE wants Reigns to main event WrestleMania for the fourth year in a row and advance to face Lesnar, don’t have Reigns win the rumble.
Doing that could lead to the same reaction as 2015 and have the WWE Universe having déjà vu. What WWE needs to ultimately do, is find another way for Reigns to attain that No. 1 contender spot. The Rumble is not the way to go.
Who do you give it to? Shinsuke Nakamura.
Easy choice., really. The crowd will be happy so no chance of a distracting reaction. Then keep A.J. Styles as SmackDown Live’s WWE champion all the way to WrestleMania. The hardcore fans will go nuts for it and WWE knows this and have teased it. But this way, the type of fan who boos Reigns will surely not mind if Reigns takes on Lesnar again especially if the WWE Championship match is a rematch of Wrestle Kingdom 10 where Nakamura and Styles faced off.
As for what to do with Reigns and his Intercontinental title don’t have him drop it. Go old school. Have him enter WrestleMania with the title just like Ultimate Warrior did right before he faced Hulk Hogan for the main title and then leave as double champion.
Closing the biggest show of the year with those two matches will make WrestleMania a huge success and offers something for every type of fan. It’s safe and easy booking.
Joshua Caudill is the co-founder of Dirtfork and spent over five years with CraveOnline as a sports writer. He’s also a husband, a father, a Kentucky native, a Long Beach State alum, a pro wrestling enthusiast, a surfer and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85.