Despite whatever Matthew McConaughey said in True Detective about the relative nature of time, we live in a reality where Roman Reigns is going to main event WrestleMania XXXI. Though many may not like it, we’re still wrestling fans. It’s time to leave the depression phase, enter the acceptance phase and figure out a way to make this better – here are three ways to try and save face for Roman Reigns leading to WrestleMania.
Pull a Full Switcharoo
“The Fast Lane thing would be a pretty lame deal.”
-Rich Kraetsch, Voices of Wrestling
Yes Rich, it would be a lame deal. I’m of the masses believing that Reigns isn’t ready for the spotlight, but swapping Reigns out for someone else entirely would be almost as devastating. And cheap. And very un-Vince. This admittedly isn’t a full move into the acceptance stage, but it might be the most preferable option for fans who watched the Royal Rumble.
Stone Cold Steve Austin reviewed the Rumble with PW Torch’s Wade Keller on The Steve Austin Show on Tuesday and both Austin and Keller agreed that Reigns’ spent far too much of the Rumble on his back or huddled in the corner for his victory to be taken seriously. It wasn’t taken seriously, and it’s hard to imagine Reigns being taken seriously as a contender in the next two months – especially after the way the Rumble crowd brutalized him. Moving on, for now, would give Roman a chance to reclaim his character and regroup for another run. The guy is obviously going to be a star, don’t ruin him for good by letting him drown in the deep end.
The choices for replacing Reigns are obvious – basically Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton or Seth Rollins. That’s it. Cena lost the rubber match at Royal Rumble (and seems to be preoccupied with Rusev) and there simply isn’t another realistic candidate to take the spot. Daniel Bryan, as we all know, has said the match would be an instant classic.No one has any reason to disagree with Bryan’s assessment of one of the only legitimate dream matches they have on the roster. Bryan was the natural Rumble winner, he’s genuine and has had the crowd behind him for 18 freaking months.
Seth Rollins is the only wrestler in the WWE other than Cena to even attempt to stand up to Lesnar since The Streak ended. Through crafty match psychology, Rollins looked strong and looked like a clever grappler as he picked his spots and hit high-impact moves at the Rumble. He has The Authority and a meaningful card left to play with the Money in the Bank cash-in.
Orton remains the wildcard. His return continues to get pushed back and he doesn’t have a natural WrestleMania matchup. He could be the emergency “this isn’t working card” and is the only other one with the star power – and is currently active in the company – who can pull of a match against Brock.
Make it a Triple Threat
Another way to get Daniel Bryan where the plurality of fans want him to be. Vince McMahon reportedly doesn’t want to “redo” the same WrestleMania main event twice, but he had no problems with Rock/Cena and WWE’s seemingly going with yet another Bryan/Sheamus. (Another column for another time. Foreshadowing alert!) The match that makes the most money for WWE at a time when their financials really need it? Bryan/Lesnar. If Roman Reigns can keep up with these two in a triple threat, he can get at least some of the rub he needs to justify his WrestleMania spot.
A triple threat is a win-win. Roman gets a shot on the big stage and the fans get what they’re paying to see in Daniel Bryan. It is a cheap way out, sure, but we know it works. The danger here is alienating fans even further if Reigns wins over both Lesnar and Bryan.
Put Something Above the Title Match
A fine segue into the final – and most likely – scenario. Keep Reigns in the title match. Have him win the damn thing for all I care. The match I want is Daniel Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar. Seth Rollins has a free title shot at any time. Put Brock in a position to get beat down (I don’t know what, but something truly drastic) at a RAW or at Fast Lane in February and have Rollins cash in. You get a Shield matchup, which is something we haven’t had enough of since their split, and you open up Lesnar for the dream match. There’s the issue of Lesnar’s rematch, but I think the fans will forgive that if Bryan and Lesnar set the world on fire.
So we beat on, boats against the current…
The most likely scenario is that Reigns and Lesnar stay right where they are. Alone. McMahon wants to show he’s a kingmaker and Reigns is his prince. WWE’s damage control over the next two months is going to be veeeeeeery interesting. The fans are booing Reigns, is the way to go to turn him heel? Embrace the hate.
Alternatively, WWE could let go of the Reigns (sorry). Let the No. 1 contender show what he’s got over the next two months and hope it’s enough to get the fans to back him up again. Reigns had “it” before he left for hernia surgery, but since returning his work has been subpar and his mic work even worse.
As we know, WWE is most likely going to take the most obvious, cynical path. Reigns will continue to act like a cartoon hero and Lesnar will turn into the defacto babyface. Or we’ll have another Lesnar vs. Goldberg on our hands come March 29. All the while, Vince and Co. will likely be asking themselves the same thing they asked during the Royal Rumble:
How bad can it be?
The Hot Tag is Voices of Wrestling editor Alex Wendland’s occasional column exploring ideas and trends on the storytelling side of professional wrestling.