Monday Night Raw saw the current #1 contender for the WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship, Roman Reigns, give a promo that many were talking about both at the time and for days to come. I watched it and have to say, even though I’m a fan of Reigns, I was impressed. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here; this wasn’t CM Punk dropping a pipe bomb, nor was it a throwback to Stone Cold and his infamous ‘Austin 3:16’ speech, no it was a simple promo but what made it stand out was the delivery and the choice of words used. I don’t for one minute believe it was a ‘shoot’ or that Roman took liberties by saying what was on his mind, but what it did do was give the Roman Reigns character a much-needed shot in the arm and a platform to push himself back into the interest of the WWE Universe.
Gone were the ridiculous nursery rhymes, gone were the catchphrases of ‘Big Dog’, ‘My Yard’ and ‘The Guy’. It was such a refreshing change to see some passion in the words that he spoke. Credit must be given to Reigns, however you feel about his character. He didn’t stutter or stumble. He remained calm and composed throughout and didn’t let the crowd intimidate him or derail what he had to say. Perhaps the crowd weren’t as loud as could be; they were no Chicago, New York or UK audience – those who can be very vocal and easily put off the best talkers through their sheer volume and persistence in getting a message across. Regardless, Roman went out there to do a job and did it well. He called out Brock and berated his lack of attendance at WWE shows. He put over the locker room and their desire and commitment to be at every show, whilst once again isolating the champion and accusing him of not caring. Reigns’ words resonated with fans both inside and outside of the arena and it worked. However, he wasn’t the first to say such things, was he?
Flash back to the build-up of Wrestlemania 29 in New Jersey and Roman’s promo can be heard in a similar vein from another superstar – John Cena. Cena went on tirade after tirade about how The Rock was an absentee champion, how it was Cena who deserved to be holding the title and that he busted his ass week after week, in city after city across the world because he loved doing so for the WWE and the fans. That’s not to say Cena doesn’t do that now, but you get the picture. Roman’s promo wasn’t all that iconic or individual, and it certainly echoed ones from the past, but for both Cena and Reigns, it resonated and meant something. It works.
Of course after Monday, I thought about Cena and his feud with the Rock, and it got me thinking; how much the WWE landscape can change in twelve months. So much so that for the fans, it appears that John Cena and Roman Reigns have swapped roles. Twelve months ago, Roman Reigns was being shoehorned into a match at mania at all costs. He wasn’t part of the Universal Title picture – due to a returning Goldberg, and we all know how epic that was to deserve a ‘Main Event’ headline (sarcasm included) – and with the secondary titles ‘beneath’ such a big star at that time, the only match deemed worthy of putting Roman in was to give him a shot against the Deadman himself, the Undertaker. Contrast to John Cena who was feuding with AJ Styles for most of 2016, only to be dropped out of that Heavyweight Title picture on the road to Wrestlemania to be part of a more personal story that ended with a proposal to his girlfriend Nikki Bella – tune in to Total Bellas for more updates on that story, folks.
In 2018 and with Wrestlemania fast approaching, it’s Cena who finds himself as the star that has to be shoehorned into the PPV at any cost. Though I find the current story-line incredibly irritating – there’s no way Cena is taking the title at Fastlane – I can see the reasoning behind why WWE want Cena to be on the Wrestlemania card. The trouble is, and I mean this without disrespect to the man himself, we’ve seen all there is to see from John Cena. We’ve seen his many title reigns. We’ve seen him face AJ Styles, and as great as those matches were, the fans don’t want to see it again especially now that Styles has been booked to face Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania…we think. That match is fresh. That match is new and tantalizing. We know they’ve fought before, but never on such a big stage and with such clamor and anticipation by the fans. Cena on the other hand, finds himself an afterthought in the big picture now. He doesn’t hold a belt. He can’t integrate himself in any feuds, and his recent losses coupled with flip-flopping between brands do little to win himself over with the crowds. He looks and sounds like a defeated, needy and desperate man and many don’t like that. Will a match against the Undertaker be his salvation? I doubt it. It didn’t do anything big for Roman Reigns, despite his insistence on reminding us that he retired the Dead Man. That shtick was dropped, although again, it was a repeated script taken from Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar after they inflicted Undertaker’s first Wrestlemania loss. What does Cena have to gain by winning a match against the Undertaker? Bragging rights? No, Lesnar and Reigns already did that. Retiring him? Until next year, perhaps? An iconic match? I would hope so, but Taker isn’t in his prime and I can’t see it getting five stars, can you?
Roman and his promo have hopefully set him on a path to win over more of the crowd in that they will want him to win, and although I’m a huge Braun Strowman fan, I agree that it needs to be Reigns who takes the belt. WWE can then wish Brock Lesnar well in his future endeavors (I’m sure he’ll be fine) and they can begin making the Universal Title relevant again in that it’s on TV every week and challenged and won by stars who are on the show every week, proudly carrying it around the world. We’re tired of the absent champion. We want to see Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman vying to be the best in the company. We relate to the WWE stars and their hard work, passion and drive to be where they are in the company and doing the job they do. We appreciate the sacrifices they make and the time they give to entertain us.
I hope this is the end of an era in regards to the part-time champions. It turned people against The Rock and I think the same about Brock too. While I sincerely hope WWE have finally learned their lesson in regards to who they put the big titles on, the arrival of Rhonda Rousey does give me concerns that we may be seeing Lesnar’s reign all over again, except now in the Women’s Division. I hope I’m wrong.
What do you think? Is Roman the guy to take the belt from Lesnar? What about after that? Do WWE build feuds involving Rollins, Strowman etc.? What about John Cena? Is this the end of his title runs, or will WWE put another belt around his waist? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.