It’s probably the most talked about topic in the world of pro-wrestling today, it’s the topic every former WWE performer with a podcast has looked into, it’s the present day ‘when will WWE go back to TV-14?’. In a world where kayfabe barely exists to the point of it being often ignored the second a pro wrestler steps foot out of an arena; the business of professional wrestling has been exposed to the extent that as fans, we probably know a little too much about the product.
This does have its positives, it’s easier to enjoy wrestling as a true art-form if you understand some of the workings that have gone into the finished product. A classic example of this is the Bret Hart vs Owen Hart storyline that ran throughout late 1993 – mid 1994. When you find out that when the original angle was pitched to Bret it was supposedly another brother of his (reportedly Bruce) who was set to feud with the hitman, and Bret threatened to leave the company if they didn’t give the opportunity to his thus far under-utilised brother Owen; understanding the pressure they were under to deliver at Wrestlemania X and Summerslam 94 makes it that much more of a beautiful watch.
But of course the major drawback of the exposure of the business in todays age is that by knowing so much, it becomes that much more frustrating when things don’t pan out the way we want. Fans attitudes have (understandably) become not just “I pay my money, I want to be entertained” but also “I pay my money, why aren’t you listening to me?”. And that’s where Roman Regins comes in, the hand-picked guy to take the mantle from John Cena and push this company through the reality era and beyond, but needless to say its far from gone according to plan so far.
Four WrestleMania main events in a row, rubs from Daniel Bryan, John Cena, The Rock, Triple H, and The Undertaker and yet still Roman is treated with utter contempt by large portions of WWE’s audience. The likelihood is that Reigns is going to continue to be pushed as this company’s number 1 guy, and as tiring as that sounds after the last four years, it doesn’t have to be. Vince McMahon and co could get everything they want from their Roman initiative, it would just take a little space and time.
While turning Roman heel would be immediate money and make him the hottest heel in the industry (honestly it’s baffling how WWE still haven’t gone down that route at this point), that would be too easy. So for the purpose of this article, there will be no heel turn for Roman, but there will be some booking ideas that will allow for WWE’s hardcore audience to buy into the character much easier.
It’s worth baring in mind that at the time of writing, The Greatest Royal Rumble hasn’t happened yet, nor has the contract length of Brock Lesnar been fully revealed – so, we will pretend that Brock Lesnar has signed a ONE year extension only to his WWE contract.
The Greatest Royal Rumble (Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns | Steel Cage Match | Universal Championship)
Reports have suggested that the steel cage rematch between Roman and Brock for the Universal Title has been set up so that when Roman goes over, the crowd reaction will come across as heavily more positive in Saudi Arabia than it would have been from a hostile New Orleans crowd at WrestleMania. If this was in fact the thinking behind the concept, it all seems obnoxiously political and ignorant from the WWE creative team, who seemingly refuse to accept the idea that Roman is not yet in the position to be anointed as the new ‘guy’.
Anyway, WWE love to swerve their fans, no one expected Lesnar to retain at WM34, just like no one expects him to retain here. So swerve us again, have Roman put up another valiant effort only to be denied by another 40 F5’s – the match won’t be great, but it adds even more credence to Lesnar’s unbeatable status and puts seeds in the mind of fans that maybe the higher up’s are starting to not fancy Roman (this will become VERY important later on).
BackLash (Roman Reigns Vs Samoa Joe)
This is where we need to start really relying on our imagination and pretend that Vince McMahon and co will be open to any idea they’re given. Roman loses clean here, 20 minute match of hustle and bustle, few near falls – Reigns falls victim to the cochina clutch, doesn’t tap out – just passes out.
At this point fans start questioning what exactly is going on here, is Roman being punished? Have they given up on him? This would also start affecting the negative response he receives from TV audiences. Fans always expect the Roman Empire to prevail much like the early 2010 years of “Cena Wins Lol”, the moment they feel like his push is declining, the need to boo him goes with it since he’s not on top anyway.
Money In The Bank Build-up
We’re going to follow the assumption here that this years Money In The Bank has one ladder match for the men, and another for the women, with both ladder matches featuring three competitors from RAW, and three from Smackdown Live. The build up to the event itself features your standard qualifying match set-up with Romans qualifying match taking place in the main event of RAW against a recently returned Dean Ambrose. They go 25 minutes with Roman just, just coming out on top – the aftermath of the match sees Ambrose look frustrated and very tentatively shake Roman’s hand before exiting the ring.
Money In The Bank (Reigns vs Lashley vs Rollins vs The Miz vs Almas vs Bryan)
As Roman is climbing the ladder to seemingly grab the briefcase, Ambrose returns, pulls him from the ladder, gives him a Dirty Deeds – this is followed by him shouting towards Roman “It was supposed to be my time!” Or words to that effect. The Miz wins Money In The Bank and will eventually cash it in on a Daniel Bryan Vs Shinsuke Nakamura (c) match at Survivor Series, setting up The Miz vs Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble.
By the way, if you’re wondering what Brock Lesnar has been doing, he and Strowman wrestle to a double count out at this event.
In the build-up here you have Ambrose’s rhetoric being along the lines of: “It’s never been about me, I took a backseat in The Shield, and I’m not taking a backseat in this company for one more day”. So at the pay-per-view there’s an extreme rules match between Ambrose and Reigns, it’s a brutal one, or at least as brutal as it can be in the PG era. Roman wins via a quick roll-up after a gruelling encounter, Ambrose carries on the beat-down to Roman after the bell and gets suspended by Kurt Angle for gross misconduct.
In the build-up here, Seth Rollins is still IC champion, and Roman wins a no 1 contender triple threat against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to challenge Rollins at SummerSlam. During the promos Rollins asks Roman: “Do you think you’ve got what it takes to win the big one anymore? You haven’t won one in a while”. Now this is where Roman can start to get over with the hardcore audience: simply focus on his positives and hide his weaknesses.
For all his questionable charisma and lack of promo technique, Roman Reigns is a good worker, that’s not up for debate, and so: put him in situations where he can show off his in ring ability where him winning won’t be looked at as the worst case scenario. Rollins and Reigns go 30 minutes at SummerSlam, putting on an absolute wrestling clinic before Ambrose returns again, and delivers yet another dirty deeds to Roman, causing disqualification.
From here on out there are several ways you can book this, although the option that points to the most money would be a triple threat match between The Shield members inside Hell In A Cell for the IC Title at the pay-per-view, as long as Roman comes out on top whatever follows should work.
And here’s why: the Intercontinental Title spent a long part of WWE’s lineage being the working man’s, wrestling fans championship, the workhorse belt. Roman is particularly accomplished in the ring, so giving him 20-25 minutes on every PPV, managing to come out on top against whoever he faces not only elevates him, but also his opponent and the stature of the IC title. In turn this should build the crowds respect and enjoyment level for Roman up much more than seeing him cut generic promos on RAW about being “The big dog” and eventually holding the weird looking big red belt.
The thought here is: accentuate Roman’s positives i.e. his in-ring ability and hide his flaws i.e. his awkward promos and clumbsy charisma. Though Bret Hart far exceeded Roman, and most other wrestlers in terms of ability inside the squared circle, you’ll remember that Bret wasn’t the best on the mic, especially in the early 90’s; what got Bret over with the fans was their appreciation of his ability inside the ropes, after all – that’s what we’re watching for, right? Apply the same thoughts to Reigns and there’s no reason why the fans won’t gravitate.
This should all culminate with Reigns still being the champ come WrestleMania 35 where he can drop the belt to, well, anyone you’d like, although NXT’s Adam Cole stands out as the obvious choice. By this point, beating Reigns will be a HUGE rub for whomever does so, and there’s a level of prestige bought back to the IC title that hasn’t been there in years. Reigns can now take his respect level from the fans, and apply it to a world title hunt on either RAW or Smackdown Live, though SD Live would be the preferred option here – keeping things fresh and unpredictable.
A star can be made out of Reigns, Rollins, make Ambrose interesting for the first time since The Shield with a heel persona, prestige can be added to the IC Title again, as well as giving fans wrestling to get truly invested in, it all makes perfect logical sense.
There’s proof here that there could be a reason to cheer for Reigns if we are given enough reason to do so, stop treating him like Hogan and Cena and more like a modern day professional wrestling athlete and there’s the investment element right there. Or, you know, you could just turn him heel.