WrestleMania (XXXI) – Reigns vs. Lesnar

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Image Credit: Levi’s Stadium / WWE

The WrestleMania XXXI main event is seemingly set in stone. As a side note, WWE is apparently not interested in counting WrestleMania numbers anymore, but I am (notice that it is yet to be referred to as ‘WrestleMania 31’, just as ‘WrestleMania’ with an animated play icon). Seems like a bad decision, but that’s par for the course in many cases with WWE recently. No, really – counting is fun. It immediately lets you know how long this has been going on. I can hear Vince now: “We aren’t sports, pal. We’re sports ENTERTAINMENT and you don’t see the Academy Awards LXI, pal! Har har har, poop jokes!”

Whatever. I respect Vince McMahon a lot. I mean, who wouldn’t? He took a small regional territory and turned it into a global, billion-dollar enterprise. He was a visionary, took risks, and worked enough for 3 lifetimes. Now that I’ve said that, Vince McMahon, currently, is simply left behind. He has no incentive to change and I think he’s too stubborn to acknowledge it anyway. On more than one occasion, Mark Madden has stated (paraphrasing here) that less people watch wrestling today than did during the late 90s. Hell, less people watch WWE today than watched WWE alone in the late 90s. That’s not an accident – it’s a downward trend.

Back to the WWE World Championship match. Roman Reigns will challenge Brock Lesnar. The Memphis crowd was dead for Reigns at Fast Lane. To be fair, the Memphis crowd was dead all night, which is a shame. The WrestleMania crowd won’t be dead. That leaves WWE with 3 options, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, let me talk about the apparent rejection of Roman Reigns.

Let’s look at Roman Reigns, the singles competitor. I’ll start with the break-up of the Shield. Reigns was in the Money in the Bank ladder match for Daniel Bryan’s vacated championship. He didn’t win and was largely an after-thought. He then lost a 4-way for the World title at the Battleground PPV which, again, featured nothing remarkable. Reigns then beat Randy Orton at SummerSlam is an arguable dud of a match. Reigns was then injured and out until he returned for a run-in on the John Cena / Seth Rollins match at the December TLC PPV (And to receive his inexplicable 2014 Superstar of the Year Award). In addition, during his absence, we were treated to the most awkward via satellite promos possibly ever from Reigns. They were painful to watch. We were then treated to a series of matches against the Big Show that Reigns won by DQ or count out. Reigns then won the Royal Rumble with assistance from the Rock. Reigns then defeats Daniel Bryan at Fast Lane to get to the title match.

So, what happened? Reigns was popular and generally well-liked after the initial Shield break-up. Even though Rollins and Ambrose were the initial two stand-outs to feud with each other, Roman just hung around. At SummerSlam, I recall the crowd response to his match against Orton being poor. There were a few factors at work in that event. First, the match was very slow and plodding up until the finishing sequence. Second, Reigns had the aura of inevitability around him – he was the guy. He wasn’t immediately rejected because Daniel Bryan’s return status was up in the air, so who else was there?

Following Reigns’ legit hernia injury, WWE had him record short promos to keep him relevant in the minds of the fans. This did 2 things. First, it made it obvious that Reigns was going to WrestleMania to go for the title. Daniel Bryan wasn’t live via satellite every other week. Second, it exposed Reigns’ biggest weakness – his lack of charisma and inability to connect with the crowd. Then Reigns returns to a tepid reaction at TLC. He starts cutting promos that McMahon himself wrote that are more corny than anything Cena has ever said. After the promos and some uninspiring and downright awful matches with Big Show, it seemed clear that it wasn’t Roman’s time. Is it ever anyone’s time? I don’t know.

Unfortunately for Reigns, Daniel Bryan announced his return for the Royal Rumble. In order to temper the impact, WWE had Bryan return to the ring on a Smackdown taping and even take a clean loss to Bray Wyatt on TV. The hope was that it would lower expectations for Bryan in the Rumble as WWE had to anticipate a 2014 repeat. Bryan came out in the first half of the Rumble and was tossed over 10 minutes later in very anti-climactic fashion. On my Twitter, I said they just lost the crowd. Indeed they did. Everyone who entered after that point was resoundingly booed. Reigns made his entrance and was booed. At this point, the crowd became ‘anyone-but-Reigns’. As Ziggler, Ambrose, and Wyatt were dumped over the top rope like garbage by Big Show and Kane, the crowd realized that Reigns was inevitable. WWE planned ahead and out came the Rock to save Reigns from Big Show and Kane and … they booed. Rusev came back into the ring and was dumped over without a fight. Booing. The look on the Rock’s face tells the whole story.

At this point, we have Reigns defeating Daniel Bryan clean at Fast Lane. The goal was to have Daniel Bryan take Reigns to a great match (he did) and try to make Reigns look like gold. Unfortunately, the rejection of Reigns is nothing personal. He’s going to be great one day. The problem is that Daniel Bryan is the most over baby-face in WWE. He is organically popular despite WWE’s best attempts otherwise. Vince likes to say that Daniel Bryan isn’t over, just the ‘Yes’ chant is over. Sure Vince, and the Rock’s catchphrases were over and not the Rock himself. Reigns just hasn’t done anything to ‘earn’ it in the eyes of some fans. I have no idea what merchandise sales look like, but I’d be shocked if Reigns was in the Top 5.

Now we come back to WrestleMania 31. WWE has 2 options with this match. If Lesnar re-signs with WWE, they have a 3rd option that is essentially the only option.

  1. Reigns beats Lesnar and Rollins cashes in to win the title.
  2. Reigns wins after Heyman turns on Lesnar and aligns with Reigns.
  3. If Brock re-signs, he beats Reigns.

Option 1 will send the crowd home happy. Yes, a heel unfairly beating the supposed baby-face newly crowned champion would turn the sea of boos into a celebration. WWE writing and announcing is to thank for that. Option 2 will accept the sea of boos and use Heyman and Reigns turning heel to play into it. Option 3 is a no-brainer. Lesnar crushed the Streak. He eviscerated Cena. He destroyed Cena and Rollins at once. He should crush Reigns and hold the belt until WrestleMania 32.

Bottom line, if Lesnar doesn’t re-sign, he has to lose. You either have to play into the crowd reaction or swerve them with Rollins. I guess you could put the match on in the middle of the show and close with Triple H / Sting and Undertaker / Wyatt and have Reigns go over clean. What’s left for Daniel Bryan? Nothing of any substance, unfortunately. He doesn’t care, though. He’s making damn good money and just likes to wrestle.

I’ll write another post soon on the rest of the card.

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One Response to “WrestleMania (XXXI) – Reigns vs. Lesnar”

  1. vkonsports Says:

    Reblogged this on VK ON SPORTS BLOG and commented:
    This will be the most boring Wrestlmania ever. I don’t think reigns is ready for Lesnar.

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