Twenty-seven days. Now that WWE Fastlane is over and WrestleMania in New Orleans is on the horizon, the company’s biggest night of the year is the only thing that matters. No more pay-per-view events. No guessing which brand will come out on top. The only thing that matters is what will happen April 8 at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
In this time frame, Roman Reigns will once again be given every opportunity to prove he is the “chosen one” – the leader of a generation that will soon say goodbye to John Cena and has watched The Undertaker walk away on his own terms. Reigns, who has WWE fans torn in both directions in a love-hate relationship, has proven every night how god he can be and has still felt the wrath of the wrestling faithful, a cantankerous group that does not like being force-fed a champion they do not approve.
That all may change thanks to Brock Lesnar and the lack of regard for a business that helped make him millions and a belt that has not meaning as long as it is around the waist of the “Beast Incarnate.”
“While it appears a foregone conclusion that Reigns will defeat Brock Lesnar for the Universal title in the main event at WrestleMania 34 on April 8, WWE officials have intensified efforts in recent weeks to prove that Reigns is not only a worthy world champion in the short term, but a long-term replacement for John Cena — whose full-time, in-ring career has begun to wind down — as the face of the organization,” writes my friend and wrestling authority, Mike Mooneyham.
Reigns words last week about Lesnar stirred the crowd in attendance on Monday Night Raw. A man who has taken blow after blow about not being “the guy” everyone wants, could be the guy to finally step over the man who has held WWE hostage because of a part-time schedule.
“And while it’s true that Cena, like Reigns, gets his share of boos and detractors, the former has a stronger and lengthier track record, is more likable and charismatic, and for years has been widely regarded as the hardest-working man in the business,” Mooneyham added. “He’s also a tremendous company spokesman who is giving of his time and talents. Those would be hard shoes for anyone to fill.”
For once, with WrestleMania 34 the site for such a coronation, fans approve of the transfer of title and the words coming out of Reigns’ mouth.
Reigns, who grew up in the business like The Rock and Bret Hart, spoke from the heart in a shoot that made sense of everything. He defined Lesnar as a man who doesn’t care about the business, wants to work his own schedule and benefit from everything he had not worked for. While fans still love his “advocate” Paul Heyman and the shtick he preaches week after week about his associate, the proof is in the appearance. Lesnar has been champion more than 340 days – and we can count the times we have seen him work a match at a live show.
The NWA featured regional and national champions that appeared weekly to either defend their titles or to promote upcoming matches. Fans ate up the idea of seeing Ric Flair or The Von Erichs or Dusty Rhodes in their arenas, gyms and county fairs. Lesnar would never survive in a Kayfabe-laden world of wrestling’s past. WWE has given him a platform to hide and only defend the title or appear when the situation is best for him.
“He doesn’t respect me, he doesn’t respect any of you, and he doesn’t respect anybody in that locker room. And I’m sick of it … we’re all sick of it,” said Reigns, who slipped into the title match by winning the Elimination Chamber the night before.
I wouldn’t say slipped into the match, as WWE has been very calculated in trying for three years now to put Reigns over as the new Cena, who was once thought to be the new Hulk Hogan. Reigns’ best quality is he works hard. He isn’t great on the mic. He cannot deliver a Shawn Michaels-like promo and he isn’t mat-savvy like Chris Jericho or The Miz. He is a Samoan of wrestling royalty, a descendent of the famed Anoa’I Family and son of Sika, one of the Wild Samoans from the old WWWF.
In this case, membership has its privileges.
“Brock just shows up whenever he wants to, when the money’s right or the city’s right,” said Reigns.
It’s this kind of work that can win a crowd over, give him the pop he needs and the run he deserves. At least until WWE decides it’s final Braun Strowman’s time to carry the Monday night banner.
Reigns did a solid job of selling a confrontation with Lesnar tonight On Raw, one that we all know won’t end in a handshake. If the company wanted fireworks out of the gate with the Mondays remaining until WrestleMania, it’s going to get what it hoped for.
“If Reigns is able to deliver another passionate promo, and drive home the point that Lesnar cares nothing about the fans, things could get interesting,” Mooneyham writes. “It’s a match three years in the making between two of the biggest names in the business.”
And it might become the turning point in Reigns’ career where he was chosen to lead the pack for a reason. Not because it has been Vince McMahon’s dream, but because he speaks the truth about the current Universal Champion. And if the fans see the value in his words, they will see the value in their new hero wearing cold and defending the honor of the business.