WWE finally has what it wants. The John Cena-Roman Reigns confrontation at No Mercy next weekend is this generation’s version of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. But the significance may not be the same in terms of fan acceptance.
The Monday Night Raw brand’s success depends on how this plays out.
The Hogan-Warrior clash was monumental, the feud fans dreamed about. Over two decades ago, when the Internet did not have a hand in destroying Kayfabe and there weren’t hundreds of websites offering up opinion and innuendo, this was a match that mattered. Cena losing to Reigns, putting the “Big Dog” over as the next big thing isn’t what the fans want. Frankly, it’s not what they had hoped for.
Vince McMahon’s master plan has always been for Reigns to become the “next John Cena” and forge a new direction for the company. It hasn’t taken shape yet. Fans have fought back in rebellion. The man offered the golden ticket hasn’t fulfilled the prophecy. While McMahon continues to push “his guy” toward the apex of the company, he hasn’t gotten their yet.
Cena has been spot on in his dialogues. The fans don’t want Reigns there. In return, we have seen a more direct approach from the former three-time world champion. The fire and venom coming out of his mouth is the narrative many performers have spoken for years.
This time, those comments may win him favor with WWE’s Universe. The only thing left – with 10 days remaining – is to see the two in the ring. My hope is the match is better than the barbs thrown back and forth.
WWE’s progression has been slow and steady. The company has hit on its main event roster – fighting to own the Universal Title. Braun Strowman is now the heir apparent to Brock Lesnar. Reigns to Cena. While we all expect Strowman at some point to become that guy, there are many who don’t wish the same for the former Shield member. It’s a double-edge sword. Cena gets over with the fans, love or hate, because he moves the needle. Reigns hasn’t done that yet. Most fans hope he never will.
When Warrior beat Hogan, it meant WWF was willing to take a chance on something new. Hogan needed a break from carrying the company. Fans loved Warrior’s electricity, the flash and power. Reigns is robotic and doesn’t have the charisma fans want. It’s the reason Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have passed him by. If this were 2014, this would be another story. Reigns was white hot. Injuries curtailed his ascension. It’s a fight he has fought since then. It’s a fight he cannot win with his current character. He needs Cena to put him over in the best possible way.
Even then, it may not be enough for him to overcome the millions (and millions) of fans who can’t fathom him as the new torch bearer. It’s a Vince McMahon-sized problem. Hopefully, McMahon and the company has a plan devised to make sure Reigns is the one moving this company forward, instead of relying on the old guard to make it happen.