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Ross and Rachel didn”t have as many “will they/won”t they” moments…The WrestleMania coronation can strap a rocket to a rising star”s back. It did for Steve Austin; it did for Becky Lynch; and it looks like it has for Drew McIntyre. Roman Reigns on the other hand has had four attempts at same coronation and every time it hasn”t really worked. At Mania 31 he found himself caught underneath the wheels of the Daniel Bryan return train and the more WWE tried to make him look great, the more the crowd pushed against it to the point where Seth Rollins had to parachuted in. At Mania 32 he had suffered because WWE thought that when he was getting plaudits finally they could shove him down the throat by having him defend his title in the Royal Rumble- something that they didn”t get Rock, Austin, Hogan or Cena to do when they were at the peak of their overness before having a bland match with Triple H at WrestleMania 32. At Mania 33 the whole “whose yard is it” feud was overshadowed by the real life obviousness that his opponent”s body was falling apart and Roman beating ten types of crap out of him with a chair looked reeeeeeaaaaaalllll uncomfortable. And 34? Well, we”ll see…
But before we get to that, let”s talk about this guy:
At WrestleMania 33 Brock Lesnar got his revenge on Goldberg, winning the Universal Championship and once again establishing himself at the top of the Raw food chain. But in doing so he began picking at a scab that his return had made for the WWE until it had become a full blown wound,
Y”see anyone who faces Brock Lesnar is essentially being placed in a legit sports feud in the bubble of a sports entertainment program. In other words, while the rest of the WWE really runs on stories, Brock runs on titles- getting them and holding them. And this is fine for Brock cause he comes in for a few weeks to hype a match and then goes away again. But his opponents on the other hand have to then front up a week later and feel like part of the furniture. And because of this, there”s really no way that these workers can grow and redeem yourselves.
Put it this way: imagine the Avengers went to fight Thanos in Infinity War and lost and then came back to Earth…only to find that the world didn”t care that half the population was gone and that Captain America was now going to be doing police procedure work. That”s how it essentially felt every time Samoa Joe/Roman Reigns/Finn Balor/Braun had to go back to face the rest of the roster. And Heyman can promo the other guy all he likes, because the next time we see Brock he will be exactly the same because he has months to recover. As a result, it doesn”t look like these matches have really taken a physical or psychological toll on Lesnar and make him seem less like a badass wrestler and more like the Death Egg from Sonic the Hedgehog 2- big and certainly powerful, but devoid of growth and personality. And what made it worse was what was happening to the guy that Vince had continued to earmark to take the title off him.
Y”see, there is no doubt that by having Reigns beat (and supposedly retire) the Undertaker they were saying to fans that Reigns had essentially proven himself worthy of the mantle of Beast Slayer. And if kayfabe and crowd perceptions had aligned, Reigns probably would have got the belt at Money in the Bank or SummerSlam. However, what people saw at WrestleMania 33 was an aging warrior that was doing his darndest to put over a guy who the audience was not so much angry at as just bored with because the audience had realized that their opinions were kinda secondary to Vince”s rescue project. So the man who supposedly retired the Undertaker lost the next month clean to Braun Strowman because Roman needed a new redemption arc in order to make him sympathetic because beating up a 50+ year old man hadn”t done it. This led to a year where WWE had to legitimize Roman as a fan favourite by having him win against John Cena in an…ok match while reuniting with the Shield before a virus took him out for TLC.
So when 2018 came around, you had a champ that was keeping the main event in a holding pattern, and a successor who despite their best efforts got his best pop when he came out as part of.a reunion tour for a stable that had been essentially defunct for 3 years. Or to put it another way the guy who had the title seemed to be hampering future prospects, and the future champion”s exploits only seemed to prove that he was more over 3 years ago. And what was worse that it wasn”t like the WWE had no idea this might happen because it had happened for the LAST THREE YEARS. In other words, if you were going to going to anoint Reigns as the next champion, it may as well have been at SummerSlam 2017 so we could at least get the main event picture moving again.
Instead, at Elimination Chamber Reigns won in the first seven man chamber where Braun Strowman eliminated everyone else to win the chance to face Lesnar at WrestleMania and came on the next night to promo on an absent Lesnar to say that he was an entitled absent champion who he didn”t respect! And this is a story that would work ok except the WWE (through Reigns) kept on over-egging the pudding to the point where Roman would do promos about how Brock isn”t here and then get in Vince McMahon”s or Kurt Angle”s face about how Brock wasn”t there, as if they were his babysitter and it was a vast conspiracy where Reigns and the fans were being dudded. If you wanted to make Reigns look good, have him fight up and comers in contrast to Lesnar who no-shows. If you have a guy who turns up only to pout about the fact that champ is not there, particularly since this has been the status quo since he came back, he”s just going to look desperate.
And what is worse is all this does is show that WWE has resigned itself to the fact that they can”t argue why Reigns should be the champion, they can only argue why Lesnar should not be the champion. So rather than make Reigns look badass (like McIntyre did in the lead up to this year”s Mania), they kept on having him being beaten to gain sympathy as if to say “Look! Look at that cad Lesnar!”.
And while this was happening, others”s pushes ground to a halt.
Strowman caught fire in 2017 as everyone realised that the former Black Sheep actually had improved out of sight (I mean he wasn”t Bret Hart, but he was much better than he was), but instead of giving him a meaningful feud that would push him to the next level, they fed him to Lesnar three times over 2017 and 2018. No worker suffered more by fighting Brock Lesnar than Braun (apart from perhaps Roman, as we will see). Essentially the WWE positioned him as the Giant Gonzales to Brock and Roman”s Undertaker- a big massive guy for Brock to overcome to show how badass he was.
But all this would have been mostly forgivable if at WrestleMania 34 Vince and co. did something. They could have:
Turned Roman heel with Paul Heyman as part of a Corporate panic that Brock was going to go away with the title again.Had Brock win dirty because of interference from (insert hot new property here) which would give Roman a new feudOr finally, just held their damn nose and given Roman the damn title like they had been planning for a whole year.