Roman Reigns became the focal point of an immense amount of backlash from the WWE Universe in January when he won the annual Royal Rumble match, thus making him the man that would face Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 31. The fans believed that he just wasn’t experienced enough to be in the company’s top spot. On the road leading up to WrestleMania, Reigns continued to struggle on the microphone and still failed to connect with a majority of the audience.
However, Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar went on to become an instant classic at WrestleMania 31. Champion Brock Lesnar delivered a brutal assault to Reigns, hardly giving him any chance to retaliate over the course of the match. Reigns did an excellent job from a storytelling standpoint, even so much as laughing while Lesnar threw him around the ring like a rag doll.
Roman Reigns took the beating like a man and ended up earning the respect he so desperately needed from a large portion of the audience; fans who previously resented him.
Following such a large turning point for the character, WWE has now placed Reigns in a feud against Big Show that will ultimately end with a match at this month’s pay-per-view event, Extreme Rules.
After headlining WrestleMania 31 against Lesnar and taking the loss to Seth Rollins in such a riveting fashion, Reigns needed to be inserted into something of value in order to keep his newfound momentum alive. Instead, WWE made the decision to have him not only lose the number one contenders’ match for the World Heavyweight Championship on last week’s episode of Raw, but then placed him into a meaningless feud against Big Show.
If this feud seems strange, that’s because it is. Although, the career of Roman Reigns has never followed typical protocol. In one year, he went from being in a 6-man tag team match at WrestleMania 30, to being the number one contender to the company’s most important title at WrestleMania 31. He was put on the fast-track to superstardom, and ended up becoming a classic example of, “too fast, too soon”.
Going from the main event of WrestleMania to an irrelevant singles feud may seem strange, but it is the right course of action in the case of an inexperienced performer such as Roman Reigns. However, the issue with this program is that Big Show is a performer whom the WWE Universe does not respect whatsoever. The audience is tired of seeing Big Show in WWE’s main event scene, and they’ve made it clear that they would like to see fresh, new performers be given a chance to shine in that spot. Reigns and Big Show have also had countless battles over the past year or so, and the fans are pining for new match-ups as well as new storyline possibilities.
One major issue the WWE Universe had with Reigns was that he appeared to be the handpicked future of the company without having to prove that he was worthy of that title. Now, his main event status within WWE seems to have been abandoned by those in charge. Is this a result of the rejection he faced from the audience? That’s a possibility, but banishing the character into irrelevancy makes everything that he has accomplished thus far feel like a giant waste of time.
The audience is now finally realizing the value that Roman Reigns could possibly bring to WWE’s roster. He needs to be placed into a program with a performer that will be able to assist him in improving his skills; an opponent that will challenge him both inside of the ring and on the microphone. At this stage in his career, Big Show simply isn’t that opponent. While the two men do work well together, this feud will not give Reigns an opportunity to progress or maximize his potential.
WWE fans don’t want to see Reigns evolve into the next John Cena, but if this program is booked to simply make Reigns look like a strong competitor once again, it will be detrimental to the characters’ success in the long run. WWE needs to use extreme caution in where they place Roman Reigns moving forward if they still plan on having him become the next face of the company.
Now that Seth Rollins is the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, the company is in a position it feels most comfortable with. No longer is there a push to throw all the bricks in the cart pulled by Roman Reigns. The WWE now has a chance to really work on making his a complete package.
The notion of bringing him along, breathing fire and brimstone as he Superman punches his way toward the top of the WWE food chain only works if the fans in the arenas and the Internet get behind him. There is a chance here to have something great become of the future of this company without Vince McMahon force feeding him to us, the masses, the company and the business as the hand-picked champion everyone must accept. Just like any situation, when people are pushed beyond what they want, they rebel against it.
Seth Rollins is the current and future of this promotion. He is everything the fans want – brash, mean, a good talker, has a faction to support him, and right now the best performer in the game. Reigns, although a dominant performer when he was in The Shield, was still a step behind Rollins and Dean Ambrose. There is nothing wrong with that, but somewhere in his mind, McMahon thought trial by fire would work for this kid, conjuring images of The Rock and Randy Orton as a wrestler who could walk out on stage from Day 1 and take over the world.
The common denominator in all of this is all three performers come from wrestling royalty. The belief is if they could do it, so could Reigns.
Sorry, wrong Vince.
For now, because of necessity, Randy Orton is perfect as the go between opponent for Rollins. While the fans await the re-entrance of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman around SummerSlam, a program the Apex Predator is a storyline the WWE and the fans can live with.
Reigns can be repacked and be welcomed by the fans, remain in the title picture and ready at a moment’s notice to spear his way toward glory.
There have been plenty of wrestlers who did not fit a mold in the beginning of their careers and then took off later as they were repackaged. Stone Cold Steve Austin was a good wrestler as “Stunning” Steve Austin in WCW but once he shaved his locks and quoted everything there was, he became an icon in the WWE.
Batista came along as Leviathan and Deacon Batista before he joined Evolution and became a world champion. Barry Windham was a popular face wrestler and was repackaged to join The Four Horseman and became one of the best heel wrestlers of his era.
It can be done, and better yet – the WWE is fully aware of it.
What would have happened to the company after WrestleMania is Reigns walked out of Santa Clara with the strap on his waist? There would have been a revolt and a calling for his head. While the match was better than I and most believed it would be, Reigns still does not have the support of the wrestling community to be “their” champion. It takes more than a look or a catch phrase to be the leader of the band, so to speak. And you can “Believe That”.
The thought all along was Reigns was the next Rock and follow his Samoan blood lines. The WWE finally learned that just because a wrestler is a family member, it does not mean instant success. We saw that with Mike Von Erich, Sean Stasiak and Kendall Windham.
The company should not give up on the Roman Reigns experiment and neither should we. There is too much talent there to think he would be a world champion. It just means we all need to wait a while for that to happen.
Now that the WrestleMania 31 dust has settled it is time for the WWE to get cracking on WrestleMania 32. I thought it would be fun to take a look at the giant event a year ahead of time and try and predict a card for the 2015 Texas event.
In taking a look back at my WrestleMania 29, 30 predictions, and 31 picks a year out, I actually hit a few of them on the head for 29, missed every single prediction I made for 30, but hit on Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar last April. In other words there is no exact science for this stuff and with the way that the WWE changes booking frequently, it is impossible to get a handle on it although the future can be clear in some years.
Predicting WrestleMania one year out is almost as difficult as filling out your March Madness brackets at any time of the year. Take a look at this year’s WrestleMania 31 lineup a year ago and you can see exactly how much these things change. Daniel Bryan was in the main-event, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were in a tag team match on the bottom of the card, The Undertaker was practically done, Rusev wasn’t on the card, and Sting wasn’t even in the company. That is how much things can change over a year.
So with this all said, let’s take a look at some of the probable WrestleMania 32 matches one year before this great spectacle invades Texas. Keep in mind that these are all just predictions and should not be taken as fact or cited as a source in any kind of report.
Ronda Rousey and The Rock vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. It is clear coming out of 31 that the plan is to get Ronda Rousey in the ring next year in Texas. All reports are that Rousey has not made any kind of a deal to do so, but that Rousey is highly interested in more WWE work. The WWE haven’t invested this much time into Rousey for a one and done angle at 31.
There are reports that the WWE want a Stephanie vs. Rousey singles match. I couldn’t think of a worse idea. There is no way the UFC allows this unless the match ends in 30 seconds and that isn’t happening. Now I could see a deal where Rousey gets 5 minutes with Steph if Rock wins. Steph runs for a few minutes and Rousey finally gets her and taps her out. I think that is a bigger possibility than Steph vs. Rousey. I just don’t see it.
I think that Rock vs. Hunter has been clear since they cut that promo on each other at SmackDown 15 (which is why I am so surprised that so many people are that shocked at the match). They made challenges back and forth and went out of their way to point out that they needed a big stadium to make the match happen. Yet it really makes no sense for Rock to come back to wrestle a singles match with Hunter. I am sure the match would be very good but I don’t anticipate a lot of interest in this without the women involved. Maybe they corner Rock and Hunter, but it just seems like a waste of everyone’s time otherwise.
Backup Plan – Rock vs. Brock Lesnar. Rock talked about being interested in a match with Brock just a week or so ago. The match makes much more sense than Rock and Hunter and appeals to a more mainstream, casual audience than Rock vs. Hunter. Brock is now a babyface so that dynamic is a little off although Brock could easily turn heel in November or December to set this up. This is a match that could break records and bring more people to Mania than any other. Why they would let this one slip away is beyond me. Quite honestly I think they should have Rousey in Rock’s corner vs. Brock with Heyman in the corner but it seems Ronda is destined for Steph if she is coming to Texas.
Brock Lesnar vs. Rusev. I think that the WWE has some money in this one. Sure Rusev already lost but he could get hot again and go on another streak. At some point he is going to turn but it won’t before Mania 32. I think these guys present a natural rivalry and a match that people would care about. I love the idea of Brock representing America and having a physical match with Rusev at Mania.
Backup plan – Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt. Again we have another new match here that could be intriguing. Wyatt has been set up for big matches the last few years at Mania. It is conceivable that he is WWE champion come Mania 32 and Brock is challenging for the belt. I like the dynamic here and I think they could have a real fun match.
Roman Reigns vs. John Cena for the WWE championship. Yes I predict that come WrestleMania 32 that Cena could have the gold back around his waist. Sorry Cena haters. I think it is clear that Reigns needs to be a heel because he is simply dead as a babyface. I think it is also clear that the company is still behind him. What better way to get him to the title than by having him end the reign of Cena in Texas? I think it’s a big match and I think it could be better than you think.
Sting vs. The Undertaker. It has to happen! Sting proved he can still go and Undertaker proved he is far from done. I don’t think it would be great but I think these two could have a fun match at Mania 32. The WWE needs to promote unique matches next year to fill such a big stadium. Sure the mystique is lost a bit with Sting losing to Hunter at Mania but if they promote this as the final match for both guys or loser retires, I think this could be big.
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins. This feud must continue! Nothing was settled in their Hell in a Cell match. I think that the WWE should not only keep these guys apart for a while but they should flip them going into Mania. Rollins has a ton of potential as a face and Ambrose would make a great heel. These guys could easily steal the show and I love the dynamic of a rematch on such a big show with both guys flipping sides.
Where Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton fit in next year is anyone’s guess. There are a lot of guys in NXT that are ready to come up and should be a part of WrestleMania 32. Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn are bound to be on the show whether it be a tag team match or in singles match. I could see these guys getting Orton and Bryan in some form, preferably a Balor vs. Bryan match.
WrestleMania 31 isn’t even a week old yet and the WWE is moving on to Extreme Rules. The gimmicked up event will be taking place at the end of the month and we already have two big championship matches locked in and ready to go.
The early card features the typical WrestleMania rematch and a fresh WWE championship match in the headliner. The matches became official at Tuesday night’s SmackDown television taping. It’s early so we have a lot more weeks to go, but an early look at the card look something like this.
Randy Orton will challenge Seth Rollins in the main-event for the WWE world title. I would expect some kind of a stipulation to be added to the match, although nothing has been announced at this time. The match was expected as Orton is coming off a clean win over Rollins at Mania. The trajectory of this feud now brings some clarity to the mystery of Orton’s whereabouts the last few months and why the feud was held off as long as it was.
I have no problem with the match. Orton has his critics so I am sure that many will be lining up to complain about Orton headlining another WWE title match. Orton has been in that championship picture fairly consistently since SummerSlam 2013. I thought Orton and Rollins were only second to Lesnar vs. Reigns in having the best match at Mania. The two have great chemistry thus I have no problem seeing these guys matched up again. I would expect the feud to continue for another event or even two following Extreme Rules.
Some may complain that Roman Reigns is not in the spot. I think putting Orton in the spot with Rollins allows the WWE to repackage Reigns. Reigns desperately needs his momentum back. Even after a brutal show-stealing match at WrestleMania, the guy was booed out of the building Monday night. Something needs to be done here and it’s not forcing him down everyone’s throats. I like the idea of keeping him away from the title match and biding time until he is ready.
A big question is what you do with Reigns at Extreme Rules. Putting him against Big Show isn’t optimal although I think he has less of a chance getting booed out of the building against Show or Kane for that matter. A tag-team reunion with Dean Ambrose against Show and Kane could be another interesting idea. I think they need to put him in a situation where is safe from getting booed out of the building. Unfortunately the safest bets are Show and Kane. There are rumors of a feud with Bray Wyatt. That is a bad idea unless the WWE wants the booing to get louder for Reigns.
The other main-event probably isn’t much of a surprise. John Cena and Rusev will battle for the U.S. title at Extreme Rules. I’d almost guarantee some kind of a stipulation here. They did a deal with flags at SmackDown so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a flag added into it. My hunch is that it will be an I-Quit match but that is purely a guess on my part. The third match completes the trilogy and may end the feud at Extreme Rules.
Again I have no problem with the match. I couldn’t imagine these guys wrestling anyone different. The feud is hot and may be the hottest feud Cena has been in since the CM Punk feud of 2011. Who goes over is a big question here. I lean towards Rusev going over although it wouldn’t surprise me to see a different result. Cena certainly wouldn’t quit but they could do some kind of a screw job finish to get the belt back on Rusev. I also can’t fathom Cena walking around with the U.S. title for much longer.
It’s not a lineup that will get you pumped but if you look back over the last year, lineups like these are the ones that generally delivered big. It seemed that the lower expectations were going into a show (Survivor Series), the better the show turned out. I think the momentum sustains and we see another great WWE event at Extreme Rules.
Expectations for WrestleMania 31 may have been low, yet the show will go down as one of the most exciting in recent years. This year’s event was packed with surprises ranging from surprise appearances and a new WWE world champion that wasn’t even scheduled in the match.
Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to become the new WWE world champion. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns fought a grueling match for about fifteen minutes. A bloody Brock and beaten Reigns were down when Rollins cashed in to make it a Triple Threat Match. Rollins came in and curb stomped Brock but wound up getting Rollins up for the F5. Reigns speared Brock as he held Rollins. Rollins popped up, hit a curb stomp on Reigns and pinned Reigns to win the title.
The booking was excellent and while many predicted Rollins would cash in, nobody predicted it would go down in this fashion. Quite honestly I never knew you could cash in the briefcase during the match. I think it was the right move at the right time. Putting Reigns over would have been a mistake. He was booed more than any other babyface tonight including John Cena. The crowd just isn’t buying him right now. It was also time to take the title off of Lesnar. I don’t know what would marketable match would be next for him if he steamrolled another opponent. Now the WWE can go with Rollins vs. Reigns through August and Rollins vs. Lesnar at SummerSlam for the title.
But that may not be the biggest surprise of the event. The biggest surprise was getting UFC Ronda Rousey in the ring for what appears to be the start of her pro wrestling career. Rousey got physical with both Stephanie McMahon and Triple H to set up what looks like to be a mixed-tag team match with Rousey and the Rock vs. Hunter and Stephanie. Rock came out as a surprise and interrupted a promo with the Authority. Stephanie slapped him and challenged him to hit a woman. He went to ringside and got a woman who “would hit a woman.” Steph told Ronda to get out of her ring, Ronda wound up putting an arm bar on Steph and stood tall with Rock. Rousey was great and the fans absolutely loved her. They were chanting her name before she even got into the ring.
It does appear that Rock and Rousey will tag up against Hunter and Stephanie next year at WrestleMania 32. The WWE were looking for something big for AT&T Stadium and the dream team of Rousey and Rock may do it. They are already generating a ton of mainstream media buzz. I have to hand it to the WWE. They have wanted Rousey for a while now and they pulled off quite a coup to get her. UFC president Dana White has been adamant against fighters doing pro wrestling for years, including prohibiting Brock wrestling Undertaker when Brock was UFC champion. Obviously he has acquiesced and my bet is that the compromise will be WWE promoting CM Punk’s UFC debut. I have no idea whether that is the case or not, but Dana had to get something big in return for Rousey wrestling on WrestleMania.
Triple H defeated Sting in a pretty fun match. It wasn’t the best match on the card and really hurt following what I thought was a fantastic Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins match. But Sting looked great, the fans ate it up, and we got some fun surprises here. The New Age Outlaws and X-Pac came out to help Triple H and were countered by the n.W.o. group of Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall. The match ended with Shawn Michaels coming out of nowhere to hit Sting with Sweet Chin Music. Triple H eventually got the pin after using the broken top of a sledgehammer. Everyone hugged after the match signifying the official end of the Monday Night War.
John Cena beat Rusev to win the US title. I am stunned by the decision here. I have no problem with Cena but I think Rusev should have remained unbeaten until he lost to the WWE champion. I think the WWE could have had something with Rusev against either Brock or the WWE champion and while those could still do business, it’s not the same. Rusev ran into Lana inadvertently at the end of the match. Lana was selling her ankle and Rusev yelled at her and walked out.
Undertaker beat Bray Wyatt. I’d say that Undertaker looked a lot better than last year. He moved much better and it was fun seeing him back in the ring. That said, the match was pretty mundane. That could be that I had already watched four hours of wrestling up to that point and just got out of what seemed like an hour-long segment with Rock and Rousey vs. the Authority. I should note that Undertaker was shown in the commercial promoting WrestleMania 32.
Other notes: Daniel Bryan won gold again at WrestleMania. Bryan won the intercontinental title in the Ladder Match. This was a real fun match and probably one of the better Mania openers. This was a pretty crazy match but it was Bryan and Dolph Ziggler who stole it in my opinion. Randy Orton pinned Seth Rollins in what I’d dare say was one of the best Mania matches on the card. I loved the match and it obviously sets up Orton challenging Rollins at some point coming off of the clean pin.
Overall I would call this one of the best Mania cards top to bottom in some time. The show had a ton of surprise and the pace was fast throughout the night. Five hours of wrestling is a lot of wrestling in one sitting but it really didn’t catch up until the Wyatt vs. Taker match at around 10 PM. I’d highly recommend checking out the show if you haven’t already. For a show with low expectations, this one could go down top to bottom as one of the all-time best in Mania history.
Full WWE WrestleMania 31 results and winners…
Seth Rollins defeated Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns in a Triple Threat Match to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title
John Cena defeated Rusev to win the WWE United States Title
Daniel Bryan defeated Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, Stardust, and Bad News Barrett in a Ladder Match to win the WWE Intercontinental Title
Triple H defeated Sting
AJ Lee and Paige defeated The Bella Twins
Randy Orton defeated Seth Rollins
The Undertaker defeated Bray Wyatt
The Big Show won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd defeated The Usos, Los Matadores, and Big E and Kofi Kingston in a Fatal 4 Way to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles
Roman Reigns is heading into his first WrestleMania main-event Sunday night as he’ll be challenging WWE world champion Brock Lesnar. Reigns took a small detour on the way to WrestleMania 31 and stopped by the Camel Clutch to speak about WrestleMania 31 and a lot more in this CCB exclusive.
Roman Reigns will be one of a very few WWE superstars on Sunday to make his WrestleMania singles debut in the main-event. Reigns will earn that honor on Sunday amidst more controversy and criticism from Daniel Bryan fans and media. Facing more pressure than anyone in the industry, Reigns remains cool, confident, and prepared to prove the doubters wrong and conquer the challenge of Brock Lesnar.
Reigns was gracious enough to give me some time just days before the big match in conjunction with a SNICKERS “Who Are You When You’re Hungry?” contest. We hit on several hot topics including the pressure of making that historic WrestleMania leap on Sunday, the booing, thoughts on the Mania card, his Mania dream match, Brock Lesnar re-signing, and more in this CCB exclusive.
You are just days away from headlining WrestleMania 31 against Brock Lesnar for the WWE world championship. What is the pressure like to have your first WrestleMania singles match in the WrestleMania main-event?
“Well you know if we’re going to call it pressure I’d say it’s exciting. I’m pumped! This is an opportunity of a lifetime. You know you can’t write stories like this, well I guess you can. It just feels real good, it’s great to be out here on the west coast in San Francisco in the San Jose area. I was at Levis Stadium yesterday just looking around, I got to tour their facilities and everything. It’s just an awesome opportunity and I couldn’t be any happier.”
Coming from a family with Sika, Rikishi, the Rock, have you gotten any advice from your family, peers, or other veterans about the WrestleMania main-event experience?
“Absolutely and that is something that I am so fortunate to have are those resources that you kind of just tapped into there. For me it’s all about gaining as much experience as fast as I can so with my family I am just communicate and talk, ask questions. It seems like the consensus is to just live in the moment, have fun, and regardless of whatever happens this is the biggest opportunity I am ever going to have so just live in it, practice humility, and just represent our family.”
Has the booing gotten to you at all?
“It’s one of those things, it does a little bit. I am not going to lie. I care a lot about what I do, I have a deep passion for wrestling, sports entertainment, and just performing in front of a live crowd in general. So obviously you want things to be positive and support you but at the same time I really firmly believe that the fans, they have a choice, they pay their hard-earned money, it’s their opinion, and we live in a great country where you can voice that so it’s on them. No matter what happens I’m going to work my butt off, I’m going to go out there and perform to the best of my ability and the rest will take care of itself.”
Are there any other matches you are looking forward to watching at WrestleMania 31?
“I am. That’s the great part of WrestleMania, it’s the grandest stage of them all. Some of the best matchups, it’s not like other sports where it’s just one game. There’s so many different games being played and with that being said I’m really pumped for Triple H and Sting. I have to say that there’s another unique opportunity for a younger talent in Bray Wyatt taking on the Undertaker and as we saw last year the beast Brock Lesnar broke the streak so I am very curious to see how Undertaker bounces back, how he uses his wisdom and his experience to get back on track. With that being said the younger guys, the I-C ladder match is going to be as physical as there is going to be a matchup for WrestleMania.”
What is a WrestleMania dream match of yours against anyone past or present?
“I’m doing it man, it’s happening for me this year, Brock Lesnar the beast incarnate, a guy who carries so much respect not only in the UFC world but in sports entertainment world as well and just such a great athlete, he’s a proven competitor, I’m looking forward to showing what I can do and proving my abilities.“
What is it about the Samoan blood, the intangible that has made not only so many good pro wrestlers, but successful professional wrestlers?
“Well thank you for that, I think the main thing is it’s our blood. We have it in us, that intensity, that aggression we can tap into, I think it’s extremely believable. It’s something we are able to get lost in and I think not only for myself I am able to do it but there’s going to be a long line of more family members of mine coming up. If there is one thing we can do is reproduce.”
I tell a story about being scared as a kid after watching an interview with the Wild Samoans. What was it like for you to bring your friends to your house and meet your father (Sika the Wild Samoan)?
“It was awesome, you know like you said it’s a bit of a scary persona and a larger than life out there persona. A lot of times when I’d bring friends over or other kids from the neighborhood they’d be really shocked at just how laid back and cool he was. Most of the time when you come off of the road you’re tired so he’d just be super calm. The big thing is when you’re the only kid with a wrestling ring in your backyard, that’s a huge distraction so I think he could have been just terrifying but they’d still love him because he had a wrestling ring in his backyard.”
Did you ever consider MMA along your trajectory to the WWE?
“You know I didn’t. One thing I am kind of throughout my sports days is I never got into amateur wrestling. Growing up in Pensacola, Florida football and baseball were kind of the big sports and what I was pushed to do. Amateur wrestling never popped up and I thought that would have been a really nice segue as I got older into the Mixed-Martial Arts so I’m a little bummed I didn’t ever get to dabble in that side of athletics but I think my path happened for a reason and I am pretty happy where I am at.”
Roman’s thoughts on Brock Lesnar re-signing with the WWE.
“I think it’s great, I think it’s great. Anytime we can lock down top talent, Brock is a proven veteran, he’s been in the ring and he’s performed at the highest levels and he’s going to do so again Sunday so I think it’s awesome and it’s just another guarantee that he’s going to show up Sunday.”
Can you talk about the SNICKERS “Who Are You When You’re Hungry?” contest?
“That’s something that I am very proud to be a part of, to partner up with SNICKERS you know that’s the question. Who are you when you’re hungry? As we know anything can happen when you’re hungry so for me I was able to show a different side than most people were expecting, a bit of a questionable, insecure side of me and you take one bite and everything’s better and you can see it in the commercial where I snapped out of it, a bit of a kick-out if you will, and I was back to the regular me.”
Your personal favorite match up to this point in your career?
“You know there’s been a lot. I tend to favor the ones that are on the higher level or the more prestigious matches which are usually on a pay-per-view or a WrestleMania setting. With that being said I think thus far it’d have to be either the SummerSlam match against Randy Orton or the Fastlane match against Daniel Bryan. They were both awesome matches, great guys to compete against, and hopefully they’ll be many more down the road.”
WrestleMania 31 is finally here and the big event will go down this Sunday March 29. The WWE card is arguably the most shallow in years, yet there are a few matches to get excited about. Topping last year’s event will be a heavy feat yet the lineup has the potential to certainly exceed expectations.
The beauty of this year’s WrestleMania show for WWE management is that expectations are probably lower than they have been in years. There is no real dream match or scenario to get excited about nor is there a compelling storyline that has fans waiting for a conclusion. Yet the roster is solid and in terms of excitement, I have a feeling most will come away from Sunday night feeling that they got their $9.99 worth.
Let’s take a look at how the main card shapes up, breakdown some matches, and make some predictions for the biggest WWE event of 2015.
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE world championship – We all think we know how this one is going to play out yet it could go in a few different directions. Now that Brock Lesnar has re-signed with the WWE, a world of booking options have opened up. The WWE dodged a real bullet by avoiding a lame duck WWE champion situation at Mania.
I think the match itself could be better than people expect. A lot of it comes down to what it follows. If it is following Sting vs. Triple H and Hunter and Sting deliver a fantastic ending, this match could be D.O.A. If there is a buffer between the main-event and the other big matches, I think fans will be more receptive to it. The match placement is critical to this one like no other on the show.
Roman Reigns is expected to win the title here. The win over the Undertaker last year was used to put Brock in a spot to give Roman the ultimate win here. Yet I don’t think anyone will argue that Reigns is not over and could be set up to be a dismal failure as WWE champion. There are also the rumored heel turn scenarios out there which I think are stronger now that Brock is staying.That said, I think the WWE wants to keep Brock heel looking ahead to a potential Rock vs. Brock match next year. I think WWE take the unpredictable route here which is Brock retaining in a hard fought match. I think the Reigns heel turn is coming but it isn’t going down at Mania. I think the idea here is that Reigns is elevated just by going toe-to-toe with Brock in a hard fought war. Brock retaining is a bit anti-climactic, however I think the idea of Brock going over is that they can buy some time with Reigns and shoot that angle later…even the following night on RAW.
Triple H vs. Sting – Don’t be mistaken. This is the real main-event. For better or worse, this match has far more interest going into Mania than any other match on the show. Even I wasn’t interested in this match back at the Survivor Series, yet I have been drawn in over the last few weeks. Sting’s promos have sealed it for me over the last two weeks. Plus no matter what this looks like on paper, Triple H has delivered excellent matches on the last five WrestleMania shows. I can’t imagine him taking a match with Sting if he wasn’t confident he could pull it off.
I would not be surprised to see some kind of interference from a big ex-WCW star. Maybe it’s Ric Flair or maybe it’s Bill Goldberg, but I think WCW is playing into the match on Sunday. This is a tough one because Sting really should win his first match in a WWE ring. However, Sting’s future is dependent on his performance in the ring so there is no guarantee he wrestles ever again past Sunday. For that I think Triple H goes over, although for all of Hunter’s critics he is 2-3 in his last five Mania matches. My gut tells me that Hunter gets the win here but I think this match turns into the show-stealer.
John Cena vs. Rusev for the U.S. championship - I never would have predicted that this feud would be so hot. This feud is so hot that Cena has actually been cheered in recent weeks. These guys have great chemistry together and Rusev has been booked solid for a year leading up to this match. Quite honestly you couldn’t ask for better booking on paper sans the goofy “Russian” lawyer last week on RAW.
Does Cena go over Rusev? That is the real question here. We all thought that Bray Wyatt was beating Cena last year and were stunned when Cena pulled off the upset. I think the money in Rusev is challenging for the WWE world title as the undefeated U.S. champion. That would mean that Rusev beats Cena here and beats him again at Extreme Rules. Cena did put Lesnar over three times but that is Brock Lesnar and he did beat Lesnar once at Extreme Rules 2012. If Roman Reigns is leaving Mania with the belt a championship program with the undefeated Rusev makes the most sense. For that reason I predict that Rusev pulls off the upset here and beats Cena clean at Mania.
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker - I never like the idea of keeping an opponent off of television but I have to admit that keeping the Undertaker off of TV has worked in this one. It has created a ton of intrigue and speculation that you wouldn’t have if he was on TV even just once. I haven’t been a big Bray fan but the promos here have been better but the storyline is just kind of odd to me. The idea that Undertaker would return to answer Bray’s challenges and yet completely ignore the taunting and mockery of Paul Heyman for an entire year makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
I think the match will be fine. I don’t think it will be great but I don’t think it will be bad either. The Undertaker is reportedly in much better shape than people think and he looks ready to go. It’s important that he can still go here as there are a ton of reports that they want him for something much bigger next year at 32. for that reason I think Undertaker wins although I think it may be better for business for Bray to win. I think setting up Bray with a win as Reigns’ first challenger is the better path but I can’t see Taker dropping two in a row at Mania.
Bad News Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper vs. R-Truth vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. Dean Ambrose in a Ladder Match for the intercontinental title – Get ready for a wild match here! I am going to keep this one short because we all know what to expect in this one. I would be shocked to see anything less than a great match. I’d expect Bryan and Ziggler to steal the show, although Ambrose certainly has the talent to make his mark as well. Bryan losing to Ziggler twice certainly leads me to think he is winning the match. It makes sense as the WWE can placate his fans by giving him a title, albeit a low-level belt. Regardless, we’ll get a great match, a Yes chant, and a belt around Bryan’s waist. Everyone wins!
Full WWE WrestleMania 31 card and matches…
Brock Lesnar (c) with Paul Heyman vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Title Match:
Rusev (c) vs. John Cena for the WWE United States Title Match
Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Bad News Barrett (c) in a Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Title
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Sting vs. Triple H
AJ Lee and Paige vs. The Bella Twins
Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd in a Fatal 4 Way for the WWE Tag Team Titles
The vignette of Mark Henry and Roman Reigns last week on Raw and the comments that have been made by the big veteran about Reigns’ potential title run hit the nail on the head for both wrestlers. If anyone knows about the battles in the ring, Henry has to be one of them. But his comments about Reigns and his place in the WWE are dead on. I like to think the comments he has made are more about the end of Henry’s career and what looks to be the start of a promising future for the soon-to-be world champion.
“If Roman attacks Brock the way he attacked Daniel Bryan at FastLane, then he can do big things. People always run off at the mouth on what people should do. I believe people should sit back and enjoy and if they don’t like what they’re seeing, tune them out. Fans have to realize that as big of an impact that they have on the industry, they’re not calling the shots. They should just sit back and enjoy the show. When fans go to football games, they’re not the ones calling the plays.
“There’s a different mentality with the fan base nowadays where the fans are reacting before storylines even have a chance to play out. People are commenting before stuff even happens. There used to be a time where the anticipation grew so much and that anticipation superseded everything else. However, that anticipation has lessened in today’s day and age because of all the information and media surrounding the company. Roman Reigns can definitely be the next top guy in WWE but he has to have a thicker skin and not worry so much about what the critics are saying.”
Henry may go down in the business as one of the most underrated big men to ever get in the ring. After all the stupid angles Vince McMahon created for him, Henry’s run with the World Title, a program where he played one of the best heels this company has had in some time, finally showed how great he could be in the ring.
There is a belief in this business that superstars are born from “moments.” Shawn Michaels and the Ladder Match at WrestleMania 10 started his ascension. Steve Austin and Bret Hart in the “I Quit Match” made Austin’s career. Those moments are etched in wrestling time and remain topics we all talk about. Reigns has a chance to do the same thing this coming weekend.
For everything we have been force fed about Reigns and the new catch phrase, “Believe That,” most of the shots taken at the rising star are not his fault. Injuries and circumstance have led to our sensibilities changing. Also, given the fact the WWE broke up The Shield at a time when it may have been a good idea in theory, but a bad idea in execution, fans may have felt like they weren’t given the opportunity to root for the champion of their choice. In this case it appears to be Daniel Bryan.
Now, with Bryan in the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at WrestleMania 31 and Reigns in the WWE World Title match against Brock Lesnar, fans will ultimately show the company whether they will accept the crowning of a new champion and a new era or will they fight it.
Can Reigns get over on his own? Not with The Rock getting in the ring with him. Not with everyone building him up as was the case with Daniel Bryan and then Paul Heyman. Reigns will need to stand on his own, much like Henry was finally able to do, to become the star the company needs him to be.
If Roman wins, we riot. Have you seen that sign yet? Don’t worry, you will. WrestleMania is right around the corner and you can be sure that sign will be somewhere among the massive crowd in attendance. Well, unless WWE takes it away. They will probably take it away.
The backlash against Roman Reigns has never been bigger, the hate toward him never more intense. And it’s not just because he’s still the one believed to go over on Brock Lesnar at Mania. Now the vitriol leveled against Roman has been amplified due to Lesnar’s recent resigning with WWE.
That’s right folks; The Beast has chosen his cage. Walking away from a possible UFC return and apparently unwilling to give the NFL the old college try once again, Brock Lesnar has decided to call Vince McMahon’s company home. And truth be told, that’s a good thing.
WWE is in desperate need of big time stars. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at who the top guys are. First there’s John Cena, the eternal Boy Scout and superhero come to life. Then there’s Brock, the monster that eats boy scouts and has superhero heads mounted on his wall. And that’s about it.
Everyone else is a distant number two. I like Daniel Bryan; he’s a star in every sense of the word. But WWE put the kibosh on his forward movement the moment he came back from injury. Randy Orton is still around but his WrestleMania opponent Seth Rollins is closer to the WWE World Championship than he is. I like Seth too, by the way. He’s a future top guy in the making but he’s not been made yet.
John and Brock are it; there is no one else on that level. So when the time came to make a play for The Beast, you can better believe the McMahon family jumped all over it. Can you blame them? He’s one half of their main event scene.
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying no one else is contributing. Bryan, Rollins and Orton do what they do every week and they get praised for it. We also can’t forget about Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose; these three guys give just as much as the previous three. Put all six on the same program on the same night and there is no doubt fans can see who’s putting in the work to entertain them.
But John and Brock are it. WWE knows this and they only have themselves to blame. Instead of creating top moneymaking stars, the company has created a whole bunch of mid-card stars. In other words, the menu is all appetizers and only two main courses.
It’s not a problem in the short term. Then again, nothing ever is. It’s the long term that WWE has to be concerned about, that’s what matters the most. It’s not today that’s the issue, its tomorrow. It’s the same mantra that’s kept them afloat all these years, the one that pushed them past WCW back in the day. And yes, it’s never really been a problem. But it is now.
The fact is if you don’t hate Roman Reigns, you probably know someone who does. But why is that? What did Roman do that was so bad, that will not allow haters to seem him as something other than a future top guy? The answer is nothing. Roman did nothing wrong.
WWE set out to create a new moneymaker, a solid number three behind John and Brock. Never mind it already had one with Daniel Bryan. Kibosh, remember? We’re talking about now and now was supposed to be Roman’s time. The Reignman was supposed to reign over WWE in a new era, moving the company forward past both Lesnar and Cena.
But now Lesnar is staying. And that means Roman may not reign over anything. Common sense says that Roman should be given more time, he’s been unfairly criticized and it’s not his fault he’s in a tough situation. But common sense and pro wrestling do not often break bread together and WWE has been known to change plans at the zero hour.
Is that what we’re looking at for WrestleMania? Will WWE pull the plug on Roman in favor of Lesnar? The truth is right now there’s just no way to know. Roman does deserve the benefit of the doubt; he does deserve the chance to prove what he can do on the main event stage. Lesnar’s presence should not be an excuse to prevent Reigns from moving ahead to the championship. Is he behind the eight ball? Yes. Will it take some work to get him where he needs to be in terms of respect and credibility? Absolutely. Should he be punished and held back because Brock is in the mix? No way.
Fans should be on Roman’s side. Had it not been for Ambrose’s rise last year and Daniel’s mishandling since returning, they may very well be. But they’re not and they may never be. WWE has some major repair work ahead of them and it will be interesting to see how they go about doing it.
And let’s be honest. Fans are a fickle bunch. They love Brock right now but give it time. Maybe the sign should read “If Roman wins we riot provided we don’t get sick of Brock at some point.” It’s a bit wordy but perhaps more on point.
As we head into WrestleMania, I finally came to the conclusion why my interest in the main event is at an all-time low. While many people share my feelings, I can honestly say that I can’t blame Roman Reigns, the guy has been put into a universally bad position. I can’t blame Brock Lesnar, I can’t blame Paul Heyman. What do I blame?
Or the lack of one.
II should elaborate on what I am saying. In the build to WrestleMania and Roman Reigns journey to WrestleMania, he hasn’t faced any major obstacles. The WWE thought that having Reigns get bloodied up and having him face off with Kane and Show at the Rumble would do the trick. This sounds like a neat idea in hindsight except that Show and Kane are about as threatening as a box of kittens in the eyes of fans. Rusev would have been a better final boss and not in the convoluted way it was done.
Just have Rusev straight-up beat the crap out of Reigns for a period of time before having Reigns come back and eliminate him. Heck, they did this already in the battle royal for the last MITB spot, and Reigns got a massive pop. I know the circumstances are very different, but it shows that you have to give the fans a reason to root for this guy.
Think about it like this, Daniel Bryan had to face Triple H and then overcome Orton, Batista in a triple threat match. On top of that, he had to deal with Triple H, Stephanie and the return of Scott Armstrong. That’s a mountain to climb and that’s not even mentioning everything that happened after SummerSlam. If you want one that isn’t a guy getting beaten down, Randy Savage had to deal with Ric Flair and the pictures of Miss Elizabeth going into WrestleMania VIII. Savage wasn’t getting beat up every week, but he had Ric Flair screwing with his head for weeks on end before getting his hands on him.
Before Reigns was injured, it seemed like he was being tabbed to be the man who brought down The Authority. Reigns defeated Orton had defeated Rollins on Raw and was on his way to a showdown with Triple H at Survivor Series. That would have at-least been a feather in his cap, something to make people this guy has a chance in hell against Brock Lesnar. While Lesnar is a big enough of a mountain itself to face, you need a challenger that has the credentials or in this case, the big wins to be a believable threat. The injury would have made for a decent comeback story, but they never used that as something for him to overcome. It wasn’t until Fastlane that the company acknowledged that it could be a problem during the Bryan match.
IIf this was Roman Reigns facing a guy like Randy Orton for the championship, these problems wouldn’t stick out to me. Yet, this is Roman Reigns facing the killer of the Streak, the man who destroyed John Cena with a gazillion suplexes and survived a Seth Rollins elbow drop through a table to murderize Rollins and Cena a short time later. This is Brock Lesnar and you can’t just stick a random wrestler in-front of him and tout him as the Lesnar Killer, you need somebody that the fans can believe is capable of being the one who beats the one in twenty one and one.