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Well, here we go again.
Roman Reigns will face Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam for the Universal Championship, in a rematch from WrestleMania. This will be the fourth time Reigns has challenged Lesnar in a singles match for the world title on a PPV; and so far each time Reigns was the heavy favorite to win the title, and each time he has come up short. At WrestleMania 34, Reigns was beaten cleanly by Lesnar it what was a shocking upset, and he lost a controversial match later that month at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia.
So once more, Reigns will face Lesnar for the world title. Since Reigns and Lesnar had their first singles match at WrestleMania 31 (which later ended up being a triple threat won by Seth Rollins) WWE has been teasing putting Reigns over Lesnar, but each time has backed out on actually doing it. There is a debate on exactly why WWE hasn't just put Reigns over Lesnar already, with the prevailing thought being that each time WWE did not feel comfortable giving Reigns that signature victory, expressing a fear that Reigns was not popular enough to justify giving him a title victory over Lesnar.
I suppose if that is the case, then WWE's strategy has been to delay that marquee victory until Reigns is over enough with the audience. Over the last several years, WWE has tried different strategies to get Reigns over, ranging from having popular wrestlers endorse him, to re-forming The Shield, to their current strategy of attempting to sell fans that Lesnar is a lazy, absentee champion who doesn't care about the fans, so that when Reigns beats him for the title, they will cheer for him for saving the world title from Lesnar.
The problem with those various strategies is that for starters, none of them have worked. In hindsight they have probably actually done Reigns a disservice. His constant failures against Lesnar have made him look like a jobber to the stars, and someone that doesn't deserve multiple title shots because he never seems to win them.
Additionally, the years of delaying the inevitable has been agonizing for fans. Most fans know that WWE is committed to pushing Reigns as the top guy in the company, so just enduring this process of him failing against Lesnar has become very frustrating. Just get it over with already. It's like sitting in a dentist chair waiting for a root canal; and the dentist keeps fiddling around with all of his tools and putting around the office. You know you are getting the root canal eventually; why does it have to be dragged out like this? And that is exactly what Roman Reigns' push has been like for a lot of fans, a f--king root canal.
The weird thing is that since WWE has chosen to keep the world title on Lesnar and also chosen to keep Lesnar off of television, Reigns winning the world title doesn't mean a whole lot. What would the difference be? He's the most featured star on television and constantly in the main event of PPVs? That has already been happening for years. The world title in general has been devalued over the years anyway; hell Reigns has already held the WWE Championship three times; a world title win for him wouldn't be breaking new ground. WWE keeps acting like Reigns winning the world title would be this massive change for the company, but the reality is that change came a couple of years ago when they decided to push Reigns in the first place.
This brings us to the ultimate issue in WWE right now, which is the question of why Reigns isn't over with a lot of the fans. Despite those numerous strategies and all of the big wins and showcasing WWE has done, Reigns is still loudly booed by WWE fans, or worse, met with disinterest. The Impact that he has had on television ratings, live attendance and network subscriptions has been non-existent. Why hasn't it worked out for him?
People debate this question back and forth like it is rocket science; but I'm going to offer a very simple answer: Roman Reigns isn't talented enough.
Okay, I'll explain a bit more. Roman Reigns has been positioned in the premier spot in professional wrestling. WWE has selected to build their billion dollar company around him as their biggest star; the same position that has been held by John Cena, Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino and a few select others. In an industry with so many incredibly talented performers, to occupy that spot you have to be a generational talent, and Reigns just isn't.
Let's go back to the Royal Rumble in 2015, where it all began. Reigns won the Royal Rumble to win a championship shot at WrestleMania, at the expense of Daniel Bryan. Bryan was widely beloved by WWE fans, and Reigns was just beginning to get a smattering of boos from the audience. Many of the Daniel Bryan fans HATED that Reigns was given the opportunity instead of Bryan, so whenever they saw Reigns, they booed him and refused to get behind him. This then became the "cool" thing to do at live events, and suddenly Reigns was getting booed everywhere by fans across the country.
Well why did they hate Reigns so much? I don't think it was simply because he was pushed ahead of Bryan, but that is part of it. The real issue was that the fans didn't respect Reigns as a talent to be put in that position. Reigns wasn't as good in the ring as Bryan, nor was he as charismatic or as good of a talker as Bryan. At WrestleMania 31, it was Rollins who left with the WWE Championship, and despite the fact that Rollins and not Bryan was the WWE Champion, the fans never turned on Rollins the way they turned on Reigns. Why? Because even if they liked Bryan more; they at least respected Rollins' talent level to be pushed as a top star.
There was probably a time when Reigns could have won those fans over. If he took his great push, and began having great matches every week, cutting amazing promos and flashing a ton of charisma, he could have gotten over and people wouldn't even remember that he was pushed ahead of Bryan. The fact is though, that he never did any of that. He has had some good matches here and there, and cut a good promo or two, but never with any consistency and today it is obvious that he just isn't that gifted of a performer. Fans are savvy enough today to realize who is actually really talented and who has just been put into a role to look like they are.
People wonder why Reigns gets booed; with the argument being that he works hard, has decent matches that are occasionally very good, and has a good look. All of those things are true, but that doesn't justify his push into the top role in wrestling. You can't just be a guy with a marketable look that works hard and is capable of having a good match. You have to be great, even transcendent, in almost everything you do. You can have weaknesses, but you have to have strengths that off-set any of those weaknesses. For Cena, he wasn't the best worker, but he had a great look, lots of charisma and could interact with the crowd on the mic better than anybody else in wrestling. Hogan had all sorts of flaws, but had a transcendent look and cut better short babyface promos than anybody else. What exactly does Roman Reigns do better than anybody else?
If Reigns is going to be in the top position in the industry, and really he has been in that spot for a number of years, he needed to show that he could be that next-level superstar, and after years of evidence, it's obvious that he just isn't at that level. He's very solid, but very solid isn't the standard for that position, utter excellence is. Roman Reigns needs to be great to justify his standing in WWE to the majority of the fanbase, and he hasn't been. In fact, he hasn't even been close.
Must Watch Matches
Minoru Suzuki vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: **** NJPW G1 Climax Night 1
Kazuchika Okada vs Jay White: ****1/4 NJPW G1 Climax Night 1
Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr.: ****1/4 NJPW G1 Climax Night 2
Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito: ***** NJPW G1 Climax Night 2
Michael Elgin vs Hangman Page: **** NJPW G1 Climax Night 3
Tetsuya Naito vs Tomohiro Ishii: ****1/2 NJPW G1 Climax Night 4
Kenny Omega vs Hirooki Goto: **** NJPW G1 Climax Night 4
Tomohiro Ishii vs Hirooki Goto: ****1/2 NJPW G1 Climax Night 6
YOSHI-HASHI vs Michael Elgin: ****1/4 NJPW G1 Climax Night 7
SANADA vs Kota Ibushi: ****1/4 NJPW G1 Climax Night 8
Kenny Omega vs Juice Robinson: **** NJPW G1 Climax Night 8
Tomohiro Ishii vs Zack Sabre Jr.: **** NJPW G1 Climax Night 8