The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff.
Without a doubt, Roman Reigns has been the most interesting aspect of WWE over the past year. In a company that has struggled to produce compelling characters, Reigns’ heel turn and subsequent tyrannical grip over the Universal Championship has been the stand-out performance from WWE since he returned at SummerSlam.
When Edge won the Royal Rumble and later announced that he would be challenging Reigns at WrestleMania, it seemed like a very straightforward story to tell. Edge was the popular, veteran babyface whose story of coming back from a career-ending injury made him easy to root for. Reigns, the dominant heel who had controlled the world title, was a perfect enemy for Edge. The promos and interactions should have been easy to put together and execute to get fans invested in the program.
Instead, Edge would turn heel and begin feuding with Daniel Bryan. Over the past few weeks, with Bryan now involved in the match at WrestleMania as the designated babyface, Reigns, the most popular wrestler of his generation and the focus of WWE’s product for the past several years, has turned into a bit of an afterthought. Reigns isn’t being buried and he is still involved in the main event, but the babyface vs heel dynamic has shifted to being Edge vs Daniel Bryan, with Reigns left as kind of a third-wheel despite the fact that he is the champion and was also the hottest act in the company.
This is a big shift from when the build for WrestleMania seemed to be centered on Reigns vs Edge, with Reigns playing the role of top heel. With Edge’s turn and the introduction of Bryan, Reigns’ role is less important to the match. Since Edge recently turned and has been very direct in his dislike of Bryan, that feels like a program that is hotter than Reigns feuding with either man.
This change has led to a lot of speculation about what is going to happen in regards to the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. Since Bryan and Edge seem to have more momentum going into the match, I think a lot of people are thinking that either Bryan or Edge is going to walk out of WrestleMania with the title.
I think that would be a big mistake. With Reigns in his current incarnation, WWE has succeeded in creating a compelling character and a narrative that can be used to create another top star for the company. This has been rare for the company, and they have a tremendous opportunity right now to use the momentum generated by this current heel Reigns run to create a new top babyface.
Nothing against Edge or Bryan, but if they were to win the title, it would kind of be a waste of the momentum garnered by Reigns because they are known entities. Edge is 47 and clearly is in the twilight of his career and has already held the world title a million times. Bryan has also been around for a long time and has strongly said that he is looking at scaling back his wrestling career soon. WWE won’t be achieving anything new by crowning them as champion, even though I’m confident they would perform at a high level.
Reigns has done a tremendous job bringing importance back to the world title. Reigns’ entire persona, as the head of the table, is based around him holding the title. While I know some people have been turned off by the constant interference in his title defenses, I think it has benefited Reigns in that it has established that he will do absolutely anything to retain the title, which enhances its value as Reigns lives and dies by the title, and it has benefited both his heel persona and the value of the title itself.
I think the logical thing for WWE to do going forward would be to pick a younger wrestler on the roster and give them some real momentum as a babyface; having them consistently win midcard feuds. I don’t really care who it is, but there is no shortage of talent in WWE that could shine if they were given a serious push that allowed them to consistently look strong. Keep building that babyface up, until around SummerSlam when they finally face Reigns after having garnered this organic momentum, and have them beat Reigns clean, and win the title.
Since Reigns has made his entire character around desperately clinging on to the title, I think a proper build that culminates in a new babyface toppling him could create the kind of critical star-making moment that WWE should be seeking. It will be a real defining moment in someone’s career and help launch them to the next level. For Reigns, I think him finally losing the title could set up the next chapter in his career; perhaps he turns babyface, or perhaps he sinks down into an even darker persona.
Now, you could argue that Reigns could lose the title at WrestleMania, gain it back shortly thereafter, and then do this whole proposed angle at SummerSlam anyway. I don’t think that would be a great move, since Regins’ story is tied to his run as champion. If he were to lose the title and then regain it shortly after, it would diffuse the momentum the new babyface would get when he beat Reigns at SummerSlam. It would show that Reigns losing the title isn’t that big of a deal because he can just get it back in a month.
WWE probably wants to close WrestleMania with a big finish, and I can see why it would be tempting to do a title change. However, I think the pursuit of a “WrestleMania moment” would be misguided, and the company should focus on the potential they have in front of them with Reigns’ character and the ability it has to make the new star that the company desperately needs.
In the latest episode of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings and Jason Ounpraseuth discuss the current state of women’s wrestling from around the world. They get into Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair not main eventing WrestleMania, the growth of AEW women’s division, how companies struggle to book mid-card feuds for their women and the surge in popularity of Stardom and other Joshi promotions.