Hey WWE fans, have you heard who is wrestling Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at SummerSlam? If you haven’t been keeping up, maybe you didn’t know that Brock Lesnar hasn’t competed in a WWE ring since…probably right around the time you stopped watching: Just after WrestleMania. Lesnar and Roman Reigns of course went at it on the biggest show of the year for the Universal Title, and Roman Reigns…lost. Then they competed again at the Greatest Royal Rumble, where Roman Reigns…lost again.
Let’s not forget that one SummerSlam…what was it, last year maybe? When Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman all took on Brock Lesnar in a four-way match and Roman Reigns lost then too. Wait a minute, before you jump in and say “yeah but that was a multi-man match, so Roman Reigns didn’t get pinned in that one.” Let me remind you that yes, in fact, Roman Reigns did get pinned in that one. And then there was the infamous WrestleMania 31 match in which Roman and Brock first went at it for the WWE Title and Roman lost (and ate the pin too).
So, to recap: Roman Reigns has competed for a world title against Brock Lesnar in four PPVs thus far and is 0-4.
Someone explain to me, in kayfabe, why Roman Reigns is getting another title match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam?
We are mid-way through 2018. Do you know what that means? That means we’re more than four years into “the Roman Reigns experiment.” Roman main-evented his first WrestleMania four+ years ago and in that time has main-evented…yep, four WrestleManias, putting him in the company of legends like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and John Cena, only one of which (Hogan) has actually topped the bill four Mania’s in a row. Roman is now in a company shared by only the greatest main-event draw (arguably) in WWF/E history.
We’re in year four of Roman’s time as a main-eventer and he’s set to compete against Brock Lesnar—easily this generation’s biggest “crossover” superstar—for the fifth time. And he’s 0-4? How can that be?
We’re in year four (and a half) of Roman’s time as a main-eventer, which is roughly half the amount of time John Cena spent at the top of the WWE mountain. Who remembers where John Cena was four years after his first WrestleMania main-event? That’s right he was competing for the World title at WrestleMania 25 and though it didn’t main-event, he was the biggest wrestling star in the world at the time, and in fact his not main-eventing the “twenty-fifth anniversary” of WrestleMania was more than a little noteworthy considering his obvious starpower and prestige. John Cena spent his first four years on top remaking the WWE brand into his image, carrying the company on his shoulders, and more often than not being the reason shows sold tickets as well as they did. John Cena’s superstardom is the reason WrestleMania is now an annual stadium show with 60,000+ people in attendance every year. Four years after Cena became the man, the WWE was clearly his playground.
Today? Four years after Roman’s time began, where is the WWE? It’s meandering, unfocused, indecisive and, more often than not, outright rejected by fans.
Sort of like the Roman Reigns experiment itself, no?
Roman has been WWE Champion three times in his four-year run at the top, racking up 118 days with the belt. For comparison’s sake, by the time John Cena reached his fourth WrestleMania as a WWE Title challenger/champion (going into WrestleMania 24), he had also been WWE Champion three times, but had held the title for a total of 793 days. As said, the company coalesced around him in a way it simply isn’t able to do with Roman Reigns. Why not? Because Cena, despite getting his infamous “50/50” cheers, still got that first 50% of the fanbase to cheer him. What percentage is cheering Roman? It’s a lot less than 50%. Sure he got a nice reaction on Raw recently, but how much of that is just the fanbase wanting him to actually beat Brock Lesnar for a change, not because the fans are on his side and are ready to get behind him, but just because they’re sick of the constant indecisive start-and-stops, with Roman challenging and losing, challenging and losing.
Roman has had a main-event push that has failed to spark much enthusiasm from fans hardcore, casual, or potential. Because of that and also because Vince refuses to admit defeat, the chairman has had to push him only incrementally, knowing that too much sustained push would mean outright fan revolt. Instead we get little spurts of “pushing and revolting” which is even worse!
So here comes SummerSlam and yet another opportunity to pull the trigger on Roman Reigns. Will the company finally do it? Everyone was sure Brock was dropping the belt at WrestleMania. After all, how crazy is it to put your presumed-anointed hero on the grandest stage in the main-event and not give him the win?! But he walked out a loser and walked into the Greatest Royal Rumble with everyone sure this time he would win. “Maybe they wanted to save the title change for this big special attraction show!” we told ourselves, except nope: Brock won again and then disappeared, during which time superstars like Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman only continued to blossom and gain more and more fan support. Do they get the title match they deserve and which the fans want? Nope. Roman again.
Will this time be the time? Do you even care anymore?
Will Vince once again get cold feet after the fans invariably turn on Roman once more between now and the PPV? Will we see another Brock win? That would unfathomable, even moreso than at WrestleMania, considering he’s now gearing up for a UFC return. Will we see Braun Strowman swoop in and cash-in his Money in the Bank contract, robbing Roman once more of a proper coronation? Much as I love Braun that seems a terrible idea: It would take away what should be a legitimate championship win for his first big title and it would keep the focus on Roman Reigns and his apparently never-ending quest to win the title and keep it for more than a few weeks at a time.
I don’t know what SummerSlam will hold, all I know is I’m no longer invested enough in Roman Reigns to care if he wins or loses. I just want the whole saga to end. How ’bout you?