Given tonight’s main event, it was interesting to go back and read what I wrote earlier this year about whether Brock Lesnar should go into WrestleMania as the champion (http://tinyurl.com/nujboqh).
I argued that this should, indeed, be the case as to have Brock involved in a non-title match with him being about to leave WWE permanently (as many suspected at the time) would mean that there would be no drama in the match. At least with him going in as the champion, there could be some drama as to whether his challenger would beat him or whether Seth Rollins would cash in his briefcase to take the title.
Now, here we are three months later, and everything has changed!
Given Lesnar’s re-signing with WWE, and as the bookmakers have observed, the outcome of the match is now in more doubt than at any point over the last 12 months. From where I’m sitting, this is great news for the viewer – genuinely, I am more interested in this match now than at any point before and highly curious to see what happens. That may well be a feeling shared by many people who are sitting on the fence about watching the show and may translate into more buys and network subscriptions.
More subscribers and more pay-per-view buys is definitely good for business.
However, all of this comes at a price. The price is that, unless something drastic changes, Roman Reigns may well be dead in the water.
The past couple of months have done very little to convince the audience that he is somebody worth getting behind to the level of a top guy. Upper mid-card guy? Sure. Top guy? Not at all.
Look at the two most obvious options and their realistic outcomes.
Roman wins tonight. Given that Lesnar has actively chosen to stay with the WWE, he will likely be greeted as a hero – the complete opposite of 11 years ago when he was jeered mercilessly by the Madison Square Garden audience after having “sold out”. As a result, Roman’s coronation will play out in front of either a negative or, worse still, indifferent reaction. Think about the WrestleMania moments of the past when a new top guy was crowned – Bret Hart at WrestleMania X, Batista 10 years ago and even, yes yes yes, Daniel Bryan last year. None of these three men ended up being the next Hogan, Austin or Cena but they all deserved the spot at the time and were clearly ready to be given a go. More importantly, the audience were behind them completely.
A win for Roman tonight is a coronation that has come about without the popular vote. If Roman cannot get the audience behind him for his big moment, it is unlikely he will be able to hook them further down the line. He will always carry the tarnished moment he lifted the belt for the first time and nobody cared.
And if Roman loses tonight? This presents a very different sort of issue for Roman. It makes him the new Lex Luger – the modern day choke artist. This, obviously, also tarnishes him. If he doesn’t win this one, he might be seen moving forward as the guy who blew it when the lights shone too bright for him.
Circumstances have transpired to paint Roman into a corner and an apparent no-win situation. You’ve sort of got to feel sorry for the guy – especially when you consider that, if they had pulled the trigger and gone with this as a huge surprise in 2014, it might just have worked. It certainly would have worked better than it has this year!
Even the “get out of jail free” option of having Roman turn heel and take on Paul Heyman as his advocate is thrown into doubt by Lesnar’s re-signing. There are another three years of value to get out of Brock and a babyface turn this early might be too much too soon.
The other option involves Seth Rollins and his battered briefcase, but I can’t help feeling that would weaken everything and everybody. Look back at WrestleMania 27 for a comparison – a messy finish in the big match is hugely unsatisfying.
It’s a tricky situation and I’m very curious to see how they are going to get out of it (or *if* they are)
But, whatever the reason, I’m watching.