Earlier this week on “Monday Night Raw”, Roman Reigns became #1 contender to the WWE World Title again as he won a fatal four way to earn the title shot against Seth Rollins at “Survivor Series 2015”. This is a spot Reigns has been in before and it’s quite an understatement to say that he wasn’t exactly a crowd favorite in his shot at “Wrestlemania XXXI”. Today we’re going to look at why things went badly the first time around and why they’ll hopefully be a bit better this time.
The key to the whole thing was Wrestlemania. There’s something about winning the first World Title at the biggest show of the year. It’s a very exclusive club with only a few members:
Wrestlemania IV: Randy Savage
Wrestlemania VI: Ultimate Warrior
Wrestlemania IX: Yokozuna
Wrestlemania XII: Shawn Michaels
Wrestlemania XIV: Steve Austin
Wrestlemania XX: Chris Benoit
Wrestlemania XXI: John Cena
Wrestlemania XXI: Batista
Wrestlemania XXII: Rey Mysterio
That’s the entire list. In over thirty years of Wrestlemania, only nine men have won their first World Title at the show and no one has done it since 2006. In most cases, these new champions were accepted with open arms and treated like the next big thing in the company. So why was Roman almost instantly shunned?
Among other things, it might be because Reigns hadn’t won much before going to the main event of “Wrestlemania XXXI”. When you look back at the other wrestlers on this list most of them (save for Yokozuna, who had only been around about six months when he won his title and Batista) had held at least one singles title.
Reigns on the other hand really hasn’t done much. He held the Tag Team Titles with Seth Rollins back in 2013, set a pretty meaningless record for eliminations in the Survivor Series, set a more important record for Royal Rumble eliminations and then won a very boring Royal Rumble the next year. You might notice that he’s lacking some individual wins on that resume. His biggest singles win was probably a clean pin over Randy Orton at “Summerslam 2014” in the second to last match on the card. That’s impressive but it’s not exactly enough to move him into the top spot on the roster.
This makes Reigns most comparable to Batista, who had been Evolution’s animal, won two Tag Team Titles and the 2005 Royal Rumble to earn the shot. However, there was one more thing that Batista had going for him as he went into the main event of “Wrestlemania XXI”: a hot feud against Triple H.
Triple H and Batista had been in Evolution together with Triple H clearly being the group’s top star. Batista was seen as the rising star of the team and had been mowing down everyone in front of him. After he won the Royal Rumble, Batista had his choice of which World Title to challenge for at “Wrestlemania XXI”. One night on “Monday Night Raw”, Batista overheard Triple H and Ric Flair planning to trick Batista into challenging for the other World Title. Batista turned full on face by laying out Triple H and the title match was on.
This is comparable to Reigns doing…..well nothing actually. That’s where Reigns fell short: he had no personal issue to go after Brock Lesnar at “Wrestlemania XXXI” and it made the match and feud feel flat. Basically all they had was Reigns wanting the title and getting his moment to win the belt because the calendar decided he was supposed to.
Simply put, wrestling doesn’t work that way. Wrestling is about building up a story between people to make the fans want to pay their money to see something happen. Batista rebelling against someone who was scared of him or Steve Austin FINALLY claiming his destiny after being ready for the top slot for a year or Rey Mysterio becoming World Champion to honor his dead best friend are ideas that fans can connect to. Reigns just being there because it’s decided he should be doesn’t exactly meet the fans’ expectations.
This time though, things are a bit different. A few changes have been made that are going to make this time feel different and maybe even be the time that Reigns gets the title. It might not be perfect or something everyone is dying to see, but there are a few very positive changes.
First, Reigns has fallen. “Wrestlemania XXXI” was built up as Reigns’ big moment to take the title whether he was ready for it or not but he lost. The moment that fans had been dreading didn’t happened and now Reigns has been going through a more traditional path to get back to the World Title scene. Having the hero fall and claw his way back up was a good way to let the fans relax and relate to him a little bit more. Just handing someone the top spot isn’t an interesting story. Having someone go after something, fail to achieve it and then fight to get there again is a story that has worked since storytelling began.
Speaking of the story, Reigns now has a personal one. Reigns had been a part of the Shield with current WWE World Champion Seth Rollins. Rollins turned on Reigns and broke up the team, eventually injecting himself into Reigns’ big title shot and taking the championship for himself. This is Reigns’ first one on one shot at Rollins on pay per view and another chance at revenge. It may not be Daniel Bryan rising to the title and rebelling against the Authority but it’s a lot better than just saying “yeah Reigns is fighting for the title.”
Finally, and probably most importantly, this isn’t Wrestlemania and Rollins isn’t Lesnar. “Survivor Series 2015” is at best the fourth biggest show of the year (probably a stretch). That means less pressure, lower expectations, and no beast to take the title from. One of the most important problems with Reigns going over Lesnar was the fans being happy with Lesnar as champion. He was the most dominant force wrestling had seen in many years and just having Reigns hit him over and over wasn’t going to be good enough.
Rollins has been booked as one of the weakest champions in company history and putting the title on a monster like Reigns who always puts up a fight would be a welcome change of pace. Reigns just came off beating Bray Wyatt inside Hell in a Cell to end the feud with the entire Wyatt Family. He looks like someone who belongs in this spot because he’s earned the opportunity and that’s not something you could say earlier this year.
I don’t know if Reigns wins the title at “Survivor Series 2015” but I know there’s at least a better story behind this match. Reigns has grown up a lot over the last few months and the fans seem a lot more accepting of him. By taking away the pressure of Wrestlemania, Reigns winning the title could be a great moment because it’s been set up as one, not because WWE told us it should be.
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