By Will Pruett
For the second year in a row, Roman Reigns is going to WrestleMania to challenge for the WWE Championship. On the surface, this doesn’t bother me. Roman is a talented wrestler with a surprisingly solid resume of good-to-great matches under his tactical belt. Of the choices available to WWE given the story they have told up to this point, Roman is a fine challenger and two-time WrestleMania main eventer. The problem with Roman Reigns isn’t actually Roman Reigns, but the stories WWE tells with him.
Look at Roman’s promo earlier on this show. He compared the WWE Championship to his livelihood. He essentially said he would die if he did not win this match. I know wrestling is a faux-sport based on hyperbole, but this was too much. Roman is not going to die if he doesn’t main event WrestleMania. Before the Royal Rumble, Roman said the WWE Championship was his means of feeding his family. Has anyone checked in with Roman’s daughter from the “Fatherhood” commercials? Is she still eating? It’s been a month.
I’m not just trying to mock poor writing here. I’m proving a point. The things Roman is scripted to say are so laced with hyperbole, they cause his character to lack relatability. Compare this to the characters WWE fans tend to relate with. Daniel Bryan didn’t hyperbolically overstate his desperation, but he was desperate. Bayley doesn’t hyperbolically overstate her fighting spirit, she just fights. Roman Reigns doesn’t need to make it seem like he’s face 15 giants every time he is in the ring. He doesn’t need to overstate the odds.
The weird thing in all of this? In the moments when Roman truly needs to be angry and could stand to overstate his case, he is silent. When Roman Reigns lost the WWE Championship in a truly unfair manner, he said nothing about it. Why not get angry? Did he even get angry in his match at Fastlane?
Roman Reigns does not suck. Roman Reigns is not a bad professional wrestler. Roman Reigns should not be the kind of wrestler who causes whole crowds to revolt against wrestling shows. Roman Reigns is far better than he gets credit for. Sadly, Roman will continue to be rejected until WWE realizes how to make his character likable. They figured it out for two nights in December, but have lost their way once again.
Roman Reigns was booed out of the building after winning his opportunity to main event WrestleMania. Unlike the last two years where this sort of thing occurred, there is not an obvious better option. There isn’t a more popular and compelling wrestler waiting in the wings to rescue this match. WWE had to go with Triple H vs. Roman Reigns.
The challenge in front of WWE now is the challenge they’ve had to stare down for the last year and a half: make Roman Reigns the most popular wrestler on the roster. Fastlane’s main event did not do this. I’m curious to see how WWE attempts to do this. Usually WWE finds a way during WrestleMania season, but last year’s build culminated with a tug-o-war, so I lack faith.
And now some random thoughts:
– I found the entire Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns match to merely be average. It was not a classic main event. It’s not a match I will remember in a month or a year.
– Like most, I expected The Wyatt Family to cost Brock Lesnar this match, but it looks like plans have changed. The exchanges between Dean Ambrose and Brock over the past few weeks definitely set up a compelling WrestleMania program between the two. I still believe Brock ultimately smashes whoever he fights, but Ambrose is a better candidate for the smashing.
– Triple H vs. Roman Reigns doesn’t scream “100,000 people” to me, so the WrestleMania undercard will be interesting to watch fill out. I’m still holding out hope for “Miracle Man” John Cena vs. The Undertaker.
– Semi-surprisingly, the best match on this show was on the pre-show. Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio was Del Rio’s best match since his Ultima Lucha match against Johnny Mundo. It was probably Kalisto’s best singles match to date (on the WWE main roster). The match had some fun moments. This was what I hoped Del Rio and Kalisto would deliver back in the WWE Championship tournament in December.
– Kalisto as United States Champion going into WrestleMania should be interesting. Will WWE build an actual feud for the secondary title or will they build a multi-man match? The same question could be asked about the Intercontinental Championship.
– Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler didn’t have a bad match or anything, but I feel like I have seen them wrestle too many times. Owens and Ziggler are fine in the ring and Owens has a compelling character (the less said about Ziggler’s character, the better). Hopefully this will be the end of this feud and both men can do something fun for WrestleMania.
– I saw a lot of complaints about the WWE Network feed last night, but I had almost no issues. It buffered twice from the pre-show to the end of the main show. The number of complaints justify it as an issue, but it wasn’t an issue for everyone. Hopefully WWE improves their technology. It’s a tough subject though. MLB’s streaming service frequently buffers and fails as the season starts. NFL Sunday Ticket streaming is a mess for the entire football season on an annual basis. WWE is still at the forefront of technology.
– Ryback was somehow the star of the Wyatt Family vs. Big Show, Kane, and Ryback match. I sound surprised here, but Ryback is actually fantastic.
– Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch defeating Tamina and Naomi was the correct choice and it was a fun match. Putting it in the opening match slot on the actual pay-per-view showed a lot of faith in these women. I’m holding out hope for a Charlotte vs. Sasha vs. Becky Triple Threat at WrestleMania. It would be logical and likely be really great. Now all we need to do is eliminate the butterfly championship and stop demeaning the women via the “Divas” branding.
– Charlotte vs. Brie Bella had some very clunky moments, but it also played on emotion rather well. It was a less than perfect match for both women.
– A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho was better than a good match. They didn’t quite hit “great” territory. The timing between the two still seemed like an issue in certain moments. While this seemed like a fun pseudo-dream match about a month ago, it’s time for Jericho and Styles to move on from each other. Hopefully Styles can find another opponent and have better efforts with them.
– Styles would be a fine challenger in either the United States or Intercontinental Championship scenes. Styles vs. Kalisto sounds super fun. Styles vs. Owens is always great.
– The only good part of the Edge and Christian, New Day, and League of Nations segment was Edge’s theme music and entrance. After all these years, it’s just electric.
– New Day are apparently actual good guys now. Does this mean they’ll get booed?
– R-Truth vs. Curtis Axel wasted valuable life force.
The last hour of this show was a true let down, while the first two hours were better than good. The main event triple threat tried, but couldn’t quite create magic. The rest of that last hour dragged terribly. I know the roster is thin right now, but WWE should really have better shows than this going into WrestleMania. I’m concerned about what is supposed to be the “biggest show of all time” in Dallas/Arlington. Hopefully things get better soon.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren’t super annoying thoughts (and please don’t ignore this and post super annoying thoughts), hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Mister Saint Laurent, who offers passionate words about what MLW delivers that pro wrestling has been missing, addresses criticism of MLW's contracts, straying from the path that his family paved for him, discusses the MLW Saturday Night SuperFight pay-per-view event that will be held on November 2 in Chicago, and more (62:44)...