By Will Pruett
When Roman Reigns won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a bottom ten all-time WrestleMania main event, I was skeptical of his long-term future. Reigns’ era started at the end of a seven hour show with a truly sleepy match between Triple H and Reigns. This was a weak coronation for someone I assumed would be a weak champion. I had no idea Roman Reigns would become one of the best things about WWE programming over the next two months.
While many crowds have decided to dislike Roman Reigns based on him being used poorly in the past, WWE has used this to their advantage. They have lined up amazing opponents for Reigns, the first of which is A.J. Styles, and are giving Reigns opportunities to shine. Look at the Payback and Extreme Rules main events and try to tell me Reigns isn’t doing downright amazing work as WWE Champion. It’s not possible.
Reigns himself isn’t attempting to roofie Stephanie McMahon (as he did about two years ago) or making reference to giant beanstalks. Since WrestleMania, Reigns has been on point with his message. Instead of making you laugh or attempting to sway fans, Reigns is simply kicking ass and being (in his own words and his own mission statement “The Guy”). This is the best possible use of Roman Reigns.
The ship sailed on fans all deciding to adore Roman Reigns sometime around WrestleMania 31. It’s been over a year of fans rejecting Reigns and their unanimous hero. I believe this is partially because today’s fans don’t want a unanimous hero and partially because of how Reigns was presented. Now we have the character of Roman Reigns with a set of core values, a long resume of great-to-amazing matches (Bryan, Cesaro, Wyatt in Hell in a Cell, Lesnar, Styles, and so many others), and an established mission.
Roman Reigns might be the best thing about WWE programming right now. Color me surprised.
The return of Seth Rollins is a huge boost to WWE. Rollins was stale as a character when he left the scene due to an unfortunate injury, but he seemed to be headed towards a major turn and feud with Triple H. While this story has obviously passed him by, Rollins has an even more intriguing path ahead of him.
Rollins returned as a surprise and attacked the man currently holding the WWE Championship he never lost, Roman Reigns. The story of WWE has centered around The Shield since they entered in 2012 and it continues to. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have a deep history with each other. They get to write the next, and possibly the defining, chapter of this history in the coming months.
On top of Rollins’ major return, there’s another one just a week away. John Cena is on his way back and the top of the WWE card is going to get very crowded. Where does everyone here slot in?
The revived Intercontinental Championship scene was on full display on this show and it ruled. The Miz, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro had one of the better four-way matches in WWE history, with Miz stealing a victory and continuing the awesome run his character is on.
This match told the stories of each character perfectly. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn hate each other too much to worry about the title their actually fighting for. Cesaro is so very close to this title and continues to leave empty handed due to outside forces. The Miz gets lucky and wins, but gloats about his skill afterwards. It’s honestly the perfect use of all of these wrestlers right now. I am amazed at how right WWE is getting this.
The WWE Women’s Championship, since stealing the show and bringing unheard of levels of equality to women at WrestleMania, has disappointed me. Not only has the scene around it been stale, but the focus on Natalya has lead to some really terrible matches.
This isn’t just Natalya’s fault, but she isn’t helping anything. At Payback, Charlotte and Natalya looked clumsy together. They couldn’t click the right way and the focus of the match was the men in their corners. Ric Flair and Bret Hart dominated the picture. This month, in a submission match with the famous father and uncle banned from ringside, we saw Nattie and Charlotte disappoint again.
The flaws in Natalya’s game have been on full display and her strengths have been nowhere to be found. Natalya has been horrible in all but one opportunity to talk heading into these shows. She hasn’t been a likable human. Even in her entrance for this submission match, she was something akin to a Ric Flair-esque low energy heel as she entered. How did this make sense for the opponent of Charlotte?
On top of these presentational flaws, Natalya was really bad in this match. Her selling was depressingly bad. Her frequent screaming was distracting. She just was not good. I have long believed Natalya to be great in the ring and I’ve seen evidence of this multiple times, but her efforts at Payback and Extreme Rules have lead me to seriously reconsider this opinion.
Charlotte was also largely disappointing here. I want this feud to end so WWE can do something compelling with their very good roster of women. They were off to a great start at WrestleMania, but they’ve really failed ever since.
Dana Brooke as Charlotte’s muscle could be fun to watch and it’s a decent use of Dana. I’d rather have Dana around Charlotte than drunk uncle Ric.
Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho have been trying to make me stop watching/enjoying wrestling. This is the only explanation for this feud. They almost succeeded with the Asylum Match. It was 26 minutes of pure nothing as weapons were used, cages were climbed, and fan enthusiasm (which was quite high prior to this match) was rapidly depleted.
Ambrose and Jericho should thank their lucky stars WWE needs 6-8 upper-mid-card wrestlers in the Money in the Bank match next month so they don’t have to fight each other again. Hopefully this match included the last thumbtack bump in WWE history.
– The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains didn’t feel like an important match to me, but it provided some good action. Action is nice. It looks like we’ll see another month of these teams competing. At this point, I’d put Big E in Money in the Bank as well (and might even have him win it).
– Rusev won the United States Championship from Kalisto and I would love to see him hold it for over a year. I know John Cena is returning and many have predicted Cena defeating Rusev within a month of returning. This is a terrible idea. The United States Championship could help rebuild Rusev in a major way.
– Poor Kalisto. So bendy.
– Not only was The Usos vs. Anderson and Gallows fun, it was one of the best Anderson and Gallows matches I’ve seen. This was a great high energy opener and it fit into the overall story of the show quite well. It made Anderson and Gallows look like monsters, which they probably should be.
This was a pretty good show that would have been amazing had the Ambrose vs. Jericho and Natalya vs. Charlotte matches not brought things down. Both of those programs need to end immediately. Styles vs. Reigns and Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Owens vs. Zayn both deserve high honors come the end of the year, so the good on this show far outweighs the bad. Plus, Seth Rollins! Yay for wrestling!
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.