Just one month ago at Survivor Series, WWE tried everything in one night on Reigns. A clean win over heel Alberto Del Rio. A headlining match against his friend (shock-horror!) Dean Ambrose. A sympathy-inducing ‘5:15’ loss against Sheamus. In spite of this all, the following episode of Raw had the lowest episode ratings since 1997. It was clear that WWE had in mind that Reigns’ lost, although it was completely by the rules, was some form of ‘injustice’, and that fans would be engrossed in Reigns clamber for justice – but no.
One month on, after half an hour of groaning from a Boston crowd at Tables, Ladders and Chairs during Sheamus and Reigns’ TLC showdown (with ‘Daniel Bryan’ and ‘We Want Cena’ chants throughout, they were one ‘CM Punk’ chant from fulfilling WWE Creative’s unholy trinity), nobody could have expected an especially positive reaction for Reigns on the following Raw. Especially not in Philadelphia, the location at which Reigns was booed out of the building at Royal Rumble ’15. However, that is precisely what the show received – “Thank you, Roman!”
WWE may have hit the jackpot in evading more woes for the booking of Roman Reigns on Raw, but that does not mean that problems are fully solved. Remove the massive drama, and he could be one ‘tater tots’ promo away from a plummet from the top. So having focused so much booking fuel upon Reigns this week, how should WWE keep pushing him at this degree?
The answer? Don’t.
Reflecting upon everything that Roman Reigns did throughout TLC and the subsequent episode of Raw, it wasn’t that different in essence to the Royal Rumble disaster, as the audience were expected to be overjoyed with his win, and forget that the unpopular guy had won at the cost of the careers of another twenty-nine combatants. Cue ‘R.I.P. WWE’ rants left, right and centre. Here, he plowed through Triple H, Vince McMahon, League of Nations (a stable constructed to represent the rest of the planet) and won the World Heavyweight Championship. This also happened at the price of two more entertaining wrestlers having their match canceled (when McMahon interrupted R-Truth and Bo Dallas), therefore making the night even more about Reigns. Nobody would have expected this to be forgiven, yet it was as close to breaking the fourth wall as booking has been since Daniel Bryan fever took over WWE in early 2014. This was a Roman Reigns who wasn’t just fed up with not having that title, but with how the company was treating him.
Whatever one thinks of Reigns in the ring, one has to admit that this attitude is exactly what has been awaited for a long, long time (although some may argue that it is suited better to Seth Rollins, and that this might have been what was planned until his knee injury). Fans have wanted it. Reigns has wanted it. The company has wanted it, and for a couple of days it has finally been a reality. Unfortunately though, it sticks out like a sore thumb that the Dec 14th 2015 edition of Raw was a ‘Reigns Special’. It poses the question of whether this euphoria can actually be maintained. In fact, for it to even happen in the first place, took the irritation and lack of faith from viewers, and the resulting surprise, at the cost of months worth of sub-standard bookings.
As one can easily notice, this is not something that can happen again and again, and WWE face a whole new problem, as this really did come across as a last resort. Without an especially good heel (Kevin Owens is the closest, but sadly preoccupied) or personal feud (Rollins again springs to mind), Reigns no longer has the fuel that he was given in Philadelphia without constant repetition. While a feud might continue with Triple H through to Wrestlemania 32, he has now defeated, or at least upset, just about every heel and heel’s friend in the WHC division in the space of a few hours.
So how does WWE keep the aura around Reigns over the coming months? The answer is, unfortunately, not to. In fact, while it should be referred to in moderation over the next few weeks, one should probably begin to talk about somebody else entirely. Although it is the duty of the show to showcase everybody that it can, it goes to show that giving episodes of Raw a different centrepiece that is returned to throughout the episode for progression of character, championship or stable is the step forward required, as it will not take very long before fans are fed up of even the perfect Reigns, yet it will take a while for anyone to forget what happened that night.
For example, the Intercontinental Championship segment was over and done with in the space of just fifteen minutes, despite the surprise and excitement that surrounded Dean Ambrose’s victory at Tables, Ladders & Chairs the night before. The entanglement this week of Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler and Kevin Owens is deserving of its own dominance over the course of next week’s Raw, whereas promo segments are made minimal for Reigns in favour of a high profile match for the belt, as opposed to against the Authority. Similarly, The Wyatt Family seem custom-built to dominate an episode, and if context of character were added on Raw besides their terrific Extreme Rules match against Team ECW, then they really would have been on top.
It is all a brilliant case study of how WWE has had a habit of having far too few people atop the main roster. No one face and one heel, at least without breaking the fourth wall, will top the company, something that if WWE aren’t careful, will face trouble with, as it feels as though there is only one direction that Reigns can head from here without an entertaining feud – down.
In short, the main event, hyped creatively throughout the episode, garnished with other matches, needs to be juggled so that such episodes can exist on a regularly basis – not at the price of months of disappointments. His tale isn’t over. It doesn’t need to stop. It just needs to slow down.