Being a wrestling fan can be exhausting. Yikes. Let’s take a look at the past week alone.
Saturday night was NXT Takeover XXX live on the WWE Network, which was great. Sunday was Summerslam, a pretty darn good show inside the THUNDER DOME! Monday night was the followed up to Summerslam and also the go-home edition of Raw before the WWE Payback pay-per-view. Impact aired on Tuesday night, for those who still care about the artists formerly known as TNA. Wednesday night was NXT, which was great as usual, even with the disappointing main event shuffling around. Thursday night was AEW Dynamite airing on a special night due to the NBA Playoffs (what a mess that is). Friday night was WWE Smackdown – again, the followup to Summerslam and still the last minute hype to Payback on Sunday. Saturday is today obviously and yet, in 24 hours, we have yet another WWE PPV called Payback!
Needless to say, this issue is multiplied by a million without a live audience. No cheering from actual fans. No booing from actual fans. No big return pop. No exciting chants. No memorable crowd reactions to watch back on Youtube years later. Nothing. Just silence or blank computer screens with faces on in. Kinda meh if you ask me. As I noted in past columns, I will give WWE full credit for their experimenting. They are TRYING to do something to entertain all of us throughout 2020. They’re trying. All of the top executives have already admitted this all sucks and will do better in the near future. I believe them. Still, the company, crew and WWE Superstars are giving their 100% on every show.
Through it all though, we can be honest. It’s been a rough past few months.
WWE’s attempts to liven up this stretch have been hit or miss at best. Boneyard Match? Cool. FireFly FunHouse Match? Not for me but cool idea. The Eye For An Eye Match? Exciting yet downright gross to others. My girlfriend got up and left the room when this started and message me “Let me know when it’s over.” She didn’t come back until I gave her clear. True story. The Swamp Fight? Sucked but made sense in the context of the story line. Money In The Bank Ladder Match held at WWE Headquarters? Kinda fascinating to watch but not preferable to the standard MITB ladder match setting. There are other examples, but those attempts have not been enough.
Same with trying new stuff with new stars. Remember Austin Theory? Back on NXT now. Remember Huberto Carrillo? Remember Cedric? Remember them battling for the United States Title and getting television time with AJ Styles? Those guys may get future shots but not right now. Remember all that Riddick Moss noise and the 24/7 Championship? Nothing. Naomi getting a chance? Yuck. Braun Strowman as the top champion of a brand has been a bust. Shorty G? I won’t even go there.
The point is WWE has been giving it their best efforts with different guys and gals and not seeing what they like. Some stuff has stuck during the No Crowd Era. Drew McIntyre is proving himself to be The Stud. Randy Orton is showing again why he is one of the best of this generation. Angel Garza has been a gem. Andrade and Zelina are awesome together (even when they are fighting). Big E is finally getting a chance at a single’s run – something he has not had in ages. SHinsuke and Cesaro, plus The Lucha House Party are getting actual focus. Buddy Murphy, even as a lackey, is consistently showcased. Kevin Owens is doing pretty well with his Cool Dad role. Raw Underground still feels like it has zero direction, but it has been different enough to where it stands out.
Still, even with these positives, something has been missing.
The big thing that has been missing is The Big Dog.
Yep, you see, we have been accustomed to no Brock Lesnar, no Triple H, no Kane, no Big Show, no John Cena, no Undertaker, no Edge, etc. Those guys will pop up once in a blue moon, have a match, run a story line or two and then disappear. By now, we know how this all works, so that is cool. That is their role as a special attraction. I am not knocking them one bit. I am a fan of each of them and respect for their active/full-time days. However, it is 2020. I am used to them not being around.
I am not used to Roman Reigns being absent. Neither are you.
Some of you just do not want to admit it…until now.
After months and months or painful television shows and silent/dull events, WWE dropped one heck of a bombshell Friday night.
Not only is Roman Reigns back on Smackdown, he is gunning for the Universal Title he never lost…as a Paul Heyman Guy.
It has been a long time since my jaw hit the floor while watching professional wrestling. Go ahead and look at my Twitter feed – @JustinWatry – you will see I absolutely lit up like a Christmas when the blue brand came to a close. Oh my goodness. Reigns delivered one heck of a SPOILER – he will leave Payback as the new Universal Champion, and Paul Heyman chimed in with a ‘Believe THAT.’ Great segment, great camera work, great showings from all involved. This didn’t even need a live crowd to be effective, which is pretty ironic in itself.
The bottom line is Roman Reigns will likely be the new Universal Champion very, very soon, and he will do so as a new Roman Reigns. The key word there is ‘new.’ If done right, this has the makings of being something special. I have long said that turning John Cena heel would have been a mistake. I said that all the way from the beginning boos in 2005 all the way to his last couple of matches. It made no sense and just wasn’t going to happen for a bunch of reasons. I wrote about that before, so there is no need to beat that dead horse. We never did get that run, but we will get this. Heel Roman Reigns, aligned with Paul Heyman no less, could/should/will carry WWE for the next year or two. Or more. I am all in on this.
He has already been getting ‘used’ to get cheers for the ending of Royal Rumble matches. Why not use that energy and strategy year round? Imagine a showdown with Big E as a face versus Reigns as a heel? Imagine Matt Riddle battling The Big Dog? What about The Beast Brock Lesnar and his future? Think about that. How about…? I could go on and on, but you with Paul Heyman likely lending a hand in all of this, the possibilities are endless. Forget The Fiend and Braun Strowman, that reeks of the past few months of yawning TV. That is beyond played out. The ThunderDome was 100% a ‘reset’ for the company, led by the one and only Roman Reigns, and that’s not just a prediction; that’s a spoiler.
Written by Justin Watry