WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar will be taking on Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 34 this Sunday. The two have a storied history dating back all the way to WrestleMania 31. This was the time period in which Roman was being thrust into the main event spotlight, which he had no business being in at the time. Their match at WrestleMania would be interrupted by then-Money in the Bank holder, Seth Rollins. We all know the rest of the story in that Rollins cashed in and won the WWE Title.
Now we’re fast-forwarding to 2018 and WrestleMania 34. Brock Lesnar won the WWE Universal Title at WrestleMania 33 from Goldberg and he has yet to drop the title, allowing him to officially be a year-long champion. While this is normally impressive for most WWE Superstars, it’s meaningless for Brock. Considering he works per-date and misses about 8 months a year, he has rarely defended the title since winning it.
In fact, you’ll be seeing his official fifth defense of the title on Sunday. What is it that makes this match special? Why should you care? What makes this match stand out? Finally, what do you need to know most? We break that down below.
What WWE Refuses To Admit To Themselves
The Roman Reigns experiment for him to be the top guy in the WWE has failed, but Roman himself has not been terrible. He’s had some impressive matches with the likes of Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Seth Rollins over the years. In fact, many Roman fans will tell you his match with Lesnar originally was relatively good before Rollins interfered. Regardless of what you want to tell yourself, Reigns is not as bad as he used to be.
Was he worthy of the spotlight he was given before? Oh hell no! But is he worthy of main eventing in 2018? Of course. The issue is that this comes with a lot of baggage. Whenever you’re the top guy, WWE fans expect you to be the best among all others in the company. Reigns is nowhere close to this. He’s not the top wrestler, mic worker, or anything of the sort. This does not make him bad at his job, it just makes him unworthy of the top guy role. This is the difference that people have to understand.
On Sunday, he’s going to wrestle Brock Lesnar and the two have the potential to put on a good match. However, the issue isn’t that Reigns and Lesnar will do bad. In fact, no one is truly talking about what the match quality will be. The real issue that WWE has to grasp is that Roman and Brock are not worthy of the top spot on the card. Is it more worthy of the spot than something such as Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs Stephanie McMahon & Triple H? Of course. But that isn’t saying much.
The Big Problem With Roman Reigns
The biggest issue with Reigns v. Lesnar is that we already know the end result before the match happens. That is kind of the rub when it comes to a Roman Reigns match at big events like this. WWE does not want to have Roman lose. He’s the top guy in the company to them, and with this known, they have to put him in a big match that he must win. The biggest issue? This will be the fourth WrestleMania in a row where he will have wrestled a part-timer.
Brock Lesnar, Triple H, The Undertaker, and now Lesnar again are consecutive Wrestlemania opponents for Reigns. See, WWE feels they have to get Reigns over as the top guy, and by beating notable names it allows him to show he’s deserving of the top guy role. This has been done many times over the years, but today this cannot actually work as well as it used to. The reasoning is not only because of the fact that fans know now more than ever that it’s scripted entertainment, but also because the type of guy Reigns happens to be is obsolete in today’s pro-wrestling world.
The thing is, Reigns is a tremendous athlete man who is literally called “the big dog” by WWE in nickname form. However, he’s not that big. Roman Reigns comes in at 6’3 265lbs in billed fashion. He isn’t really this big, however. Reigns is right around 240lbs but the height is near correct. The average person in the Attitude Era was 6’3, 250lbs. Some of these people were not billed at that weight by WWE announcers but actually WERE this big. Plus understand, this is average for then whereas it’s an oddity today to be this big in WWE.
Reigns is considered a bigger guy by WWE standards today, but average from the past. The world has gotten smaller for performers, and while this is partly due to WWE cleaning up their drug issues of the past, it’s also due to a change in style. The best performers in the world are under 250lbs and most are 6’0 and under in height. Vince McMahon loves Roman Reigns because he fits the old style of what he loves, but Triple H surrounded Roman with men far better than him to compete with. Reigns is not special, he’s just the average Attitude Era man that Vince clings to but wrestling fans find obsolete.
Vince McMahon Needs A Reigns Victory
Vince McMahon picked Roman because he knew that, without a doubt, he could keep the old-guard of things he created intact. The issue is that fans do not care about the creation of guys WWE produced in the past any longer. They care about today and what they offer today. WWE has some of the most elite pro-wrestlers in the world. However, they also have a lot of average performers too. Triple H has seemingly found the better types, but former Talent Relations people hired the previous.
McMahon needs Reigns now more than ever, as the style of the big man is dying and if he can still rely on what a big man would be today…that is a huge help to keeping his vision together. The real issue as well is that WWE is lacking major crossover stars, which they had more than a few of years ago. While today we see a lot of great workers, we see far less “stars” that WWE can put in movies, television, and more. Reigns fits those things in look, which is important for the marketing aspect.
He’s now set to lose one of his biggest stars in Brock Lesnar, and that is going to hurt the product. Lesnar is by no means the most beloved wrestler in WWE, but he is certainly a crossover star. His legit work in the UFC where he became their Heavyweight Champion, combined with once winning the NCAA Heavyweight Title, ultimately makes him well-liked. When people talk about wrestling being fake and the people within it being weak and rarely real, everyone points to Brock Lesnar to defy those comments. Whether you like him or hate him, Brock is legit and THAT makes him someone WWE has to keep.
Yet they likely are not going to do such, which means they need to create someone new to take his place. Roman Reigns does fit in the look form, but he’ll never be considered as legit as Brock. The problem is no one actually ever will be as legit as Brock, except for possibly Ronda Rousey, which MMA fans will scoff at. Reigns must beat Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 to help push the narrative that Reigns is better than the most legit man in the business.
McMahon, however, forgets that fans know WWE is scripted entertainment. Yet the message he is sending is that Reigns can be the star that Lesnar has been because he’s better.
The Brock Lesnar Problem
WWE has something most are calling “the Brock Lesnar problem” to work through these days. As mentioned above, Lesnar has been a use to WWE. The problem is that he’s not worth the money he made in his last contract. Not only is Brock now 3 years older than when he signed before, he was not able to sell as much as he needed to. His deal was for $5 million a year, on a VERY part-time schedule. While Lesnar has had strong merchandise sales and has helped in ticket sales, it was not as much as WWE had hoped.
On top of this, WWE looked bad in the news around the time of UFC 200 when Brock Lesnar went to do a one-off fight with Mark Hunt for the event while under contract. WWE did not mind Lesnar doing this, as it was useful coverage for WWE and it ultimately looked good to continue to show how legit Brock was. While Lesnar easily destroyed Hunt in the fight, he failed a drug test that resulted in him being suspended from the world of MMA for a year. WWE was asked about how he failed this drug test but not the WWE’s drug testing policy.
WWE claimed that they did not drug test part-time talent. As a result, WWE saw a ton of backlash and decided that as long as Lesnar is working with WWE, he’ll never be allowed to do another MMA fight. Due to this, Lesnar knew he had to do something in order to force WWE’s hand contractually. WWE refuses to let him fight, so naturally, the lack of freedom makes Brock want more money. Again, Lesnar is not worth as much as he once was. Lesnar knows WWE won’t pay him as much or give him as much freedom either.
That led him to use the UFC as a bargaining chip. UFC President Dana White has stated he would love to have Lesnar back. Due to the fact that the UFC desperately needs top stars for their heavyweight division, Lesnar is needed badly. Lesnar knows this, UFC knows this, and obviously, WWE knows this. With the lack of a deal being made, many believe Lesnar is gone. Due to this, Vince McMahon is going to have him drop his Universal Title to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. The questions will be easy to ask. Will WWE allow Lesnar to lose if he decides to re-sign? Would they allow the duo to main event again?
What Must Be Concluded By WWE And The Fans
WWE fans know by now that whether Lesnar stays or goes, there is going to be a win for Roman Reigns at WrestleMania on Sunday. This isn’t a debate, this isn’t a suggestion, and this isn’t a theory. It’s happening whether people like it or not. The real issue is what happens with Brock after this. He could stay but he may not. WWE cannot just let him walk without improving their offer to him, but they also cannot assume he’s going to be worth keeping for same price and freedom as before. He isn’t.
The biggest takeaway will ultimately be that WWE will once again thrust Roman Reigns into the World Title scene, and yet again start their move to push him to the world as their “top guy.” He’s got the level of confidence Vince McMahon has rarely shown a talent in the past. When it came to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, and John Cena…all provided something that proved they were top acts. Whether it was mic work, in-ring ability, charisma, or a combination of all of this…they had something going. Roman Reigns is not even close to any of these men, and likely never could be.
That isn’t his fault, as he is simply not made out to be that. However, come WrestleMania the attempt will once again be made. If Roman sinks and does not swim, WWE fans will once again find a reason to complain about the company. It could cost them fans, ticket sales, network numbers, and even revenue. Even if he swims, how many have already become so jaded with WWE due to the past that they refuse to care now? Either way, Roman is in a no-win position for some. But that isn’t actually true.
If Reigns does do well, and he lives up to the expectations WWE has for him….this can only be good for the company. If he changes the minds of some fans along the way, that will be good too. While his match with Brock on Sunday is going to need to be good. The real test is what happens AFTER WrestleMania. For this is truly where Roman Reigns has to get over, and where he finally has to live up to expectations. If he fails again, WWE may run out of patience.
[Featured Image by WWE]