How to use Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 35
With Roman Reigns' now delayed coronation still all but a foregone conclusion, many WWE fans would bristle at the idea of yet another marquee match for The Big Dog at Wrestlemania, but perhaps WWE can capitalise on the animosity towards its golden-boy.
WWE fans are no stranger to the idea of a chosen one, a single star who will be shone above all others as the face chiefly associated with the brand. Before Roman Reigns, there was John Cena, and in the 80's we had Hulk Hogan. But that is partly where the resentment towards WWE's most touted star starts. For the previous decade WWE chiefly revolved around John Cena who always rose above the odds time and again to the point that his labelling as underdog was perplexing. His decade sitting atop the WWE mountain gave rise to the phrase "Cena wins, lol" as match results became increasingly predictable; and title reign after title reign were continually handed to him as the WWE marketing machine steadfastly turned accolades into children's t-shirt sales. And then, at last, it started to waiver. Fans had reason to hope for newer, fresher narratives to take centre spotlight in the circus ring that is professional wrestling. CM Punk was given the longest modern era WWE Title reign recorded - at 434 days. Daniel Bryan had organically connected with fans as a truer underdog, fighting a system that had always shown favour to physically bigger men.
Enter the Shield. 3 men riding a wave of popularity as large as any in recent years. When the trio was unceremoniously broken up by Seth Rollins' liberal use of a steel chair both Rollins and Ambrose entered a deeply personal feud. Reigns, on the other hand, rather than seeking retribution for this most personal of betrayals was quietly entered into the main-event title picture with his inclusion in the 2014 Money in the Bank Ladder match for the vacated WWE World Heavyweight Title; and so started the quiet rumblings amongst the WWE Universe. Vince McMahon had made Reigns his new pet project and wanted to make him the next face of the company. Fans weren't yet hostile, but certainly apprehensive. Reigns had been enjoyable in the Shield, but Ambrose had shown the most charisma, and Rollins was the new protege of The Authority. Fans had already earmarked either of these guys to be their preferred guy post-Shield.
As months went on, apprehension made way to vitriol. Hampered by a limited move-set and below average mic-skills, fans were not keen on the idea of Cena-esque main event domination by a roster member deemed to be less talented than many others on the roster. An issue further exacerbated by terrible pre-written promos involving lines such as the infamous "sufferin' suckotash" line of January 9th 2015. Even an appearance from The Rock was unable to garner a positive crowd reaction when he won the Royal Rumble in 2015. True to fans fears, Reigns has indeed dominated main-event storylines in the years since; main eventing all 4 Wrestlemanias, and being only the 2nd man to defeat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania as he was unequivocally made WWE's chosen one.
It is those 4 main events that would really put off many fans off the idea of another marquee match for a 5th year in a row, but what if that hostility and crowd perception could be used to WWE's advantage?
In the recent Superstar Shakeup, RAW became host to another superstar who has a history with the moniker of Chosen One. Assisting fellow new RAW roster member Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre has finally returned to WWE's flagship show, almost 4 years after he was released from the company. 9 years earlier, it was McIntyre that was designated the Chosen One, this time however Vince's endorsement was a public one, describing McIntyre as a "future world champion" on one episode of Smackdown. But despite having the look that Vince loves, standing at 6'5 and 265lbs, McIntyre failed to live up to the hype.
In 2014, following various underwhelming runs, and having become, by his own admission, complacent, Drew McIntyre was released. This would become a blessing in disguise for Drew, who under his real surname of Galloway spent the next few years taking the independent wrestling circuit by storm, becoming a champion in various promotions such as PWG, Evolve, TNA, and WCPW. Drew Galloway made himself one of the hottest acts and finally started to show the talent that had caused Vince McMahon to bestow the chosen one moniker on him all those years earlier. A year ago Galloway returned to WWE under the NXT brand and once again using the name Drew McIntyre. In that time he successfully won the NXT Title before tearing his bicep. Now fully healed, McIntyre has returned to RAW with the feeling of a prodigal son and with his opening promo has already demonstrated something that Reigns has never been able to replicate during his 4 years atop the WWE ladder - authenticity.
Just as he did all those years before, McIntyre has all the tools, and the look to be a big-time player for WWE, only now he is really showing it. Between now and Wrestlemania season, if given the time and booking to allow it he can really shine and, despite currently being a heel, really get the crowd behind him.
So we have two chosen ones, one previously failed, and another failing in the eyes of many fans. This can be used to usher in a changing of the guard, and a return to the original plan of 2009. Towards the end of the year, I would have Reigns really play up the defiant arrogance that we've already seen him display following the last few Wrestlemanias. Have him drop the belt, but just as he did after losing to Brock, have him continue to cut promos where he basically tries to brush it under the carpet; he's still the Big Dog, etc etc I don't have him turn heel, at least not yet (not officially). He continues to be booked as a face, and continues to have the attitude of "you may boo, but you react so I'm still the biggest star here". After some time doing this, he can fail to win the Royal Rumble and once again cut a promo talking up how he'll still be going to Wrestlemania. Enter Drew McIntyre. McIntyre now has the ammunition to really lay into Reigns. He can talk about his own history, about he too was branded the chosen one, but he failed. He failed because he was cocky and complacent, and now he sees Reigns in that chosen spot being just as complacent. He continues to fail to live up to his promises, and continues to just brush it off because he's the Big Dog and that angers Drew. He's angry because he got let go when he failed to deliver, and here Reigns still gets every opportunity. Drew turned it around while he was away from WWE, becoming such a big star that they brought him back. Drew is the template of what a chosen one should be, not Roman Reigns.
And there is your feud. As the weeks go by, they can go back and forth. Roman can use Drew's comparative lack of accolades against him to continue his arrogance. Roman can say there's zero chance that Drew McIntyre can beat him, so McIntyre ups the ante. He challenges Roman to a Loser Leaves RAW stipulation. Why this stipulation? Because if you are going to give a coronation that doesn't involve a title, you need that coronation to be concrete, which you cannot achieve if Roman is still around in the same main-event scene as McIntyre. Finally, you have the Wrestlemania match and McIntyre wins. He is now a top guy that the crowd can get behind, and give the reactions WWE so desperately want for Roman Reigns. Following the match McIntyre offers his hand but Roman ignores it. McIntyre leaves the ring and as he starts to make his way up the ramp, Roman snaps, he spears him from behind on the ramp, throws into the barricade at the side of the ramp and leaves. And now you have a top level heel to headline Smackdown too, soaking in the boos and, hopefully, in the long-term, following the same path that The Rock took before him by organically becoming appreciated by the fans and turning face.
So what do you think? Would you be happy watching this match at Wrestlemania 35?