In just over 24 hours, WWE finally accomplished what it had been trying to do for nearly two years. It got Roman Reigns over. For at least these two shows, in a vacuum, Reigns was on top of the WWE world, and the fans — at least the ones in attendance — were accepting it.
Around 8 p.m. on Sunday night in Boston at TLC, the crowd was nowhere near behind Reigns. His image was shown on the big screen and he received a chorus of boos. By the end of the night, when Reigns took out Triple H, the crowd was cheering “Thank you Roman!”
The crowd stayed with Reigns on Monday in Philadelphia, traditionally a very tough and critical crowd for WWE.
During the night, Stephanie McMahon told Reigns that Vince McMahon was on his way to the building to “deal with” Roman Reigns. Vince was so upset with Reigns that he gave him a title shot — that makes little sense — with the stipulation that Reigns would be fired if he lost.
The match setup was a bit clunky. After all, Vince owns WWE. He doesn’t need Reigns to lose a match in order to fire him. All he has to do is fire him.
Reigns was busted open by a Sheamus headbutt during the match, he punched out Vince McMahon, fought off the League of Nations, and ultimately captured his second WWE World Hvt. Title, and the reign will last more than the five minutes it did when he won the title at Survivor Series last month.
So how did they do it?
They made some subtle changes to Reigns’ character the last 24 hours. He was much more aggressive and less cheesy on the mic. His promo with Vince was short and sweet. They turned him into a serious babyface monster. He had a look of aggression on his face both nights that we just haven’t seen with Reigns until now. The Reigns that seemed cocky and arrogant didn’t exist the last two nights. It’s almost as if Reigns and WWE are finally aware of the backlash his personality can create.
There’s no question the change worked. Boston and Philly are not quiet crowds that just accept what they’re fed. They’re vocal and at times hostile. Boston turned in Reigns favor during last night’s match and Philly continued that trend on Monday.
In part, WWE went back to more traditional wrestling approaches and left the soap-opera gimmicks on the sideline. Reigns and Sheamus had a match, there were two interview segments and then another match. It was pretty easy to follow. They put the sympathy on Reigns really well for how he has handled the situations after Survivor Series and TLC.
When he did finally get the win, the crowd exploded.
It’s also important to note that on Monday, there didn’t appear to be — at least from my ears — any chanting for other members of the roster. The early parts of Sunday’s main event was filled with cheers for anyone and everyone not named Roman Reigns. Tom Brady, Daniel Bryan, Bernie Sanders. The crowd was disinterested.
The Philadelphia crowd was red-hot for Roman Reigns. And this only 11 months after booing him out of the building after he won the Royal Rumble.
They stacked the odds in front of Reigns and he mowed them down. It wasn’t intentional, but the blood gushing down Reigns’ face after Sheamus headbutted him actually helped. It added to the match, especially in a WWE environment where blood happens with such little frequency.
The work doesn’t end here. WWE has to do a lot in order to keep building Reigns. But this was a great start. They subtly hit the reset button on Reigns, added depth to his character and the crowd finally bought it.
1. Dean Ambrose fought Dolph Ziggler to a no-contest
2. R-Truth fought Bo Dallas to a no-contest
3. Alberto Del Rio & Rusev beat Jack Swagger & Ryback
4. Neville beat Tyler Breeze
5. The Wyatt Family beat The Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in an extreme rules match
6. Charlotte & Becky Lynch beat Brie Bella and Alicia Fox
7. Roman Reigns beat Sheamus to win the WWE World Hvt. Title
1. Vince McMahon interrupting the Truth-Dallas match, and then telling them he canceled it, was something nice and different. It was already big to have Vince come back on the show, but made it feel a bit more special doing it in a unique way like that, rather than just having him come out for a regular promo.
2. Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens aren’t done, if tonight was any indication. Kevin Owens interrupted Ambrose’s match with Dolph Ziggler and beat them both up, including hitting two pop-up powerbombs on Ambrose. Owens surprisingly lost last night but got his heat back in this match. WWE could be building Owens to something big at WrestleMania.
3. Tyler Breeze is falling into obscurity. It’s what WWE’s stop-start booking does to a new talent. He beat Dolph Ziggler clean at Survivor Series just last month, and tonight on this show, he lost to Neville in just a matter of minutes. WWE just hasn’t learned the lesson after doing similar things to Adam Rose, among others. Even Owens, to an extent, though Owens survived it.
4. Team ECW and The Wyatts had another all-out brawl in their extreme rules match. For the second straight night, the ECW vets did an excellent job getting the young, up-and-coming Wyatt Family over. The weapons — not the “toys,” as JBL was calling them — added to the drama of the match. The Dudleys said they were coming back to WWE, in part, to get new talents over and they’re absolutely helping the Wyatts get to the next level.
5. The Divas tag team match was given just over three minutes. That’s the only television time the women had. Paige wasn’t even on the show. So much for the Divas revolution?
Mike McMahon covers pro wrestling here at Den of Geek US. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonPW.