WWE made a mistake pushing Roman Reigns to the top of its program in such a short period as a singles competitor. The WWE audience gagged — it was audible — when Reigns won the Royal Rumble match last month.
In response to the backlash in Philadelphia, WWE booked Reigns in a match against Daniel Bryan at Fastlane, which took place Sunday night in Memphis. But in the end, the apparent audible was nothing but a mirage. Reigns pinned Bryan cleanly, 1-2-3, in the middle of the ring, and will go on to face Brock Lesnar in the main event of Wrestlemania 31 in San Francisco just five weeks from now.
The reaction to last night’s main event, for the most part, was more gagging. There were some audible boos in the live Memphis crowd, though not nearly as loud as they were in Philadelphia. WWE seemed to crank Reigns music in an attempt to drown out any backlash. There wasn’t much of it though. In fact, there wasn’t much noise at all.
That’s pretty damning. Twitter response against my thoughts — that WWE somehow managed to botch this booking twice — was that the crowd was “dead all night.” Were they “dead” when Bryan made his ring entrance? Or were they on their feet, screaming Yes! Yes! Yes! at the top of their lungs?
Do you think the reaction would have been different if Bryan won the match? Because it would have. And that’s the point here. Daniel Bryan is the most over — perhaps the ONLY over — babyface in all of WWE. His crowd reactions are louder than anyone else in the company. His segments on television must be highly rated, because WWE continues to use him in prime-ratings spots, including putting his match in the main event of Raw last week.
If WWE really believes that Bryan endorsing Reigns at the end of the match is going to get the crowd on his side, then good luck to them.
Standing on its own, the Bryan-Reigns match was really good. It was, by far, the best singles match of Reigns’ young singles career. But he was also in the ring with one of the best technicians in the world. To not give Bryan credit for pulling that match out of Reigns is asinine.
Just last week on Raw, Reigns wrestled Kane in a match where his entire offensive assault consisted of not much more than punches or kicks. In the Fastlane main event, Daniel Bryan created the movement. Daniel Bryan carried Roman Reigns to the match of his life.
Maybe things will be different if Lesnar signs a new contract to remain with WWE after WrestleMania XXI, but if he doesn’t, I doubt he’s going to have much interest in carrying Reigns in a match he’s going to lose, and then leave the company.
Does anyone remember the Goldberg-Lesnar match from WrestleMania 20?
None of this is Roman Reigns’ fault. WWE has mishandled his singles push from the very beginning. He never separated himself from the Shield, still wearing the same ring gear, using the same entrance and music. They crammed him down the throats of the audience before he was ready to carry a main-event spot.
This is Lex Luger in 1993 all over again, albeit without the cross-country bus tour.
Reigns is a future top guy, but future is still the key word there. He’s not nearly good enough on the mic, and his skills in the ring aren’t polished enough to be the “face of the company.” He has the look. But he doesn’t have the total package.
Of course the same could be said for Bryan. He’s great on the mic, and even better in the ring. But he doesn’t have that typical main-event look. Reigns does.
So this tells you what’s most important to WWE. It’s not how good your matches are or how well to cut a promo. It’s what you look like. That’s a great message to the future stars in NXT. It doesn’t really matter how much you work on your ring skills or mic skills, if you don’t have the look Vince McMahon and Triple H want, you’ll never be a top guy, not matter how much the crowd is on your side.
The clean finish also leaves Bryan without anything for WrestleMania. That should be rectified on the next installment of Raw, but no matter where Bryan goes now, it’s an undercard match.
Bryan-Dolph Ziggler would be a heck of a match. It will probably open the show, because WWE knows the type of reaction it’s going to get. Why wouldn’t they want that reaction in the main event?
It’s because they want Reigns. It’s frustrating as a consumer of the WWE product, knowing it doesn’t matter what the consensus wants. The audience will eat what WWE feeds them, and if you don’t like it, they don’t care.
WWE has put its ownership and authority figures in the role of the heel for almost 20 years. Perhaps it isn’t all an act.
1) Randy Orton made his return to WWE at Fastlane, setting up what looks like a WrestleMania match against Seth Rollins.
2) Cesaro and Tyson Kidd winning the tag titles was a little unexpected, but also really intriguing. The build to this match on Raw and Smackdown flew largely under the radar, but it was really good. I wonder if they use Rikishi at all, given his pending Hall of Fame induction. They’ll likely rematch at WrestleMania, and it will be good to get the tag titles on the show.
3) Sting vs. Triple H is officially official for WrestleMania after a good promo segment. The only part that seems smirk-inducing is WWE’s insistence that this is the dream match all wrestling fans have been waiting for. “The Icon of WWE vs. the Icon of WCW” is how JBL proclaimed it on commentary. And here I thought Sting vs. the Undertaker was the dream match!
4) Speaking of Undertaker, Bryan Wyatt continues to deliver in his promos goading Undertaker into a match at WrestleMania. At Fastlane, the druids appeared and rolled a casket down to the ring with Undertaker’s music playing in the arena. It stopped abruptly when the casket opened to show Wyatt inside. It was somewhat predictable, but still really well done.
1) Kane, Seth Rollins & Big Show def. Ryback, Dolph Ziggler & Erick Rowan
2) Goldust def. Stardust
3) Tyson Kidd & Cesaro def. The Usos to win the WWE Tag Team Titles
4) Nikki Bella def. Paige to retain the Divas Title
5) Wade Barrett def. Dean Ambrose via DQ to retain the Intercontinental Title
6) Rusev def. John Cena via submission
7) Roman Reigns def. Daniel Bryan via pinfall to become the No. 1 Contender
The finish to the main event was not smart, but the show as a whole was really good. If you haven’t watched it, make sure to catch the replay on WWE Network. WrestleMania has started to take more shape with Reigns-Lesnar, Sting-Triple H, Rusev-Cena, and Wyatt-Undertaker, Barrett-Ambrose, Goldust-Stardust, Rollins-Orton, Usos-Kidd/Cesaro all either guaranteed or likely for the show.