WWE may have finally figured out the formula with Roman Reigns.
During the main event of WWE TLC 2015 last night in Boston, the crowd chanted for practically anyone, and anything, under the sun that wasn’t Reigns, Sheamus or the actual match itself.
There were chants for Daniel Bryan, NXT, Tom Brady and a few “This is Awful!” chants. And undeservedly so. Sheamus and Reigns beat the living tar out of each other. That was as physical a match as we’ve seen in a while — and one of the most physical non-Brock Lesnar matches maybe in years — but the crowd didn’t seem to care.
That’s in part because of the poor booking surrounding Reigns and Sheamus. There’s no question Reigns’ and Sheamus’ poor performance in that closing-show promo on last week’s Raw also played a role. But most of the factors surrounding the lack of interest in the match wasn’t as much the wrestlers’ fault as it was creative’s, or rather the lack of creativity coming from that department.
Even the criticism on creative probably isn’t entirely fair. It’s their bosses.
But Reigns did make a strong connection with the crowd closing the show. Reigns snapped after the League of Nations cost him the WWE Championship match. He took out all three with a huge spear and then attacked everyone moving with a chair before Triple H tried to restore order, and he was attacked with a superman puch, multiple chair shots, he was put through a table twice and then speared into next week at ringside.
After that, the crowd was solidly behind Reigns. A loud, “Thank you Roman!” chant broke out. It’s the first I can remember of that.
WWE took the mic out of Roman’s hands. They took his weaknesses away and made him an ass-kicking machine, and the live crowd loved it. They came around. By the time the show went off the air, and Triple H was being carted out on a stretcher, Roman Reigns flipped the crowd to his side.
Even Reigns’ facial expressions were different. He looked far more intense. He wasn’t the cocky babyface, he was a man who had the ultimate intensity in his face. It was very well done and the audience bought it.
Whether or not that flips ratings, remains to be seen. And that will also take some time. But getting Reigns on the right track is an important part, and WWE took a big step in that direction following last night’s main event. It was also entirely unexpected. Nice work.
1. New Day beat The Lucha Dragons and The Usos in a Ladder Match to retain the WWE Tag Titles
2. Rusev beat Ryback
3. Alberto Del Rio beat Jack Swagger in a chair match
4. The Wyatt Family beat The Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in a tables match
5. Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens to win the WWE Intercontinental Title
6. Charlotte beat Paige to retain the WWE Divas Title
7. Sheamus beat Roman Reigns in a TLC Match to retain the WWE World Title
1. The opening match was fantastic in terms of spots, but it did kill the live crowd for most of the night. Most notably, later in the show during the main event, there was a feint “We-already Saw This!” chant from parts of the crowd. The idea of starting the show hot is smart, but in reality, that tag match should have been placed later in the show. In reality, it was hard for anyone to follow the number of spots that they pulled off in that match.
2. Between the hot tag match and the uninspiring build to their match, no one seemed to care much about the Rusev-Ryback match. The fans just aren’t into Ryback and they weren’t live in the building, either. This was definitely the popcorn match, as big chunks of the crowd made their way to the concourse.
3. The ECW team of the Dudleys, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno received the second-biggest pre-match babyface reaction of the night, behind the pop at the end of the tag title match and the reception Reigns received after the beatdown in the main event. This was a very good match, with the ECW team helping get over the Wyatts. The ECW team did all it could to get over Braun Strowman as a huge monster in this match as well. The fans were clamoring to see the big man go through that oversized table at ringside, but it never happened.
4. Dean Ambrose winning the Intercontinental Title was a great surprise and caught the crowd off guard, especially considering it didn’t come on a finishing move. This match was set up perfectly. Not every match needs to follow the same formulaic structure of someone hitting a finisher and then ending the match. Or more recently, it seems like someone hitting a finisher and then kicking out a few times before the match actually ends.
5. The crowd had no idea how to react to the last two matches. Charlotte-Paige and Sheamus-Reigns were essentially two heel vs. heel matches and it hurt both matches that no one really knew how to react.