Editorials/Features

WWE Has A Roman Reigns Problem

By michael
Jan 20, 2024

It has been over 1200+ days and Roman Reigns is still the WWE Undisputed Universal Champion, but what are we building toward? After all, there must be some sort of payoff here somewhere, right?

The WWE has built Roman Reigns into the “superstar of superstars.” What started as a reboot has morphed into one of the biggest storylines in the history of the company. The question fans have been asking for almost four years now is, who will dethrone Roman Reigns? More importantly, when?

Many WWE fans thought WrestleMania 39 was the perfect time to dethrone “The Tribal Chief.” His opponent, Cody Rhodes, was white-hot and ready to carry the mantle. Thanks to a familiar script, Roman Reigns retained his title.

The match was Reigns on repeat. Near falls, missed three counts, and outside interference took center stage. There is quite literally a playbook. You could play BINGO off what they do since it is so repetitive.

Since WM39, Roman Reigns has had two title defenses and only a handful of appearances on TV. Reigns wrestled only 12 matches in 2023, about 80% less than he did in 2022. All were televised matches, and this includes the title defenses. WWE sees Reigns as a top star worth protecting, desperately trying not to overexpose him. The question is…to what end?

If Reigns is to break Hulk Hogan’s streak of 1474 days as champion, he’ll have to hold the belt until late summer of 2024. That means maybe only 1-2 more title defenses in that time.

If the WWE wants Reigns to pass Bob Backlund, he’ll hold the belt until summer 2026. To surpass Bruno Sammartino, he’ll have to hold the championship until sometime in 2028.

THE REAL VALUE OF A WWE CHAMPIONSHIP

Roman Reigns - WrestleMania Win

Reigns held championships before, but this has elevated him into rarified air. From that position, mission accomplished.

The second thing it’s supposed to do is elevate the person who takes the title off the champ. Look no further than a vehicle like Money In The Bank. Cash-ins for the title have often elevated the performers. Beyond that, even ordinary title changes solidify the guy who takes the title off him. Especially when the champion has been established as a credible one. We’ll come back to this in a minute.

The third thing is to add intrigue to the matches themselves. Fights between two competitors have natural tension. Putting a championship on the line elevates it. The pinfalls matter more. The interference matters more. Missed three counts, and every element you add to the match elevates. A win or a loss changes the championship landscape.

Let’s look at Seth Rollins’ championship run from 2023. Rollins won’t be champion for 1200 days, which makes his run exciting. We know he’ll lose the World Heavyweight Championship. We don’t know when. He has battled Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Jey Uso, Drew McIntyre, and several others. He won every match, but the excitement remains.

We know he’s dropping the championship sooner rather than later. Every challenger has felt like they had a real chance to take the championship from him.

WHICH OPPONENTS HAS ROMAN REIGNS ELEVATED

Sami Zayn and Roman Reigns - Elimination Chamber

Roman Reigns has a title defense against Randy Orton, LA Knight, & AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble PLE. Does anyone believe anyone here has a shot at taking the title? Had his opponents been a returning Jey Uso or Sami Zayn, who knows? Yet it’s still unlikely. Hell, would you even believe Gunther has a credible shot at beating Roman at a non-WrestleMania event?

WWE has taken the intrigue and suspense out of the championship for the sake of the historic run. This brings us back to the second point: the title should elevate the person who takes the title off the champ.

Roman Reigns and his 1200+ day run have helped to make so many of the people around him. Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Jey Uso, Jimmy Uso, and Solo Sikoa had their status elevated by Reigns. Still, those guys, aside from Owens, got their rub by being in the Bloodline, not facing the Tribal Chief.

Maybe it’s the opponents they’ve picked for Reigns that could not get over. Hell, many of them aren’t even with the company anymore:

  • Edge
  • Daniel Bryan
  • Cesaro
  • Goldberg
  • Matt Riddle

The other section of challengers were never going to win in the first place:

  • John Cena
  • Brock Lesnar

Who Is The “Made Man” From This?

Name one guy who feels bigger because they faced Roman Reigns. Cody Rhodes is bigger but one could argue his proximity to the main event mattered more than who he faced there. They gave him a men’s Royal Rumble win and a main event slot at their biggest show. That was the rub he needed, not a showdown with the Tribal Chief.

Is Rey Mysterio better off having faced the Tribal Chief? Neither better nor worse.

Is Seth Rollins better off having faced him? You could say he’s bigger than when he faced him, but one had nothing to do with the other.

We could go on and on. The point is that it hasn’t elevated his opponents. This takes us to the next point. The discussion around this topic is that the WWE wants to “make” the guy who dethrones Reigns. They want to make sure that whoever does it is a made man. At this point, who would that be? The massive streak gets bigger if Reigns holds the record and surpasses Hogan.

Who is worthy of taking the title off him at that point? The top list of names is already big enough (i.e. Cody, Seth, Brock, Rock, etc). The others aren’t ever going to be big enough to dethrone someone of Reigns’ stature (LA Knight, Jey Uso, Solo Sikoa, etc). The latter could get there, just not until WWE makes them into something more than they are now.

THE REIGN ITSELF HAS SURPASSED ROMAN

Roman Reigns
WM40

The headlines will read “Roman Reigns’ Streak Ends at X, XXX Days.”

Want proof? When Undertaker had his streak snapped at WrestleMania 30, here are some of the headlines:

  • “Undertaker’s Streak Ends, Daniel Bryan Stands Tall At WrestleMania 30”
  • “Chair Shots: Brock Lesnar Ends The Undertaker’s Streak at WrestleMania 30 and it was Perfect”
  • “Daniel Bryan Victorius, Undertaker Streak Ends”
  • “The Undertaker Lost at Wrestlemania and the Wrestling World is Stunned”
  • “Breaking News: The Streak is Over: Undertaker Loses At WrestleMania”
  • “Breaking News: The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania Streak Ends”

Those were the first seven results on Google. Only one mentioned the guy who did it. Yes, the WWE did an excellent job of making Brock eat off that fact for years, but will the WWE do the same? Are you sure about that?

History Only Matters When It Means Something:

While it’s excellent that Roman Reigns has made history, what is the point in making him hold it for longer? The Bloodline story is in a lull right now because Reigns is almost never on WWE programming. He’s an absentee champion. When he does show up, whoever he’s feuding with has no shot at winning anything meaningful.

If WWE wants to do the right thing, then they should make this WrestleMania his last with the title. Reigns has done enormous business for the company, but there has come a point where it’s time to move on. Let someone take the championship off him and tell an exciting story in the aftermath.

Is there no interest in what happens to the Tribal Chief if he can’t protect the title that he vowed never to lose? Is there no interest in The Bloodline without the champ? What about any interest in Reigns chasing the belt he held for so long? There are great stories to tell. WWE should focus on telling them rather than holding the belt hostage.

Could Roman Reigns keep his title for another 365 days? Let’s hope not.

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