Top 8 WrestleMania 34 Opponents for Roman Reigns
Now that we’re done with WrestleMania 33, we can officially start the clock on WrestleMania 34. You may think it’s too soon to speculate about it, but the WWE has largely become defined by its big event. It’s the WrestleMania company. Everything they do from here on out leads eventually to New Orleans.
First things first, let’s admit Roman Reigns will be in the main event. He’s been in the last three WM main events and, until Vince McMahon’s actions indicate he’s not all-in on Reigns, we probably ought to assume Reigns holds the top spot. I should add there’s nothing wrong with that if they simply recognize how wildly unpopular Reigns is with the ticket-buying public. I’ve joked that if they put Reigns up against ringworm, fans would pick ringworm because at least there’s a pill for that.
Reigns looks the part and can work main event style. Yet he’s no fun and he comes across as a dick. You can work around the being a dick part if you’re fun – Austin, Rock, Cena – but Reigns’ character is he just beats everybody because Vince says so. Fans hate it. That would be a great thing if the booking recognized it. Unfortunately they keep giving Reigns hero stories instead of villain stories, and it’s gotten boring.
Hopefully they try to bottle the seething hatred of the fans from the post-WrestleMania Raw. Yet, regardless of whether they do, Reigns probably will be back in the main event at WM34, where the fans will treat him like a heel (like they do everywhere else these days). The main question is who could he face?
To answer that, I’m dusting off the old Magic 8-Ball. I’m not going to get back to doing 8-Balls on a regular basis (insert joke here), because they’re a bear to write, but this one kind of screams for a list.
Wait, what? Isn’t Brock the obvious #1 on this list? Nope, he’s not. I actually think he fits in best at #5, but I wanted to get him out of the way. In fact, it seems like getting him out of the way is what the WWE is planning on doing. Brock and Paul Heyman called out Roman a week ago, claiming they don’t want to waste any time in sorting out which dog is the biggest. That won’t happen immediately. Brock very well could go on hiatus, taking the belt with him. Yet Lesnar-Reigns seems like a match headed to SummerSlam. Too much money in that clash to delay it for a year, and no way will they keep Reigns out of the title picture that long. If these two meet in 2017, then Mania would feel like reruns. Come Mania time, Brock would be better used to elevate someone else on the roster like BRAUN. Reigns will have conquered Brock by WM34 and it will be up to someone else to knock him off the top of the mountain. Yet, I’m keeping Brock on the list on the off chance the E strings out their inevitable clash.
Seems like a longshot. Last time Rock worked a match, WrestleMania 29, he wound up in a hospital bed. As the top-grossing actor in Hollywood, he’s got better things to do with his time. Yet Roman is family and I’m sure Vince could string together plenty of zeroes in trying to sway Mr. Johnson. It probably would suck in the ring, but so did Reigns-Undertaker and Reigns-HHH. Rock is younger than both of them too. The build to it would be massive. Reigns would get a rub just for being the guy squaring off against Rock. It certainly would make the shareholders happy and send WWE Network subscriptions skyrocketing. Like, I can see the rationale for everything but the wrestling part of it, and is WrestleMania really about wrestling?
Like with Brock, BRAUN’s getting knocked down a bit because we may see plenty of him tussling with Reigns in 2017. BRAUN assaulted Reigns with an ambulance on Monday night (not in, with), though he could get shuffled off to Smackdown next week with the claim these two must be kept far apart or Big Show could put a kink in his plans (because those two are going to feud this spring). There’s ways to divert BRAUN’s Roman-crushing intentions. As long as he’s crushing someone, I imagine he’s pretty happy. Speaking of crushing someone, how about Nia Jax? – What? Yeah, I’m still shipping StroJax. Or is it BrauNia? Just pretend they’re mating, it’ll be fantastic. – Anyway, BRAUN’s the only youngish, high-end, monster-sized dude on the roster. Keep them mostly apart for a year and fans may want to see BRAUN get another shot at Roman. In fact, that would be the selling point. BRAUN would be the proxy for every fan sick of Roman’s booking, the only vessel big enough embody all of our anger. BRAUN would be our “kill Roman Reigns” body (pretty sure Braun is exactly what a bugblatter beast looks like).
In the entertainment business, entrances count. Finn Balor’s got a money entrance and he amps it up for big occasions. Give him a stadium and the spectacle would be off the hook. Much as I’d love to put Sami Zayn on this list, the reality is that Balor already has been presented as a far more believable giant killer. He was the first ever WWE Universal Champion. If you’re looking for a main roster underdog capable of rising to the challenge of Roman’s reign of terror, he’s a prime candidate. What might give the WWE pause, though it shouldn’t, is Balor would be an unambiguous face. In David vs. Goliath, no one’s rooting for Goliath, not even the Philistines. The WWE likes having Reigns operate in a gray area where fans can hate all over him, but he’s not made out to be the obvious heel in a given battle. That’s the new polarization: fans hate him, the suits pretend otherwise. Even if they turned Balor and gave him a baby-eating gimmick – “I’m ravenous for more of your delicious offspring!” – the visual mechanics of him vs. Reigns would still make him the face. Little guys stand up to big guys, not the other way around.
All right, I recognize this has got a snowball’s chance in hell, but when you multiply that by how massively over this would be, it still registers. If there were even a tiny rumor that Bryan might be able to wrestle again, this would leap to #1 with a bullet. Why? You may recall WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans, where DB led the world in a Yes! moment for the ages. Biggest feel-good moment in WWE history? Quite possibly. Bryan is insanely popular with the WWE audience, almost the diametrical opposite of Reigns, who is loathed. Add in their history – with Reigns filling the void after Bryan got injured, and their excellent battle at Fastlane 2015 (which still might be Reigns’ best match) – along with the underdog-overdog dynamic and the elation over seeing Bryan wrestle again, and you’ve got an absolute powder keg. Also, the ongoing storyline on Smackdown where Miz keeps goading Bryan sort of demands a comeuppance. It’s a weird thing to be doing if DB can’t ever get retribution. I suppose he could just slap Miz in a Yes Lock (less likely now that Miz is on Raw, though maybe as part of a Raw vs. Smackdown Survivor Series match), but it would seem that maybe, just maybe, the door is still open a crack for a limited AmDrag return. I feel certain that if he could get cleared to do it, Bryan wouldn’t hesitate.
Rollins and Reigns will be forever linked, not just by the Shield, but also by Mania 31. In terms of their generation, they are the top two guys in the WWE. Dean Ambrose obviously fits in there too, but his post-brand-split run on Smackdown has really dimmed his star. Rollins and Reigns share WrestleMania wins over HHH. Reigns may have ended Undertaker’s career, but Rollins seems to have ended Sting’s career (unintentionally). As Reigns continues to get built as unbeatable, it should not be forgotten when Rollins came back last summer at Money in the Bank, he beat Reigns for the WWE title (in one hell of a match). At this moment, that stands as their most recent televised 1v1 encounter. Of late, Seth and Roman have been cautious allies, battling Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. They’ll probably find themselves battling assembled foes in the coming months. The WWE’s prime directive (push your top guy no matter how poorly it goes) would have Rollins turn again on Reigns. Won’t work. Doesn’t mean they won’t do it. Far better to have Reigns turn on Rollins to add a new chapter to the story. They’re destined to face off at WrestleMania one of these years. Really just a matter of when.
Well, we know they’ve got ring chemistry. They tore it up last spring. After two disappointing matches to close Manias 32 and 33, Styles would offer a more-or-less sure thing in terms of action. Face-heel dynamics would be hardwired into this matchup as well. As we’ve seen, fans are going to cheer AJ during his matches no matter what. People went apeshit during his battles with Roman when he hit moves that looked like he killed Reigns dead. Styles has that quality in the ring where he makes you believe he’s going to win, even when you know he probably won’t. Not only that, he makes you want it. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan had it too. Must have been something in the water in ROH in the early 2000s. It fits in perfectly with Reigns, because fans really want to see him lose these days. Even better, it’s a fairly simple build. “I’m best in the world!” “No, I’m best in the world!” “Let’s fight!” AJ would have something to prove. Reigns would be facing the guy most likely to knock him off his perch. Give Reigns the Universal belt, have Styles win the Rumble, and you’ve got a ready-made main event.
It will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe why Cena vs. Undertaker never happened at WrestleMania. It was worth all the money, but it proved to be a job neither guy was willing to do. I doubt they’ll let the Cena-Reigns opportunity slip through their grasp. Cena is still the top guy in the WWE when he’s around. They’ve pushed him out of the limelight at WrestleMania in recent years. He missed WM32 and dicked around with Bray Wyatt, Rusev and the Miz at Manias 30, 31 and 33. The man is due for a return to the main event on the WWE’s biggest stage. Remember, the idea of WrestleMania is to make it rain dollar bills. They can sell Cena-Reigns based on nothing more than the poster. It’s also kind of interesting in that both guys get tons of stick from the fans. Cena seems to be getting appreciated a little more now that he’s not around 52 weeks a year, running roughshod over the entire roster. Yet it would prove a fascinating experiment in fan psychology to see how people react. Do the smarks finally embrace Cena? Do the historical implications of seeing the torch passed move fans onto Reigns’ side of the ledger? Another consideration is whether Cena would be going for title #17. If so, that kicks it up yet another notch.