WWE fucked up at the Royal Rumble. They gave the win to Roman Reigns and he wasn’t ready for it. People will blame his promo skills and his wrestling skills and his lack of experience as a singles performer for the outraged reaction his win generated. But none of these are the real reason that people were booing.
You don’t have to look too hard to realize that much crappier wrestlers have been in the Wrestlemania main event: King Kong Bundy, a past his prime Andre, Ultimate Warrior, Lawrence Taylor, arguably Diesel and Sid, Batista.
Crappier talkers have been in the Wrestlemania main event too: Andre, Sid, Batista, etc. There have been guys like Yokozuna who didn’t even really talk at all.
No, the real areas where Reigns wasn’t ready were not related to his talent. His character wasn’t ready and he wasn’t popular enough yet.
The reason that Reigns wasn’t popular enough by the Rumble is because there was no reason that he should be. He wasn’t doing anything. There was nothing particular about his story or character that would appeal to the masses. The company was just saying “look at this guy! He’s pretty cool, you should like him.” And people did, because he seemed like a good prospect and he had an awesome look. But that wasn’t enough for him to be worthy of the main event. So when he was pushed to the main event before delivering on his potential, people got pissed.
The other problem was Bryan. WWE had a genuinely popular returning wrestler in the Royal Rumble, with a reputation for being shafted by the company. So of course, they shafted Bryan yet again to try and get Reigns more over. Because Vince McMahon has a fucking doctorate in being clueless.
If Reigns had been more popular by the time the Rumble rolled around, they could have just been the final two and when Reigns won the fans would have accepted it. But WWE made things difficult for themselves. Now they have to try and make Reigns popular after the fact, now that fans are predisposed to disliking him. And they have to try and appease Bryan’s angry fans.
These are separate issues. There is no sweeping gesture they can make that solves both problems. A triple threat is a bad idea. Shuffling matches around only makes the company look confused and desperate. They should be focusing on two separate things:
1) Get Reigns over
2) Get Bryan’s fans to shut the fuck up whining
Solving the first problem is the harder one. But the important thing in order to achieve this is to let Reigns do things. Fans can jeer him as a main event talent if he’s just showing up and going through the motions, but wrestling fans cheer for big spots and big moments and unusual occurrences. Reigns has been just sitting and waiting for the title over the last year. Lets now make him work for it.
The first thing to do is get Reigns thrown out of the building. Have him absolutely destroy someone from the Authority. Make it Big Show to put an end to that mess. He kills Big Show, writing him off television (or he can show up in a wheelchair or some shit). It has to be a brutal attack to justify keeping him off Raw. Triple H can say he’s been suspended for being a danger to others, but they can’t strip him of his title shot.
Now Reigns becomes the invader. Hopping the rail to lay the fucking hurt on some bitches only to run off again. Maybe security tries to grab him on one occasion, but he ends up battering a dozen guys. Have him throw people off the stage, attack people in the locker room and generally create chaos. Big spots get a big response from the fans. They won’t be able to boo this stuff. Gradually he’ll get more and more popular. If you can make fans believe that whenever a star appears, something exciting will happen, that star will get over in a huge hurry. That was a massive part of Stone Cold’s appeal.
Reigns doesn’t have to talk much here either, which is a good thing. But when he does talk it should be shoot promos. Just grabbing a live mic and chewing people out before his mic cuts. The smarks who love Bryan also love a good shoot promo. If he’s talking about something that’s (vaguely) real he’ll speak more naturally and he can use these promos to put the heat for Bryan’s treatment back where it belongs: on the Authority.
A couple of big brawls between Reigns and Lesnar along with the vaguest of insinuations that Lesnar might have finally met his match and fans would be salivating for this main event.
The second problem is the easier one: to shut Bryan’s fans up just give him something big to do. He should be in the second highest match on the Wrestlemania card. With Reigns “officially” off Raw, Bryan can be the guy booked in Raw main events and there should be plenty of time to let him shine and build a great angle for him. All they need to do is make sure people are excited about Bryan’s match.
If you’re just using people from the roster, a massive grudge match between Bryan and Rollins would have everybody creaming their pants in anticipation. Even the ladies. Especially the ladies! Arguably the two most over performers on the roster right now, who could leave it all out there and have a five star match at Wrestlemania. If I was promised this match tomorrow, I wouldn’t care if Reigns was main-eventing against Papa Shango and Barney the freaking Dinosaur.
Something else they could explore is Bryan fighting a returning star. Any massive star would do, but I’ll give an example: If Rock has more free time available, Bryan vs the Rock would shut up all those who think the company doesn’t consider Bryan a star. People have suggested Reigns turning heel on Rock, but what if Rock turned heel instead? Not on Reigns, but on Bryan.
Reigns would be banned from the building, appearing only in short and violent spurts. But when Bryan complains about not being in the main event, Rock can come out and say Bryan doesn’t deserve to be the main event. That he came back to endorse Reigns because he actually looks like a star, and the WWE is a laughing stock with trolls like Bryan in the main event. Reigns looks Hollywood. He looks main stream. He could be somebody. Have Rock play the 2003 Hollywood Heel Rock character.
Reigns wouldn’t endorse what Rock was saying of course, but by the time he actually manages to say that on television, Rock has already built up a nice feud with Bryan that would bring a bunch of attention to the company and would keep all Bryan’s fans happy.
I’m 100% sure that this kind of scenario would keep Reigns face and satisfy Bryan’s fans without taking anything away from Wrestlemania. But of course, WWE will just flounder around and ultimately make the situation worse. That’s kinda their thing.