I gotta start this off by saying that never before in the last six years did I think we would see this:
Roman Reigns has reached a level head and shoulders above everyone in the business right now and in doing so rejuvenated Paul Heyman’s storied career and brought a level of performance out of his cousin Jey Uso that no one saw coming a year ago. He unveiled a new finisher, won his WrestleMania match in the most Alpha Male way possible, and now has put Daniel Bryan in the mud and run him out of the territory. This is total domination of the wrestling business on every level and it is astounding to see. It is the full realization of the man’s talents at a time when circumstances allowed him to make major changes because he wanted to and not as part of some long sought after concession to many in the IWC. And for a lot of us Friday was total victory over all the haters.
For those of who have been riding with Roman since he hopped the guardrail with Seth and Dean, these victories over Bryan have been both symbolic and cathartic as Bryan has been the avatar, both real and kayfabe, of the loud minority that opposed Reigns sitting on the top of the WWE mountain from the moment that the obvious was confirmed by the dregs of wrestling media and one bitter WWE alumnus. Like that alumnus Bryan’s career journey had become known as the right way, the starving artist way while guys like Reigns supposedly got to jump to the front of the line all the time, and the fueled a good bit of the resentment over time. So to see the little engine that could wrecked and sent off for the farewell tour felt pretty damn good, I’m not gonna lie.
Now it’s pretty common for us wrestling fans to oversell damn near everything our favorites do, but with that in mind I’ll still go ahead and say that this is the best combination of character work and in ring performance that I’ve seen in some time. These last eight months, and however many lie ahead, are going to be remembered as one of the best runs in history. At this point it’s only a matter of longevity not quality, and in this short attention span era the bar is set in a much different place. A Bruno or even Hogan run with the title is just not a thing that will happen now, but if he can take this to next WrestleMania or beyond then I dare say that it will be about as close as you can get in these times.
And as a fan of his it’s really damn satisfying to see him have endured and come out on the other side of one of the most ridiculous fan disputes ever. This place was a war zone from the 2015 Royal Rumble up until Roman announced he had leukemia, and then it looked like we were headed back there before COVID hit. Hell, I used this space to fire off a lot shots on his behalf and like a lot of the Empire I’m wearing the battle scars from those days. And now it finally feels like going through all that has paid off for us.
From hearing the man get booed for no good reason in 2015, and shaking my head in total confusion as to why anyone would want to go that route after doing it with John Cena for all those years, it’s been a crazy ride. Hearing the same lame explanation as with Cena, that he wasn’t the problem just the booking, from people who chose to boo the man and not the one who decided on said booking, had me ready to start slapping people. Seeing people act like they didn’t understand wrestling booking 101 level stuff, and then simple narrative storytelling to boot, had me ready to reach for the Jack Daniel’s bottle every week.
But that wasn’t all. Seeing people dismiss his career path because he didn’t spend 10 years on the indies and wasn’t one of those guys who wanted to wrestle ever since he was eight years old was beyond irritating, particularly since I grew up during a time where damn near everyone in the business wound up there as aast resort. Being at house shows where the crowds were just there to enjoy the show and responded to him as intended, and then seeing an entirely different choice by people who were acting like spoiled children determined that Mom and Dad weren’t gonna make them clean their rooms was maddening.
And then there were the really bad times. WrestleMania 34, and the feeling that maybe they were gonna move on given the way that ended. The leukemia announcement and feeling the same way that I did when Magic Johnson made his fateful announcement back in 1991 – that whatever optimism he showed on the outside didn’t mean anything and that we may have to watch this man die from a terrible disease. Being a fan of Roman Reigns has not been an easy road to travel, let me tell you.
Now the only question is how long is this ride going? He’s reached a point now where whoever beats him is going to have to put up this level of performance after doing so. This isn’t a time to do a title change just to shake things up or give some guy a turn who hasn’t had one yet. Oh no the bar has been raised all the way into orbit and you better be able to fly enough to reach it if you’re going to be the man to dethrone him. It’s gonna take a lot more than a long list of moves you can do and a starving artist backstory. If all you got going for you is an IWC friendly biography then you’d best sit this one out.
And on that note a word of advice before I go. Whoever the next guy is, whenever that day comes, is gonna be chosen by the boss before he even starts to get the big, final push. If they go through with that push then it means they already know he’s popular enough to at least share that position. So if you’re going to stick around as a fan the best thing to do is either ride the wave or at least don’t fight it. Don’t make yourself miserable trying to put the train back in the station after it’s started down the tracks because if that guy succeeds then he’s not going anywhere for a while and sooner or later you’re gonna have to eat it while you watch all your alternatives get beat by that guy. If the last six years haven’t taught you anything else they should have taught you that.
As for right now, the choice is easy: