Fewer things are more frustrating as a WWE fan as it is when you have a favorite who is hanging around and even occasionally winning one the big titles only for Vince to hedge his bets by either having them lose the big match when they should win, or having them lose the title without getting a long run with it. In the modern day WWE three wrestlers more than any other have been the poster children for this – Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte Flair. And while the latter two and their fans are still waiting to go longer than six months Roman has finally broken through and gotten to the magic number of 365 days.
Now look, I remained skeptical from jump that he would get there. Too many times has Roman and us in the Empire have gotten burned to immediately trust that this time they would go all way. I hedged my bets when he went into the match at Payback against Braun Strowman and the Fiend. I didn’t relax when he gave Braun a title shot a week or so later. When some people on wrestling twitter thought it would be a good idea to have him lose it to and regain it from Kevin Owens in January I got that sinking feeling that Vince may listen to them. You may say this is paranoia but we’ve been burned so many times that I just flat out expected the worst, logic all be damned.
But once the Owens feud ended, a sense of calm finally began to set in. Title changes at the top don’t happen much after the Rumble is done (about a 35 percent chance in February and 0 in March since the Brand Split, and none in the five years prior), so for once I felt safe with one of my favorites as champion until WrestleMania. Then came more drama. To their credit they had me feeling that Edge had a good chance of winning the title there, especially with Daniel Bryan added as a likely pin Taker. But then that ended with this iconic image:
And since then it’s been smooth sailing. Yes, I wasn’t entirely sure that he’d beat John Cena at Summerslam . It’s to his and Cena’s credit that they got me to ignore the obvious evidence that was Cena’s WWE event calendar and hang on every roll up attempt and near fall late in the match. So here we are, 365 days in the books on one of the best 365 day runs as champion that I’ve witnessed live. Maybe the best one for me, period. What has made it so?
For years people on the internet swore that Roman needed to turn heel, ditch the Shield music, and lose the Shield vest in order for the naysayers to see him differently. And all the while people like me called bs on that, figuring that if he did that then the goalposts would just get moved. I for one also thought that those things shouldn’t just happen on a whim but should somehow be informed by Reigns journey as a character. And it turns out I was right!
Making all of those changes with a full fledged character and personality change, as the fruit of all the times Roman has been screwed over by management or some of his contemporaries or affected by circumstances, and as the beginning of an all time run of success, is the only way to have done it. The changes all meant something and weren’t just a palette swap to appease loudmouths on the internet. And no, I am never letting this go. I was right and you were wrong, go choke on it losers.
Standing over the Fiend and Braun Strowman after taking them both out at the end of Summerslam last year. The locker room reveal with Paul Heyman. The matches with Jey Uso, punctuated by Afa and Sika officially crowning him the Tribal Chief. The double stack pin at WrestleMania. Running Daniel Bryan out of the territory. Squaring up with, and ultimately defeating, Cena. And just now the face off with Brock Lesnar at the end of this year’s Summerslam. That’s just the tip of the iceberg by the way; I’m sure you guys have plenty more that I haven’t mentioned. For better and worse WWE is about moments over matches and in this case it’s been for the better.
Those moments I mentioned all provided images that stand out everyone’s memories. But the list doesn’t end there. Every time Roman wins we get a shot of him standing over his beaten opponent, no matter how close or one sided the match was. Roman’s ring entrance are a masterful combination of swagger and impending doom for whoever awaits him. While his adversary may get some licks in on the way to the match, when it’s time to make it clear who the boss is we always get the right shot and the right angle to convey that point.
This is important because some people should absolutely physically dominate and win in convincing fashion over most of their opponents. A guy like Roman Reigns should not have to dim his aura so that some other guy doesn’t look like a chump next to him. It’s up to the other guy to present himself that well and rise to Roman’s level, and if he can’t then he needs to find another way to make the match competitive before he goes down. And so far Roman’s opponents have done that so it should be the rule. Roman projecting alpha dominance at every turn has been a key part of this run as it has forced his opponents to match him which makes everything better.
Adversaries matter. Most long title reigns usually have a stretch where the champion has to get through some less than stellar challengers and obvious space filler defenses. In the case of Brock Lesnar it’s dragged down by infrequent appearances. This run has had neither. Roman has faced known top notch in ring performers in Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, Edge, Cesaro, Rey Mysterio and Cena. And when faced with someone who seemed like an easy mark in his cousin Jey, Jey raised him game up to show himself worthy of the spot. There hasn’t been one bad or even mid quality match in his run as champion, which is unheard of.
And the best thing is that Roman has gotten to show that he can absolutely hang with the people who many claimed were better workers than him from Bryan to Owens to Cesaro. He’s shown that he can incorporate heelish tactics without turning into a coward and trying to convince us that he of all people could be afraid of guys that he looks like he should kill. He’s even busted out moves that he didn’t use before like the guillotine choke. Being in with some of the acknowledged best workers in the world gave him a chance to show that he was every bit as good.
So we’ve gotten everything we could possibly ask for from this run, and yet there are some more chances for great work with Finn Balor and Brock Lesnar on the horizon. The only real questions is how and when does it end? At the rate he’s going there is no reason for it to stop any time soon but when it does there’s a chance to really crown someone that can take a good run of their own with it afterwards. There are names being floated around among us but my only requirement is that it’s somebody who measures up at the time. I don’t need it to be someone new so long as it’s somebody who belongs in the ring with him on that level when it’s time.
And for now that’s it. Happy 365 to the Tribal Chief and to the Empire. We waited for this, we fought for this, and we finally got it.
Acknowledge him, one and all.