This question has become a bit of a thing lately, to the point of being asked almost every day on Twitter it seems. And it’s wild to see because four years ago, after the debacle that was the WrestleMania 34 main event, I was in this space asking “What to do about Roman Reigns?” The WWE, and us with them, were at a serious crossroads coming out of that show because no one from Reigns biggest fans to his biggest detractors were satisfied with the ending of that show nor did any of us know what the right move was going forward. And now in 2022 Roman is on top of the world as the biggest current name in the business, a man who saved Smackdown during the ThunderDome era and has given the best story and character of the last 10 years. In four years we went from wondering if Vince was going to give up on him to wondering how we could have ever thought that. In four years he went from going out sad vs Brock Lesnar to beating him clean and walking out with two belts held over his head. So now in our ADD society some people are already jumping the gun and asking ‘who’s next?’
The quick, easy, and I think correct answer here is: nobody anytime soon. If that irritates you then let me ask you a question. Why exactly should anyone dethrone him right now? If you all you can give me is ‘to shake things up’, ‘to give someone else a turn’, or ‘he’s had it long enough’ then I got nothing for you. Because those aren’t good answers. While it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone holding any title for four years like Hogan did from 1984 to 1988 let alone the almost eight years Bruno held it for from 1963 to 1971, Roman is definitely in the middle of something that isn’t just going to end for the sake of ending it, something that we haven’t seen in decades. Looking at the men he’s in the conversation with now, there is a constant thread that runs between them all. And that is that they did not lose the title until they either needed a break or the next guy was there to pick up the torch and run. We know the latter is not true right now, so that leaves the former as the only reason to entertain doing a switch now.
Roman is head and shoulders above the entire roster right now in every category. ‘GOD Mode’ isn’t just a slogan for a T-shirt; compared to his coworkers it’s a reality. Take this in mind; HHH recently said that just three years ago they couldn’t get any current stars booked on the Tonight Show. Roman has been on twice since November and has been on solo, to sit on the couch with Jimmy Fallon, and not as part of a group to do some wacky comedy sketch. That’s John Cena, Hulk Hogan, and the Rock territory. Roman has moved far ahead of the pack at a time when the WWE is doing record business. In every legit metric that we as fans have access to he is far above all others. Paul Heyman summed it up perfectly right here:
Bruno lost the title to take time off, then as soon as he was ready to come back he won it again and held it for three more years until he was done as a full timer. Bob Backlund lost the title after almost six years because Hulk Hogan was there as the new leader of the industry. Hogan lost it after four years to go make a movie. Over on the other side of the street Ric Flair, while holding it for 92 out of a possible 105 months from September 1981 through June of 1990, lost it when there was an occasion or story worthy of it (like with Kerry Von Erich to honor his brother David) and often won it back just weeks later. You don’t interrupt this kind of thing unless you have a real good reason, and that reason is not to just give someone else a turn.
And they had their chances to do just that. In December of 2020 there were some calls for Kevin Owens to win it, with the rationale being that he was due and that Roman could just win it back in January. There was the main event of night 2 of WrestleMania 37 where there were two sentimental favorites in Edge and Daniel Bryan. There was the ultimate opportunity for a hotshot title switch at Summerslam with John Cena. And finally there was Roman’s persistent thorn in his side in the form of Brock Lesnar, and multiple chances to revisit 2018 in the worst way. But they stuck to their guns through all of that, which indicates a sea change of sorts because in previous eras they would have absolutely pulled the trigger on one of those chances. In avoiding those temptations they solidified their position and his, and made his work just that more impactful for him and the company. This reign is not about who beats him, it’s about how long he can maintain what he’s built. It’s finished when he’s finished with it and is ready to explore another chapter.
But isn’t this too much to give one guy to shoulder? Compared to when? The New Generation Era was not a successful one for the company or the entire industry. The Attitude Era was a total anomaly driven by the need to counteract in real time what WCW was doing on live TV every week. And much the Ruthless Aggression was spent looking for that next guy while still using Attitude Era practices even after they found him in John Cena. It’s also not a coincidence that the fortunes of the company got better post-Cena (2018 and forward by my count) as they focused on one man for the job. WWE is now looking to expand their reach beyond the wrestling bubble in a modern day fashion and to do that you need stability at the top. Roman Reigns doesn’t just offer excellence he offers that stability. He’s someone you can send anywhere and who can handle all of the media responsibilities and has mastered the art of slipping in and out of character when dealing with people outside the bubble. Hogan did it, Rock and Austin did (and still do) it, Cena does it, and now he does it. And you don’t gum up the works when things are going so well in the name of giving someone else a run with the belt.
This is THE model for American wrestling, from Bruno and Lou Thesz and Verne Gagne to Hogan and Ric Flair to now. Crown a guy and ride the train until it’s time for it to stop. And you don’t need the next guy until it’s time for the current guy to move on. A Steve Young/Joe Montana situation, or for you younger folks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, isn’t what you need here and if you look those up you’ll find that the current guy had to be moved for the new guy to step in. One man at the top established as the pillar has proven to be more successful than spreading it around. And like it or not that man should be carrying the gold. In team sports dynasties do more business than when things are spread out more. Tiger Woods did better business for golf than having five guys trade major tournament wins. No matter what we say about fairness we respond to excellence more.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. If the only reason you can give me to crown someone champion is that they haven’t had it in a while or haven’t had it yet, then that’s not a good reason at all. Usually when that kind of thing happens regularly it’s a sign that your wrestling company is still looking for the guy to make THE GUY. And in WWE’s case they have tried some other guys over the past few years and none of them has gotten them where they are now. So no, you don’t break that up just because. And if you’re going to respond with ‘he can win it back a few months later’ my response to that response is ‘why bother?’. If there’s no story to it or no special occasion to do it then it just is not time. If he’s just going to win it back a month or less later than it’s not time. And who really wants to be a substitute teacher for a month anyway? No, if somebody is to beat Roman it needs to be someone who can hold that title for a decent length of time AND who can hold it while Roman is around not look like he’s Hertz and they’re Not Exactly.
So that’s that. There are dates on the calendar that you can pinpoint as possible times where a switch may happen but you shouldn’t bet on them. It’s time to move off of what you’re used to, because Roman has gotten above that now and shouldn’t be subjected to the ‘win at Mania, lose later in the year’ cycle that had become the norm. Roman is on that plane with the names Michael Cole mentions as he walks to the ring – Hogan, Bruno, Backlund, Pedro Morales. Look at him through that lens, because it’s the correct one. There is no Nitro on Monday nights to beat with hotshot booking and we’re not going to have a CM Punk/John Cena situation where one guy has the belt but the other guy is the champion. Vince found his guy in 2012 and it took a while to get things in place but in place they are and they’re not moving. So acknowledge your Tribal Chief because it really is the best decision here.