Roman Reigns rose to the occasion in the face of one of his greatest challenges Sunday at WWE Fastlane, as he defeated Braun Strowman.
The beginning of the end for Strowman came when he climbed to the top rope. Had he connected with his splash on Reigns, he almost certainly would've claimed victory. Instead, he missed, which opened the door for Reigns to deliver one last Spear to put Strowman away, courtesy of WWE:
Bleacher Report's Kevin Berge, ESPN.com's Jacob Wolf and Black Sports Online were disappointed with the finish:
ESPN.com's Dan Szymborski also criticized the in-ring psychology between the two wrestlers:
Reigns and Strowman have engaged in several altercations in recent months, but things truly came to a head for them at the Royal Rumble.
The Big Dog was locked up in a battle with Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship in a No Disqualification match with Chris Jericho suspended above the ring in a shark cage.
That seemingly gave Reigns a huge advantage since there was nobody available to lend KO a helping hand, but that changed when The Monster Among Men made his way to the ring and destroyed Reigns, leading to Owens retaining the title.
It was revealed on the ensuing episode of Raw that Strowman took out Reigns because Owens previously promised him a title shot once he got past the former Shield powerhouse.
Raw general manager Mick Foley gave The Mountain of a Man that opportunity, but Strowman did not come away with the championship due to interference by Reigns, who was out for payback.
Foley booked the match between Reigns and Strowman for Fastlane the following week on Raw, and Strowman immediately looked to get a leg up by costing Reigns his bout against Samoa Joe before administering a brutal beatdown.
Strowman smashed Reigns through the crowd barrier with a running powerslam and made it clear after the incident that it was only the beginning of his path of destruction:
Reigns has consistently been WWE's most dominant force over the past couple of years, but the manner in which Strowman has been booked and protected has allowed him to move quickly up the pecking order in that regard.
Strowman is clearly being built into WWE's biggest monster heel, but top faces such as John Cena and Reigns have long had a penchant for defeating those types of wrestlers and halting their momentum.
That style of booking has been in place for much of WWE's existence dating back to Hulk Hogan and even further than that to the likes of Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund.
Strowman got his comeuppance to some degree at Fastlane, but it shouldn't be difficult to build him back up, especially if he does something of significance at WrestleMania, such as winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
As for Reigns, a match against The Undertaker at The Showcase of Immortals seems likely, and vanquishing Strowman was a huge momentum builder ahead of that potential bout.
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