Roman Reigns' WWE Year in Review: Full Breakdown and Grade for 2017

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2017

Roman Reigns' WWE Year in Review: Full Breakdown and Grade for 2017

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    Love him or hate him, Roman Reigns is the top dog in WWE.

    The second-generation wrestler had another banner year in 2017, competing in marquee matches, retiring legendary figures and beating the best the industry has to offer. In between, he made a new star of a monster, put over a fellow Samoan and captured the one title that had eluded him in his career.

    While there was no world title victory, Reigns continued his steady march to what will likely be a Universal Championship showdown with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans. To get there, he had many triumphs, tribulations and moments that captivated the audience and earned him the mixed reactions he continues to receive in arenas across the globe.

    As Reigns prepares to further establish himself as the leader of this new generation, relive his 2017 and the matches and moments that defined it.

In-Ring Work

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    If you are between the ages of 18-35 and own a computer with internet access, odds are you think Roman Reigns is the worst wrestler on the planet—either because he only knows two moves or his push is the result of his father's identity.

    Those who are impartial or paying attention, though, recognize Reigns' status as one of WWE's workhorses in 2017.

    The Big Dog held down the main event scene on the Raw brand and, in the process, delivered the best match on many a show, against opponents of many sizes, shapes and styles.

    It was not uncommon for Reigns to deliver a show-stealer against Finn Balor on Raw one week, provide the best match of the night against Bray Wyatt a week later and then headline the third show against Samoa Joe. Each match would be unique, and at the subsequent pay-per-view, he would bump around the ringside area for Braun Strowman in a hellacious brawl that put over their hatred for one another.

    Reigns' versatility made him an integral part of the Raw product.

    His ability to produce a great match under any circumstance, in any scenario, against any opponent goes largely unrecognized when criticism rains down on him. In reality, he is invaluable to the promotion and has more than earned the opportunities he has seized over the past three years.

    From January through December 2017, few Superstars were as consistent in terms of the quality of their ring work as Reigns. For that, he deserves a grade reflecting his excellence regardless of the cries of his haters.


    Grade: A


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    WWE Creative continued to do Reigns no favors in 2017, even if its use of him improved in comparison to a year earlier.

    Rather than positioning Reigns as a badass babyface who tears through competition, says little and wins matches, it continued to overexpose him on the microphone and present him as a traditional babyface forced to overcome the odds and sell all too frequently.

    With that said, his ability to sell came in handy during his feud with Strowman.

    Reigns' willingness and ability to sell for Strowman put him over as a movie monster, an unstoppable force not even the top star in the industry could contain. Creative called for it. He needed to put over Strowman to tell the story that had been written for him, and he did just that.

    The writing was strong, the angles were hot and the crowd responded in kind.

    Later in the year, The Shield's reunion shook the WWE Universe to its core, even though illness and injury doomed it to an early demise.

    The best of Reigns' year creatively, though, was nearly overshadowed by the worst.

    After SummerSlam and throughout the month of September, Reigns was engaged in a rivalry with John Cena that was heavily verbal. Reigns was left to spar with Cena on the mic and was instantly exposed, with his weaknesses being broadcast for the world to see.

    Rather than emphasizing his strengths and hiding his weaknesses, WWE Creative put him in a position to fail, and he nearly did not recover.

    For every step forward, including a heel-ish promo after WrestleMania in which Reigns declared WWE his yard following his victory over Undertaker, there was a step back.

    The story of Reigns' career as a singles performer.


    Grade: C

Historical Significance

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    Reigns had three instances that proved historically significant to him, his career and WWE as a whole in 2017.

    The first came at WrestleMania, where he defeated The Undertaker in what appeared to be The Deadman's final match. The contest was hardly up to the level each man has become accustomed to, but the meaningfulness of the moment superseded everything that came before it.

    After years of speculation as to which Superstar would be the one to get the nod, it was Reigns. And as he stood tall, looking almost remorseful for ending the icon so many fans had looked up to, it was clear he was the leader of this generation of WWE performers.

    Months later, he reunited with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to reform The Shield.

    While not as historic in the grand scheme of things, the return of the faction represented the culmination of WWE's plan some three years earlier to split up the Superstars and let them establish themselves individually before bringing them back together again.

    It was shortly after that reunion that Reigns once again etched his name into the history books.

    Reigns became the ninth Superstar in WWE history to win the coveted Grand Slam Championship, meaning he has won every major title available, including the "Intercontinental Champion, United States Champion, either the Raw (formerly WWE) or SmackDown Tag Team Championship and either active heavyweight title—as in, WWE Championship or, now, the Universal Championship."

    When he defeated The Miz on the November 20 episode of Raw, Reigns joined Ambrose, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Daniel Bryan, Eddie Guerrero, The Miz, The Big Show and Edge on the list of Superstars to have accomplished that feat.

    All things considered, 2017 was another banner year for Reigns, and one that was historically significant.


    Grade: A

Greatest Moment

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    The dark night sky in Orlando, Florida, erupted into a colorful display befitting a celebration of epic proportions as Roman Reigns stood on the WrestleMania ramp and looked back over his shoulder at the ring he had just exited.

    There, inside it, was the mangled carcass of a fallen phenom.

    Reigns, the conquering titan, hinted at remorse for his opponent but sneered, satisfied with his work, and made his way up the ramp.

    He had just defeated The Undertaker, becoming only the second man to accomplish that feat at WrestleMania. He did not just beat The Deadman, though. He retired him. He put Undertaker on his back and then left the limping, humbled future Hall of Famer in the center of the squared circle, where he would leave his trademark gear upon taking one last walk up the aisle.

    There was a finality in Reigns' win, one that established him WWE's new phenom and put an end to The Deadman's nearly three decades of destruction.

    The victory, a passing of the torch, was the second such win on Reigns' growing resume of WrestleMania memories and his most unforgettable moment of 2017.

Best Match of 2017

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    At SummerSlam, Reigns joined Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe in challenging Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship in the main event, a Fatal 4-Way war of attrition that was every bit as wild, chaotic and destructive as fans imagined it could be.

    Like he was throughout the year, Reigns was the workhorse. He was the glue that held the match together, a talented worker whose ability to pop the audience with his comeback was equaled by the unselfishness in his selling for all three of his larger opponents.

    The ferocity of the contest equaled the raw emotion that existed among the competitors. 

    The big bumps, the high spots and the unpredictable finish that saw Lesnar pin Reigns clean in the center of the ring despite all the fans' assumptions that WWE Creative would go out of its way to protect The Big Dog meshed together to deliver a beautiful disasterpiece that continued the red brand's hot streak of quality pay-per-view main events.

Overall Grade

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    In 2017, Reigns ascended to the top of the company, evolving into the star management had hoped and prayed he would become.

    He defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania, pinned John Cena clean in the center of the ring at No Mercy, won the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz, reunited The Shield and participated in arguably the best feud of the year against Braun Strowman.

    In between, he continued to deliver quality in-ring work, which he seemingly never gets credit for, while growing his star and proving himself the type of bust-ass worker the company needs at its forefront.

    He will never be everyone's favorite. Nor should he be. There are still major issues surrounding his booking WWE will have to address, hopefully sooner rather than later, in 2018. For now, though, the company can rest assured it has its new franchise. Fans can continue greeting him with mixed reactions in arenas across the country, and Reigns can continue to prove why he is The Big Dog.


    Grade: A