WWE fans can exhale: Roman Reigns mercifully ended Brock Lesnar's reign of terror over the WWE Universe at SummerSlam.
Rarely does WWE achieve the holy trinity in a match. It was brief, no breaks in the action and everything that occurred made sense: pacing, length, storytelling.
That Reigns walked out of SummerSlam victorious was never much of a question. But the WWE Universe seemed to enter the biggest pay-per-view not named WrestleMania resigned to the fate of The Big Dog overcoming the odds with a dash of possibly avoiding disaster caused by Paul Heyman. Instead, he was cunning, violent and picked his spots in a realistic way.
Braun Strowman also played an important set piece, both for the result Sunday night and the dominoes sure to fall in the coming months.
It was a barnburner from the onset, reminiscent of the Lesnar-Goldberg bouts designed to emulate the brutal reality of MMA fights while protecting both guys.
After Money in the Bank winner Strowman proclaimed he would cash in face-to-face the victor, Reigns aggressively got out to a hot start and wouldn't let off the pedal.
Lesnar countered, smartly worked in The Monster Among Men, brutalized him out of the equation and walked into a trap Reigns had sprung.
Reigns ended an era, started his own and looked impeccable in the process.
Lesnar looked good too, though. He smartly incapacitated a monster like Strowman with violence, ensuring no cash in—because hey, Roman? Been there, done that. He's squashed Reigns before and outlasted him before, what's one more time before waltzing back to UFC with WWE's top title on his shoulder?
But in a savvy bit of character development, The Big Dog didn't try the same thing over again. No outlasting The Beast here—rather, capitalizing on Lesnar's guaranteed arrogance to escape with the prize.
Reigns looks great. Lesnar still looks strong. Strowman is still a beast with a briefcase.
Call it an evolution of sorts for the storytellers backstage, too. What better way to keep the booing of your next champion at a minimum than to trot out a fan favorite such as Strowman, have him tease a cash-in via a way only he could, keeping the crowd distracted from the possibility of Reigns winning it?
On paper, this same storytelling evolution could serve as a launch pad of sorts. Now Reigns has the title, maybe he's allowed to develop a bit more as a character. Maybe he flirts even more with being a bad guy. After all, he's got the top prize, he finally conquered The Beast, the ring is already his yard, the crowd isn't fully accepting of him and he has the rest of the roster nipping at him. (Can we talk about him oozing arrogance right after being handed the belt, talking trash at Heyman for a good 10 seconds? Let's tap into that, Roman, please).
Or maybe we see some sort of run-in with members of The Shield. Seth Rollins is still white hot and a champion again. His actions didn't portray it Sunday, but Dean Ambrose is a wild card who looks like a bad guy and could easily morph into someone who betrays one of, if not both, of his former brothers because he'd rather be the one pulling off the betrayal this time.
No matter what direction WWE goes here, intrigue follows and the weekly programs benefit. The company's top title is back on regular programming and it's a "two birds, one stone" bonus—no more part-timer angst storylines and no more Reigns chasing the top spot in the company cliches.
For a guy who has supposedly lost his mind, Matt Hardy hit the nail on the head:
Every name on the Raw roster now has something to strive for again. There isn't some final boss only one man can overcome, should the final boss actually show up. The fighting champion is back and with it comes seemingly endless possibilities.
And don't make the mistake of thinking Lesnar is out of the equation. He's off to the Octagon, and it's hard to imagine WWE doesn't want a hand in some of that sweet publicity, even if it doesn't need UFC in any way, shape or form.
But there are other ways to weave in Lesnar as this arc ends. He's Lesnar, give him a payday and he'll show up. He's the type of personality who might not care about the title he just lost, especially if the right opponent emerges and prods him into action.
We've seen The Beast put on incredible bouts with the likes of AJ Styles and Samoa Joe recently, so the mind wanders when thinking about how WWE has worked to expand the roster over the years.
To play devil's advocate, the fact WWE botched opportunity after opportunity to get the belt off Lesnar via Reigns previously is the main reason for the big sigh of relief here. Is that good storytelling and a worthwhile conclusion? Probably not, but the fact WWE fans are walking out of a major event with actual possibilities in front of them again instead of another holding pattern before the obvious is a sweet feeling regardless.
If WWE can now tap into that feeling of relief somehow squeezed out of the most predictable outcome possible, the company could have something special on its hands, and the inexplicable dragging of feet could be viewed as just a minor blip on the radar of a much bigger arc.