Quick Takes on WWE's Bitterness Toward CM Punk, Roman Reigns Replacement, More
Even with WrestleMania weekend fast approaching, plenty of questions remain regarding the event, specifically over who will be appearing as advertised and who won't be.
Roman Reigns has been a hot topic of conversation among fans this week as Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet confirmed that he will not be facing Goldberg for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 36 after all. Although WWE has yet to confirm the change, speculation is already underway over who will serve as his replacement.
That unfortunate bit of news followed the report from Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio that WWE is still hoarding resentment toward two-time WWE champion CM Punk. Despite a contingent of fans still holding out hope that he'll step back into the ring again eventually, the chances of that happening any time soon seem to be slim.
On the bright side, WWE has been making the most of their new empty arena format in recent weeks by focusing more on the promos. Several Superstars have shined as a result, specifically Randy Orton and Seth Rollins on Monday's Raw.
The latest edition of "Quick Takes" will hone in on these subjects as well as Darby Allin's rising stock in AEW, why booking a Fatal 5-Way for the SmackDown Women's Championship for WrestleMania is the wrong call, and more.
Let Bygones Be Bygones: WWE's Bitterness Toward CM Punk
CM Punk hasn't wrestled for WWE in over six years, and after some of the comments he's made to the media and in various interviews since stepping away, it didn't sound like he was ever interested in returning.
Of course, "never say never" is a popular phrase in wrestling because of how almost everyone comes back to the company at some point or another. Punk landing an analyst gig on WWE Backstage in November gave fans hope that an in-ring return was imminent, but according to Mike Johnson of PWInsider, that couldn't be any farther from the truth.
Interestingly enough, the bitterness is almost entirely on WWE's end and not Punk's.
The two-time WWE champion has gone on the record in recent months in saying that he would be open to talking to WWE if the situation and the money were right and that their bad blood is water under the bridge. It seems those feelings aren't mutual considering the company hasn't even attempted to reach out to him since he signed with Fox.
Perhaps Punk has zero desire to wrestle again anyway, but the least WWE can do is bring him back to TV for an appearance or two to promote WWE Backstage. Not only have they not done that, they have gone so far as to not even mention his name while plugging the show.
Regardless of how Vince McMahon and the rest of the higher-ups at WWE feel about him, Punk coming back for one more run would be good for business. The time is now for that process to begin before it's too late.
Fatal 5-Way at WrestleMania Feels Like Filler Ahead of Bayley vs. Sasha Banks
In the four years Sasha Banks and Bayley have been on WWE's main roster together, it's amazing to think they have yet to feud one-on-one.
The closest they came to waging war was in the summer of 2018, but they reconciled before one could officially turn on the other. This year would have been perfect for them to finally face off on the grandest stage of them all, but they'll instead be opponents in a Fatal 5-Way for the SmackDown Women's Championship.
The match will be elimination-style and therefore it could very well come down to Bayley and Banks as the final two. However, it would have been easier if that was the bout to begin with as opposed to this obvious attempt to get all the ladies on the WrestleMania card.
Although Lacey Evans and Naomi make sense to be going for the gold at 'Mania after all they've been through with Bayley this year, Tamina being shoehorned into the title picture is as random as it gets. Other than a one-off in the Royal Rumble, the daughter of Jimmy Snuka has been off WWE TV since October and hasn't won a televised singles match since March 2019.
In other words, Tamina is clearly a replacement for Carmella, who likely had to be pulled from the pay-per-view for whatever reason. This could wind up being a fine Fatal 5-Way, but it's a shame to imagine what could have been if it was Bayley vs. Banks straight up.
Darby Allin Is AEW's Next Big Star
Even in an empty arena, Darby Allin still feels like a star.
The skateboard-riding daredevil has had a steady rise to the top of AEW over the last year and has been one to watch on AEW Dynamite lately. His match with Sammy Guevara at the Revolution pay-per-view was an absolute blast and well-received by the audience in attendance.
Following his latest victory over Kip Sabian on Wednesday's Dynamite, fans were left wondering what was next for him. If his recent vignettes have been any indication, he clearly has his sights set on Inner Circle after the way they humiliated him earlier this month.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Sabian could be contending for the AEW World Championship before long. What makes that so exciting is that, if he were to win the gold at some point, he would be AEW's first "homegrown" talent to hold their top title.
Allin has everything necessary to be successful for years to come: a unique look, unparalleled charisma, above-average in-ring ability, and a connection with the AEW fan base like no other. His win-loss record is far from unblemished, yet he always look great in defeat.
At the rate he's currently going, Allin could quite possibly be the next AEW World champion—and what a moment that would be.
WWE's New Empty Arena Format Has Allowed Stars to Shine on the Mic
While WWE having to film in front of an empty arena at the Performance Center for the time being isn't ideal, it has forced the company to adapt to a different approach as far as how they produce their programming.
Since an abundance of matches in front of no fans doesn't make for an exciting show, more promos is the way to go and thankfully WWE has already realized this. That much was evident during Monday's Raw when Paul Heyman, AJ Styles, Shayna Baszler, Seth Rollins and Randy Orton were given mic time and all of them knocked it out of the park.
Orton's promo in particular highlighted how tremendous he's been throughout his entire feud with Edge, while Rollins reminded viewers that he can still be excellent on the mic when given the chance.
When the day comes that Raw is back in actual arenas, they should stick to this format as much as possible. Granted, they won't have to replay two old pay-per-view matches anymore, but the emphasis on promos has been refreshing and has made for better television in certain respects.
Matches aren't the same without the audience, whereas promos seem to be more impactful in the empty arena environment. Props to WWE, as well as AEW, for making the appropriate adjustments to this week's shows by focusing on what works and phasing out what doesn't.
Who Will Replace Roman Reigns Against Goldberg?
Roman Reigns' decision to pull out of WrestleMania 36 reportedly had to do with how he is immunocompromised from his battles with leukemia. Thus, he shouldn't be blamed for putting his health and safety first.
WWE should have prepared for this as a possibility considering the circumstances. They're now in a position where they have to promote a match that is no longer happening on the next two episodes of SmackDown due to them being pre-taped.
There was zero mention of Reigns vs. Goldberg being changed on Friday's SmackDown, but something can still be said about it on next week's show. Either way, there are a number of names who could realistically replace Reigns, and Braun Strowman is chief among them.
The Monster Among Men hasn't been seen on SmackDown since losing the Intercontinental Championship to Sami Zayn at Elimination Chamber earlier this month. It would make no sense for him to be awarded a Universal Championship opportunity out of nowhere, but of everyone from SmackDown who doesn't have a match at 'Mania, Strowman is the only one who could actually pose a threat to Goldberg.
Sheamus and Jeff Hardy aren't currently booked for matches at the event, but Strowman is the safe choice. If nothing else, the aftermath of this whole thing with Reigns likely getting a title shot post-WrestleMania will be incredibly interesting.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.