WWE Payback: Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman's Dangerous Alliance Ushers in New Era

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2020


With Paul Heyman smirking from the ramp, Roman Reigns emerged triumphant at Sunday's Payback pay-per-view, reclaiming the universal title over Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt's The Fiend. 

And The Big Dog did it as a heel. 

Just seven days removed from his stunning return at SummerSlam and only two days after revealing his alliance with the man formerly serving as Brock Lesnar's advocate, Reigns catapulted his way back up the mountain with actions fans have asked him to take for years. 

It doesn't matter that Sunday's proceedings were about as predictable as pro wrestling gets. The Big Dog was nowhere to be seen when Strowman and Wyatt started kicking the tar out of each other, eventually leading to a ring-destroying finale.

Fans knew they were softening each other up to take a loss, as the former champion would eventually waltz his way down and steal the belt. 

But that's just how refreshing Reigns as a heel is—and just how shocking it is that he's working with Paul Heyman. 


Great timing, @WWERomanReigns. #WWEPayback @HeymanHustle https://t.co/GeeFGzOb1b

The bad-guy actions were pretty standard fare, too. Reigns waited until both guys were weak, signed the contract after the match had started (what do we think those changes to the contract he wanted were?), used a weapon on Strowman and delivered a low-blow to The Fiend, which is still pretty effective even on the supernatural folk. 

Reigns is top dog now and good luck getting that belt from him. And the real genius of pairing him with Heyman is simple: He needs a mouthpiece talking for him.

A heel Reigns could easily walk into problems with still getting too many cheers by crowds supposed to hate him for his actions. Putting Heyman on the mic to put down the fans and really drum up some distaste for The Big Dog—even though he's finally acting like the bad guy fans have wanted for so long—is the perfect way to go. 

The only bad point? The unfortunate reality that these two amazing Sundays for the suddenly-heel Roman couldn't unfold in front of live crowds. That's out of WWE's control, of course, but the spotlight on him did make it easy to forget the company positioned Payback only a week after SummerSlam in odd fashion. 

And the best point of all? This new era has so many unlimited possibilities. Reigns always felt like he was holding back as a good guy. The casual low blow, weapon usage and cussing at the ref Sunday night felt like a guy finally fighting at full power. He's got the potential to run absolutely bonkers on the entire SmackDown roster. 

If WWE wants to go that route, his putting down Strowman repeatedly after years of struggling with him in a pretty even feud would sell the point well. Similar story for Wyatt, at the risk of possibly ruining The Fiend forever. 

Roman Reigns @WWERomanReigns

Back where it belongs. #AndNew #WWEPayback https://t.co/bKy6v1pvwE

And while Heyman on the mic is good, some of Reigns' actions really need to turn fans off from him too, no matter how much they like the character development. Thrashing Otis after baiting a Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in and bullying him into losing it, for example, would force fans to hate him. 

The endgame is Lesnar himself, of course. In time, the story writes itself—The Beast Incarnate comes back and takes issue with Heyman and/or Reigns and what's happened during his extended hiatus.

Lesnar also has Drew McIntyre to worry about, but Heyman linking up with one of the biggest foes of his career might irk him even more (and WWE can't do a Reigns-Lesnar pairing under Heyman...right?). 

Looking far, far ahead, Reigns in a one-off against The Rock, who returns and attempts to talk some sense into him is about as good as it gets. And if we think along developmental lines, The Big Dog eventually handing off the title to a Keith Lee or Big E is a smooth way to really build up the main event scene. 

But for right now? It's best fans just enjoy the ride. Heyman, arguably the best ever on the mic, can now safely guide one of the most-requested character turns of all time into guaranteed success. It's the John Cena turn fans never got, and the way it changes the complexion of the roster at the very top of any and all brands opens up new long-term possibilities. 

On paper, it'll be a joy to learn the why of Reigns' turn, likely through Heyman. And that's if Roman even shows up to weekly broadcasts, as he could always pull a Lesnar and have his advocate do shows for him. 

And of course, it'll be simply refreshing to see a vest-less Reigns terrorizing Superstars in the ring while Heyman is screaming on the outside until he turns purple again.

It's a shift WWE badly needed to revive a stale product, and if done right—and the early signs are amazing—this new era of Reigns and Heyman has the chance to be historic.