Booking Roman Reigns Through WWE WrestleMania 37 Season
The Road to WrestleMania is normally the one time of the year when WWE has a more solid creative direction. At the very least, it would be rare for a high-profile talent such as the universal champion to be left without a clear idea of what's ahead of him.
However, be it from the chaos of the pandemic or just a lack of cohesive teamwork from writers and management, Roman Reigns is among the many Superstars in an odd spot heading toward WrestleMania 37.
The endgame for his journey to Raymond James Stadium may already be settled, but the detours to get to that point are certainly up in the air.
Without knowing exactly what else WWE has in mind, let's try to book The Tribal Chief's next few months and see where the SmackDown Superstar may find himself come April 10-11.
Fallout from Royal Rumble, Heading into Elimination Chamber
The first step is to get past what has already happened, primarily by addressing his title defense at the Royal Rumble and moving on.
Reigns has beaten Kevin Owens multiple times through various gimmick matches. While WWE continues to book dubious finishes to allow KO room to complain he wasn't truly beaten, that novelty has long worn off.
Sooner or later, if you can't get the job done, it doesn't matter by what method you lost. Just as the universal champion can seemingly only cheat to beat Owens, an argument can be made that The Prizefighter can't beat Reigns at all, which is even worse.
Unfortunately, WWE didn't take the necessary precautions in the 2020 draft and ignored the warning signs that there weren't enough options to feud with Reigns. Now, it has come to the point where the company has nobody else but Owens and keeps repeating the feud.
As a result, the first step in booking Reigns going forward is to fast-track someone else to fill in for KO, rather than simply keeping this story limping on for another two months.
The Elimination Chamber pay-per-view is almost here, and WWE has run out of time.
- Reigns can sit the show out by manipulating WWE management. In his place, there can be a No. 1 Contender's match, ideally inside the Elimination Chamber.
- He can defend the title inside the structure as has been booked for McIntyre.
- He can defend the title against one opponent to differentiate him from the Scot's cage match.
Since Drew McIntyre is set to defend his WWE Championship inside the Elimination Chamber, that offers three potential options for Reigns to be involved in the PPV on February 21:
The first scenario bypasses the need for Reigns vs. Owens for a fourth time. It would revolve entirely around the other Superstars fighting for a chance to face the titleholder either on SmackDown or at Fastlane or WrestleMania.
The ideal format, then, would be an Elimination Chamber match. The more gimmicks WWE tosses onto this card, the better, as it gives fans a reason to tune in. It may be overkill to have too many cage matches, but the company is better off going overboard rather than underwhelming.
Owens, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Shinsuke Nakamura, Otis, King Corbin, Rey Mysterio, Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn and Big E are all potential participants. WWE could pick six of those and let them battle it out.
This is the best way to stall for time and give fans something to be invested in.
The second scenario would get the most attention, as Reigns would be more involved. In that case, five other opponents would be picked from that list of challengers and The Tribal Chief would retain the title, as there's no way he's dropping it before WrestleMania.
If not, one of those names could earn the right to challenge Reigns at Elimination Chamber in a singles match, but that feels even more rushed. The third scenario is the least entertaining, overall.
Given those options, the best idea is the first one. Everything will be rushed at this point, but at least a gauntlet of contenders requires no actual story other than how they all want to win a chance to fight the champion.
Assuming WWE goes with a No. 1 Contender's Elimination Chamber match, the Fastlane pay-per-view on March 21 would be the next staging post.
Out of that list of challengers, it would be fun to see someone new get a title shot for a refreshing change of pace, which rules out Owens as the winner.
Heels such as King Corbin, Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn wouldn't make sense, either. Reigns needs a babyface to fight in order to enhance his villainous persona.
All other options have pros and cons. If men's Rumble winner Edge doesn't challenge Reigns, Daniel Bryan is the only viable contender for WrestleMania and shouldn't be wasted ahead of time just to set up a rematch.
Rey Mysterio is the next-best bet. As a multi-time world champion, he's the most believable challenger, despite the size difference between the two. Even then, watching Reigns brutalize a fan favorite like The Master of the 619 would further establish The Tribal Chief's vicious side.
Otis, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura could all have decent matches with Reigns, but fans might not believe they could win, which would hinder interest in the contest.
Last is Big E. The fans would undoubtedly be invested in seeing the intercontinental champion face the universal titleholder. Whether believable or not to win, The New Day star is a popular and powerful opponent who could spark intrigue.
Ultimately, though, the result at Fastlane would remain the same: Reigns would retain the title and move on.
The Lull Before WrestleMania 37
There are only three weeks between Fastlane and WrestleMania 37, which isn't enough time to start a new angle and develop it in time for the biggest show of the year.
Unfortunately, that means Reigns must be challenged by Edge or someone who has a story from February and March that can carry over.
The simplest course of action is for The Rated-R Superstar to come out the week after Fastlane and declare he's picked Reigns for WrestleMania. Then, the next two weeks would focus on establishing their rivalry, setting up the Spear-versus-Spear angle and allowing Edge time to verbally spar with Paul Heyman.
If WWE has Edge vs. McIntyre or NXT champion Finn Balor in mind, though, Bryan is the best pick to face Reigns.
In that scenario, Bryan's journey toward a title match would have to be reflected at Elimination Chamber and Fastlane, which would retroactively change that direction.
The Yes Man could win the men's Elimination Chamber match and Fastlane would have to be a filler contest, rather than a shot at the title. Perhaps he could team with Owens against Reigns and Jey Uso or fight Uso in a gimmick match Reigns pitches as a means to prove Bryan is worthy to fight him.
The lull before WrestleMania would focus on building Bryan's credibility with wins over Superstars such as Rollins, Cesaro, Nakamura and Uso, and Reigns could attack the leader of The Yes Movement occasionally to make their rivalry more personal.
All these weeks lead to one of two destinations at WrestleMania 37: a match against Bryan or Edge.
In both scenarios, the challenger would be the underdog. Bryan is a physically smaller competitor than The Tribal Chief, while Edge is 12 years older than Reigns.
A match with Bryan would likely emphasize more of the submission side of their games. Reigns has utilized the Guillotine Choke in recent victories, and The Yes Man is a specialist in maneuvers like the Yes Lock. Edge vs. Reigns, meanwhile, would be a battle of Spears.
The end result for Bryan would almost assuredly be coming up short. In the grand scheme of things, beating a fan favorite like him would give The Tribal Chief even more heat to carry into future programs.
With Edge, it's harder to decide. Fans would jeer Reigns retaining but might also harbor resentment toward WWE for not giving the title to the Hall of Famer. It might be more worthwhile for The Rated-R Superstar to win the belt and then drop it back to The Tribal Chief soon after.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.