Roman Reigns Takes Another Step Toward GOAT Status with WWE WrestleMania 37 WinApril 12, 2021
Roman Reigns wrote a masterpiece at WrestleMania 37.
The Tribal Chief, accompanied by Paul Heyman and Jey Uso, closed out the first event with fans in the stands in more than a year with a classic match against Edge and Daniel Bryan and a retention of his universal title that only makes the coming days, weeks and months must-see material.
In the process, Reigns boosted his legacy so much more. This was the capper to a stunning heel turn, long wished for by fans but feared for naught, as Reigns seemed destined to go the John Cena route and never actually do it.
He did and managed to exceed even the loftiest of expectations in the process—and one could argue there haven't been higher expectations in modern wrestling history in terms of fantasy-booking something.
So what, did anyone really expect him to lose?
No chance. If onlookers haven't noticed, Reigns is in the Brock Lesnar role right now. The fact that Heyman is right there is a little on the nose. But if folks haven't noticed it, there it is. He's the big bad final boss who doesn't always get the squeaky-clean win, but that's part of the game.
Meaning, the universal champion is going to get that Lesnar-type booking, if not more so.
And he deserves it.
Reigns came back after another extended absence, turned heel and then used the audience-less arenas to his advantage in a way almost no other Superstar could during the pandemic era. He shook free of the silly Shield vest, added Heyman, mixed up his move set and sadistically talked down to the opponents he pulverized—which caused a big churn of the stomach when it was his own family members.
And fans cheered it, too. The guy who couldn't seem to shake free of his prior stable, even after one of them had outright left WWE, had been shoved down the collective throats of fans for years. Yet when permitted to flip the switch, he did just that, showing a degree of range to his character work most would've never guessed he could make work.
So, of course Reigns was going to take down the fan-favorite Bryan, who deserved to be in the match but always felt like he was just there to eat the pin so the other two guys were left looking strong. Of course, he was going to get the best of Edge, whose return from injury only to win the men's Royal Rumble always felt a little off.
It helps that this was one of the most memorable main events in a long time. Structurally speaking, this was an amazing Triple Threat match. It was smartly plotted like a must-read New York Times bestseller. Each Superstar had some one-on-one time with each other while the odd man out was smartly discarded. Weapons came into play., and it dealt with the interference of Uso early.
And some of the spots were about as stunning as it gets, all neatly wrapped in strong storytelling. The double-crossface where Bryan wouldn't let Reigns tap out to Edge—then joined in on the submission—before they started headbutting each other was...something else. Ditto for the ending, which featured the titleholder stacking his fallen adversaries and pinning them both.
Sure, we could nitpick. Uso playing a pretty big role in his cousin getting the win is worth an eye roll. But that's sort of the point—unlike plenty of matches—this wasn't an ending. Consider this a speed bump for this story, with Reigns still top dog but also still a despicable heel who will flaunt like he conquered both guys. Fans know better—there's an asterisk on it. And this man had the audacity to pin two guys at once in the main event of a WrestleMania, for goodness sake.
The best part? Everybody comes out of the match looking strong. Reigns is set up to keep fulfilling that Lesnar-type role on the SmackDown roster. Thanks to this new character work, even old feuds fans have seen rehashed plenty of times will feel fresh.
And here's the kicker—this run by Reigns, capped off by his win Sunday night, has the potential to recolorize his past a bit. He's going to end up getting the big benefit of the doubt that his past booking, which was him using the same moves over and over and winning all the time while occupying main event spots was forced on him by WWE itself. It won't sting fans too much to rewatch some of those bleh bumps along the way knowing this is where Reigns ends up.
Not to say that this is the end. It only feels like the beginning for this version of Reigns. He's finally reached the apex WWE so wished for him long ago, beloved by fans no matter what deeds he might commit and against whom. Ironically enough, it took WWE listening to the fans to reach this point.
Just think, this was the first time heel Reigns performed in front of a live crowd. It's only going to get wilder from here. He's already flirting with having a run that rivals modern greats such as Cena and CM Punk in terms of fan adoration.
Cena, notably, was adored and earned the right to have endless big moments until fans soured on him. Reigns is the inverse, having just earned the right.
And in terms of having merely a run of dominance, it doesn't get more dominant than the double pin of two surefire Hall of Famers in a WrestleMania main event. Lesnar was dominant. Guys like Triple H have been. But this is a whole different level, which is deserved and should be looked back on fondly, especially if the guy to finally upend him is a critical part of the future of WWE.
Played right—and there hasn't been any indication this will go wrong—we could be throwing "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's name in there soon enough. Throw in The Rock too, as one Dwayne Johnson could be one of the big returning guys with a familiar connection who hopes to take down Reigns.
So, if we're talking legacies, Sunday night was a critical building block for Reigns. He had already been so accomplished that it's downright jaw-dropping he's able to etch something else so positive in his legacy at this stage of his career, all while it feels like a launching-off point.
The ability to dynamically shift now, of all times, after battling the out-of-ring issues he's encountered and doing it during the pandemic era, is downright stunning. If this hasn't put Reigns in the greatest-of-all-time discussion, the talk is pointless.