One of the most predictable outcomes at WWE's Extreme Rules event Sunday is Roman Reigns retaining his title against challenger Finn Balor as he awaits a showdown with Brock Lensar.
This has the feel of a placeholder feud, even with Balor bringing out his Demon persona for the match in an effort to keep things interesting. Reigns vs. Lesnar with Paul Heyman in the middle writes itself and will happen at a later date, but the champion needed an opponent while things remain in a holding pattern.
That is exactly why Balor should pull off the upset.
This feels like the perfect moment for WWE to pull a swerve nobody would dare predict could happen. It wouldn't be a swerve just for the sake of pulling a swerve, and it wouldn't be as bad as some of the moments WWE has tried to make for shock value recently (looking at you, Becky Lynch over Bianca Belair).
No, Balor winning would be pretty smart for the long term. WWE bringing back the Demon persona just for it to take a loss would be about as foolish as it gets. It's the one great supernatural-feeling thing the company has left after losing names like Aleister Black and Bray Wyatt. Trotting it out for a defeat would make it unremarkable whenever it decides to pop up next again.
Letting Balor get a win would also prop up a common criticism—that WWE's main event scene is weak. And it 100 percent is, in large part because the company doesn't show itself to be committed to long-term storytelling. But Balor winning a title and going on to feud with other people would flesh out the top of every card, all before a draft that can help in this area too.
And if fans are honest, it's not like Reigns-Lesnar needs a title attached to it. There's an old-school line of thinking that the biggest matches should feature a promotion's top titles, and that's fine. It's just not always applicable in this modern age.
Reigns carrying a belt into his match with Lesnar would seem to make the outcome predictable—they aren't going to put one of their two top titles on a part-timer who only shows up and wrestles once every six months again, right. Right?
Remove the gold from the equation, and things get quite a bit more unpredictable. Let two of the best Superstars of their generation and Heyman, maybe the greatest talker and ringside storyteller, do the heavy lifting.
This idea that Balor wins over Reigns doesn't have to damage anyone, either. The Demon doesn't have to win clean and hurt Reigns' outlook. A little interference on Lesnar's part, plus a post-match beatdown for both, would work just fine. With one chaotic five-minute stretch, WWE can establish a stunning new title scene while sending Reigns into a must-see feud with Lesnar.
WWE couldn't do this with anyone else besides maybe AJ Styles. It's almost easy to forget that Balor was the handpicked guy to be the first universal champion upon arrival. He slammed through names like Seth Rollins and Reigns, only to relinquish the title because of an injury.
For those worried a non-clean finish in a win for Balor might hurt the Demon persona, it actually might be a pretty good way to keep it in check. WWE, after all, had that major issue with Wyatt's Fiend persona, which got way too overpowered and produced some horrific matches that spiraled out of control.
The nice thing about Balor, when the time comes, is that he can turn around and get caught on a bad night without his alter ego and lose his title. That happens, and the Demon remains a mystical threat that can still pop up later.
The reality? WWE might try to pull a cop out on this by the Demon taking an uber-beatdown by Reigns and friends to retain. That way, he's still the technically unstoppable force with a belt before moving on to face Lesnar.
But that's just not as satisfying as the other possible outcomes now that WWE has decided to throw the Demon out there. WWE loves its moments, and Lesnar showing up to wreak havoc while Balor ascends to the top spot would classify as unforgettable.
The alternative is the Demon gets hurt, Balor goes back to midcard tag matches and the rest of the would-be main event scene remains in purgatory with no belt to chase because Reigns is off fighting a part-timer in Saudi Arabia.
So while this smacks as a bit bold even for WWE, the upshot is a rejuvenated main event scene, an incredibly over Demon Balor and a Reigns-Lesnar feud that only has more bad blood and hype behind it.