If you’ve clicked to read this blog then you already have some sort of interest in the current WWE product, and so you don’t really need an elaborate introduction into their current quagmire.
So, the short version, Vince McMahon is thrusting his choice for top guy Roman Reigns at the WWE Universe despite how hard the universe resists. Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose has gotten himself way over in a very organic fashion and is clearly the WWE Universe’s choice for the next top guy.
Here are the most pertinent factoids about Dean Ambrose: he lacks the in-ring skills of a CM Punk, a Daniel Bryan or a Seth Rollins, but he can hold his own with his take-a-beating-but-keep-on-fighting ring psychology. What he does have is Punk’s anti-authoritarian charisma and Daniel Bryan’s “never give up even when his opponent is clearly physically superior to him” attitude. He also clearly has the WWE fans’ support in a way that Roman Reigns probably never will.
Roman Reigns is fine in the ring, he sells well, and his offense looks like it it might actually do some damage to his opponent. But his mic skills are underdeveloped and he lacks any genuine natural charisma to lure in fans with his presence alone.
Another major knock on Reigns is the way he’s been booked, which is not his fault in any way. Popular opinion is that they tried to get the WWE Championship on him too soon. He has never worked the mid-card, or won a mid-card title, and his lack of true rivalries has cut off his chance to develop as a character. While some of this is true, the truth is that they’ve waited too long to make him WWE Champ.
Money In The Bank 2014 was when he should have become WWE Champion. He was coming off a fantastic Royal Rumble match, and the Shield has just wrapped a great program against Evolution. The fans were completely in Reigns’ corner and he was white hot at the time. The crowd was also ready for something new – as illustrated by Daniel Bryan’s rise to the top – and so they would have been fully behind Reigns winning that ladder match and becoming champion.
Instead, WWE decided to go back to John Cena for the umpteenth time. Sure Cena served as little more than a transitional champion to Brock Lesnar, but Lesnar never needed to be champion to have heat with the crowd. He could have run through Cena, and some other top guys en route to a collision with Reigns for the title at last year’s WrestleMania. Sure, Lesnar may have had the fans cheering him over Reigns by that point, but it was a risk worth taking.
Instead all these stops and starts with the title have only hurt Reigns’ credibility with the fans. Couple that with the fact that he keeps being given opportunity after opportunity on top of already being shoved down the WWE Universe’s throat by Vince McMahon, and now you’ve got a big problem: The WWE Universe is already ready to move on from Roman Reigns.
Ambrose faces a similar, if not worse, credibility issue at this juncture. He has been in several high profile feuds against the likes of Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt, and has lost all of them. An Intercontinental championship feud with Kevin Owens was fun, but did not elevate him like winning out in either of those other programs would have.
Still, the fans pop for him louder than for any other full-time act. But, if WWE is not careful, they might end up with Dolph Ziggler 2.0: a guy who is super over for a while until the fans realize that he’s never going to be allowed to really win the BIG one and so they lose interest in him.
People in the business like to say that wins and loses don’t matter in professional wrestling, but that’s simply not true. Wins are the currency for the fans that help them decide who to invest their energy into supporting.
Heels who get big wins are proven to be true threats to any who cross their path. On the flip side of that token, the babyfaces who then beat those dangerous heels feed into their fans’ belief that their guy really can make it all the way to the top.
When the right guy wins the right match, it’s an exuberantly cathartic experience for thousands or even millions of viewers (see: CM Punk at MITB 2012 or Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX).
At WrestleMania this year Roman Reigns will beat Triple H for the WWE Championship. That’s a close to a certainty as you’ll get in professional wrestling. The problem here is that, because his Vince-mandated crowning was so long delayed, he’s already beaten every heel on the roster and even some of the top babyfaces.
Sure, there’s a Brock Lesnar match in there, but that’s about it as far as intriguing match-ups go. The best bet here, and honestly for Reigns’ future in general, is to turn him heel. It’s a more natural fit for him, it will offer fresh matches, and it might finally give him a chance to have some fun and develop more of a character.
Speaking of Brock Lesnar, the people really want to see Dean Ambrose beat Lesnar in a no holds barred street fight at WrestleMania, but don’t really think he’ll be able to. In pro wrestling, that is the exact set up you want in this situation. If Ambrose does somehow beat Lesnar, then it will be the biggest win of his career, and he will become a bona fide main event draw by becoming the first man in more than three years to pin Lesnar in the middle of the ring.
Allow me to fantasy book for a moment here. If I were running the WWE I’d have Ambrose pull the shocker of the century and beat Triple H for the WWE Championship at Roadblock on March 12th. The main event of WrestleMania on April 3rd then combines the two big matches currently booked into a no disqualification, no count out Fatal 4Way match of the Champion Ambrose vs Lesnar vs Reigns vs Triple H. Yes, you’d have one less big ticket match on the show, but this match would drive the 90,000 people in the audience into an absolute frenzy.
The result here is Ambrose pinning Lesnar, followed by Reigns making an entrance during an Ambrose celebratory promo the next night on Raw, and nailing him with a spear to ferocious jeers from the crowd. Then we’ve got the most popular babyface as champ, Reigns in the monster heel position he belongs in, and a nice championship feud to kick off Ambrose’s title reign.
What is far more likely to happen is Ambrose loses to Triple H due due a distraction by Brock Lesnar at Roadblock. This would be followed by Reigns beating Triple H at Mania and Ambrose putting up a helluva fight against Lesnar but ultimately losing. Raw kicks off the expected Reigns-Lesnar feud, and hopefully they find something worthwhile for Ambrose to do.
The great thing about professional wrestling is that storylines and plans can change direction at a moment’s notice. Of course, that’s also the frustrating thing when the powers-that-be refuse to change things that are clearly not working.
I’ll keep watching, regardless, as I always have appreciated the art of the performance. And, as deluded as it may be, I will always keep hoping that WWE actually listens to its fans and gives them what the really want.