The Royal Rumble is fast approaching now, and it looks like there are only two contenders for the ultimate prize: Roman Reigns, and Daniel Bryan. But which one should win, and go on to headline Wrestlemania? Or maybe more to the point, who actually will?
The obvious answer is Reigns. For around 18 months now, Reigns has been made to look like an absolute star. At Survivor Series 2013, Reigns single-handedly eliminated 4/5 members from the opposite team. Then, last year at the Royal Rumble, he broke Kane’s record for the most eliminations in a single Rumble, before being the last man eliminated.
He was always the badass of The Shield, the real powerhouse. He was part of what was arguably the match of the year as part of The Shield’s 6-man-tag against The Wyatts, and also had great (and dominant) performances against Evolution before The Shield dissolved. He was often the flat out coolest part of his trio, with the apron dropkick, the superman punch and the deadly spear. Seriously, it looked like it could kill people on several occasions.
After breaking out on his own, he secured a couple big wins against Randy Orton, and competed twice for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He was voted Superstar of the Year by the fans at the 2014 Slammy Awards. He returned last month from injury, but has since really struggled to get over to the same level, mostly due to his mic skills.
Daniel Bryan also recently returned to action, after a 10 month absence, during which time there were some doubts over whether he would ever wrestle again. But it can’t be forgotten that when he first got injured, he was far and away the most popular man in the company. He had just reached the pinnacle of the industry by defeating Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in the same night to be crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania 30 – a title he never actually lost.
He had steadily been on the rise in the year before, having cleanly defeated John Cena for the Championship at Summerslam 2013, only to then get screwed over by The Authority for months on end. The constantly bad booking eventually boiled over at last year’s Rumble, when the crowd nearly booed the ending out of the building when Bryan wasn’t involved. There will always be the feeling that it was the fans that got Bryan where he eventually deserved to be.
So there are reasons for both men to get the shot at Mania at the end of March. Reigns has been solidly built up for a long time now, and booking-wise has all the momentum needed to become the next big star in WWE. Bryan has just returned to regain a championship he never lost, and remains one of the most popular superstars in the company.
Comparing the two, Bryan is definitely the more well-rounded. And yes, that does come down to mic skills. Reigns just isn’t good, and the writing for him is if possible even worse. Plus, he is in real danger of becoming the next John Cena with 5 Moves Of Doom. Bryan is up there with the best wrestlers in the world today, and has shown he can cut good promos in just about any situation.
But at the same time, some of the concerns voiced on-screen by The Authority over Bryan are apparently real backstage concerns. It is a sad fact that in WWE people get punished for getting injured, and there were rumours that Bryan’s injury proved that he was in fact a B+ player, and unreliable.
Meanwhile, there have also been concerns raised that Reigns simply isn’t ready for this kind of push. The worst thing that can happen to him is that he is pushed too hard too quickly, as he then can’t be a top guy.
Of course, everything right now leads to Wrestlemania, so it’s worth comparing potential matchups. Assuming that current champion Brock Lesnar keeps the belt till then, would he be better going up against Bryan or Reigns?
Lesnar/Bryan was apparently supposed to take place late last year, to kick off Lesnar’s reign at the top. You have to believe that it would be a great match, and the David vs Goliath story is an easy one to tell. It would be Bryan’s return to the top under the toughest of circumstances – only continuing the fairytale.
Lesnar/Reigns would be a passing of the torch moment, and a heavy hitting war between two top guys. It would solidify Reigns as the next top guy beating someone of Lesnar’s stature, and he would be the traditional hero figure that saved us from the beast.
I think Bryan would be by far the better, and much safer option. You know you’re going to get something good with him, and he deserves another chance at the top. There are still question marks over Reigns, who would still get to the very top eventually, when he had a bit more experience behind him.
But the plan has been for Reigns to win for so long, I can’t see them changing it. He may not be ready, but the creative team have invested so much time and effort into him I find it unlikely they would throw it all away this close to the event.
So there you go, I would rather see Bryan win the Rumble, but I still think that it will be Reigns in the end. Do you have the same doubts over Reigns? Who do you want to see headline Wrestlemania? Let me know by the usual means, with links below.
Plus, we are now doing radio shows! Remember the Black Pleb Watchers Of Wrestling? The irregular YouTube show has now become a weekly radio show, that you can hear on Mixcloud. The link to the debut edition of BPWOW Presents: is also below.