The wrestling world was shocked just a couple of hours ago when news broke that Roman Reigns has been suspended for his first violation of WWE’s wellness policy. That means a 30 day suspension, ending just three days before Battleground.
In all honesty, that’s pretty much all we know for a fact at the minute.
Of course, speculation has been running riot on social media, with many speculating that this is the reason Roman lost the WWE Championship against Seth Rollins on Sunday. I don’t think that is true. Reports on Monday were saying that Roman’s “A” branded house shows were drawing just as well as the Dean Ambrose led “B” branded shows in smaller markets, which is both not a good thing for Roman and an excellent sign for Ambrose, probably leading to what we saw at Money in the Bank.
There’s also the booking of Raw last night. If WWE already knew they were going to suspend Reigns, why not just have him lose to Rollins again? It doesn’t make sense to book him for a match that he might not be a part of.
And I really can’t see him main eventing Battleground after this. For one thing, it wouldn’t look good from a PR point of view to have a man return from suspension (especially if it’s a failed drugs test – and I don’t know what else would violate the wellness policy) and challenge for their most prestigious championship three days later. From another perspective, Reign’s won’t be on TV to build and promote the match. Plus there’d be the rest of the roster to think about – they can’t be happy for that to happen, and it sets a bad example for them.
EDIT: Since writing this, Dave Meltzer has reported that WWE knew about the violation before Money in the Bank, and also that the triple threat at Battleground is still the plan. Both of those pieces of information surprised me as you might expect based on what I’ve written, but there you go…
So what happens now? WWE has found themselves in a situation where the man they had been building up as the face of the company for the last three years has let them down.
Well, on screen Roman hasn’t exactly been squeaky clean since Wrestlemania. His actions the night after Mania as competitor after competitor walked down to the ring and challenged him were to me very heelish. He has pretty much been a tweener since then, and looked like he was working as a heel at Money in the Bank and on Raw these last couple of days. And with the crowd reaction to him, surely he has to be a heel.
He can come back ripping on the fans for not backing him when he needed it. There has to be some genuine frustration on his part that the fans have been curtailing his moments to shine in the last couple of years, so let him vent his frustrations at the crowd. If he can find a way to blame them for his suspension, even better. But you have to keep him relevant and prominent in the ring too, all the while putting over his newfound dastardliness.
The most obvious way then, is for him to attack Dean Ambrose after he has successfully retained the WWE title against Seth Rollins at Battleground. If Rollins stays heel, which long term is doubtful, then that could actually work out best for Ambrose. He would then find himself the only face outnumbered in an eventual triple threat match for the belt.
If that were to happen, you would have Roman chasing the belt for a while, but based on the apparent reasoning behind the title switch on Sunday it’s unlikely he would win it back. Past that, you can’t really predict what will happen, because we don’t know who would be where after the brand extension next month.
So now we enter the world of fantasy booking. *Cracks knuckles*
I wrote in my column looking at last Sunday’s ladder match that I thought it was time for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to find new opponents. This is now an opportunity to further the characters of both Zayn and Reigns. The thing that bugged me most about Reigns on the post-Mania Raw was his dismissive reaction to Zayn’s challenge for the WWE Championship. It was a look that screamed of “please, you could never beat me”.
Zayn would be the plucky underdog here, showing all the heart and fight in the world against his much larger and more powerful opponent, but Reigns would have to come out on top. Reigns would be the arrogant bully, who most of the time does back up his own trash talk by overcoming Zayn in reasonably lengthy matches.
After overcoming everyone’s favourite French-Canadian of Arabic descent, I would have Reigns move on to a feud with a soon to be returning favourite. And that man would be Randy Orton. I think it would be a very interesting take to talk about the heritage of each man’s family, only for Reigns to point out the hypocrisy in what Orton has become since his early Legend Killer gimmick. These two could trade wins, but I do think Reigns should have the last laugh. Hopefully walking out victorious over as big of a name as Randy Orton would give Reigns some main event credibility again.
Assuming he’s kept out of the title picture after a match or two with Ambrose, after decent length rivalries with Zayn and Orton you could already be looking towards Wrestlemania season. So far what I’ve been looking to do is build Roman up to main event level again as a heel without necessarily needing him to have a belt to do so, but importantly I’ve also been having him go up against better and more experienced workers in the hope that he will improve constantly in the ring for the next six months.
All this is building to a pairing I’ve thought would be really interesting to see for a while now. It would all be building to a Wrestlemania match – hell, maybe even cross promotional match just to give it a bit of added spice – against John Cena.
Here you have the face of the company for the last 12 years, going up against the man who was all set to be the heir to his throne, but threw it all away. And I would have Cena say as much. Cena could easily carry this kind of rivalry on promos alone without much physical interaction, Reigns would admittedly have to improve on the mic to be at that level. But in the ring Reigns could decimate guys like Zack Ryder, The New Day and Dolph Ziggler in an attempt to show he’s better than ever and ready to face Cena at Mania.
And the beauty of it is, a lot of people could be in that Cena role. Reigns vs Goldberg, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle – dare I even say it – The Undertaker. They are all Wrestlemania quality matches that wouldn’t need the title. If you could hold off until the event next year, I wouldn’t re-introduce Reigns directly into the title picture until Money in the Bank next year, where I would have him win the briefcase. He could then talk about how appropriate it is – especially if a face Dean Ambrose or Seth Rollins is holding the belt – that Reigns is now the one with the power in his hands.
That would give you a year from now to see if there is another wellness policy violation that WWE will need to worry about. It would also give everyone a year for Reigns to improve and prove himself. If he hasn’t, and he wouldn’t be in title picture after that, then he would be doomed to the midcard for potentially the rest of his career after what he’s been through.
Because, to tie this in again with today’s breaking news, WWE has already invested far too much in Roman Reigns to just give up on him because of a first offence. And we have seen people come back from two suspensions – even though it is rare – to win world titles. Roman Reigns will return to the top end of the card, just maybe not the very top straight away. I would be surprised to see him win a world championship any time soon for example. But WWE has no other option but to put him thereabouts – and if he fails, it will be of his own doing.