Real life gets in the way sometimes, but tonight is Backlash so that can only mean one thing – a PPV Spotlight from yours truly! I’ve picked this match because I expect both men to be in the world title picture in the coming months, and I think that creates an interesting dilemma for tonight’s encounter. I’m writing about Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe.
The reason I think it’s so interesting is because I think both men need a win. Reigns is obviously coming off straight losses to Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title, so if WWE want to keep positioning him as a top guy (and of course they do) then he’ll need to start winning big matches sometime soon to remain a credible threat in storyline.
Samoa Joe for me needs the win just because he’s been gone for so long. He is really excellent, and with the talent on SmackDown he can easily regain momentum after a loss tonight. But the way he has been presented is as a killer heel, and coming back after a three month absence, if he loses it’s tough to take that seriously.
When I say the talent on SmackDown could help him overcome a loss, the stature of AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan is just as important as their in-ring ability. Yes, they could both have stellar matches with Joe, but that’s not what would be important. Joe could bully Styles and Bryan in a way he just couldn’t with Reigns, or Strowman. He could throw them around like rag dolls, whereas with Reigns he is picking on someone more his own size.
That’s an important insight into the mindset of Joe. He has the mean streak of a bully, but he wants to prove himself against the giants of WWE. Just look at his programme with Lesnar last summer. Joe wants to be the alpha male, and while he may feel entitled to that label on look alone on Tuesday nights, he was more than willing to try to pick off his competition on Raw. That makes him so dangerous, because he has the full intention as well as the means to beat people up.
The main event quartet on SmackDown has so much promise. AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan and Samoa Joe are all top tier talent. And it’s entirely plausible, if not likely, that Samoa Joe will become WWE Champion at some point before the end of the year.
But Roman Reigns’ future is so up in the air right now it’s barely even funny.
It seemed obvious for so long that he was going to dethrone Lesnar at Wrestlemania. But that didn’t happen. Then it seemed fairly likely that he was going to win the Universal Title in Saudi Arabia, where the reaction to his coronation would likely be far more positive. But that didn’t happen either. So the question really has to be asked, what’s next for the big dog?
I’m just going to get the obvious out of the way. Reigns could turn heel. It would be the best thing for him in so many ways, but I’ve gotten to the point that I’ll believe it when I see it. I think if AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan had moved to Raw last month then it’s be a natural decision, but they didn’t, so Vince is still likely relying on Reigns to be the face of Raw.
It would be a backwards step for Reigns to go after Intercontinental gold, and with the title currently held by Reigns’ buddy Seth Rollins and the influx of heels to Raw that pairing doesn’t make much sense anyway.
So I would guess Reigns will continue to be exactly as he is, still positioned as the top guy and main eventing Raws and PPVs until Lesnar resurfaces and they face off again.
The positive out of Reigns losing is a potential longer term arc where Reigns loses a lot with the idea that Lesnar is on his mind, before finally earning another title shot and beating Lesnar. The reason I say that’s a positive is because it would create new challengers for Reigns as champion, because at the minute there is a distinct lack of top heels that Reigns hasn’t already beaten. There are a lot of mid-card heels there, but they would need some serious elevation to be given a legitimate chance of beating Reigns.
But it’s a strange dichotomy, because as I said earlier, if the plan is still for Reigns to be built up as the guy to beat Lesnar, then he can’t lose too much. If the plan is no longer for Reigns to be built up as that star, then there’s only really one other option on Raw: Braun Strowman. He’s not a bad plan B, but the wilderness that it would leave Reigns in makes me think it’s unlikely.
Here’s the thing, I know I say this just about all the time but these two can put on an excellent match. Both guys seem to thrive in a hard hitting contest, and that’s exactly what this should be. But in terms of who wins… I feel like Joe may need it more just because there may be more time to build Reigns back up, but I’m not sure that’s how WWE will see it. I mean, when was the last time Reigns lost three PPV matches in a row? Has it ever happened? I can’t think of it, and I wouldn’t count on the first time being tonight.
On a side note, I will be catching up with my Talking Points and Brit(ish) Report columns. First off the Greatest Royal Rumble both greatly and royally messed up the weekly schedule, and then just real life got in the way. But hopefully that’s everything calmed down a bit again, and normal service will be resumed as of this coming week. Stay tuned for all the new content that is inevitably imminent on PPV week!