This feels strange to talk about WWE and the man in charge and it not be Vince McMahon. There is a podcast lingering with the rest of the OTTB team about Vince, his departure and everything else involved in that story, so pardon me for jumping the gun on that conversation. However, I do think that there is an important topic to cover as we fully cement ourselves in this new era of WWE under HHH’s creative leadership.
Before we tackle the biggest challenge facing the former DX leader, let’s take a quick look at his successes so far.
Ok, I know that this is a reach given that SummerSlam arrived so quickly after Vince’s departure, but nonetheless there were some immediate signs of Hunter’s handiwork at the “biggest party of the summer”.
The women’s matches at SummerSlam were top notch and given time to shine in a way that has been hard to see outside of NXT in the last few years. More importantly, the right decisions were made in terms of outcome and in terms of the timing of the return of Bailey, Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky. We have long been awaiting Bayley’s return and wanting WWE to do right by underutilized talents like Dakota and Iyo.
Wow, what a difference a few weeks make. Hunter has quickly pumped energy into the US and Intercontinental Titles upon his takeover of creative.
The tournament to crown a number one contender for the US title, while brief, provided a quick reminder of the fact that the title exists and some energy behind the fact that it even exists. We love Bobby Lashley as champ, we are happy that Theory is out of the picture for now and we are pleased with Ciampa as thew new number one contender.
They also used this quick tournament to tie up and setup a series of new feuds. They emancipated Theory from the picture and further into whatever is happening with him and Dolph Ziggler, stirred the pot with AJ Styles/Miz and Ciampa and gave us something to chew on for all involved.
That is a big win.
As for the IC belt. They took Gunther, who was just plugging along and gave hime a Smackdown main event title defense against former champ Nakamura.
LET ME TELL YOU
That was a damn good match. In one match they reminded us why Nak is a gem and how poorly he has been used on the main roster, why Gunther is someone deserving of main event elevation in the future.
Give us a good match between good talents while reminding us of the importance of the IC title to the history of the company. Yes, thank you, more please.
Women’s Tag Titles
We got acknowledgement that these titles still exist.
We got a tournament to crown new champs.
We get rumors of a Sasha Naomi return.
Yes we are stuck with some random throwing together of women, but guess what, at least they told us that. Yes, telling us that hey, we just throwing women together for the shot at a championship is better than trying to make us care about some other insane reason why a team may form in two weeks or less. Treat us like adults, tell us it’s stupid up front, and sometimes we will be okay with that.
Alas, we are all waiting for the inevitable return of Sasha and Naomi once the new champs are crowned to call them fake champs, or even better, “interim” champs and light up a new feud over these titles.
We’ll take it.
The Returns/Staved off Departures
Karrion Kross and Scarlett
Sasha and Naomi (potentially)
Bray Wyatt (potentially)
A sprinkle here, another return there…
We are all just playing the game.
The Tribal Chief in the Room
Now, here is the interesting elephant in the room, Roman Reigns. Tribal Chief. Head of the Table. The unstoppable force and the immovable object in one. This will be Hunter’s biggest challenge in the next few weeks and months.
The question I have for HHH is, how do you take the title off of someone that you have built to be THIS dominant.
Think about it, Stone Cold never held the title this long.
CM Punk never held the title this long. (434)
Brock Lesnar never held the title this long. (504)
John Cena never held the title this long.
The Rock, Shawn Michaels, HHH, Undertaker…
The list goes on and one, there have been a number of guys that we considered TOP GUYS and not one single one has held a title in the modern era for as long as Roman Reigns has. You would have to go back to Hogan’s 1474 day reign from 1984 to 1988, which isn’t considered the modern era, to see this kind of dominance.
Here is the problem with this kind of dominance, there is no Andre the Giant lurking to make it believable for Reigns to lose either of the two championships he currently holds.
Now, from a title reign standpoint, there has not been this kind of dominance in a while. We always knew Brock was going to drop the title to Reigns during his 500 day run with the Universal title. It was always a matter of when, not if.
We knew, once The Rock entered his orbit, that CM Punk was dropping the title at the Rumble in 2013. We hated it, but the writing was on the wall.
There is one other individual who has had the sort of dominance where we sat back and said, how does WWE make it believable for this guy to drop the title in the past few years. That man’s name… Bray Wyatt.
When The Fiend beat Seth at Crown Jewel in 2019, we all had the same thought, there is no believable way to get the title off this character. Alas, they gave the title to Goldberg, which was definitely not believable and was also the beginning of the end of Bray’s run in WWE, but the fact remains, unbelievable.
But Bray is an interesting reference point for this conversation, especially as we look at a potential return with Vince gone.
Bray as The Fiend was just as dominant as Roman has been in the last two years. At the time Brock was the only logical answer for who might be an acceptable candidate to dethrone The Fiend. Bearing that in mind, now that Roman has defeated Brock on multiple occasions during his current run as Universal and now Undisputed Champion, how the hell do you get the belt/s off of him?
One of the interesting issues with WWE Creative is how they can paint themselves into a corner in specific stories/situations. Roman Reigns’ 700 plus tenure as champion is one such scenario. Here is a list of opponents Reigns has bowled over since August 2020.
Jey Uso (2x)
Kevin Owens (3x)
Daniel Bryan (3x)
Daniel Bryan and Edge (yes this is a separate one because he smashed and stacked these fools)
Brock Lesnar (3x)
Ok, who is left that can be seen as a reasonable threat?
There are only two or three marquee names not on that list who have not lost to Roman in the past two years: AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins.
Looking at the current landscape of challengers…
Do we believe that Drew can beat Roman?
Do we believe that Kross can?
When you have built someone to be this dominant, sticking the landing aka taking the title off of them, becomes just as important in your creative as anything else.
By the way, this is way more complicated by the two championships being held by Roman. This would be exponentially easier to craft if Reigns was holding only one title.
Here are some of the options for how to accomplish this:
Option 1 – In Honor of Vince McMahon
Add Karrion Kross to the match at Clash at the Castle between Drew and Roman. (It is possible that Kross is an outright replacement if Drew’s back issues prevent him from being able to go. Which, smart move by Hunter to have a built in and accessible back up plan.)
If it is a triple threat match, then its simple, you have Kross and Drew essentially take Reigns out of the match and duke it out with the last man standing walking away with the belt/s and Reigns never eats the pin.
This would be the most Vince way to do it, and would probably not engender Hunter the best reaction from the audience. Is it able to be stomached, sure. Would we like it – if it is Drew walking out as champ, meh. If it is Kross, people may be more willing to get behind it.
Option 2 – The Fiend
This first option only works if you have a triple threat match. This option works no matter how you slice it.
You have The Fiend appear in the post match of Clash at the Castle, much the way Roman did in 2019 and have Reigns lose the belt to Bray at the next PPV or perhaps hold off until Survivor Series, however you want to play it.
This also works on a number of levels. People will be high as a kite on Bray and the juxtaposition of 2019 would be a cool narrative arc much like Kofi mania mirroring the Yes Movement and ending with Kofi beating Bryan for the title at Mania.
This may the most readily digestible approach for the fanbase.
Option 3 – Theory
Hear me out…
Don’t leave, please just hear me out…
Still with me…
Okay, so let’s look at Option 1 and Option 2 as a combination, sprinkle in some Theory and you get to Option 3.
Soooooo, we begin by adding Kross to the Clash at The Castle title match.
They have a brutal match. Table spots, the whole nine yards.
To add to the mystique of Reigns, you give him the win, preferably by pinning Drew. You can even have him win convincingly despite the triple threat situation. As a part of the goings on of the match, you have Drew and Kross eliminate the Usos and Heyman. Basically what they halfway did at SummerSlam but succeed because you have two guys to do it, instead of one.
So, match is over. Reigns stands alone. Drew and Kross have left ringside. Usos and Heyman are down for the count. Then, the lights go out. Enter, The Fiend.
Reigns gets blindsided with a Sister Abigail into the madible claw.
Lights go out. The Fiend is gone, but here is Theory. Briefcase in hand, referee in tow.
Theory cashes in and relieves Reigns of the titles.
Reigns moves into a feud with The Fiend between now and the Rumble. Their matches can be spread out over the next six months given WWE’s previous use of Bray and Reigns current lighter schedule.
You give Theory the customary fall new champion run until Survivor Series. Along the way you can split the titles back out. Theory, being the coward heel can insist on defending only one title at a time and have him drop one between now and Survivor Series. At Survivor Series Theory loses the title to Seth. You can run that matchup back at Day 1 and the Rumble with Seth clearly emerging the victor.
You then have Cody return at and win the Rumble. Cody beats Seth at Mania. And have Reigns re-enter the title picture next summer after a mania match against The Rock for a three to four month feud with Cody.
Is this not more interesting than any other potential scenario that exists?
I know most of yall hate Theory, but a Theory cash in, post a Bray beatdown, works. Reigns can become so enthralled in his feud with The Fiend that he dispenses with the title chase for a while. You get the title onto Seth and allow him to make Theory look good along the way (if there is an interest in maintaining Theory as a main event level guy). You also allow Roman vs The Rock to not have title implications in a way that mostly makes sense. This also allows you to potentially have Riddle or someone else float into one of the title pictures while Seth, Roman and Bray are all tied up elsewhere. Perhaps we can even end up with Randy vs Riddle at Mania for the other title as a great wrap on their partnership turned rivalry.
Regardless of the path that WWE takes with this story, this is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the biggest litmus test for HHH in his first few months as head of WWE Creative – finding a suitable way out of the dominance of Roman Reigns that will not alienate fans, while giving them meaningful stories and creating opportunities to elevate new guys into the title scene.