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The next big thing

4 Feb 15 | Re: Sports entertainment storylines | Link-U-Post

Fantasy booking time! I’ve been steadily getting more and more (back) into WWE over the last year, and that’s been sent into INTENSO MODE in 2015 now that the WWE Network is available in the UK: you get all the current main events, plus a vast library of all the old ones you could wish for, over the internet for £9.99 a month. A two-month trial had to be worth a bit of Christmas money, and so it’s proved.

The big controversy at the moment is over Roman Reigns. As the winner of last month’s Royal Rumble, he (as a good guy) will get a title match against the champ Brock Lesnar (bad guy) at Wrestlemania in March or April. However, fans are not cheering for him as wildly as might be hoped, and sometimes they’re booing him. He has a problem which is interestingly unique to the blurry world of sports entertainment: in sport, people become number 1 by winning. In entertainment, people become number 1 by being scripted to do so. In wrestling, people used to become number 1 by being scripted to win, but now people know there’s a script, they don’t always buy it. Reigns isn’t necessarily being bought.

The problem isn’t insoluble, though. As someone with no involvement in WWE whatsoever, I can say from my armchair with complete certainty that my plan would work. At the next big event, Fast Lane, Reigns is already set to defend his title shot against (the wildly popular but possibly too small) Daniel Bryan. This is perfect. Here’s what should happen next:

It’s well known that Lesnar is leaving, and I’m assuming he won’t be persuaded to stay, but I don’t think that means he needs to drop the title. I know it’s a wrestling tradition to lose on your way out, but winning wouldn’t be without precedent: two of the best-loved wrestlers of recent times, Trish Stratus and Edge, both retired as champions. Edge’s retirement was admittedly forced on him, but no one begrudged Trish the chance to go out on top, and I believe Lesnar is even more of a special case than Trish was.

On the other hand, losing to the wrong person might not go down all that well. Lesnar has destroyed just about everyone in WWE, so if he’s losing, it needs to be to someone deserving. Fans don’t see Reigns as deserving. I would compare it to the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak, which Lesnar ended last year. Fans were dubious about even Brock Lesnar ending the streak, so maybe it would have been better if it hadn’t ended. This might be the same.

After Wrestlemania, you explain completely openly that Lesnar is leaving to go back to UFC, or do whatever it is he’s going to do, and surrendering the title. You then set up some kind of tournament or qualification process to crown a new champion worthy of following Brock. That will give WWE an extra couple of months to see if they can finally get Reigns to the level required, or bring an up-and-comer like Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose through — either way, without the pressure of a Wrestlemania coronation. Failing that, go with Daniel Bryan, who gave up the title due to injury, and give him his vindication in what would be a hugely popular move.

Sound good? A strong losing performance at Wrestlemania won’t hurt Reigns at all, whereas winning might get a bad enough reaction to send him off the boil for a long time. Plus, by having Lesnar leave looking as strong as possible, you leave the door wide open for him to come back and demand a match against the new champ, whether that’s months, a year or more down the line.

What WWE can’t do is ignore the fact that people are dubious about Reigns: some like him, but I don’t believe he can get to a position where winning at Wrestlemania would bring the universal euphoria people crave at the year’s biggest event. What they need to do instead is be honest about the reaction he’s getting, be intelligent, and ride on top of the tide instead of swimming against it.

Posted by SIENNA BROOKS at 21:31

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