Vince McMahon has a plan for the main event of WrestleMania 34, a year in advance, to be Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns — with the intention of Reigns getting the victory — as reported by Dave Meltzer on Wednesday. Less than three weeks out from WrestleMania 33, the news is creating more buzz than most anything on the upcoming Orlando show for various reasons — quite frankly, it suggests major implications for this year’s WrestleMania, as well as the entire year of WWE ahead of us.
The moans and groans came far and wide. “Lesnar vs. Reigns, again? Is Vince ever going to stop trying to ram this guy down our throats?”
It is true; three years without success and the goal still at the forefront of McMahon’s mind is trying to get Reigns over and inaugurate him as the official successor to John Cena as the top babyface and face of WWE. It was the plan for WrestleMania 31 when Lesnar and Reigns originally faced each other, only for McMahon to change his mind at the last minute because of the overwhelming negative reaction Reigns was continuously receiving. It was, at one point, the reported plan for WrestleMania 33 coming up, but plans took wildly different routes along the way. And now it is the plan for next year.
Lesnar defeating Goldberg at WrestleMania was already all but a foregone conclusion. He would leave April 2 as the new Universal Champion, which has only one realistic outcome. Lesnar holding the title is specifically a means to give a major rub to the person who eventually takes it off him.
Now, at WrestleMania 31, WWE managed to sidestep this with Seth Rollins’ Money in the Bank cash-in, creating a controversial finish that saw him capture the title without actually defeating Lesnar. As noted, that was not the original finish of the match, and ever since then McMahon always had the intention of eventually booking Lesnar vs. Reigns again for a blockbuster matchup that would pull the trigger on the originally designed finish. It is not a guarantee Lesnar will hold the title all year, but that certainly looks like the most viable route.
What is more interesting, though, is Reigns. His WrestleMania 33 matchup with Undertaker has drawn much intrigue from a booking standpoint. As persistent as WWE is, no one in the company is foolish enough to think for even a second Reigns will get cheers against Undertaker — if anything, the boo’s will be even more deafening and one-sided than usual. Which left many wondering more strongly than ever, “are WWE actually going to finally try a heel turn with Reigns?,” as seemingly the only logical reasoning behind the matchup.
First and foremost, the knowledge of McMahon’s WrestleMania 34 plan greatly increases the chances Reigns is going to be the second man to defeat Undertaker at WrestleMania. It is always possible Undertaker could still get the win, but hard to imagine given where Reigns is ostensibly headed. But even less likely now is the forecasted, and highly desired, Reigns heel-turn.
WWE has gone through the encyclopedia of creating a top babyface with Reigns to no avail, leaving fans pleading to take the one route not yet explored and turn him heel. They point to one of WWE’s biggest success stories, The Rock, as the prime example. After all, he too was loathed by the masses when WWE originally tried to build him up as a top babyface. So what did WWE do? The Rock was turned heel, and slowly over time he gained more and more adoration, his talent and character were able to flourish like never before, and down the line it created the foundation to become the man as we know and remember him best today.
There is an issue with said comparison, which serves as the biggest deterrent to the idea of WWE going with the heel turn. Back in 1997/98 with The Rock, you know who was already around carrying the company? Stone Cold Steve Austin. WWE already had a top babyface and could therefore afford fooling around with its other characters. Such is not quite the case today.
John Cena is no longer a full-time wrestler. And aside from Reigns, there are really only four viable options to fill that same role: AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, and Seth Rollins. Styles, while still an incredible in-ring performer, is turning 40 this year. Orton too is closer to 40 than 30. In the case of Balor and Rollins, injuries have hurt their WWE careers. And it’s no secret McMahon is weary of pushing wrestlers who have suffered injuries in such ways, for the simple reason that McMahon needs the face of the company to be a reliable character who is not going to be on the sideline for half the year.
With no one to confidently fall back on to fill that slot, and since Reigns is clearly still the chosen one to take it, the odds of WWE taking a gamble with a heel turn are much, much slimmer.
Despite the logic behind the implications, the one fact that flies in the face of it all is the noted realization it has been three years of WWE pushing Reigns and trying every trick in the book to finally coronate him, met with utter consistency in the fans’ rejection. Does McMahon think he has more tricks up his sleeve which could prove successful? It’s possible. It is also possible WWE will just push through with the plan regardless of fan reaction as it did at WrestleMania 32 with Reigns winning the WWE World Championship against Triple H, then following with a booking philosophy reminiscent of the old saying, “fake it till you make it.” And really, the only reasons to expect any of this to change are freak accidents/injuries, or, somehow, a new wrestler with all the same potential falling into McMahon’s lap who he can restart the experiment with.