Reigns Retains: Where To Next? (2-Page Special)
Roman Reigns won last night. Despite what you may here online, it was a brilliant match and both men gave it their all. Any lacklusterity that was held by Wrestlemania night 2 was made up for with the main event, which had the best action of the weekend. Some have insinuated that the Samoan spike and spear was not enough to keep Cody Rhodes down but I believe it was represented with the accumulation of the entire match. Table and chair spots, all finishers including submissions applied, and an extended run time all contributed to what may have been perceived on its own as a lackluster finish. Now, the question becomes: where does WWE go next? This special two-page Full Page will include a discussion of where the main draw of WWE is headed as well as the tag team championships future now that they’re out of The Bloodline.
All the Cody fans out there can rest easily. I predict a rematch in the near future between these two. I do believe Cody will be the one to take the belts off Reigns. I could see Summerslam being the stage for their next match. Cody will have some rivalries in between then and, of course, Reigns will have to defend the championship in the meantime, but it’s the next major premium live event that will show the WWE Universe the dethronement of Reigns. A summertime belt change is ideal because it’s a most-watched event on the calendar and it leads to a six-month build up to The Road to Wrestlemania, which begins in January. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reigns take his six months off and return to be in the Royal Rumble. They played us for fools, WWE Universe! To think that Rhodes would win that match… I’ll get into the specifics at the end, but we should have known it would take longer for Rhodes to win the title. Summerslam may even be too soon, but it’s my prediction for where Reigns v. Rhodes II will land. This will lead to the rubber match, Reigns v. Rhodes III, at Wrestlemania 40 next year.
In the meantime, I’m predicting a Reigns feud with Seth “Freakin” Rollins, which will headline Backlash in Puerto Rico. They’ve been hinting at this in interviews and small viral moments. In one interview, Rollins expressed dissatisfaction that Rhodes got the shot at Wrestlemania over him. Another viral photo showed Rollins in the crowd raising his drink in cheers to Reigns’ after his win at Mania, which I read as a “see you soon” kind of gesture. Rollins, a consummate professional, has been toiling in the U.S. title storylines on Raw lately. His time in that title race seems to be done as Austin Theory is the new champ and there are a plethora of challengers (Logan Paul, Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin). Now would be a good time to see him in a feud with his former Shield partner. I don’t think Rollins will win but it should make for a great match.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me at Wrestlemania was Gunther retaining the Intercontinental title. I love Gunther but I thought he would lose at the grandest stage of them all in order to begin his jump to the main event and a title match against Reigns. However, Gunther retained in his triple threat match where Drew McIntyre looked like a great potential intercontinental champion and that title being the only title that Sheamus, the third member of this menagerie, has never held. I’m not sure who will beat Gunther now or how long he will continue to hold the belt. He is certainly one of the best wrestlers on the roster, and I like his Imperium faction. Their deep reverence for the sport is a unique and relatable angle, even if they are the heels. His win at Mania this means is he will continue to defend his title on the Smackdown circuit against different opponents and will have to wait to get his shot at the Universal and WWE championships. Reigns v. Gunther is definitely a match I want to see but I’m not sure how long I’ll have to wait to see it. Will it rather be a Rhodes v. Gunther feud leading up to Survivor Series in the fall?
Wrestlemania night 1, the stronger night overall this past weekend, was capped off with the amazing tag team championship match where Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens defeated The Usos to end their historic championship reign. This capped off an epic, year-long storyline of Zayn and The Bloodline; one that saw Zayn reach the pinnacle of sports entertainment and brought us an unforgettable War Games match at Survivor Series. Honestly, I’m not sure where the Usos go from here because I have a lot of ideas and none of them involve them. This is a mistake on my part, since they are the best tag team on the roster and the best storytellers. They could very well have a rematch as soon as Backlash or maybe even a nearer episode of Raw (tonight perhaps?).
Uso rematch aside, and what that would mean for the titles if the Usos were to win them back, I believe this is the time to split up the belts and put one on Raw and one of Smackdown, rather than how they are now as a conjoined title. There are so many talented tag teams on the roster right now and they deserve to have something to fight over. The four-way showcase match on Saturday was spectacular and would have been even better had there been a title on the line.
On Raw, the tag team talent is deep and they need a belt to spice things up. The Alpha Academy are my favourite, although it doesn’t seem like the WWE holds the same opinion, as they often lose. Chad Gable is a great wrestler and Otis gets better at promos and playing the crowd every week. The most likely to be Zayn and Owens first challengers are the Street Profits, the winners of the showcase match and an all-round great tag team. Montez Ford had a brilliant Elimination Chamber match at that premium live event and Angelo Dawkins has a sneaky way of making highlight-reel maneuvers in all of his matches. Braun Stroman and Ricochet have been working well together and I could see them easily in the conversation for the Raw tag team titles. There is also The Judgement Day team of Finn Balor and Damien Priest (Prison Dom will be too busy with his Bad Bunny feud to be involved in the tag-title race). I could see them transferred over to Smackdown since that’s where Judgement Day capo Rhea Ripley is now the women’s champion. Balor and Priest have shoveled a lot of mire in the past six months in their feud with Edge and they are too good to keep losing. It would be funny to see a new bloodline created with The Judgement Day and have Ripley at the head of the table. As they are still on Raw, I will assume that’s the tag titles they would go for along with the Profits, Alpha and Braun/Ricochet.
However, if The Judgement Day do move to Smackdown, they’ll be met with some interesting challenges. Two tag teams stand out on the blue brand. One is The Brawling Brutes, consisting of Ridge Holland and Butch. These two rough-and-tumble competitors have had some impressive showcasing in the past six months with their feud alongside Sheamus against Imperium, who are the tandem that could become the first challengers for the Smackdown tag team titles. Imperium’s Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser are great fighters along with Kaiser’s premier ability at introducing the Ring General Gunther. They would make great challengers for Zayn and Owens who, as shown here, will face great competition during their new reign as champions.
To finish, I’d just like to comment on the Rhodes loss one more time. I was rooting for Reigns and I was shocked when he actually won. Everything pointed to a Rhodes win. They’ve played that angle since December when they started showing video packages of Rhodes’ road to recovery (pun heavily intended). This led to the Royal Rumble, which he promptly won and the past eight weeks of promoting the fight. He sat next to Triple H at the Hall of Fame ceremony. They had no title changes on night 2, leading me to think that surely the title change was going to happen in the main event. They had Solo Sikoa ejected. Reigns went through a table. And still he won. The win received the expected groans from the crowd who were cheering for Rhodes because that’s who WWE told us to cheer for. And, truth be told, they played us all for fools. Like they were just going to give Rhodes the belt. The man who left the company to promote and grow their No. 1 rival, AEW. Like he would crawl back to his old home and just take down the Tribal Chief. Of course not! I still think he will, because he is a great performer, very over and has the poise of a champion, but it will take a lot more work and more weeks of cable television before Rhodes lifts the most illustrious title in sports entertainment.