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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

WWE must have Roman Reigns leave SummerSlam as Universal champion if he is to become 'the guy'

The former Shield member needs to beat Lesnar for title and then hold it until WrestleMania 35 to give him a chance to prove if he can carry a brand or not

Roman Reigns challenges Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal title at SummerSlam. Image courtesy of WWE
Roman Reigns challenges Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal title at SummerSlam. Image courtesy of WWE

Roman Reigns in the main event at a big WWE event. On the verge of winning a world title that should propel him to being the top guy in the company.

Deja vu, right? We have not just been here before, we have been here multiple times.

Since March 2015 when Reigns had his first one-on-one shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31 against Brock Lesnar, the WWE have been ready to make him their No 1 focus.

Except here we are, some three years and four months later and we are in the situation again of Reigns again coming into a big show, SummerSlam, challenging Lesnar, with it feeling as if the trigger still has not been pulled on a run with Reigns at the top.

Which of course is daft on paper as Reigns has been booked like the guy to carry the company since arguably the middle of 2014.

Think since the Shield split he has done the following: Main evented four WrestleManias, won the WWE world title three times, been Intercontinental and US champion, won a Royal Rumble, won an Elimination Chamber match and become only the second man (after Lesnar) to beat the Undertaker at a WrestleMania.

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Plus he has wins over Triple H, John Cena, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Bobby Lashley, Sheamus, Jinder Mahal and Bray Wyatt. He has beaten almost everyone there is to beat. Apart from Lesnar.

But, this not even really about beating Lesnar. Despite being the focus of WWE's programming since the summer of 2014, he has only been world champion for a combined total of 119 days, first winning it in November 2015 by pinning Dean Ambrose for the vacant title.

His longest reign was the most recent of his three, which started after he beat Triple H at WrestleMania 32, but ended after just 77 days in June 2016 when he was pinned by Rollins at Money in the Bank.

Now, that in hindsight was the lengthy reign that was supposed to cement Reigns as the No 1. But, through his own fault, that ended after he had to be suspended from the main roster for 30 days after failing the WWE's Wellness Programme.

The WWE clearly still have confidence in him, but it does feel like history is repeating itself going into SummerSlam.

Fan rejection of how poorly Reigns was booked as a babyface in 2015 led to the late decision for Reigns not to beat Lesnar at WrestleMania 31, with Rollins instead getting the title as he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract late in the match.

The WWE did pull trigger in 2016 when he beat Triple H, but that was a flat contest and the reign was killed by his suspension.

WrestleMania 34 in April felt as if it would be the moment the WWE tried again, but instead Lesnar squashed a bloodied Reigns and won an one-sided affair, the rumour being that WWE chiefs were concerned by a hostile reaction to a Reigns victory from fans in New Orleans.

So, instead we are here looking forward to August 19 when it is Lesnar v Reigns IV (a fourth encounter if you include their cage match at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia in April) at SummerSlam.

The one certainty, if there is one, is that Lesnar is dropping the strap with UFC his destination.

However, the WWE again could have an escape plan, if they wanted it, with either Strowman or Kevin Owens cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase on Reigns or Lesnar post-match.

But, the WWE should not do that. Reigns must leave Brooklyn on August 19 with the Universal title around his waist.

To stall him again would highlight the WWE's lack of faith in Reigns, despite continually putting him in big matches.

If the WWE don't have confidence, even if it is a concern with reaction, then why should fans back him?

Reigns is a great worker, has grown better on the microphone, and deserves to be near the top of the roster. It is hard to judge if he is 'the guy' as he has not been given a lengthy title run and whether he can carry a brand.

If, somehow, we end up post-SummerSlam with Reigns still without the title and again chasing someone (Lesnar, Owens or Strowman) it is another mark against him.

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If this writer was booking from here, he would have Reigns win, then defend it till WrestleMania 35 where he goes up against Strowman, who becomes the first superstar to cash in his Money in the Bank contract to set up a title match at WWE's biggest show.

Reigns can feud with Lashley, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, Owens, Rollins and a returning Ambrose until April. If it goes well, great. If it doesn't and fans reject him as a face champion taking on all comers then put it on Strowman.

It cannot be any worse then the past 17 months of there being no regular Universal champion on Raw with Lesnar on his part-time deal.

The WWE have threatened since March 2015 to give Roman Reigns the ball. Now in August 2018 they must actually go through with it and see if he can run with it or not.