Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar closed out WrestleMania 38, a final kiss goodbye to an eventful weekend and a very big hello to 2 Belts 2 Big Dog. When this champ vs. champ match was first announced, I was more than a little concerned we were going back to a full-on title unification era. Now, I started getting into wrestling back in 2016, when SmackDown was a Raw clip show and we saw the same two title holders for four hours every week. And it was not great, if I’m being honest.
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The brand split did a lot to elevate WWE’s midcard (although, to be fair, the company has done equally as much to squash it again over the past few years) and it mixed things up for the audience, who no longer had to watch the same match 2.5 times a week. So the concept of Reigns or Lesnar merging the titles and returning us to an era of one big-headed champ held little appeal for me. Luckily, WWE made the more entertaining decision when they opted to go the dual champ route, and we’re instead living in a time where each of Roman’s beefy shoulders holds its own title. Which is by far the more palatable option in my book.
The Bloodline Dynasty
Mania 38 saw both top champions lay their belts on the line, with Reigns walking out of Texas the double champ and straight into both the red and blue brands this week. The match between the two was fine enough; I’ve really enjoyed Lesnar lately (yes, the cowboy thing is excellent) and we had a good big boy brawl here that didn’t outstay its welcome.
For a time, Brock looked like he was finally going to be the one to knock Reigns off the table, but Roman used his wily ways to stay in it. After taking one F5, the finish came about a little suddenly; some eye poke cheating from Roman helped him escape another F5 to hit a spear and win, and the Tribal Chief continued his reign of smugness straight to Raw the following night. He appeared on alongside the Usos to put a stamp of approval on Heyman’s promo that pretty much ran down everything the three men have done over the past two years, in case this was your very first time turning on USA Network. Roman then jumped to SmackDown, as is his legal right, and laid out the next step in his plan: he wants Jimmy and Jey to capture the Raw Tag Team titles, so they can have a full matching set for all three boys.
I know some people have cooled on the Bloodline over the past year, and I get it; in a lot of ways, Roman was treading water for the better part of 2021. After a while, it stopped feeling like anyone could pose a real threat to the Tribal Chief; he took care of Edge, Owens, Goldberg, and even the wrestler formerly known as Daniel Bryan.
I wrote earlier about how I long for a Big E/Roman feud — it’s going to be quite a while before that’s on the table again, and overall, that kind of a massively beloved babyface is far and few between in WWE these days. For example, take Roman’s presumed next challenger; Shinsuke Nakamura, who interrupted Reigns’ promo Friday night. He came down to the ring sans Boogs (recovering from an injury sustained at Mania) as Roman professed his sympathy for the fallen guitar artist. To help Shinsuke feel better, Roman gave him a hug, while the Usos offered double super kicks and laid out the King of Strong Style to close down SmackDown.
Tribal Chief vs. King of Strong Style
Now, don’t get me wrong here — the idea of Roman vs. Shinsuke is great. It’ll give us a fantastic match in the near future. But, with the way he’s been booked over the past year, does Nakamura have a shot at dethroning Reigns? Not a chance. And that’s fine, it won’t change the match quality, or make this any less of a step in the right direction for Nakamura, who certainly deserves some main event shine. But this is also how 90% of Reigns’ feuds have played out.
In a year and a half of Roman as Universal Champ, only a handful of challengers have ever felt like they might truly knock the Big Dog down. With him holding two separate titles, it’s not like that’s going to change any time soon. While the dual belts is a good move to shake things up across brands, it only continues to back Reigns into the same corner he’s occupied since 2020.
Holding both the Raw and SmackDown titles makes Roman all the more prestigious, but it also makes finding him a worthwhile opponent even more difficult. While the pool is wider, the number of people who could actually stand a chance continues to dwindle. Would it be extremely cool to see the Bloodline hold six titles total? Yes, absolutely. Do they deserve to give RK-Bro an ass kicking? Who doesn’t? Is it going to be very hard to get the group out of this pickle once they literally hold every title available that the company actively cares about? Yes. Definitely, yes.
I’ve enjoyed Reigns’ run as the Tribal Chief — he plays the character well, and it’s produced plenty of good matches. The Usos have done some of their best work as Roman’s unflinching backup; similar to their big boss, they can put on a good show with just about anyone. And yet, nothing good lasts forever. Sooner or later, someone has to claim at least one of these crowns, and as of right now, it’s slim pickings on who’s eligible. If they want us to invest in Reigns’ double run as anything more than the previous 18 months with a glossy new coat of paint, he needs a worthy adversary. WWE has to buckle down and develop a solid babyface stat, or everyone’s least favorite cousin is going to run both these championships straight into the ground.