REIGNS-O-METER #116: Roman “chooses” his own number one contender to face at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Universal Championship

BY TOM COLOHUE, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Roman Reigns (artist Joel Tesch © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

Your Roman Reigns-o-meter always tries its best to focus on Roman Reigns. Sometimes that’s hard. Other times, like this recent Friday night, it’s not so difficult. Everything revolves around our Tribal Chief.

The WWE announced quite a bit for this week’s Smackdown. More than usual, certainly. Big E would face Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Title. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode would get a title shot against The Street Profits. The Roman Reigns section of the night, however, would come down to a gauntlet match. The WWE is a mixed bag in terms of good and bad booking decisions, but one thing they do extremely well is gauntlet matches.

I think back to Sasha Banks overcoming Nia Jax whom had just destroyed the rest of the women’s division. I think back to the launch of Monday Night Rollins. Of course, like many other people, I think about Kofi-mania. The WWE knows how to book gauntlets. I’m interested, WWE. Don’t let me down.

Roman’s five potential opponents are Baron Corbin (obviously), Rey Mysterio, Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn, and Shinsuke Nakamura. As top title fields go, especially when you add in Kevin Owens, that’s not half bad, is it?

The Big Dog opened the show, exuding fierce daddy energy. Jey Uso is following in his wake. The camera zooms in at the refined silver in the champ’s beard. This new Roman is refined and mature. He also barely wrestles. The man knows what he’s doing.

The WWE pump in “You Suck” chants. Honestly, if that was a crowd that was actually there, they’d probably be giving Roman more love than they ever had before. Roman called Owens a cockroach. Or a kaka-roach. It’s not entirely clear. He also claims to love and care about the wellbeing of every WWE wrestler. Oddly enough, if you keep track of backstage stories, that’s accurate. Remember when Roman Reigns booted someone off a bus for being annoying? That’s leadership.

Seemingly determined to move on from the Kevin Owens feud faster than the speed of light, Roman has his eyes set on Adam Pearce. Pearce for several months has been the closest thing that the WWE has had to an authority figure. He was the guy that Vince McMahon put in charge of stopping Retribution from ruining the show. Whether or not he’s succeeded in that comes down to personal opinion.

Roman has a nice package that he wants Adam Pearce to get eyes on. I want to make my usual bad jokes about recaps. I want to mention that clearly nobody watches Smackdown. More importantly, I didn’t sign up to watch Adam Pearce look at Roman’s package. That’s not fair. Roman’s package should be for everyone.

This is a rather large package, though. I sometimes wonder if I’ve drifted into a time warp when I turn on Smackdown. There’s just a lot of backtracking. I went to get a drink. I like Pepsi.

Once we moved past the recap this was a very good segment. Jey Uso actively stalked Adam Pearce. He was intimidating. He was thuggish. Roman Reigns’s family is moving politely into mafia don territory and I am here for it. Roman Reigns knows everything and the things he doesn’t know, he has Paul Heyman for. Roman shushes Pearce. He talks over him. Finally, we know who is booking matches for Smackdown.

Curiously, we also found out that Teddy Long actually is booking matches again and that’s why we had so many tag matches last week. I’m going to be honest, I did not see that one coming.

Roman Reigns invokes the name of Vince McMahon. That’s how you know he’s the top guy. Usually you have to fill out at least sixteen pages of forms to mention Vince on TV. Roman gets physical and Adam Pearce cowers. He cowers. You know what you never see on WWE TV? A good cower. This was a good cower. It added a lot to this story. Your Tribal Chief is executing a hostile takeover in the mafia style.

Smackdown by and large was a good show that made some good headway in rebuilding.

Apollo Crews, who had a strong run with the United States Championship across the first half of 2020, has been struggling for opportunities. He puts on an interesting match with Big E and gains some real character development.

Sonya Deville is now working with Adam Pearce rather than stepping immediately back into the ring. That’s how they’re getting around the whole you were fired thing. It’s clever. At the moment she seems to be the only survivor from the push that she had alongside Mandy Rose, Otis, and Tucker. I mean, poor Tucker. Where is Tucker? Whatever happened to him?

The WWE also seem eager to rebuild their tag division. This apparently starts with a rebuild for new champions Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. To be fair, the dynamic needed to be changed. The Street Profits have been champions for a very long time and lacked credible competition for most of it. Roode and Ziggler can certainly lead or even carry a division, especially if we have lost a major heel tag team as we see later in the gauntlet match.

Meanwhile, backstage, Paul Heyman pulls his strings and hypes up the main event by adding Adam Pearce to it. The guy who makes the matches has been one upped by a backup talker that Roman Reigns barely needs.

Rey Mysterio opens the gauntlet match and we get a rare sighting of active wrestler Dominik. Missing in action are Buddy Murphy and the entire rest of the family. I’m going to assume the relationship’s going well; nobody’s told me so. It’s unlike the WWE not to tell me something fourteen or fifteen times.

Up next is former Intercontinental Champion, Sami Zayn. He explains what the match is for anybody who doesn’t know. Given how long his championship reign was, I think this is a very good spot for Sami Zayn to be in. He’s earned his place here and It’s very pleasing to see both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn up in the main event tier separately. Sami has a personal camera crew. He’s filming a documentary. He looks directly at the WWE cameras. When’s the last time that happened? Buff Bagwell?

Unfortunately for Zayn wrestling starts in short order. As he argues with his camera crew he gets entirely taken out by Mysterio. Rey Mysterio even borrows Snoop Dogg’s finisher to get the win but, naturally, doesn’t do it anywhere near as well.

Next we are joined by Shinsuke Nakamura and now we enter the territory of the big fight feel. Rey wants Roman. Nakamura wants Roman. Nakamura in particular eliminated Roman Reigns to win the Royal Rumble in 2018 during Roman’s time as consistent Royal Rumble runner up. Neither Nakamura nor Mysterio mess around here. There’s no slow motion, no thinking, no showboating. The higher tempo may have something to do with Rey Mysterio finally being able to use both eyes again. It’s been a long, long time.

Mysterio goes for another patented Snoop Dogg special but Nakamura is wise to it, having undoubtedly watched AEW. Nakamura lifts his knees and counters into an armbar from which Mysterio submits. We don’t get time to process this as Baron Corbin arrives, throws Rey Mysterio around in the Big Show and a stretcher style, and we go to commercials just as things get interesting.

Corbin and Reigns fought at last year’s Royal Rumble as the culmination of a feud that started in the previous October. It involved doggy bags and dog food. It was bad. It also continued after the Royal Rumble for reasons unknown until the arrival of Goldberg. Basically, I’m done with it, but you need a heel like Corbin if you want something to have a real big moment. It’s around this time that it starts to feel like there’s a big moment building.

Baron Corbin is a historically perfect spoiler. He’s the epitome of a WWE heel. He talks big, holds down the underrated and always fails when the going gets really rough. Logically, Corbin would have been the perfect foil going into a big moment for Daniel Bryan, but that moment wasn’t to be. The WWE formula is so practiced that, those few times that it’s broken, you feel like something special is about to happen. Nakamura takes down Corbin as clean as you like. Two clean wins over opponents who have both been pushed harder.

But what about Daniel Bryan? Yes? Yes. Nakamura is standing. He’s ready for Bryan. We are all ready for Nakamura vs Bryan. We’ve been ready for these two to go for a long time. So have they by the looks of things because they start by charging and diving directly at each other. There are a lot of jumps, a lot of kicks, and a lot of counters. It is firm impact.

I’ve thought for a while that turning Nakamura face would have been the easiest thing in the world. Bring out the violinist and drop the singing. That theme is just too fun not to sing along to. The WWE found a different and possibly just as effective tactic; let him wrestle great matches and win them. Who knew you could push someone that way?

Daniel Bryan goes down to another Kinshasa out of nowhere. The man is starting to really hit them. So much jumping around. So much kicking, So much countering. It all happened so very fast. Daniel Bryan drags Nakamura up to his feet and shakes his hand afterwards. Bryan could have waited for Nakamura to stand up but I think we all know what happened when AJ Styles did that way back when.

That should have been it. It should have been over. Instead, Adam Pearce is part of the match. Roman Reigns, who is not part of the match, is also part of the match. You might say he’s technically all of the match. Roman stands at the top of the ramp with his mini faction. Adam Pearce, stalked like pray by the family of the top table, comes down to the ring to join the gauntlet match. Despite everything that came before he should have had no chance, but Roman Reigns wanted his night off.

Roman Reigns doesn’t like wrestling. He wants an easy night for the Royal Rumble. He wants Adam Pearce. Together with Jey Uso he puts down an already exhausted Shinsuke Nakamura. Jey Uso hits his own version of the Snoop Dogg special, which is nothing like what it should be. Roman tells Pearce to do his job and rolls him in the ring, where he is assaulted. Roman calls for the bell, the match begins and Adam Pearce is tossed on top of Nakamura to complete the match and the victory.

This is the beginning of a new story. Adam Pearce is a player, essentially a pawn and a victim. Shinsuke Nakamura is not going to go quietly, surely. At the end of this very long edition of your Roman Reigns-o-meter, I find myself very excited for more Smackdown to come.


NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REIGNS-O-METER: REIGNS-O-METER #115: Tracking the Tribal Chief’s ability to carry Smackdown on his back as the Tribal Chief, Head of the Table, and The Big Dog despite Kevin Owens’ best efforts

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