The domino effect of his push has rendered the entirety of RAW in 2017 as a creative failure. In order to build Brock Lesnar as unbeatable threat - in order for Reigns to beat him - both Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman were cast as guys who only barely competed with the Beast. In order to rebuild the latter, Finn Bálor was perceived as posing enough of a threat to build Kane, Braun’s winter antagonist - but in building Kane, Bálor crumbled.
In order to believe in Roman Reigns, you must disbelieve every last one of his peers. All paths lead to a destination nobody wants to visit: Roman’s WrestleMania 34 coronation in New Orleans, the year-round party atmosphere surrounding which will deflate, for one day only, on April 8.
And then what? The entire headline scene of RAW in 2017 was built towards a wide-scale rejection. The use of past tense is justifiable here, because there is no chance in hell of a bright future for Reigns in his present role as top babyface.
Writing about WWE is often difficult. It’s like screaming into the abyss; the company is so financially secure that it doesn’t matter if Reigns fails. The old top star paradigm no longer exists, and neither does the weight behind our complaints.
But, in parallel with the inevitability of Roman Reigns as Universal Champion, a storm gathers on the Stamford horizon. Austin Aries split, and Neville remains in frustrated limbo, with both feeling pigeonholed by the main event blockade. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s frustration manifested as an onscreen transgression. It’s hard not to infer that Finn Bálor is far from happy at his current career trajectory; Universal Champion to unworthy Universal Championship challenger is a stark, calculable fall from grace. It’s par for the course, really; Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura et al. - for them, WWE isn’t how it was advertised in the brochure.
Morale is low; in contrast, earnings on a rapidly-growing independent scene are higher than they’ve ever been in the post-expansion age. The money, WWE’s trump card, is trickling down. The best wrestlers in the world reside in New Japan, a stage to fulfil creative and commercial ambitions. Chris Jericho’s temporary defection to the east has the potential to alter the landscape. His drawing muscle has triggered rapid ticket sales. Obviously, he’ll benefit reciprocally. Jericho blazed a trail for the part-time nostalgia act return trope. His next revolution may yet indirectly force WWE to finally face the present.
The prospect of Cody Rhodes filling 10,000 seats isn’t even that remote.
WWE isn’t quite as secure as we might think - or at least, the perception of that security is in the midst of change, which counts for a lot in the fabricated world of pro wrestling. The Jinder Mahal experiment was a self-indulgent commercial failure, suggesting WWE cannot quite do as they please. And, since Reigns is the new John Cena in virtually every department bar the most important - drawing ability - there really isn’t an inarguable revenue stream to consider, where there was with the fanciful Cena heel turn.
That’s what we want to believe - and booking Reigns in accordance with fan sentiment might stem the rising tide.