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Friday Night SmackDown just got a whole lot more interesting with heel Roman Reigns at the helm.Credit: WWE.com
After five years of fans yearning for a darker Roman Reigns, WWE finally decided to pull the trigger on the turn at SummerSlam and cement his heel status by aligning him with Paul Heyman soon after on SmackDown.
If his actions at the event didn’t make it obvious enough that he’s become a bad guy, look no further than the conclusion to last Sunday’s Payback pay-per-view. Reigns picked the perfect moment to emerge during the night’s Triple Threat main event, pin Braun Strowman with relative ease, and regain the Universal Championship.
Not only is Reigns being back a big boost to SmackDown, the character change he’s currently experiencing is long overdue and gives him the fresh coat of paint he’s desperately needed for some time. Although he’s already off to a strong start, it’s all about the aftermath and how he’s handled as a heel going forward.
Far too often does WWE book a brilliant angle and fail to follow it up properly. This storyline with Reigns should be the exception, as it has the potential to be massive for his career as well as SmackDown on the whole if executed the right way.
To ensure it’s a success, WWE must attempt to plan for what’s to come for the new face of Friday nights in the remainder of 2020 and beyond. That includes determining how long his Universal title reign should last, potential opponents, and more.
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If WWE really wanted the send the message that Roman Reigns is an antagonist now, they did the right thing by pairing him up with Paul Heyman, the ultimate heel manager.
The idea of the two aligning with each other wasn’t praised by fans solely because it meant Reigns had officially turned heel. It was also well received because of the history they have together and how Heyman has outright admitted his desire to manage Reigns in the past.
Reigns was likely aware that the best way to advance his career was by turning his back on the fans and listening to Heyman. He’s obviously been very successful up to this point, but he had to know that standing by a fan base that wasn’t overly appreciative of him was only going to get him so far.
All of this is pure fantasy booking at this point, but we should find out on Friday’s SmackDown what his true motivations for joining Heyman are. WWE has already advertised a segment for the show where he will explain his actions, and hopefully there he can cut the scathing promos on the fans that has been years in the making.
WWE needs to fully flesh out this Reigns and Heyman duo and establish what brought them together in the first place. Otherwise, it will feel too forced and fail to make this heel run from Reigns as special as it should be.
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Anyone who has been following the WWE product long enough is aware that Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt are no strangers to one another. They first crossed paths during The Shield’s early wars with The Wyatt Family before finally squaring off one-on-one in the summer of 2015.
The two traded victories back and forth for months and Reigns eventually scored the decisive win over Wyatt inside Hell in a Cell that October. They’ve had a handful of matches since then and were expected to rekindle their rivalry heading into WrestleMania 36 over the Universal Championship until plans changed.
It’s arguably better that WWE waited for them to go at it again now that Reigns is a heel and Wyatt is basically a babyface. It’s an odd dynamic to be certain, but Wyatt losing the title to Reigns after only one week definitely makes him a sympathetic figure.
They had a string of solid matches in 2015 and worked well together, but the outcome should be no different this time around than it was then. Wyatt could use a big win over a star such as Reigns, but it’s more important to keep The Big Dog’s title reign uninterrupted for the foreseeable future.
The next pay-per-view on tap is Clash of Champions, but it would be fitting for Reigns to put his rivalry with Wyatt to rest at Hell in a Cell in early November. That was where they settled their score five years ago and thus history must repeat itself.
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Roman Reigns has had just as much bad blood with Brock Lesnar as he’s had with Bray Wyatt, if not more. However, an alliance between the two of them may be on the horizon based on recent events involving them and Paul Heyman.
One of the first questions fans posed when Reigns revealed his partnership with Paul Heyman was how it would affect Heyman managing Lesnar. After all, Heyman was by Lesnar’s side when Reigns battled The Beast Incarnate on and off from 2015 through 2018, so it’s easy to assume that Lesnar wouldn’t be happy with Heyman recruiting Reigns into his ranks.
That would be the most predictable path to take, followed by a feud between Reigns and Lesnar with the roles reversed. Then again, they’ve faced each other enough times that it would actually be more exciting to see them join forces for the first time ever—and that’s exactly what WWE should do.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported his past week that Lesnar currently isn’t under contract to WWE, but that’s bound to change once they settle on something for him creatively. A powerhouse pairing with Reigns should be what he’s brought back for as it would an innovative use of them both and give Heyman the most unstoppable tag team in the entire company.
It’s more likely Lesnar remains exclusive to Raw instead of jumping ship to SmackDown (again) once he inevitably returns, but the possibilities would be endless if he and Reigns joined forces and annihilated everyone who stood in their way.
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The returns of Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn to SmackDown in the last two weeks have been huge, but the blue brand is still missing its most beloved babyface: Daniel Bryan.
The former WWE champion was last seen in person on WWE TV in early June feuding with AJ Styles over the Intercontinental Championship. He’s made a few appearances since then via pre-taped promos recorded remotely, and while a reason for his absence was never provided, it’s likely due to his son being born last month.
There’s no timetable for his return as of now, but with Reigns and Zayn coming back recently, Bryan may not be too far off. WWE’s television tapings emanating from the ThunderDome has to be considered a factor, and after Bryan feels he was home long enough to be with his newborn son, then fans can expect to see him resurface on SmackDown.
Bryan and Styles wrapping up their rivalry wouldn’t be a bad idea at all, but it’s almost pointless now that Styles is no longer the Intercontinental champion. It would make more sense for Bryan to take exception to Reigns’ actions as of late and set his sights on the Universal Championship.
For all intents and purposes, Reigns was essentially when he and Bryan feuded the first time on the road to WrestleMania in 2015. Their face-off at Fastlane was tremendous, but other than a quick tease of them going at it again a year ago, their rematch has yet to happen.
It’s the perfect program for the final few months of 2020 for Reigns. The matches would be great and it’s about as high-profile as it gets on the blue brand given their current roster.
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The Universal Championship changed hands four times in the span of six months from February to August of this year, but it’s high time someone held that title for an extended period. Given the circumstances of how Roman Reigns regained that gold at Payback, that person has to be him.
It would be booking malpractice for Reigns to lost that title any time soon, especially before the end of 2020. In fact, it’s extremely likely that he ends up reigning as Universal champion all the way through WrestleMania 37, which would be an ideal event for him to drop it depending on who his opponent was.
If Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan isn’t saved for WrestleMania, and it’s bound to be blown off well before then, WWE should spent the next several months building up a fresh face to battle The Big Dog at the event. That challenger could very well be Big E based on his current trajectory.
Reigns and Big E have never before gone to war one-on-one and Big E would be the perfect person to benefit from beating Reigns. It could follow a similar story to Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston from WrestleMania 35 when Bryan heavily doubted Kingston’s chances of becoming WWE champion before he ultimately did that evening.
Big E would be as strong of a choice as anyone, but Matt Riddle has main event potential as well and would be an equally compelling opponent for Reigns at WrestleMania. That’s assuming neither of those matches happen at Clash of Champions with a number one contender’s Fatal 4-Way set to take place on Friday’s SmackDown with them in it.
Regardless of who he goes up against, all roads should lead to Reigns defending the Universal title in the main event of WrestleMania 37. Unlike every other time he’s headlined The Show of Shows, however, the endgame should be to get someone new over by having them vanquish the despicable Reigns and hand him his first loss in over a year to become champion.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and “like” his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.