Friday 26 September 2014

An Absence of Reigns

Perhaps the biggest news going into last weekend’s Night of Champions extravaganza was that Roman Reigns was rushed to a Nashville, Tennessee hospital after experiencing severe pain in an abdominal hernia he was working through. When doctors looked into it they discovered a second, more serious hernia that they had to operate on immediately. As a result of the operation Reigns will miss an estimated six weeks of ring time (the several months WWE claimed during Night of Champions is a fib to make Reigns seem superhuman when he returns early). Gaining retribution on that dastardly Seth Rollins will have to wait for another day.

It’s obviously a frustrating setback for Reigns, who had been involved in storylines involving lead heel faction The Authority for some time and was expected to continue receiving preferential treatment to prepare him for bigger and better things next year. The good news is that it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Assuming he doesn’t suffer any further medical worries he should be back in plenty of time for Survivor Series, meaning he’ll have missed just two supershows. He won’t come close to missing Royal Rumble or WrestleMania.

Gone (for now) but not forgotten.
It could even be argued that this injury is a blessing in disguise for Reigns. Generic performances at SummerSlam and over the last month on TV, along with his lack of improvement in the interview department, have soured a number of people on him. His increasingly obvious status as the recipient of the next megastar push hasn’t done him any favours either. As things were going it was looking as though Reigns was in line for fan backlash at some point. A break from TV should help with that, giving people a chance to miss him and want to see him again. That wasn’t going to happen if he’d stayed on TV, and he would have stayed on TV had he not been injured.

It also gives WWE the chance to plan a memorable reintroduction for him (even though he’ll barely have been away long enough to merit one). The right return could set Reigns up as the hero WWE wants him to be seen as. Build up a bad guy for Reigns to vanquish upon his return. Someone we’ll want to see Reigns get his hands on and rough up.

There are three guys I think could fill that role. The first is Rusev, who’s been on a tear for the last six months. The first man not named John Cena to hand ‘The Super Athlete’ a beating will become a massive star. But while Rusev’s a possibility he’s not a sensible choice. WWE would be better served saving Rusev’s first defeat until next year so that they can use it as a hook for WrestleMania 31. Frittering it away to make Reigns look good would be a short term move. Happily it’s not something I think they’d consider seriously.

A far more logical candidate is Seth Rollins. He’s the man who Reigns was involved with when he disappeared from TV and the man who took a count out win over Reigns at Night of Champions. He’s also slipped into the orbit of John Cena. While that’s not an ideal place for a rising star to be in it does at least mean Rollins is involved with the company’s leading man. Were he to gain a victory, even a tainted one, over Cena he would look a bigger deal for when he loses to a returning Reigns. Targeting him would be logical for ‘The Roman Empire’.

But the real obvious man for Reigns to go after upon his TV return is Triple H. They met in two six man tag matches at Extreme Rules and Payback and they’ve been involved in a number of staring contests and beatdowns since. Like Rollins he fits the bill of being a heel everyone wants to see take a beating, but he has the added positive of being a big name who can give Reigns a rub by association.

Is it too much to ask for WWE to use their pay-per-view schedule to their advantage and announce an eight man elimination tag match for Survivor Series? An Authority team of Triple H, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and Kane taking on Dean Ambrose a returning Roman Reigns and two other faces would be an exciting, logical and worthy semi-main event or show closer. One of the “two other faces” would almost certainly be Cena, because not only do WWE feel compelled to have him in every main event possible but he’s also actively moved into a feud with Rollins. That wouldn’t stop WWE building a couple of guys up through storyline interactions with The Authority though. Dolph Ziggler would be an ideal choice.

The point of that Survivor Series match would be to reintroduce Reigns as an unstoppable powerhouse. Holding his identity off until the night would be a nice idea but probably a bit pointless in practice. It would be a pretty easy guess (and would invite speculation that Daniel Bryan would be the fourth face, earning Reigns boos if he appeared unannounced). A return on the post-Survivor Series RAW would be ideal. Holding Reigns on the apron with The Authority desperate to keep him out of the match for as long as possible would be a good story, and would allow for the other faces to be picked off, leaving Reigns to explode through all of his opponents as the final babyface.

Having the match come down to Triple H and Reigns for their respective teams would be logical. So would Reigns losing via shenanigans of one form or another, setting up a singles match at the TLC pay-per-view in December. Reigns being booked too strong would encourage those boos I mentioned earlier, and running through every member of The Authority would certainly fall into the booked too strong category.

Having Reigns return from this injury and get straight into a plot opposite The Authority is the best direction WWE could take. It would keep his profile high and he’d be unlikely to hear boos opposite them. A strong showing at Survivor Series followed by a clean win over Triple H at TLC would set Reigns up nicely for the Royal Rumble win everyone expects but few, right now, seem to want.

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