The WrestleMania 34 match between Brock Lesnar and The Big Dog, Roman Reigns, was bad. The rematch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at the Greatest Royal Rumble, was worse. It was poor in its own right, but it also rendered the prior title match pointless.
The entire appeal of professional wrestling is that–unlike in boxing or MMA–a professional wrestling match has a predetermined pace, variety, and outcome. In boxing, you never know what you’re going to get as a paying customer; you could get a shifting battle of styles between a counter puncher and a brawler, or you could get a miserable slog, with two guys clinching and smothering each other for 12 rounds. In professional wrestling–at least in theory–the fans are guaranteed a good fight for their money; the bookers can plot out the perfect offense, defense, counterattacks, and comebacks to maximize the entertainment value.
And that’s why there’s no excuse for the awful match we saw. The Lesnar vs. Reigns match at the Greatest Royal Rumble was the one thing worse than being actively bad; it was boring. For the entire match, which took place inside a steel cage, the two men traded signature moves, special moves, and finishers. Typically, these are the trademark turning points of a match when momentum shifts and one wrestler takes the upper hand. But these were the only moves that both competitors did, over and over again. There was no grappling, no psychology, and barely any use of the steel cage that surrounded them. Why create a stipulation and then apply it so infrequently?
There were four German suplexes, two F5s, five Spears, and an endless number of Superman punches. I know this because the broadcast team kept track of these statistics and updated them as the match progressed–proof of how pervasive and played-out they were. They are no longer “signature” moves or “finishing” moves now. They are simply “moves” with no sense of danger, specialness, or purpose.
And the match’s ending was terrible too. Roman speared Lesnar through the cage, and both men hit the floor outside. And since Lesnar hit the floor first, he was declared the winner. The only problem, however, is that those aren’t the rules of the match. The winner of a steel cage match needs “both feet” to touch the floor. And Reigns, very clearly, did this before Lesnar did. There should have been a clean, non-flukey finish to pass the torch from one generation to the next. As is, this “controversy” will stretch the Lesnar vs. Reigns feud into extra, tedious innings–this time, by stirring up drama where it didn’t need to exist. WWE is getting too clever for its own good. Give fans a good, solid match, with clear stakes, a narrative arc, and clear winners. Fans will be much happier.
— ImArya (@ImAryaWwe) April 27, 2018
Wrestlemania 34 was the event where Reigns should have won the Universal Championship. Despite its predictability, it would have served a practical purpose–of putting the world title on a full-time worker who could show up to Raw every week. And it made logical, narrative sense, which is one of the reasons why it was so predictable.
Then, shockingly, Reigns lost at Wrestlemania 34. And some defenders said, “Well, maybe WWE wants the title to change hands in Saudi Arabia, where the audience response would be more pro-Reigns.” And lo and behold, it was! Saudi Arabian fans cheered for Reigns the whole match. But still, WWE stuck Reigns with another loss and rendered the Wrestlemania 34 loss even more pointless. This was no underdog narrative. This was a man getting beaten once, and then getting beaten harder.
What’s the end game to all this? In the past, Reigns had suffered from the common perception that he is the “top guy” who beats everyone else. But the current reality is worse; he’s the top guy who can’t even beat the part-time guy. And not only does that make him look weak– it makes everyone beneath him look even weaker by comparison.
For three months, Reigns has delivered multiple, passionate promos, telling the WWE fans that Lesnar’s run as Raw champion has created a worse, less consequential show. That is absolutely true. And now, rather than correcting that status quo, WWE has decided, against all reason, to maintain it.