Last night, WWE packed its SummerSlam pay-per-view with nine title matches, two long-simmering feuds, the always entertaining Elias, and a truly touching moment when former WWE Women’s World Champion Natalya escorted Ronda Rousey to the ring two days after the funeral of her father, beloved WWE legend Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.
While Natty received a thunderous ovation as she walked down the ramp wearing her father’s signature leather jacket, the same can’t be said for the new WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. Fans were not happy with his victory over Brock Lesnar, and they were even less pleased with Braun “Monster in the Bank” Strowman’s failure to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on the winner of the SummerSlam 2018 main event.
As mentioned in our SummerSlam match by match recap, the event had more ups than downs, but a successful evening was also marred by the fan’s continuing negative reaction to Roman Reigns, which was only made worse by his Universal Title victory over Brock Lesnar.
The general consensus among fans and critics alike is that the WWE has been ramming the “Roman Empire” down their throats for the past four years, and they are simply sick of it. While Vince McMahon seems determined to replace John Cena as the face of the company with Roman Reigns, the fans prefer AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Seth Rollins, to name a few of the most popular WWE Superstars.
This has led to an anyone but Roman movement, which combined with WWE’s refusal to try a heel turn for Reigns, has fans resorting to a variety of insulting chants at every Roman Reigns’ match. It must be discouraging for Roman, who has an outstanding physique and puts on quality matches, to hear the fans yell, “Roman Sucks,” “CM Punk,” “This Is Awful,” and “Boring” at the top of their lungs while they toss a beach ball around the arena as he wrestles.
WWE officials have made matters even worse by editing the chants out of Roman’s match videos and confiscating beach balls and anti-Reigns signs at live events. But, for a reason known only to Vince McMahon, Reigns is still a babyface, and he is still the face of the company as far as management is concerned.
It was inevitable that Reigns would defeat Lesnar for the title at SummerSlam. Despite Vince’s claim that the WWE does better business by limiting Brock’s appearances, many fans do not agree with that philosophy, and they are also not happy with an absentee champion who is about to return to the UFC for another go at Daniel Cormier. This added to the pressure to take the title from Lesnar and hand it to Roman Reigns
That put the WWE in a rather difficult position at SummerSlam 2018. They were trying sell tickets for yet another Lesnar vs. Reigns match for the company’s most prestigious title, and the response was anything but positive. And that, dear readers, is where things got even weirder.
Waiting in the wings, ostensibly to save the day, was Mr. Monster in the Bank, Braun Strowman. As a potential spoiler, Strowman informed both Lesnar and Reigns that he would be right there at ringside, watching and waiting until a winner was declared.
Braun made it clear that the moment the match was over, he would be cashing in his MITB briefcase and taking home the Universal Championship. This was the one thing keeping fans interested in the main event at SummerSlam, and many fans thought it was the best way to wrench the title out of Roman Reigns allegedly undeserving hands.
Swerves are normal in professional wrestling, but this one took the entire wrestling world by surprise. Reigns began the bout at a furious pace and seemed to have the upper hand over Lesnar. But, after absorbing several Superman punches and several spears from Roman, Brock finally started to mount a comeback.
As the two men continued to brutalize each other, Reigns noticed Strowman standing at ringside and dove through the ropes to spear him on the arena floor. This left both Roman and Braun stunned, and then Brock made what turned out to be a fatal mistake.
Instead of tossing Reigns back into the ring and pinning him to retain the title, Brock decided to go after Braun and F5’d Strowman onto the concrete floor. He followed up by smashing Strowman with a metal chair, leaving Mr. Monster in the Bank unconscious and unable to cash in his MITB briefcase.
Then, as we all saw coming, Brock returned to the ring distracted, and he ate a vicious spear from Reigns. Lesnar took the three count, and Roman Reigns emerged the new WWE Universal Champion to a chorus of boos and a thin smattering of applause, followed by stunned silence and disbelief.
WWE has one chance left to correct course, and that is tonight on Monday Night Raw’s post-SummerSlam show. If Braun cashes in on Reigns tonight and walks away with the Universal Title, there is still a chance to resolve this debacle and win back the WWE audience.
However, if Vince is determined to keep the title around the waist of Roman Reigns for an extended period and continues to force him on the fans as the face of the company, expect the boos and the chants to only get louder and more vicious.
The saddest part of this whole affair is that Roman is an excellent in-ring performer, his promos are getting better, especially when the WWE doesn’t force him to work from a script, and he would make a great heel. But, as we saw last night at SummerSlam with Ronda Rousey, fans do not react well to wrestlers they feel are being pushed too quickly or at the expense of other deserving superstars.
Vince McMahon and WWE management need to find a new direction for Roman Reigns or they will risk doing permanent damage to his career as a wrestler. The fans have made it clear they have had enough of Roman Reigns, The Roman Empire, and his face of the company gimmick.