Wrestlemania. The Showcase of the Immortals. WWE’s flagship show. Does it get much bigger than that? It has to be amazing to be one of the lucky few who headlines the top show of the top promotion. The likes of Hogan, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, John Cena, and the Rock all have headlined the show on many occasions. But who has the last four Wrestlmania’s belonged to? Roman Reigns.
Roman Reigns & Brock Lesnar
Reigns will be heading to his fourth straight ‘Mania in the main event position challenging current champion Brock Lesnar in a rematch of Wrestlemania 31. There are few Superstars more divisive of the fanbase at the moment than Reigns. Clearly packaged over and over as ‘The Guy’ by WWE and often rejected by large amounts of the fanbase for that reason. That doesn’t stop WWE from continually pushing him though, in fact, they seem to keep pushing harder. Making it seem like Triple H and The Authority hate him, winning the Royal Rumble, even bringing out The Rock to try and give him a rub. Nothing has solidified it. So why does it seem the WWE Universe aren’t up in arms about a fourth straight headline when they didn’t even seem to want him to headline a second Wrestlemania. Credit the storytelling, has been better on this one. Letting Reigns cut a vicious promo on Lesnar and then having Lesnar come out and kick the crap out of him was brilliant. That’s not it though. The real reason? Two names. A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura.
A.J. Styles burst on the scene coming out number three in the 2016 Royal Rumble. Ironically the narrative of this Rumble was that Roman would have to win to keep his title, the irony is only compounded by the fact that many watching on the WWE Network missed the very beginning of Styles’ entrance because the camera was lingering on the reaction of none other than Roman Reigns. The night ended with Triple H winning and setting up Wrestlemania 32’s main event… against Reigns. That wasn’t what the fans took from it though. Styles has arrived. Fresh off his run as leader of the Bullet Club in New Japan Pro Wrestling fans were elated to see the former TNA mainstay in a WWE ring, and Styles delivered. Since his initial appearance, he has won both the World Championship and the United States Championship twice as well as being arguably the top performer on the promotion. Although while Styles was enjoying success on the main roster, a familiar foe was finding success just below him in NXT.
Shinsuke Nakamura broke into WWE not even three months after Styles at NXT: Takeover Dallas, the NXT tie into Wresltmania 32. He came out strong with a great match against Sami Zayn. He would go on to win the NXT Championship twice making him only the second man to do it after Samoa Joe. After a call-up to SmackDown Live, he spent some time in some lackluster feuds with Dolph Ziggler and Jinder Mahal. The later leading to a World Championship match at Summerslam 2017. There were a few other feuds and notable appearances in there, but for a second it seemed like WWE wasn’t a hundred percent sure what to do with the former NJPW star. Until Royal Rumble 2018. The match came down to Nakamura and guess who? That’s right Roman Reigns. Some of the crowd already seemed reserved that The Big Dog was going to get another win, to set him for another main event at Wrestlemania against Lesnar again. So when they saw the artist know as Shinsuke Nakamura put the company’s favorite guy over the top rope they were elated. Because you know what that means?
A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestlemania 34. Now if you are a fan of strictly the WWE and only watch shows tied into this promotion you might not get why a lot of die-hard fans are losing their collective minds at this. Cool, two really great performers are going at it. There’s so much more to it. This isn’t the first time the two have met in a significant Pay-Per-View Event. Just weeks before Styles showed up at the Royal Rumble and months before Nakamura showed up in NXT, the two fought at Wrestle Kingdom 10 for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship which was held by Nakamura. This wasn’t a one-off superstar fight like Jericho and Omega from Wrestle Kingdom 12. These were major NJPW powers. Styles was a two-time IWGP World Heavy Weight Champion, while Nakamura held the title three times as well as five runs as the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Reports were that both Styles and Nakamura gave their notice mere hours after this event that they were leaving for WWE. Thus closing the book on what we thought would be these superpowers fighting. How could WWE let two juggernauts from other promotions come in and take over the main event spot without putting one of their own in the mix? Two reasons. Roman Reigns and the Brand split.
WWE, more notably Vince McMahon himself, has been notorious for burying the competition and reveling in humiliating them. From WWE’s victory in the Invasion angle to Sting losing his only ever Wrestlemania match to Triple H to the fact they won’t even acknowledge TNA has ever existed. WWE is the best and McMahon wants you to know. So how could he even dream of letting the World Championship be fought over by two monsters of TNA and NJPW at the event that he created? Easy. It’s the SmackDown Championship. The Championship of his beloved flagship Raw? It’s the Universal Championship, and it will be fought over by longtime WWE man Brock Lesnar and hand-picked face of the company Roman Reigns. At the end of the day, McMahon gets what he wants, and we get what we want. It’s as simple as that. And you know what? That’s okay.
So here we find ourselves. Going into Wrestlemania with Vince McMahon’s dream Championship match and the fans dream Championship match coexisting. I was never the biggest fan of the brand split, I understand the plus sides but also felt like it diluted the product a little. Though I will admit, this is the first time I’ve really thought that it is serving its purpose. The WWE higher-ups get what they want, and we get what we want. And what makes this even better is Reigns vs. Lesnar should be a great match.I understand being frustrated with Reigns because the company has tried to make us like him, but the guy puts on solid events. Styles and Nakamura are most likely going to put on a monster match. It’s a safe bet that even a mediocre match from them could outshine most people on their best day. Maybe with the pressure being taken off Reigns and his match to be the marquee event of the night, people can appreciate it for what it is. Solid wrestling.