Let’s start by being free. It’s a new thing for me, but I’m getting old and trying to move on before my cholesterol levels catch me. Thanks to the work Sami Zayn and Roman Reigns have done over the past six months, what is normally your ordinary PLE, Elimination Chamber has evolved into a must-see event. It was one of the most anticipated shows WWE has hosted in quite some time, and the main event generated excitement that much of their Wrestlemania main events have failed to do in recent times. Only the WWE can do that. A kind of story that extends beyond the wrestling world. Maybe this is the first time since Bryan Danielson’s run in 2014. Or maybe Becky Lynch’s run to the first women’s main event. But none of these culminated in anything other than mania. Credit goes to Reigns and Zayn for bringing this level of show to this level of anticipation and excitement.
Second, the build and even the first half of the actual match were reminiscent of wrestling’s roots in the Territorial days. Here we have the local face, as you won’t find a more popular character in Montreal than Zayn, and the invading, intimidating force (Reigns) brought in to challenge him and increase his hero status. It’s the quintessence of wrestling history that the whole business came from before it became such a big business.
And it’s a role Reigns plays very well. Not just the way he carries himself as a heel, or the constant diatribes to opponents and crowd, or the way his every move has a menacing advantage during the “heat” of a game. But the way he grounds it in paranoia and insecurity we know from previous work. The cracks have been around for a while, and Reigns isn’t afraid to get involved. It’s not his fault that WWE booking puts him down the same goddamn path every match.
Which is what made last night’s ending so disappointing, combined with the fact that we all know they do, yet keep getting excited that one day the company will do something different. Yes, part of being a wrestling fan is getting drawn in and imagining every possibility. But that gets harder and harder to enjoy when you keep coming to the same conclusion.
Even with a crowd as vocal as any since CM Punk entered the Rosemont Horizon In 2011, even with so many angles to play with that could have led to any number of intriguing plot paths, we got the same Roman Reigns match we’ve been looking at for at least the past two years. Face comes back, ref bump, interference, wrong finish, then distraction, javelin, Reigns wins (LOL). Not even the slightest deviation from the same routine. They could have just run a tape of games starring Danielson or Edge or Kevin Owens or AJ Styles or Drew McIntyre. We’ve seen it all before.
G/O Media may receive a commission
Samsung Galaxy S23 series
$100 Free Credit or Gift Card.
Samsung’s latest range of Galaxy phones – the S23 Ultra, S23+ and S23 – are available now. Receive a free store credit or $100 gift card with your purchase.
And you know deep down WWE felt it was kind of lame running that post-match angle where Owens saves Sami from an attack and they get the final shot on Reigns so everyone can cheer at the end , instead of raining (pun intended) booing down to end the show. It’s the half-hearted 50/50 booking that New York has specialized in for most of the last decade, and what we thought would change under Triple H, but hasn’t. It’s spineless. “We’re not going to take the titles from Roman, even if that’s how it got here, but we’re going to give this crowd a bite afterwards so they can feel good cheering for their guy.” It paws at anything meaningful.
They couldn’t even bring themselves to do anything with Jey Uso, who has a complex past with Zayn and his cousin Reigns. He walked in and teased both of them by helping Reigns or Zayn and ended up doing nothing. And the same old wail from the WWE pills pours out afterwards: “Let’s see what they do with it.” Well, most of us are tired of seeing and then just being left with the same thing.
All the Rhodes they could have taken
There is a great story to tell that Roman’s impact on the entire company can only be made from within. From someone who once reported to him, someone he once trusted, but someone who really knows what he really is. Jey Uso or Zayn or Seth Rollins. They’ve toyed with all of that in the recent past. Jey is the family member who saw through the facade. Zayn they brought in who ended up being removed just far enough to see that the Emperor had no clothes. Rollins is the former partner Reigns was never able to untie and was always a step behind. Reigns has depleted such a strong force over the past three years that only those who truly know where the weak spots are could pose a threat. Any of these stories would be great to tell.
Instead, we parachute Cody Rhodes with his dapper George Carlin “My father” Routine. WWE is so focused on their “moments” and the moments they visualized, and in Rhodes they have the perfect vehicle that even cares about moments without the scaffolding underneath to really count that it’s possible . I don’t see when it has a better one with a superior foundation staring it in the face.
WWE will say that giving Zayn this type of match in Montreal is better than having him at Main Event Mania. horse shit. Zayn is so talented and so popular, he could transform any arena or stadium in Montreal behind him. They will say that after that he will be a bigger star and a main event player for a long time. Maybe he’s that good, but who else did it work for? Where are Reigns’ past feuds now? Danielson is at a different company, McIntyre is in the Intercontinental scene, Styles is on hiatus, Owens is jumping in and out of the main event scene. Rollins now has to settle with Logan Paul after spending months using his considerable talent to make the Austin theory look any workable.
Sure, there are a few ways they could salvage this. Add Sami to Rhodes Reigns game. Let him intervene. Shit, make him turn around to screw Rhodes (likeliest, but all Cody screws up!). But they won’t do any of that. Because enough people believe in “let’s see where this takes it” that they’ll just keep looking, even if it never ends, it never pays off.
WWE returned to the quintessence of wrestling history last night, but that history always ends with face overcoming heel. That’s the deal. You invest people in his journey and his hunt and his challenge and then one day it all comes together for the catharsis. There couldn’t have been a greater catharsis than Sami in Montreal. WWE forgot or intentionally ignored rule one. Further proof that they don’t care what the fans want, they only care what they want. Which doesn’t make it storytelling at all.