Is Roman Reigns Vs. Cesaro A Lose-Lose Booking Decision For WWE?
Everyone's excited for WrestleMania Backlash's Universal Title match, but how can the result positively impact both competitors?
In the interest of fairness, I must firstly point out that the WWE SmackDown main event scene has been brilliant recently.
There are several reasons for this; chief among them Universal Champion Roman Reigns. As much as he likes to call himself the 'Head Of The Table', Reigns is as much the centrepiece of the blue brand, around which various other figures revolve.
To the casual fan, number one contender Cesaro looks to have been on the end of a pretty standard babyface push, but his rise is loaded with a certain type of intrigue. This feeling only comes around when an 'internet darling' finally approaches the place on the card we’ve wanted them to be.
It's an incredibly exciting ascent for long-term fans of a particular figure, but also carries its own latent tension that they may fall back down the card.
But SmackDown’s title picture isn’t just about champion and challenger.
Part of the recent appeal is the sense of organic developments from week to week, fuelled by plausible character motivations. The recent re-introduction of Jimmy Uso has added two new sources of potential friction: between the Usos and Roman, and between Jimmy and Jey themselves.
But my favourite wrinkle is the lingering presence of Seth Rollins, and the recent reveal that he’s just about the only person not scared of Reigns. This is a lovely piece of continuity going back to the days of the Shield split, after which Rollins landed two huge victories over Roman (at WrestleMania 31 and Money in the Bank 2016.)
Why would Seth be afraid when he’s always had his old friend’s number? On the other hand, won’t this hubris come back to bite him down the line? Almost certainly, and I can’t wait.
Hopefully, for those who don’t watch the blue brand, I’ve highlighted the various rhythms that have made SmackDown’s title picture the hottest symphony in WWE today. The next chapter comes this weekend at WrestleMania Backlash - an event we’re all hoping runs a lot smoother than its name.
We’re not yet halfway through 2021, but I really believe that Reigns and Cesaro have the potential to put on WWE’s main roster Match of the Year. All the ingredients are in place: a pair of sublime wrestlers, a babyface we genuinely admire, and a heel we’ve conditioned ourselves to hate for around seven years now.
After a pretty rotten few months of WWE booking - mainly on the Raw side of things, in fairness - the prospect of such an excellent title match sounds too good to be true.
Unfortunately, that’s because it possibly is.
When one man beats the other on Sunday, something will be adversely affected as a result.
If Roman wins - which many are predicting - there’s a real fear that WWE’s Cesaro experiment will be over. Or, perhaps more worryingly, we’ll realise that the intent behind his push never matched our own expectations, and that he was always intended to be a placeholder - a stopgap - to get WWE to their next big angle.
But what if Cesaro actually does it? There’s no doubt that it would be a monumental moment, perhaps even approaching Eddie Guerrero and Daniel Bryan territory in terms of sheer fan jubilation. But it would also bring a premature end to WWE’s most compelling main roster storyline - indeed, their most compelling character - in a very long time.
Yes, Roman could continue to calmly plot the downfall of everyone he deems disrespectful, but it would mean far less having just dropped the gold.
WWE may well have booked themselves a lose-lose situation for Sunday night, which feels undeserved given the excellent build so far. Either result will likely bring something good to an end.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it all the same.
After all, the match is likely to be a phenomenal one, and that would certainly help ease the booking pain. Moreover - and it’s worth reminding ourselves of this now and again, because it seemed like it would never happen - so much so I'm going to give it it's own paragraph and italic font...
Cesaro is wrestling Roman Reigns in a marquee Pay-Per-View match for a WWE World Championship!
Is that not a victory in itself, regardless of the result or aftermath? We’ve wanted this for so long, and by ‘we’ I don’t just mean fans, but all corners of the wrestling community.
That's because Cesaro is a rare figure, in that he seems just as beloved by hardcore fans as he does by his peers behind the scenes. I’ve never interviewed Cesaro, but I’ve still heard his name mentioned more than any other WWE Superstar in various media calls. He is the default answer given by wrestlers up and down the card, especially when pressed to name an under-utilised talent, an ideal future opponent, or even just a great person backstage.
In one of these calls, Becky Lynch even named Cesaro as her most-skilled rival in terms of pun use. No praise is too high for the Swiss Superman, it seems.
It therefore warms the heart to see such a deeply, genuinely respected figure finally given his moment. Not necessarily a moment in the sun, if Roman does what he usually does, but a big platform upon which to prove himself nonetheless. And as many of us already know, when Cesaro is expected to impress in a wrestling match, he usually hits the mark...
So yes, WWE have booked themselves between a rock and a hard place this weekend. If Cesaro wins, Roman’s empire will crumble. If Reigns retains, we’ll all be sad anyway.
But it’s been a hell of a journey getting to this stage, and even if this weekend results in a wobble, who’s to say things won’t correct themselves in due course? SmackDown has had a knack for doing that in recent months.
Ultimately, I think Sunday’s title match frustrates us because we somehow want both results to be true at once. We want Reigns’ dominance to continue a while longer, and we of course want Cesaro to be Universal Champion.
If that’s the calibre of dilemma WWE are capable of presenting us with, I wouldn’t mind more of the same in future.