Hi folks! One year on from when I last discussed potential challengers for Roman Reigns, we’re back to talk about an inevitable fact. For a while, some of us may have asked questions like: Is anyone left to challenge the undisputed Universal Champion? Can WWE build someone up as a viable threat? And what’s with Reigns part-time status?
The fans have acknowledged the Tribal Chief’s success, yet what stares us in the face is a future packed with uncertainty. What can WWE do about that? Let’s talk about the possibilities and see if we can come up with any answers to these questions.
Before we look at who could challenge Roman Reigns, we should look at the list of everyone he has beaten so far:
- Braun Strowman & The Fiend to become Universal Champion at Payback 2020.
- Jey Uso at Clash Of Champions 2020.
- Braun Strowman on SmackDown.
- Jey Uso in a Hell in a Cell I Quit match at Hell in a Cell 2020.
- Kevin Owens in a TLC match at TLC 2020, a steel cage match on SmackDown, and Last Man Standing at Royal Rumble 2021.
- Daniel Bryan at Elimination Chamber and Fast Lane 2021.
- Edge & Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 37.
- Daniel Bryan on SmackDown.
- Cesaro at Backlash 2021.
- Rey Mysterio in a Hell in a Cell on SmackDown.
- Edge at Money in the Bank 2021.
- John Cena at SummerSlam 2021.
- Finn Balor on SmackDown and in Extreme Rules at Extreme Rules 2021.
- Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel 2021.
- Sami Zayn on SmackDown.
- Lost to Seth Rollins by DQ at Royal Rumble 2022.
- Goldberg at Elimination Chamber 2022.
- Before WrestleMania, Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre (x5) on live events.
- Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 38 to become the undisputed WWE Universal Champion.
- Drew McIntyre (x8) on live events.
- Drew McIntyre & Big E in “Champion vs. Champion” matches at Survivor Series.
Every top champion needs an equal. Ric Flair had several. Stone Cold Steve Austin had The Rock. Hulk Hogan had Ultimate Warrior. At some point, another guy needs to show up and not just look threatening, they need to be capable of carrying the company in their place as champion. For a long time, this looked like Brock Lesnar, but losing to Reigns one too many times leaves me no longer convinced. WWE could flip the switch and have Brock Lesnar return if, say, Reigns was to be seriously injured.
But realistically, the long-term game was to get Reigns over, and we can’t deny it has succeeded. Love or hate, the Tribal Chief is over across the world. It took WWE eight years to achieve what it set out to do in 2014. By having Lesnar return now and defeat Reigns clean, would only undo everything they have done. Because WWE has so heavily focused on making Roman Reigns & Brock Lesnar the top guys, everyone else has been fed scraps. There’s hardly anyone left for Reigns to beat, so since WrestleMania, his part-time status isn’t one of smart booking, but of necessity.
Reigns himself has said there isn’t anyone left, and that’s not just to get heat. There’s little point in having him around for every episode if there aren’t any viable challengers. Fans would say he isn’t defending his title enough, but in WWE you need to build someone to these moments. Is there anyone left to beat? Well, there are some, but we’re having to scrape the barrel here, bar one exception.
Yes, Orton is the exception. Out of the entire WWE roster, the 14-time World Champion is the only man who could realistically threaten Roman Reigns. Their paths have crossed before, but rarely in singles matches. Did you know? The last time they fought in one-on-one matches was between 2014 to 2015, which included a steel cage match on Raw, and an encounter at SummerSlam 2014. They have rarely met since then.
Since the early pandemic, Orton found the motivation to prove why he’s regarded as one of the best WWE Superstars of all time. He realized his veteran status and needed to set the example. He has done so well that it feels like he has earned a run with the title. Instead, he’s helping to get Riddle over, while having the most fun he’s ever had. If he were to go after Reigns, this focus would end, and then if he were to fail, he would lose something upon returning to the tag title scene.
Everyone knows he’s too good to be in a team, so keeping him away from Reigns is the right thing to do, which is why you could say WWE hasn’t “fed” him to Reigns yet. He elevates the tag title scene with his presence. Also, there’s the fact that his last title run didn’t last so long. Even if he were to beat Reigns, it’s unlikely he would hold on for long, because it’s not about him anymore. It’s not 2010, and he’s 42-years-old. The future, as much as it may disappoint some fans, is not in favor of Randy Orton. So if he can’t usurp the Tribal Chief, who can?
As a Brit, there is nothing I would like more than to see McIntyre get his championship victory in front of a crowd. Yet, since losing the title to The Miz over a year ago, he has had to endure setback after setback. His feud with Happy Corbin & Madcap Moss felt like it dragged on for a lifetime, and otherwise, what else has he done? Are we meant to believe they can push him out of the blue and beat Roman Reigns, a guy who has beaten him so many times it isn’t funny? These guys fought at WrestleMania. Remember when Shane McMahon was McIntyre’s manager? Yes, it was that long ago.
Drew is miles ahead of where he was back then, but so is Roman. McIntyre beat Lesnar at WrestleMania, but so has Reigns. He also beat Goldberg, but so has Reigns. Everything McIntyre has done, Reigns has done it too, and more. So it’s not impossible to build McIntyre up to this moment, but man, had WWE not treated him like a poor joke for over a year, it would be significantly easier to do so. Can we really expect anyone, even McIntyre, to stand a chance? That’s how strong WWE has booked Reigns compared to everyone else.
As he likes to repeat, he’s in “GOD Mode” now. And I’m not even that much of a fan. If you think I’m saying this because I worship Reigns, then you’re sorely mistaken. The facts, no matter what you think about Reigns, is that WWE has placed him on another level of existence. How do you make a ladder so someone can climb it and join him there? With McIntyre, that ladder was being made. As much as it pains me to say, WWE pushed it over halfway through, so it’s just not a believable option anymore.
AJ Styles. Bobby Lashley. Cody Rhodes. Seth Rollins. Can’t really see anyone else who could challenge. With Styles, it feels like his time is gone. Despite Lashley’s age, WWE has got behind him in the past two years. His title reign was decent, but he has since fallen back in to the pack. Sure, Cody Rhodes is fresh again to the WWE Universe. Many are saying he is the new chosen one.
Having seen his run in New Japan and AEW, I’m not entirely convinced. He has all the motivation, but this is WWE. Vince McMahon might be in favor of it now, but give it six months, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a u-turn. Seth Rollins is the only guy who Reigns hasn’t beaten clean, but losing twice to Cody, along with his heel persona, makes this more unlikely than ever.
The only viable guys who are babyfaces and not damaged goods are Randy Orton & Cody Rhodes, although the latter seriously needs to be built up to the moment. It’s not like you could have Rhodes vs. Reigns at SummerSlam and expect him to win. By WrestleMania? Sure, it’s doable, but it’s a long way away. What is Reigns going to do before then? Go to Brock Lesnar’s farm and learn how to live his life? He might as well. WWE has failed so hard at building anyone up, Reigns has left them in the dust.
This means the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship won’t be around for a while, or at least as often as it was… but that’s a good thing. The rest of the WWE roster needs that carrot dangling in front of them. Someone needs to grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. There needs to be a stepping up somewhere, or we’re destined for a Bruno Sammrtino-esque title reign by the man with no competition.
It’s up to the fans to tell WWE what they want. Tell us what you want! Who is the next big star? Make WWE do something, otherwise we’re destined for an acknowledgement era like we’ve never seen before. They clearly don’t know who to push, so we need to tell them who we believe has what it takes. With Roman Reigns as the centerpiece, this is the current state of WWE. Thanks for reading!