As of this week’s Monday Night Raw, The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns has been confirmed for Wrestlemania 33. As with every year around Mania season the WWE fanbase goes into overdrive thinking of opponents for The Deadman. Would John Cena finally go head to head with Taker? Would AJ Styles be given the opportunity? Would we see a Triple Threat with Brock Lesnar and Goldberg? The general consensus to the final choice, the divisive Roman Reigns, hasn’t exactly been overwhelmingly positive.
Set up with Reigns eliminating Undertaker in the 2017 Royal Rumble, the seeds were planted early and now, with the match official, the build up is properly underway. It may not be the match a lot of people wanted but, believe it or not, there are several reasons to be excited for one of the headline contests at this year’s Wrestlemania.
1. It Feels Like a Wrestlemania Match
While the same argument could be made for several prospective opponents for The Undertaker, this match does indeed feel big time enough for the biggest show of the year. Sure, a large part of this is down to the fact Reigns has been pushed hard as the next face of the company for more than 2 years now and not his actual in-ring prowess. But on paper the match does have a big fight feel. The same cannot necessarily be said for other matches on the card this year with Randy Orton Vs. Bray Wyatt, brilliantly built or not, not standing out and John Cena and Nikki Bella Vs. The Miz and Maryse having “bathroom break” written all over it. 11 matches have been officially announced as of this writing and, with the odds being on a few more being added, at least two or three will surely be relegated to Kick Off Show status. That leaves Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns in a major spotlight standing out strongly against a lot of the other matches surrounding it. The first step is in place – the match sounds big on paper, now it’s time to be larger than life in reality.
2. The Crowd Heat
Matches live and die on the reaction of the live crowd in attendance and, at the risk of sounding like Vince McMahon, Reigns always gets some kind of fan reaction. There may be no Streak on the line to be broken but most WWE fans would still rather avoid seeing Undertaker lose on the biggest stage again, especially to a superstar deemed by many to be the “chosen one” in the first place. That crowd in Orlando will be loud from the opening bell thanks to a mix of respect for Taker and the genuine, instant dislike Reigns seems to stir in so many. Undertaker vs. someone like AJ Styles would take place in front of a loud crowd appreciating a spectacular athletic affair – put Roman Reigns in that spot and the heat becomes a mixture of dislike, fear and relief (if Undertaker pulls out a win). It would not be surprising if this match saw the loudest, most passionate response of the entire evening and that’s one of the reasons why it could yet prove to be a perfect decision.
3. It Allows Reigns to Show an Edgier Side
No, Roman Reigns doesn’t have to turn heel during this feud and eventual blow-off. But he can edge more towards a bad ass character that would serve him well down the line as either a face or a heel. His facial reaction after eliminating Undertaker at the Royal Rumble was perfect – part smug pride, part defiance and with just enough of a hint of fear wondering what door he had just knocked down. His interaction with Shawn Michaels on Raw this week was another step in the right direction, with Reigns outright ignoring the advice of arguably the greatest in-ring performer of all time and the man who wrestled two legitimate 5-Star classics at Wrestlemania against The Deadman. Roman going as far as to say he was going to retire The Undertaker was perfect – if WWE wants to keep him face then this can be explained away as Reigns returning Taker’s mind games in kind. If they are turning him heel then it’s a great step in that direction. Despite essentially never having the type of top of the card run Cena had in 2006 and 2007, Reigns’ persona is staler than week old bread and this edge is badly needed.
4. It Doesn’t Expose The Undertaker’s Limitations
It can be argued that AJ Styles vs. Undertaker would be beneficial, as Styles would bump around like a madman putting on one hell of a show as he did so. This would indeed be the case. However, there’s also the risk such an athletic opponent would actually show up The Undertaker’s weaknesses rather than cover them. At what point would the ultra-athletic AJ look like he was bumping for a brick wall? Part of the reason Taker Vs. CM Punk worked so well was that Taker did a sensational job of keeping up with the pace set early and the two put on a fantastic match. If Taker’s appearance in the Rumble this year is anything to go by, the same would not happen in Orlando. Taker and Reigns, on the other hand, could play to each other’s strengths in a much more believable fashion. So long as they avoid slow, plodding, methodical hell the two can embrace a more brawling style and put on a show. The era of the “big man” is returning to WWE, so why not embrace it and show the audience just what two big men are capable of?
5. It Allows The Undertaker to Lose
Non-Streak Wrestlemania matches have been strange the last two years, with Bray Wyatt not really standing a chance and Shane McMahon being a ringer in a shotgun angle due to injuries. As noted above, this year should pull back some more heat purely due to the general reaction to Roman Reigns and a genuine fear he could win. Reigns, regardless of a potential full-blown heel turn, would undoubtedly gain a lot from winning and it would stand him in fantastic stead going forward. The same could not be said for other, more common suggestions for alternative opponents. Cena winning, and potentially breaking the Streak itself, would have been huge but the ship has sailed there. He’s already equaled Ric Flair’s world title record and will no doubt surpass it sooner rather than later so defeating Taker might be overkill. AJ Styles will surely turn face before the end of the year simply due to how good he is and WWE would be insane not to capitalise on that and push him as a major face of whatever brand he’s on. This would mean it would be completely against character, and common sense, to brag about beating The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. He wouldn’t be able to get the appropriate mileage out of a win, so why even go there? Brock or Goldberg beating him wouldn’t make sense either – Brock already has and nothing would be gained for anyone involved if Goldberg took him out. Roman Reigns is a believable winner who, if properly booked, could take the win and run with it deep into his WWE career, whether the fans like it or not.
6. Both Men Have a Point to Prove
The Undertaker hasn’t had a truly Mania-level classic since the bout against CM Punk in 2013. The loss to Lesnar the next year was a surreal moment at the end of an unfortunately disappointing match due to Taker getting knocked out early on. The Wyatt match was slow and forgettable and last year against Shane McMahon was more spectacle than wrestling match, albeit with a sensational bump. Sure, he’s got more than a few stinkers on his Wrestlemania resume but Undertaker is well overdue a return to form on the level of his matches against the likes of Edge, Michaels and Triple H. He managed to pull a brilliant match out of nowhere against Batista in 2007, so it could well happen again 10 years later.
Roman Reigns is in a similar spot on a much more condensed scale. His first Mania singles match against Brock Lesnar defied all expectations and tore the house down before he and Triple H stank out the joint in the main event last year. The two men wrestled a snooze fest that should have been a wild brawl in a match that tried so hard to be epic it forgot to actually be entertaining. Chances are this match won’t main event this year, but that could prove to be even more fuel to the fire – if the two men had matches that disappointed at Wrestlemania last year, why not steal it this year?
7. Roman Reigns Needs it More
WWE creative have tried just about everything to make Reigns the next big star and future of the company and it hasn’t fully worked. They’ve had him be a silent bad ass (briefly), an unstoppable Superman, a white meat babyface with the deck stacked against him, a bargain bin Rock doing bad comedy and now potentially an edgier ass kicker with a point to prove. If the full force of WWE is still firmly behind Reigns in an attempt to make him the star they want him to be, then he needs this match more than anyone else in the company. He has the most to gain if properly booked going into, during and coming out of Wrestlemania. This one feud will not be a quick fix but it certainly has the potential to do wonders for Reigns. In just a few short weeks at Wrestlemania we’ll all get a better idea of exactly what all of this means.
There are indeed plenty of reasons to be hopeful for The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns and when that bell rings on April 2nd anything could happen. The stage is almost set for the two men to tear the house down and all eyes will be on Orlando to see if they do – let’s just hope we’re not all left wishing it had been AJ Styles come the end of the night.