Reigns vs. Taker: The Maintainers Weigh In

In honour of the much talked-about Roman Reigns vs. Undertaker match at tonight’s Wrestlemania 33 event, we asked our writers to give their thoughts on whether Roman should win.  This is what they came up with…

Right, so this is ‘a bit long’:

I’ve not watched the whole build, but I’m going to say for kicks that Reigns is going to win this. HOWEVER, I think to help you understand why I’m saying this, I want to rewrite the Roman Reigns Story a little bit. The current fan narrative around Roman Reigns is that WWE have seen him as an economically safe bet baby face that they pushed at all costs and a ‘big guy’ they want to keep protected. He’s been pushed too fast, too soon, and that’s why fans boo an otherwise fairly talented wrestler.

I don’t think this is totally wrong, but there’s a different interpretation of a lot of those booking decisions if you consider that Roman Reigns isn’t someone for whom status as a heel or face is dependent on his character, but the context he’s in. In other words, Reigns is a bit like Randy Orton: a guy whose status as face or heel is largely dependent on who he’s in a feud with. From what we’ve seen so far, his in-ring work is dependable and sharp, but his promo work is just OK. But booked right, these are really useful guys to have on a card: you can whack anyone with them and both will get over.

The problem WWE have had for the last few years is a surfeit of charismatic heels and a deficit of charismatic babyfaces on the main show (partly because they keep getting injured), which means that matching a guy with limited character development with a big colourful heel isn’t quite going to work. I think WWE have been wise to this problem for Reigns since the Lesnar angle, so at ‘Mania 32 they stuck him with a heel everyone just hates in the form of HHH, but by that point fans had bought into the idea of the ‘big Roman push’ so much that it didn’t matter; people just saw management trying to make their most safe and marketable guy look strong.

So bearing this in mind, Roman seems to be working this as a heel by now: Undertaker is the only active wrestler in WWE who can be considered a genuine 100% bona fide American Icon (Hunter only wishes he was and Cena needs to go away before he can be one). He embodies so much layered complexity of Americana that…well, maybe that’s an essay for another time, but the point is that Roman is working this angle heel de facto. There’s not been very much spice added to the feud from what I’ve seen, apart from the intrigue about Undertaker’s ongoing status. So having him win via a screwy finish is very logical in terms of short-term booking at this point as it creates a big end-of-level SuperHeel with limited charisma that some of those charismatic current heels can have a good consolidating face turn against, or that a less charismatic baby face can go against safely. So as much as I’d love Undertaker to maintain that mystique forever, finally killing off the Deadman would probably do a lot of good for the whole WWE card right now. Whether this variant of short term booking will pay off in the long run can only be answered by asking the question. – Alex Baker

Full disclosure: The Undertaker is my favourite wrestler of all time. I am a desperate mark for the Deadman and I will cry like an infant when he hangs up his boots.

He should not still be wrestling. The Streak was sacred to many of us, and pinning Taker at the Showcase of the Immortals should have provided the kind of rub that made another new star for life. In doing so, it should have marked the end of Taker’s career, because whatever came next would only tarnish his legacy.

Of course, WWE squandered that rub on a part-timer who arguably didn’t need it, and who hasn’t passed it on to anybody else because the only guy he’ll put over is Goldberg. That means a Mania match against Taker carries less significance than it once did and while losing a Streak match was once an honour, now it means much less. Still, Taker remains one of the most beloved wrestlers in history, and grizzled smarks like me become small giddy children when they hear the sound of that gong. Nobody wrestles Taker and stays a face.

This match exists to cement Reigns’ status as a top guy and give him a major signature match. However, I think it’s pretty obvious that plan is fucking stupid. If Reigns loses, he looks like just another bloke who lost a Taker match and the crowd will still be divided. If he wins, WWE may never stand a chance of having him work face again. Nobody looks good and nobody profits. This is bad for business.

It’s a misbegotten matchup, but I think Taker should win. It might actually be better for Reigns in the long run – it will earn him some respect – but it’s not about him. The next match Taker loses should be the end of his career, and he really deserves a better send-off. – Sarah Parkin

I honestly don’t give a fuck. Roman is great but has been booked terribly since forever so I don’t feel any connection to him  I’ve never understood the popularity of Undertaker even when he wasn’t old as fuck; much in the same way as Bobby Roode, he seems to me to be over solely on the basis of his entrance.
Sarah’s on the money about The Streak, though if that Paul Heyman shoot is true then he wasn’t supposed to lose the streak at WM30, so it would be inappropriate for the biggest name in wrestling to retire because someone else was a piece of shit.

For a summary, please refer to the first sentence. – Alan Swoonsome

Yes. Did you see WM32? They literally give no fucks. – Tanya Florence

I’ve gone back and forth on how this match should go. Basically it all comes down to the long-term outcome WWE intends. If, as some rumours have it, the idea is to cement Roman Reigns as the new top face by beating The Undertaker, then Vince is even more deluded than when he tried to start his own football league/bodybuilding league/movie studio. I shouldn’t have to enumerate why. If the idea is to cement him as a top face by having him push Taker close but ultimately lose, thus giving him the mythical “the rub” but avoiding the resentment that would come with having booked him to beat Taker at Wrestlemania, this is better but will only work if they rework his face character so that it isn’t incorrigibly lame, and alter his booking so that it appears less like they’re putting all the future megastar eggs in one basket.

However, if they realise what most fans came to comprehend long ago, that Reigns is a busted flush as the top face for the foreseeable future, then this is the perfect occasion on which to turn him heel. At which point you still have to consider whether he wins, via underhanded means of course, or loses and attacks Taker in frustration after the match. Taker is so beloved that in neither case would you get fans cheering the turn as they did when, for example, Ryback turned on Cena the Raw after Wrestlemania 29. Yet you would run the risk of the rest of the show being hijacked by angry fans, particularly in the light of many people being convinced that this is Taker’s Mania swansong (for this reason, it might be best that the match goes on last). Having Taker go over would do most to mitigate the chances of such an occurrence, so that’s what I’d go for.

But what is arguably more important than the result is how the Fed handles the aftermath, as we saw with Brock Lesnar, who many thought would be a heel for life having ended The Streak, but only months later was being cheered because he was put against John Cena. There’s mileage in a Reigns heel run, so the absolute worst thing they could do would be to revert his character back to the strong, silent badass that people loved when he was heel in The Shield. Much better would be just leaving him exactly as he was during his abortive face run; doing 20-minute promos about how he’s the Big Dog, talking about magic beans and duckfacing his way through every segment. But that relies upon the ‘E understanding how unlikeably they write their faces, so I shan’t hold my breath. – Statto

Author: Statto

George Thompson, known to his friends as Statto, is one-third of the team that makes up The Puro Pourri Podcast. Following an initial grappling obsession, which ran between 2001 and 2005, he spent large amounts of his time at university distracting himself from work with wrestling, and a smaller number of hours coming up with excuses to discuss the sport in an academic context. He is currently halfway through a novel set in the world of Japanese wrestling after the Second World War, entitled "The Rise and Fall of Rikidōzan", and hopes to finish it sometime in 2017. His man-crush on Katsuyori Shibata continues unabated.

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