During my year between full-time jobs, I managed to somehow meet a ton of people who also liked wrestling, always by accident. In 2015, I gathered with many of them at one of their apartments in Queens, NY to watch that year’s Wrestlemania, which built tension around a main event where many expected Brock Lesnar to drop the belt to the muscle-bound Roman Reigns, who many believed was Vince McMahon’s favorite.
WWE managed to ruin Reigns — a statuesque mass of Samoan manliness with a long-flowing mane — by hot-shotting* him into title contention the second he returned from an injury. Making matters worse, they had him deliver horribly written monologues. That time he said “sufferin succotash” is permanently etched into the minds of the #NeverRoman crowd.
Reigns’ impending win felt inevitable, and inevitability breeds contempt (ask, ask Hillary Clinton). Roman is still jeered to this date, a rare feat for someone marketed and booked as a good guy.
Well, that night Roman’s ascension was deferred as the WWE engaged one of its best deus ex machina’s of all time. As Lesnar and Reigns lay in the ring, both out of breath and tired, it appeared as if the match were winding down. Paul Heyman, Lesnar’s boisterous manager, yelled “COVER HIM, BROCK!” which could be read to suggest that by not covering Roman, Lesnar created an opportunity for his opponent. Reigns would likely land one of his doofy finishing manuevers (the Superman Punch is where Roman cocks his right forearm up and down as if it were a gun before performing a jumping punch, and it is as stupid as it sounds) on Lesnar, and the value Lesnar accrued by breaking the Undertaker’s streak would be moved to Reigns.
And then Seth Rollins’ entrance music blared, and the blonde-streaked-hair villain sprinted to the ring, golden Money in the Bank briefcase in hand. The Money in the Bank briefcase is a trophy of sorts that grants its holder — who gains it by winning a typically brutal ladder match — a championship title shot of their choice at the time of their choice. Rollins, ever the opportunist, decided to wedge his way into the title match and turn it into a three-way.
At this moment, I probably shrieked, and looked around the room. Despite the fact that a villainous moment was taking place, the room was filled with ear-to-ear smiles. Disaster was averted, Seth Rollins kicked Reigns out of the ring, performed his curb stomp finisher on Lesnar, then Lesnar reversed a second curb stomp into the start of his own F5 finisher, putting Rollins on his shoulders. Reigns stormed into the ring, speared Lesnar, and then Rollins hit Reigns with the curb stomp and pinned Reigns for a count of 3 and the championship, saving us from the boring outcome that most had resigned themselves to.
Rollins celebrated his victory on the stage, swinging the WWE Championship around like a 5 year old with a plastic guitar. This massive surprise moment was wrestling at it’s best, both engaging and surprising, and I was surrounded by friends. It was a good day.
Next: The Ring Post
* In response to a message left by an anonymous reader that disputes my chronology on this, I’ll quote Reigns’ wikipedia entry:
After the dissolution of The Shield in June 2014, Reigns (now a singles wrestler) was quickly inserted into world title contention that month, and he headlined the next two pay-per-views; the first when, two weeks after Rollins’ betrayal, Reigns won a battle royal on the June 16, 2014, episode of Raw to gain a spot in the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship ladder match at Money in the Bank, but failed to win the title during the main event match.
You claim that Roman spent time in a long feud with The Big Show before his title contention, but that feud took place in 2015, long after the aforementioned stint at the top of the card.