RAW Deal: The roads to WrestleMania 34

LAS VEGAS, USA – Elimination Chamber has come and gone, and we have a clear challenger for Brock Lesnar's Universal Championship at WrestleMania 34. As expected, rumored, and predicted over the past year, it's none other than the Big Dog, Roman Reigns.

After proffering some other possible (and credible) options over the past few weeks, such as Seth Rollins (and his amazing one-hour gauntlet match performance) and Braun Strowman – and after John Cena reportedly pushed very hard for either of those two men to win the chamber match instead – Vince McMahon still decided to give us his vision of what the WrestleMania main event should be. And so, we're getting Roman Reigns, and we're supposed to like it.

You know what? Fair enough, I'll say. Reigns put out quite the performance inside the first-ever 7-man Elimination Chamber, and even if he didn't have any eliminations to his name (all of them belonged to Strowman, in his chamber debut) he definitely contributed. He earned his victory with a hard-fought battle, and regardless of what you all feel about it you can’t say that he didn't do his part. It was a good way to reintroduce Reigns to the main event scene.

What I'm not okay with, actually, is how WWE seemingly decided to half-ass on their decision – by having Strowman destroy Reigns after the match.

Yes, they did that so that Strowman could still look strong after losing a match in which he did all the eliminating. You could argue that he might have needed that – but I'll argue that he won't, because his 5 eliminations are already a starmaking shine in itself – and if you really needed to get him his heat back, it shouldn't have to be at the immediate expense of the guy you're sending up to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Seeing the contender lying in a heap of his own broken body doesn't quite paint a picture of confidence, for the challenger himself and for the actual main event.

With one speck of doubt arising from Reigns' inability to fend off Strowman's post-match assault, they just ended up inadvertently telling everyone that hey, Strowman should've been the guy to win after all. Why should we back Reigns in his quest to defeat Lesnar?

Now it's Reigns whose heat needs salvaging, and fortunately they were able to do some of that on RAW the next night. He cut a promo laying it really thick on Lesnar because he wasn't on RAW after being heavily advertised for the show, for who knows what – and by God, it was the best Reigns promo the whole Universe has heard in a long time. Reigns wasn't handed anything scripted; instead, he seemed to have tapped into a deep inner well of feelings toward Lesnar and his part-time WWE contract. This is the kind of speech Reigns needs to be spouting week in and week out if he wants to really establish himself as a main eventer.

 

I don't know if the Lesnar absence this week was intentional (so that Reigns could be able to say something like that) but if it was, then well-played. If it wasn't… well, the stars are aligning, and given the way the Universe was reacting toward Reigns' sentiments toward Lesnar, they're over the Beast's championship reign, and they may finally accept the Big Dog winning the big one at WrestleMania.

Ronda Rousey is officially here

MMA star Ronda Rousey has finally signed her WWE contract (on live TV, no less) at the Elimination Chamber PPV, and they're starting her hot.

After this week's RAW, Rousey's certain to be facing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon while tagging with RAW GM Kurt Angle, resulting from Angle exposing the Helmsleys' plans to manipulate Rousey after her fall from grace in the MMA world. It's honestly the best story they can go with for the Rowdy One, as anything that would involve her facing any of the women's champions would be too unbelievable, too much, too soon. Playing on the meta factors swirling around Rousey's career adds even more hype to this WrestleMania story, and now I'm more intrigued than I was when she first appeared.

 

John Cena's quest

Another interesting storyline slowly emerging is John Cena and his persistent search for an opponent at WrestleMania.

Cena's in that stage of his career in which he's no longer actively and consistently tangled in any stories in the WWE – his free agent status is pretty much an acknowledgment of the guy's constant forays into Hollywood – so now he’s inserting himself anywhere he could, just so he could be guaranteed a spot at WrestleMania. He qualified for the Elimination Chamber for a shot at the title, but lost; now, he's qualified for the WWE Championship match at Fastlane next week.

 

It's all a bit forced, a clear detour for him in order to boost SmackDown's somewhat lagging solo PPV, but I wish it weren't so blatant. It's obviously a last-minute decision since the Fatal Five-Way for Fastlane has all been set up in the commercials, so I wish they gave him Shinsuke Nakamura to face at the PPV instead. Imagine: Cena challenges Nakamura for his title shot at Fastlane; should he win (and he really won't) his build toward WrestleMania isn't crammed, and it would end up making more sense. It feels like they just panicked and wondered how they could make Fastlane more star-studded than it already is.

The real story here, really, is that Cena's headed toward a match against Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania. That's why he's taking his route through SmackDown; when he loses his shot at Fastlane, Mysterio is supposed to pop up somewhere and answer his call. Now that's a match I'd like to see, because we haven't really seen it since 2011, and I'd like to see the Cena that's been through guys like Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, and AJ Styles face a Mysterio that's been all around the world (and will be wrestling NJPW's Jushin Thunder Liger by then).

*****

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