Okay, you have to give me credit. I re-started the blog in earnest in late June, and it’s almost October, and aside from a mention in a round-up of things I do to (try) to stave off depression and to shout-out a pro wrestling review podcast, I haven’t done one professional wrestling post. Not one dedicated to me just geeking out about professional wrestling!
I’ve done goodness knows how many horror movie review posts, writing posts, food reviews, Smallville tidbits as I re-re-re-watch it, and yet, not one professional wrestling post.
Well, spoiler for those who are new to who I am: Professional wrestling is my second love. Earlier today in my post about reading, I said reading was my first love. Wrestling was next. And I still religiously watch it, and if anything, I’ve been watching it more lately as far as week-to-week basis goes.
But after what I just watched at WWE (if you’re completely oblivious to pro wrestling, you might know it as WWF, the name it went by prior to 2002 when it was more mainstream with guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock; yes, that Rock) Clash of Champions, the organization’s September pay-per-view, I have to geek out, folks.
Let me set the stage. Roman Reigns, who has been quite literally the Big Dog in the yard (that’s his nickname) for the last half decade (and even a few years prior to that as the member of a three-man group known as The Shield), and he’s been pushed (meaning positioned atop the card) as a traditional white meat babyface, aka, a good guy in the ilk of a Superman. He even has a move called the Superman Punch. However, because of this, fans have rejected him. They don’t want that white meat good guy booking. That’s not an exclusive phenomenon to pro wrestling, either. Look around: The antihero has been ascendant for years now. Fans wanted the cool Roman Reigns they fell in love with when he was a member of The Shield, where he said few words and batted clean-up basically.
Years and years of hoping the WWE would do something different with him. Then Roman, whose real name is Joe Anoaʻi, revealed in fall 2018 that he his leukemia was back (and that he even had it at all; something that wasn’t widely known) in one of the most surreal moments I’ve seen as a pro wrestling fan.
By February 2019, he was back in a WWE ring, announcing that he’d beaten leukemia back into remission:
And from that point on, WWE actually started booking Roman Reigns to where he was getting the good guy “heat” again, meaning he was getting cheered. Fans were behind him, and it’s not just his real life battles. The booking made sense. All of which was leading to him presumably taking the world title at WrestleMania 36, WWE”s flagship Super Bowl-like show. Then COVID-19 happened. He stepped away again to protect his family and himself.
But then he returned at WWE SummerSlam in August, WWE’s second biggest show of the year. He kicked everyone’s butts and then left. That literally became a t-shirt: Wreck Everyone & Leave (he also had Show Up & Win). Then it was revealed a few weeks later that he was with Paul Heyman, the bad guy advocate (a new word for “manager”) of Brock Lesnar. Aligning himself with Paul Heyman meant the unthinkable had happened: Roman Reigns had turned to the dark side. He was a heel! A bad guy! Unthinkable to someone like me watching in 2015, even though by 2016 or so, this is what we wanted. We just never thought WWE would actually do it, that they would actually turn Superman into a bad guy. Instead of being an advocate, Paul Heyman was playing the role as if he was deferential to the tribal chief, Roman Reigns, a nod to his real life Samoan lineage.
Fast forward now to the lead-up to Clash of Champions. Jey Uso, who is one half of the tag team, The Usos with Jimmy Uso, his twin brother, perhaps the greatest modern tag team in WWE, won a number one contender’s match to challenge Roman Reigns. Roman is his real life cousin. In fact, that entire family has quite the lineage. Roman is even related to The Rock.
On the WWE SmakDown before the PPV, Jey cut a heck of a promo that helps tell the story of Roman Reigns, the Big Dog, the tribal chief, the man who main evented four WrestleManias in a row (31 through 34), something only Hulk Hogan can lay claim to versus Jey Uso, who up to that point, had never even challenged for a single’s title:
The Usos have always been my personal favorite tag team of the modern era, and I was stoked to see Jey get this “push,” as we call it, to the main event scene. Not to mention, the story is befitting because of the real life family connections.
Then we get to the match at the PPV. One of the big complaints about Roman Reigns when he was booked as a good guy was his attire: He wore a chest protector from his Shield days, which makes no sense for a good way to wear. Not to mention, Roman Reigns is a big, brick house of a dude, show off that physique! It’s a body business after all.
The entire match plays out with such beautiful storytelling. Someone on Twitter said when wrestling is good, it makes you feel good, and this match made me feel so darn good. To use familiar wrestling jargon; this match made me “mark out,” which means, get excited, and I was basically giddy and excited from the moment Roman came out until the final seconds of the broadcast.
Throughout the match, Reigns was basically doing the Walter White from Breaking Bad bad guy thing of, “Say my name.” He wanted Jey Uso to acknowledge that he’s the tribal chief; that he’s the head of the table. All of this is in furtherance of getting over (meaning, establish) the tribal chief characterization of Roman Reigns. Roman was brutal about it, though. Throughout the entire match, he’s talking so much crap to Jey and even the referee. He’s talking about how Jey is trying to level up, but Roman’s been at that level. Adding injury to insult (can I flip the idiom?), he also kept brutalizing Jey Uso to get that point across, though. So much so that Jimmy Uso came out, who is still on the shelf injured, with a white towel to throw in the towel. But Jey doesn’t want him to. So Roman pounds him some more.
Jimmy finally does throw in the towel, and Roman pounds him an extra few seconds for good measure. Just absolutely beautiful storytelling.
It’s a perfect 22 minutes, 55 seconds of professional wrestling storytelling. The underdog versus the big dog. The guy trying to level up versus the guy who is already at that level. And you like any great underdog story, the underdog gets those moments where IT LOOKS LIKE HE MIGHT JUST DO IT! and then he can’t. He can’t. He’s not at that level.
The Big Dog is too much.
I love pro wrestling.
If you’re a pro wrestling fan, did you also geek out about this? If you’re a lapsed fan, WHY?! And if you’re not a wrestling fan and you read up to this point, well thank you!