Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania

Indubitably the two biggest professional wrestling stars on the planet, and in their primes, facing each other.

Only two other feuds that were featured matches at WrestleMania occurred on three separate occasions, and only one will be in the main event each time — that being Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 38 on April 3, 2022.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock also fought at three WrestleMania events: WrestleMania 15 in 1999, WrestleMania 17 in 2001, and WrestleMania 19 in 2003. However, the latter, which unbeknownst to fans was Austin’s retirement match, did not main event the show.

HHH and The Undertaker also fought at three WrestleMania events: WrestleMania 17 in 2001, WrestleMania 27 in 2011, and WrestleMania 28 in 2012. However, none of them were the main event of their respective WrestleMania events.

Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns previously fought at WrestleMania 31 in 2015, and WrestleMania 34 in 2018. Both matches main evented, and this time, again in the main event on Sunday for the two-night stupendous (their tag-word for the event) extravaganza the stakes are even higher: Brock Lesnar is coming in as the WWE Champion and Roman Reigns is coming in as the Universal Champion, and the match is a unification, winner-take-all match.

The company is billing it as the biggest WrestleMania match of all time. In a kayfabe sense (that is, in the scripted universe of professional wrestling), it sort of is hard to argue against that.

Consider:

  • Brock Lesnar defeated the Undertaker’s undefeated Streak at WrestleMania in 2014 at WrestleMania 30, bringing the Deadman’s win-loss to 21-1. He’s also a two-time Royal Rumble winner, winning in 2003 and most recently in 2022 (a 19-year difference!), and has the second-longest reign as Universal Champion, holding the belt for at 504 days. He also beat Hulk Hogan to a bloody pulp on his way to defeating The Rock back in 2002 to become (at the time) the youngest WWE Champion ever. Oh, he also dominated the Ultimate Fighting Championship. And so on.
  • Roman Reigns has main evented five previous WrestleMania events, with this one coming up marking his sixth. Only two other wrestlers have more, with Hulk Hogan at eight, and HHH at seven. He also broke Brock’s aforementioned reign as Universal Champion, having held the title for 576 days and counting. That puts him behind only Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund for longest world title reigns of the modern era. He’s also won a Royal Rumble (in 2015). And he’s also only the second person to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, having done so at WrestleMania 33 in 2017.
Quite impressive. And it still doesn’t even capture everything.

The only thing Roman hasn’t quite done, which he outlined in a great promo on the go-home edition of WrestleMania Raw on March 28, 2022, is beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.

So, yeah, in kayfabe, I can see it. In reality (and really, in kayfabe, too), I’m not sure I would put this upcoming match over Rock/Austin, Hogan/Andre, and so on, but marketing has to do its thing.

Ahead of their third clash at WrestleMania, I took some time yesterday to watch Roman and Brock’s prior two encounters.

WrestleMania 31: Roman, the Underdog

I was already a Roman Reigns fan prior to this match, but his performance here took it over the edge.

At WrestleMania 31, Roman was coming off the heels of winning the Royal Rumble, where the closing shot was The Rock, his cousin, anointing him. However, the moment was “ruined” by a chorus of boos from the Philadelphia crowd. At that point, despite Roman being the most over guy while part of The Shield with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, by the time he became the proverbial Chosen One of the company and christened to fill John Cena’s shoes, who was on his way out, the crowd wanted nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, at this time, Brock Lesnar was more dominant than ever. Not only was he coming off the heels of ending the Streak at the prior WrestleMania, but at Summerslam 2014, he demolished Cena.

Come match time, they play up this story of Roman being overmatched. Within 30 seconds of the match starting, Brock hits his finishing move, the F5, on Roman. But he doesn’t want to go for the pin; he wants to teach Roman a lesson, and it probably didn’t help that in the initial melee, Roman actually cut Brock on the cheekbone and you could see it swelling. Brock starts suplexing Roman around like he did Cena at Summerslam. To the point where Brock off-the-cuff coins what’s been his calling card ever since, “Suplex city, bitch!” But something weird is happening … Roman is laughing. He’s egging Brock on. So, yeah, he’s overmatched, but he’s game. Roman gets a little bit of offense in, but Brock overpowers him every single time in brutal fashion. In fact, Brock looks worse in the face, at least, because Roman hits a sick knee to his head, causing Brock to bleed from the mouth, and later he drives Brock’s face into the steel ring post, where Brock is cut open on the forehead (in what I believe is a hard-way, meaning he was legitimately busted open instead of intentionally blading his forehead). As the match progresses, Brock visibly gets more and more perplexed that Roman keeps getting up and is laughing. So, after Roman kicks out of an F5, he takes his gloves off and starts slapping the crap out of Roman. But Roman’s got that Samoan blood and jaw, baby! He’s still laughing! Thanks to the Brock being bloody and woozy after the ring post spot, Roman is able to rally with his Superman punches, which Brock sells like a drunkard and it’s amazing, and hits two spears, but it’s still not enough to beat Brock, the Beast Incarnate. That’s when Roman’s former Shield buddy, Seth Rollins, comes down with the Money in the Bank briefcase, cashes it in, turning the match into a triple threat match. He’s able to pull off, as Michael Cole calls it on commentary, the “Heist of the Century!” by pinning Roman.

So, Brock didn’t actually beat Roman at WrestleMania 31, but Roman didn’t beat Brock, either. It wasn’t the coronation we expected.

The match clocked in at 16 minutes and 43 seconds. I think it’s one of the best WrestleMania main events ever. It told a fantastic story of Roman being overmatched, but still fighting back. I loved it, and I’ve probably seen that main event back more than any other in the last decade. Even watching it yet again yesterday, I was “marking out” all over again. It pulls you in so well.

WrestleMania 34: Roman Reigns, The Big Dog

What a shot.

Three years later at WrestleMania 34, the crowd has not only continued resisting Roman as the Chosen One, but they’ve now turned on Brock, who has been painted (unfairly) with the “all he does is suplexes” and he’s “hogging space” brush. And in kayfabe, the company has made Brock as detestable as they could, by making it seem like he doesn’t like professional wrestling and he’s just there to make money. Once the match is in the ring in New Orleans, the live crowd, of which I was in attendance, did not want to even give it a chance. The crowd was booing it, chanting unrelated things, playing with a blow-up volleyball, etc. I was not one of them, for the record.

Nonetheless, unlike the first main event match, in this one, Roman is put on a more equal footing with Brock. He doesn’t seem as overmatched. He’s getting in more offense. In fact, Brock hits three of his suplexes early on Roman and they don’t seem to even phase him. There is also more action outside the ring in this one, including a callback to the ring post spot, and then a sick spot where Roman spears Brock onto the announcer’s table. Then the match sort of turns into what fans call a finisher spam fest (like when you’re playing the wrestling video game and you just keep hitting your finisher on your opponent), where Brock hits three F5s in a row, then a fourth one through a table, and then a fifth one back in the ring. Roman kicks out of all of it. That’s a bit ridiculous! But, the voltage turns up again, when Brock takes off his gloves (another callback) and instead of slaps, he goes for hard elbows that cut Roman open hard-way (I think). Roman has the proverbial crimson mask, which gives him the adrenaline to fire up against Brock momentarily before being snuffed out with a sixth and final F5.

Much like at WrestleMania 31, fans expected that this was finally the coronation moment for Roman as The Guy™. Instead, the bad guy won, and Roman was bloodied and lost. Again.

This one was about the same length as their prior affair, at 15 minutes and 55 seconds. I don’t like it as much as their 31 match because the story isn’t as strong, but the action is still fun, and I certainly enjoyed it far more than the live crowd did.

WrestleMania 38: Roman, God Mode

Acknowledge him.

Going into WrestleMania 38, the story is different yet again. This time, Roman has been a bad guy for more than a year and a half, even aligning himself with Brock’s former agent, Paul Heyman, now known as the “Wise Man.” Roman is playing a “God Mode” character. He has far more confidence than ever. And yet, he still seems to be paranoid about his ability to finally beat Brock Lesnar. Brock, meanwhile, is a full-on, farmer-from-Minnesota babyface. And because of this change in dynamics, WWE has pulled off an incredible feat where four years after this same match-up was booed out of the building at WrestleMania, fans are actually anticipating this clash now. They like both guys involved, and want to see “big meaty men” fight.

And this time, I fully expect Roman to finally get his win. To finally beat Brock Lesnar. From underdog, to the Big Dog, to God mode, Roman is finally ready to conquer the Beast.

And I also expect it to be another great freakin’ match, with the possibility of being their best one yet given where both guys are at right now: their peaks. Will we get blood for a third time? We shall see. I just hope they go back to telling that strong story instead of relying too much on finishers.

I can also say, I will be in attendance for this one, so, I will have attended two of the three main events between these two men. That’s pretty awesome.

Are you looking forward to this match on Sunday?

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