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WNS Column: What's the Best Way to Book Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns at WM 33?
Posted By: Caylon Knox on Mar 26, 2017
One of the feature matches for this year's WrestleMania will see former three-time WWE World Champion Roman Reigns take on the former seven-time WWE World Champion, the legendary Undertaker. While this match could certainly prove to be a turning point in the careers of both men, to say that this match wasn't exactly a "dream match" for most fans would be an understatement.
On one hand there's The Undertaker, who is arguably the greatest character in wrestling history. Making his WWE debut at Survivor Series 1990, The Undertaker is in many ways the last remnant of a bygone era in WWE history. While countless other legendary WWE Superstars have come and gone throughout the years, Undertaker is still actively performing for WWE, albeit in a very limited fashion. But unfortunately, between the years of in-ring competition, as well as the natural effects of aging, Undertaker's health has seen a sharp decline over the past decade or so. At 52 years of age and with over 30 years in the wrestling industry, Undertaker's body has been legitimately broken down and ravaged over time, and that's the cold reality of life, both in wrestling and in general.
And then there's Undertaker's opponent for WrestleMania 33, Roman Reigns. Formerly one-third of The Shield along with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns comes from the legendary Samoan Dynasty and is a former WWE World Champion, United States Champion, Tag Team Champion, and 2015 Royal Rumble Match Winner. Reigns is a solid performer in the ring who has had great matches over the years, but much like John Cena, Reigns has become one of the most polarizing Superstars that WWE has ever produced. While Reigns is indeed a very proficient in-ring performer, he has not been able to get over with the majority of the WWE fanbase in a very positive fashion.
Reigns always looked impressive while teaming with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in The Shield, but when WWE made the decision to split them up in the summer of 2014, it was painfully clear to everybody watching that Roman Reigns was not ready to be a singles competitor, and he certainly wasn't ready to become the mega star that WWE wanted him to be.
The past few years have been challenging for Reigns, to say the least. It's undeniable that Reigns deeply cares about his WWE career and always puts 110% effort into his work. His promo ability and his in-ring ability have both gotten much better over the years, and he has demonstrated that he is capable of having spectacular matches. But what hurts Reigns the most is how WWE continues to try to push him as the next top babyface of the company when it's obvious that the fans don't particularly care for Reigns as a babyface character. Quite frankly, most WWE fans hate Reigns' guts as a babyface character. He got much more positive crowd reactions when he was a heel along with Ambrose and Rollins.
Despite the fact that Roman Reigns has been loudly booed out of WWE arenas over the past few years, WWE simply REFUSES to change their stance when it comes to Reigns. They fantasize about Reigns being the top babyface and getting amazing crowd reactions along the lines of Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, or The Rock. It isn't happening, and unless WWE changes how they book Reigns, it's never going to happen.
And so now, Roman Reigns will step into the ring with The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33. It's supposed to be a babyface vs. babyface match-up, but as usual, the fans are not showing much support for Reigns heading into this match. And on top of everything, much like every WrestleMania for the past number of years, there are rumors that this year's WrestleMania could be Undertaker's last in-ring performance due to his various health issues.
Who should win and who should lose? If this is indeed Undertaker's swan song, how should he go out? How could WWE possibly book this match in a way that will somehow benefit Reigns in the long-term but still prove to be satisfying to the WWE audience? Should WWE have Undertaker retire with a final WrestleMania record of 23-2 and let Roman Reigns be the one who finally puts "The Dead Man" to rest once and for all?
There are a lot of ways this match could go, but the absolute worst thing that WWE could possibly do is simply have Reigns get a clean win over The Undertaker and then try to remain a babyface character. As much as he's getting booed now, if they take the easy and thoughtless route like that, it will completely destroy whatever connection Reigns has or ever will have with the WWE audience. That's not to say that Reigns winning would be terrible, but to simply get a clean win over The Undertaker at WrestleMania and then try to keep on being the same Roman Reigns we've seen since the end of The Shield would be... beyond sickening.
If they're going to have Roman Reigns beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania and possibly even be the one who finally ends Undertaker's career, they MUST turn Reigns heel. This is really not even up for debate. If Reigns beats Undertaker at WrestleMania, and especially if he ends his career, Roman Reigns 100% HAS TO TURN HEEL. It wouldn't matter if Undertaker got on the microphone after the match and tried to tell the world that Roman Reigns "now rules the yard" and "should be respected" or anything else to that effect. It wouldn't matter if they tried to do something emotional, like how Shawn Michaels was hesitant to end Ric Flair's career, or how Undertaker was hesitant to end Shawn Michaels' career. It wouldn't matter how they tried to do it. If Reigns wins this match and gets his hand raised by the referee after the bell rings, he is automatically a full-fledged heel by default.
Undertaker will undoubtedly be the sentimental favorite heading into the match and throughout the course of the match itself. But for the sake of long-term planning, would it really be right to have Undertaker get a clean victory over Roman Reigns? It all really boils down to whether or not this is truly Undertaker's last match. If it's not The Undertaker's last match, if there is still part of The Undertaker's amazing journey that has yet to be seen, if there is still one or more WrestleMania matches in Undertaker's future, then perhaps it would be good to just give the fans the feel-good moment by letting the legend get his hand raised against the young powerhouse in Reigns, so that way Undertaker won't be heading into next year's WrestleMania after a devastating loss.
But if this is The Undertaker's last stand, if this is his last performance, if this is the last time we'll ever see The Undertaker compete inside the squared circle, then old-school wrestling tradition dictates that Undertaker needs to do the honors for Reigns on his way out. But how exactly that could happen would be something that they would need to put a lot of thought and consideration into.
As mentioned before, if Reigns wins, he's heel. Plain and simple. But there are several ways that Reigns could win. If they want Reigns to get a clean win, then just have him completely dominate all of the match and show Reigns giving dirty, uncaring, and unsympathetic looks to The Undertaker, the referee, and the fans in attendance. Put emphasis on the fact that Reigns simply does not care about anybody or anything anymore. Have him completely destroy The Undertaker, show him no respect whatsoever, get a clean victory with ease, and then possibly even attack him after the match is over to really sell the fact that Reigns is now going to be one of the biggest heels in WWE history.
Or the other option would be to just simply have Reigns cheat to get the win. Either way would cement the Roman Reigns heel turn that everybody has been begging for for a very long time now.
The best outcome for all parties involved might be to have Reigns get the clean win by being ruthless and uncaring and not showing any respect. This would set his heel turn in motion, make him look like a dominant force by destroying Undertaker at WrestleMania, and also finally allow The Undertaker to retire and not have to destroy his body any longer. By going this route and turning Reigns heel, people can't really complain too much because it would give everybody exactly what they've been asking for, which is for WWE to stop shoving Reigns down the fans' throats as an annoying and intolerable babyface character. A lot of fans have also been asking WWE to just let Undertaker retire, which could also be taken care of by doing things this way. It works out for everybody.
The only other way that they could possibly, possibly have Reigns look good and still try to get a babyface crowd reaction would be if Reigns were to save The Undertaker from somebody who was trying to interfere in the match, such as Braun Strowman, who has a lot of history with both Reigns and Undertaker. If Reigns were to save The Undertaker from being assaulted by Strowman either during the match or after the match, it might make the fans not boo Reigns quite so much after getting a victory over The Undertaker. Reigns would still get tons of boos, but he would also get some cheers while he was saving Undertaker from Strowman.
But even then, Reigns getting a victory over The Undertaker would still make Reigns a heel in most people's eyes, even if he did save Undertaker from Strowman or somebody else.
It will be interesting to see what WWE comes up with for this match. Perhaps they'll think of something that nobody could have ever dreamed of in a million years. But will it be satisfying for the fans? We'll just have to wait and see what happens in Orlando, Florida's Camping World Stadium on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
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