At WWE Fastlane, Roman Reigns defeated in a hard fought contest against the leader of the “YES! Movement” to earn the right to go on to the main event at WrestleMania and face WWE champion Brock Lesnar for the title.
Much controversy had surrounded this match up. Bryan, who defeated Randy Orton and Batista in a tremendous triple threat match after already having beaten Triple H earlier in the night at last year’s WrestleMania to become the undisputed WWE champion, then had the misfortune of needing extensive neck surgery and aggressive physical therapy to help with nerve damage in his arm before being able to return to the ring. As a result of needing to take nine months off, Bryan was stripped of the WWE title, which ended up around the waist of the Beast, Brock Lesnar, at last year’s SummerSlam event, when he decimated the face of the WWE, John Cena, in what amounted to a squash match that saw Lesnar hit 16 brutal German suplexes on Cena, and three F-5’s, before pinning him for the title.
While Lesnar was busy silencing 70,000 people inside the Superdome by pinning the Undertaker, Bryan set about to raising the back to their feet when he capped off a tremendous six month storyline that had been kicked off at the previous year’s SummerSlam, when he beat John Cena clean in the middle of the ring to win the WWE undisputed championship before being screwed by Triple H of the Authority, who nailed Bryan with his patented Pedigree, allowing Money in the Bank holder Randy Orton to pin Bryan for the championship. Bryan, playing the role of the consummate underdog, was put against seemingly insurmountable odds and overcame them, creating a phenomenon that would become known as the “YES! Movement.” The angle and subsequent triumph vaulted Bryan, solidifying him as a main eventer and a leader of the WWE’s “Reality Era.”
However, years of abuse and taxation on Bryan’s body due to his aggressive in-ring style had taken their toll on Bryan’s body. Bryan was married to real life girlfriend Brie Bella shortly after his WrestleMania win, but his good fortune would quickly become soured. Bryan’s ever-positive perspective was put to the ultimate test when his father died suddenly, followed by news that Bryan would need possibly career-ending surgery. His triumph had become tragedy, and months of rehabilitation would necessitate that he be stripped of the very title he had worked so hard and brutalized his body for nearly a decade and a half to win.
Meanwhile, Reigns has set about establishing himself as a dominant powerhouse on the WWE roster. His explosiveness and agility, paired with his movie star looks, bronzed stature, and lineage to the same legendary Samoan wrestling legacy as his cousin, The Rock, positioned him as an easily acceptable top favorite. However, as WWE sought to establish Reigns as a possible successor to John Cena as the face of the WWE, questionably written promos that forced cartoonish, Cena like verbiage into the mouth of Reigns only fueled the fire that he “wasn’t ready.” When left to his own devices, his interviews seemed to be developing naturally. Then, when Bryan announced his entrance into the WWE Royal Rumble, the WWE Universe seemed to overthrow Reigns in favor of the returning and conquering hero, Bryan. WWE, however, had already set wheels in motion, and it appeared that plans would go forward to have Reigns main event WrestleMania 31 against Lesnar, even following up the controversial pay-per-view with a face-to-face showdown between Reigns and Lesnar on the following night’s WWE Monday Night Raw, which took place at the WWE Studios due to inclement weather.
It can be argued that Bryan is already a top guy, and WWE is short on main event level talent with mainstays like Randy Orton and John Cena aging. Roman Reigns, in a dominant and believable victory over Daniel Bryan, gained needed credibility leading into WrestleMania 31, and in beating Lesnar, can not only win his first WWE championship, but also reap the benefits of the “Undertaker rub,” gaining the benefit of beating the one in 21-1. Instead of having one major top guy in Bryan, WWE can make two potential leaders of the “Reality Era,” and given the work between the two, spark what could be viewed in years to come as a legendary rivalry between Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. Their work together in recent weeks has not only made for outstanding television with both of their divergent styles meshing well, but has also provided an opportunity for Bryan to help season Reigns in a short amount of time and get him ready for a physically aggressive encounter with Lesnar at WrestleMania. Hopefully, Reigns beating Bryan in what was a solid match and doing so clean will earn the respect of the WWE Universe’s doubters. Reigns versus Lesnar at WrestleMania will surely make for a tremendous match-up, and when it is said and done, the WWE Universe could end up witnessing the dawning of the Roman Empire.