Roman Reigns has had arguably the most tumultuous year of any superstar currently on the WWE roster. At the Royal Rumble in January, Reigns was forced to put the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line in the 30-man battle royal main event. While Triple H won the Royal Rumble Match and the title, Reigns would defeat Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar in a Triple Threat Match at Fastlane, earning a spot in the main event against Hunter at WrestleMania 32.
Having won the title back from Helmsley at Mania, Roman would go on to successfully defend the title multiple times in a program with AJ Styles. However, after violating WWE’s Wellness Policy, the Big Dog dropped the belt to Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank and failed to recapture it a month later at Battleground. Having been selected by Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley to join the Monday Night Raw brand as part of the WWE Draft and brand extension, Reigns has been separated from Dean Ambrose and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
After the announcement of the new WWE Universal Championship, Reigns earned a match against Finn Bálor to determine who would face Rollins for the new title at WWE SummerSlam 2016. After the NXT call-up got the clean victory over the former champ, Roman’s SummerSlam plans were uncertain. Then, when Reigns confronted United States Champion Rusev on WWE Raw last week, Roman’s agenda for SummerSlam became more clear.
Could Roman Reigns leave WWE SummerSlam 2016 as the new WWE U.S. Champion? If Reigns’ brief history at the event is any indication, then Rusev’s reign could be over on August 21. While it hasn’t yet been confirmed by WWE’s official SummerSlam page, there’s no reason to think the match won’t happen.
SummerSlam 2013 — In The Corner Of Dean Ambrose
Roman’s first SummerSlam appearance came in 2013, when he was still a part of The Shield. Technically, he wasn’t a participant in the event, and he only showed up on the SummerSlam Pre-Show. As one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions, he and Rollins were in the corner of Dean Ambrose, who was defending the United States Championship against Rob Van Dam. As the match started, both Ambrose and Van Dam came to the ring alone. Just as RVD was about to hit his patented Five-Star Frog Splash, Reigns and Rollins made their way to ringside. Big Show and Mark Henry then showed up to support Van Dam. After RVD finally connected with his finisher, Roman jumped into the ring and hit Rob with a spear. This resulted in a win by disqualification for the challenger, but Ambrose still left with the gold.
SummerSlam 2014 — Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
A year later, The Shield had broken up. While his former stablemates were busy fighting each other, Reigns had been trying to win the WWE’s biggest prize. He had already failed to become the champ at Money in the Bank and Battleground. On an episode of Raw in July, Triple H was set to make an announcement about who would challenge John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam. When it appeared as though he was going to announce Orton as the new No. 1 contender, the proceedings were interrupted by Reigns, who attacked Randy before anything could be made official. Reigns vs. Orton was booked for SummerSlam instead. Less than a month after cleanly beating Randy Orton at the biggest event of the summer, Roman would suffer an incarcerated hernia, leaving him out of action for the rest of the calendar year.
SummerSlam 2015 — Reigns & Ambrose vs. The Wyatt Family
By August 2015, WWE still wasn’t ready to put the World Heavyweight Championship around the waist of Roman Reigns. Instead, Reigns was feuding with Bray Wyatt. With Bray receiving back-up from The Wyatt Family, Roman got support from Dean Ambrose. A combination of Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds and Reigns’ Superman Punch was enough to get the pinfall victory over The Eater of Worlds. Reigns would go on to defeat Wyatt at Hell in a Cell, putting their feud to rest. He would win his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship a few months later at Survivor Series and has won and lost the belt two more times since then.
SummerSlam 2016 — WWE United States Championship
Even after winning the WWE’s most prestigious title on three separate occasions, not everyone in the WWE Universe felt Reigns should be a top guy in the company. While serving his 30-day suspension, the live audiences seemed to agree with Seth Rollins that Roman shouldn’t be allowed to compete for the belt upon his return. Now, Reigns has been removed from the world title scene, and it appears as though he’ll be challenging Rusev for the WWE’s U.S. title at SummerSlam 2016. On August 1, after defeating Mark Henry on Monday Night Raw, Rusev mocked the United States, declaring that no one could beat him. While the match wasn’t made official, it was clear that Reigns will be challenging Rusev for the title at SummerSlam.
Whether or not Roman Reigns walks away from WWE SummerSlam 2016 as the United States Champion will give a clear indication as to what direction Reigns’ career will be taking in the New Era in which the WWE Universe currently finds itself. Many believe that Reigns is still being punished by WWE for violating the Wellness Policy. As evidence of this, proponents point to Reigns cleanly putting over Rollins at Money in the Bank, Ambrose at Battleground and then Bálor on Raw. Another big loss at SummerSlam would seem to confirm this theory. This seems to be the most likely outcome for the title match at SummerSlam.
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However, while the U.S. title will clearly be second to the WWE Universal Championship on the Raw brand, competing for the mid-card belt isn’t necessarily a demotion. Last year, John Cena’s reign with the title didn’t feel like punishment at all. Instead, it did a great deal to elevate the status of the belt by delivering some high-quality, high-profile title matches every week on Monday Night Raw. It could certainly be argued that WWE is trying to do the same thing by putting the belt around the waist of Reigns. Should Roman win the belt at SummerSlam, he would be the fourth former World Heavyweight Champion to wear the U.S. gold in the last year (along with Cena, Del Rio and Rollins).
Where To Watch
WWE SummerSlam 2016 is set for Sunday, August 21. It will air exclusively on the WWE Network at 8/7c. The SummerSlam Kick-Off Show will begin at 7/6c.
[Image via WWE]