Roman Reigns’ visit to Vince McMahon’s doghouse last summer coincided with Finn Balor’s promotion to the main roster as the WWE embarked on their latest brand extension experiment. Reigns had just violated the WWE Wellness Policy and wasn’t getting over as the top babyface the way officials had hoped. Balor got called up during the draft to take the spot Reigns had vacated, and Roman would slide down the card as a form of punishment.
Balor, of course, would beat Reigns clean in the main event during Finn’s first night on RAW to advance to SummerSlam, where he would face Seth Rollins to determine the first-ever WWE Universal Champion. The victory over Reigns was preceded by a win over Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and Rusev during one of the two fatal four-way qualifying matches that night, cementing Balor’s debut as one of the most successful ever.
Balor would go on to become Universal Champion, but that monumental victory at SummerSlam came with a price. The Demon King suffered a shoulder injury that’s kept him out of action since, forcing him to relinquish the title less than 24 hours later. His predicted recovery time varied, as some reports had him on the shelf for four to six months while others weren’t as optimistic, sidelining him for six to eight months.
It’s been a little over six months as of this writing, but that initial time frame had fans all around the world projecting either a surprise return at the Royal Rumble or, at the very least, a return that would allow for a marquee program leading to WrestleMania. And even though Roman Reigns never captured the Universal Championship, Balor’s setback forced the company to insert Reigns back into the main event scene.
At the Royal Rumble, Reigns lost his title match against Kevin Owens thanks to outside interference from Braun Strowman. He’d return later that night as the 30th and final entrant in the Royal Rumble match, which was met with a chorus of boos inside the Alamodome and plenty of negative reactions from everyone else watching on television. The hope was that Balor would have entered at No. 30, but it was not to be.
WWE officials were hoping for something similar, but Balor was not cleared for competition during the week leading up to the Royal Rumble. This caused a domino effect of creative changes backstage as several WrestleMania programs were scheduled to get kick-started in San Antonio.
According to a recent report from SportsKeeda, had Finn Balor received medical clearance, he would have entered the Rumble match. What’s more interesting is that not only would he have come in as a surprise entrant, but everything that Roman Reigns did in the Rumble match would have been done by Finn Balor, but it may have happened earlier on in the match. That means the company was planning on a WrestleMania match between Finn Balor and the Undertaker.
So not only did Roman Reigns replace Finn Balor in the Royal Rumble, but it also means he took his spot at WrestleMania, as the company is moving forward with an Undertaker-Reigns WrestleMania feud. Braun Strowman’s interference during the Universal Championship match that night was still going to happen, leading to what would have been a Strowman-Reigns rivalry culminating at or going through WrestleMania.
Balor’s absence changed things to where Reigns will now go through Strowman at Fastlane on his way to the match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Strowman appears headed for a key role in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and is the current favorite. Finn Balor recently made an appearance during the NXT tapings and is tapped for a WrestleMania appearance, but in what capacity remains to be seen.
The Undertaker’s WrestleMania opponents have now gone from John Cena to Finn Balor to Roman Reigns in less than three months. There was also brief consideration given to him facing Braun Strowman at one point. When Balor wasn’t cleared for the Royal Rumble, WWE officials inserted Reigns into the final spot knowing that a Randy Orton win would guarantee a positive reaction from the crowd. This, despite Orton’s heel status and Reigns still trying to play the part of babyface.
[Featured Image by WWE]