Let me begin by saying WrestleMania 34 was one of the best I’ve seen in years, and I can’t fault anything outside of the main event. Okay yes, so maybe The Undertaker vs. John Cena could have lasted longer, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles could have been better, but I usually don’t like to nitpick minor things. I like to learn from blunders, and WWE made a massive one with Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar. I’m here to look at the reasons why fans didn’t care for it. After a delicious, yet long WrestleMania 34, many will agree it ended at its worst.
1) Goldberg Showed WWE’s Current Talents Are Not Popular Enough – The last time we saw Brock Lesnar lose was in the exceptionally quick match with Goldberg. That didn’t sit too well with some, as it told fans the current full-time talent are not as strong as a 50-year-old who hadn’t wrestled in years. Goldberg could beat Brock Lesnar in seconds, but was eventually defeated in the rematch. Compare them to Kevin Owens, who could do nothing but lose to Goldberg like a Curt Hawkins, and it becomes clear why some feel resentment for WWE’s booking of the Universal Title. No one except Goldberg can beat Brock Lesnar, and even then, he has to underestimate his opponent to be caught off guard.
2) Braun Strowman Wrecks Roman Reigns; Beaten Quickly by Brock Lesnar – Not too long ago we saw Braun Strowman take everything Roman Reigns had and keep fighting. Braun Strowman usually had the upper hand in their feud, but since he turned face it seems he’s lost endurance. When Braun Strowman went up against Brock Lesnar on his own, he was put down by just one F-5. When Kane and Braun Strowman went up against Brock Lesnar, again it took one F-5. When Roman Reigns fought Brock Lesnar? Six F-5s. How does that make any sense? Is Roman Reigns three times more durable than Braun Strowman and Kane combined? How does Roman Reigns kick out of something two monsters can’t handle once? I know Roman Reigns uses the Superman Punch, but it really makes everyone look crap. Braun Strowman is liked by the WWE Universe, so his match last year with Brock Lesnar was disappointing.
3) The Roman Reigns “Shoot” – It made sense to have Roman Reigns parrot fans frustrations of Brock Lesnar’s part-time status, but to me? It came across as cheap and petty. Instead of working hard to be strong enough to beat Brock Lesnar with mindgames, he turned in to a mark in a bid to get the marks on his side. But it didn’t work, because most fans like Brock Lesnar more than Roman Reigns, despite him holding the title hostage. I don’t understand what they were trying to achieve, the promo was supposed to be a rallying cry to the WWE Universe. It was meant to motivate fans in getting behind him so he could bring the Universal Title back to Raw.
The problem? The fans didn’t care enough. Better the Devil you know, than the Devil you really don’t want to know. Outside of the “shoot”, and Paul Heyman’s long-winded tirades (I freaking love Paul Heyman with all my heart, but his promos were long and over-the-top), there wasn’t anything else to sell it. The feud wasn’t personal enough, it was just Roman Reigns getting frustrated that Brock Lesnar has special privileges, while Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman laughed it off. Are we meant to care for the whiner? Or the part-time champ?
4) Booking It as the Main Event – It was a really bad idea to make it the main event. Even on their best days, I can never see Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar stealing the show, so why put them at the end? The fans had to sit through six hours of wrestling and they were tired as hell. We have seen Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar before, so why not give someone else a chance? AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura? Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair? Hell, even The Undertaker vs. John Cena would’ve been better (only if it lasted longer). But no, Vince McMahon needs his boys in the main event, because that’s what all the bored, tired, beach ball playing fans paid to see? Right?
5) No Beginning or Middle. Only End, and More End – A wrestling match needs to be told like a story. You get everyone invested in it with a feeling out process. The fight heats up and the competitors start hitting bigger moves; and perhaps tease a finisher here and there. The big moves come out near the end, and the climax is reached as a result. But the sad reality of Brock Lesnar matches (since his return several years ago) is they’ve become too predictable. I was watching when Brock Lesnar made his original debut all those years ago, and he was an exciting prospect. You could sit through a Brock Lesnar match and see more than just strike, strike, suplex, suplex, suplex, suplex, suplex, F-5, pin. Go back and watch Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle matches, and you’ll see he has way more in his arsenal. He doesn’t have to go to Suplex City and F-5s all the time, he’s very capable of more.
For a while I defended this style as it suited his character. But what we saw at WrestleMania 34 showed it at its worst. When you go from nothing, right in to back-to-back finishers, it’s insulting fans. They paid to see a proper match, but Brock Lesnar skips over the foundations. You get half a match with him, and it didn’t help Roman Reigns with the crowd. We know Roman Reigns can have good matches sometimes, but he can’t do it with Brock Lesnar due to restrictions. It forces him to do the same as Brock Lesnar, jumping straight in to Superman punches and spears. It’s like buying a new video game and inputting a cheat so you can do all the big moves without earning them; you’re robbing yourself of playing the game as intended for cheap thrills which you’ll only grow tired of.
It wasn’t just suplex and F-5s, the table spots were poorly executed. Everything seemed off, and the spots were not exciting compared to what we’d seen earlier in the night, or even what we’d seen the previous night at Takeover. It was the most hyped match, but it was also the worst worked of the weekend. I want to blame it more on Brock Lesnar’s limitations than Roman Reigns. Had the match built sufficiently, the crowd “might” have got in to it.
6) Busting Open the Hard Way Failed to Get the Result – I figured WWE would have learned from the Randy Orton match, but they didn’t! There is no chance in hell that busting Roman Reigns open the hard way is going to make the crowd support him. It didn’t work for Randy Orton, he got wrecked, and where is he now? Getting beat for the US title. If this is a way to demote Roman Reigns, then great job, but how do you demote someone who kept going after all those F-5s? How do you demote him when no one else can take that kind of punishment? The match didn’t need blood. It didn’t make much sense as the feud never got that personal. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa was x1000 more heated and they didn’t bleed like that. Brock Lesnar busted Roman Reigns open for shock value, but only a few fans were. At the end of the show, WWE put the camera back on a defeated Roman Reigns and played his music. And no one cared, no claps, no thank you’s, no standing ovations. There was no sympathy for Roman Reigns.
7) It Will Absolutely Happen! – Another issue with the build for this was the “spoiler” that Reigns would definitely face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania and win. So as you can imagine, all those who believed the outcome didn’t want Roman Reigns to win, because it was too predictable. Had Roman Reigns won, they would have said “I knew this over six months ago”. Instead, they turn their attention to how bad the match was, as they want to deflect and not admit they were fooled by fake news.
Recent news stated that Brock Lesnar was leaving for UFC, so just like WrestleMania XX when Brock Lesnar and Goldberg were scheduled to leave WWE, it was a similar atmosphere with many fans wanting to crap all over it. How do you care when one guy is destined for glory while the other is destined to leave? The resulting pop from the pinfall was funny, because to fans it meant a) Brock Lesnar wasn’t leaving yet, and b) Roman Reigns isn’t the golden boy many think he is. The ever credible backstage sources played a role in making fans disinterested.
8) Matches With Rules + Brock Lesnar = Do Not Mix – I keep finding new reasons as I write this. Since Brock Lesnar returned, most of his singles matches have been terrible. It’s only when the match has no rules and his opponent takes it to him, does Brock Lesnar deliver his best work. There’s only so many finishers and suplex you can use in one match, so his forced limitation isn’t so apparent when he can pick up a chair, some steel steps, or his opponent can find weapons to use against him. Brock Lesnar is creative in these matches, he’s good at using furniture to make his offense seem even more destructive. What WWE could’ve done, was change the main event to a No Disqualification without warning. Just have it announced that the match is now No DQ, and the fans would have gone “ooooo that’s cool!”. I remember them doing a similar thing with Steve Austin and The Rock one year and it worked a treat.
9) Finishers Mean Jack Squat – The most insulting thing was how many finishers failed to put the other away. The F-5 usually puts an opponent away first time. Brock Lesnar was never injured, or tired, so all six F-5s were hit with maximum power. Not only that, but Brock Lesnar took many spears and Superman Punches, too, with two spears connecting hard during Roman’s blood rush. Compare it to other big matches on the card: AJ used one Styles Clash to put away Shinsuke Nakamura. Asuka felt the Figure 8 once before tapping out. One Tombstone for John Cena. One giant Samoan Drop on Alexa Bliss. Other matches made use of finishers wisely, while the repeated usage in this match did nothing but make both men’s offense look weak. It was ridiculous by the third F-5. By the fifth F-5 I didn’t know what to think anymore.
10) Faith in Roman Reigns – WWE has tried too hard to make Roman Reigns “the guy” for a few years now. When you tell someone they should like something, they’re naturally going to resist. Why should we care? What redeeming qualities do they have? Do they excel in one area? All areas? Can we relate to them? Can they make us feel different emotions? Do we look forward to seeing them? What is their selling point? What can they do that no one else can do?
Roman Reigns doesn’t have many likeable qualities. Girls like his look, and kids probably see him as a super hero (do they? I’m asking for real). He’s related to The Rock, and grew up in the business, so at least he’s loyal, but so are many others. When you look at his family, who had charisma outside The Rock and Rikishi? I guess Umaga and Yokozuna did in a monster-ish way, but they weren’t asked to cut promos. The Usos are getting there, but how long did it take ’em to find their voice? Roman Reigns is main eventing WrestleMania’s and has still yet to find his voice. It always comes across like he’s remembering lines.
It’s this undying faith in Roman Reigns which continues to hurt audiences. Those who don’t care either cheer for the heel (which made Braun Strowman a star), or they get bored and chant stupid stuff. Embarrassing to end the show of the year this way, and time will tell if WWE learns from it. In their eyes, they don’t care as long as everyone’s reacting .. but do they want to keep going through this? When are they going to listen and realize he’s not as popular as they want him to be? And how can he bounce back after a beating like that? How can he represent the full-time roster when he’s incapable of defeating Lesnar? I can’t answer any of that.
I’ve really gone to town on this match. I could have been way more brutal, but I think I’ll leave it for you guys. I have no idea what WWE was thinking with this main event, and I believe it’s going down as one of the worst in WrestleMania history. I’m always going to look back at this WrestleMania and suppress the last 20 minutes or so from my memory, because the show was fantastic. I loved everything about it, and I hope it motivates WWE’s rosters in to making 2018 the best year in a long time.