Welcome to Wrestling Wrecap, a column focused on discussing and dissecting the week in pro wrestling.
It had been a little over four months when we last saw Roman Reigns in a WWE ring, during which he announced the return of his leukemia and his plans to battle it. So, when WWE announced that Reigns would be back on Raw this week fans were a little hopeful. Regardless of your feelings for Reigns as a character, we all felt for the person, Joe Anoa’i. Sadly, cancer has affected all of us in some way or another and so, we could all accept and root for this man who, love or hate him, has been in our lives as fans for the better part of seven years.
It is also why I was relieved to hear him announce he was in remission this Monday. In fact, not only was he in remission but he was ready to return physically, as the plans for a match at Fastlane are already in the works according to the rumor mills. What struck me the most about the segment was how confident and real Reigns was. Left to his own devices, as he so rarely is on screen, Roman Reigns is a cool and charismatic character who I could easily root for. It remains to be seen what Reign’s return to in-ring action will look like, but I think it is important for WWE to play it smart here.
To be clear, I’m less concerned with the health aspects. If there is one thing I trust WWE with implicitly it is looking out for the well-being of their performers, especially their biggest star. Creatively speaking, the company needs to use Reigns to his strengths. They’re going to have a ton of goodwill for a while off of Roman’s incredible recovery, but it won’t last if they just continue to keep Reigns the same as when he left. For better or worse, Reigns has changed because our perceptions of him, and the performer playing him, have changed. Lean into the differences and the natural energy that Roman possesses and you’ll have the big babyface you always wanted him to be. Personally, I’m cautiously optimistic that the company will not repeat the same booking that led to the constant jeering and fan resentment. Lord knows Raw needs him back.
Roman’s absence only showed how much the company had invested in him. Almost everyone else on the male roster felt small compared to him and with Roman no longer around to be the centerpiece to build the program on we had to settle for the interminable GM Corbin angle. I’m not saying that Raw will suddenly become a fantastic show with Roman back, but it will definitely have an energy that it has sorely been missing. One that couldn’t be filled with surprise returns from past superstars and NXT call-ups. Most of all though, I’m just excited to see Reigns back doing what he loves. Welcome back Big Dog, we’ve all missed you.
Do I Have Your Attention Now?
WWE continues to scramble to bring ratings up from the tailspin they’ve been on the last few months. This week saw the return of a number of wrestlers. On Smackdown, Matt Hardy returned to reunite the Hardy Boyz and Kevin Owens made his long awaited face debut (more on that in a bit.) Meanwhile on Raw, there was one other superstar waiting to make their way back to the company.
That’s right, the meme machine known as Dave Batista has returned to WWE and it was as amazing as we all hoped it would be. In a bravura move of misdirection, WWE announced that this week’s Raw would feature Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebration. An event that seems made for a fiery Irish redhead to come in and wreck shit during. Instead, Becky got arrested earlier in the night leaving the door open for another person.
The segment itself was a lot of buildup, most of which involved trotting out a bunch of other stars to celebrate Ric Flair only for the Nature Boy to be attacked in his dressing room by Batista. With only a single sentence and a primal scream, The Animal showcases why he earned that nickname and displays a new edge to his persona that could make the prospect of a Triple H/Batista feud in 2019 actually interesting.
Dave got royally screwed up by WWE last time he came back, during the height of the Yes Movement, coupled with their apparent disinterest in hyping up his role in Guardians of the Galaxy, (a boneheaded decision that still boggles the mind.) He had every reason to not want to return, but his decision to come back hopefully signals a trust that WWE is giving him some leeway this time. Either way, Batista really sells his unhinged rage and while I’m not excited for the endless Triple H promos that will come out of this. I’ll take it if it means more of this version of Big Dave.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A popular star finally gets their opportunity at one of the most prestigious titles only to have the boss come out and replace them with someone else who they have deemed “worthy.” Am I describing Becky Lynch’s current storyline or Kofi Kingston’s? The answer, as it turns out, is yes!
In a remarkable move of lazy writing, the company has given two of its superstars extremely similar stories. Now, you could argue that the little differences in both character and story do just enough to make it acceptable, but there is still far too much in common for that to hold much weight. This all seems to be leading to some sort of rebellion where Shane, Stephanie and Hunter all kick Vince to the curb but does anyone really want that?
As for Owens himself, the return is a bit odd when you’re having KO come in as a face. While I enjoy Owens in this role, this isn’t the best way to get a crowd invested in him. Still, I love the subtle bits of continuity here. Vince places Owens back on the brand where he bitterly feuded with Shane last Wrestlemania season. Not only that, but gives Owens a shot again Daniel Bryan, the man whose return match Owens tried to spoil with Sami Zayn. I doubt any of these bits are going to be played up much in the coming weeks, but it is nice to notice them regardless.
Now can we get #Kofimania at Wrestlemania, please?
Performer of the Week: Roman Reigns
Was there any doubt? I mean come on, the man beat fucking cancer! It would be unfair for anyone else to win this week with Reigns returning, especially with the pop he got for announcing his remission. If rumors are to be believe, we’re closer to a Reigns return match than most would think and considering how good he looked in the short bit of physicality we got from him this week, we might see more of the Big Dog in this section soon.
Apologies for missing last week, the flu won the battle for my attention. Anyway, If you made it down here, thanks for reading! Tell me what you thought about this week’s events in wrestling in the comments and, as always, any feedback is appreciated. Cheers