Today’s Knockout gathers its WWE writers to discuss some of the most recent happenings in its latest roundtable discussion.
Fill in the blank: John Cena’s return to WWE has you feeling _______.
(Courtesy of WWE.com)
Riley Kontek: Indifferent. He really hasn’t been gone that long, and I wanted to see a WWE where he is not constantly around in the center of the storylines. It was refreshing to see the WWE feature more and more different wrestlers at the top of the card and have more important roles. His return will put him back where he was and bring back the same old formula. I wish he would stay out a little bit longer.
Joseph Nardone: Optimistic, honestly. I feel like the WWE has a great opportunity to freshen things up upon his return. I wouldn’t mind him recapturing the U.S. Title and restarting the U.S. Open, either. Those were always highlight matches on Raw. Cena, per law, would be given a lot of time to perform his match, and even though most of the guys who came out to face him would lose they would look great in the process since they were all 15-20 minute matches.
I recently wrote about Vince McMahon using Cena as a heel-ish guy to help extract revenge against Roman Reigns. That would be best case scenario for me. Worst case is a face Cena heading into Mania to battle a face Roman for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Honestly, while I am excited for his return, it is a hesitant excitement, as “same old Cena” doesn’t work moving forward. Not with all the positive momentum that is being built headed into the New Year.
If we revisit this question in a week, then my tune might be changed.
John Brown: ….relieved. The absence of John Cena should have allowed other superstars to grab the brass ring and insert themselves into the main event scene. It isn’t that they failed to do so, it’s that severe injuries to the superstars that were slated to grab said ring (Rollins and Cesaro, namely) stalled this progress. The writers seem lost… maybe because their main priority over the last decade has been to make Cena look strong. Now, they have a chance to do what they know best.
Has WWE changed your mind on Roman Reigns?
RK: At this point, not really. He’s becoming the corny John Cena clone that makes stupid jokes and goofs around too much. The reason Reigns rose in popularity during the days of The Shield was because he was the badass, no-nonsense type. He needs to return to that way. His matches of late have really been generating respect from the fans, but he does need a personality makeover ASAP because the fans will turn on him again.
JN: Yes and no. His character isn’t out of the woods yet, but there’s reason for optimism. When they book him as a man of violence, with very little talking involved, he is a great character. The problem being: It is hard not to have your champion speak words ever. Whenever Roman speaks it is as if a stoner frat brother is trying to tell me how cool he is, and it comes off as the worst stuff ever.
That said, since the magical TLC-to-Raw 24-hour turn, Roman has been mostly good. It is hard to evaluate how the WWE will book him forward since a lot of the good vibes came to a screeching halt for the gimmick-heavy Slammy Raw last Monday, so it is definitely a touch-and-go situation.
Thing is, at least for me, I never completely hated Reigns. We all talk about how everyone hated him, but that would be leaving the conversation void of context. We really only disliked him for the same reasons we hated Sheamus and Batista — he wasn’t Daniel Bryan. After Reigns won the Royal Rumble last year, at the expense of a Daniel Bryan push everyone wanted, it put him in a position where he was going to be hated for simply not being the guy everyone wanted to be pushed. To his credit, despite his brand being mostly tainted for nearly a year, he improved drastically in the ring. If fans were to be honest with themselves, we all should have been more pro-Roman going back a few months now.
Still, his issue is with his words. He is no verbal magician. So while I am all about Roman Reigns the man of violence, I continue to cringe every single time a microphone is anywhere near his body.
Finally, they need to take the swat jacket off him. When is an opponent ever going to mention that it gives him an unfair advantage? It would be like other guys coming out to wrestle with safety helmets on. Merely a little pet-peeve of mine, but it is real.
JB: Not even a little bit. Roman Reigns simply is not going to be an effective babyface champion. He is a slightly more athletic Diesel; the fans will grow tired of him.
The WWE will continue to pay for its catastrophic lapses in judgment displayed during the last two Royal Rumbles. Creative didn’t pull the trigger in 2014, where Roman would have been the only accepted winner not named Daniel Bryan, and they made him win it last year when the fans clearly knew that he was poised to win a Rumble match that saw Bryan, the fan favorite again, dispatched like he was Simon Dean.
The only way my mind will be changed about the use of Roman Reigns is if I see him work as a heel.
Who do you expect to make the jump into the main event picture in 2016?
Photo Courtesy of WWE
RK: If the WWE were to break up the New Day, I think that Big E could be a guy that jumps into the main event picture. He would be an awesome babyface that could jump into super stardom. If they don’t break up the New Day, Cesaro has to be the guy they elevate. He is the guy the WWE audience wants to see put into that spot. He’s the best performer, getting better on the mic and can energize an audience.
JN: Kevin Owens. Kevin Owens. Kevin Owens.
The WWE is light with great heels at the moment. Plus, whenever Seth Rollins comes back it is going to be hard to introduce him as anything other than a face. The crowd desperately wants to pop for him. Especially since he is coming back from a gruesome injury. Traditionally speaking, as well, heels coming off those types of horrific injuries come back as good guys.
It isn’t only that Owens need to be pushed out of need, either. He is legit. One of the best overall performers in the company. There’s probably not a better active mic worker in the company, save for Paul Heyman, and his move-set has that “huge” feeling to it. He’s one of the four or five guys in the company people get legitimately excited to see. He has that “big match” feel to him for everything he does.
The only way I don’t see Owens being a regular fixture in the main event scene is because the WWE is afraid he might become too over. Meaning, his abilities in the ring and the mic would overshadow a freshly over Roman Reigns. He would likely steal the show in a feud with him. Something which would mean the crowd turning on Reigns again… but this time because he isn’t Owens.
I do think, though, with Reigns trending in the right direction and Kevin Owens being a revelation to the business, the WWE has two guys who can feud off and on for a few years. Not to the extent of Randy Orton vs. John Cena, because honestly no one wants to see guys fight 3,294,239 times again, but a duo who can be the faces of the company over the next few years.
JB: Using WWE logic, I would say Ryback. HE’S A MONSTER, RIGHT, VINCE??!!??? He has to be accepted by the fans, right Vince?