Ever since his heel turn in 2020, Roman Reigns has cemented his place as one of the faces of WWE. His run as Universal Champion has been so great that it seems the only issue with it is that there are no real, believable challengers left (at least, none that appear on TV regularly). With no one else in his league, it’s hard to predict a satisfying close for Roman’s 450+ day title reign.
But what exactly would make someone a worthy successor of Roman Reigns’ Universal Championship? At the very least, in my opinion, he should be a babyface member of the Smackdown roster with enough momentum and star power behind him to bring one of the best modern title reigns in WWE to a close. Given WWE’s problem with giving feuds, storylines, and title reigns satisfying finishes, it’s likely that Roman’s reign will meet the same fate. I’ll discuss some possible routes to disappointment, along with some endings that I think would do justice to the incredible run the Head of the Table has had this last year.
I ordered this list from the least to most likely to take the Universal title off of Roman, at least in my opinion (Also no, The Rock is not on the list, though there are rumors he’ll appear to face Roman at some point. Given how busy the movie star is, as well as how much money WWE would have to shovel out to him and his insurance, I don’t think there’s even a slim chance The Rock takes the title. But then again, maybe this is why WWE has released so many superstars in the name of “budget cuts”).
Up first, there’s Irish icon Finn Balor. While I would love for him to end Roman’s reign, he’s ranked as one of the lesser likely to do so since he already had a PPV title shot against Roman, and he has since been moved to Raw. However given the wonky finish to their match at Extreme Rules, I think there’s definitely an avenue for that feud to continue. Maybe Paul Heyman could finally confess to rigging the top rope against Finn, or we could just be offered any explanation at all for what happened.
Whatever his motivation may be, I’d love for the inaugural Universal champion to reclaim his title. I just don’t think it’s that likely.
Look, I wouldn’t want this to happen, okay? But given WWE’s tendency to end great title reigns unceremoniously, and their random tendency to give part-time stars past their prime title scene pushes, I don’t think we can rule Goldberg out.
Goldberg infamously defeated The Fiend for the Universal Title at Super Showdown in 2020 and marked the beginning of the end of The Fiend’s momentum in WWE. You’d think that the company’s creative team would learn from their mistakes, but I don’t really have faith in them. Plus, Goldberg recently feuded with Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship, so it’s clear that WWE still sees him as a main title contender.
Jey is definitely a dark horse in this race since almost his entire career in WWE has been spent as a tag team wrestler. However, given his relationship with Roman Reigns, Jey would be one of the most compelling challengers since he already gave Roman one of his best feuds to date (and not just in terms of the Tribal Chief, Roman, but all of Roman’s singles feuds).
For the moment, Jey and his brother have been subdued as Roman’s right-hand men. There have been hints that there’s still unrest between the chief and the Usos, though. With just one shove or insult from Roman, the Usos may get fed up with their Tribal Chief’s treatment of them and the feud could be reignited.
We should remember, too, that Xavier Woods is getting a singles push as the King of the Ring. Since our king is having no trouble getting over with his audience, there’s no reason to doubt that WWE could provide other tag team talent with the same opportunity.
Who doesn’t love a reunion? Even though he’s a heel at the moment, Seth has shown in the past that he’s more than capable of getting over as a babyface. With someone as evil as Roman is, I’d argue that Seth doesn’t even really need to change that much in order to be seen as a babyface in this feud. Roman and Seth have *a lot* of history together. I’d say all it’d really take for Seth to be a face is a short jab from Roman that goes along the lines of “you begged Ambrose to stay here, but he’s still gone because you betrayed us” or something like that. What can I say, I’m a sucker for long-term, inter-promotion storytelling.
Seth Rollins is up there with Roman Reigns as one of WWE’s top male stars. A match between them would be a big match no matter the build, but if Seth wins the Royal Rumble so he can cross over from Raw to Smackdown and face Roman at Wrestlemania, this showdown could go down as an all-time classic.
Last Smackdown, Kayla Braxton broke the news that Lesnar’s suspension had been lifted and he would be able to return for the next episode of Smackdown. WWE has built this feud significantly; it began with Lesnar’s surprise return at SummerSlam and quickly became personal. Paul Heyman’s loyalty is really the crux of this storyline, and his involvement adds a special element that most of Roman’s feuds have lacked.
For the sake of transparency, I don’t want Lesnar to be the one to defeat Roman. Brock has had three Universal title reigns already that were pretty empty and dragged out because of his part-time status. I don’t see a fourth title reign going any differently. Let’s hope the beast is slain this time around.
The Scottish Warrior tops our list as Roman’s most favorable challenger (at least in terms of capability and likelihood. If it were up to me I’d have Bianca Belair take the belt). McIntyre is arguably smackdown’s top babyface; he’s booked to look strong and he wins more than he loses.
His recent exclusion from the Black Friday Battle Royale could be the start of a storyline wherein Paul Heyman is pulling strings behind the scenes to keep McIntyre away from the title picture. McIntyre learning about this plot would only motivate him further and would make for an intriguing storyline.
Whether Drew McIntyre takes the “traditional” route and wins the rumble to face Roman at Wrestlemania, or finds another way to the top of the mountain, it seems certain that WWE values him as a top guy. Since his last championship win was in front of a virtual crowd, defeating Roman Reigns for the Universal title would also provide McIntyre with a bit of a do-over and a real, picturesque, Wrestlemania Moment™
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