The year of 2015 saw Roman Reigns fully inserted into the main event scene. His quest for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship saw him lose a WrestleMania main event and see his friend get the nod before him.
Reigns had to wait his chance to get to the top, In this article we look at Reigns and his run with the Championship between Survivor Series 2015 and the brand split in the middle of 2016.
Winning the 2015 Royal Rumble, The Big Dog would face Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 31. His dream of being champion was squashed when his former Shield member Seth Rollins would cash in his Money in the Bank contract and pin Reigns to win the championship. Reigns would feud with various members of the roster whilst Rollins stayed on top with the Championship thanks to his alliance with the Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s Authority stable.
On the road to Survivor Series, Roman Reigns would win a number one contenders match for the right to face Rollins at the pay per view. But on a house show in Ireland Rollins would injure his knee and would have to vacate the championship. This lead to a tournament taking place over the weeks leading up to Survivor Series.
Reigns would go on to win the tournament and be crowned WWE Heavyweight Champion. The Big Dog would then be attacked by Sheamus, who would cash in his Money in the Bank contract and take the championship away from Reigns. Roman would get a chance to win back the title at TLC but would lose thanks to interference from the League of Nations members and Triple H.
On the episode of RAW on December 14th 2015, Roman Reigns, with the odds stacked against him, would defeat Sheamus to win the WWE Championship. But Reigns wouldn’t have time to celebrate as Vince McMahon would announce that Reigns would have to defend his WWE Championship in the Royal Rumble Match. Stacking the odds against Roman Reigns even more was the way that McMahon and WWE thought they could change the views of the WWE Universe who would constantly boo Reigns. Fans felt that Reigns was being pushed too hard, forced upon them. Surprisingly back at the Royal Rumble in 2014 the crowd had supported him in the quest to win the Rumble in hope of change.
The Royal Rumble Match in 2016 saw Triple H eliminate Reigns and win the match, winning the WWE Championship for a 14th time. Reigns would later win a number one contender match at Fastlane to book his place in the main event of Wrestlemania 32 against Triple H. Reigns would finally get his chance at revenge on the Authority and he would win the championship and finally get his place back on top of the pile.
The night after Wrestlemania, AJ Styles would win a number one contenders match for the WWE world heavyweight Championship at the next pay per view event, Payback. In the lead up to Payback, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson attacked Reigns looking like Styles’ old friends were helping him out in his quest for the championship, but Styles would come to rescue Reigns.
Their match at Payback was damaged by interference from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson who came to help Styles. The Usos would come out to even the score. Their match would also get caught up in the storyline of who would be the main authority figure of WWE. Stephanie and Shane McMahon would be involved in a angle where they would argue who would be the sole authority figure and would come out and restart the match twice after it ended in a count out followed by an accidental DQ by Reigns.
It’s a shame there was so much interference as the match would have been so much better. It had the potential to be so much more, even though it was an entertaining match. But what the match did achieve was a reason for their next meeting a month later. The following month would be Extreme Rules and Reigns would defend his championship once again against Styles in an Extreme Rules Match.
The build for Styles and Reigns was focused around Gallows and Anderson helping Styles whilst The Usos would team with their cousin Reigns. Before Payback, Styles would reject Gallows and Anderson but would soon side with them on the road to Extreme Rules. On Raw we would see a 6-man tag team match where at the end of the match Reigns would Powerbomb Styles through the announcers table.
Their match at Extreme Rules would see a brawl all over the arena. Styles and Reigns would both go through the announcer tables. Gallows and Anderson would once again come down and get involved to help Styles but The Usos would follow to make the save. Reigns would kick out of two Styles Clashes, one being on to a chair. As Styles would then go for the Phenomenal Forearm, Reigns would then deliver a spear to pick up the win. The match was better than their bout the previous months, mainly down to the fact that they battled under Extreme Rules which allowed the interference and allowed both men to use their surroundings for a great brawl.
The Roman Reigns, AJ Styles feud was a great match up which highlighted AJ Styles as the great performer he is and made Reigns a strong champion in the obstacles he faced in the future. AJ Styles was terrific in making Roman Reigns look like a main event superstar and I believe he has helped make Reigns a champion who is now more believable as the face of the company. The end of Extreme Rules moved Reigns on to his next feud, a more personal feud as Seth Rollins returned after 8 months out injured. Rollins would leave Reigns down and out and stand over him holding the WWE Championship high in the air as the Extreme event went of the air.
The former Shield members were set to face each other at Money in the Bank the following month. Rollins losing the championship due to the injury last November which led to Roman Reigns winning the tournament at Survivor Series made this match more personal along with their previous history. The match was built around Rollins looking to win back the championship he never lost against his former Shield partner.
The match at Money in the Bank was an intense battle which saw Reigns attempt a spear on Rollins on the outside but miss and collide with the barricade. Reigns would look for another spear in the ring but Rollins would magically counter the spear into a pedigree, with Reigns kicking out at two. The move was executed to perfection and showed how highly skilled both men are. Rollins would deliver the pedigree again and pick up the win to lift the WWE Championship for a second time.
Rollins’ celebration would be cut short as Dean Ambrose music hit the arena, Rollins waited for the winner of the Money in the Bank briefcase that evening to come out but Ambrose snuck up from behind, entering through the crowd. Ambrose struck Rollins with the briefcase and delivered the dirty deeds to cash in his championship contract. Dean Ambrose would be the WWE Championship for the first time to everyone’s surprise that evening.
Two days later after Money in the Bank WWE announced that Roman Reigns had violated the WWE Wellness program and was suspended for 30 days. Reports at the time said that WWE officials knew about this before Money in the Bank and this is why Reigns would drop the championship at the event. One has to wonder if Reigns’ championship run would have gone on longer hadn’t it been for his violation. They spent a lot of hours building Reigns up to over come odds and become their champion, only for him to lose it three months later.
The evening before his suspension, Reigns and Rollins would battle in a number one contenders match on Monday Night RAW, but the match would end up in a count out. Ambrose would request to face both members in a triple threat match at Battleground. Reigns’ suspension would finish before this event so WWE had planned all this in advance. They timed the suspension to perfection, one has to wonder when exactly did Reigns fail his test?
The match at Battleground would see Dean Ambrose retain his championship. Looking back I can’t help speculate how long Reigns could have held his championship, but because of his violation it was definitely cut short. Reigns would next win a world championship when he would defeat Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2018 to lift the Universal championship but unfortunately that would be cut short too when he had to relinquish the title due to his battle with leukaemia.
Reigns is WWE’s top superstar and arguably their face of the company, but he has never had that one memorable long reign as the champion of the company. His reign in 2016 was excellent with some good quality matches, but it was sadly cut short by his own doing.
All images courtesy of WWE