Wrestlemania Flashback 1: 31 – Lesnar vs Reigns

So leading up to the grandest show of them all on April 8th I will be reviewing some previous matches from Manias past, the idea being that they in some way relate to matches that will/are likely to happen at Wrestlemania this year. With that in mind there was no other place I could really start than by reviewing the main event of a supremely underrated Wrestlemania, 31. If you follow online reports and have any sort of idea on how WWE book you will be well aware by now that the main event of Wrestlemania this year is likely to be an identical repeat of the same contest that ended the 2015 edition.

Once again going in as world champion and with rumours a-plenty that he will soon be departing WWE for a return to the octagon is the Paul Heyman led beast in carnate “Bbbbrroooocckkkkk Lesssssnaaaarrrr!!!” (Heyman, 2013). And once again the challenger will be the much maligned, talented yet tainted by fan disapproval that follows him everywhere he goes is Golden boy in chief; Roman Reigns.

As circumstances have unfolded it has become uncanny the similarities in the build up to the anticipated Universal Championship match for this year’s Wrestlemania that was the case leading up to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match at Sillicon Valley. But anyone who thinks Lesnar vs Reigns 2 might be a stinker is surely unaware of how much the match 3 years ago suprised us and surpassed all expectations of us all going into it.

The match itself was as is the case this year seemingly a foregone conclusion that Lesnar would drop the title to the new ‘guy’ Roman Reigns as Lesnar’s last act before returning to UFC. HOWEVER in the week before Brock Lesnar shocked the entire world by announcing live on tv in the US that he had re signed with WWE. So now what? Lesnar was staying so surely he wouldn’t be losing the world title in the main event of Wrestlemania 1 year after ending THE streak, not even to THE guy… would he???

As Reigns made his entrance for what would begin 3 (soon to be 4) straight Wrestlemania main events the boos were not as loud as what they would be 12 months later. Perhaps because back then he made his entrance through the crowd, arcing back to his Shield days. This was a then relatively inexperienced man on the biggest stages in WWE (which in 2018 seems a crazy statement to make) but the lights were shined firmly on the samoan.

Lesnar (and Heyman, never forget Paul-E) was greeted with a typical raucous reception. Looking in typically fantastic shape (those of us who followed Lesnar’s contract situation will know his shape had a lot to do with the fact he had at that time just completed a mini training camp to see if he was up for a return to UFC) The beast was the epitome of calm and focus. He of course had by then done almost everything there was to do in WWE and was firmly now the favourite given his newly signed WWE contract.

Heyman in his introduction for the champion was typically vocal and confident as the crowd laps up his signature announcement of his client. The boos that greeted Roman Reigns name being announced emphasised just how big a task both men would have to please the crowd in the biggest WWE match of the year.

Unsurprisingly the match began with a brawl, Lesnar getting the better of it before delivering his signature German suplex. Lesnar already barring a cut to his face then follows up with an F5 to Roman Reigns. The crowd react with delight as the commentators seem in somewhat shock. We are at this point barely 1 minute into the match.

Lesnar’s beatdown to Reigns continues, evoking memories of the beating he gave to one John Cena to win the championship at Summerslam 2014. The referee shows concern for the challengers wellbeing as the crowd boo his first mini comeback, Brock remains defiant and delivers another German Suplex as the cut to his face gets worse.

As Roman bizzarely smiles at his battering Brock then delivers his now famous “Suplex City BITCH” line as he toys with his opponent. More German Suplexes follow as the crowd chant “this is awesome” at what they are seeing. The brutal back and forth beatings continue to be dominated by Lesnar, his bleeding face continuing to be as prominent in the match as the MORE German suplexes that follow. And Lesnar isn’t limited to German suplexes you know, belly to belly and overhead suplexes are aplenty too!

Brock then appears to have had his fun and gives Reigns an F5. 1, 2, NO! Reigns kicks out! The crowd boo. Lesnar shows his intentions by then taking off his fighting gloves to literally show that now the gloves are well and truly off! Lesnar then unleashes a series of slaps to Roman who again laughs at the predicament he is in, more Germans follow, and then another F5. ONE, TWO, NO! AGAIN Reigns kicks out! The crowd boos again as a shocked Paul Heyman looks on.

Brock collects himself before tossing Roman to the outside before locking onto the nearby ring post. But as he goes to launch Reigns to even more suffering it is instead Lesnar whose head meets the ring post. As a result the champion is left bleeding profusely, it’s like something from a horror film (and there were no blades involved in this one). Even Heyman looks legitimately concerned.

There’s blood allover Lesnar by this point as he barely beats the refs count of 10. This is Roman’s time perhaps? And indeed – SUPERMAN PUNCH, but Lesnar stays standing (albeit stumbling more than your average 4am club goer, his selling is a quality of Lesnar’s I’m not sure enough people appreciate how good he is at it) , SUPERMAN PUNCH, Lesnar falls to one knee, another Superman punch? No! This time Lesnar reverses into what looks to be another German but this in turn is countered by Reigns with a series of shots to the bleeding head of the beast. A big time superman punch finally then downs the now troubled champion (pace of action and the commentary that accompanied it were fantastic I should add, really added to the occasion).

SPEAR! Roman Reigns finally hits his finishing maneuver… only for Lesnar to return to his feet and eat another! ONE, TWO, NO! Lesnar this time kicks out, much to the delight of the crowd in attendance.

After both men are downed by their efforts it is Reigns who gets to his feet first and prepares to dish out another superman punch… but in the process walks into the destructive arms of the WWE World Heavyweight Champion who then delivers yet ANOTHER F5! But following their incredible efforts in the match both men are left on the floor and Lesnar is unable to capitalise as the result of the match is in more doubt then ever…

And THEN… the trump card we all forgot about… the music hits of the then Mr Money In The Bank SETH ROLLINS! The opportunistic Rollins runs down the rampway as on the biggest stage of all he uses his anytime championship opportunity to make the main event of Wrestlemania turn into a triple threat match. Rollins would go on to pin Reigns to steal the richest prize in the game from the arms of the beast and robbing Reigns of his much expected coronation.

So we all thought that Lesnar would leave WWE and give Roman the championship on his way out. Then we assumed Lesnar would continue his dominance as he was sticking around. Neither of those happened. We presumed the match itself would be terrible. It was far from it. In fact it was a fantastically entertaining match with a brilliantly told story.

With all that in mind you should also consider both Lesnar and Reigns are now 3 years older and more experienced, particularly Roman who has pretty much been through it all in the time since. Lesnar hasn’t been a stranger to the big occasions since Wrestlemania 31 either.

Whisper it quietly but Roman Reigns is a severely underrated in ring performer. And whilst the result of this Wrestlemania main event for The Big Dog seems just as inevitable as the previous, there are plenty of reasons for us all not to be worried about if we will be entertained by the match itself. Again use your indoor voice when saying this but I believe Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34 for the Universal Championship will actually be a very good match.

Famous last words……….


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