So as you will all know by now, Roman Reigns recently beat Brock Lesnar in the main event of Summerslam to finally win the Universal Championship. It seems to be the end of a 3 year story between the two, and was again another attempt by WWE to create a coronation for their chosen one by giving him their top title on one of the biggest stages. They have also just re-united The Shield (one of the most popular groups in WWE for a long time) in an attempt to transfer some of the popularity of both Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins onto the Big Dog, and to help make the Roman Empire really something that is remembered and lived fondly by the fans. And whilst at this stage it is unclear how this run will end up it is not the first time that WWE have put the rocket on the back of one person in particular. In fact across the last 10 years or so they’ve tried with numerous superstars, to mixed levels of success. So in this blog I’ll be looking back at some of those tries and see how it went for the person chosen as ‘THE guy’, some of them went well, some not so good, some of them were way over-pushed and some were warranted in their placement as the superstars of stars. So without further or do lets look back at some of the more recent goes at WWE trying to find the ‘GUY’ and how it went for them.
2008: Triple H
You all know about Triple H’s original reign of terror as World Champion across most of late 2002 to Wrestlemania 21 in 2005 right? The one where he beat pretty much EVERYONE of his challengers (even those he lost to first time he’d end up with the title back somehow not too long after) until he was destroyed in the main event of Mania by a young upstart, whom at that point was even positioned above JOHN CENA as the star of the company, as BATISTA won the title to follow up his Royal Rumble win and put an end to this tyrannous time as champion of his former Evolution leader in The Game. But some of you will be less aware I think he had another very dominant time as champion 3 or so years afterwards, as for 210 days of the year 2008 your WWE Champion was Hunter Hearst Helmsley. 2008 began for Triple H by narrowly missing out on a Royal Rumble match win, but would work his way anyway into the WWE Championship match at that years Wrestlemania by winning the Raw Elimination Chamber match at the No Way Out PPV. But a rarity of the year occured in the Mania title match (a match that going in it, and I don’t even need to look back to check as I can remember it from the time, but he was a heavy favourite to win the match going in to it); The Game would seem to have John Cena beat with a Pedigree before succumbing to a Randy Orton punt kick.
The Game’s time would though come at the next PPV as to close Backlash we saw the sight of Triple H holding the WWE Championship once again after winning a fatal-4-way elimination match against JBL, Cena and former champion Orton. He would follow this up with a pair of big title matches with Orton in the months after, with Triple H winning in both a Steel Cage Match at Judgement Day and a Last Man Standing match at the One Night Stand PPV. Although in the later Orton would suffer a serious collarbone injury which if it wasn’t the end of that feud before it certainly was with Orton on the shelf. And as if dominating Raw as WWE Champion wasn’t enough for him he would follow up a clean victory over John Cena to retain the title at Night Of Champions by being drafted to Smackdown with the title on June 23rd that year, meaning a whole new roster full of opponents for him to bury… sorry I meant BEAT… sorry I of course meant just face…
Shockingly (I joke of course) but he would move to Smackdown and continue to be the top babyface as champion. And he was liked and cheered for sure, but reading these results on paper it does make you think. I remember watching the product as a kid at the time, and I liked Triple H, and him beating all these opponents didn’t bother me too much at the time, but there’s a lot of different names he beats on this list… Anyway yes after coming to Smackdown The Game would gain PPV title retain wins over Edge, The Great Khali, The Brian Kendrick, Jeff Hardy, MVP and Shelton Benjamin in a championship scramble match, Jeff Hardy in a singles match TWICE before at long last he would be scheduled to defend in a 3 way against Vladimir Kozlov and Jeff Hardy until Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero would announce Hardy was injured and being replaced by Edge. And to follow that mid-match Triple H would be hit by a chair shot from an interfering Jeff Hardy (a chair shot intended for Edge) which subsequently allowed Edge to win the title, a title he’d go on to lose in a 3 way with Triple H and to the winner of that match Jeff Hardy, who of course pinned Edge not Triple H. 210 days as WWE Champion, runner up in the Royal Rumble, winner of an Elimination Chamber match, 10 PPV wins and only being pinned on PPV once (during the Survivor Series triple threat) and even that was far from clean. 2008 was a good year to be Triple H, but was it a success? For him it helped of course, there was some guy called John Cena on the other side of things who was pretty popular and whilst it was great for Smackdown to have a name like Triple H I can’t see how it was good to have him beat Jeff Hardy twice, Randy Orton twice, Edge, Cena unless it was leading to a long reign for any of those names which it did not. So I just can’t give this reign the thumbs up.
Verdict: just A guy!
2015: Seth Rollins
What a concept; WWE pick the best wrestler in the company to be the top guy. How bizarre does that sound… (and yes I’m well aware at the start of 2015 Daniel Bryan returned from injury, but seriously watch a handful of Seth Rollins’ matches from 2015 and then try and argue against me). 2015 for Seth Rollins was about as up and down a year as you could get for a wrestler; January he was the star in the match of year but got pinned, in the middle part of the year he was the seemingly unbeatable champion, and by the time the year ended he was on the shelf with a serious injury. So as 2015 began Seth was the golden boy of the much deplored Authority as Mr Money in the Bank, and the ongoing feud between The Authority and John Cena would be intertwined with the return of part time World Champion (again what an alien concept) Brock Lesnar, and after some pretty awesome segments involving Rollins and his various Authority-minions, Lesnar and Heyman and John Cena we were set for a triple threat match at the 2015 Royal Rumble event (yes that was the same event where the winner of the Royal Rumble match was adored and cheered by everyone in the crowd…) for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. And what we got was simply a masterpiece. With advocate that Rollins could, in his words, use ‘Plan A (winning the 3 way for the title) or Plan B (cashing in his MITB briefcase)’ he stole the show in one of the best triple threat matches of all time. Brock (who in hindsight was clearly in the midst of his ‘secret training camp’ ahead of a potential UFC return) looked in incredible shape physically, John Cena was at his absolute best, but Seth Rollins (the only one of the three who had not then been a world champion) absolutely shone. The highlight being an amazing elbow drop off the top rope to the outside to send Lesnar crashing through the announce table, only for the Beast to eventually comeback and clear house before giving the F5 to Rollins for the win. Not the win, but the performance of a lifetime for Seth Rollins.
In the following PPV Seth had to play second fiddle to various builds to the upcoming Mania; the Wrestlemania contenders match in the main event, and the set-up for Sting v Triple H and Bray Wyatt v Undertaker. Rollins teamed with Big Show and Kane in winning a six man tag against Ryback, Dolph Ziggler and Erick Rowan. It was just there to be honest. And then came Wrestlemania 31. Not only one of the most underrated big shows there’s ever been, but it concluded with one of the most amazing endings to a Wrestlemania we will ever see. Rollins went into the show for a match against recent Authority-leaver Randy Orton. It was a fine match between 2 very sound in-ring workers, but it will be remembered FOREVER for the best RKO there will ever be. As with Orton sitting prone for the Curb Stomp he was somehow able to jump up and catch Rollins as he was in the air and hit him with an RKO for the ages. The crowd, commentary and even Orton himself went absolutely wild. And everyone had to take a moment to calm down. Orton had beaten Rollins in the middle of a Wrestlemania, not ideal sure… but Rollins night was not done as he would only apparently be told DURING THE SHOW… The main event of Wrestlemania 31 was Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar 1 for the title, both men are down after what has been a brutal and surprisingly great match… “who can capitalize?” says Michael Cole on commentary, and then Seth Rollins music hits, the crowd goes wild, Rollins comes running down to the ring, “This is brilliant!” says JBL, Rollins cashes in and the match is made a triple threat, he gets rid of Reigns and focuses on Lesnar and hits him with a Curb Stomp, he goes for another but Lesnar picks him up and sets for an F5 only for Roman to come back and Spear Brock taking him out the ring, but this allows for Rollins to hit the Stomp on Reigns, and he pins roman 1,2,3 and SETH ROLLINS ends Wrestlemania holding the championship. And in one of the rare moments of brilliance from WWE Commentary in this day and age Michael Cole describes it as “the heist of the century”. Indeed it was, and it was amazing.
So with Lesnar gone for a while after Rollins title reigns began with a retention over Orton (the man who had don’t forget pinned him at Wrestlemania so was only right he got the first title shot) in a Steel Cage Match no less at Extreme Rules, a win in a 4 way against Orton and his former Shield allies Reigns and Dean Ambrose at Payback, and a decent match with a suck finish at the Elimination Chamber ppv when he kept his title this time by DQ in a match against Dean Ambrose. So despite the fact that as a heel he was booked as a bit of a coward who looked to take the easy way to winning at every opportunity, after a few months Seth Rollins had settled in as WWE Champion, but on screen his leader Triple H wanted Rollins to be more, and he challenged Seth to become ‘the diamond’ he always thought he could be, and to do that Triple H and Stephanie wanted to put pressure on Rollins’ title with his toughest challenge yet… enter the returning BROCK LESNAR! And so the match was set for the Battleground PPV; Brock Lesnar in his WWE World Heavyweight Championship rematch against Seth Rollins. The match itself was fun, it was as expected in that Lesnar dominated, The Authority tried and failed to interfere on Seth’s behalf and Lesnar looked to be on his way to a relatively easy win, until the finish… or lack of… as seeking revenge for his crushing defeat at Wrestlemania over a year earlier THE UNDERTAKER returned as Lesnar had Rollins beat to take his revenge by low blowing Lesnar resulting in a no contest. Somehow Seth Rollins would go into Summerslam still the champion, and whilst Lesnar and Undertaker were destined for their rematch, Seth Rollins would have a pretty big name opponent of his own at the biggest party of the summer; the then United States Champion John Cena. The match would see the two champions both putting their titles on the line in a winner-takes-all match, and whilst the match was good the finish… well… it saw US TV host Jon Stewart, who Rollins had been ‘feuding’ with in the past, came out mid-match (he was the host of Summerslam, whatever that means) with a steel chair and (whilst the ref was down) as everyone expected him to clock Rollins, he instead hit Cena in the gut and threw the chair down, allowing for Rollins to hit the Pedigree onto the chair for the win, and he was now both the WWE World Heavyweight Champion AND the United States Champion (for context; Stewart would later claim he cost Cena the match so that he would not tie Ric Flair’s 16 world titles stating he was a big Nature Boy fan… yes it sucks I know).
And so now as a dual champion that would obviously mean two title defenses, and the next PPV just so happened to be ‘Night of Champions’. And so it was set up that Rollins would defend the US title against John Cena (he lost) and then immediately after he would defend the WWE title against the Authority’s chief foil in recent months, the legendary STING (Rollins won, but inadvertently ended Sting’s career for real in the process… lets move on…). Next up in the story the focus would switch to the Authority’s ‘director of operations’ (Corporate) Kane. As more scrutiny was being placed on Kane’s performance in the role The Authority, and Rollins in particular, began to turn on him. And after Kane began to regularly switch between his former persona of ‘Demon’ Kane (when in this role he would attack Rollins) to his current ‘Corporate’ Kane (he’d be relatively fine with the champion as if all was normal) Rollins led calls for Kane to undergo a psychological evaluation, to which to Rollins bemusement Kane was declared ‘perfectly sane’. Rollins would come on to vent his anger at this, and would go on to attack Kane with a Pedigree and then stomping a chair that was wedged onto his ankle. Kane was carried away in an ambulance, and as Seth thought he was free of the monster the ambulance would stop and DEMON Kane would emerge, coming back to attack Rollins and signalling his intent to come after Rollins’ championship. Eventually the match was set; Demon Kane v Seth Rollins for the title, but if DEMON Kane lost then CORPORATE Kane would lose his job. And as widely expected Rollins did retain the title against Demon Kane at the Hell in a Cell ppv, Corporate Kane was indeed fired and eventually moved on to partnering The Undertaker in his feud with The Wyatt’s. And whilst you may turn your nose at a very obvious result, this was a b ppv, and was (as we have very recently seen with Rusev getting a WWE title match) a one-time deal to fill a gap before a much bigger match at the big PPV that was to follow. and at that time in 2015 the match for the next big PPV, Survivor Series, was due to see Seth Rollins defend his championship against his former Shield ally Roman Reigns. A pretty blockbuster match you would say… or at least it was due to be…
On November 4th in a match vs Kane at a WWE Live event for the championship Rollins attempted to Sunset-flip Powerbomb Kane off top rope through a table. But as he goes to pick up Kane his knee crumbles. Somehow he still pulled off the move to win the match. But it would turn out on night ONE of WWE’s annual pre-Survivor Series European tour the WWE World Heavyweight Champion had torn his right ACL, MCL and medial meniscus and would be out long enough to miss Wrestlemania 32 the next year. An event that was in some ways the biggest Wrestlemania of all time (given it was at the AT&T Stadium which has a capacity of over 100,000 for wrestling), the top star in the company would already be missing it (something that would become some what of a curse for the event, as injured or absentees for the show would include: John Cena (who was able to still do a run in, but not a big match), Randy Orton, Cesaro (who would return the next night), Nikki Bella, Luke Harper, Neville, Tyson Kidd (who would in fact never wrestle again) and Sting (who was inducted into the hall of fame the night before the event, and announced his retirement during his induction speech). After ending Wrestlemania 31 on top of the world in one of the best ever endings to WWE’s premier show, Seth Rollins would miss Wrestlemania 32. And not return until the end of the Extreme Rules PPV 2 months after to continue his feud with Roman Reigns.
As for Rollins 2015 and his time as champion some don’t look to fondly on it, but that was more a disdain towards the product at the time more than Rollins who was an absolute star, and by a long way the most entertaining guy on the roster at the time. Heel Rollins was good, Heel Rollins as WWE Champion with The Authority before him was awesome. And yes he did beat/pin: Roman Reigns and Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose and John Cena and Sting and Kane all on ppv, but it wasn’t as if he won clean all the time. He was a chicken-shit heel, he was a great, great, great in-ring performer sure but the way his character was portrayed in that he’d always look for short cuts, it wasn’t as if he was pushed down people’s throats. In my opinion this was one of the better years and title reigns a heel has had in WWE for some time, which makes the way Seth Rollins’ 2015 ended all the more heartbreaking.
Verdict: THE guy!
2017: Jinder Mahal
You didn’t think I was going to leave this one out right? The most recent of WWE’s attempts to place their crown upon a single superstar came last year, with perhaps the most meteoric rise from someone on the active roster at the start of the year as a low end mid carder, to ending it on the verge of a mega champion v champion match against Brock Lesnar. It didn’t get to that in the end, thankfully, but lets start at the beginning of 2017 to tell this pretty remarkable story. So after a brief partnership with Rusev came to an end there were brief teasings of some form of a push for Mahal at Wrestlemania when he was the runner up in the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal to Mojo Rawley (who really went on to… absolutely NOTHING afterwards).
On the April 10th Raw Jinder lost in less than 3 minutes to the recently returned Finn Balor… and Jinder gave Balor a concussion in the process, which certainly did not help his already non existent reputation with the large majority of fans, despite his newly formed extraordinarily different physique from his previous run with the company. The next night during the draft episode of Smackdown he was switched to the blue brand as part of the superstar shake up. And after losing again to Rawley that same night (although he did get his win back on the June 6th Smackdown) he somehow the next week found himself in a six-pack challenge to determine the next challenger to WWE Champion Randy Orton (who lets be honest, has been one of the biggest stars in the company for the last 15 years). So it was Jinder vs Mojo vs Dolph Ziggler vs Erick Rowan vs Luke Harper vs Sami Zayn. And as the match drew on it was Sami Zayn (who was viewed by most, including me, as the favourite to win the match going in) who looked like he was going to seal the win, until interference from Mahal’s new sidekicks The Singh Brothers Sunil & Samir (previously known in WWE as The Bollywood Boyz) gave Mahal the chance to hit the Khallas on Zayn for the win. To the absolute shock of the entire world JINDER MAHAL WAS THE NUMBER ONE CONTENDER FOR THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP… It would not be the last time Mahal would shock the world in 2017.
In the build-up to his title match at the upcoming Backlash PPV with Orton, Mahal would not only literally STEAL the WWE Championship belt but also cost him Orton’s match with Bray Wyatt at Payback. Soon after Mahal would be forced to return the championship to Orton, but would follow that up with a win over Sami Zayn later that night. He would go on to actually pin Orton in a 6 man tag match in the weeks leading up to their big match, so now not only was Jinder the number one contender but he now had a pinfall over the WWE Champion heading in to the big title match. And then… the unthinkable happened… in the main event of Backlash 2017 JINDER MAHAL BEAT RANDY ORTON, AND JINDER MAHAL WAS THE WWE CHAMPION! I remember watching the match, and I honestly did think going in to it that Mahal was winning, but when it actually happened I was still absolutely gobsmacked. The reaction of those in the crowd summed the mixed emotions of everyone else watching, some were open mouthed and flabbergasted, some even laughed openly. It was a truly incredible moment, but one that for many was incredible out of how odd it was rather than how great. After going on to retain his title in the rematch against Orton at Money in the Bank the blow-off match for the feud was set for the Battleground PPV (a show widely viewed as the worst show of 2017), but it would be no normal match… the much maligned and criticized PUNJABI PRISON would be making it’s return… because… obviously… Jinder is Indian (he’s actually Canadian… but hey, wrestling…) so obviously he has to have a Punjabi Prison Match. It was proably during the build to this math that I think people really began to put their head in their hands with regards to Jinder as Champion, almost immediately as Mahal began referencing The Great Khali (another former Indian World Champion and the ‘creator’ or the structure Orton and Mahal would compete in). Jinder even referred to Khali as ‘his personal hero’… seeming to forget that back when Mahal made his original WWE debut it was in conflict of Khali and the two were enemies… but hey, wrestling…
And so Orton and Jinder were having a passable-at best match inside that god awful structure (a particular highlight being the INSANE bump taken by one of the Singh Brothers), and towards the end of it Orton is half way up the outer structure, and so on his way to winning the match when suddenly Jinder’s music plays. Everyone looks on confused, the camera is focused on Orton before panning to the rampway… and there stood very high in all his glory THE GREAT KHALI came trudging (yep, at over 7 foot tall and for his huge size he still after all these years isn’t the best on his feet) down to the ring. Khali grabbed and held Orton allowing for Mahal to get the win. Immediately the internet was flooded with ideas of potential matches for Khali and Orton, thankfully for everyone it was only a one night return but the seemingly forced entry of The Great Khali into the story seemed a real sorry state of affairs to drag THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP through. Good god it was laughably awful.
And so heading into SUMMERSLAM (arguably WWE’s 2nd biggest show of the year) the WWE Champion was Jinder Mahal. And he needed a challenger, but at least WWE had the foresight to at least put a big name opponent in with him, and maybe if we are lucky end this nightmare… or not of course… so it was Shinsuke Nakamura who would go to Summerslam after beating John Cena on a Smackdown in a hugely hyped main event. And a feud ensued that saw Jinder make clear RACIST remarks towards Nakmaura on multiple occasions, and Jinder win and look strong over and over again. He beat him at Summerslam to retain the title (not clean of course) and again at Hell in a Cell (actually semi-clean). And to top things off, on the go home show for Summerslam Jinder (after interference from John Cena) rolled up Baron Corbin for only the 3rd failed Money in the Bank cash in, which in all fairness was because management went cold on Corbin after his online conduct somewhat annoyed them, so that didn’t exactly endear himself to me anymore. So yes Jinder Mahal at this point was WWE Champion, with THREE ppv wins over Randy Orton, TWO ppv wins over Shinsuke Nakamura, he beat Corbin in seconds during Corbin’s cash in, alongside TV wins over Sami Zayn, AJ Styles & Luke Harper. And at this point in the year we were approaching Survivor Series, and it was long-rumored and later confirmed the theme for Survivor Series once again would be Raw vs Smackdown, and the two brands champions would square off… so we would get what on paper would appear to be a dream match; the Universal Champion vs the WWE Champion; Brock Lesnar… vs JINDER MAHAL!!! Brock Lesnar vs Jinder Mahal. Christ.
WWE even had the cheek to make us all think this monstrosity of a match was actually going to happen up until the penultimate show before the PPV. Mahal was beginning a feud for his title with AJ Styles (who had been the best wrestler in the company for some time now), but he still had the matter of this Lesnar match in the meantime. Mahal jumped Styles on Smackdown, and in the days after an announcement was made per Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon that sent the internet and the speculation that followed into a frenzy. in short Shane announced on twitter that as punishment for his attack Mahal would be forced to defend his WWE title on the Survivor Series go-home Smackdown against AJ Styles in Manchester, England. And of course as soon as the announcement was made the speculation began; why was the title match made? Surely AJ was winning? Was the Jinder push over and if so why end it so suddenly? And as widely expected AJ Styles beat Jinder Mahal to win the WWE Championship. Clean as a whistle in the middle of the ring. We would get AJ Styles vs Lesnar instead. Suddenly and firmly after Styles won the rematch the next month at Clash of Champions, one of the most widely despised and talked about world title reigns of all time was OVER.
On a side-note Smackdown was in Manchester as part of WWE’s annual pre-Survivor Series tour. As was raw the night before. I in fact attended the Raw taping after me and my 2 friends thought that Raw would give us the more star-studded show. We could’ve gone to Smackdown. We chose to go to Raw. So yes I did indeed miss the only WWE title change to take place outside of America or Canada EVER by 24 hours…… Go fuck yourself.
So finally we had a WWE Champion I wasn’t ashamed of. The WWE Championship belonged to the best wrestler in the company. And the reign of the Modern Day Maharaja was FINALLY over. So looking back now what was his reign like? Well on paper it looks bad, watching it unfold; the matches, the segments, Jinder’s segments… some of it was absolutely deplorable, some it was horrific, some of it was OK. SOME of it was OK at best. His reactions from the crowd were consistently a mixture of ironic cheers, or groans signifying a lack of interest. He was cheered when he appeared at times, particularly during a backstage interview segment in the early part of the Backlash show the night he won the title. But Jinder is not a good talker, he got better and grew into his role as champion sure, but he was starting from a very low level of quality all-round so even an improved Jinder Mahal was not a good WWE superstar. So in history Jinder Mahal’s time as WWE Champion will look extremely random and bizarre, which it was sure but their was initially reasoning behind it. WWE were beginning their worldwide takeover, and their first target was the extremely potentially lucrative market of India. They got a new TV deal there, they had a big tour their scheduled for the end of 2017, it seemed to be all about India for WWE. And so what did WWE decide to do to try and get the Indian market to dramatically endorse their product? They picked the first Indian guy they had on the roster and made him WWE Champion. With absolutely no regard for who or what he was doing creatively beforehand. It was positive discrimination. It wasn’t to the blame of Jinder for sure, but it seemed cheap, really cheap. So how did all that end? They took the title from him FIVE DAYS before a huge PPV match against Brock Lesnar, they had him LOSE to Triple H on the show in India, and within months Jinder was moved down a level and was heading after The US title instead. So not only did it SUCK, but they didn’t even go through with the end goal of it all? So the worst championship reign of modern times was pretty much for absolutely no reason.
Oh and to the shock of nobody, there was no dramatic increase in terms of WWE’s growth in the Indian Market. Good job guys.
There are no words I could write that can justify how incredibly bad the WWE Championship reign of Jinder Mahal was.
Verdict: NO guy!
NOTE TO WWE: WHEN YOU CHOSE YOUR GUY, JUST PICK SOMEONE PEOPLE LIKE FFS. OR AT LEAST BOOK YOUR GUY IN A WAY THAT’S FUCKING GOOD, THIS IS NOT THAT HARD.