The Head of the Table.
The Tribal Chief.
The Undisputed WWE Universal Champion.
Who on earth defeats Roman Reigns, a man that hasn’t been pinned since December 2019?
The last person to pin Roman Reigns’ shoulders to the mat for three was Baron Corbin at TLC 2019 and no surprise, he isn’t one of the picks on this list. The former Shield Member has been on the run of an absolute lifetime, having been a world champion since August 2020 when he won the Universal Championship and since has added the WWE Championship, unifying the both to be the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion since this year’s WrestleMania.
Reigns has been the most dominant champion since Hulk Hogan in the late ’80s, something highlighted by the fact he has defended his gold on 25 separate occasions since winning against 16 different opponents since first winning at Payback 2020, losing just twice since then and both times being via DQ,
This just showcases just how dominant of a champion the Soman has been over the past two and a half years, and whoever finally topples Reigns faces an almost herculean task ahead of them.
The talk of the town is that Roman Reigns will carry this dominance all the way through to WrestleMania 39 where he will face the People’s Champion The Rock in a true battle of titans.
The real question is if that is the case, does that match even need the titles? Probably not.
If it does has the title stipulation does The Rock win, given his insane schedule? Probably not.
It begs the question of who dethrones Roman Reigns, who’s been sitting pretty on his perch since August 2020? Here are four names for you.
From undesirable to undeniable.
Hard not to start with the most obvious, right? Cody Rhodes’ return to WWE was such a big story and such a seismic shock to the industry, it overshadowed Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first match in nearly two decades. One of the founding fathers of All Elite Wrestling, Rhodes helped create WWE’s biggest competitive rival since WCW and changed the industry forever. His jump from Jacksonville to Stamford made him the first AEW – WWE switch we’ve seen since Tony Khan-lead promotion’s inception and with Cody being one of the company’s EVPs, it is a coup that is hard to believe they actually pulled off.
Since his departure from WWE in 2016, Cody Rhodes worked and developed the ‘American Nightmare’ character, which is of course a nod to his father, the late great ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes. Questionable neck tattoo aside, the presentation and allure of this Cody Rhodes cannot be understated and just oozes top-star material.
The RAW after his spectacular return against Seth Rollins at WrestleMania Cody Rhodes cut a heavy and emotive promo, explaining the reasoning behind his return and what led him back to a place he publicly lambasted in his time away. Dusty Rhodes, despite being an undisputable giant of the industry, had never won the WWE Title in his career and in the one title match he did win, he didn’t take home the belt. This was due to champion’s advantage which means the title can only change hands by pinfall or submission, and dusty had won via count-out which meant he did not win the industry’s most prestigious prize. Cody Rhodes made it very clear through his tears, that his reasoning to return to WWE was the intention to win the WWE Championship, for his father’s legacy and to prove himself.
Everything seemed to be on track for the American Nightmare, until the Hell in a Cell PPV. Rumours were swirling about a possible injury he suffered and these were confirmed when he revealed half his torso and arm to be completely bruised, as he had torn his pectoral muscle completely off the bone. To the man’s absolute credit, he competed and won a gruelling contest to gain his third victory over Rollins but was put on the shelf for up to nine months.
This, however poses an almost fairytale run for Rhodes. Should reports be believed he is in line for a January return, perfect for a return in the Royal Rumble to an insane pop, and an even bigger one should he win the rumble to punch a date with Roman Reigns for his Undisputed titles at WrestleMania 39. Having Cody Rhodes topple the Head of the Table at WrestleMania makes sense for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, you have the build-in story of Cody trying to cement his father’s legacy, as well as aiming to prove himself to the company that deemed him not good enough for so many years, making the biggest white-hot babyface in the company an even hotter commodity than he was before and a new face of the company.
What this also does is shows potential AEW wrestlers a blueprint of how they can be treated in WWE, with mismanagement being one of the reasons they jumped ship to AEW in the first place. If they see an out-and-out AEW guy being pushed to the moon in WWE, it just opens the door for more stars to move across which can only be good for everybody.
Having Cody Rhodes beat Reigns might be the popular and obvious chance, but it is the popular and obvious choice for a reason.
The man who has Roman Reigns’ number. Who knows you better, than your brother?
Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns’ careers will forever be entwined with one another through their hugely successful time as part of being The Shield along with Dean Ambrose/Jon Moxley, arguably one of the best factions in the history of WWE. The three men all of whom currently hold championship gold (Seth being the United Champion and Jon Moxley being the AEW World Champion) all have The Shield to thank for propelling them to the heights they have achieved. They also have Seth Rollins to thank for absolutely breaking that brotherhood when he turned in his Shield brethren and cracked Roman Reigns’ back with a steel chair in 2014. Whilst the trio have since gotten together and reunited at various points, it is clear Reigns is still scarred from Rollins’ actions that night.
The two did have a short-term programme at the turn of the year in time for a title match at this year’s Royal Rumble PPV. This programme included Seth goading the Head of the Table about his betrayal and the fact Roman has never beaten the Architect in a title match. There was a shift in Roman’s whole demeanour throughout the entire feud, clearly showing a vulnerability which we hadn’t seen from this heel version of Roman almost like Rollins brings back memories of old just by his mere presence.
Their match at the Royal Rumble was stellar, with Seth Rollins running back the iconic Shield entrance complete with the Shield theme music, coming through the crowd and the black attire which are all synonymous with the Hounds of Justice. Seth continually mocked Roman about their Shield past, until Roman locked in his iconic guillotine hold. Seth made his way to the ropes to break the hold but Roman kept his vice grip and causing the disqualification, screaming that Seth ‘won’t allow him to let go’ clearly showing his pent-up anger towards him. This was followed by a strangely cathartic chair assault on Rollins, with a reenactment of Seth’s turn when Roman cracked Rollins’ back with a chair and him falling into the second rope akin to Roman back in 2014.
Despite the visual of a ruined Rollins in the ring, the official result was a Rollins win over Reigns in a title match, again. He may have walked out with the title, but Roman Reigns still can’t get over the mental block of beating Rollins and this story beat is perfect to run again despite both men being heels at the minute.
The Visionary has had an absolutely stupendous 2021/22 and deserves a world title run again, there is so much history and potential in a full-blown Seth/Roman feud that it culminating in Seth Rollins being the one to beat Roman just gives Seth his dues, as well as opens up a whole new direction for WWE to head in to.
It started with family. It can end with family.
The first feud once he won the Universal title for the second time, Roman Reigns and Jey Uso’s clashes remain as the Tribal Chief’s best almost two and a half years later, and with good reason. The emotion and character work displayed over that time period exemplify the greatness of the two men, being able to put on such an emotional I Quit Match at Hell in a Cell 2020 in a time void of real human emotion, being surrounded by hundreds of screens in the Thunderdome.
A mainstay in the main roster since 2010, both Jimmy and Jey have cemented their legacy in WWE with these stellar performances over the years in the tag division having contenders for match of the year almost every year, especially against The New Day. Their high-flying move-set, relatable character work and family history make them such easy babyfaces to cheer, and their in-ring and especially tag team IQ means they can easily draw heat as heels to get booed. No doubt one of the greatest tag teams of all time, both have earned and paid their dues as tag team wrestlers and that 2020 stretch where Jimmy was out for the entire year allowed Jey the opportunity to prove himself and that he did, being dubbed ‘main event Jey Uso’ with great showings week in week out.
After Reigns has defeated his cousin, Jey swore his alliance to the Head of the Table and has been by his side ever side, being the first Bloodline member before adding brothers Jey Uso and Solo Sikoa as well as honourary Uce, Sami Zayn. Despite this, tensions have always been visible and apparent in interactions between the two, almost as if the memory of that Hell in a Cell night is seared into Jey Uso’s soul and is begging for revenge.
With Sami Zayn currently being a clear driving wedge between Roman and Jey, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where Jey finally snaps and goes after Roman once again, who has used the Usos as his personal lackeys for years now. Having Jey Uso be the one to break Roman’s chokehold atop the WWE mountain for one neatly brings the Head of the Table arch full circle, it ending with the very family member it started with. It would also elevate Uso into the main event scene which he thoroughly deserves as well as gives him the biggest rub as a serious singles star, as he is the only one on this list who hasn’t been a World Champion in some capacity on this list or even any sort of single champion for that matter.
The last Universal Champion who conveniently, was never pinned for his title.
Now, this admittedly is an absolute wild card and isn’t one I necessarily think should happen either, however, it is a dialogue that needs to be made.
Since his unbelievable release from the WWE in July 2021, fans were clamouring for their next titbit of Bray Wyatt news as he has captivated a fanbase so devoted and in awe of his work, despite his poor booking over the years, that it made him the hottest free agent in all of wrestling. Bray Wyatt is one of the most interesting wrestlers to look at in the modern era considering that all his gimmicks so far whilst garnering immense fan praise for creativity, have all objectively failed in capacity. Husky Harris was no more than an afterthought and the Eater of Worlds had some good spells but ultimately could not translate into the main event scene. The Fiend was Wyatt’s most successful and recent gimmick and whilst being applauded for its immense creativity and memories like the Firefly Fun House Match against John Cena, it failed at the top level as champion. The Fiend was presented as an omnipotent being who cared little for the convention of pro wrestling, so why on earth would he care about being world champion? Goldberg had similar thoughts, clearly.
It seems then, the idea and allure of Bray Wyatt has always been better than the reality of Bray Wyatt.
However, the White Rabbit teases leading to his eventual earth-shattering return at Extreme Rules earlier this year were some of WWE’s best work in years and the sheer noise made by the crowd upon his return confirmed as much. Now Wyatt has been cryptic, as always, in subsequent TV appearances and it is unclear what Wyatt’s new gimmick will look like, or if it will be an amalgamation of his previous gimmicks but one theme constant with them all; they are obsessed with redemption and revenge.
John Cena and Randy Orton have both had programmes with Bray Wyatt where the crux was is to do with what they had done with Wyatt previously, namely embarrassing him and sending him packing. There is no reason why this can’t be used against Roman Reigns, considering Reigns returned to ambush Wyatt at SummerSlam 2022 after months away, and straight away got a title shot in a triple threat with himself, Wyatt and Braun Strowman in which Reigns pinned Strowman. Wyatt was never pinned for his title, and he lost it to WWE’s cherry-picked golden boy over the past ten years, both of which give enough legitimacy to a Wyatt/Reigns feud.
This is highly dependent on how supernatural-heavy Wyatt’s new gimmick will be, as supernatural does not often translate well into successful title reigns as seen with the Fiend. That said having Bray Wyatt be the one to finally end Roman Reigns’ title reign gives the ‘Tribal Chief’ era an almost poetic conclusion as well as provides Wyatt with a massive push into being one of WWE’s top babyfaces.
Overall there are valid cases for all these men as well as honourable mentions such as Solo Sikoa, and Bron Breakker amongst others but one thing is for certain. Roman Reigns is one of the greatest champions in the history of professional wrestling and whichever lucky soul is the man destined to beat the future hall of famer, will etch their name in WWE folklore for decades to come.