Roman Reigns (c) vs. Danial Bryan
Universal Championship match with Edge as the Special Ringside Enforcer
WWE paints itself into a corner every year.
Between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, there are multiple Network specials/pay-per-views (PPVs) on the books. That forces creative to figure out a way to manufacture turns in the world title stories involving the Rumble winner, either leading to convoluted stories, underwhelming PPVs, or both.
More often than not, the title program for the Royal Rumble winners are pretty clear as that event ends. There is some “who will they choose?” for a little bit given there two champions for the victor to challenge, but that is mainly a manufactured mystery given we all have a good idea where they are going. The champion and challenger are set in late January.
The numbers from the last 10 Royal Rumble events show that there are few surprises after the Rumble. There have been a total of 13 Royal Rumbles in the last 10 years. We’re going to take out 2016 because the WWE title was on the line in that match, which Triple H won and then they used the next shows to decide who would face him.
That leaves 12 Royal Rumbles. For 11 of those, the winner of the Rumble faced someone who was champion the night that they won. Only 2 of those 11 times was a third person added to the match. So what happens during those next two pay-per-views in regards to that specific championship program given the players are set?
Well, let’s look at a couple years ago when Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch won their respective Royal Rumbles. Rollins eventually challenged Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Seth wasn’t on one of the shows in between and was part of a final Shield run that had nothing to do with his title match on the other. Meanwhile, Lynch was involved in some extremely convoluted story where she was removed from the title match and had to defeat Charlotte Flair to earn her way back into the match. Neither was a particularly entertaining use of those PPVs.
This year the Rumble ended with Edge as the men’s winner and Drew McIntyre and Roman Reigns as champions. They spent the time prior to the next PPV, Elimination Chamber, playing the “Who will he choose game?” but it was quite clear that the Rated R Superstar would be challenging for Reigns’ Universal title. Their segments on SmackDown made that clear as Roman stewed over Edge making him wait for an answer.
The SmackDown specific side of the Chamber set up an immediate challenger for Reigns that night, but it was clear whoever won the match wasn’t going to beat Reigns. Edge and Reigns were going to be in the title match at WrestleMania. Daniel Bryan emerged the victor and, despite catching the Tribal Chief early with the Yes Lock, lost in rather short order. Edge took this moment to make the match official with a spear and a sign point.
That still left Fastlane to deal with before they could finally get into the home stretch of the Reigns/Edge program. They decided to build on the Bryan angle and run the rematch, given Roman’s victory over Daniel immediately after his Chamber match was rather cheap. It was an angle that made sense, but creative was still tasked with adding drama to a match where the winner was in little doubt. We’re not getting Bryan vs. Edge at Mania one on one.
To their credit, they’ve done a great job adding questions to this. After Bryan officially earned his shot by submitting Jey Uso in a steel cage, they immediately went to work not just continuing the story between Daniel and Roman but took care to also set up issues between Edge and Daniel Bryan.
The Hall of Famer took exception to what he felt was Bryan weaseling his way into his WrestleMania match. He felt it was beneath him. Rich words coming from a man called the Ultimate Opportunist. The build to Fastlane was more than just focusing on Roman and Bryan with Edge on the sidelines.
This allows fans to believe it is possible for Bryan to have a continued presence in the Universal title picture. The odds that Roman is losing his championship three weeks prior to WrestleMania are so slim they’re touching zero. But this becoming a triple threat program that will culminate at Raymond James Stadium is a definite possibility at this point.
Edge defeated Jey Uso a couple nights back to become Special Ringside Enforcer to the Universal title match. The Ultimate Opportunist becomes an x-factor that can result in a finish other than Bryan taking a clean loss. It’s a likely possibility. But it’s also still possible that Bryan loses and moves onto a different program at WrestleMania, leaving the Rumble winner and Universal champion alone to work out their problems.
SmackDown did a better job than normal using the long time, and two PPVs, between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania in regards to the Universal title program. Better than they normally do. For instance, there are no sommeliers in this angle. Despite knowing with strong certainty that Edge and Reigns will be fighting for the title in three weeks, we don’t know if Bryan will be joining them.
We’ll know much more about that after tonight.
Daniel Bryan challenges Roman Reigns for the Universal title with Edge as the Special Ringside Enforcer tonight at Fastlane, airing on both Peacock (in the US) and the WWE Network (everywhere). Keep it here to CagesideSeats.com for all your Fastlane updates.
Who will win this match?
This poll is closed