John Cena was no match for Roman Reigns at SummerSlam. He threw everything he had at the Universal champion, and he never could get that 1-2-3 he kept reminding us was all he needed. Cena used the AA three different times, with escalating degrees of intensity and impact, and Reigns kicked out every time. It took only one spear to put Cena away for good.
That’s where we are with those two in 2021.
It speaks more to how much further along Reigns is in his career progression, as this was the kind of dominant victory one would expect of someone at his level at the top, somewhere Cena once was but will never be again.
That was both satisfying on its own and served as one hell of a setup for what came next: the return of Brock Lesnar.
I can’t quite call him Roman’s boogeyman anymore but for many years that’s exactly what he was. During Reigns’ ascension to the top of WWE, Lesnar was the force of nature he kept running into that would put a stop to that. There were many battles between the two that featured outside influences, which affected how the series looks as a whole, but overall it was always advantage Lesnar.
WrestleMania 31: Both lost, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract, ultimately pinning Reigns in what became a triple threat match to win the WWE world heavyweight championship.
Fastlane 2016: Reigns won in a triple threat match that also included Dean Ambrose, who was the guy who took the fall.
SummerSlam 2017: Lesnar won in a Fatal 4-Way that also included Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe. This time, Reigns took the pinfall.
WrestleMania 34: Lesnar won to retain the Universal title in their second WrestleMania main event match.
Greatest Royal Rumble: Lesnar won to retain the Universal title in a steel cage match.
SummerSlam 2018: Reigns won to finally pin Lesnar after many years of never being able to do so, making him Universal champion.
It took until their sixth match squaring up with each other for Reigns to finally pin Lesnar. Even then, there was some outside influence, with the then Money in the Bank contract holder Braun Strowman showing up to the match and hanging out ringside. Lesnar dealt with him by laying him out and throwing his briefcase all the way up the ramp to the entrance but when he got back in the ring to resume his match with Reigns, he turned around into a Spear, and it was then, and only then, that Roman pinned him.
A victory, yes, but definitive? That’s at least debatable with how they played it.
As it turns out, that was a good thing. Because it leads us to the here and now, three years later, with Lesnar returning from a 16-month absence to take on the man who finally grew into the best version of himself in that same 16-month timespan. Gone are the days of WWE trying its best to make Reigns the top star of the company as a babyface at the level of Cena — instead, he just put Cena down as the top heel in the promotion, the unquestioned best wrestler on the roster, and it’s Lesnar coming back to act as his foil.
That alone would serve to make this an interesting story but it’s made all the more compelling by the inclusion of Paul Heyman. He has long been the advocate for Lesnar, having guided him through pretty much the entirety of his run through WWE. When Brock disappeared after WrestleMania 36, that left Heyman in the lurch. He would emerge months later as an advocate for, oh yes indeedy, Roman Reigns.
His reaction to Lesnar’s return and subsequent staredown with Reigns at SummerSlam can be interpreted in a number of ways, which is perfect because it leaves us with questions. We’ll only get answers by tuning in.
And we’ll be doing just that.
Oh, and also:
I would amend only slightly to say “Ponytail bearded Brock Lesnar is the shit.” Let’s hope he keeps both.
Either way, this is going to absolutely rule.