In the nearly 40 years I’ve been a wrestling fan, I still get giddy when I see heels go to war with each other. Unlike battles between superheroes like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior or crowd favorites like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock, where the audience constantly has someone to root for, I enjoy watching fans react to wrestlers they’d typically boo and who they choose to get behind, even if just for one night.
I also get a kick out of watching the unsportsmanlike games bad guys play against each other, as they each try to screw the other one over first and fastest in the hopes of stealing victory.
Unfortunately for me, such contests have been few and far between. That is until recently, as WWE — under the creative leadership of former wrestling bad boy Triple H — produced two high-profile and wildly entertaining villain-versus-villain battles in October.
The first saw Bron Breakker get it on with Baron Corbin at NXT No Mercy in a hellacious dogfight where the arena audience mostly sided with the veteran Corbin. For me, the scrap brought back fond memories of a wicked Randy Savage mixing it up with the devilish Jake Roberts in 1986. Except this confrontation had enough fireworks to rival a Fourth of July celebration, making it the best rogue-on-rogue showdown I’d seen in ages.
And then came this past Raw, where we got wrestling’s answer to Godzilla versus King Kong in GUNTHER defending his Intercontinental crown against “Big” Bronson Reed. It was like watching two demonic buffalos tear into one another before the champ won, surprisingly, with a clean finish.
Thanks to clashes like these and teased tensions between The Bloodline and Judgment Day, I’m hopeful we’ll see more matchups between evildoers. I’m especially encouraged because, under Triple H, WWE has seemingly shed its label of being a babyface-led promotion. Currently, two-thirds of WWE’s 15 active championships are in the hands of rulebreakers, and the company’s biggest star, Roman Reigns, is wrestling’s answer to Thanos, the ultimate supervillain around whom the universe revolves.
But looking at WWE’s landscape, Reigns is running out of challengers for his Undisputed Universal Championship, as The Tribal Chief has gone through the same challengers, such as Kevin Owens, multiple times and may be heading toward another rematch, this time with WrestleMania 39 opponent Cody Rhodes. Not only are there few first-time matchups left for Reigns, but the list of men fans see as a legitimate threat to unseat the Head of the Table grows smaller.
However, there is one contender who Reigns has never faced. And when it comes to championship dominance, he’s right behind Reigns as WWE’s most omnipotent titleholder.
Since arriving at WWE in 2019, The Ring General has been a champion for nearly 1,400 days combined, setting records as both the longest-reigning NXT United Kingdom Champion and the WWE Intercontinental Champ. Reigns, by comparison, has only held the Universal Championship for 1,100 days, albeit uninterrupted.
In the history of pro wrestling, there hasn’t been a monumental heel versus heel world title tilt since 1978, when NWA Champion Harley Race battled then-WWE Champ “Superstar” Billy Graham at the second-ever Superbowl of Wrestling spectacular. A large crowd was expected at Miami’s Orange Bowl to see wrestling’s two best and baddest meet to determine who was number one, but severe rain discouraged many from attending. Instead, a crowd of under 15,000 watched as Race and Graham waged war, with each man claiming a fall a piece before the match ended in a time-limit draw.
But with stellar promotion (and proper weatherproofing), a fight between Roman Reigns and GUNTHER could be this era’s heel version of Hogan-Warrior and Rock-Austin. Or, for the comic book crowd, it’s Thanos meets Doomsday in a literal battle for Universal supremacy.
And such a battle is now possible, thanks to this new era in WWE.
So be bold, Triple H. WrestleMania XL, Reigns-GUNTHER.
Make it happen.