LA Knight’s rapid ascent in WWE is arguably one of the greatest success stories in wrestling history. In less than a year, Knight went from playing a manager in a dead-end gimmick to nearly getting fired to becoming one of the most uber-popular superstars in the entire industry.
And now he’s on the cusp of headlining a premium live event against Roman Reigns, arguably the most preeminent superstar in wrestling history, for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. And while all that sounds exciting, the reaction to the announcement of their impending battle at Crown Jewel was met with skepticism.
For many, it doesn’t matter what Roman Reigns does between now and next spring because they’re convinced that he won’t lose the Undisputed title anywhere but WrestleMania, which stomps out any possibility Knight has of dethroning him. Because of this, enthusiasm has given way to trepidation as a good portion of the audience chooses to focus on how WWE will get out of this match without putting the title on Knight and ruining his surge.
If that’s the case, WWE will need to lean on Roman Reigns to protect Knight in a way that certifies his challenger’s claim of being a megastar. Consequently, Reigns must change his formulaic routine inside the ring for this performance.
As many have noticed, a typical Roman Reigns match follows a pattern. It’s a slow pace filled with plenty of trash talk and dominance by The Tribal Chief. The action picks up as it nears its conclusion and often features the referee getting knocked out, inviting outside interference by the Bloodline, resulting in a victory for Reigns.
While many argue that this routine has become stale and predictable, it’s worth noting that such finishes have kept Reigns’ opponents looking strong because they never lost clean.
For someone like Sami Zayn, who went from wrestling Jackass star Johnny Knoxville to mixing it up in the main event with the champ, losing after copious amounts of roguery helped give him credibility as a worthy challenger.
In the case of Cody Rhodes, many thought he was a lock to take the title from Reigns at WrestleMania this past year. But his questionable defeat mirrored the struggles that endeared his father, Dusty Rhodes, to millions of people in the mid-’80s as he talked about going through hard times. Hence, delaying Rhodes’ victory encouraged fans to rally behind The American Nightmare even more, making the ambrosia that much sweeter whenever WWE decides to pour its audience a glass of that nectar.
But this tried and true recipe won’t work for LA Knight, who turns 41 just before Crown Jewel. He doesn’t have time on his side to rebound from a loss like the younger Rhodes. Thus, WWE must be careful with ruining Knight’s appeal since his window to a future world title run is considerably short.
And unlike Zayn, Knight isn’t an underdog who found his way into this opportunity by luck or circumstance. Knight has scratched and clawed for almost 20 years to get to where he’s at. And as he said recently on SmackDown, he can’t stop and won’t stop.
And that’s the story of the match.
Knight must start hot and fast, an uncharacteristic scene in the champion’s recitals, and take the fight to Reigns, forcing him to backpedal and question what he has gotten himself into. And when Reigns finally does take charge, that’s when Knight proves his mettle.
First, Reigns must pay for any hubris he shows in this contest. The minute he starts to pose or play to the crowd, Knight must cut him off to remind Reigns and the fans that he’s not there to play. Then, Reigns must throw everything he has at Knight, only to realize that, at least on this evening, he doesn’t have what it takes to beat Knight. Deflated, Reigns purposely gets himself disqualified in the ultimate act of desperation, arguably making this the only correct outcome for this story.
And despite what may seem like a bogus finish, it all comes down to execution. Knight must leave standing tall with his swagger intact as he mocks and challenges a retreating champion to close the show. Anything less risks flattening him while perhaps giving fans a reason to tune out until WrestleMania.
And now I turn it over to you, Cagesiders. How do you see Roman Reigns and LA Knight playing out at Crown Jewel? What must WWE do to protect Knight if he isn’t winning the title? Or do you think WWE should shock the world by putting the belt on Knight and continuing to run with the hot hand they’ve been given?
Let us know in the comments section.