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The end seems near for The Tribal Chief

Roman’s reign could cease at SummerSlam.

Most times in wrestling, a promo is just a promo, talk to hype a big fight. Other times, if you listen closely, it’s an open foreshadowing of things to come.

Such was the case at WrestleMania VI when Hulk Hogan bellowed these famous last words moments before losing to the Ultimate Warrior.

“But I gotta prove one thing to all my Hulkamaniacs out there. It’s not whether you win or whether you lose. The only thing that matters is what kind of winner you are or what kind of loser you are.”

That night, Hogan basically told everyone what would happen, making it one of the most memorable examples of a wrestler giving away the finish during their monologue. And now, Roman Reigns, the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, appears to have done the same thing. And from the sounds of it, the end may be near for The Tribal Chief.

Three weeks ago, during the Tribal Court segment on SmackDown, Roman Reigns came face-to-face with Jey Uso and delivered some foretelling words before removing his title and official lei.

“I don’t need this in my life. I don’t need money anymore. I don’t need the power. I don’t need this. [...] I’m done with all of it. I don’t want it anymore.”

Then on the July 21 episode of SmackDown, Reigns, after reminding everyone how he’s run WWE for nearly a decade, stood up, removed his title, and again used some unique phrasing, “It don’t mean nothing to me. It’s done,” before ending with, “Let’s go.”

While these statements seem typical of a champion bowing up to his challenger before their showdown, something feels different this time. And it’s worth noting that unlike the Raw after WrestleMania this past spring, Reigns isn’t scheduled for any of WWE’s fallout programming following SummerSlam, nor its next premium live event, Payback, in September.

That could indicate that Jey Uso is winning the title, possibly with assistance from The Rock, should the Great One accept Grayson Waller’s invitation to show up in Detroit that evening. Or, since WWE has been teasing tension between Reigns and his muscle, Solo Sikoa, we could see Sikoa destroy both men at the summer spectacular, setting up another scenario.

Given a report that says WWE sees The Judgment Day as successors to The Bloodline, their recent accomplishment, and its quest to dethrone a banged-up Seth Rollins, a Money in the Bank cash-in by Damian Priest during the Reigns-Uso match becomes a possibility. And since Priest could pin or submit either man, Reigns doesn’t have to get beat to lose the title. Such a conclusion would allow Reigns to exit looking strong while effectively ending the era of The Tribal Chief.

So what happens to Roman Reigns?

Ever since inking a new deal with WWE that calls for fewer appearances, it’s believed that Reigns will eventually follow in the footsteps of The Rock, Batista, and John Cena and head to Hollywood. Unfortunately for Reigns, any plans to become a movie star will have to wait as Tinseltown’s historic double strike grinds on.

Still, if this is indeed the end of Reigns’ dominance, the timing of it is interesting as WWE searches for a new television deal. It may even be a clue that at least SmackDown’s run on Fox may be ending.

When WWE signed a five-year agreement with Fox in 2018, then CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon was optimistic about what that meant for his company, saying:

“Moving SmackDown Live to broadcast TV and having the ability to leverage Fox’s extensive portfolio of world-class sporting events will expand the reach of our flagship programming.”

Having one of its premier shows and top star, Reigns, on a broadcast network gave television viewers, at no cost, access to McMahon’s monsters on any TV within range of a broadcast transmitter, including those who cut the cord with cable. In doing so, it allowed McMahon to rebuild and reintroduce his product to a whole new audience, which explains why Reigns has been the champion for as long as he has.

When I spoke with Travis Orndorff, son of WWE Hall of Famer Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff, Travis offered his thoughts by comparing Reigns’ time as champ to Hulk Hogan’s whopping 1,474 days with the gold in the mid-’80s.

“You got to think about how long it took to put the product out back then. So if (McMahon) was building a Hulk Hogan, it’s not like he got Hulk Hogan into every home in 1983, in 1984. It took four years. So you had to give your market a stable product that they could buy into.”

In the four years that SmackDown has been on Fox, Roman Reigns has presided as the main attraction for much of that time, providing a stable product for the modern market to invest in. And that investment has paid off in recent months as interest in the Bloodline continues to be a ratings hit.

But as rumors circulate that WWE could be switching channels, and as the UFC’s parent company Endeavor finalizes its acquisition of WWE, now might be the time when WWE transitions away from Reigns while using talent like Judgment Day as a bridge to lead to the next face of the company, whoever that may be, within months of starting up on a new network in the fall of 2024.

Meanwhile, Reigns could still be available to the company but on a much more limited basis as he transitions to becoming a special attraction in the same vein as Rock and Cena. And by ending Reigns’ run now, audiences can get some relief from what some see as a never-ending regime.

That is until WWE’s next TV deal and the reign of its new poster child begin.

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