For the second straight year, WWE is in a state of flux on the road to WrestleMania. Despite winning the 2015 Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns will face Daniel Bryan at the Fast Lane pay-per-view, with a WWE World Heavyweight Championship shot on the line.
Last year, Daniel Bryan was inserted into the main event of WrestleMania 30, after he wasn’t even given a spot in the Royal Rumble. The plans had reportedly been for Batista to win the title at WrestleMania 30 as a babyface, but the negative crowd reaction forced WWE to turn him heel, with Bryan beating Batista and Randy Orton at the company’s biggest PPV.
A year later, it’s Reigns who’s feeling the brunt of the fans’ displeasure. When Bryan was knocked out early in the Royal Rumble and the former Shield member won the battle royal, the fans booed Reigns, even as The Rock joined him in the ring.
With the days counting down until March 29, WWE has a decision to make. Will they stick with Reigns beating Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31, or will the company change course, once again?
WWE has already begun to veer from their original plans, pitting Bryan against Reigns. According to the Wrestling Observer, Bryan was supposed to face Bray Wyatt at Fast Lane, but the crowd reaction has forced them to go in a different direction.
It’s possible that the match won’t have a definitive ending, making the main event of WrestleMania 31 a triple threat match. That might not be likely, though, considering WWE did exactly that just a year ago. Assuming Bryan vs. Reigns has a clear winner, WWE has three options at the PPV.
Reigns Beats Bryan Cleanly
It would be a gutsy move for WWE to allow Reigns to get a clean victory over Bryan. Giving Bryan a chance to win a title shot at WrestleMania 31 will appease the fans until Fast Lane, but Reigns will almost certainly receive a Royal Rumble-like reaction if he beats Bryan with no assistance. Reigns’ push has been manufactured by WWE, despite the obvious desire of fans to see Bryan in the main event of WrestleMania 31. In the eyes of many, Reigns pinning Bryan would symbolize how little WWE cares about what the fans want.
It’s not impossible that Reigns could have a good match with Bryan and head into WrestleMania 31 as a babyface that’s, mostly, cheered. He didn’t receive boos on the Feb. 2 edition of “Monday Night Raw,” and he has reportedly been cheered at recent live events. However, the risk might be too great that Reigns will get booed at WrestleMania 31, after beating Bryan.
Bryan Beats Reigns
This might be the least likely scenario for Fast Lane. It’s hard to imagine that WWE would change their plans for a second straight year and put the title on Bryan at WrestleMania. The company might not have known that the reaction at the Royal Rumble would be so severe, but they certainly knew a large portion of the audience would be displeased, which is why The Rock made an appearance. If Bryan didn’t win a main-event spot at the Royal Rumble, he isn’t likely to win one at Fast Lane.
Bryan vs. Lesnar might be the ideal match to headline WrestleMania 31. Bryan’s pops are far and away the best of anyone in WWE, and having him beat the wrestler that broke the Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak would be a main event to remember. However, WWE might be set on having Reigns face Lesnar, and forcing Reigns to lose his spot in the main event threatens to devalue the importance of winning the Royal Rumble.
Reigns Turns Heel
WWE was hoping that WrestleMania 31 would be the crowning moment of John Cena’s replacement as the company’s top babyface, but turning Reigns heel at the Fast Lane might be the best option. Pulling off a double turn at WrestleMania 31 could help make Reigns the biggest heel in the company, but it’s best for Lesnar to be a babyface before the PPV, in order to ensure that the fans don’t boo the entire match.
Turning Reigns heel isn’t a perfect fix. Having a heel face Lesnar runs the risk of fans hijacking the match, because it appears likely that the former UFC champ is leaving WWE after WrestleMania 31. Crowning a heel champion could also impact Seth Rollins, who is the company’s top heel and running out of time to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.
Despite all the questions, turning Reigns heel could end up being the best move. A significant portion of WWE fans already dislike Reigns, and having him turn on the company’s most beloved babyface at Fast Lane would make the Royal Rumble winner universally hated. Lesnar is positioned as a heel, but he already gets a lot of cheers, and has the potential to be a very popular babyface. In 2015, the most popular babyfaces are born by being top heels, and having a run as WWE’s best bad guy might be the trick that turns Reigns into the star that the company hopes he can become.