What does it take to defeat Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Unfortunately, AJ Styles cannot answer that question.
After Extreme Rules, Styles was defeated once again by the champion, despite delivering an incredible amount of offense to Reigns.
That offense included a number of counter-moves that saw Roman Reigns spear himself through a barricade, the interference of Styles’ buddies from 'The Club', one Boot of Doom, and two Styles Clash's, one of which landed on a steel chair.
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Still, Roman Reigns kicked out at two each time, before finally spearing AJ Styles as the challenger leapt off the top rope to deliver a Phenomenal Forearm.
The story of a perseverant champion, unwilling to surrender his greatest prize, is a tale as old as pro-wrestling itself. However, there needs to be a line drawn in that invincibility, before the story crosses into the territory of absurdity.
At Extreme Rules, the main event stepped over that line.
It is no secret that the polarizing reactions drawn by John Cena have been partially due to his Super Cena persona, as he never seems to lose a match cleanly, regardless of the opponent’s best efforts.
Reshaping Roman Reigns in the mould of Cena has generated the same level of criticism for the champion, who has less in-ring talent and microphone skills than the legendary 15-time World Champion. Despite the hard work that Reigns has exhibited in improving as a wrestler, his dissenters grow by the minute.
The formula was repeated once more at Extreme Rules, leaving many to resent the champion for pushing more talented wrestlers down the card. If multiple finishing moves are casually discarded en route to eventual defeat for the challenger, what purpose does the match serve in the first place?
Some may argue that kicking out of multiple finishers heighten the excitement for big matches, with prime examples being The Undertaker’s classic WrestleMania matches with the likes of Shawn Michaels and Triple H. To that, few can disagree.
However, the storytelling that works for legends such as the three mentioned above does not work for everyone. Roman Reigns has not earned the respect of the WWE universe, and thus, has not earned the right to be compared with eventual first-ballot Hall of Famers.
At this stage in his career, Roman Reigns needs to be portrayed as a smarter champion, who tries his best to avoid being hit by finishing moves. Once multiple finishers are hit, however, the champion needs to be down for the count.
Reigns can still win big matches, but he cannot become invincible. Once the line is crossed once too often, much like John Cena, the damage can never be repaired again. Then, falling to the first successful finisher will appear premature, and devalue the efforts of those who have come before the challenger.
As Extreme Rules showed, however, Roman Reigns may have already crossed that line.
What did you make of the main event at Extreme Rules? Let us know YOUR thoughts in the comment section below!