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31 Days of Wrestling (12/30/15): Roman Reigns Wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (For Real This Time)

We're close. We're almost done with the year. But the WWE wouldn't be the WWE if they weren't restless and relentless, and they managed to slip in one last huge moment before the year ended.



#30: Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, RAW, December 14, 2015

Remember when a lot of us didn't want Roman Reigns to become champion, but all of us knew it was going to happen anyway? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

But seriously, his "Chosen One" moment at this year's Royal Rumble felt like it happened in a whole different era of the WWE, even though it only happened 11 months ago. There he was, arm raised high by The Rock—his cousin which most fans near-unanimously support—while those same fans rained down boos on this moment. If a leader in a democracy derives their power from the mandate of the people, then Roman Reigns was no People's Champ like his cousin was. (And a pro wrestling company is no democracy, anyway.)

However, even though they knew Vince was going to try and brute-force his will anyway, Philly (and the rest of the world) would have never guessed that they'd be changing their tune before 2015 was even over.





There are some wrestlers and athletes who will just have it from day one, but it takes an altogether different, special kind of human being to completely turn around his fortunes by sheer power of will. It should be agreed that Roman Reigns pulled off a superhuman feat to get from being booed at Royal Rumble to getting cheered—complete with "Yes!" chants—on a post-PPV episode of Monday Night RAW. Self-improvement is a human thing, but to ascend to a totally new level in such a relatively short span of time is pretty much superhuman.

Gone was the Roman Reigns that anchored a match with the most pedestrian of offense, that routinely built up to a comeback and finish honed in his time as the heavy-artillery third man of the Shield. For this moment, gone too was the Roman Reigns that preferred to crack jokes and exude a transparently plastic sense of swagger (although that was a creative decision that Vince finally got around to dropping). Over 2015, Roman perfected the athletic electricity that made his cousin Dwayne the multimillionaire that he is today, and by the time he won this championship for real for real, it became hard to say anything bad about his wrestling.

It also really helped that Vince finally figured out that the audience was craving for another Steve Austin, much like it did when they were rooting behind Daniel Bryan to thwart the Authority. Although it's never politically correct (the ordinary man can't ever go around spearing the boss he hates) time and again Vince seems to keep forgetting that the lay wrestling fan wants to live vicariously through a real hero. A real hero meaning someone who actively fights against the evil in his or her life, an evil that oppresses in a real way. Like a bully that makes your life a living hell, a scoundrel that injects real fear in your every day, a boss that constantly screws you over in your best efforts.

It was a smart move, then, to concoct the near-perfect cocktail of circumstances that prefaced Roman's championship win—Vince returns to TV and threatens termination if Roman doesn't win. We, the fans, hanging on the edge of our seats to find out which direction they'll go with this angle. The direst urgency creates the best drama, and it worked. Sure, this could've happened at a PPV, but they needed to boost RAW's flagging ratings. Sure, the match could've been longer, but we had all the drama we needed. We even had Vince take a Superman Punch, something we've all been wanting to do to the old man for a while now.

Our only hope, then, is to wish the WWE truly understands what they did here and apply all those lessons to each tier of the card. We need them to tell better stories if we want a better 2016 and beyond. And here we are, pinning our optimism on them once again, just because they delivered a glimmer of hope. Just because for one night, they were able to make us all believe that.

*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2015.

Read our previous entries:

#1: Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania
#2: Kazuchika Okada faces Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 9
#3: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley at NXT TakeOver: Respect
#4: Fenix vs. Mil Muertes, Grave Consequences
#5: The Rise of Kevin Owens
#6: Johnny Mundo vs. Prince Puma, All Night Long
#7: Jake de Leon vs. Bombay Suarez for the PWR Championship, Wrevolution X
#8: Kurt Angle vs. Bobby Lashley for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on Impact Wrestling
#9: Jay Briscoe vs. Jay Lethal in the Battle of the Belts, Best in the World
#10: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 9
#11 Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE World Title at Royal Rumble
#12: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship, NXT TakeOver: Rival
#13: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma, The New Beginning in Sendai
#14: Seth Rollins vs. John Cena, Champion vs. Champion, SummerSlam
#15: Vampiro vs. Pentagon, Jr., Cero Miedo
#16: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, G1 Climax 25 Finals
#17: Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship, Beast in the East
#18: Peter Versoza vs. Ralph Imabayashi Quarterfinal Match for the PHX Championship, PWR Live
#19: John Cena vs. Cesaro for the United States Championship, RAW July 6, 2015
#20: The Grado vs. Drew Galloway Saga, ICW
#21: The Lucha Underground Trios Championship Finals
#22: The All-Champion Tag Match, SmackDown April 16, 2015
#23: Kurt Angle vs. Ethan Carter III for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, Impact Wrestling, July 1, 2015
#24: Kenny Omega vs. KUSHIDA, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, Dominion
#25: Zack Sabre, Jr. vs. Roderick Strong, EVOLVE 45
#26: Rey Mysterio vs. Myzteziz: The Lucha Libre Dream Match, Triple Mania XXIII
#27: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins, Ladder Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Money in the Bank
#28: Roderick Strong vs. Jay Lethal for the ROH World Television Championship, Glory By Honor XIV
#29: Ethan Carter III vs. Matt Hardy vs. Drew Galloway for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, Bound For Glory

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