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31 Days of Wrestling (12/10/17): Roman Reigns Tries To Take The Torch


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2017 produced for us.

Torch-passing between generations of wrestlers, or anyone really, isn't anything new. All of the old must always, always give way to the new, and pro wrestling isn't any different. What hasn't seemed to happen before, however, was how the torch was passed between John Cena and Roman Reigns in this year's edition of No Mercy.




We'd love to say that it all started as an innocent confrontation on one Monday night in September, but Cena's arrival on RAW as a free agent was loaded with full intentions to test out the Big Dog. 2017, after all, seemed to be the year everyone was really intent on passing something to Roman Reigns. We've covered how WrestleMania 33 was an attempt to solidify Reigns's credentials by having him defeat the Undertaker in what appears to be his final career match, but WWE decided it had other ideas.

So here we are, Cena on RAW and immediately questioning Reigns's curriculum vitae on whether he has what it takes to be the next top dog. And we're not just talking about the things Vince McMahon gave Reigns in the grand tapestry he weaves every week; Cena went all in on dissecting Joe Anoa'i: worker, professional wrestler. In turn, Roman went in with the official list of Internet Wrestling Community grievances over Peak John Cena.

The worked shoot was so good, WWE had no choice but to release the whole thing for free:


We could be wrong here, but nobody's really seen an exchange this fiery since, well, Cena went up against CM Punk six years ago. The thing about that Cena/Punk feud and this Cena/Reigns torch-passing ritual is that at their essence, they're never really about the two people facing off in the ring. They're always indictments of the brass's shortcomings, an accusation of their inability to play the cards right and come up with stories that are as compelling as the wrestlers are good.

That's what this whole feud is, really: bickering over who got screwed over by the system more. Even the solution is still within its confines—we got a WWE buildup (rushing this in a month), a WWE match (the match was solid, but never hit a fever pitch worthy of the main event), and a WWE resolution (after that, everyone moved on to other things).


So was the torch truly passed that night? Nobody seems to believe so, because WWE never really solved the problems it created, especially with Reigns. It's quite clear in the way Reigns ended up needing to be slotted back into the Shield, which is a far better play to curry the crowd's favor in time for his rumored big win at WrestleMania 34 against Brock Lesnar.

But if they knew any better, they'd stop that plan and change course as early as now—or else they'd create the same problems for the next generation Reigns will be passing the torch to 10 or 15 years from now.

*****

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