This week, we have Callum Wiggins, Ben Guest, and Carlos Toro discussing Roman Reigns' 30-day suspension for violating WWE's Wellness Policy.
1. General thoughts on the suspension?
Callum Wiggins: Frankly, to say this news is shocking is an understatement. There were rumors surrounding Roman Reigns failing the wellness policy test back before his match with Brock Lesnar, but you could easily account that to people disliking him and spreading harmful lies. Now, it is the real thing and it's undoubtedly the biggest suspension since Randy Orton in 2012, yet this has to surpass Orton's as Reigns can be considered the heir apparent to John Cena—the new face of the company. That face won't look nearly as marketable with a spliff in his mouth.
I don't want to revel in this news by any means—it sucks for Reigns, it sucks for the company, it sucks for his fans (wherever they may be). But, in terms of storyline potential, this has had a number of benefits. Dean Ambrose is a far more likable and charismatic babyface in the role of champion, and leaves Seth Rollins as a vindictive heel with a score to settle. I think WWE has handled this huge blow in the best way possible, even if their integrity and decision making has been called into question considering they knew of his violation before Money in the Bank.
At this early stage, there are far more questions than answers. What was the banned substance Reigns took? Was it intentional or accidental? How much heat has this given him backstage? Did Reigns take Vince's messages to make him look strong too literally? Only in the coming weeks and months will we fully be able to decipher this situation, and I wonder if Stone Cold Steve Austin would bring this up in the inevitable podcast with Reigns?
Ben Guest: My first reaction was "oh my God, what has just happened?" This is huge for the whole landscape of WWE. With the brand split, The Shield triple threat at Battleground and Roman Reigns being the next face of the company it is difficult to see what is going to happen going forward.
I'm interested in how they address this with the triple threat already having been announced as suspensions are rarely talked about on television, yet they can't just ignore the fact that they announced a world title match one day and one of the competitors is suspended the next.
Another thought was that they're lucky he dropped the title on Sunday. This made me think that maybe they already knew about the violation and planned it in advance, but then why set up the triple threat the next night? Unless, of course, he will still fight in that match.
Carlos Toro: I was having lunch at Five Guys Burgers when I learned the news and nearly choked on my burger. Never in a million years would I ever have thought this would happen. At first, I thought that it was a joke, but then I read Reigns' tweet apologizing and the official announcement regarding the suspension. It was shocking and definitely one of the biggest wrestling stories of 2016. Any talks of Roman being protected should be thrown out the window. WWE didn't need to announce the suspension, so good for WWE for suspending him and not sweeping it under the rug.
2. What does this mean for Roman Reigns' future?
Callum Wiggins: Realistically, the effects on Roman Reigns' future could range from nothing to catastrophe. WWE could easily ignore it and carry on as normal. As Randy Orton and Edge have shown in the past, if they consider a talent main event caliber, they will not let a Wellness Policy violation derail it. Plus, they've invested so much into Reigns, for better or for worse, that it would be devastating to throw it all away just like that.
On the flip side, Reigns will need to be rehabbed, and this could start from the bottom. Frankly, considering the extent Vince McMahon and the booking team have worked to protect him amid a horrific crowd reaction towards him, they would be justified in jobbing Reigns out to The Social Outcasts when he returns for his actions. Reigns was WWE Champion and putting on very good matches in spite of the negative audiences, so a mistake of this magnitude which forced WWE into a corner will not reflect well on him.
One thing that certainly should happen is Reigns turns heel. If he comes back as his stale 'the guy' character and brushing this off as a mistake that he's really sorry for, the crowd will eat him alive, especially if he's reinserted into the title picture. This is the perfect opportunity to have him unleash pent up frustration on the crowd for their reaction toward him while he was trying his best, and rehab from this drawback as a vengeful heel.
Ben Guest: It will be very interesting to see what happens when Reigns returns. The 30 days are over just three days before Battleground, so he surely won't be able to take part in the triple threat. As for his position on the card, I think he will be champion again and in the title picture before the end of the year, but they may humble him a little after his return and any potential big match at SummerSlam may not be happening.
The draft is another interesting aspect as he was likely to be the face of SmackDown, with John Cena the face of Raw, but with the draft taking place during the suspension it is unlikely he will be part of it. That leaves a huge gap for either Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose to step up.
There is also the question of how much WWE will feel they can trust Reigns after this. Can you risk having the champion suspended in the middle of a title reign? Going forward, he might be a guy that they simply can't trust and this could hold him back significantly.
Carlos Toro: I think this just means that Reigns will no longer be "THE guy" in WWE. He'll still be a top guy in the company, but not John Cena levels of being the the top guy in the company. I think his punishment was losing clean to Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank, but this failed drug test is just one of many red flags that Reigns has done as of late. His house shows have been drawing very poorly and he has not gotten much positive reaction as the top babyface, creating a sort of tweener turn for Roman.
This might be good for Roman's future if WWE knows how to capitalize on this. Turn Roman heel and you could salvage him as a viable main eventer just yet. Everything is there for a true heel turn, but WWE needs to pull the trigger and allow Roman to turn heel.
3. Should Roman Reigns be in the triple threat main even for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Battleground?
Callum Wiggins: Should Reigns be in the WWE title match at Battleground? No. Will he be? Almost certainly. I know it's the world of kayfabe, but Reigns does not deserve to be 'rewarded' in a way for his actions by still being placed in the WWE Championship picture. At least not immediately, as The Shield colliding for the biggest prize in the industry is what everyone is clamoring to see, and it definitely needs to happen on a grand stage. But, Reigns needs to build himself back up, ideally as a heel, to reclaim his right to enter a match of that magnitude.
Admittedly, there is a perverse side of me that wants to see Reigns come back at Battleground, cheat and win the WWE Championship from Dean Ambrose. The boos from the crowd would likely be louder and more forceful that I could even imagine, because it would be the biggest demonstration to the fans that Reigns is utterly untouchable. But, it is a scenario that I could legitimately see turning people away from WWE entirely, as giving the belt to someone so soon after a drug violation, particularly with the level of heat Reigns already has, would be enough to rebel against the company.
What I think will happen is Reigns takes part in the triple threat match with Ambrose and Rollins after a hurried explanation of his absence, and takes the pinfall from Ambrose and has to spend the rest of 2016 rebuilding his character and waiting for people to forget. In truth, it could be the best thing to happen to him, as fans will get to see him vulnerable and unprotected for the first time, as the slow process towards regaining his credibility earns him some respect.
However, as previously stated, I would have WWE publicly acknowledge Reigns' suspension on television, strip him of his title match place and rematch clause, and bring him back as a bitter heel fighting against the popular authority figures and superstars, especially Shane McMahon. He can use this incident and the reaction of the fans to become the company's top heel, and eventually recapture the championship under new and more exciting circumstances.
Ben Guest: Absolutely not! Putting someone in a World Heavyweight Championship match is a huge reward and to reward someone who has just breached the Wellness Policy would be stupid and send an awful message to everyone. WWE takes the policy far too seriously and I really hope that he is kept away from any spotlight until at least after SummerSlam. In fact, I wouldn't even let him wrestle at SummerSlam. WWE needs to use this as a way of showing that they take the policy seriously and ANYONE in violation will be punished regardless of place in the company and there aren't many bigger guys it could have happened to.
Carlos Toro: The question is SHOULD, so no. While WWE is not a sport in the traditional sense, it is a huge PR nightmare. How does WWE explain this to its fans and shareholders? You can't see Cena (pun not intended) fail a Wellness Policy test, so if Roman is to be the top guy for years to come, then he should be held up to the same standards as him. He really let him down.
Now, WILL he be in the main event of the Battleground pay-per-view? If the reports of WWE knowing the failed test before Money in the Bank are true, then he will be in the match. While it would have made more sense to have the Shield be in main event of SummerSlam or WrestleMania, WWE is hell bent on having the match at least for Battleground.
Are your opinions similar to that of this article's writers? What did you think of Reigns' suspension? Do you think he should be in the Battleground Main Event? Sound off on why or why not in the comments section below.