Photo & Video Credits – WWE and Still Real to Us/Instagram
As a long time wrestling fan, you can kind of anticipate where a story is going to go but there are times and moments that either deliver or fall flat from what you were expecting and then there are times that surprise you and the whole Roman/Paul/Brock dynamic are all of those positive things at the same time. When Paul Heyman first reemerged on WWE television in August 2020 at the side of Roman Reigns, myself and likely a lot of other fans thought Brock will eventually return and the confrontation between Brock and Roman with Paul in the middle of it was going to be great TV.
Before we get to that, let’s take a look back at the impressive run since August 2020 to now that Roman Reigns has had and without question he is the MUST SEE performer in WWE today. I wrote about this months ago, that Roman Reigns is the best heel champion in the business today and that still holds true today months later. There are multiple world champions in the wrestling business all claiming to be the king of the mountain if you will but for my money I’d say Roman is THE MAN if you will that is believable as champion, delivers in the ring and presentation wise as the character of the tribal chief is leaps and bounds better than any other world champion is being presented regardless of company. For many years WWE tried to push Roman as the GUY but as a babyface the fans just weren’t having it and I may have said this before but it bares repeating, it is a lot easier to get the crowd to hate you than to love you. With Roman having the same problem Cena had where half the crowd loved him and the other half hated him, the smart move is to turn heel and embrace the heat and as a heel make the crowd respect you and then when if you turn face they will likely support it. It worked for the Rock who was brought in as a babyface that the crowd absolutely buried but he embraced the heat and is probably the most popular man in entertainment today.
Roman has had to carry WWE during unprecedented times during a pandemic with no crowds for over a year and has helped make SD the highest rated wrestling show on TV every week. Yes, I’m well aware its on major non-cable network but if the main storyline of the show which is primarily surrounding the champion isn’t interesting then the show won’t draw no matter what network it is on. Also Friday is a horrible night for TV ratings but SD is still drawing about 2 million viewers a week. Since winning the Universal Championship from The Fiend at Payback 2020, Roman has gone on to dominate as champion for over 400 days so far. During his reign, his first feud was with his cousin Jey Uso and there is no question that his feud with Roman helped elevate Jey and helped him be seen as more than just a tag team wrestler. Their feud was one of the best feuds of all of 2020. Roman has had memorable feuds with Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Edge and Finn Balor all over the Universal Championship and those feuds really helped elevate not only this unstoppable tribal chief character, but the Universal Championship as a whole. They were also done in a way that none of the talents that did the jobs looked weaker because of it but in fact looked just as strong if not stronger bringing the champion to his limits in most cases and came close to winning. Let’s be honest, the Universal Championship was considered a joke and the lesser “world” title in WWE but since becoming champion, Roman has made that championship mean something. You can tell that to the tribal chief character and to the person behind the character, Joseph Anoaʻi, that being champion means the world to him and he wants to make the title mean something and to prove all the doubters wrong.
That whole acknowledge me is not just a great catchphrase, it is legitimate that I told you I was the best and now admit it. However, let me be clear a huge part of the tribal chief character and why it works so well is Paul Heyman being at his side. Heyman is not only the greatest manager today but is arguably one of if not the greatest manager of all time. Heyman learned from some of the all time greats including The Grand Wizard and Captain Lou Albano to name a few. Heyman understands that his job is to help elevate whoever he is managing and to help build anticipation to the PPV or big match up and no one does it better than Heyman.
At Summerslam 2021, Roman faced the man that was the face of WWE for over a decade and the man that is tied for most world title reigns ever, John Cena. We all knew going in that the likely outcome was Cena putting Roman as Cena has transitioned to Hollywood but there was enough intrigue and possibility that WWE may have had Cena beat Roman and become a 17 time champion and become the man with the most world title reigns ever. Both men had a tremendous match and after Roman went over, he had no time to celebrate as The Beast made his shocking return to WWE.
As captured in the picture above, the sheer terror in Paul’s face as his current and former client stare each other down as his loyalty would soon play a major role in this story. Now I expected Heyman to play a huge role in this because his loyalty was going to be questioned because no man can serve two masters. Heyman has been synonymous with Brock Lesnar since his debut almost 20 years ago but arguably Heyman’s year plus run with Roman may be the best work of his career. Let me say as bad as WWE screws up storylines, this dynamic with Roman/Paul/Brock has been executed to perfection by everyone involved and honestly may be the best storyline of the year. Roman has been able to deliver the little things that make the character compelling, yes he is the confident champion but you have been able to see the cracks in that armor with the doubt and coming close to losing the title a number of times but Paul and the Usos have stepped in and helped Roman retain. The heel that would do anything to win works well for him and the moment Brock came out you saw the concern on Roman’s face and it was believable because there is no question Brock is the greatest legitimate threat to Roman’s reign as champion.
Paul deserves an Oscar for his performance of the terrified man caught in the middle. Paul has a reputation in the wrestling business as being a fast talking liar mainly because of his time as the promoter of ECW where he made promises and lied to talents and many never got paid. So Paul is playing that up whenever his loyalty gets questioned. Roman being paranoid on if Paul will betray him and when WWE returned to their forever home, MSG, they played it perfectly with them teasing Paul being willing to jump back to Brock in a heartbeat but also the conflict of betraying Roman at the same time because of his long connection to his family.
Then finally you turn to Brock, for the first time in a long time he is without Paul at his side doing the talking for him. Promos have always been the one thing that has been a knock on Brock that he cannot cut a great promo but this run has been something different. Small promos have been gold with this version of the beast. This version of Brock is becoming the king of the mind games in the feud with Roman as he sews the seeds of doubt of Heyman’s loyalty.
Brock’s promos may be short but they are impactful and that is the most important part because they are continuing to build the story and honestly that is what professional wrestlers are, they are storytellers and that ring is their canvas. The audience knows it is scripted but the greats are able to draw the audience in and these men are delivering it so well. Saying that Paul is still helping Brock despite being Roman’s “wise man” is pure brilliance and no one knows for sure if Brock is telling the truth and when Paul denies it, you don’t know if he is lying and that makes a great compelling story because you really don’t know. Brock saying he is a free agent thanks to Heyman was a twist of the knife to Roman. Watching Paul be scared and crying when being yelled at by Roman and threatening Paul is a side of Paul we have never seen and showing the fear and paranoia of Roman is a new layer to his character as well. Roman like a mafia boss telling the Usos that if Paul fails to get them drafted to SD with him that they are to leave Paul for dead on Raw was just so well executed.
The contracting signing segment has been predictable for years and it always ends in a brawl but like everything else in this feud they threw a curve ball by not having any tables being flipped or fists being thrown but Brock’s new mind game version playing more games with Roman. Roman mocks Brock for signing a contract without reading it and Brock replying “I’m not an idiot Roman, I read it this morning with Paul”. Just the perfect dig to end the segment as Brock leaves and a furious Roman stares at Paul while Paul tries to talk his way out of it.
Paul trying his best to convince Roman that I’m not with Brock and my loyalty is to you my tribal chief is the absolute work of a great performer. Even the little things like when Paul is swearing his loyalty to Roman, he isn’t making eye contact and Roman raising Paul’s head was brilliant on Roman’s part. Paul saying “he is not an idiot why would I tell you in advance that I’m going to betray you? Only an idiot would do that”.
Paul is very careful in his choice of words in his promos even at Crown Jewel, saying “I’m walking in with the Universal Champion, Roman Reigns and I’m leaving with the universal champion”. Never saying he was leaving with Roman but just the champion. Yes it is a little thing but speaks volumes. Paul has betrayed clients before, at the 2002 Survivor Series, Paul betrayed Brock and aligned himself with the Big Show to help win him the WWE Championship and in July 2006, he betrayed ECW Original, RVD and again aligned with the Big Show helping him win the ECW Championship.
That brings us to Crown Jewel, we knew no matter the outcome that these two men would beat the hell out of one another and that is exactly what they did. Would Heyman betray Roman or would he be loyal, that was just as important as the title on the line going into this match. They had a ref bump, so you knew something was bound to happen now.
With both men down, Paul tosses the title belt in between both men and shouts you know what to do! This was absolutely brilliant as everyone expected Paul to make his motives and allegiance clear they left the door wide open for it to continue and that is just so well done and the swerve of the swerve is just excellent booking. The Usos would run down and attack Brock and allow Roman time to get in position and deliver a shot to Brock with the title and pick up the win. The only mistake in this situation was they had another ref run down and had to have seen the Usos or the title shot to Brock but still counted the 3. This match was not no DQ so why count the 3 when you should have clearly seen the interference and/or title being used? To me the smarter move would have been for the original ref getting up and counting the 3 because it would have been more believable he missed everything. Other than that everyone in this match delivered and the question of Paul’s loyalty continues and will likely continue to be great TV. Brock has already said he will be at tonight’s SD and he is going to get his revenge on the Bloodline, so all I can say is just sit back and enjoy the show.
The question that will be asked tonight and we can all look forward to Paul trying to explain himself: