“You can call this place whatever you like, but this is my yard, this is my island. This is my ring, this is my WWE! And if you want it... come and take it from me.”
Words spoken with utter conviction by Roman Reigns. Those who have suggested Paul Heyman is a crutch for him would do well to pay attention here. As Heyman prepared to give his introduction, Roman simply held out his hand. The Special Counsel was surprised, but immediately handed the microphone over, stepping back in deference. As he listened to his boss speak, his expression shifted to one of absolute glee.
Make no mistake: Roman does not need Heyman; rather, he’s chosen him as a means to an end. Heyman can get him the things that he wants, while he directs his attention elsewhere. Right now, that means keeping the Universal Title on his shoulder, even at the expense of his own family.
Jey Uso has never held a singles title. There’s nothing wrong with that; like Heyman mentioned in his history of the Anoa’i family, he “has done a respectable job himself as a tag team champion with help from his brother Jimmy”. He also won the match to secure his current spot; he earned it, as Roman said. That’s commendable. But I think in Roman’s eyes, much of Jey’s behaviour is not.
Roman has long held special reverence for the company’s titles, but none moreso than the Universal Title. Years ago, he confronted Heyman for laying it on the canvas. “Pick the title up right now and show some respect.” More recently, he acknowledged that competing for it brings a large payday, as well as status. I think it’s the latter that concerns him most; he wants his family to receive the respect they deserve. I think this is where his frustration with Jey lies. In Roman’s mind, his cousin is not taking this opportunity seriously enough. We saw that again and again on Friday night: Jey using Roman’s title in the match as a weapon, taking it afterwards and pretending to celebrate with it—and perhaps most of all, the near disastrous pin on Corbin. Some people thought that Roman was angry at Jey for stealing the win, but watch again. Jey nearly took Roman out! Carelessness, disrespect... these are things that Roman cannot abide.
Roman did eventually celebrate with Jey that night; hugging his cousin he told him, “I love you, always.” I believe that. But Jey would do well to remember what Roman said last week: “Just like when we were little kids, I’m gonna whup your ass, and then it’s all love.” That hug? Not quite an apology nor yet a farewell, but in that moment, I feel that Roman decided what he had to do. In this context, the glance at Heyman was significant. Not only does he get Roman what he wants, his presence reminds him of the course he’s set upon. Three years ago, Roman Reigns looked into a mirror to see if he could live with what he was becoming. The way he looked at Jey Uso last week proves that yes, he can.