Over the past few months, Roman Reigns has been through an ordeal. Attacks on his life that some tried to downplay into merely being about ending his career, questions with answers that turned out to be misleading, and seeing an enemy betrayed before becoming a potential ally. Roman himself is no stranger to betrayal; his own Shield brother, Seth Rollins, once took a chair to his back. Though they’ve reconciled, Seth is busy with his own problems, Dean Ambrose has since left the company, and The Usos have been drafted to Raw. Roman might have the respect of the locker room, but he had no allies. That might have been his preference, since anyone who tried to help him could have become a potential target, and he might not have been able to protect them (though that never stopped him from trying to help Daniel Bryan).
There were those who tried in other situations, however. SmackDown’s premiere on FOX saw Roman facing Rowan in a Lumberjack Match. While technically the function of the lumberjacks is merely to keep the combatants inside the ring, there were those who turned on Roman whenever he was down. While it’s possible that he earned their ire in his own right, I think what we saw was either fear of Erick Rowan, or manipulation by him. It’s abundantly clear that most underestimated him, and with Luke Harper once again at his side, he is a threat to anyone who tries to oppose him. Fortunately, the other half of the roster that was out there took a stand for their leader, and kept things from getting entirely out of hand—at least, outside of the match. Luke Harper tried to insert himself, and it was Daniel Bryan’s turn to come to the rescue, which gave Roman the opportunity to pin Rowan. It was obvious that together they could defeat the former Bludgeon Brothers, if only they could put their differences aside. How much of this was going through Roman’s mind as he stared at Bryan’s outstretched hand before he ultimately accepted and shook it?
Fast forward to Sunday night’s Hell in a Cell, and the situation had already changed. Now it was to be a tornado tag team match, which meant that all participants were able to be in the ring at the same time. Rowan and Harper tried to keep Roman out of the way so that they could focus on Bryan, but underestimated him. Whatever their history, however tenuous the alliance, Daniel Bryan was Roman’s partner, and he treated him as one. Drawing on his ability to take tremendous amounts of abuse and keep going, Roman clawed his way back every time, also allowing Daniel Bryan to do what he does best. The ending was a joint effort, with Bryan and Roman working together to take down Harper, the latter getting the pin. For a moment, it seemed that would be significant, as Bryan first offered and withdrew his hand. Everyone tensed, and even Roman’s expression became guarded. We’ve seen what happens when tag teams fall apart. But instead of the expected turn, Bryan spread his arms wide. When Roman shook his head and started to walk away, Bryan egged the crowd on to chant Roman back. A slow smile formed on the Big Dog’s face. Outside of the ring, he’s an affectionate guy. Without his family, he’s been alone for a long time. And like he would later say himself, Bryan went in for the brother hug, couldn’t leave him hanging. But in that same tweet, Roman said they were putting this chapter behind them. Does that merely mean Rowan & Harper, or that there’s no future for these two as tag partners like some hope?
Ultimately, it may not matter. The draft begins this Friday, and there’s no telling where the cards will fall. Whatever the case, it’s doubtful that either the rivalry or the unlikely team-up that resulted from it will be forgotten any time soon.