What happened last night during the main event in New Orleans? Currently, there’s three prevailing schools of thought:
- Vince McMahon decided to pull a swerve because the match was “too predictable”
- Brock Lesnar went into business for himself
- Someone called an audible
Update 16 April 2018: It has since been learned that Vince & Roman agreed to Brock opening Roman up “hardway”, throwing elbow strikes. It is possible that the announce table spot was still unplanned, and the botched German suplexes cannot be denied. It has been rumoured that the ending was changed on the day of the event, either because Vince knew the NOLA crowd would reject it, or to put the title on Roman at the Greatest Royal Rumble (#WWEGRR) on 27 April.
Regarding Vince: It’s at least possible. The past two Royal Rumbles have proven that he’s willing to use Roman to troll the crowd. But why throw away three years of building and booking? There are only two plausible explanations; which is either that Vince wants Brock to drop the title to a returning Lashley (why?), to beat Punk’s record (I can see him being that spiteful), or both.
On Brock going into business for himself: People thought this when he hardway’d Orton, too. Especially when it was learned that Jericho got up in his face the second he made it back to gorilla. But even if Brock is returning to UFC (his contract was meant to expire last night), I can’t think of a good reason for him to do this. For one, why burn that bridge? He’s always played the two companies against each other to his advantage. Is his ego that big, as some claim? Considering he’s always been willing to be pinned or sell for a paycheque, why stop now?
Audible called: This should be the most implausible, but there is so much evidence to support it. The possibility that Roman was concussed early on in the match, with Brock’s first belly-to-belly. He threw him face-first into the table, as seen here, at 0:51. Keep in mind that wasn’t Brock’s only botch, last night. He pretty much phoned it in all night, and Roman paid the price. Some people feel that after this is when Roman essentially stopped wrestling, meaning that he was too checked out to do anything other than go on auto-pilot. Some people say they heard Brock tell Roman that he “should’ve stayed down” after he hardway’d him. Did Roman remember that he was supposed to win, and kept blindly kicking out even after the audible was called? (Shane McMahon exhibited similar behaviour when concussed at Survivor Series). Could it be that Brock hardway’d him in desperation, trying to get him to stay down? The match didn’t end immediately after, but felt abrupt from that point. After Brock won, there was no celebration—the ref didn’t lift his hand, there were no fireworks. They did play his music as he exited. We go to a clip recap of the night; when we come back, we see Roman staggering on his feet, going to his family. There were reports that it took him almost ten minutes to get up. Galina reaches for him, which I don’t think we’ve ever seen her do. Sika, though, yells something to him. Reports vary as to the actual wording, but most people seem to think it was either “Why did you lay down?” or, “He made you lay down.” Roman didn’t respond, or even look at him. The refs had cleaned off most of the blood—Mick Foley attested that he’d lost “a lot”—but Roman was clearly unsteady as he made his way to the top of the ramp. (His music also played.) He did not acknowledge any fans, just turned and looked out at the crowd once (see top image) before stumbling backstage. The refs actually had to physically direct him. We don’t hear anything further about his actions last night, but there were two more incidents of note. First are reports that fireworks went off some ten minutes after the event ended. Remember, Brock didn’t get any on his win, and all live rounds need to be discharged before the equipment can be taken down. Were these originally meant for Roman? Second is that Vince and Brock reported got into a heated verbal altercation after the match. Was it because Brock went off-script? Louisiana has steep fines for blood in wrestling matches; could that be the source of contention? Was Vince angry about the money? The fact that Lesnar bust open his top guy? That the match was ruined? Some are suggesting that the audible was called once Roman was bloodied, and none of those suggestions refute it.
Below, a study in contrasts. The sanitised images that the company wants you to see, vs how brutal this match really got.
- Official Photo Gallery - Lesnar/Reigns
- Behind the scenes before WM34
- Nola.com Gallery (Lesnar/Reigns in the first part)
- Blood Welling
- Immediately after being laid open
- Crimson Mask
- Galina reaching for Roman (with other family in the background)
- Long walk to the back
- Long walk continued (and end)
BREAKING NEWS: Universal Champion Brock Lesnar re-signs with WWE and will defend his championship against Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage match at the WWE Greatest Royal Rumble!
I... don’t know how to feel about this. Scared for Roman, mostly. Look how much damage Brock did outside of a cage. But is it to add prestige to the event? Or because, as I’ve speculated, something went wrong last night? I’m willing to be wrong. I just want Roman to be all right.