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Roundtable: Back from the Brock-tagon

(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)

Moment of the night? 

Daniel DeMarco: The initiation of the Rusev-Roman Reigns feud.

Did you hear it? Did everyone hear what I heard? Yes, a pretty decent crowd reaction to Reigns. And compared to what he has been getting all year, pretty decent is a major upgrade. Were there still boos? Sure there were. But there were also a lot cheers, and there were not nearly enough boos to drown them out like what is the usual. It appears WWE finally found a promising move. And for Reigns, it is much deserved if you ask me. I’m under the impression the vast majority of the continued disapproval of Reigns has been a mixture of habit and bandwagon effect ever since he won the title at WrestleMania 32. The fans treated him like crap during his whole title reign, they treated him like crap when he lost the title, and they treated him like crap when he returned from his suspension. So after all that, it was a good change to hear a shifting reaction. Hopefully now it continues.

Travis Wakeman: The end of the show where Orton hit the RKO on Lesnar. Though you could totally see it coming, this was a cool moment for me because I can remember quite well when both of these guys were in WWE’s developmental territory together. Way before there was NXT, there was Ohio Valley Wrestling and I remember telling my friends about Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar and how they were both future stars. Of course my friends, who were never as analytical as I was, had no idea who I was talking about. Many times in the past WWE has billed matches as “15 years in the making”, “20 years in the making” or whatever the case may be. This is one time where that tagline really has me intrigued.

Jason Hall:  The RKO. Randy Orton has been awesome since returning at Battleground. I mean, best Orton we’ve seen since 2009. The Lesnar-Heyman segment really didn’t seem like it was going anywhere past that point. Even if it was semi-predictable that Orton was going to sneak in, it still came as a surprise. That segment actually had a “real” feeling to it with Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley leading security out afterward.

Riley Kontek: Orton’s RKO of Brock Lesnar. With the brand split, who would have thought we’d see Randy Orton on Raw so soon? He’s a SmackDown Live guy and the two “universes” were split. It was an awesome surprise because he came through the crowd, as he should have in this scenario. You didn’t see him until the very last second, when he hit the “great equalizer.” It was a great moment that will make this feud intense.

Joseph Nardone: I thought it was the Seth Rollins-Finn Balor face-to-face on the microphone. For the first time in a bit, this didn’t come off as a forced segment for a main WWE title. Furthermore, Balor really held his own on the mic with Rollins. While that can be due to Rollins being a next-level type of talent, even in his feuds against former Shield members the atmosphere never felt so equal.

So, in a way, I’m giving that the moment of the night simply because — as a fan — I know feel far more comfortable and “know” Balor belongs in the main event scene.

At this point in their respective careers, who’s in greater need of a win over the other: Roman Reigns or Rusev?

DD: I’ll ask it again: did you hear that crowd? It is actually unfortunate for Rusev, because I was all for him getting a good push again as the U.S. champion. But that was before I ever would have thought WWE would pit him against Reigns, and that Reigns would receive a changed crowd reaction as a result. I’m sorry Rusev, but Reigns needs this. Especially with the way both men were positioned during the ring segment, with Rusev as the classic bully who only preys on the weak and cracks once real opposition presents itself. Reigns needs to come out on top.

TW: Roman Reigns. I mean, he’s been knocked down from the main event status to facing the guy with the United States title. If he were to fall short there, you’d really have to wonder where his career was headed. If Rusev lost, none of those questions would be asked. The last time Rusev was U.S. champion and right after he lost the title, he and Reigns had many encounters and Reigns came out looking strong pretty much every time. If that is reversed and now Rusev goes over, the free fall of Reigns could last awhile and be something he might not come back from for a long time.

JH: Roman. Rusev is fine where he’s at. At this point if Roman can’t win a midcard feud, then he’s not getting out of the dog house. I mean, the guy was no selling everyone two months ago. Now he hasn’t won a match since he’s returned from suspension. I doubt that will be the case though. Even if he doesn’t actually win the title, no way Reigns takes a clean pin.

RK: Probably Reigns since he’s in the dog house right now. Rusev has been a good US Champion and is entertaining on the mic. Since the terrible League of Nations angle, he has returned rightfully to being a monster. Reigns has gone from WWE Champion to title challenger to suspended to taking two clean pinfalls in a row to now fighting for a midcard title. I would say his stock has dropped majorly and he’s in greater need of a win at this point. Although him losing a couple has certainly brought less booing.

JN: I will go with Rusev. Mostly because he has been booked so well as of late, and despite that it is hard to get true-heels over in a way that resonates with fans. Having him go over Reigns would add credibility to his reinstated “beast” character and establish him as a powerful mid-card title holder.

Reigns hasn’t lost all that much during his career. Yes, he is on a mini-losing streak, but he is still such a flawed talent — one in need of an evolution — that giving him a win here is counterproductive. It would not only prove the WWE hasn’t learned from its past mistakes, as it would be continuously battling crowd reactions, but rewarding Reigns for what — the ability to change his vest to red post-suspension?

Brock Lesnar is back for the first time since UFC 200, should WWE fans be upset about his potential USADA violation?

DD: I suppose not. What is to be upset about really with regard to his work in WWE? In WWE, he is a performer, not a competitor. WWE fans can be upset if WWE wants to play up his performance against Mark Hunt at UFC 200, but it does not appear that is occurring, at least not directly. The only thing really mentioned was Lesnar is the biggest draw in combat sports, and that is likely the truth regardless of the cleanliness of his drug tests. So whatever. Pro wrestling and MMA are two different worlds. MMA fans can have plenty to be upset with Lesnar about, but for WWE fans it has nothing to do with them or what Lesnar does in WWE.

TW: The only ones who will are going to be the same ones that complain that Brock gets preferential treatment but working less dates, etc. It’s gotta be a touchy situation for WWE and to be perfectly honest, I’m not aware of what information they used to base their decision not to punish him but to this point, WWE isn’t punishing him. Should WWE fans be upset that he potentially violated USADA’s anti-doping policy? Perhaps, but it’s not going to do any good, because WWE isn’t pulling him off the road.

JH: I guess. I mean, I don’t care. I care more so as someone who watched the fight. I care more as someone who watches UFC on occasion. I’d care if I was Reigns, who was seemingly the WWE’s golden boy at the time and had to serve a suspension for failing his own drug test. But Brock will be gone in a month anyway. It’s not like he’s a weekly competitor. He’s a sideshow attraction. “Watch the beast suplex people.” That what his gimmick is, then it’s gone for a few months and back again.

RK: They have the right to be, but I don’t think one thing in the UFC has to do with the other in WWE. Brock has always had the stigma of potential PED usage just by looking at his physique. While he was never caught with it in WWE, which shows their drug testing policy is still somewhat rubbish, I don’t see why fans have to be upset bout the violation. As an MMA fan, I was pissed. As a wrestling fan, I don’t really care.

JN: No. Not unless they are the same types of fans that were upset and enjoyed the Rocky movies less when they found out Sylvester Stallone was juicing.

Wrestling is more entertainment than sport. It is a mix of the two, but the outcome isn’t actually determined by in-ring talents. With that being said, Reigns or Lesnar — or anyone else for that matter — shouldn’t be given a pass per say for violating a wellness policy, but by no means should any fan be distraught over it.

It would be like getting mad finding out the green Power Ranger (Tommy was always the best) took extra karate classes while the blue ranger was eating Doritos. To me, it makes sense that these athletes that perform in uber-violent sports sometimes tries to get an edge — by way of either heeling quicker or getting stronger — so they don’t get their heads literally bashed in.

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