On this past Friday’s episode of SmackDown, WWE gave its fans a rare treat scheduling 2021 Men’s Royal Rumble winner Edge to wrestle in his first match on the show in a decade. Unfortunately, they also felt the need to water the occasion down with unnecessary stakes: his match with Jey Uso carried the stipulation that the winner would become the special guest enforcer for the Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns Universal Championship match at Fastlane.
Ultimately, Edge scored the pinfall victory to earn that responsibility — as he should have; the Rumble winner shouldn’t be losing matches heading into WrestleMania — but the fact that WWE felt this Bryan vs. Reigns match needed a special guest enforcer is a bit of a headscratcher.
This is another case of WWE padding more story threads to a program that doesn’t need that extra fluff.
Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns can tell a compelling story without a special guest enforcer.
As we saw for a couple of moments at this past February’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Bryan and Reigns are more than capable of pulling fans into whatever story they’re telling in the ring.
In their brief match at the aforementioned show, fans had no reason to think that Byran had a chance to win the title, but in the small period of time when Bryan had Reigns trapped in the Yes Lock, those two world-class workers tugged at that smidge of hope and made you wonder if the improbable would happen.
Sure, it ended with Roman pummeling and choking out a man who endured a grueling Elimination Chamber match, but from that end result, WWE planted the seeds for a fascinating story: What would happen if Daniel Bryan had a chance to wrestle Reigns at full strength?
That is more interesting than having Bryan talk about being “complacent” or how many matches he’s wrestled; it’s certainly more enthralling than inserting the Rumble winner in a spot that almost ensures that the fans won’t care about anything until whatever shenanigans with Edge (and probably Jey Uso) commence.
This is a match that deserves better than that.
Will this lead to a Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns/Edge triple threat?
Of course, WWE likely has an ulterior motive for tacking on this stipulation: booking a finish that somehow gets us to Bryan vs. Edge vs. Reigns at WrestleMania 37.
It’s not hard to envision a scenario where the referee gets knocked down and Bryan gets a phantom pinfall but doesn’t get the win because Edge is out of position — either due to indecision or Jey Uso’s tomfoolery — or falls prey to an inadvertent spear from Edge.
But again, if the endgame is a Bryan/Reigns/Edge three-way, they could’ve still gotten there without this stip that doubles as a “this match will be overbooked” notification for fans.
Even something as simple as a double pinfall or a scenario where Reigns has Bryan’s shoulders pinned to the mat while tapping to a submission hold — be it the Yes Lock or something else — would’ve sufficed as a sufficient storyline reason to add Bryan to Edge vs. Reigns. Plus, it would’ve had a better chance of keeping the fans invested in the action throughout the contest instead of just the last few minutes.
Instead, we will probably get something a little more convoluted at Fastlane, and given the talent involved in this, that will be a shame.