Just like that, the WWE Universe was his. After kicking off this week's Raw by helping laying waste to Cesaro, Sheamus and Curtis Axel alongside fellow "hounds of justice" Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns barked at the moon, received a prone Miz in powerbomb position and planted his adversary onto the mat. The throngs in attendance at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse went berserk, begging for more. And they got it later on when the trio, led by Reigns, confronted big man Braun Strowman and sent him smashing through the announce table, setting up a heretofore unthinkable main event for TLC PPV on October 22nd: The officially reformed Shield boys – new uniform tees and all – opposite Strowman, Miz, Sheamus and Cesaro in a three-on-four handicap match. And Reigns, so maligned for so many moons by multitudes of smarks, is once again the centerpiece of every fan's favorite faction.
No less remarkable than the recent "double turn" featuring Neville and Enzo Amore, that sequence of events simultaneously deferred to the audience’s wants and took back authorship of Reigns' narrative with a risky parlay – i.e. get the band back together and over atop soft targets and, for good measure, let them bury a giant who had risen to prominence putting beatings on Reigns. But the real payoff lies down the road, if and when Reigns turns on his brothers and kills the collective buzz, at last playing the heavy on his and WWE's terms.
That has to be what's happening here, no? Why hasten this reunion unless you're gambling on Roman's long-term future at the possible expense of Seth, Dean's short-term odds of standing on their own? Though it's not as if there isn't calculation to the risk. Ever since wrecking his knee in November 2015, Rollins has struggled to regain his footing as the face and future of WWE, stuck in a good-guy rut that's excluded him from story lines against natural rivals like Finn Bálor. Ambrose, despite numerous runs with myriad titles and consummate year-round showmanship that's made him a top earner, has likewise failed to captivate in any single storyline dating back to the 2016 roster split. Once Ambrose was shipped from SmackDown to Raw in April's "superstar shakeup," it was a matter of if not when he and his one-time partners would coalesce. With all three healthy and human money machine Brock Lesnar holding the Universal Championship hostage, it would arguably be imprudent to wait.
Monday night's most shocking twist was offering up Strowman up as a sacrifice, both bodily and in terms of his personal momentum. But with Lesnar MIA, and no comparable beast to size up, there was little option other than felling him for the greater good, a process Strowman of all people implicitly trusts.
What this means for Raw's tag ranks, given Ambrose and Rollins are the current title holders and chief challengers Sheamus and Cesaro have been ensnared in this Shield free-for-all as well, is unclear. How any of the six men not named Roman Reigns involved in TLC's tango will benefit from this relatively unselfish ask is undetermined. All that's self-evident is Reigns' reset rocking arenas and the many ways in which this can serve him well. Unless, that is, he and The Shield are being anted up as prime foils for a new era of bankable rebels whose potential is Undisputed.