WWE Payback 2017: Neither Roman Reigns or Braun Strowman Can Afford to Lose


Wins and losses don’t always matter in the WWE, but in the case of Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman’s match at Payback, neither can afford to lose clean.

Braun Strowman’s rise on Raw over the past few months has been clear for all to see. He’s being made to look like a star in WWE.

From tipping over an ambulance to breaking the ring with Big Show and even getting in the face of Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Strowman is being pushed as a monster, and it’s working. The commentary team made note of the fact Strowman stood tall after the ring collapse as Big Show laid motionless in the middle of the ring. It wasn’t just a fun TV moment, the design was to make Strowman look strong.

The Monster Among Men has been booked to near perfection post-WrestleMania, but he can’t afford another pay-per-view defeat to his name. Strowman is yet to secure a victory in singles action at a pay-per-view.

Having already lost to Reigns two months ago at Fastlane, a second defeat would take all the steam out of Strowman’s meteoric rise. No longer would he be perceived as an untouchable monster, but rather a bully who beats up members of the roster until Reigns shows up and pins him when it counts.

Strowman’s momentum must continue to build, especially heading into a possible summer showdown with Lesnar.

Similarly, Reigns can’t afford to lose on Sunday. Presented as the good guy (although you wouldn’t be able to tell by his fan reaction), Reigns has been on the back foot during the entire build to this match. Since being attacked by Strowman earlier this month, Reigns hasn’t been seen on Raw.

In a typical good guy-bad guy feud, this would be the time Reigns makes a heroic return to slay the monster and avenge the attack he suffered. With such mixed reactions from the audience, following this narrative won’t provide the desired effect.

It’s important, though, that the former Shield member doesn’t lose either. This is his first match since defeating and retiring The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Placing such a historic win on Reigns’ resume puts a responsibility on the WWE’s shoulders. After ending The Deadman’s career at the event he owned for a quarter of a century, Reigns can’t go on to lose just four weeks later.

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Reigns should carry the momentum of overcoming The Undertaker into an inevitable showdown with Lesnar, possibly for the championship at WrestleMania 34. It’s an easy story to tell: Reigns and Lesnar are the only two men in history to take down The Phenom on the grand stage, but both believe they are the best.

Whether fans like it or not, Reigns is The Man in the WWE and continues to be booked as such. Don’t be surprised if he remains unbeaten at pay-per-view events heading into the meeting with Lesnar.

So how can the WWE avoid either losing steam at Payback?

The easiest way is to make the match a no contest. A brawl that results in a double count-out and ends up in the crowd or backstage is a way of protecting them both. Reigns can get the upper hand in the fight as he’s portrayed as the babyface, but it doesn’t place a clean loss to Strowman’s name.

Ending the match via disqualification would work too. As Reigns gathers momentum and looks poised to put the monster away, Strowman decides enough is enough and grabs a weapon. Technically he would lose the match, but it wouldn’t be by pinfall or submission.

The final option is for Brock Lesnar to interfere, but this very much depends on the WWE’s plans for the Universal Champion beyond Payback. If the idea is for Lesnar to defend his title at Extreme Rules in June, getting involved in this match would make sense.

Paul Heyman already teased a potential Reigns-Lesnar match after WrestleMania, but it’s unlikely they meet so soon. By inserting Lesnar into the match, the foundations can be set for a meeting with Strowman for the title at either Extreme Rules or SummerSlam.

Sunday’s showdown has all the makings of a Reigns victory. After being attacked weeks earlier, he’s being portrayed as the underdog who needs to survive against the dominant monster. Considering no plans appear to be in place to turn Reigns heel, Strowman’s build in recent weeks could simply be a tool to further build Roman following his huge WrestleMania victory.

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The WWE should avoid that. Reigns may be The Man in their eyes, but Strowman too has become a top player on Raw, and both stars should be protected at Payback.