It was announced on Monday Night Raw that Roman Reigns will once again have to overcome the odds to remain at the top of the WWE, this time being challenged with his trickiest task to date.
The current World Heavyweight champion continues to pay for his challenge to The Authority and will now have to win the Royal Rumble in order to retain his title.
Having won last year’s Rumble, Reigns must repeat his 2014 feat if his enthralling defiance were to continue.
Not since 1992 has the WWE’s top title been up for grabs in the Rumble, that year seeing Ric Flair claim the crown after entering third.
And while Reigns will be up against it in the WWE’s most entertaining brawl on the calendar, he is certainly not unfamiliar with having the odds stacked firmly against him.
His recent career has been defined by the WWE’s authoritative power rallying against him and his destruction of Triple H after being screwed over at TLC sparked new life into his cause within the WWE Universe and led to his current title run.
Here, Sport360 looks at the five biggest challenges of Reigns’ career so far. 1. Monday Night Raw – Seth Rollins turns on The Shield
At the time, The Shield were the most dominant force in the WWE, dismantling everyone before them as the most exciting stable the company has seen in recent years.
Having feuded with Evolution, they came out on top of two showdowns at Xtreme Rules and Payback and nothing looked like stopping them.
However, Triple H had Rollins turn on his comrades and began his determined effort to deny Reigns’ progression. 2. WrestleMania 31 – Rollins cashes in
A Royal Rumble win led Reigns to the grandest stage of them all and a WrestleMania showdown with all conquering Brock Lesnar.
He was battered initially as Lesnar coined the phrase “Supplex City”, but Reigns began to get back into it and cause the champion some problems before Rollins once again spoiled the party.
Mr. Money in the Bank cashed in his title shot and went on to claim the World Heavyweight title as Triple H’s pedigree protégé. 3. Money in the Bank 2015 – Bray Wyatt interferes
Reigns has gotten used to nuisance interferences at key moments and as he looked set to scale the ladder and claim a Money in the Bank contract of his own until the lights went out in the arena.
Wyatt appeared and, without any sign of a feud, brought Reigns down to size with a Sister Abigail that cost him his shot.
Sheamus went on to win the match and, although unknown to him at the time, he would prove to be Reigns’ next party pooper. 4. Survivor Series 2015 – Sheamus cashes in
Furthering that belief was this year’s Survivor Series which saw Reigns take on old friend Dean Ambrose in the final of the World Heavyweight title tournament.
It was a perfect moment for Reigns as he valiantly beat Ambrose and finally claimed the title he so desperately craved.
It was all too good to be true, Sheamus coming to the ring to deliver a Brogue Kick, cash in his Money in the Bank contract and win the title just five minutes and 15 seconds after he claimed gold for the first time. 5. TLC 2015 – League of Nations unite
Reigns got his shot at reclaiming the title at the next pay-per-view but by this time Sheamus had aligned himself with Triple H and formed the League of Nations.
Rusev, Alberto del Rio and Wade Barrett would all traipse down to the ring to assist their leader at TLC as their influence helped deny Reigns once again.
This proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as Reigns went on a rampage, destroying all in his path much to the delight of the WWE Universe.
It’s been two months since John Cena last stepped into a WWE ring before his return on Monday Night Raw and boy has it been a long two months.
Sure, in that time we have had the thoroughly enjoyable rise of Roman Reigns, The New Say continue to shine and Kevin Owens is still impressing.
But we have also had to watch the Divas division and United States championship battle stagnate somewhat after thoroughly impressive initial work from all involved.
And while Cena obviously hasn’t been a part of the Divas conundrum, which also had a shot in the arm this week with Becky Lynch’s performance, he was sorely missed from the US title frame.
With his open challenges, series of remarkable matches and superb storytelling, Cena gave the US title greater importance than ever.
Before he relinquished the title to Alberto Del Rio at October’s Hell in a Cell, this column argued that the momentum must not be halted.
The life that Cena breathed back into the championship needed to be maintained but since then it has been gasping for air, in dire need of yet another revival from the face of the company.
Cena did that this week with his return to the ring in typically emphatic fashion.
Here are three reasons why Cena’s return was so refreshing and very much needed.
ENGAGING THE UNIVERSE
There is no other wrestler who can divide a crowd as much as Cena, whipping them into a frenzy of either hate or love.
On his return, this was seen in full glare as the WWE Universe lapped up his comeback to the ring.
Cena’s superb promo that he given was testament to the all-round brilliance of one of the greatest wrestlers of his generation.
— WWE (@WWE) December 29, 2015
BRINGING US TITLE BACK TO THE FORE
Since Cena’s injury the US title has been lacking star power with Del Rio’s dated rivalry with Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter behind the Mexican’s run thus far.
It has been incredibly boring, predictable storytelling.
However, with the League of Nations and Cena’s return, we are set up for the division to once again be elevated to the heady heights it enjoyed under Cena’s reign.
HIS IN-RING WORK
It is undeniable that Cena is one of the best in the business when it comes to his work in the ring.
His chemistry with everyone he has ever encountered (notably Owens and Cesaro in his US title run) highlights his excellence and adaptability.
To see him back in action with Del Rio was a welcome sight and hopefully there will be many more treats to come along the Road to WrestleMania.
To say it’s been a topsy-turvy year for the WWE is as much an understatement as to call Brock Lesnar a good wrestler.
There have been some enormous highs but also a swathe of lows that have rendered it an overall just about above average 2015, a C+ with a lot of areas to improve.
And on this week’s RAW it was time once again for the WWE to give itself a pat on the back for all it has done over the past 12 months as the Slammys were held amidst the normal Monday night action.
– Why Roman Reigns needed to snap and rise to the top
– Will Sheamus ever be more than a transitional champ?
– Rooney pulls off attacking performance of the season
Superstars and Divas were heralded, matches and storylines assessed, voted for and given trophies for their mark on the calendar.
As this column looked on and saw how the WWE celebrated 2015 we nodded in agreement with a few and spat out our dummies and a few more.
In response, here are five alternative awards and winners to some more traditional ones.
MATCH OF THE YEAR – John Cena vs Kevin Owens, Battleground
Honestly, it could have been either one of the three matches between the two but the Battleground decider stands out for it drawing to a close one of the most exciting rivalries in recent history.
In all three of their bouts an aggression and inventiveness sparked new life into Cena and catapulted Owens to the fore of the WWE Universe’s mind.
Watch this one over and over again rather than Slammys winner Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar from Hell in a Cell (although that wasn’t a bad one).
UP-AND-COMER OF THE YEAR – Kevin Owens
Owens missed out to Neville in the WWE equivalent of Breakout Star of the Year, but there is no way he should have.
Neville was without doubt a highlight in 2015 but his fellow NXT graduate Owens served up treat after treat and ended up taking the Intercontinental title in the meantime.
Without a doubt, Owens made a huge impression and will be headlining shows for years to come.
BIGGEST ENTERTAINER – Paul Heyman
This column is a huge fan of Heyman and he is easily our favourite person in every WWE show.
Our only gripe is that he doesn’t feature more prominently in shows, with Heyman’s masterful mic work something we’d like to fill the entirety of Monday Night Raw.
Heyman is an utter superstar and his ability to whip up an audience into a fever kept fans salivating over Lesnar vs Taker despite each athlete’s sporadic appearances.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – Sting
This is tricky, as we were delighted to see Sting take on Triple H at WrestleMania and then battle it out with Seth Rollins later in the year.
However, a cat and mouse that never really let us see Sting in his glorious best form left his historic crossover to WWE a little flat.
As with a lot of the WWE’s biggest moves this year, this promised so much but delivered very little.
BIGGEST TURNAROUND – New Day
From hated faces to fantastic heels, the New Day have gone from vile to victorious.
The trio fell awfully short as faces but have repaid the WWE’s faith in allowing them time to find their feet and have dominated the tag team division in 2015.
Two title reigns and ending up far and away the strongest team in the WWE, New Day delight every time they enter the ring talking of unicorns and pitting their wits against their rivals in the ring and with a mic in hand.
That is without blowing Xavier Woods’ trumpet too much, however…