Last week’s gauntlet on WWE’s SmackDown, to determine the challenger for the Universal Championship, yielded a surprising opponent for current titleholder Roman Reigns. Reigns, cousin Jey Uso, and “special counsel” Paul Heyman manipulated WWE official Adam Pearce into entering the fray, and maneuvered him into a cover of Shinsuke Nakamura. It was all a long game to punish the suit for approving a match between Uso and Kevin Owens which did not end in Uso’s favor, humiliating Uso and earning the ire of the Tribal Chief. With Pearce set to face Reigns at the December 31 Royal Rumble, Reigns and his allies counted on brutally punishing Pearce for his transgressions.
Throughout January 15’s SmackDown broadcast, Roman Reigns played coy and prevaricated about his contract for the pivotal match, finding fault with the terms, and running interference through Heyman. The signing occurred, Reigns confident that his planned trap for Pearce was game, set, match. As Pearce exited up the ramp, a prior knee complaint seemed to assert itself, and his steps faltered. Before Reigns could seize on his prospective opponent’s weakness and remark upon it, Pearce addressed his obvious limp. He pointed out that, in accordance with WWE policy, the card for the upcoming event was subject to change, and substitutions could be made.
Proving the point, Owens emerged, stepping up as Pearce’s substitution. This changes the picture drastically: rather than walking into a trap of his own design, the assured victor, the Head of the Table was instead the one caught in a double-cross by Pearce and K.O. Kevin Owens now has a shot at the Universal Championship.
While there is every possibility that he might take the title, and the current champion will leave the Rumble emptyhanded and humbled, there is also just as likely a chance that Kevin Owens will be entrapped in the brutal hands of Reigns and Uso.
If so, it has been brought to attention before that Owens, a perennially faithless partner and ally, has had no one to call upon for aid when facing the aggression of Uso and Reigns. Storyline-wise, supposed plans to call up NXT’s Damian Priest as an ally for Owens were allegedly kiboshed. In that case, Owens will be a man alone as he enters the ring to face Reigns. Will he be brutally sacrificed before the altar of the Tribal Chief, or will he emerge the Universal Champion?
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