The ongoing feud between WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and WWE official Adam Pearce took an unexpected turn on SmackDown’s January 22 broadcast. Reigns opened the show mocking Pearce’s claims of a knee injury, which caused him to deploy a substitute for the Royal Rumble: Reigns’s nemesis Kevin Owens. When Pearce met Reigns in the ring, Reigns’s special counsel Paul Heyman challenged Pearce to a match himself. Both are former wrestlers, but Heyman has spent far many more years on the creative and administrative side of the ring. Even Reigns was taken aback by his guru’s challenge, but urged Heyman to go through with the proposed match for the sake of both their dignity.
Pearce awaited his opponent in the ring. Heyman approached, but when he attempted to enter the ring his knees failed him and his footing slipped. He made repeated attempts, but after many flailing slips finally collapsed beside the apron.
Pearce looked on incredulously, suspecting a ploy.
Heyman reminded him of Pearce’s own words weeks before: that all fight cards were subject to change. On cue, Roman Reigns walked the ramp, stepping up as Heyman’s substitute. Reigns wasted little time, entering the ring and issuing a Superman punch to Pearce, the official he feels helped Kevin Owens hoodwink his way into the Rumble. Next, he headed for the steel steps, to pick them up and pummel Pearce with them. Pearce struck back, but Roman kicked him and drove him over the barricade. He clearly had more punishment in store for Pearce, but was interrupted by a surprise attack from a dark clothed, hooded figure.
The hood fell, and it was revealed that the attacker was Kevin Owens. Owens furiously barraged Reigns with punches. The Universal Champion gained his bearings, and the two traded impassioned blows along the aisles of the Thunderdome. The virtual audience was visibly delighted at the spectacle, but the action soon moved to the ring. Reigns went in for a Superman punch, but Owens countered with a stunner. The two brawled out of the ring, to the barricade. The referees converged to reign in the unauthorized Owens, but he managed to break free from them and knock Reigns down, against the barricade. Owens, once again the target of the refs, went back to the ring, prowling the canvas like a man possessed. He charged out of the ring again, bypassed the referees, hit the punch-drunk Reigns with another stunner, and then lifted and slammed him in a pop-up powerbomb through the announce desk.
Once again, Owens managed to take Reigns by surprise, and once again he has humiliated the Tribal Chief before the enrapt eyes of the Thunderdome. The grudge between the two has only deepened heading into the Royal Rumble, and Reigns will surely hold nothing back to humble Owens and hold onto his Universal Championship.
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