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WWE: Is Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar among one of the greatest WrestleMania rivalries?

When Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar meet at night two main event of WrestleMania on Apr. 3, it will mark the third time that match has headlined WWE’s biggest show. Only two other big matches have been in featured positions at three different WrestleManias. Does that make it one of the great rivalries in company history? It’s a bit more complicated than that.

We will take a look at Lesnar vs. Reigns and its place as a three-time main event. First, we should look at the other two matches that reached the milestone.

Steve Austin vs. The Rock

Only one other match has main evented the show three times. Steve Austin vs. The Rock was the top draw at WrestleManias XV, X-Seven (they got cute with the numerals for a few years) and XIX.

Austin and the Rock seemed like once-in-a-generation talents, except they came along in the same generation. The charisma and contrasts of the two were a promoter’s dream and these were the biggest matches of the era for the company.

There is no gray area here. Those matches were the main events XV and X-Seven. It was the two biggest stars meeting on the biggest stage, both times for the WWF title, as it was known then. Austin won those first two clashes, with his ill-advised heel taking place in the second match.

Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle faced one another at WrestleMania XIX for the WWF title, so that match shared top billing with Austin and the Rock. Still, title or not, it was a huge deal. That last one was Austin’s final match before possibly having one with Kevin Owens at this year’s show. Austin went out in the old-school manner, putting over the remaining star on the way out.

HHH vs. The Undertaker

This one is a little trickier. The idea of a main event can be subjective. Many times, WrestleMania has had featured matches that weren’t the main event but were highly-anticipated matches that helped draw the house and pay-per-view audience. The Undertaker’s streak provided excellent examples of this. The Undertaker was only in the “main event” spot a few times, matches that were for the world title, or came last on the show. Most of the time, his spot was a special attraction, providing crucial depth to the card.

As the streak rolled on, those matches became bigger deals. Undertaker’s matches with CM Punk and Lesnar, for example, were presented as being almost as big as the main events themselves. HHH vs. the Undertaker might not have been the main event, but it was never filler like Undertaker’s battles with King Kong Bundy or his squash over Jimmy Snuka.

The first came as part of the X-Seven show and was the semifinal that night. Undertaker’s victory there made him 9-0 at WrestleMania. After that, they did not cross paths on the top show for another ten years. They met again at WrestleMania XXVII, a year after Undertaker had vanquished HHH’s close friend Shawn Michaels.

HHH and Undertaker had a lot to live up to going into that second encounter. The previous two WrestleManias featured classics between Michaels and Undertaker. With HHH coming for revenge on behalf of his friend, the match was made No Holds Barred.

After Undertaker’s victory, they decided to run it back at WrestleMania XXVIII. After the No Holds Barred match, they decided there was one way to heighten the tension, a Hell in a Cell match. To top it off, Micheals was added as the special guest referee. In perhaps his most brutal WrestleMania match, Undertaker won an epic battle.

While none of these matches were main events, the last two especially were more examples of matches hyped nearly as much as the respective main events (John Cena vs. The Miz and Cena vs. the Rock). It’s remembered fondly by fans as one of the better WrestleMania rivalries.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar

So, after all that, does Reigns vs. Lesnar compare? As a rivalry, it does not capture the imagination the way Austin vs. the Rock did, but that’s a pretty difficult comparison. First of all, the focus of the company has changed. What used to be a star-driven business built around draws such as Hulk Hogan, Austin and the Rock has changed into a more brand-driven approach. Of course, the company wants stars, but they want the overall package to be the main feature now.

In fact, the first WrestleMania meeting between the two was crashed by another star. During the Lesnar-Reigns battle at WrestleMania XXXI, Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase once both men had beaten the holy hell out of one another and dashed off with the title.

The second battle was at WrestleMania XXXIV, and it was marred by the WWE fans in attendance moving from being frustrated with Reign’s babyface push into open revolt. The fans dumped their anger with creative all over the match, with derogatory chants and a staunch refusal to pop for babyface moments or comebacks. They chanted for CM Punk. The even chanted “This is Awful” at one point, although Lesnar and Reigns were working hard.

A rivalry can’t be on the level of the two mentioned above when the fans decide en masse they don’t want to see it.

WrestleMania has also changed from a one-night event to the culmination of a two-night festival with other shows surrounding it. That means it’s best to have several major points of interest rather that one singular main event. This year, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair are headlining a night as well and will likely garner more mainstream publicity due to Rousey’s UFC career.

But things have turned around. Reigns’ heel run is exactly what fans hoped it would be. He’s been excellent in the role. Lesnar seems invigorated by this babyface run, and the storyline involving intrigue with Paul Heyman and multiple championships has been strong.

Will Lesnar vs. Reigns fall into the same category as Austin vs. the Rock, or HHH vs. The Undertaker? It does not, but we do have two big stars who work well together in a match that will unify the two biggest titles in the WWE. And the fans won’t be dumping all over this one. It might finish third on this list, but Lesnar and Reigns will have carved out their own piece of WrestleMania history once it’s over.

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