Roman Reigns has been one of the highlights of WWE television since capturing the Universal Championship over 400 days ago at Payback 2020. But one of the issues for the Tribal Chief is finding who will challenge him for the belt, having dispatched everyone put in his way. Despite the recent WWE Draft, the contenders aren’t exactly lining up for the current Universal Champion, with very few members of the blue brand offering much threat to his reign.
If Reigns is to defeat Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel, it is vital that WWE continue to provide him with believable opponents to keep his run with the belt exciting. Here are five contenders that are with Smackdown following the draft that should face Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship.
Drew McIntyre is set to face WWE Champion Big E at the upcoming Crown Jewel event, but with the Scotsman’s trade to the blue brand, it is highly unlikely that he will be claiming the gold.
McIntyre has been built by WWE in such a way that he feels like a spare part when he is not at the top of the card, so it would be natural for him to go straight for Roman Reigns. McItnyre is one of the few people on the Smackdown roster who feels as if he could legitimately be a threat to Reigns.
The two men have of course met before at Survivor Series 2020, with Reigns coming out on top over the then WWE Champion.
The match received high praise but wasn’t explored further, with both men returning to their respective brands and going their own way, so it is a good opportunity for WWE to revisit it.
To this day, Jeff Hardy remains as one of the most beloved superstars in WWE, with his appeal even reaching out to the lapsed fan.
Despite the two men having been in WWE for the past four years, Roman Reigns and Jeff Hardy have never actually faced each other, giving WWE the chance to offer a fresh match up on pay-per-view.
With Hardy being a perennial face, having Reigns tear him apart would garner the Tribal Chief even more heat with the crowd and get them onboard with Hardy winning the belt.
Hardy has the ability to make fans forget how unlikely it is for him to win the belt and get them right behind him, pushing him all the way before having it robbed from them. With TLC coming up in December, a TLC match between Hardy and Reigns could be excellent for both men.
Despite being an excellent heel currently on Smackdown, Zayn was once one of the most beloved faces in WWE.
Zayn’s run to the NXT Championship saw him become the heart and soul of NXT, a far cry from his character now, and he has it in him to do it again.
With Zayn being the last pick in the WWE Draft, it would be nice to see this made up to him by being granted an opportunity at the Universal Championship.
Although Zayn is another contender that seems incredibly unlikely to dethrone Reigns, he could garner such sympathy to get him incredibly over as well as being able to bump like a mad man for his bigger opponent.
Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott
Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott’s Hit Row were defined in NXT by their excellent feud Legado Del Fantasma.
Hit Row could continue their excellent faction vs faction run going is they collide with the Bloodline, Top Dolla and Ashante ‘Thee’ Adnois facing tag champions the Usos whilst Scott faces Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship.
A suggestion for the Bloodline has also been the introduction of Naomi to the group, so with B-Fabb being part of Hit Row, that could also be an avenue to explore.
AEW has shown just how good faction warfare can be, even at the top of the card, so WWE could do much worse than replicating that on their programming.
Shinsuke Nakamura seemed set to face Roman Reigns at the 2021 Royal Rumble, having been robbed of a Universal title match when Reigns attacked him after a gauntlet match and made Adam Pearce the winner – do you remember that? Because WWE don’t seem too.
Nakamura never got his chance to face off with Reigns, the two men only ever meeting one-on-one once back in 2019 for the Intercontinental Championship, Nakamura winning by DQ.
The current Intercontinental Champion could tap back in to the King of Strong Style as he looks to dethrone the Tribal Chief, having lost his crown.
If Nakamura is to go back to his old persona and tap into the magic that surrounded him as he entered NXT, he would become a legitimate contender for Roman Reigns.
Despite the lack of one-on-one history between the two men, Reigns was the last man eliminated by Nakamura as he won the 2018 Royal Rumble, so this could also be explored.