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Roman Reigns retains Universal title as Road to Wrestlemania makes stop at JPJ

roman reigns drew mcintyre
Roman Reigns spears Drew McIntyre to set up the winning pinfall at a WWE live event at the John Paul Jones Arena on Sunday night. Photo by Crystal Graham.

Drew McIntyre, predictably, didn’t win the Universal title from Roman Reigns at the WWE house show at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville Sunday night.

The surprise was how the match played out.

Reigns, the reigning, defending Universal champ, slated to face former champ Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 38 this coming weekend, worked the match as the babyface, with McIntyre, also a former champ, working as the heel.

I’d love to know if this is the way they’ve been working house shows recently, or if this was an audible that they called early in the match after reading the crowd, which was decidedly pro-Reigns from the outset.

McIntyre is scheduled to face Happy Corbin deep down on the undercard on Night 1 of WM 38 on Saturday night, but with Lesnar, now cast as a face, not working live events, McIntyre is a natural to put in the main event on the touring shows opposite Reigns to help sell tickets.

And the match itself was solid.

The live event production team turned out the lights on the crowd for the main event, a nice touch that gave it a big-match field.

Reigns controlled most of the action early on, but when McIntyre made the hero comeback, it came with no juice from the crowd, which looked to be in the range of 4,000, with the floor and lower level a near-sellout, the upper deck roped off and otherwise empty.

So, the guys seemed to improvise a Reigns comeback, which was greeted by the crowd as the hero comeback, and he won clean with a spear.

Again, I’m not sure how the Reigns-McIntyre matches have been playing out elsewhere, but I’d imagine that the booking might have Reigns, the heel champ, retaining with some kind of chicanery, then McIntyre getting the live mic to send the fans home happy.

Instead, it was Reigns who took the mic as the show lights came on, and talked about his football days at Georgia Tech, an ACC rival of Virginia, putting Virginia Football over, like a top face would be expected to do.

My instinct tells me this was a gut call by Reigns, McIntyre and whichever agent was in charge in Charlottesville last night.

And it was the right call.

Quick hits

  • charlotte flair
    WWE Smackdown women’s champ Charlotte Flair. Photo by Crystal Graham.

    Fans were able to see Smackdown women’s champ Charlotte Flair, who will face Ronda Rousey on Night 1 of Wrestlemania 38 on Saturday, but, no Rousey, who had been announced for the show last month.

  • Flair won a triple threat match with Sasha Banks and Natalya. Outside interference from Shayna Baszler and Naomi led to an impromptu tag match with Banks and Naomi getting the pinfall win over Baszler and Natalya.
  • For some reason, The Usos defended the Smackdown tag belts in a four-way match with Sheamus & Ridge Holland, Happy Corbin & Madcap Moss, and Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs. The Usos retained; but, why couldn’t we have just had two tag matches featuring the four teams?
  • Ricochet defended his Intercontinental title against Sami Zayn, who was the most entertaining heel of the night, in terms of his interactions with the live crowd. Ricochet was underwhelming in person, which is understandable; why risk anything in terms of high-impact moves with no cameras rolling, and a Wrestlemania payday looming?
  • Viking Raiders defeated Los Lotharios in the opening match of the night. This match did what it needed to as an opener.
  • Aaliyah defeated Sonya Deville in the first match after intermission. Nice rookie vs. veteran angle played out here.

Story by Chris Graham

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