WWE makes its return to Milwaukee for a live taping of SmackDown at the Fiserv Forum this Friday. WWE’s most recent visit to Milwaukee was in March for a non-televised event, and a lot has changed in the company since.
Many stars who were on that event aren’t even in the company anymore, while others have completely changed themselves in the past nine months. Ronda Rousey is an actress now, Sasha Banks turned her hair blue, Dean Ambrose left to play with barbed wire, and Baron Corbin is a Game Of Thrones cosplay king. In WWE’s reality, changes like these are a constant. Yesterday’s villain is today’s hero, the roster must always be evolving, and change is the engine that keeps the machine running for 52 weeks per year.
Change is a powerful part of WWE’s reality, but it’s not always something they can control. Life has a way of getting in the way of WWE’s best laid plans, and there is no greater example of that than two superstars who are making their first appearances in Milwaukee since events that nearly ended their careers.
Roman Reigns appeared on Monday Night Raw in Milwaukee in March of 2018. This was the last WWE live event at the Bradley Center and, after a non-televised win over Kane, Roman got on the microphone to thank the fans for coming to the Bradley Center and to promise good things to come at the Fiserv Forum.
— Roman-Reigns.Org (@RomanFansite) March 7, 2018
The speech was a mix of “is this really necessary?” corporate speak and Roman being the coolest, most charming guy in the building. No matter what they may have thought about his character, fans left the show thinking that Roman would definitely be on the marquee when the WWE made its Fiserv Forum debut.
When WWE returned to Milwaukee eight months later, it was without Roman Reigns. Not because of some change to WWE’s reality, but because his leukemia returned after 11 years in remission. It was a moment that was realer than wrestling. Anyone who booed Roman Reigns immediately stopped and everyone who loved Roman Reigns immediately started crying.
The good news is that everything went well, his leukemia went into remission, and Roman was able to make his return to the ring. Now, he’s ready to come back to Milwaukee to fulfill the promise he made in the ring that night at the Bradley Center.
Daniel Bryan made no such promises when his career was cut short. Bryan last appeared in Milwaukee in February of 2014, months before his historic win at WrestleMania XXX. Bryan didn’t even make it to the summer before he ended up being shutdown from in-ring action for the rest of the year. He returned and was more beloved than ever, but it wouldn’t last long. By May of 2015, concussions and a tough doctor visit lead to him being told to retire. So he did, but he never gave up hope he’d eventually make his way back to the ring. Even as everyone around him told him otherwise.
It took him more than two years of working with concussion experts, neurologists, and neurosurgeons before his dream came true because he fought for it. He was cleared to return to the ring in 2018 and delivered one of the greater promos in recent history to announce it.
The return of Bryan and Roman to WWE’s reality is no longer a big deal. It’s old news. Bryan has gone from beloved to an evil environmentalist and back again in just over a year. In WWE, there are always new stories to tell, characters to introduce, and change is the only constant.
For Milwaukee, this show is a big deal. Roman is debuting at Fiserv Forum to make good on a promise he made in an arena that no longer exists. Daniel Bryan returning to the city after almost six years proves that his fight for his dream still matters.
This random Smackdown in the middle of December probably won’t even register a blip when it comes to WWE’s reality, and that’s okay. The story doesn’t always have to move forward. Change isn’t always necessary. And sometimes yesterday’s heroes can be today’s heroes too.