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Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Brock Lesnar did it. Almost.

With the formerly spotless Undertaker and iconic John Cena in his rearview, The Beast Incarnate stepped face-to-face with the rampaging Roman Reigns delivered a beating to him that, at times, made his SummerSlam match with John Cena look like a pillow fight. And then Seth Rollins made his move, cashing in his Money in the Bank contract in historical fashion and stealing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship away from both the champion who expected to keep it forever and the challenger who swore he could, and would, beat The Beast to claim it himself. Believe that.

Watch: Lesnar conquers The Streak |  Reigns punches his ticket

Well, believe this: He didn’t. When all was said and done and the dust cleared, Reigns, who clawed his way through a Royal Rumble, a grudge match with Daniel Bryan and the animosity of the WWE Universe itself to become No. 1 contender, was left to watch the man he once called a brother walk away unscathed with his family’s birthright. Before that, however, the defining bout of WrestleMania 31 unfolded exactly as the WWE Universe initially expected it to: A pound-for-pound slugfest between two of the ring’s heaviest hitters. The hostile crowd acted almost as a third competitor of sorts, raining boos upon the embattled 2014 Superstar of the Year and throwing themselves wholeheartedly behind The Beast, who days earlier revealed his intentions to remain a WWE Superstar over a rumored return to the UFC.

Photos:  Lesnar vs. Reigns ... and Rollins?

 

Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

Reigns, never lacking in bravery, went right at Lesnar in an attempt to prove that he can, and he would. But he could not. Lesnar hoisted The Big Dog up like a small child, sending him airborne with a German Suplex and executing an F-5 within the first 30 seconds of the contest. No pinfall was attempted, however, as the maneuver was merely intended as a taste of things to come. Spared for the moment, Roman got one good blow in, drawing blood from The Anomaly’s cheek. But it was an empty victory as the butchery continued for what seemed like hours. Lesnar was unmoved in every sense of the word by Reigns’ clotheslines, and went about merrily continuing his all-access tour of “Suplex City” while Heyman kept a running count of the maneuvers at ringside.

Beyond the Ring: "Here Comes the Pain" |  "Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name Is Paul Heyman"

If nothing else, however, the WWE Universe seemed to have severely underestimated Reigns’ fortitude. Each suplex left The Big Dog flattened, yes, but his only response was a knowing, if pained, grin and a balled-up fist to the face of The One in 21-1 ( or is it 22-1 now?). A series of knees to the chest of Reigns, draped over the ropes like laundry, were the only things that wiped the smile off his face, as the collision between cartilage and kidney sent the challenger sprawling in a heap to the outside.

Of course, the location of Suplex City lies somewhere between bravery and foolishness, and Reigns continued to walk that line, gaining a brief advantage when he blasted Lesnar in the face with a knee that drew blood from The Beast’s maw. The response — a clothesline to the outside — again gave the champion an advantage, leading to a suplex that literally sent the punch-drunk No. 1 contender sliding out of the ring before a belly-to-belly hauled him back in.

 

Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

A second F-5 should have sealed the deal, but no: “The kid’s got guts,” said Michael Cole as Reigns kicked out of Lesnar’s signature maneuver and stepped deeper into The Beast’s world of hurt. In a maneuver reminiscent of his 2014 dismantling of Big Show, Lesnar removed his gloves and floored The Big Dog with a series of open-palm smacks to the mouth. Reigns, who may well have been the real lunatic of The Shield after all, just laughed and beckoned for more. Lesnar obliged, delivering two more German Suplexes and a third F-5. Again, it wasn’t enough, and for the first time, The Beast began to show … well, if not respect, at least something like frustration that his challenger did not fold like he expected him to.

WWE Network:  Reigns obliterates Big Show at the Royal Rumble

Quite the opposite, in fact. When Lesnar went to slam Reigns face-first into the turnbuckle, the challenger reversed the maneuver and rammed the monster face-first into the steel, coating his face in red and turning the tables for the first time. Reigns leapt into the air for a Superman Punch to The Beast and connected with full force, leaving The Conqueror on shaky legs and the challenger in utter disbelief that he had at last begun to chip away at the champion. Roman continued his attack, unleashing two more Superman Punches and  a pair of Spears, leading to a two-and-nine-tenths-count that nearly sent an apoplectic Paul Heyman to the ER.

Watch:  Heyman confronts Reigns on ESPN

His confidence restored, Reigns summoned up the strength for another Superman Punch. Only Lesnar was ready this time, catching him in midair and sending him spiraling to the mat for a fourth F-5. That could have been it but again, no: Neither man was able to rise for the pinfall that would, could, had to decide the match. And that’s when Seth Rollins decided to do it himself.

 

Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

In an unprecedented act of brazenness, Mr. Money in the Bank cashed in his contract in the middle of an active match — the first-ever WrestleMania cash-in, by the way — and effectively turned the bout into a Triple Threat Match on the spot. Rollins disposed of the wounded Reigns easily and, with Dean Ambrose all but broken in half during the Intercontinental Title Ladder Match and therefore unable to fulfill his longstanding vow to thwart a Rollins cash-in, went for the Curb Stomp to The Beast that would bring the title to his waist.

WWE Network:  Rollins faces Lesnar and Cena for the gold

Rollins, however, severely misjudged the situation. As he leapt into the air, Lesnar snatched him into position for the F-5, and The Architect’s blueprint suddenly seemed fundamentally, irreparably flawed. Luckily, as he did so often in The Shield, Reigns made his presence known at the moment of truth. The Big Dog roared back into the ring, Spearing Lesnar with Rollins still on his shoulders and bulldozing The Beast Incarnate clean out of the squared circle. Rollins sprang to his feet and struck, pummeling Reigns’ face into the mat with a vicious Curb Stomp and pinning him to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

To paraphrase Paul Heyman, it was an instance of the right guy, in the right place, at the right time. Seth Rollins could. Seth Rollins did. And now everyone else is just playing catch-up. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is kidding themselves.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Brock Lesnar did it. Almost.

With the formerly spotless Undertaker and iconic John Cena in his rearview, The Beast Incarnate stepped face-to-face with the rampaging Roman Reigns delivered a beating to him that, at times, made his SummerSlam match with John Cena look like a pillow fight. And then Seth Rollins made his move, cashing in his Money in the Bank contract in historical fashion and stealing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship away from both the champion who expected to keep it forever and the challenger who swore he could, and would, beat The Beast to claim it himself. Believe that.

Watch: Lesnar conquers The Streak |  Reigns punches his ticket

Well, believe this: He didn’t. When all was said and done and the dust cleared, Reigns, who clawed his way through a Royal Rumble, a grudge match with Daniel Bryan and the animosity of the WWE Universe itself to become No. 1 contender, was left to watch the man he once called a brother walk away unscathed with his family’s birthright. Before that, however, the defining bout of WrestleMania 31 unfolded exactly as the WWE Universe initially expected it to: A pound-for-pound slugfest between two of the ring’s heaviest hitters. The hostile crowd acted almost as a third competitor of sorts, raining boos upon the embattled 2014 Superstar of the Year and throwing themselves wholeheartedly behind The Beast, who days earlier revealed his intentions to remain a WWE Superstar over a rumored return to the UFC.

Photos:  Lesnar vs. Reigns ... and Rollins?

 

Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

Reigns, never lacking in bravery, went right at Lesnar in an attempt to prove that he can, and he would. But he could not. Lesnar hoisted The Big Dog up like a small child, sending him airborne with a German Suplex and executing an F-5 within the first 30 seconds of the contest. No pinfall was attempted, however, as the maneuver was merely intended as a taste of things to come. Spared for the moment, Roman got one good blow in, drawing blood from The Anomaly’s cheek. But it was an empty victory as the butchery continued for what seemed like hours. Lesnar was unmoved in every sense of the word by Reigns’ clotheslines, and went about merrily continuing his all-access tour of “Suplex City” while Heyman kept a running count of the maneuvers at ringside.

Beyond the Ring: "Here Comes the Pain" |  "Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name Is Paul Heyman"

If nothing else, however, the WWE Universe seemed to have severely underestimated Reigns’ fortitude. Each suplex left The Big Dog flattened, yes, but his only response was a knowing, if pained, grin and a balled-up fist to the face of The One in 21-1 ( or is it 22-1 now?). A series of knees to the chest of Reigns, draped over the ropes like laundry, were the only things that wiped the smile off his face, as the collision between cartilage and kidney sent the challenger sprawling in a heap to the outside.

Of course, the location of Suplex City lies somewhere between bravery and foolishness, and Reigns continued to walk that line, gaining a brief advantage when he blasted Lesnar in the face with a knee that drew blood from The Beast’s maw. The response — a clothesline to the outside — again gave the champion an advantage, leading to a suplex that literally sent the punch-drunk No. 1 contender sliding out of the ring before a belly-to-belly hauled him back in.

 

Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

A second F-5 should have sealed the deal, but no: “The kid’s got guts,” said Michael Cole as Reigns kicked out of Lesnar’s signature maneuver and stepped deeper into The Beast’s world of hurt. In a maneuver reminiscent of his 2014 dismantling of Big Show, Lesnar removed his gloves and floored The Big Dog with a series of open-palm smacks to the mouth. Reigns, who may well have been the real lunatic of The Shield after all, just laughed and beckoned for more. Lesnar obliged, delivering two more German Suplexes and a third F-5. Again, it wasn’t enough, and for the first time, The Beast began to show … well, if not respect, at least something like frustration that his challenger did not fold like he expected him to.

WWE Network:  Reigns obliterates Big Show at the Royal Rumble

Quite the opposite, in fact. When Lesnar went to slam Reigns face-first into the turnbuckle, the challenger reversed the maneuver and rammed the monster face-first into the steel, coating his face in red and turning the tables for the first time. Reigns leapt into the air for a Superman Punch to The Beast and connected with full force, leaving The Conqueror on shaky legs and the challenger in utter disbelief that he had at last begun to chip away at the champion. Roman continued his attack, unleashing two more Superman Punches and  a pair of Spears, leading to a two-and-nine-tenths-count that nearly sent an apoplectic Paul Heyman to the ER.

Watch:  Heyman confronts Reigns on ESPN

His confidence restored, Reigns summoned up the strength for another Superman Punch. Only Lesnar was ready this time, catching him in midair and sending him spiraling to the mat for a fourth F-5. That could have been it but again, no: Neither man was able to rise for the pinfall that would, could, had to decide the match. And that’s when Seth Rollins decided to do it himself.

 

Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion

In an unprecedented act of brazenness, Mr. Money in the Bank cashed in his contract in the middle of an active match — the first-ever WrestleMania cash-in, by the way — and effectively turned the bout into a Triple Threat Match on the spot. Rollins disposed of the wounded Reigns easily and, with Dean Ambrose all but broken in half during the Intercontinental Title Ladder Match and therefore unable to fulfill his longstanding vow to thwart a Rollins cash-in, went for the Curb Stomp to The Beast that would bring the title to his waist.

WWE Network:  Rollins faces Lesnar and Cena for the gold

Rollins, however, severely misjudged the situation. As he leapt into the air, Lesnar snatched him into position for the F-5, and The Architect’s blueprint suddenly seemed fundamentally, irreparably flawed. Luckily, as he did so often in The Shield, Reigns made his presence known at the moment of truth. The Big Dog roared back into the ring, Spearing Lesnar with Rollins still on his shoulders and bulldozing The Beast Incarnate clean out of the squared circle. Rollins sprang to his feet and struck, pummeling Reigns’ face into the mat with a vicious Curb Stomp and pinning him to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

To paraphrase Paul Heyman, it was an instance of the right guy, in the right place, at the right time. Seth Rollins could. Seth Rollins did. And now everyone else is just playing catch-up. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is kidding themselves.