Obviously, the past few months for Roman Reigns have been full of ups and downs. I mean, here was a guy who was touted as being the “new big thing” by the WWE Universe after an extremely impressive run as a member of The Shield. No, he wasn’t the work-horse that Dean Ambrose was, nor did he have the ability that Seth Rollins had…but he was a solid hand who was showing improvement and was popping the crowds.
Then came Vince McMahon and his antiquated thoughts on how to get Reigns over as a babyface. He wrote some ridiculous promos for Reigns…he put him in matches that would expose him (ex: Big Show)…he told the world that he saw Reigns as the “next big thing”.
Unfortunately, the crowds didn’t respond the way they were supposed to. Were they living in “Bizarro World” or was it simply a case of WWE not knowing their audience anymore?
By the time the Royal Rumble came around, there were definitely 50/50 splits among fans when it came to cheering or booing Reigns. When it became apparent that he was going to mow down the competition and win the Rumble, the fans responded in kind. As Triple H noted in his podcast interview with Steve Austin last week, it’s almost death to a performer to be labeled as a babyface or to be given opportunities because then the fans can turn on them…quickly.
So how did WWE respond? How did they decide to go forward knowing that Reigns was a disliked individual?
They met the controversy head-on.
Not only did Reigns have a sit-down interview the night following the Rumble that was impressive, but so did Daniel Bryan. When Triple H and Stephanie threatened to take Reigns’ title shot away, out came Daniel Bryan to say he deserved a shot. Once Bryan beat Seth Rollins to win the chance to beat Reigns at FastLane, all hell broke loose.
Was WWE really trying to have two babyfaces go up against each other? Are they really trying to turn the fans’ favour more to Reigns by having him battle the one man fans have been clamoring for?
Well…yeah, that’s exactly what they’re doing. And what’s more is that I think it might end up working for them.
Here’s the thing…Reigns has been promoted as being a lone-wolf kind of guy over the past few weeks. He doesn’t care about The Authority, he doesn’t care about Daniel Bryan, and he’s willing to fight anybody to keep what’s his. People respond to that. He’s not pandering to them and, most importantly, he’s not being put over in that “Superman way” we all recognize as John Cena’s modus operandi. People immediately thought he was being punished when he took a pinfall loss recently on RAW…but I think that may have been a brilliant decision. He’s not infallible. He’s not perfect. And if he’s just looking to fight anybody then people will respond to that in a positive way.
Last Monday the cheers for Reigns were decided more than the boos. The response, however, was loud. It was almost Cena-esque in nature…but it was a response, nonetheless. And folks, that’s the most important thing. Love him or hate him, Roman Reigns is eliciting reactions from the WWE Universe.
Will people riot if Roman Reigns pins Daniel Bryan at FastLane? No…I don’t think so if there’s a great match setting up the finish.
Will that stop the boos from taking place at WrestleMania? No…probably not because Brock Lesnar is going to have a very large fan-base who respect what he does and cheer for him very loudly.
Will Roman Reigns winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship result in fan backlash in the coming months? No…but I think they can position him to be the face of the company in a positive way. It’s certainly not too late to salvage the kick-ass monster that Roman Reigns was originally designed to portray. No more “sufferin’ succotash” promos in an effort to make him more family-friendly…no more matches against slow, plodding workers who don’t make him look good…and continue to accentuate his strengths while trying to hide his weaknesses.
This isn’t rocket science, people…this is professional wrestling. If the people want something, they’ll let you know. If you try to change that something in an effort to appeal to a broader audience and it doesn’t work, they’ll let you know about that, too.
Roman Reigns as a babyface character can be saved. The question now becomes does WWE really want that to happen?