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An Analysis of Roman Reigns: A Polarizing Figure in WWE – by Mike Sanchez

When I was lucky enough to be offered a chance to write for this awesome site, I made a promise to myself; don’t hate on WWE or any of the wrestlers just because I don’t like them. Be constructive in any criticism I may have and try to see things objectively and in a positive light.

I’ve held off on passing comment on Roman Reigns for a while, but I can’t do that anymore. He’s an enigma to me. His character, his direction, his booking and his place on the stage. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Firstly, I want to stress that I don’t hate Roman Reigns. Nor do I think he’s a crappy wrestler. He’s above average in the ring, his talking has improved since he debuted and I do like him. There, I said it. My problem comes with WWE’s perception of him.

Reigns isn’t the first and certainly will not be the last polarizing character when it comes to the fans. Cena probably divided fans more than anyone ever has, and he will always be considered successful and one of the best. Like him or not, Cena’s name looms large in the last fifteen years of professional wrestling. Reigns isn’t quite on that level, but there are similarities between him and Cena.

After weeks of bad blood, back-and-forth attacks and strong words, one faction will adapt and one will perish at Sunday's much-anticipated event.

Reigns in The Shield was great. Reigns after The Shield, not so much. Bear in mind that he’s headlined the last two Wrestemanias, won a Royal Rumble and has been firmly near the top of the WWE pyramid for years now, so why doesn’t it work with the fans? We all know it takes time for wrestlers to ‘get over’, but to me, it hasn’t happened with Reigns. I think the reason for that lies squarely at the feet of those writing and booking WWE shows. They don’t listen to their fans. It’s like being in the shoe business and designing a new running shoe that looks and feels great but has a zipper instead of laces. You do market research with a thousand consumers, and everyone you show it to says it looks awesome, but would prefer laces instead of a zipper. You return with all that feedback, think about it and say “Screw them, what do they know? We’re keeping the zipper. They’ll learn to love it.” Any business that did that would go bust. You listen to the people.

Ok, that analogy may be a bit far-fetched, but the message is true. WWE pushed Reigns to the top, had him win the Rumble, go on to Mania, but it didn’t resonate with the fans. The connection just wasn’t there. With Daniel Bryan, who undoubtedly wouldn’t have had his Wrestlemania moment had it not been for the fans, there was a real, raw connection with the public. Even Cena, when he was serious Cena had it, albeit not as much as Bryan. Punk, Edge, Guerrero, the list goes on. We look back at those men with fondness and warmth. We cared that they won. I don’t think that same warmth is there with Reigns.

That’s not to say it’s all Reigns’ fault – far from it. Reigns is doing everything he’s told to do. I think one has to appreciate the situation he finds himself in. He’s usually at the top of the card, had held multiple titles, has good merch sales and is popular with the bosses – why wouldn’t he do as he’s told? The issue I believe is the longevity of Reigns and his character.

Cena is 99.99% likely to never turn heel, I think it’s too late anyhow to do that. But in Cena’s case, we saw different sides to him through the years, something I don’t think we’ve seen with Reigns. Because we’ve had the always-good clean cut good guy in recent years, we don’t want nor need another right now. Reigns may look like a badass, but he doesn’t portray one – again, down to writing, not him.

Look at the talent in the pool with him: Kevin Owens, Jericho, Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar. Across on the Blue Team: Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler. What’s the connection? All have been heels in recent years and turned in very different ways to have drawn warmth from the fans (perhaps with the exception of Ambrose in regards to being a heel). Reigns is still the same Reigns he was three years ago. It’s stale. It’s repetitive. It’s not interesting. The most drastic change he’s done is alter the tint of colour on his clothes.

There was a glimpse a while back (I’m just THE guy etc.), but that was quickly squashed. I liked that little snide remark from him. It acknowledged the reaction from the crowd and drew my interest. Then it disappeared into the night and never rose again.

So now, after an understated US Title reign (in stark contrast to Cena’s ‘take on all comers’ approach), he’s now dropped the gold and has seemingly been elevated into the main title picture once again. I don’t want WWE to surprise or swerve the audience just for the sake of it; it has to make sense somewhat. But to give a repeat of a Reigns Rumble win followed by another at Mania isn’t something I want to see – only because it’s predictable. It didn’t work last time, so why would it this time? He’s the same guy. The same look and with the same approach. Why on earth would the crowd react differently?

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein.

Does it really take a genius to tell us that?

What do you think? Was I too harsh on Reigns’ booking? Should WWE change him a little? Is it all too predictable? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.