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WWE: I Liked That by Matt Corton

But what do I like? What do I mean?

You might think I mean the fact that one of the best wrestlers in the world, AJ Styles, finally looks like he’s going to get his chance to go for the gold on the biggest stage he can, the WWE. And I do think that’s great. It’s a well deserved reward for a fantastic career, but I just can’t see them putting the big one on an ex-TNA star. And whilst I’ll enjoy the match and seeing AJ in that role, it loses something when I know he’s not going to win.

So it’s not that.

You might think then that I mean the return of Cesaro, one of the WWE’s best all-round wrestlers and someone who really gets that what I’m watching in the ring is supposed to be fun, without losing his serious, dangerous-looking edge. His moves look like they hurt – that’s something that’s not as prevalent these days as it used to be and it doesn’t stop him being just good fun to watch. So it’s fantastic that he’s back.

But it’s not that.

Ok, so if it’s not those things, you might think that I mean the steady march of the women’s division and this being the last time I might ever have to type the word ‘diva’. And I do love both of those things – both because it’s nice to actually view the women as wrestlers not just bratty reality stars and because I don’t see any reason why women can’t put on as entertaining matches as the men – shown perfectly by Bayley and Sasha this year. The triple threat at Wrestlemania was just a great match, it didn’t matter that they were women. So that’s absolutely awesome.

It’s not that either, though.

Right, so it’s not those three things. What’s left? Ok, you might think, I must mean the fact that with Sami Zayn, Enzo & Cass and Baron Corbin on the main roster now, I’m excited to see how things develop over the coming months and how the returning Cena, Orton and Cesaro fit into the picture. I do love that – and I think it’s great to add a spattering of new stars to the show every now and then. After all, each season of a major TV drama introduces something new, and as this is the new ‘season’ of WWE programming, after Wrestlemania, then it’s only right they change things up a bit.

Only that’s not what I’m talking about when I say I like that.

Or is it? Because in truth, I’m being a bit deceptive, because I mean all of those things.

But I’m a man of details and it’s the small details about something on Monday Night Raw that I really, really liked. The small detail I really liked was Roman Reigns and specifically, the way they treated him. It was just about absolutely perfect.

If Reigns can be the brash, cocky (but not quite heel) guy that he was on Monday night, just being himself and not caring what the other wrestlers or even the crowd think, just confident he’s going to kick ass, then that’s a Roman Reigns I can get right on board with. Spearing Chris Jericho and then just dismissing him as a challenger – that’s the sort of character in which Roman Reigns could thrive.

I like it because it sets my imagination going. Not running, exactly, but a nice steady walk – whereas for the most part of this year it’s been disengaged with Roman Reigns’ supposed journey to the title, when it’s a journey I’d already seen him take. If anything, this year has been like Roman Reigns losing his keys, tracing his steps back and then setting out again. I’ve not been as bored by as many storylines, or as less impacted by a title winner than I was by Reigns winning, and it’s not because I don’t like Reigns. The rest of this article will tell you that – it’s because he’s been put in poor situations.

It doesn’t have to be like that with him and I’m hoping it’s not too late. The prospect of having a wrestler at the top of the card who is his own man, not a catchphrase-spouting face-by-numbers, is fantastic. Stone-Cold-esque. Someone who is dismissive of all challengers but always acts just shy of doing the ‘wrong thing’ – yeah I like that. He’s not a transparently bad heel and he’s not a smiling face, he’s an actual person reacting to the situation he’s been put in – giving a verbal reverse peace sign to the audience that’s booing him because he doesn’t care – he’s the champ.

It’s not heelish. Not quite. And I really, really don’t want it to be because I’ve had enough of cheap heels, frankly. It’s boring to me now. Kevin Owens is being allowed to do something slightly different, and that’s great. Brock was his own heel when he was truly fully heel. But with Brock lying somewhere in between and the New Day using heel tactics despite being faces because they’re so over, maybe we can move a bit more into the wrestlers being real characters, not caricatures.

And yes, using Reigns like that is fairly similar to some of John Cena’s standard behaviours from the past few years. Yes, it has the potential to go very wrong…but he doesn’t have to do it forever. Wrestlers don’t actually have to be the same exact characters forever, even from one feud to the next. It is possible for them to evolve without losing an audience.

This is perfect for the place Roman is in right now to really shift things. He’s so hated they could have their first uncaring, badass tween on their hands and I give them credit for approaching it like that…unless it was just a flash in the pan.

What makes me think it might be was the start to this week’s Raw. It opened with JBL telling us that the crowds were basically screwy on the night after Wrestlemania and will boo people they are supposed to cheer. That, coming after the pathetically obvious fake cheers that were piped into the network version of Wrestlemania when Roman won the title, has made me wonder if they are just going to try and brush everything under the carpet and pretend that the crowds just don’t know what they’re doing, or they are ‘just those crazy crowds around Wrestlemania’.

They still might, of course. They still might persevere with the same old tired direction of top, off-the-shelf-face Roman, hoping that we’ll change our minds by the time Extreme Rules comes around and start cheering him.

Or, this could be the start of a fairly well-predicted heel turn, as many have suggested, and I have to say that I’d hate that. If this isn’t the tight, nuanced new direction I’m thinking it is, and it’s just a tired plod toward a fairly standard heel Reigns, then I’ll lose even more interest in him. I’ve read a lot and heard a lot about how heel is the right direction to go in over the past few weeks and I just plain old disagree. They have the perfect opportunity here to do something interesting, not just standard, played-out good and evil storytelling (there’s plenty of places on the card for that, it doesn’t ALL have to be like that), and they should grab that chance with both hands, sing songs to it and treat it like it’s their best girl.

There’s nothing wrong with a tween. And he’s probably not going to stay a tween for long, so I’m going to enjoy something different while I can, if I can, before the stereotypes kick in again and that’s all that will happen if he’s a heel.

What do you guys think? Am I wrong in thinking we want something different? Is it just me?

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