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WWE: Obstacles To A Reign(s) by Marc Madison

For most people, success is achieved through hard work. In fact, most middle class people will say that they had to fight, scratch and claw to earn a living and maintain a home. Wrestling is much like life in that regard. We could sit here all day and discuss politics, and how a number of people achieve success because of whom they know, and used that relationship to achieve success. That argument doesn’t really apply to one particular individual. Sure, he has ties to one of the most prominent families in wrestling history, and sure his ‘cousin’ is one of the most prolific leading actors in Hollywood. That aside, it is ultimately up to him whether he succeeds.

Roman Reigns has unquestionably faced a barrage of obstacles in earning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and those obstacles will make winning the title that much sweeter. Has the time finally arrived for him to capture the title? It wasn’t always uncertain that he would win the title because he was considered a very marketable and hot commodity as part of the Shield. During the heyday of that three person faction, a number of opinions were tossed around about the group. Ambrose would ultimately succeed on his own, Reigns would be champ, and Rollins would get lost in the shuffle; those were among the opinions voiced by fans and wrestling media. They weren’t far-off about Ambrose and Reigns, but were nowhere close to being right about Rollins.

We can’t say for sure if Reigns will capture the title at Survivor Series, but we can point out the number of challenges that Reigns has had to face in getting to where he will be next month. After the breakup of the Shield, Reigns was set to be in a program against Seth Rollins. It seemed to have started, but then something happened that derailed that feud and quest for the title: a ruptured hernia set Reigns back for a few months. This feud would have led Reigns in the direction of the WWE Heavyweight championship. After returning, he competed in the 2015 Royal Rumble against 29 other competitors. It was a match that ultimately saw Reigns win the Rumble, but lose when it came to fan appeal. Something went wrong at the event. We aren’t talking injury or an accident, but rather a disappointed Philadelphia crowd.

In the last couple of years, the Royal Rumble crowd has been rather upset with whom has won the match since the winner gets a title shot in the main event of Wrestlemania. After the match, Reigns faced a beat down at the hands of Kane and The Big Show, but was saved when The Rock came to the ring and helped defend Reigns. After clearing the ring, The Rock raised Reigns hand much to the dismay of the Philadelphia audience. They booed in unison, which appeared to be perplexing to The Rock at the time. It was supposed to be a moment that Reigns would be proud of, but was met with dismay from the audience. As he stood on the second turnbuckle and raised his arms, the jeers were even greater as the event drew to a close.

What went wrong? The argument was that fans don’t want to give their support to someone chosen for them, but rather they want to cheer on their own and decide who they will like. They want someone to generate fan support organically, but the company doesn’t work like that. The company needs someone marketable, needs someone to be the future. Someone needs to have presence and represent the company. Reigns fits the mold of what the company needs, but that wasn’t what the fans wanted.

As January turned to February, WWE continued to attempt to have Reigns win over the fans, and this time it was with the help and the support of genuine fan favorite in Daniel Bryan. At the WWE’s new pay per view Fastlane, Bryan faced Reigns with the winner competing at Wrestlemania against Brock Lesnar. While some praised the booking of this match, for Reigns it was unquestionably another obstacle. The idea was, if Reigns had the support of Bryan, and proved that he could defeat the beloved Bryan, surely there would be an increase in support for him? The result of the match had Reigns go over Bryan, and in the process he looked good. The handshake and ‘Go get Brock’ endorsement on the part of Bryan was a further attempt to show Bryan’s support for Reigns and his quest to be the WWE World Heavyweight champion. The booking of Reigns going into Wrestlemania was built around the idea of him having to overcome and beat the unbeatable Lesnar. Fans at times tried to take Reigns’ confidence as a sign of arrogance, when it wasn’t the case. Despite the work of all involved, had Reigns walked away with the title at Wrestlemania, it wouldn’t have been supported by the audience because they felt the character was flawed.

After Wrestlemania, Reigns competed in the Money in the Bank match, and was on the verge of winning, until Bray Wyatt came in the ring and knocked him off the ladder. It was almost as if Reigns being knocked off the ladder was a jab, a moment of irony, or a metaphor for what the fans wanted to see happen. “Anyone, but you, Roman” was the adage that Bray Wyatt used week in and week out to justify his actions against Reigns. In fact, the notion that fans didn’t want Reigns to succeed was reflected in what Wyatt was saying.

While Reigns has been booked to look strong in the past, the wounded hero he played during the feud with Wyatt may not be resonating with fans either. But there really doesn’t seem to be much middle ground between making him look invincible and making him look like a wounded warrior that has to fight and crawl in order to succeed. So what was the next course of action for Roman Reigns and the WWE? If he lost clean to Wyatt initially, then it would look as though he couldn’t rise against the challenge, so Reigns lost due to outside interference by the returning Luke Harper. The idea of a family feud made the most sense for Reigns, as he could be booked in the role of leader, or patriarch for that matter. The booking of Reigns was then to use his allegiance with Dean Ambrose as a means to use both men, but have one play the supporting role and the other be the focal point of the feud.

Fans have gravitated to Ambrose for his manner inside the ring and out. The idea was to have fans support Reigns because of his association with the ‘Lunatic Fringe’ wasn’t stated, but was certainly speculated. But fans could be heard chanting ‘Roman’s sleeping’ during a portion of their tag match against Wyatt and Harper, suggesting that Reigns wasn’t giving a true effort, when that wasn’t the case. Fans have been harder on Reigns than anyone else regardless of his allegiances, family or support. He has been accused of being the new John Cena, an argument that doesn’t change even as he shows growth and development. While we understand that the promotion wants to see Reigns earn mass appeal, it just seems as though there are have been too many strategies used to have him succeed. Is it really that necessary? For the WWE, it would seem so. It’s no fault of Reigns; he continues to work and improve in all facets of his character, and in the ring.

Just when Ambrose and Reigns appeared to have evened the odds against the Wyatts, another obstacle was put in his path in the form of BraunStrowman of the Wyatt family. At this point, the booking was more about surrounding Reigns with the tools to succeed, and it was ultimately he who had to put out an exceptional effort in this feud with Wyatt. It wasn’t until Reigns defeated Wyatt recently at Hell in a Cell that fans could find themselves getting behind Reigns and his effort. While some may have jeered the result, they could not jeer his effort. Wyatt and Reigns hit each other with everything they could in that match. In the end, the person that went over was the person that faced the greater obstacles throughout this feud, and that was Reigns.

Where does Reigns go from here? It has come back to where he will once again be forced to overcome the odds by competing in a tournament for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, as Seth Rollins has relinquished the belt after tearing his ACL. The odds are in Reigns favour, but it doesn’t diminish the fact the character has had a number of challenges in his path. While the moment for him to succeed would ideally be Wrestlemania, the moment may be accelerated, however, with Survivor Series quickly approaching.

The story and challenges facing Reigns should continue, in order to ensure that most fans are on board and with him. If the idea is to have him be the face of the future, there can’t be any question or doubt as to his place and his role. In the case of a number of these obstacles, Reigns isn’t at fault, but they have ultimately made him better. Whether it was his health, other challengers, fan support or his ability to promo, Reigns has had to battle to improve. Those that don’t want to give him a chance, won’t. Roman Reigns will once again have to overcome the odds at Survivor Series, and it would be hard to imagine him not walking away as the champion. But stranger things have happened. The finish may once again be another hill for him to climb over. It will be another challenge for him to face, and fans will either get behind him or roll their eyes. Honestly, there is something to be said for someone who continues to work at earning everyone’s respect and admiration, despite how some perceive him. The only real obstacle to Roman’s championship reign is what he is willing to sacrifice in order to achieve.

Check out my new podcast with John Curry on TheMemNetwork on Wednesday @ 8pm ET. Our interview next week, November 18th, will be a pre-recorded interview with former TNA Knockout and current ROH wrestler ODB.

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@TheMarcMadison

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