This week, as part of suggested questions for a Q&A for the founder of TJRWrestling, John Canton, I asked how he would book the polarizing Roman Reigns for the next six months. John replied to me and said he’d been asked similar questions for the last four years about Reigns. Four years! Has it been that long? I asked myself. Four years of insisting Reigns should be turned heel? Four years of fans such as myself bemoaning the lack of interest in his character and wanting WWE to do something different with him? Wow, it really has. I got to thinking; perhaps I should give up on willing WWE to change Roman. Perhaps I’m overthinking and moaning about something that I shouldn’t. Perhaps I should take a step back and look again; are things that bad that I have to complain about Roman Reigns?
Firstly, let me self-reflect on where my insistence on changing Roman’s character stems from. I’ll admit I’ve always liked him since he debuted as part of The Shield. From there, I watched some of his NXT stuff and grew to like him even more. His involvement as part of one of the best factions in recent years didn’t dilute his work for me. I enjoyed it a lot and saw big things for him going forward. When the trio split and went their separate ways, though each man thrived, it’s fair to say that the road laid out for each man benefited Roman more than Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose. There’s nothing wrong with that, as WWE must create and push new starts as time progresses. Perhaps this was where the first niggle came into my mind – especially when Stephanie McMahon spoke at a public event (that escapes my mind) in which she told a watching audience that WWE had firm plans for their favorite up-and-comer Roman Reigns and devised business strategies to involve his push to the top – regardless of whether fans approved of him or not.
Then again, perhaps it was when the fans began to reject his pushes that I began to turn that niggle into a dislike. It’s important to recognize something here; the dislike was for the booking and pushing of Roman Reigns – not for the man himself. Sometimes I need to reinstate that point when I discuss this. One can appreciate the man, but not the story-line. The two trains of thought can be mutually exclusive. I suppose from that point on; I wasn’t a fan who appreciated a guy who busted his ass week after week. Perhaps I was one of the ‘Target Demographic’ that WWE had earmarked to be a Roman Reigns fan. I’d gone from considering myself a fan who knew about good wrestling and had an eye for talent, to being a targeted fan who had been led down the garden path to like someone WWE wanted me to like. My fondness for Roman Reigns wasn’t organic as I’d first believed, I’d merely followed the breadcrumb trail laid out by WWE management and found myself outside of a gingerbread house in Connecticut where I was being peddled Roman Reigns merch as I’m clearly such a ‘knowledgeable’ fan of the product.
So now I’m standing in my Roman Reigns SWAT vest and wondering how I grew to want to change a guy I liked for so long. Was it purely that I felt I’d been sucked in by the corporate machine and become a ‘mark’ for the company? Was I just dollar signs to them and I’d foolishly believed I was onto something by backing him from the off? If so, how do I get out of here? How do I get back to being a ‘smart fan’ again, with my appreciation for talent in WWE that Vince and co clearly cannot see or appreciate? I needed to deviate from what WWE wanted me to do. I needed to rebel against the system. Rage against the machine. I’ll boo Reigns and complain that he needs to do a 180 with his character. That’ll show ‘em. Except, it won’t. I’m too far down the rabbit hole now, Alice. I need to stop falling and gain some composure. I need to stop and think about things for a moment.
Why do I want Reigns to turn heel if I enjoyed his character so much in recent years? Is it for his benefit, or for mine? Am I the one who will get pleasure from watching him be a jerk, cussing out other stars and the fans, or will it just prove that WWE were right all along and I am the one who is out of touch? What about Reigns himself? What has he done to deserve my ire and calls to overhaul what is clearly a successful run in WWE? He’s done nothing except what’s been asked of him. Like I’ve said before; if your boss offered you a big pay raise, a bigger office and a more financially stable future for you and your family, wouldn’t you take it? So why hate on Reigns for doing the same?
If he was given that push and did squat with it; phoned in his matches, delivered terrible promos and failed to exceed expectations, then I agree we’d all have a stick to beat him with. Truth is, he hasn’t. His work is very good. His promos have improved by leaps and bounds. He delivers on the big occasion and can hang with the best WWE have to offer. Just like John Cena, who also had calls to turn heel throughout a glittering career, Roman has had to play ball the ‘WWE way’ and as such has to deliver what is expected of him, stick to the script and do what he’s told. His move set is consistent and rarely deviates – but that what the fans want. That’s what his fans want. Superman Punch. Spear. Dropkicks on the apron. If it wins over the top brass and sells merchandise, why change it?
In closing, I’ve had an epiphany in writing this and it’s been very therapeutic. I’m no longer going to whine about a heel turn for Roman Reigns. I’m no longer going to complain about his moves and WWE’s booking of him. I’m going to go back to how I felt in the beginning about Roman; that he’s great. There, I said it. Roman Reigns is awesome. No longer will I feel duped by WWE’s handling of him. I’m going to appreciate him for what he is; a star. A top guy who is very talented and needs no calls from me or anyone else to change. To the man himself, I apologize for the gripes and grumbles I’ve said and written about you. I’m going to support you no matter what. Story-line or no story-line, he’s a more deserving champion than Brock Lesnar and should be in the title mix without question. I bemoaned the Rock for being absent too often. I’ve whined about Brock during this title run, so I will not tar Roman with the same brush. He doesn’t deserve it. From now on I’m backing Roman Reigns.