Timing is everything, or so they say. This past week of WWE wrestling (particularly the Raw brand) was one of the most memorable I can recall and all for the wrong reasons. The booking was either naive, confused or a deliberate middle finger to the fans. In the space of one PPV, Raw managed to:
- Break Charlotte’s PPV streak on a meaningless show
- Have Nia Jax’s dominant run come to a stuttering halt, courtesy of a terrible rollup
- Have Kevin Owen’s suffer an embarrassing end to his title run, dropping it to a man who hasn’t wrestled more than five minutes since returning to the ring
- Have Braun Strowman’s unstoppable run in singles competition crash and burn
It was pretty grim for many watching, including me. But in that comedy of errors and screwy storylines, could the seeds of something bigger and better have been sown? Were those seeds watered on Monday’s Raw, allowing them time to grow? I’m talking about Roman Reigns.
For me, Reigns shouldn’t have beaten Strowman. No way. Now, I’ll confess that I’m a fan of Roman Reigns. The guy is a good wrestler. He can hang with top drawer talent and can deliver on the biggest of stages. The thing is he’s become stale in my eyes and downright infuriating to others. It wouldn’t have hurt him to lose at Fastlane, but after selling to Strowman, all it took was couple of signature power moves and the big man was pinned clean, deviating his dominant run from the Fastlane and sending it skidding into a wall. Strowman will no doubt recover, but that loss hardly helped.
Do the ‘powers that be’ see Reigns as this unstoppable, top guy that’ll inherit Cena’s position as the face of the company for years to come? Can his character not be changed from what they see and believe he should be? Do they not listen to the crowd? John Cena is one of the most divisive wrestlers there’s ever been. Cheered and booed in equal measure, he plays the same gimmick and revels in the noise reverberating around the arenas, but Roman Reigns isn’t John Cena. Roman Reigns isn’t Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, Triple H or anyone like that. Roman Reigns is the same guy he was when the Shield debuted. John Cena is never going to turn heel. It’s too late for that, but not too late for Reigns. I believe there’s a golden opportunity on the horizon to drastically change the fortunes of Roman Reigns’ character and have him turned up a notch or two. It’s a simple plan and many of the pieces are already in place.
Step One: Have Reigns deliberately antagonise the crowd for the next few weeks.
The first part is easy. Most of the crowd love to boo Reigns, so start goading them more and more. Boast about beating Strowman at Fastlane and how easy it was to do. Tell the crowd it doesn’t matter who is in front of him, he’ll beat them. Simple as that. ‘I’m THE guy, whether you like it or not.’
Step Two: Reigns beats Undertaker clean at Wrestlemania.
Undertaker is one of, if not the most, beloved wrestlers in WWE history. He transcends generations, brings thousands to their feet and sends chills down the spines of grown men. He’s an icon, a legend and one of the most well-known characters to have ever stepped in the ring. If WWE need a hint, take a look at the reaction Lesnar got after conquering the streak. It was unbelievable and in some fan’s eyes, unforgivable. That’s why Reigns should beat Undertaker. Not because he’s Roman Reigns the all-conquering hero, no, because he’s Roman Reigns the man who doesn’t care. The man who will beat up anyone even if it pisses you off by beating the man you love so dearly.
Step Three: Brag about beating Undertaker at every opportunity.
Nobody likes a show off (sorry Dolph), but to have Reigns milk his victory at every opportunity will rile all fans. Have him tell us he retired the Dead Man and that this is his yard now. This doesn’t need a Universal Title element at all – no doubt Goldberg and Lesnar will battle it out for the foreseeable future – Reigns just needs to keep winning matches, even by nefarious means.
Step Four: Stay heel for at least six months to a year.
WWE is lacking when it comes to true heels on the roster. Aside from Owens, Miz and Charlotte, there aren’t that many around. Even Strowman was getting cheers. He should be able to have meaningful feuds with the likes of Rollins, Zayn, Owens, Jericho, Balor etc. to keep him busy for a good while. And there you have it; a guy being booed for all the right reasons and being able to revel in it rather than be pushed as a good guy, much to the crowd’s anger.
Will WWE do this? Maybe. They can’t be so ignorant of the will of the people. They changed their mind when it came to Daniel Bryan, and look what happened there. I know Reigns is a top merch seller, and to have him turn could see a drop in black stab vest sales, but I see him becoming less and less of a draw when it comes to events, and that’s not the guy’s fault. It’s purely how he’s been booked. Did people tune in to Fastlane to watch him? No. He just doesn’t have the connection with the crowd at the moment that WWE clearly wants him to have. You can have the Rock next to him at every match and it won’t matter. The people are tired of seeing this Roman Reigns. It’s the same every week. He main events practically every show and usually wins. It’s too repetitive.
The best wrestlers didn’t start out as good guys when they entered singles competition: Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, John Cena, Undertaker, Seth Rollins, Triple H etc. They started out as arrogant assholes in most cases. They all came in with chips on their shoulders and points to prove. They didn’t care if you didn’t like them. They didn’t care if you booed when they won. That’s why WWE should stop for a moment and think again with Reigns. Can he become a good guy that will be cheered with pops that’ll blow the roof off? Yes, perhaps one day. But that day clearly isn’t now, and sticking with this formula won’t get him there. There’s no heel on the roster that Reigns can beat that’ll have the crowd support turn towards him. Why fight it, WWE? Embrace what’s already there. It’s well known that no reaction from the crowd is much worse than a bad reaction or incessant booing. If Reigns continues on the path he’s on now, I can see them becoming lukewarm to him and not reacting.
WWE and Roman Reigns are at a crossroads on the road to Wrestlemania. Hopefully they’ll make the right choice and look to the future rather than the here and now. Play the long game. Think about it. Reigns isn’t going anywhere for the next ten plus years. He can’t stay as he is for all that time. Give us a reason to boo him, rather than it being the trendy thing to do. Bring out the monster in him. Make him deserve his hate then build on it to make his character blossom right before our eyes. Please?
What do you think? Does Reigns need to go full-heel? Will WWE ever do it, or his he just another John Cena and we’ll have to put up with it? Does he need to be more intense and ruthless? Would the merch sales dictate such a decision? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.