Wow. So much to talk about. Roman Reigns, The Rock, Daniel Bryan…
Well, it happened. Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble match. Not exactly a surprise, as experts and “smarks” have been predicting Lesnar vs. Reigns for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania XXXI for about a year now. And for awhile, a lot of us were open to the idea. Roman Reigns is a fresh face, he’s got a good look, and if he’s written well, he can actually be a pretty cool character.
So how did we find ourselves watching a repeat performance of last year’s disastrous Rumble match? How ironic that this year Reigns heard a deafening chorus of boos, whereas last year he heard cheers as the runner up…
Point blank: What do wrestling fans have against Roman Reigns?
I won’t presume to speak for the internet wrestling community at large. The fact is, there’s a certain fickle demographic that’s simply going to boo whoever WWE decides to push, just out of spite. I call them “wrestling hipsters.” Still, the fans at large aren’t wrong to push back against Reigns. There are several issues at play here. So let’s comb through them…
1. The Respect Factor
I’m seeing a lot of “Roman Reigns doesn’t deserve this” on Twitter. As something of a “smark” myself, I’d like to clarify this statement.
No one speaking from a place of logic is denying Roman Reigns has talent, or the potential to be a big star. Under the right circumstances, he could be exactly what WWE wants him to be: A huge star.
Unfortunately, he’s not exactly the fans’ first choice.
Due to injury, Daniel Bryan didn’t hold on to the WWE Championship for very long last year. So the fans seem to want him to have another go-around. Also, Bryan is an easy guy to respect. He’s a masterful in-ring technician who’s put more than 15 years into the business. He’s also a genuinely likeable guy, who has a great underdog quality about him.
There’s also Dean Ambrose, who’s currently one of WWE’s most compelling on-screen characters. You never quite know what he’s going to do or say when he goes out there. He’s also given us some great matches in recent months with the likes of Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt. The fans are into Ambrose, and for good reason.
And then there’s Dolph Ziggler, a work horse who consistently delivers awesome matches with a variety of opponents. He’s also underrated on the mic, and in my view hasn’t really been given the chance to shine in that respect yet. He doesn’t seem to be the office’s favorite though, and has frequently suffered losses tinged with political venom. But the fans continue to love him because he always makes it back to the top. He refuses to quit.
Had any of these men won the Rumble, the building would have erupted. Why? Because the fans respect the years they’ve put into the business, the multitude of talents they’ve acquired, and the heart they put into what they do.
Instead, the victory went to Reigns. Let’s not question his heart, but Reigns hasn’t even been in the business five years, and only pursued it after his football career went south. While he’s got some great intensity in the ring, he’s nowhere near as well rounded as some of his peers.
On that note…
2. The Verbal Debate
Roman Reigns is simply not a good promo. He could be, but he isn’t, because WWE is seemingly trying to cast him in a role that appeals to adults and children simultaneously. They’ve had him doing long, drawn out promos complete with bad Cena-esque comedy.
Does Roman Reigns look like a comedian to you?
In The Shield, Reigns was the guy who stood there and looked menacing while Ambrose and Rollins did the talking, occasionally adding a brief line or two. Why should his demeanor as a singles star be any different?
I understand WWE wants their marquee stars to go on talk shows and act in movies. But forcing this man to recite stale, out-of-character dialogue just doesn’t make sense, and it weakens him fundamentally.
Whether this is fair or not, I sometimes like to compare Roman Reigns to The Undertaker during the first few years of his run. The Undertaker never said much. Yes, he had a mouthpiece. But when he talked, it meant something. Eventually, he seemed to get more comfortable speaking, and became a great talker. You can apply the same principle to Reigns, even without a mouthpiece or a manager. Let him become a star first, then worry about the publicity side of things. Otherwise, you’re putting the cart before the horse.
3. Poor timing and execution.
Philadelpha was not the place to have Reigns win the Royal Rumble. This was the city that gave birth to ECW. They’re programmed to chew up WWE archetypes and spit them out. Reigns was doomed before he even walked out there.
Also, eliminating Daniel Bryan so early was a huge buzzkill, and it took the fans completely out of the match. It more or less confirmed that WWE was going to give the match to Reigns, and gave his detractors plenty of time to sit on their hands and boo.
The decision to put him in there with Big Show and Kane at the end was also a head scratcher. Yes, I understand the idea was to make Reigns look strong by putting him against two giants. And indeed, he has been feuding with Big Show in recent weeks. But how about mixing substituting Kane with a couple of younger talents? Bad News Barrett was in there. So was Cesaro. Why not give them some main event time?
And then there’s The Rock. WWE brought him in not to be a surprise entrant in the Rumble match, not to follow up on his Raw segment with Rusev and Lana, but for the express purpose of giving Reigns the rub. Of saying: “I’m The Rock, and I approve of this man’s push.” Oh, and beating up The Big Show and Kane. Because he’s never done that before…
Putting Reigns next to The Rock only served to remind us that he’s not the star we need him to be. In that moment, who did you care about more? That guy WWE has been cramming down our throats for two months, or the icon who’s provided us with countless hours of entertainment over the last two decades? Putting a big star in there to endorse someone has no effect if the audience doesn’t believe in them. For instance, imagine Stone Cold Steve Austin getting in the ring to endorse Adam Rose as the next big superstar. It’s the same principle.
4. Silver Linings.
*whew* Okay. Get all that? Now let’s move on to the positives. There are a couple of silver linings here, after all.
Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Seth Rollins Gave us one hell of a WWE Championship match. And we now have a champion who looks incredibly strong, and ready for Wrestlemania. So at the very least, Reigns will have a strong opponent to go against.
Also, let’s take some solace in the fact that WWE is at least pushing someone new. Last year it was Batista, who hadn’t wrestled in about four years, and was past his prime.
Finally, let’s not forget that after the tremendous pressure WWE put the fans under last year, they were forced to change their plans. Could it happen again? Not likely. But let’s not rule it out.
And at the very least, it’s only pro wrestling, folks. It’s only pro wrestling…
By Rob Siebert