Just 24 hours after WWE brass shoved the narrative that Roman Reigns is the “best” wrestler in the company at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, a new spin was added toward the build of Wrestlemania 34.
Braun Strowman, the agile big man that organically got over with the audience, was featured as the unstoppable monster in the elimination chamber, defeating almost the entire field of competition. Braun couldn’t be pinned by several finishers or dives, but a few repetitive superman punches finally did it. Nobody could slay the monster, except “Big Dawg.” In theory, since Roman was the only one that could beat Strowman, he’s the “best” on the roster. In reality, Reigns is only the “best” because Vince McMahon approved the script.
Not surprisingly, this scenario to “make Roman look really strong” only increased the hostility toward him because it’s the exact reason why fans boo him in the first place. As I wrote earlier this week, winning scripted matches doesn’t sell fans on a particular star in 2018. When the audience knows that the office makes the decisions and WWE documentaries even shine a light behind the scenes, the crowd is aware of when their voices are ignored. It’s a completely different dynamic than in years prior that makes it even more important that a sports entertainer identify with the audience. The biggest stars in the history of the industry were major draws because they connected with the fans that paid to see them. Austin was the anti-hero that stood up to the authority figure, something that the general public could identify with and rally around him. Dusty Rhodes was the blue-collar hero that made others believe that they won when he won. Daniel Bryan had a passion for the industry that the fans appreciated, and they knew that he appreciated their support as much as they appreciated him.
There are several other examples, but the common theme is that there was a spontaneous and organic connection with the audience. The crowd identified with those stars and were willing to spend money to follow their journey. There’s nothing organic about the Roman superman push because the audience didn’t get a chance to cast their vote on it. In fact, the decision to present Reigns as the next John Cena was made long before the forced push started.
This past week on Raw, the writing team tried to spin the narrative to suddenly portray Reigns differently a head of Wrestlemania.
Now, Roman Reigns cut a promo to imply that he’s the “dedicated” WWE star that shows up when Brock Lesnar decides to stay home because his contract allows him to work part-time. This is basically the exact same type of promo that Cena cut against The Rock during their pair of Wrestlemania matches. The difference being that Cena already had a track record of nearly a decade as the company workhorse, proving the point. Management publicly acknowledged that Brock’s deal was for limited appearances in the past so it wasn’t much of a revelation. On one hand, it’s a wise move to vilify Lesnar because he might be done with the company after his current deal expires so winding his profile down makes sense. On the other hand, the fans aren’t going to buy Roman as the one that had to claw his way to the top either. As mentioned in the article earlier this week, Reigns was signed to a WWE developmental deal because of his last name. Furthermore, the only reason that Roman pursued professional wrestling is because he failed at a career in the NFL.
Don’t get me wrong, he works hard and puts in the effort, but he had a relatively easy road to get to this point in his career. While other athletes work years just to get a WWE tryout, he started in the WWE system because of his last name. He was given the keys to the castle and more pushes after failure than anyone else in recent memory so what tough road did he travel? Sure, Brock is given a lighter schedule because of the star power he brings to the table, but Roman was handed just as much, if not more, without the proven track record that Lesnar has in his career.
Keep in mind, the fans rejected Roman because they are aware that the office wants to shove him as the top guy and for the same reason, the crowd will notice this attempted spin for its lack of credibility. In the view of the fans, Reigns hasn’t “earned” his spot, and at this point, trying to sell that he has will be viewed as another attempt to force him as the top star. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the audience will embrace Reigns at this point because management has done too much that caused resentment toward him. The bottom line is, Roman was given more than anyone else on the roster and it’s difficult to expect the audience to rally behind that. Reigns has the stain of failure upon him and it remains to be seen if WWE brass can erase it. The superman push won’t get over and it’s doubtful that the “dedicated” Roman narrative will get over because both angles lack credibility.
How the WWE handles the hostility at WM 34 remains to be seen, but it might all be a moot point. As I wrote before, without competition, WWE has reached a certain level of complacency. The lack of competition and domination of the market in the United States allows for corporate agendas, not demand to dictate business. Vince McMahon says Roman Reigns should be the top star so “Big Dawg” will main event WM for the fourth year in a row. The ripple effect remains to be seen, but clearly, others that have the momentum to be elevated as bigger stars will be kept at a level below Reigns so that he can celebrate with confetti around him again this year.
The fans will remain hostile and it won’t make a difference because it won’t affect revenue. However, it’s certainly disappointing that the company has arguably the best roster in over a decade in a half, but the product often remains stagnant. So, WWE brass will try to spin a new angle for Roman Reigns, but it won’t get over, the same way the super push didn’t get over the past few years.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
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