To call Roman Reigns a polarising superstar would be an understatement. He certainly receives strong fan reactions wherever he goes but most of the time these are boos. For someone who is supposed to be a face — this is clearly not good. It seems no matter what Roman does, he can’t connect with the crowd. His merch sales might be strong, but that won’t endear him to older wrestling fans or the smart marks who hate him for how he is booked. So let’s look deeper into the Roman problem.
In The Beginning
Roman Reigns debuted as part of the Shield at Survivor Series 2012 as enforcers for CM Punk. They destroyed Ryback and then went on to run rough shot over the WWE roster for about 2 years. During this time they won tag team gold and were almost completely dominant. This was probably the time when Roman was most over. He barely ever said anything as was considered the silent destroyer of the Shield. Dean and Seth were the charismatic parts of the Shield who could talk and fight, Reigns was the true damage dealer. Fans loved the dynamic and the Shield was constantly over with the fans.
Come 2014 and the Shield were dead. Seth was a solo act and heel, lapping up authority opportunities and laughing in the face of his old teammates. This left Dean and Roman to pick up the pieces. Dean made the most of it, originally working with Roman to get revenge then forging a successful solo career. Roman received a monster push almost instantly. It was clear from the get go that once Roman was solo WWE wanted to give him an insane push. He was going to be the new top guy and be the biggest babyface on RAW. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work, Roman had a lot of problems.
It was pretty obvious that Roman wasn’t ready for the spotlight. Like many Vince favourites before him it was obvious that he needed more work before he could really be comfortable in that position. He had barely spoken before his solo push and he had very much in the way of charisma. He was an action over words kind of guy but was now being forced to do both words and actions. This coupled with him being given some atrocious scripts and lines from creative lead to some awkward and hilarious moments at Roman’s expense and the ire of the crowd. Their top guy didn’t seem to be very strong or worthy.
As well as struggling with charisma there was also the problem of Roman’s booking. He was always booked strong as part of the Shield but that was because there was also two other members doing the work too. Now it was him as a solo act still being a destroyer. Unless your name is Samoa Joe or Braun Strowman it’s hard to cheer for a destroyer. His lines made him seem like an underdog but his wrestling style made him seem like a dominator. There was no tonal balance to fit his character. Fans can’t get behind someone as mixed up as Roman seemed to be.
The biggest problem is though, it’s 2018 and it still happens now. Roman is victim to some of the most confusing booking ever and most cringe-inducing lines given to any member of the roster. His recent conspiracy theory promos and string of high-profile losses all lead to another WWE attempt to build him up as a babyface with the odds against him. The issue is though, this clearly isn’t the case. Roman has beaten some of WWE’s best. He buried the Undertaker and consistently receives main event spots. He has had multiple title matches in recent months, fighting Brock at Wrestlemania and the Greatest Royal Rumble, then main eventing Backlash too. He is barely ever away from the main event scene.
Has WWE Given Up?
Looking at most of the recent matches and promos from Roman, it would appear that WWE may be giving up on him. To those who hate him this might be music to your ears. He has had a slew of high-profile losses, awful promos and is now stuck feuding with Jinder Mahal. This doesn’t fit the bill for a WWE top guy. He can’t be booked as a true underdog either though as he beat Joe after “overcoming the odds” if the odds meant rest holds and submissions. It would appear WWE are running out of ideas for Roman as a top guy. He can’t get over with the fans. He can’t seem to win a title match or high-profile qualifier and now he seems to be stuck attacking the other most hated guy in the company as a half-hearted attempt to get him some kind of cheers for the big dog.
If this is the level we’ve reached, then it feels like we may be seeing the fall of the Roman Empire. Braun Strowman is rumoured to be taking over the top guy spot and if that is the case then fans will take way more to Braun than Roman could ever hope for. Braun is charismatic and believable in his role. No one can take Roman seriously as an underdog as so many of his matches over the years make him seem invincible. When Roman can take multiple F5’s from Brock and still deliver a spear — or receive a Uranage though an announce table by Joe and still win the match — it’s hard to believe you’re going to struggle through a match or against the odds.
Most people want Roman Reigns to go heel. He feels naturally built to be a heel. A no selling, damage absorber who destroys opponents with his finisher and power game. Since he is a natural boo magnet it feels like WWE should be taking advantage of this type of heat. The most successful promo Roman has ever delivered was the RAW after Mania last year where he soaked up the crowd’s boos for about 10 minutes and then just said “This is my yard.” That arrogant, swaggering attitude was more over than any babyface thing he has ever done.
Not to mention, whenever we see Roman in a feud and he goes for backstage attacks they always appear brutal. He is always an aggressor, never a victim. Since Reigns has never really been seen as a victim maybe it is time to drop the underdog angle and just have him take what he wants by force. His attack on Jinder this week was fun to watch as it gave Roman an edge again. He needs some kind of attitude to carry him through now. WWE creative aren’t helping him get through his career with the promos and lines they give him. He needs to find an attitude of his own, where he can be natural.
The best part about giving him a heel turn would be that he wouldn’t actually have to try that hard to get heat since fans already hate him. It would be an easier role for him to get into and would take some of the pressure off as he can be more natural. It is much easier to get over as a heel than as a face so giving Roman some time as a heel would no doubt boost some fan appreciation and who knows since the fans love to boo him as a face maybe they’ll cheer him as a heel? At least then Vince will finally get his desired crowd reaction for Reigns.
The other solution is much simpler. Stop giving Roman scripts. If WWE want Roman to be a top guy still he needs to stop having his hand-held by creative. He has been in top guy position for four years now (excluding policy violations) carrying the IC belt, tag team belt and the WWE title even though it was only for a small time. All those belts and all those reigns have led to some terrible promos that make Roman look like a clown, not a competitor. Imagine if Roman just went off the rails for a RAW, spoke his mind, ridiculed the lines he is always given and just for once acts like the bad-ass WWE want you to believe he is. Kayfabe died a long time ago; we know the shows are scripted so this angle could work nicely as Roman is a victim of said scripts. To have him rebel might finally generate some love from the fans.
It’s hard to talk about Roman Reigns; he is an odd commodity in the WWE. He is a top guy who can’t act like a top guy. He is a face with the best heel response on the company. He is the big match guy who can barely ever win these days. I think Reigns can wrestle; he has put on great matches against opponents that fit him. His match against Styles still rings in my head for its quality. He isn’t always terrible and I find it hard to hate him. I always groan when he wins because I know it’s another win for the top guy who loses the big matches. He has had the spotlight for that long, it needs to shift.
Roman needs some low-key feuds for a bit to let other people have their spotlights. The Roman experiment hasn’t worked; he still isn’t over after all these years. A change needs to happen and happen fast before it’s too late to redeem him.
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