Roman Reigns may be the Rodney Dangerfield of WWE. He gets no respect. Try as he might, take on all top stars as he does, there is still an overwhelming sense the man who has the look, plays the part and performs every night cannot get over with the company’s fan base.
It’s unfortunate and all telling at the same time. A wrestler is supposed to gain the acceptance of the fans in the arenas and in the public eye. Reigns, a performer with a bloodline that most men and women in this business would kill for, has had to scratch and claw his way toward semi-respect. Thank the McMahons for that. Thank fan sensibilities for that.
And while you are at it, thank Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Rusev and Dean Ambrose for Reigns’ lack of acceptance. They are all more personable, are better on the microphone and at times, are more charismatic than the “Big Dog.”
Here’s the problem with all of that – Roman Reigns is Vince McMahon’s pet project, the man who is supposed to take John Cena’s place, who took Hulk Hogan’s spot, who stepped over Bruno Sammartino as the man in WWE.
Hopefully, the company that made him and superstar and the fans that buy tickets, buy his merchandise and pay to cheer and boo him see the ascension.
“This was a storyline that wrote itself. It was obvious that WWE was going in this direction,” my friend Tom Clark of wrestlingrumors.net wrote. “Fans have known it for a very long time and that belief was reaffirmed when Lesnar won the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 33. When that happened, the road to April 8 became clear. This is Roman’s year.”
Whether fans like him or hate him, they had better learn to love him because he will be the best thing going for a long time to come.
“Of course many critics would say that every year is Roman’s year now. Indeed the former Shield strongman has yet to fully sway the majority of WWE fans to his side. He’s put the work in when it comes to the ring and it shows. His mic skills are okay, depending upon the situation. But the most obvious plus for Reigns is that WWE has his back,” Clark added.
By law, or the annals of this business a champion is supposed to be good looking, a little better than his opponent and have a connection with the fans. Two out of three ain’t bad. Reigns does have a connection with the audience. But he also must have the crap beat out of him for fans to approve of him in the ring. While AJ Styles, Rollins, Finn Balor and Rusev naturally have support, Reigns’ is manufactured, pulled and sometimes piped in.
Hopefully on Sunday night, Reigns will get his just due. A four-time world champion who beat the baddest man on WWE’s planet on a stage where he took down The Undertaker the year before is worth something, isn’t it? Fans bought into the Hulk Hogan phenomena because it is new and hip and the best thing out there. Fans bought into Cena because he was a raping wrestler. Fans bought into The Rock because of catch phrases and good looks.
Reigns is a man on an island, where even his Shield brothers could not put him over. A heel turn does just that, but McMahon wouldn’t think of ruining his master plan.
“Despite how many times the crowd boos him out of the building, Roman Reigns remains on top. No matter how many times his opponent is cheered more than him, Reigns still works like a babyface,” Clark adds. “The man that was supposed to be John Cena’s heir apparent is experiencing exactly what his predecessor did. Yet the company continues to stay the course.”
Cena can overcome the deficiency. I’m not so sure Reigns has that kind of stroke. He was born into the this business, wears the Samoan pride badge of honor and beats his opponents like he is supposed to. But he is also shoved down our throats. I don’t mind it. I’m in the minority. I never bought into the Hogan-Cena hyperbole. I am an old school wrestling fan, raised on Dory Funk Jr. Jack Brisco, the figure-four leg lock and Bob Orton, Jr. as a pure wrestler. And to me, there is something about heritage in this business.
Tonight, WWE will crown a new Universal Champion. Brock Lesnar will fade into the sunset. A new champion will reign. Fans will still remain unattached to Roman Reigns. Right now, they don’t need to be. But at some point, hopefully, fans will see his greatness. They don’t have to like it, but they should respect it. Maybe that’s what McMahon has wanted all along.
Roman Reigns isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for now he is Monday Night Raw’s leader of the band. That should be good for something. If not, this whole promotional campaign will be wasted. Only then could we see the heel turn the fans want. By then, it will be too late and WWE will have moved on to another wrestler fighting for that same kind of respect.