Roman Reigns, one of the most beloved members of the now defunct “Shield”, has now become one of the most polarizing figures in WWE. When he was a member of the Shield, WWE was able to hide his weaknesses, and allowing only his strengths to shine through. Since breaking off on his own path, it has been a bumpy road to say the least. His road to the WrestleMania main event hasn’t panned out exactly how Vince McMahon envisioned it going.
So WHY exactly do some fans passionately boo Roman Reigns? The very man who was the standout in the Shield. The answer is simple to answer, but more complex to explain. In short, the fans haven’t organically connected with the Roman Reigns character as they have with someone like Daniel Bryan. Unfortunately, this connection cannot be manufactured or forced and simply has to happen. Daniel Bryan is a guy that the fans chose to be their “hero”, much to the dismay of Vince McMahon, who stubbornly envisions the face of a company to have the body and physical attributes of Hulk Hogan.
Fortunately for Reigns, he has “the look”, a tall, very athletic big man who fits the bill of Vince McMahon’s “face of the company”. However, unfortunately for Reigns, that’s where his character’s upside stops.
In today’s wrestling world, fans are much more privy to the inside workings of WWE. The curtain has been pulled back, which has exposed the business (for better & for worse). Technological advances in social media have also allowed fans to voice their opinion on a much larger scale than ever before. Additionally, we are living in a world where instant gratification is expected. When you put all of this together, you have the recipe of a perfect storm for WWE.
You have Roman Reigns, who is clearly nowhere near ready for the top spot, much less main eventing a WrestleMania, a crowd with the ability to voice their opinion on a level that has never been seen before, and a stubborn Vince McMahon that refuses to break the mold of what a top superstar should look like.
Vince McMahon feels he knows what we (the fans) want more than we do. The booing of Reigns at the Rumble was not necessarily directed at Reigns himself, but more of what Reigns symbolizes. Reigns symbolizes a hand-picked pre-ordained face of WWE. Instead of WWE listening to what the fans want, they are figuratively forcing Reigns down our throats.
So why exactly aren’t the fans connecting with Roman Reigns? I don’t believe there is one single reason, but rather a combination of reasons.
· Heavily scripted promos. “Suffering Succotash” says it all
· His limited in-ring move set
· He never went through the natural progression of making it to the top. (i.e. he had no intercontinental title runs)
· “Hardcore” fans are perceiving him as the “chosen one” by upper management
· Reigns has a natural arrogance that can’t help but shine through in his body language
So why does WWE need to turn him heel? Not only is Reign’s real personality more suited for a heel persona, but it gives the fans a chance to boo him until their hearts content. Being a heel allows a wrestler to have more flexibility and relax, and it clearly looks like Reigns is a natural heel just waiting to explode. Want a couple examples of this? Maybe the names of Steve Austin and The Rock ring a bell? Both were designed as heels but eventually became the two biggest names in Sports Entertainment history.
Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns has the potential to be a disastrous match, not because both can’t physically ‘bring it’, but because the WrestleMania crowd is known for its hardcore, ‘smart’ fans. WWE has an opportunity to not just recognize this, but play into our hands by doing a double turn, making Lesnar the biggest babyface in years, and turning Reigns into a role that he is a more natural fit.
There is no better stage to turn Reigns than at the biggest event of the year. WrestleMania 31. Believe THAT.